Week 3 Picks

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Ravens @ Jaguars (+4.5)

The weekend’s games start with the first London game, where the Jacksonville Jaguars host the Baltimore Ravens at Wembley, and it is a tricky game for me to pick this week. The Jaguars followed up their opening game win with a loss to the Tennessee Titans, and the problems with having such a one dimensional offence showed themselves, particularly having lost receiver Allen Robinson for the season to an ACL injury. The problem for me is that the Raven also had a big loss when guard Marshal Yonder was lost for the season with an ankle fracture. The Raven’s offensive balance is why they’ve looked better this year and losing one of the best guards could really hurt their ability to run the ball.

In the last two seasons the Jaguars have won their London game, and with that bit more practice at travelling I’m not saying they will win, but I do feel with two good defences this could be a closer game than you might first think and I’m picking the Jaguars to cover.

Gee’s Pick:          Jaguars
Dan’s Pick:          Ravens

Falcons @ Lions (+2.5)

This should be a cracking game, with two unbeaten teams meeting. The Atlanta Falcons offence looked better in their home opener last week, and they travel to face a Detroit Lions team who keep finding a way to win. I don’t have a strong lean either way in this one, but in a close game if I’m getting points as a home team then I am going to grab them and look forward to watching the game.

Gee’s Pick:          Lions
Dan’s Pick:          Falcons

Broncos @ Bills (+3.5)

This looks to be a surprisingly good game despite the Buffalo Bills offseason rebuilding, as it looks like new head coach Sean McDermott has got his team playing for him and the defence looks good already. I have also been impressed with the Denver Broncos’ start to the season, but in what could be a closer game than you might expect I’m again going to grab points for a home team.

Gee’s Pick:          Bills
Dan’s Pick:          Broncos

Steelers @ Bears (+7.5)

I want to pick the Chicago Bears in this one. The Pittsburgh Steelers have a nasty habit of playing down to their opponents and the Bears defence has looked promising at times, but the Steelers’ offence looks like it is coming together and I just think they have too much for the Bears.

Gee’s Pick:          Steelers
Dan’s Pick:          Steelers

Browns @ Colts (+0.5)

I don’t remember the last time the Cleveland Browns were favoured in a game, yet alone on the road, but the Indianapolis Colts gave a more credible effort last week and could have beaten the Arizona Cardinals. The Browns still haven’t got Myles Garrett to play a regular season game, whilst losing receiver Corey Coleman to broken hand for the second season in a row hurts. I’m really not sure where to go in this one, but I’ll stick to my faith in the Browns and their coach for now, but I am curious about how this game will play out.

Gee’s Pick:          Browns
Dan’s Pick:          Browns

Dolphins @ Jets (+6.5)

The Miami Dolphins got off to a winning start, and this week and face a New York Jets team who have shown very little of anything. We thought going into the season that the Jets were going to be bad, but it is still shocking to see how uncompetitive they have been, and I don’t see anything here to stop me from picking the Dolphins to cover this line.

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

Buccaneers @ Vikings (-2.5)

In a league where increasingly home field advantage is being reduced, the Minnesota Vikings seem to have bucked the trend with their noisy new stadium. Add to this a really good defence and this should be a decided advantage, but with quarterback Sam Bradford looking like he will miss a second week due to a knee problem I will back the Tampa Buccaneers on the road. Their defence looks equally scary, and with young quarterback Jameis Winston continuing his development, I feel like the Vikings would need Bradford to win this one.

Gee’s Pick:          Buccaneers
Dan’s Pick:          Buccaneers

Texans @ Patriots (-13.5)

The New England Patriots beat the Houston Texans 27-0 last season whilst starting Jacoby Brissett at quarterback. The Patriots got back on track with an easy win last week, although they did pick up more injuries top pass catchers. However, the Texans did not exactly look great against the Bengals last week and despite being slightly nervous about the line, I think the Patriots will cover this one.

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

Saints @ Panthers (-6.5)

The Carolina Panthers have needed their defence to play as well as it has because their offence has not looked good so far this season. The New Orleans Saints defence might be just what the doctor ordered, especially with them rotating through defensive linemen trying to find something that works, but the loss of Cam Newton’s safest receiver in tight end Greg Olson could really hurt them. I’m not sure that the Saints will win, especially on the road, but I think this could be a closer game than this line suggest. I’m nervously backing the Saints in this one.

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

Giants @ Eagles (-5.5)

The Philadelphia Eagles have got off to a solid start to the season, and welcome a New York Giants team who have been struggling on offence. It’s not just that Odell Beckham has been fighting an ankle injury, but the offensive line has been dire in pass protection and the tackles haven’t been given scheme help. It is not necessarily surprising that the Giants’ defence has taken a bit of a step back from last year’s improvement, but despite it being more likely for a team to go 1-2 rather than 0-3, I see nothing in this game that would give a Giants’ fan hope. I think right now the Eagles are a better a team, watch this game come back to bite me.

Gee’s Pick:          Eagles
Dan’s Pick:          Eagles

Seahawks @ Titans (-2.5)

The Seattle Seahawks defence continues to be really good, but their offensive line also continues to make Russell Wilson run for his life. The Tennessee Titans have a pair of bookend tackles that should allow their offense to function despite the Seahawks’ scary front seven, and I fancy them to get the win at home against a Seahawks team who are designed to peak later in the season.

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

Bengals  @ Packers (-9.5)

The Green Bay Packers struggled last week against the Atlanta Falcons missing both their starting tackles on offense, and with their defence looking more fragile. This week they welcome a struggling Cincinnati Bengals team who have yet to score a touchdown, which is why they have a new offensive co-ordinator. I don’t hold out much hope of a dramatic turn around, but given the strength of the Bengal’s defence this year, and that it looks like the Packer’s o-line could still be in flux, I do fancy the Bengals to cover this big line even if they are on the road.

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

Chiefs @ Chargers (+3.5)

The LA Chargers have so far managed to lose two close games, but this week they welcome a Kansas City Chiefs team who have started the year on fire. The Chargers have not exactly built a big following in LA, and this game feels like it will only go one way. You never know until the game is played, but with the Chiefs explosive offence and stout defence I don’t think they will have a problem covering this line.

Gee’s Pick:          Chiefs
Dan’s Pick:          Chiefs

Raiders @ Washington (+3.5)

So Jay Gruden did the unexpected and kept his Washington team running the football last week as they travelled to LA and beat the Rams. However, the Oakland Raiders are a totally different proposition having picked up from last year and look fearsome. The points do give me a slight pause, but the Raiders feel like they are on a roll and I don’t think Washington have the offence to keep up.

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

Cowboys @ Cardinals (+3.5)

This week’s games are closed out on Monday night by a struggling Arizona Cardinals team hosting the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys got shut down last week in Denver, with the passing game not really working and Ezekiel Elliot getting completely stuffed in the running game. This week they travel to Arizona, who have their own running problems with running back David Johnson out with a wrist injury. The Cowboys are not a team that inspire much confidence in me, but neither are the Cardinals at the moment, and as reluctant as I am to back the Cowboys, if you’re a team who struggles to beat the Colts then I can’t back you to cover this line against the Cowboys who will be looking to bounce back from a tough loss.

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

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The Wrong Football Podcast – Episode 53

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As Gee very handily pointed out, we’re now an eighth of the way through the season already! This week, we’re looking at the coaching arrangements going on in Cincinnati, and how AP is settling in in New Orleans ahead of his game at Wembley in 2 weeks time. Also, we’ve watched the best of week 2’s action and are more than willing and able to fill you in on all of it! All that and more, this week on The Wrong Football Podcast!

Source: The Wrong Football Podcast – The Wrong Football Podcast – Episode 53

Early Season Frustrations

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It is not just that the Bengals have got off to an 0-2 start that has me frustrated at the start of the season, although it doesn’t help.

In Europe we are bedding a brand new NFL Gamepass site, and whilst there are some good points like the quality of the streams now that they are being hosted over here, and being able to download games to your tablet or phone for watching at a later date, there are plenty of teething issues. A quick search will find you talk of this video is not available in your region, which appears to be some kind of connection/cache issue.

More frustrating are the tools that we have so far lost, that we were used to in the old system. The video player is more basic, and we are no longer able to navigate via play by play bookmarks. Even more difficult for someone like myself, is that the coaching tape is not available yet and all I’ve heard so far is that it will be added soon. Given that this is one of my favourite things about having Gamepass, not to mention that it is putting on hold my regular tape break downs here on the blog, it is really frustrating not to have it already.

So if the presentation is getting there, but missing key things I am used to, how have the games been? Here we get to a meaty discussion that seems to have been the theme for a lot of the NFL coverage that I consume. The quality of play at the moment is a point of contention, and it seems to break to down into a couple of areas.

The first is that under the current collective bargain agreement (or CBA), practice time and specifically the amount of hitting that can be done has been reduced. Now this is for player safety and is a hard thing to argue about, but coaches have been talking about it limiting their ability to develop players. You could write a book on how to coach a team and split reps at practice, so I’m not going to delve heavily into this, but there are two areas that I think is worth highlighting.

Unusually for me, these are both on offence, and might help why according to some commentators the league’s defences have had the upper hand in the early season.

There are some positions where due to the amount of communication involved, there is no real substitute for live reps, even if you are trying to make use of new training advances like the remote controlled mobile tackling dummies. One of them is the offensive line and there seem to be fewer good ones in the NFL at the moment.

This is being highlighted at the moment with a different approach to training camp, with many teams seemingly focused on getting into the season healthy as much as preparation and so offences may improve through the season but are not looking sharp right now. Some teams actually embrace this timetable for peaking their performance with Pete Carroll explicitly stating that the Seahawks focus is to peak in November and December, whilst Bill Belichick has talked about not even having his roster settled until October.

I’m wary of focussing on the Seahawks too much when discussing offensive line play, as it is an area of the roster that they have consistently not invested in heavily be it draft picks, or free-agents. However, whilst teams have different approaches, a consistent theme I have heard apart from how hard it is to develop players is the quality of player entering the league.

In terms of athleticism, there has been massive improvement in terms of the size and speed of players, particularly in terms of how quickly larger players now move. However, the college game, and for the purposes of this particular blog, specifically the offences run by the majority of college games is not developing players for the NFL.

Now in fairness this is not their job. A college head coach is paid to win football games, and so they should do that in the best way they can. But with the popularity of spread offences, there are highly touted, physically gifted offensive line players, who have never taken up a three-point stance or used an aggressive pass set. Now the NFL teams have to scout and work with what they have available, and there are still good linemen out there. However, I keep hearing discussions about a developmental league, and it would seem a very good idea. Not only would it help young players develop, but it might solve the other area of the offence I want to focus on, namely, the quarterback.

Now the reason I want to mention quarterback is not just Andy Dalton’s struggles over the first two games, but the way we cover them and the simple fact that there are nowhere near enough of them to go around.

Given the talent pool that is the continental United States, it might be considered surprising that with only thirty-two spots to fill, that not every team can have a quality starter. However, it is a very complex position to play, requiring a particular set of skills. There is some variation of course, but a quarterback needs to be able to read what is happening on defence, co-ordinate the response, and have the physical tools to get the ball to where it needs to go. It might help if they are athletically gifted as a running quarterback does help open up other ways to attack a defence, but it is not essential.

Generally, the media put too much of the credit on a quarterback’s shoulders when a team wins, and blames them too heavily when a team loses, but given the amount of control a quarterback has over an offence this is seen as part of playing the position.

The problem we have is not only supply and demand, but again goes back to college and practise. Along with the spread system, college quarterbacks increasingly don’t have to call their own plays as signs are used from the side-line. They may rarely take snaps under centre, and this all has to change dramatically upon entering the NFL.

You only have to look at the slow development of a player like Jared Goff, who is having to learn the fundamentals of his trade whilst already a pro, and a combination of media and owners mean that a lot of pressure comes to bear when a high draft pick doesn’t get on the field quickly. This is particularly the case if a team is bad, as they will often be the team drafting a quarterback early. The issue is that whilst a quarterback will only develop so much without reps, the plan to let them take their lumps early is all very well unless the team around them isn’t good enough to succeed. In fact it can actually harm a player if you can’t protect a quarterback and he gets hit too much causing injury or develops bad habits.

And remember, we’ve already discussed that good offensive lines are not exactly getting easier to build.

So we have the current situation with not enough quality quarterbacks to go round, and a number of them (even quality players) under pressure as they can’t be protected.

So you get NFL defences on top. These things do go in cycle, but a combination of issues developing talent and the readiness of that talent could cause a real issue in terms of quality of play. We can’t go back to endless hitting and two a day training camps as we know that is detrimental to player health. I just hope that new ways to develop talent are found, and that if it does, there will be coaching tape for me to marvel at.

And so on to the week three picks.

Gee:      Week 2   9-7                       Overall   18-14
Dan:      Week 2   8-8                       Overall   15-17

Rams @ 49ers (+2.5)

I think Dan thought I was little crazy when I said I was looking forward to this game, but I genuinely am. The LA Rams beat the Colts by a large margin in week one, yet travel to San Francisco with a 1-1 record and Aaron Donald back in the fold to face an 0-2 49ers team. I am interested in looking at how both teams are developing under rookie head coaches as they come back from poor performances in recent years. However, the Rams have shown more this season, and with a surprising eighteen place difference in their ranking by overall DVOA and going into what has been a poorly attended Levi’s stadium, I am trusting the team with a win to get another despite the record of home teams in the Thursday night game. I could regret this.

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

Week 2 Picks

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Bills @ Panthers (-7.5)

The Buffalo Bills got off to a winning start thanks to facing the lowly Jets in week one, but face a much sterner test as they travel to face the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers defence played really well in their opening game, allowing Cam Newton to be rusty as he works his way back from his offseason shoulder surgery. I think the Bills are going to struggle in this game, but the question is whether the Panthers can win by eight. I think they can, but I’m not prepared to pick it quite yet.

Gee’s Pick:          Bills
Dan’s Pick:          Bills

Bears @ Buccaneers (-6.5)

There are alternative universes where the Chicago Bears won their first game, but in this world they couldn’t quite pull things together and as well as losing the game they lost receiver Kevin White for the season again. The first round draft pick just can’t stay healthy and the Bears will need to rethink how they build their receiving group for next season. This week however, they travel to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Bucs opening game of the season following last week’s postponement. The Buccaneers looked like a young promising team in Hard Knocks, and I expect them to win. This is another game where I could see the home team covering a big spread, but I’m not quite brave enough to pick it just yet.

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

Browns @ Ravens (-7.5)

The Baltimore Ravens defence was good, even if the Bengals leant them a hand in pitching a shut out last week by being not very good on offence. They will need to open up the offence more, but it appears the Ravens’ formula for this season is to play good defence and special teams whilst running the ball. The Cleveland Browns however, put up a very creditable performance against the Steelers last week, and I expect them to keep themselves within eight points of the Ravens.

Gee’s Pick:          Browns
Dan’s Pick:          Ravens

Titans @ Jaguars (+1.5)

This is a really tricky game for me to pick as the Jacksonville Jaguars got their season off to a winning start in beating the Houston Texans on the road. The defence got ten sacks, and their offence bludgeoned the Texans with the running game. Not making Blake Bortles throw to win the game improves their chances of winning, but how successful across an entire season they can be with this formula is hard to tell. They welcome a Tennessee Titans team who lost their home opener to the Raiders and who didn’t look like themselves. The new receivers the Titans procured for Marcus Mariota in the offseason seemed to alter the way the Titans ran their offence, whilst the defence couldn’t slow down the Raiders enough to keep them in the game. I’m not totally sure where to go in this one, but the Titans are going to be desperate to get back on track and at this point I still think they are the better team.

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

Cardinals @ Colts (+8.5)

The Arizona Cardinals did not get off to a good start, with Carson Palmer throwing bad interceptions and David Johnson lost for most of the season to a wrist injury. The only good news is that they are facing an Indianapolis Colts team who look like they could be the worst team in the league until Andrew Luck comes back from injury. I could regret this, but I’m backing the infrastructure of the Cardinals to see them through, but I’m nervous about the number of points I’m giving away.

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

Eagles @ Chiefs (-4.5)

This should be a good game as both teams are coming of good wins on the road. The Philadelphia Eagles got a divisional win in Washington, with Carson Wentz continuing his progress in his second year and a defence that looks pretty good. However, this week they travel to face the Kansas City Chiefs who have one of the better home field advantages in the league, and who have had ten days to prepare having beaten the Patriots in the season opener. The Chiefs offence looks to have gained a new dimension with Alex Smith pushing the ball down field, and with all the speed at their disposal I fancy them to come out victorious in this one. The loss of Eric Berry does give me pause, but I think the Chiefs are going to be very strong this year.

Gee’s Pick:          Chiefs
Dan’s Pick:          Chiefs

Vikings @ Steelers (-6.5)

This should be a cracking game, but is one of the few lines that I think is just wrong. The Pittsburgh Steelers got their win in week one, but are still working their way into form on offence with Le’Veon Bell having held out all pre-season. I’m not adjusting my expectations for the Steelers, but this week they welcome a Vikings team who looked very good in week one. The new stadium in Minnesota does appear to be incredibly noisy, but even without this advantage their defence looks formidable and a retooled offence line has bred life into their offence. I’m not saying the Vikings will definitely win, but I expect this game to be much more competitive that this line suggests.

Gee’s Pick:          Vikings
Dan’s Pick:          Vikings

Patriots @ Saints (+5.5)

The New Orleans Saints need a defence, or at least a secondary that could limit the amount of points that quarterback Drew Brees has to match on offence. However, the signs were in week one that this problem has not been solved, and this week they welcome a wounded Patriots team. The Patriots may have lost their home opener, and there are definite questions about their offence with all the new receiving options, and a defence that struggled to contain the Chiefs speed. However, you would back Bill Belichick and his staff to find a way. This line does make me pause, but in the end I don’t have that much faith in the Saints to keep this one close.

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

Jets @ Raiders (-14.5)

The New York Jets did not look good in week one, and travel out to Oakland to face a Raiders team who looked very good. I was surprised how strong the Raiders’ defence looked against the Titans, and the addition of Marshawn Lynch to the Raiders added yet more balance to their offence. This is a huge line to cover, but I do actually think the Raiders are a team that can cover it against these Jets.

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

Dolphins @ Chargers (-3.5)

This is a more difficult game to pick as the Miami Dolphins are the other team who had a game postponed last week, as well as starting a quarterback who up until a few weeks ago was going to be a commentator this season. However, I have a lot of faith in Adam Gase and they are travelling to an LA Chargers team who very much looked like the Chargers last week. For large parts of the game they were outplayed by the Broncos, then they managed to turn things round with two quick touchdowns, but just missed out at the end of the game with a blocked field goal. The extra half point makes me join Dan in picking the Dolphins, but I don’t feel like I have a confident opinion on this game.

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

Cowboys @ Broncos (+1.5)

The Dallas Cowboys have got to keep Ezekiel Elliott for now, but Tom Brady eventually had to server his ban and I think Elliott will too. However for now, the Cowboys offence rolls on and once again their defensive co-ordinator Rod Marinelli seems to have created a defence that is greater than the sum of its parts. This week however, they travel to a Broncos team who I thought looked pretty good in week one, particularly with the improvements to their offence. I might be tempted by the Broncos getting points at home, except that they didn’t look that good against the run to me, and with the Cowboys coming to town you know there’s going to be a healthy dose of run coming their way.

Gee’s Pick:          Cowboys
Dan’s Pick:          Cowboys

Washington @ Rams (-2.5)

The LA Rams did what they were supposed to do against the Colts last week and got rookie head coach Sean McVay his first win, but his old team Washington should pose a sterner test. However, an offseason of change and disarray does not seem to have produced a Washington team ready to thrive early in the season, and they look like they are missing, McVay’s talents at offensive co-ordinator. This might be a trap pick, but I think I’m going with the Rams in this one.

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

49ers @ Seahawks (-12.5)

The San Francisco 49ers struggled against the Panthers last week and it is hard to see them doing anything else travelling to the Seattle Seahawks this week. It will take time for Kyle Shanahan’s scheme to bed in, whilst Seattle were competitive against the Packers in week one. The problem for the Seahawks is as ever their offensive line, and it is only these issues that will stop me from picking the Seahawks to cover this line. I am very confident the Seahawks will win, but I expect a low scoring affair.

Gee’s Pick:          49ers
Dan’s Pick:          49ers

Packers @ Falcons (-2.5)

The Atlanta Falcons got their win against the Bears last week, but they were far from their performances of last year. The Falcons are opening a new stadium this week, but are welcoming a Green Bay Packers team whose defence might have made a step up from last year, and still have Aaron Rodgers and Jordy Nelson on offence. It did take a little time for the Packers to find their feet against a Seahawks’ defence that looks as good as ever, but facing such a defence should stand them in good stead against the Falcons. I am going with the Packers in this one, but it is more of a lean than a definitive pick.

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

Lions @ Giants (-4.5)

The New York Giants struggled last week, and we still don’t know when star receiver Odell Beckham will return. More worryingly, Eli Manning did not look at his best and really hasn’t for a while now, which at thirty-six is perhaps not surprising but might be a warning sign for this season. The Detroit Lions meanwhile started the season with a win against the misfiring Cardinals and whilst I’m not sure how far their defence will take them, I like them getting this number of points.

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

The Time of Overreaction

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Week one is in the books and so it is time for the annual period of overreaction in the NFL to the first set of games, but whilst there are some things that can be taken away from these games, there’s still plenty that falls into the we’ll see pile.

I’m not going to go through every team just yet, but here are some of the things I took away from the games I watched or results that jumped out at me.

We knew the New York Jets were going to be bad, but they were at least designed that way. The Indianapolis Colts appear to be even worse, we don’t know when Andrew Luck will return, and it is going to be a long season for them. The San Francisco 49ers gave rookie head coach Kyle Shanahan and his GM John Lynch a demonstration of just how big a rebuilding job they took on.

The Cincinnati Bengals were one of serval teams who failed miserably to disprove the concerns people had about them going into the season, but were the only team with no points this week that actually played. The Baltimore Ravens look good on defence, are well coached, and will cause problems for many this season and go a very useful divisional win in Cincinnati. I wasn’t expecting anything particularly different in terms of performance against the Bengals, but it was painful to watch the Bengals fail to rise to the occasion. There were points where the Bengals moved the ball, and I can see Andy Dalton bouncing back from the horrible performance as he has done it before – I just wish they didn’t happen in the first place. A short week against the Texans’ pass rush is not how I would have liked to rediscover the offence, but at least the game is at Paul Brown Stadium.

I had thought the Kansas City Chiefs looked good in pre-season, and I thought they would run the New England Patriots close, but they went better than that with a very good win in the opening game of the season. The loss of safety Eric Berry to an Achilles injury is a big blow to the Chiefs defence, but that offence looks like it is going to function well this season. It is too early to panic if you’re a Patriots fan, and the infrastructure is well set to get over this initial setback, but they will be watched as carefully as ever over the next few weeks for signs of decline, particularly in Tom Brady.

The Oakland Raiders are another team who looked very good in week one, easily taking care of the Tennessee Titans on the road, with their defence looking stouter than I thought it would coming into the season, and it looks like they will be continuing their good form of last season and pushing for the playoffs if they can stay healthy.

I don’t want to get too quarterback centric, but although he is still making young player mistakes, Carson Wentz is looking every bit the franchise quarterback at the beginning of his career, with several plays where he held off multiple pass rushers before making a successful pass. I wanted to be sold on the Eagles as a whole and their performance in Washington certainly started the process.

Continuing on the quarterback theme, there’s only so much you can tell about the LA Rams from them beating Colts, but they scored forty-six points and Jared Goff showed that he might have a future in the NFL. I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself, but the Rams did what they needed to in week one and we will just have to see how things progress for Goff under rookie Head Coach Sean McVay.

So we start to look at the week 2 games, with the Miami Dolphins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers finally playing first games of the season after last week’s postponement, and a number of teams looking to pick up from shaky starts. There’s has been a lot of questions about what the pre-season is for and how it might change, but it seems a number of teams still need to get themselves into form as their offseason hasn’t prepared them to hit the ground running. It is a long season, and nobody needs to peak in September, but divisional home losses are bad things to rack up, and several teams started with them in week one.

Last Week’s Record:

Gee:        Week 1   9-7                           Overall   -9-7
Dan:        Week 1   7-9                           Overall   7-9

Texans @ Bengals (-4.5)

So tonight’s game pits two teams with disappointing first games against each other, and the Bengals could be in a real hole if they start 0-2 with two home losses. The problem is that there has to be a reaction by the Houston Texans to how they played last week, and their area of strength on defence matches up painfully against where the Bengals have all their questions on offence. Adam Jones’ return to the Bengals’ secondary may add a spark to the defence, but on a short week in a bad match up, with a rebuilt offensive line that has answered none of the questions asked of it, l will confess to a lack of confidence in my team. I’m not saying the Bengals can’t find the right formula as plenty of teams looked short or reps in week one, but with their history in prime time games I can’t back the Bengals to win by five points when they scored zero in their opening home game. I would love to be proved wrong!

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

Week 1 Picks

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With one game done, it is now time for Dan and I to pick the rest of the week 1 games as the season really gets going tonight.

Falcons @ Bears (+7.5)

We saw last season that the Super Bowl hang over for the losing side can be very real, but I am not expecting the Atlanta Falcons to fall off in the way the Carolina Panthers did last year. Their defence continues to improve, but the loss of Kyle Shanahan as offensive co-ordinator will have an effect although there is plenty of talent on that side of the ball.

The Chicago Bears had a curious offseason, trading up one slot to pick a quarterback having just handed out a big contract to free agent Mike Glennon. They can’t be as injured on defence as last season, but whilst I doubt they will win, I’m not prepared to back the Falcons to cover this line on the road with all that’s happened to them, and so it’s time for my first nervous pick of the year.

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

Jets @ Bills (-6.5)

The New York Jets are definitely going through a process of rebuilding, as are the Buffalo Bills, but whilst the Bills have been trading away players as they try to build a new team culture the Jets look to have virtually torn their roster down to the ground to rebuild it. I’m don’t feel extremely confident about this, but I’m backing the Bills to cover this at home against a Jets team who are going to struggle all year.

Gee’s Pick:            Bills
Dan’s Pick:            Bills

Ravens @ Bengals (-2.5)

I would be very worried about the Baltimore Ravens’ offence if I were a fan of that team. We have not seen Joe Flacco in the pre-season thanks to a back injury, their much vaunted offensive line has been in flux and they are starting out on the road, although their defence should be strong again this year. The Cincinnati Bengals have their own questions on at offence tackle, but I like the young talent and depth on defence, and I fancy them to get off to a winning start at home with Andy Dalton having plenty of options on offence.

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

Steelers @ Browns (+9.5)

Many have argued that the Pittsburgh Steelers could be the class of the AFC, with the return of dynamic receiver Martavis Bryant to an already scary offence, combined with an improving defence which head coach Mike Tomlin is shaping in his own image, I would not disagree. However, I also like the direction the Cleveland Browns are heading in, and whilst I do not expect them to be pushing for the playoffs, the Browns will cause teams problems this year and I expect them to do better than last season. That said, with first round draft pick Myles Garrett picking up a high ankle sprain on Wednesday, there could well be a feeling of not again surfacing in Cleveland. Still, this is a very high line for a road team and I’m going to back the Browns to cover, I just wish their new pass rusher was starting. I may regret this…

Gee’s Pick:            Browns
Dan’s Pick:            Steelers

Cardinals @ Lions (-2.5)

The Arizona Cardinals travel to Detroit with commentators talking about it being another last chance season for Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald, and possibly Bruce Arians. Still, I have a lot of faith in the coaching staff of the Cardinals, and the presented reason for Palmer’s improvement in the second half of last season being due to them restricting his number of throws in practice does at least make sense given he is thirty-seven. They face a Lions team that have just signed quarterback Matthew Stafford to a huge contract off the back of several strong years under offensive co-ordinator Jim Bob Cooter, but the defence worries me and I think the Lions could have a tough year as a result. After all, for Stafford to have all those fourth quarter comebacks last year, the Lions had to go into the fourth quarter losing in the first place.

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

Raiders @ Titans (+0.5)

This should be a great game between two developing teams. The Oakland Raiders looked set for a strong showing in the playoffs before Derek Carr broke his leg, but everyone is expecting them to be good again this year. I’m not sure how much running back Marshawn Lynch has left in the tank as he comes out of retirement, but if Lynch cam manage the kind of runs that made him famous for Seattle then that could help open up the field for Carr, but questions remain about the Raiders defence.

The Tennessee Titans took a step forward last season, with Dick LeBeau helping to transform the defence (LeBeau will become the oldest person to call an NFL defence this season and was subject of an excellent MMQB podcast that’s worth looking up) and the offence making exotic smashmouth work for their young quarterback. The running game is often a young quarterback’s best friend, and only time will tell if the receivers that were added to the roster in the offseason help open up the offence for Marcus Mariota.

In a game that is a straight choice, I’m going to back the team who made the playoffs last season but I could regret it. This should be a great game.

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

Buccanneers @ Dolphins

Due to hurricane Irma, this game has been postponed to week 11, meaning both teams will play sixteen straight games in what will be a real test for both teams, but that seems kind of insignificant right now.

Eagles @ Washington (-2.5)

There is a lot of buzz about the Philadelphia Eagles, with the overhaul of their receivers giving hope for the continued development of their second year quarterback Carson Wentz. There is also a belief that the defence will be good this year. I can certainly see the reasons for such hope, but I have not seen it in the flesh yet, whereas Washington have been solid for the last couple of season through their own rebuild. The overhaul of their receivers was curious given the team’s success, and we enter another season with questions about Kirk Cousins’ long term future, but he keeps throwing for over four thousand yards a season. I could very easily regret this, but right now I’m backing Washington to win at home

Gee’s Pick:            Washington
Dan’s Pick:            Eagles

Jaguars @ Texans (-4.5)

The Jacksonville Jaguars have a defence that looks like it should be really good, but the offence worries me a lot. It’s all very well committing to the running game, but setting up the pass with the run is really a myth, and what you need is a convincing threat of being able to be either balanced with run/pass, or flexible enough to wrong foot the defence with one of them being predominant. If the Jaguars just try to bludgeon teams with rookie runner Leonard Fournette they will see endless eight man boxes, and I don’t think anyone feels like Blake Bortles currently has the form to take advantage of this. Facing a Houston Texans defence that looks like it could be one of the best in the league, I expect the Jaguars to struggle. There are questions at quarterback again for the Texans, but this team keeps winning their division, and they will be looking to give their city something to rally around after the recent flooding. I think the Texans will win, and although the line does give me pause, it does not stop me picking the Texans.

Gee’s Pick:            Texans
Dan’s Pick:            Texans

Colts @ Rams (+3.5)

We don’t know for how long the Indianapolis Colts will be without Andrew Luck, and right now they don’t see to have much to hang their hats on without him having struggled in preseason. They travel to LA to face a Rams team that even without Aarond Donald should have enough on defence to contain the current Colts offence. The question for Rams fans will be can Jared Goff develop into a starting quarterback under the guidance of an offensive minded head coach, but I fancy the Rams to win this one, and if I’m getting points at home as well then I’m definitely going to take them. Don’t let me down Rams…

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

Seahawks @ Packers (-2.5)

This looks to be game of the week, although the Chiefs and Patriots did a fine job of starting the season on Thursday. Still with the Seattle Seahawks defence matching up against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay offence, we have one of best matchups in the league. In recent meetings between these two teams it has tended to be the home team who have won, and whilst in recent years the Packers have got off to sometimes sluggish starts, I fancy them to win this one at Lambeau Field.

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

Panthers @ 49ers (+5.5)

The Carolina Panthers are trying to overhaul their offence after their struggles last season and to protect their running quarterback Cam Newton, but despite the addition of Christian McCaffrey as a running back who can catch out of the backfield, Newton has never been the most accurate of short passers and given his should surgery, he has not had a lot of time to work with his new receiving options. I will also be worried about the health of Luke Kuechly all season and so whilst I expect the Panthers to be better this year than last, I’m not sure you can immediately expect them to turn things round in week one. Particularly when they are heading to face a San Francisco 49ers team who are beginning their own transformation under a new GM and head coach. I’m not expecting the 49ers to challenge for the playoffs or anything, but I think they will demonstrate progress and if you are giving me five and a half points at home against a team who I think need to prove themselves again, then I am going to take them.

Gee’s Pick:            49ers
Dan’s Pick:            49ers

Giants @ Cowboys (-4.5)

The Dallas Cowboys have never shied away from controversial players, and we are still not sure what the situation for Ezekiel Elliott will be long term, but he is playing in this game. However, the much vaunted Cowboys offensive line has had a reshuffle and the defence lost a lot of players. I’m not sure that this team are necessarily as locked in to repeat last year’s feats as many seem to think. They welcome a New York Giants team who may have a banged up Odell Beckham, but who have been adding to Eli Manning’s passing options in the offseason, and the defence could be very good again even if they might take a step back after last year’s amazing turnaround. Sill, having beaten the Cowboys twice last season, I’m happy to take the four and a half points and hope for a cover.

Gee’s Pick:            Giants
Dan’s Pick:            Giants

Saints @ Vikings (-3.5)

There are two Monday night games this week, and the first sees the New Orleans Saints travel to face a tough Minnesota Vikings defence. The Saints only need their defence to improve from bottom of the league to respectable for them to be truly competitive given that Drew Brees is still throwing for five thousand yards a year. But this is a tough start to the season for them as the Vikings seem to have already developed a good home advantage in what last year was a new stadium, but the offensive line limited their effectiveness on offence although Sam Bradford still managed a record setting level of accuracy. With a bit more stability this year the Vikings are likely to be very competitive, and I’m backing them in this one at home, although I am looking forward to seeing how the Saints might develop.

Gee’s Pick:            Vikings
Dan’s Pick:            Vikings

Chargers @ Broncos (-3.5)

This final game of the week is giving me some trouble to pick, because the Broncos defence has been a little unsettled in the front seven in the last two seasons, and they have just released TJ Ward in the final round of cuts at the end of preseason. They will be hoping to have developed the offensive line enough to help Trevor Siemian and the offensive be more effective as they were very limited last season. With the Chargers moving to LA, there will be a degree of disruption floating round that certainly hurt the Rams last year, but the roster does appear to turning round. The addition of Joey Bosa gave the Chargers defence a real lift when he played, and certainly when I saw the Chargers in preseason I was impressed.

One of these new head coaches will get a win, but I’m finding it hard to predict which one, and with the Broncos needing to win by four to cover this I’m grabbing the points and hoping the Chargers won’t let me down despite traveling to a difficult place to play.

Gee’s Pick:            Chargers
Dan’s Pick:            Broncos

And So It Begins

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And so it Begins.

It is always tricky for me to finish up covering the offseason games on the blog as with them all taking place on the Thursday night, my usual times to watch games don’t quite work out before the season starts and suddenly the info doesn’t seem so relevant. I am sure no one is coming to the blog for game recaps and the final Hard Knocks episode is not even available yet, but now the dust has settled on the cuts and moves, the real interest is how things will shape up in the early season and what if any of my pre-season observations translate into the regular season.

I have taken a couple impressions away with me, but we won’t know if they were worth anything until the season gets going and so on to tonight’s season opener.

Chiefs @ Patriots (-8.5)

The traditional opener of the Super Bowl champions hosting a team on a Thursday night has rarely yielded an upset, but this may not be the case this year.

The New England Patriots had an impressive offseason, strengthening their options on offence, and up to a couple of weeks ago their only question seemed to be their pass rush. Even with the loss of Tom Brady’s favourite receiver Julian Edelman for the season, it is hard not to see the Patriots as the class of the AFC.

The Kansas City Chiefs have a more varied offseason with a mix of moves to build for the future despite still being competitive and possibly on requiring a little to put them over the top. They have stood behind Alex Smith as their starting quarterback despite trading up to pick quarterback Patrick Mahomes in the first round of April’s draft, but the Chiefs are clearly planning to let him sit and develop.

I am expecting the Patriots to start the season with a win, but I was impressed with what I saw of the Chiefs when they played the Bengals in pre-season and Andy Reid is a formidable coach with time to pre-pare and I do not think this game is as big of a walk over as some are predicting, which is why I’m picking the Chiefs to cover.

Gee’s Pick:          Chiefs
Dan’s Pick:          Chiefs

The Wrong Football Podcast – Episode 51

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While Dan might be refusing to acknowledge Week One thanks to the postponement of the Dolphins game with Tampa, the NFL 2017 season is about to kick off! This week, we look at some of the chopping and changing which took place around roster cut day, and also make our picks for Week One of the season – will Dan emerge victorious in the ESPN Pigskin Pick’em competition 2 years in a row? There’s only one way to find out! This week, on The Wrong Football Podcast

Source: The Wrong Football Podcast – The Wrong Football Podcast – Episode 51

The Dress Rehearsal

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The third pre-season game is usually seen as the dress rehearsal for a team, but even then there is no set formula on who plays as the coaches are most interested in preparing for the season whilst minimising the risk to their starters. You can also see rookies and other players stepping up so they can get reps with the starters against other quality players to get a better evaluation. This complicates what we can interpret from the outside, which is why it is important not to put too much stock in what you see in pre-season, but for those involved the football is important despite what some might tell you.

With all of the fourth pre-season games taking place on Thursday night, a logistical challenge is facing the teams as for the first time they are cutting from ninety without a cut down to seventy-five before tonight’s games, although many teams have already started to make some cuts. There is also a challenge for the Hard Knocks crew as they prepare everything for next Tuesday’s episode with a more compressed time frame. Sadly being in the UK I won’t get to see episode four of Hard Knocks before the week four games start tonight, so I’ll have to run through the week three games without the extra insight of the behind the scenes footage of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who played the Cleveland Browns in their third pre-season game.

A number of players were held out or played limited snaps, so Jameis Winston was working without his full complement of options in the offence, and this did show. He floated a pass at a tight end that was intercepted, although he also escaped pressure and made a good pass to Freddie Martino later in the game, but it was rookie receiver Chris Goodwin who finished with most yards of any receiver. I think with a full complement of starters the Buccaneers will have an offence going in the right direction so we shouldn’t take too much from this game, but Winston will need to limit his interceptions. No one wants to lose their starting quarterback, and there are not enough quality starters floating around for teams to have a really good backup, but the Bucs might be concerned with the way Ryan Fitzpatrick has turned the ball over so far and they will be hoping that if he does get called upon in meaningful games that he reproduces some of his form from his 2015 season with the New York Jets and not what he has displayed so far.

As for the defence, they gave up some worrying plays to a Browns team that I think are going to cause some trouble for teams this season. You are always going to miss a player of Gerald McCoy’s ability, but he should be back for the regular season after being held out of this game with an injury, still there were not a lot of players that stood out to me. Part of that is due to not having coaching tape yet. This always makes it hard to truly see what is going on, you just can’t evaluate a secondary without the all twenty-two view, and the end zone view is brilliant for seeing how the front seven line up and play. Still, I did notice that Riley Bullough, a player I have mentioned multiple times this pre-season having been a player highlighted on Hard Knocks, did not get into the game on defence until the last drive on defence, and so whilst I did see him on special teams, he will be desperate to put up good tape tonight to try to catch on to a team, be it the Buccaneers or somebody else who has liked what they have seen.

For the Cincinnati Bengals, who took on Washington in their third warm up game, it has been a pre-season of questions rather than answers. Still, it was good to see John Ross get on the field, even if he didn’t make a catch, he demonstrated his speed on an end around run, and it will take a couple of weeks to shake of the rust as he makes his way back from a shoulder injury. I was also not expecting to see Andy Dalton over throwing the fastest man in combine history on a deep ball! It was much better to see the first team score a touchdown, and whilst the Bengals’ young tackles still had their problems, the offence functioned and has the potential to come alive if things break right for them during the season and the young players bed in.

The defence will be looking to make do round Shawn Williams injury, and he will be missed at safety, but the pass rush still looks good with defensive end Chris Smith catching the eye in every game and looks to be a potential bargain given the conditional pick the Bengals gave up to the Jacksonville Jaguars to get him. The young linebacker group got even younger with the trade of special teams stalwart Marquis Flowers to the New England Patriots and they will be without Vontaze Burfict for three games after his appeal against suspension was not successful. I can see why Marvin Lewis and the Bengals will be upset given their reasoning about the Kansas City Chiefs player being hit with a shoulder within five yards of the line of scrimmage, the player being in line with the target of a pump fake, and the ball being in Alex Smith’s hands, but Burfict has a history that precedes him and clearly is not being given the benefit of the doubt.

There’s a lot of questions about the Bengals, but at least they look to have made it to the start of the season relatively healthy and I still think they will do better than many have predicted, even if I’m not going to guarantee a playoff berth. I will say, I’m still deeply uncomfortable every time Mixon takes the field and I find it hard to see how I will ever resolve that pick.

Finally, having spoken about the hope I saw for the LA Rams offence on our last podcast, Jared Goff did not play well against the LA Chargers. More worrying for him will be the fact that the offence is designed well and seemed to run better with Sean Mannion as their quarterback. Whether Goff’s struggles can be partly put down to rookie receiver Cooper Kupp being withheld from the game due to a minor groin pull I don’t know, but the Rams third game did not go as well as their second, and it would surprise no one if the Rams had another rocky season. Still, I do see some signs of hope, I’m just unsure whether Goff can, or will be given the time to, become a franchise quarterback. It is also too early to tell how Sean McVay will do as a head coach, but I have a feeling he will turn out well given time, but that doesn’t necessarily mean things will work out for him in LA.

One last thing before the final pre-season games start last night. I stated on our last podcast that if you were going to watch pre-season games, that week three were the ones to watch as that was when the starters would play most. And I stand by that. But for those of us who have the disease as Ross Tucker puts it, these final games will be fascinating as the players we have never heard off, are playing for a chance to catch onto a roster, or practise squad. They just want to make the team and no one should question their efforts, and I intend to honour it by watching all three teams I have been following.

Still, next week the season starts.

2017 Pre-Season: The Starters Emerge

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The starters began to emerge last week as they played more than a handful of snaps in the second pre-season games and we saw this covered in the third Hard Knocks episode.

For the Tampa Bay Buccaneers the stars of Hard Knocks stayed the same, and I continued to be impressed by them. However, we did get another lesson in the harsh realities of the NFL. The undrafted rookie Maruice Fleming was shown arriving early and running extra drills, telling us that he had asked Jameis Winston what time he got up and deciding to do the same. It had not gone unnoticed by the coaching staff either, but sadly he hurt his knee and whilst he gutted out the game, which was a hard thing to watch, he was too injured to carry on and was cut. Fleming will have impressed with his toughness, but he’s now done for training camp and let’s hope the injury is not too bad so he can have another chance.

The other thing that grabbed my attention in episode three is the theme of Winston’s development. In earlier episodes we had seen Jameis talking to his head coach about risk versus reward, and having played well with his offence looking good, he then heaved the ball up in the air as he was sacked and it was picked off in the end zone. You can understand Dirk Koetter’s frustration and the resulting dressing down he gave his quarterback, but Winston already knew his mistake and the important thing for Winston going forward will be if he can temper his risk taking without losing what makes him special.

Still in their second pre-season game the Buccaneers’ defence smothered the struggling Jacksonville Jaguars offence in the first half and then held out for a narrow win. They would want the offence to be running more smoothly, and having had one field goal blocked and another miss, they will be hoping that things settle down for Nick Folk.

Moving away from the Buccaneers, the Cincinnati Bengals hosted the Kansas City Chiefs and I would definitely say I am nervous given that the Bengals lost heavily. It is not time to panic yet, but the offensive failed to score any touchdowns despite moving the ball, and only time will tell if game planning will help with efficiency as Andy Dalton suggested it might. There were also signs that left tackle Cedric Ogbuehi could still struggle, although there were only snaps he had problems rather than constant issues.

The good news on defence is that the pass rush continues to look good, but there were times where the middle of the defence looked soft against both run and pass. There is a lot of youth in the front seven of the defence at the moment, and losing safety Shawn Williams to a dislocated elbow will not help this area either. Still given the problems covering tight ends last season, the Bengals will be hoping things come together soon.

Across the country in LA, fans of the Rams got their first hint of what a difference it will make to have an offensive minded head coach in charge. It is way too early to pronounce on Jared Goff, but the offence definitely looked like it could do something this year. The Rams managed to move the ball as they eked out a win, and although Todd Gurley did not look great, Goff looked to be developing some chemistry with Cooper Kupp and completed passes as players were schemed open.

The defence continues to look solid, and the hope is that the Rams can show development and find out what they have in their young quarterback. This might not sound like amazing progress, but it is the start of building a team to do more than hover round eight wins. I am curious to see how things unfold for Sean McVay over the coming season and how the Rams develop in the coming years.

I had better get on with watching the week three games as we are rapidly approaching the start of a new season.

Football is coming.