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Given that Teddy Bridgewater was dealing with a foot and quad injuries whilst the Browns were down to a third string running back and backup quarterback, it’s perhaps not surprising that Thursday night was not a high scoring affair. However, Browns’ running back D’Ernest Johnson took his prime-time opportunity to show exactly what he could do, running for one hundred and forty-six yards and torturing the Broncos run defence all game. In fact, the Broncos’’ defence struggled all evening, not helped by Von Miller exiting the game late in the second quarter with a sprained ankle. Even though the numbers were not spectacular, Case Keenum ran the Browns offence effectively and in the first half it looked like the Browns were going to win by a lot, but the Broncos finally got going in the second half and were able to turn the contest into a close game that they ultimately lost 14-17. This was the Broncos’ fourth straight loss after a strong start to the season and they really need to find something in this long week to turn things round. I was really impressed with the quality of the Browns’ performance given the injuries they are dealing with and the Browns are at very least going to be a difficult team to face all year and are still in the hunt in a competitive AFC.

As I turn my attention to picks it looks like a week of lines I really don’t like but in my infinite wisdom I didn’t give Dan and I the options of staying away, which is definitely what I want to do with a large chunk of these picks.

Early Games:

I was already looking at the Bengals visit to the Baltimore Ravens as the matchup of week, and in a slightly unusual moment it seems the American media agree with me. The Bengals at 4-2 remain in contention for the division, which is not what I was expecting from them and although the offence is somewhat boom or bust, the defence is ranked fifth by DVOA and the Bengals have been in every game this season with their two losses coming by field goals. However, the Ravens have the best record in the AFC and looked truly terrifying against the Chargers last week. The defence is only ranked fourteenth, which is a little surprising, but the offence is top ten and Lamar Jackson looks better dropping back to pass and has been less reliant on his ability to amaze running the ball. I’m really hoping that the Bengals can keep this one competitive on the road and whilst I would be delighted with a win, it would be a big surprise, but the Bengals have been a surprise package so far this season and that in of itself is a positive step given their recent record.

The next game I want to discuss is not exactly the matchup you would have thought looking through the schedule before the season started, but the Titans hosting the Chiefs has the potential for a fun offensive contest given that the Chiefs’ defence ranks thirty-first in the league by DVOA and the Titans’ is a lofty twenty-eighth. It’s hard to see the Chiefs’ defence stopping Derrick Henry who continues to prove himself a statistical outlier immune to the usual rules of workload for running backs and somehow was the fastest player carrying the ball last week while being two-hundred and fifty or so pounds. However, while the Chiefs struggled last week, they may have found something late in their game against Washington using 12 personnel to improve the protection of Patrick Mahomes. This game has the potential to be a great shoot out, except if the Chiefs get rolling I’m not sure Derrick Henry is the right player to keep up with the Chiefs explosive offence despite his capacity to take the ball to the end zone on almost any given play. I’m looking forward to watching this one, but I’m not enjoying picking it at all!

Points from the rest:

  • The vaunted Washington defence from last season is currently ranked twenty-ninth by DVOA and the offence is not exactly a hung amount better so the big question in this game is likely to be whether the Packers can cover this line unless Washington show some rapid improvement.
  • The Dolphins come back from London having lost to the Jaguars and with a swirl of rumours about a potential trade for Deshaun Watson. The Falcons are coming off a bye having won their own London game and while neither team are good right now, the Dolphins were meant to be competing this season but haven’t looked like it for much of the season. However, there is something in the line, and I really didn’t think Tua Tagovailoa played that bad last week and with trade rumours swirling I’m sure the embattled QB is looking to prove his worth in this one.
  • The Patriots look to have their replacement for Tom Brady, and the Pats have competed in some big games this season but so far they have only two wins so the seven and a half points they are laying looks troubling. That is until you remember the Pats have already blown out the Jets on the road and Bill Belichick’s record against rookie quarterbacks. I do wonder if this line is too high, but backing the Jets as underdogs has bitten me too often over the years to back them in this one.
  • The Panthers have a top ten defence by DVOA but are a very mixed bag on offence and have slipped to 3-3 from a 3-0 start. However, the Giants are both bad and injured so I can’t back them even getting points at home given the Panthers have a genuine strength to gameplan with.

Washington @ Packers (-9.5)

Gee’s Pick:      Packers
Dan’s Pick:      Packers

Chiefs @ Titans (+4.5)

Gee’s Pick:      Titans
Dan’s Pick:      Titans

Falcons @ Dolphins (+2.5)

Gee’s Pick:      Dolphins
Dan’s Pick:      Falcons

Jets @ Patriots (-7.5)

Gee’s Pick:      Patriots
Dan’s Pick:      Patriots

Panthers @ Giants (+2.5)

Gee’s Pick:      Panthers
Dan’s Pick:      Panthers

Bengals @ Ravens (-6.5)

Gee’s Pick:      Bengals
Dan’s Pick:      Bengals

Late Games:

There isn’t really a great game in the late slate of games, although there could be some interesting narratives.

The Raiders won their first game after the Jon Gruden resignation, but now we must see if they are coalescing as a team or if that was a one-week bounce. I have heard some commentary that the Raiders have been finding themselves in a position where people are able to get on with their jobs rather than having Gruden involved as he was to an unusual amount across the franchise before his very public fall from grace. The Eagles are not a good football team but are coming off a long week having lost on Thursday night and then trading Zach Ertz to the Cardinals. I like the Raiders to win this game and the line definitely concerns me but given how the Eagles have been playing I’m going to reluctantly back the Raiders.

The LA Rams game is all about the narrative given they swapped quarterbacks with the Lions in the offseason and Matthew Stafford has looked great running Sean McVay’s offence. The Lions up to last week had kept all their games close and were a tough team to play, but the Bengals of all teams beat them comfortably enough that head coach Dan Campbell came out and said he needed more from Jared Goff. It must be so disorientating for Goff, who went to the Super Bowl with the Rams in 2018 but hasn’t looked the same since and now finds himself on a rebuilding Lions team. Goff looks to be the kind of quarterback who needs everything around him to be right rather than a player who elevates those around him. This line is enormous, and it will be telling if the Lions get blown out again, but I can’t back all of the big favourites this week and something about Goff facing his old team has me taking the points.

Points on the Rest:

  • The Cardinals are 6-0 and should have more than enough to beat a Texans team who beat the Jaguars in week one and been competitive in exactly one game since against the Patriots. The line makes me incredibly nervous given how easy it would be for the Cardinals to take the Texans too lightly but having lost by twenty-eight to the 2-4 Colts I can’t bring myself to back the Texans.
  • The Buccaneers should have no problem in beating the Bears, but with Antonio Brown out injured alongside the slew of corners and the Bears having a top ten defence by DVOA I think the Bears can keep this one within two touchdowns.

Eagles @ Raiders (-3.5)

Gee’s Pick:      Raiders
Dan’s Pick:      Raiders

Lions @ Rams (-15.5)

Gee’s Pick:      Lions
Dan’s Pick:      Rams

Texans @ Cardinals (-16.5)

Gee’s Pick:      Cardinals
Dan’s Pick:      Cardinals

Bears @ Buccaneers (-13.5)

Gee’s Pick:      Bears
Dan’s Pick:      Bears

Sunday Night Football:

Colts @ 49ers (-3.5)

I am intrigued about this game and will definitely be watching it even if it does see the 2-4 Colts visiting the 2-3 49ers coming off a bye. The 49ers will have Jimmy Garoppolo back at quarterback, which they need with rookie Trey Lance being out with a knee sprain. The Colts have put together good performances the last two weeks and I’m genuinely looking forward to seeing how they do against a 49ers team who are ranked tenth overall by DVOA despite all the injuries. It may not be a great sounding matchup given their records, but there’s plenty to take away from this one.

Gee’s Pick:      Colts
Dan’s Pick:      Colts

Monday Night Football

Saints @ Seahawks (+4.5)

Here we are, Monday night and the big quarterback matchup is Jameis Winston versus Geno Smith. Perhaps more worrying for the Seahawks given that Smith has given the Seahawks competent play at quarterback, is the problems they are having on defence, ranked as they are twenty-second by DVOA and built around a safety in Jamal Adams who is a liability in coverage and who costs them multiple first-round picks in a trade. The Seahawks ranking of ninth overall and sixth on offence must surely slip by the time Russell Wilson returns from the finger injury on his throwing hand. That said, the Saints are a hard team to read this season as they are alternating wins and losses before going on bye last week. The familiar on the field up and down play of Jameis Winston has not disappeared under Sean Payton but the defence is ranked an impressive third by DVOA and you feel like the Saints should win this one. The line does make me nervous given Winston’s history, although I should say he has a four to one touchdown to interception rating but a 60.3 completion percentage. Part of me wonders if the Seahawks can keep it close, but I feel like Sean Payton is going to be able to find too many things against this Seahawks defence, which combined with his own defence going against Geno Smith means I’m going to eventually back the Saints.

Gee’s Pick:       Saints
Dan’s Pick:      Saints

DVOA is Football Outsiders statistic for measure a team’s success on every play versus the league average and you can read more about it and other football topics at https://footballoutsiders.com.