2020 Christmas Picks

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I’m not sure how read this post will be, and in fairness I finished work and hit something of a wall so let’s got through our four Christmas NFL games and I’ll regroup again on Sunday.

Gee:Week 15:  10 – 6Overall:  109 – 116
Dan:Week 15:  6 – 10Overall:  116 – 109

Christmas Day

Vikings @ Saints (-6.5)

I think should be a really good contest between a New Orleans Saints team who will want to get their offence running more smoothly now quarterback Drew Brees has returned from injury and get back to winning ways to see if they can regain their number one seeding should the Packers slip up in the next two weeks. I can’t see the Vikings making the play-offs but they will not want to go quietly in these final two weeks and so I do seem them being competitive. However, as I’m getting an extra half point from the consensus, I’m seeing online I’m going to take the Saints.

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

Boxing Day

Buccaneers @ Lions (+8.5)

The first of the Boxing day games sees the Tampa Bay Buccaneers visiting the Detroit Lions in a game that the Bucs should win by a decent amount. I’m slightly hesitant that it will be by nine points, except this line is actually a whole point less than the consensus online and the Lions defence is not good and I don’t trust their offence to keep up with the Bucs either. I may regret this, but if the Bucs are going to make the play-offs and do more than be there then they need things to come together and with very little of the regular season left now seems as good a time as any for them to do so.

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

49ers @ Cardinals (-4.5)

I could be wrong about this, but the San Francisco 49ers are coming towards the end of a long season that has been plagued by injury and with them staying away in Arizona with their families but with nothing left to play for except pride they may struggle against a Cardinals team who are chasing the play-offs. The Cardinals have benefitted from Kyler Murray looking much more like himself in the last couple of weeks and so I’m going to back them to cover this line.

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

Dolphins @ Raiders (+2.5)

A couple of weeks ago this would have been an important game for both teams’ play-off chances and it still is for the Dolphins, but I think the Raiders have lost too many games in recent weeks. I wonder how fit Derek Carr will be despite training in the week, but it is too late for there to be huge changes to the defence that has let the Raiders down all season so whilst I could be wrong, I like the Dolphins to win this game and setup a big finale against the Bills in week seventeen.

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

Survivor Competition

The best I can do now is draw with Dan and he only has to score one more point to seal the season win. The Ravens saw him through against the Jaguars last week and did the Titans for me against the Lions. This week Dan has got the Saints going against the Vikings whilst I’m pumping for the Texans going against the Bengals.

Current Score

Gee: 10
Dan: 12

Week 16 Selection:

Gee:    Texans
Dan:    Saints

2020 Week Fifteen Picks

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I would love to think that I am getting into Dan’s head having gone three out of three so far in week fifteen and picked up two points on him already, but despite his text this morning I am keenly aware that this still only cut his lead to under double digits and there are plenty of opportunities to fall further back.

Still, it is nice to be perfect so far so let’s take a look at the rest of the week fifteen games.

Early Games:

There are a couple of games that leap out of the early slate and once again one of the teams involved is the Miami Dolphins. They are hosting the New England Patriots, and this is a fixture that the Pats have had difficulties with for a number of years even when they were still running up double digit wins and making the AFC East their own. The East looks to be going to the Bills this season, but the Dolphins are very much in the hunt for a wildcard slot and I think this divisional game should be the next step in them doing just that, but I also think it should be a tense competitive game.

The Seattle Seahawks have an interesting test this week as they travel across the country to face the Washington Football Team who currently stand atop the NFC East and still have a shot at a winning record. I somehow doubt the Football Team are going to win out, particularly with the Seahawks coming to town this week, but watching the Washington defensive line trying to limit Russell Wilson should be fun and I think Washington could well cover even if I think the Seahawks are more likely to win.

Points from the rest:

  • The Tampa Bay Buccaneers really can’t afford too many more losses even with possession of the sixth wildcard spot as the Cardinals are only a game behind them and with the Vikings and Bears two games back neither are out the hunt yet, although you would fancy the Bucs to hold on. Still, while the Falcons should not prove too difficult an opponent this week, the Bucs have not impressed for a while and hanging on for a wildcard spot was not exactly the aim coming into the season
  • The Chicago Bears finally broke their six-game losing streak against the Texans and looked pretty good doing it. The Minnesota Vikings have improved after a bad start to the season and I do like the Vikings to win at home, but I have a feeling this divisional game will be closer than the line suggests with he Bears actually ranking better by overall DVOA.
  • It’s hard to take too much from the Dallas Cowboys’ win last week as the Bengals are a terrible football team, whilst the 49ers have remained competitive despite numerous injury problems and playing in an NFC West division that has been fearsomely competitive in 2020. I lean towards the 49ers winning this one and the points are not enough for me to pick against them.
  • The Detroit Lions followed up their win over the Bears with a loss to the Packers last week, although it was a reasonable showing. Still, the Tennessee Titans looked very solid against the Jaguars last week and with the league’s thirty-first defense by DVOA and the twenty-sixth ranked rush defense facingthe Titans I don’t expect that the Lions will manage a different result than the Jags.
  • The Indianapolis Colts are a very solid football team, top ten in both defense and special teams by DVOA and have enough good quarterback play through the combination of Philip Rivers’ experience and Jacoby Brissett providing short yardage sneaks and run-options close to the goal line that they should win this game. The Houston Texans are a divisional opponent so the line does worry me, but the Colts are a better team than the Bears so I think the Colts should cover
  • The Jacksonville Jaguars got a bit of a boost from starting Mike Glennon for two games but didn’t get a win and they were beat convincingly by the Titans last week. Meanwhile, the Ravens looked very good last week with Lamar Jackson running the ball effectively and it’s hard to see anything other than a Ravens win, although whether they cover the points is another question.

Buccaneers @ Falcons (+5.5)

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

Bears @ Vikings (-3.5)

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

49ers @ Cowboys (+2.5)

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

Lions @ Titans (-9.5)

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

Texans @ Colts (-7.5)

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

Patriots @ Dolphins (-2.5)

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

Seahawks @ Washington (+5.5)

Gee’s Pick:      Washington
Dan’s Pick:      Seahawks

Jaguars @ Ravens (-13.5)

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

Late Games:

The pick of the late games is clearly the Kansas City Chiefs visiting the New Orleans Saints as this is probably the game of the week. The Saints will welcome the return of Drew Brees after the Taysom Hill experiment ran aground against the Eagles last week. This should be a fascinating contest, but how good Brees can be given his layoff for eleven broken ribs is a reasonable question and there does seem to be something inevitable about opposing quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs offence. That said, the Saints defense is second only to the Steelers by DVOA and there are enough questions surrounding the Chiefs defense and performance in recent weeks that they are beatable. It’s just no-one but the Raiders have managed it so far this season.

Points on the Rest:

  • The LA Rams looks to be a better-balanced team this season than the year they went to the Super Bowl and should have no problem beating the New York Jets at home.
  • The Arizona Cardinals got back to winning ways last week, and Kyler Murray looked much more like himself. That said, the Eagles found something in Jalen Hurts and having beaten the Saints last week will be hoping to build on that win. I wonder if the Saints were complacent last week, but this line still seems a bit high to me but we shall see.

Jets @ Rams (-16.5)

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

Eagles @ Cardinals (-6.5)

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

Chiefs @ Saints (+3.5)

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

Sunday Night Football:

Browns @ Giants (+3.5)

The New York Giants lost their first game in five weeks against the Cardinals and the games don’t get any easier this week with the Cleveland Browns coming to town. There is three points between the consensus line and this one so I pretty much have to pick the Browns by default, and I would expect them to win given recent performances. The Giants still have a good defense but they will need their offence to do better if they want to apply pressure to Washington at the top of the NFC East over the final three games.

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

Monday Night Football

Steelers @ Bengals (+12.5)

The Steelers have a particularly good record against the Bengals anyway, but I can’t see any hope for a bad Bengals team who will be starting third string quarterback Ryan Finley who has an 0-3 record as a starter. There are genuine issues with a Steelers’ offence that cannot run the ball or stretch the field and a defence that has a cluster of injuries at linebacker but the Bengals are simply not equipped to exploit this.

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

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.

Competition Saturday: 2020 Week Fifteen Picks

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Week fifteen started with a win for me, although I was lucky in that I picked against Raiders’ quarterback Derek Carr and he picked up a groin strain early but he was on the bench for my dynasty team so the injury helped my pick without damaging my play-off matchup. With the first Saturday games of the season coming into view there’s just time to take a quick look at tonight’s games.

Bills @ Broncos (+6.5)

The Buffalo Bills follow up their statement win against the Steelers with a trip to face the Denver Broncos who are coming off their own win. The Broncos best win of the year was against the Miami Dolphins, but the Bills offense is a very different thing to face than the Panthers who they just beat and I fully expect the Bills to win out in this one. That said, this line is big enough that it really makes me wonder if I want to back the Bills, but they have had a number of solid wins and I can’t quite bring myself to back the Broncos. I do wonder if I will regret going against my numbers though…

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

Panthers @ Packers (-8.5)

I misremembered the results of the Panthers on the podcast this week as they actually only got back to 3-4 after losing their first four games, and won their last game as recently as week eleven against the Lions. This puts me in a second Saturday quandary as they have been competitive for a number of weeks and so whilst I would be shocked if they could travel to Green Bay so close to having eight players on the Covid-19 list and win, I wouldn’t be if they covered this line. The Packers are currently ranked number one in the NFC for a reason, and that reason is their league leading by DVOA offence, but whilst there are still questions about their defence against elite competition, I don’t think that is going to cause them issues in this game. That said, when I look at the consensus number the line is just that bit too rich for me, even with the Panthers only having four wins.

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

Competition Thursday: 2020 Week Fifteen

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A bad week in picks and survivor for yours truly means that Dan is tightening his grip on both competitions and with me fighting through physical injury (badly sprained ankle) and dodgy internet I feel in no shape to catch him up.

I suspect that the blog will be turning teal and orange much to Dan’s delight, and if that is the case then I will have to see if I can find the website resources I created when I dreamt up the idea of blog colours being the prize, or if I will have to recreate from scratch.

Looking back over my week fourteen picking mistakes, they are a mixture of things I did not see coming that I am not convinced could be predicted from the information I was working with, and things I am really annoyed about. If you had enough information on the injury situation of Kyler Murray then perhaps you could have predicted the Cardinals would beat the Giants with Murray once more scrambling effectively, but there were signs that Lamar Jackson was looking better running the ball against the Cowboys so I should have accounted for that in their game against the Browns. I’ve been a step slow to see changes in teams this season and part of dealing with the volatility of a matchup driven week to week sport like the NFL is to not hold on to recent results to tightly and be wary of reading too much into the last couple of weeks. I will definitely be digging into my picking history this off-season and re-assessing my plan for next week.

Gee:Week 14:  6 – 10Overall:  99 – 110
Dan:Week 14:  10 – 6Overall:  110 – 99

Chargers @ Raiders (-3.5)

Our Thursday Night game for week fifteen is a divisional matchup that sees the Las Vegas Raiders hosting the LA Chargers in a battle of recently moved franchises, which is immediately throwing me into a quandary. The Raiders have lost three out of their last four games and needed a helping hand from a zero-blitz Jets defence to win their one game in that stretch. With their chances of making the play-offs badly damaged by this run Raider’s head coach Jon Gruden fired defensive coordinator Paul Guenther and promoted Rod Marinelli, who will need all of his experience to make a difference to this unit on a short week. The LA Chargers have a promising young quarterback but despite having what on paper should be a competitive roster have not managed to turn that potential into wins. The Chargers may have beaten the Falcons last week but neither team is exactly engendering a lot of trust in me at the moment so the extra half point I’m getting compared to the consensus line is seeing me take the Chargers, but I’m not exactly excited about it.

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

Survivor Competition

My ability to jinx good NFC teams struck again in week fourteen when having lost earlier in the season with the Packers, I lost with the Saints going against the Eagles. To put that in perspective, both teams are 10-3 and I managed to pick them in one of their six losses. Dan of course had the advantage of not adjusting his pick to me and sailed through with the Titans but there was nothing stopping me from picking them last week so I should have just done that. As it happens, the Titans are my best shot this week so I am going with them against the Lions whilst Dan is opting to go against the Jaguars with the Ravens.

Current Score

Gee: 9
Dan: 11

Week 15 Selection:

Gee:    Titans
Dan:    Ravens

Bold Prediction of the Week

This week my bold prediction is that Jalen Hurts with have more rushing yards against the Cardinals than Lamar Jackson will have against the Jaguars. Now I think this might be madness, and it is a sign of the disruption to my week that I can’t remember my original thinking on why this would be the case when preparing for podcast, but it is at least bold.

2020 Week Fourteen Picks

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Week fourteen did not get off to the best of starts for me as my difficulties in picking the Thursday night game between the Rams and Patriots were exposed as foolish when the Rams thoroughly beat the Patriots. So, having gifted a point back to Dan in terms of our season contest I have to have a good Sunday and Monday so let’s get to the game.

Early Games:

There are three games that shout off the list of the early games to me. The first is one of the matchups of the week for both Dan and I that sees the Miami Dolphins hosting the Kansas City Chiefs. The Dolphins defense is just outside of the top ten by DVOA but has looked good in recent weeks as Flores and his staff have taken elements from the Patriots and welded it to excellent special teams and good enough offence. I don’t know if this formula will be enough to beat the Chiefs, but this is a team that has lost only one of their last eight games. The Chiefs are only ranked fourth overall by DVOA despite their league leading offence, which seems to always have the answer at the end of the game thanks to the combination of quarterback Patrick Mahomes, head coach Andy Reid and coordinator Eric Bieniemy. There are some who are asking questions about the rest of the Chiefs team and if they have what it takes to repeat their trip to the Super Bowl, but it’s hard to argue with an 11-1 record and I’m certainly looking forward to watching this game.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers went into their bye week if not in disarray then definitely facing problems having lost three of their last four games including their last two by a field goal. The Bucs host a Minnesota Vikings team who may only be one win behind in the standing but are very much in the hunt for a wildcard spot. If the Bucs have faltered in recent weeks, the Vikings are coming into form having won five of their last six games, although the loss was against the Cowboy. Partly this resurgence is due to the return of Dalvin Cook from injury, which helped the offence find its identity, but the defense is currently top ten by DVOA despite a huge amount of turnover in the secondary, although their special teams is a surprising thirty-first. It feels like the Bucs should be doing better with their sixth ranked offence by DVOA and fourth ranked defense, but things are not quite coming together for them and the concern is that there are not many weeks to get right. I think this should be a competitive game and everyone will be watching to see if the Bucs can push on from their bye week so I am surprised to see the points the Bucs are laying six and half points, even if the consensus sees the Bucs laying a touchdown.

The final game that stands out in the early slate does so as much about the stakes of the game as the quality of the contest. The New York Giants may only have a 5-7 record, but they have won four straight and are coming off their best of the season having beaten the Seahawks in Seattle with a great defensive performance. This week they face an Arizona Cardinals team who have been struggling for several weeks and last won a game in week ten. No one seems to know for sure, but many are speculating that Kyler Murray is dealing with an injury and what is for certain is that he is not running the ball like he was earlier in the season and this seems to have really hurt their offence. Both teams really need to win this game to maintain their chances of making the play-offs but with the way these two teams are trending it is a surprise to me that the Giants are getting points at home.

Points from the rest:

  • The Chicago Bears have had such a Jekyll and Hide season, starting off 5-1 before the problems on offence could be overcome no longer, then losing six games in a row. The Texans lost their first four games, which in fairness was a brutal stretch of opponents but they are the exact opposite of the Bears in that Deshaun Watson is absolutely a franchise quarterback and the Bears are yet again looking for one. Neither team are going to trouble the play-offs this season but the team with the worse record may in fact have the easier path back to being competitive but I’m really not sure which one I actually want to pick.
  • Then Cincinnati Bengals are not a good football team, but they might win this game because neither are the Dallas Cowboys, and it is somewhat ironic that Andy Dalton is clearly the best quarterback in this game. I think it is more likely that Dalton gets his revenge win than does not.
  • It is interesting that the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos have the same record as I have felt much more positive about the direction the Panthers are heading in, but with this week’s Covid-19 outbreak I wonder how the Panthers will fare against the Broncos.
  • I think that the Jacksonville Jaguars have looked better in the last couple of weeks with Mike Glennon at quarterback, but this has not resulted in wins and they will likely be starting next season with a new young quarterback. I don’t expect them to beat a Tennessee Titans team who still hold a share of the lead of the AFC South, but I just have an inkling this game will be closer than this line suggests.

Texans @ Bears (+1.5)

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

Cowboys @ Bengals (+3.5)

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

Broncos @ Panthers (-3.5)

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

Titans @ Jaguars (+7.5)

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

Chiefs @ Dolphins (+7.5)

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

Vikings @ Buccaneers (-6.5)

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

Cardinals @ Giants (+2.5)

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

Late Games:

It is a slightly underwhelming late slate of the games, certainly for close games with play-off stakes but I will work my way through the two that I think are worth discussing.

The Washington Football Team are in Arizona to take on the San Francisco 49ers in their second home game at the Cardinals’ stadium. There has been plenty of discussion of how important this game is to Kyle Shanahan given how Washington’s owner Dan Snyder treated Shanahan and his dad when they worked for him. This meeting of 5-7 teams does have play-off significance thanks to the state of the NFC East and Washington are coming off their best win of the season having beaten the Steelers last week. I don’t know whether they can extend their three-game winning streak, but this is a game where the stakes are raised for both teams and with how competitive the 49ers have been despite their injuries I think this could well be a good one to watch;

The other game that catches the eye a little is the New Orleans Saints taking on the Philadelphia Eagles in a matchup that is interesting because of the two quarterbacks involved. The Saints have won three straight games with Taysom Hill starting at quarterback in the absence of Drew Brees and having thrown his first passing touchdown last week, the Saints and Hill take on an Eagles team in disarray who have turned to rookie Jalen Hurts to start at quarterback. The 3-8-1 Eagles have not won a game since week eight and their only win against a team outside of the NFC East came against the 49ers in week four. With the way the Saints’ defense is playing I don’t think the Eagles will do much better against the Saints with Hurts starting, particularly given his problems throwing the ball in college, but I do think it will be interesting to see and contrast the two quarterbacks in this game.

Points on the Rest:

  • The Las Vegas Raiders have fallen back in recent weeks and can’t be relied upon. The Colts have their own problems with the injury to Philip Rivers’ toe combined with a backup getting the start at left tackle, but I think they are more reliable. This is likely the cue for the Raiders to get back to winning ways…
  • The Seattle Seahawks will be looking to bounce back from their loss to the Giant last week and I do expect them to beat the New York Jets, but the Jets have been competitive in the last few weeks and so I think this line is too high, even if the consensus line is even higher.
  • The LA Chargers were beaten by forty-five points last week and Anthony Lynn is taking over special teams after last week’s fiascos, but whether that is enough to get back to winning ways remains to be seen. The Chargers take on a Falcons team who have at least been competitive since Raheem Moris became interim head coach and I think they are favourites for a reason, even if the line does give me pause.
  • The Detroit Lions got a win last week after the firing of Matt Patricia, but the Green Bay Packers are a much different prospect to facing the Bears and that is why the line is so high, which is hard to argue with, particularly as the consensus line is even higher.

Colts @ Raiders (+2.5)

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

Jets @ Seahawks (-13.5)

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

Falcons @ Chargers (+2.5)

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

Packers @ Lions (+7.5)

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

Saints @ Eagles (+6.5)

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

Washington @ 49ers (-3.5)

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

Sunday Night Football:

Steelers @ Bills (-2.5)

The Sunday Night football game is a cracker this week that sees the Buffalo Bills hosting the 11-1 Pittsburgh Steelers. There have been plenty of questions surrounding the Steelers in recent weeks, both because their running game is just not functioning, so they are relying on Ben Roethlisberger to throw short passes and get the ball out of his hands to win game, and that the Steelers have continued to pick up injuries to their linebackers. The Bills meanwhile got a stellar game from Josh Allen last week and their top ten by DVOA offense and special teams is now getting some support from a defense who has dragged themselves back up to a reasonably average rank of sixteenth. This is one of those games where the absence of fans is going to be sorely missed and I like the Bills to win this game given the increasing number of problems the Steelers are facing. You must respect any team who have an 11-1 record, but if you look at the Steelers schedule this is their toughest opponent since the Titans in week seven and very possibly the best team they will face in the regular season. I like the Bills to win this game, but Mike Tomlin is a really good coach, and it wouldn’t exactly be a surprise if the Steelers do get the road win.

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

Monday Night Football

Ravens @ Browns (+1.5)

The Cleveland Browns are hosting the Baltimore Ravens on Monday night with a two-game lead over them the AFC North and the joint second-best record in the AFC. The Browns switched their game plan last week and attacked the Titans through the air as Kevin Stefanski continues to impress in his first season as a head coach. It does feel like the Browns have had a real change in their identity under the new regime and this contrasts favourably to a Ravens team who look to have taken a step back from the previous year. The problems with the offence still seem to be haunting the Ravens, although at least Lamar Jackson looked more like himself last week but that was against the struggling Cowboys. I have a lot of respect for the Ravens as a franchise, but it does feel odd that they are laying points on the road given their recent record, but this is a genuine test of whether the Browns are as good as their record suggests or if this is only the first step in their development. Still, I have no doubt that this will be a closer game than their first meeting in week one and should be a cracking way to end week fourteen.

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

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.

Competition Thursday: 2020 Week Fourteen

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I had a good week thirteen and so closed the gap to seven in the picks competition, but I need to somehow keep the pressure up on Dan as right now he is in primed to sweep both the Survivor and the Picks competitions, as well as having the best record in the dynasty league. Given how well the Dolphins are doing it seems everything in the NFL world is going well for Dan.

Gee:Week 14:  10 – 5Overall:  93 – 100
Dan:Week 14:  7 – 8Overall:  100 – 93

Patriots @ Rams (-5.5)

This is a tricky game for me as this line is right between two of my numbers so one system suggests picking the Patriots, and the other suggests the Rams should just cover. I’m also trying not to second guess myself as Dan sent me his pick at lunchtime before I had a chance to go through my process. Frustratingly, the only time Sean McVay has faced the Patriots and Bill Belichick is in the Super Bowl, where a really good Pats defence very much got the better of Jared Goff. We have already seen the 49ers best Goff this year so there is a chance that the Pats can do this again, except this is a different defence and it’s hard to trust the Pats this season even if they have won four out of their last five games. In the end, I am going to trust the numbers that are 97-63 over the course of the season and ignore any secondary thoughts so I am going to go for the Pats. I am really looking forward to watching this game tomorrow, but the pick is going to bug me all the way through.

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

Survivor Competition

Another week of consistent scoring saw Dan maintain his one-point lead over me in the survivor competition as his pick of the Chiefs over the Broncos held up as did mine of picking against the Jets with the Raiders, although only just thanks to Gregg Williams calling a cover-zero-blitz with seconds left protecting a lead. This week Dan is going against the Jaguars by selecting the Titans. That is the most promising selection when I look at the schedule, but I’m trying not to follow Dan so there are two options I’m considering, I can’t think that the Bengals will beat the Cowboys but that’s a bit of risky one so I’m going to settle for Saints visiting the Philadelphia Eagles.

Current Score

Gee: 10
Dan: 9

Week 14 Selection:

Gee:     Saints
Dan:    Titans

Bold Prediction of the Week

So I wasn’t sure what Dan would allow as bold this week so I went into the bod recording with three options and finished the segment with two left standing, which are:

  1. The New York Giants will beat the Arizona Cardinals
  2. The Miami Dolphins will cover getting seven and a half points against the Kansas City Chiefs

The Fourth Quarter of the Season

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Well, it is slightly odd that the Baltimore Ravens have finished two games since last week’s post and I am sure that it is a relief to get back to winning ways as they try move on from the Covid-19 outbreak and drag themselves back into playoff contention. The games are coming think and fast as the last week thirteen game took place last night and we have a Thursday night game tomorrow with what looks to be a good matchup of the New England Patriots visiting the LA Rams.

So before we get too distracted by week fourteen let’s cast our eyes back over the previous week as the last quarter of the season starts tomorrow.

What I Saw

Week thirteen started on Sunday and the first game I watched was the Cincinnati Bengals visiting the Miami Dolphins in what was very much a game of two halves that the Dolphins ultimately won 19-7. Perhaps the most surprising thing was that the Bengals went into half time with a 7-6 lead that was built off the back of a seventy-two-yard touchdown catch where most of the work was done by Tyler Boyd and this single play was not only not all the points the Bengals would score, but represented 37% of their passing yards for the day, which rises into 46% of passing production once you figure in the thirty-seven yards they lost on six sacks. This was also a surprisingly chippy game between the two teams with multiple ejections, but I can’t help but feel that as much as Dan thought that Brian Flores had read the riot act to the team at half-time, I think Flore might actually have channelled his inner Alex Ferguson and simply left it to, ‘Lads, it’s the Bengals,’ and left. The Dolphins look to be maintaining their push for the play-offs and I’m genuinely looking forward to seeing how they will hold up against the Chiefs next week. As for the Bengals, I think there needs to something more radical than a high pick offensive lineman to sort this mess out, but I don’t know if we’re going to get it even though this is the fifth straight losing season and I see no evidence that Zac Taylor is going to add to his current total of four career wins this season.

I then jumped into the late Sunday games to watch the New York Giants play the Seattle Seahawks in a low scoring but interesting game that at halftime saw the Seahawks lead 5-0 but ultimately, they would lose 17-12. The Giants deserve full credit for this road win as their defence did an impressive job of containing Russell Wilson, whilst a career day that saw Wayne Gallman rush for over one-hundred-yards for the first time in his NFL carreer helped the Giants’ offence to score enough points in the third quarter to take and keep the lead. The Giants are a flawed team, but they still won this game with journeyman backup Colt McCoy barely passing one-hundred passing yards and I think they have found something in Joe Judge. Only time will tell if he can build the Giants back into a franchise that wins regularly and I still have questions about Jason Garrett as an offensive coordinator, but Judge has already proved he is willing to get involved having made a change in the offensive line room when he wasn’t happy with the performance there so I am looking forward to seeing how they develop in the coming years. As for the Seahawks, this game is a setback and they have lost four out of their seven games since their week six bye, but their fate is very much still in their own hands, although they will need to find some consistent form from somewhere with Washington, the Rams and 49ers on the schedule after the Jets next week.

The last game I watched from week thirteen was the Buffalo Bills playing the San Francisco 49ers at their temporary home in Glendale Arizona. It’s interesting to see a division rival open up their stadium for the 49ers, particularly as the Cardinals are hosting the 49ers on Boxing day so the 49ers will be pretty used to the environment by that point. However, this was the first game of the three the 49ers will play in Arizona this year and it started with the Bills driving all the way to the 49ers one-yard line before a failed fourth and one saw the 49ers takeover on downs and drive all the way to the Bills one-yard line, before they too failed to score. Things took a further strange turn when a bad snap saw the Bills immediately turn the ball over straight back to the 49ers, but after two failures from the three yard line, the 49ers’ backup quarterback Nick Mullens (starting his sixth game of the season) threw a short pass to Brandon Aiyuk to finally open the scoring in the last minute of the first quarter. However, the Bills struck back with seventeen straight points of their own to take a lead they never relinquished through the rest of the game. Given all the things that the 49ers have had to deal with this season it is actually a credit to the 49ers that they have been as competitive as they have this season. Meanwhile, this was a return to form for Josh Allen who made some ridiculous throws in this game as the Bills maintained their lead over the chasing Dolphins in the AFC East. It feels like the competition for that divisions going to run to the final week, which could get interesting given the Bills are hosting the Dolphins in week seventeen.

What I Heard

There has been plenty of discussion about coaching this week, particularly in relation to Gregg Williams’ strange call of a cover-0 blitz whilst his defence was trying to protect a lead with seconds left on the clock. There is no defending the decision, which led to the Raiders’ game winning touchdown and cost Williams his job when he was fired on Monday. As much as losing may well help the Jets in the long run as they continue to be in pole position to draft Trevor Lawrence, there is no way Williams made that play call with the draft in mind. This staff surely must know they will be looking for jobs in the new year and no one wants a season like the 2020 Jets on their record so if you hear people suggesting the loss was deliberate, do not take them seriously.

What I Think

There is not time to do a full examination of the problems at the Jets, but clearly there are not many problems being fixed this season. A young quarterback is a good place to start in theory for a franchise, but as I can attest from a fan’s perspective, it is not a magic panacea for all of a franchise’s ills and it’s not like the Jets don’t already have a numebr three overall pick playing quarterback in Sam Darnold. It is also not often that a team that has consistently lost in recent seasons can just turn it around with the addition of a promising young quarterback, just look at the actual number of wins that the Chargers or Bengals have this season.

What I Know

In this strange period where time is both dragging on and slipping through our fingers, we are starting the last quarter of the season with the Bengals absolutely out of the play-off but possibly in position to bag a really good offensive line player if there is one worthy of that high a draft pick. We know that the New Orleans saints and Kansas City Chiefs have already booked their place in the playoffs and that once again the ’72 Dolphins have cracked open their celebratory champagne as they remain for another year the only ever unbeaten NFL team.

What I Hope

This week has been a long one already so what I am really hoping for is some good contests and that the Dolphins keep pushing for the play-offs. One of the TWF teams has to do well this season and it certainly isn’t going to be the Bengals.

Another week where I pick up three games on Dan in the picks competition would be nice too…

2020 Week Thirteen Picks

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So after the longest NFL week in history, we start week thirteen on Sunday with the games planned to roll to Tuesday night. I had a winning record in week twelve but Dan extended his lead to a whopping double digits so it would seems hard to predict that I will make a comeback at this point.

Still, I will run through our usual Competition Thursday bits as we prepare for the final week with teams on a bye, and eye up the run-in over the final quarter of the season.

Gee:Week 12:  9 – 7Overall:  83 – 95
Dan:Week 12:  10 – 6Overall:  93 – 85

Survivor Competition

Both Dan and I got back to scoring ways last week, with the Browns having to work a little harder than the Seahawks to get their win, but win both teams did. This leaves Dan a single point ahead of me going into week thirteen. It is getting harder to find teams now, but Dan has found a matchup he likes with the Broncos visiting the Chiefs, whilst I am nervously going to the well of picking against the Jets one more time to take the Raiders, but I don’t exactly feel great about it.

Current Score

Gee: 8
Dan: 9

Week 13 Selection:

Gee:    Raiders
Dan:    Chiefs

Bold Prediction of the Week

My bold prediction on the podcast this week is that the Detroit Lions will bounce back from the Matt Patricia firing and beat a struggling Chicago Bears team. Dan could not see it happening so allowed it, and I’m not exactly totally convinced but it certainly qualifies so let’s see how it goes.

Early Games:

When discussing the slate of games on the podcast Dan was not that excited about it but I found several contests that catch my eye.

I’ll start with the New Orleans Saints taking on the Atlanta Falcons, which I think could be interesting for several reasons. After an 0-5 start that saw head coach Dan Quinn fired, the Falcons have gone 4-2 under Raheem Morris and are coming off the demolition of the Raiders last week. I am particularly intrigued to see what the Falcons defense can do against Sean Payton working with Taysom Hill at quarterback. The Saints stuck to a simplified game plan last week with the Broncos not having a starting quarterback so this week’s divisional game will prove a sterner test. I can’t guarantee it will be competitive, but I have a feeling it will be.

The other game that catches my eye in the early slate is the Cleveland Browns’ visit to the Tennessee Titans. This is a meeting of two 8-3 teams who both like to run the ball a lot. I would give the advantage to the Titans given how they have played recently, and quarterback Ryan Tannehill is playing better than the Browns’ Baker Mayfield. It should be a really physical and competitive game so whilst they are not the biggest names in the NFL these days, they have been having very solid seasons and should put on a good game.

Points from the rest:

  • The Lions will be looking to bounce back from their last two poor performances after the firing of both their head coach and GM, whilst the Bears’ offence continues to struggle and though the defense maintained it’s top five ranking by DVOA, did not look that good last week. I’ve picked the Lions to win as my bold prediction of the week, but to be honest this is a hard game to read.
  • We don’t have word on whether Ryan Fitzpatrick or Tua Tagovailoa is going to start for the Dolphins but it also doesn’t feel to me like it matters that much. The line was too rich for me to back the Dolphins, but I fully expect them to win this one at home against the Bengals
  • The Texans lost receiver Will Fuller and corner Bradley Roby to PED suspensions and cut Kenny Still this week, whilst the Colts have activated Deforest Bucker from the Covid-19 list so whilst I’m curious about how competitive the Texans will be, I think the Colts should win this one
  • This week’s game has suddenly got a lot more important for the Las Vegas Raiders having lost two games in a row. That does make me nervous, but they should beat the Jets because at this point it feels like pretty much everyone should beat the Jets. That’s not to say that everyone will and after their demolition by the Falcons last week I’m not as trusting as the Raiders as I was two weeks ago.
  • The numbers suggest I should pick the Vikings, and I do expect them to win but there was more of a balance to the Jaguars offence last week with journeyman quarterback Mike Glennon starting and I think this could be a closer game than the number suggests.

Saints @ Falcons (+2.5)

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

Lions @ Bears (-3.5)

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

Bengals @ Dolphins (-11.5)

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

Browns @ Titans (-5.5)

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

Colts @ Texans (+3.5)

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

Raiders @ Jets (+8.5)

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

Jaguars @ Vikings (-9.5)

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

Late Games:

The game that leaps out of the late games is the LA Rams coming off a tough loss taking on an Arizona Cardinals team with struggles of their own. The concern for the Rams is the play of Jared Goff, who did not look at all good against the 49ers last week and the usually ultra-positive Sean McVay criticized Goff publicly, although McVay did say he did it because he though Goff could take the challenge. The Cardinals meanwhile come into this game having lost three of their last four games with Kyler Murray nursing an injury and not running the ball as well as he was earlier in the season. This is the first time these two division rivals face off and so I expect a good contest, but I think the Rams are the most likely to win out.

Points on the Rest:

  • The New York Giants need every win they can get with them in the race for the NFC East lead, but with quarterback Daniel Jones injured it will be tough for them to win on the road. The numbers are very clear about the Seahawks being the right pick against the spread, but there’s something about the Giants where I wouldn’t be surprised if they did do something in this game, even if they are starting Colt McCoy at quarterback.
  • The Philadelphia Eagles continue to struggle and so I don’t see anything other than another difficult game for them against the Packers in Green Bay. I would  love to be proved wrong but I’m not sure where you can find hope as an Eagles fan this season and much like I was saying about the Lions earlier in the season, it is beginning to feel like there will inevitably be changes in the off-season in Philadelphia.
  • The LA Chargers have struck gold with rookie quarterback Justin Herbert and with the talent on their roster they should be doing better, but this is genuinely a tough spot for them. Bill Belichick has an excellent record against rookie quarterbacks and the Chargers run defense ranks thirty-first in the league by DVOA, and the Pats are not going to miss the chance to exploit that.

Rams @ Cardinals (+2.5)

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

Giants @ Seahawks (-9.5)

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

Eagles @ Packers (-8.5)

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

Patriots @ Chargers (-1.5)

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

Sunday Night Football:

Broncos @ Chiefs (-13.5)

It has been a touch couple of weeks for the Broncos as having had to play without a recognised quarterback last week thanks to their quarterbacks breaking Covid-19 protocols, they travel to Kansas City to play the Chiefs. The reverse matchup finished 43-16 in week seven and so whilst the Chiefs have won their last three games by close margins, they are still 10-1 and I expect the Chiefs to do well again in this one.

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

Monday Night Football

Washington @ Steelers (-8.5)

We get two Monday night games this week and the first sees the Washington Football Team take on the Pittsburgh Steelers who are coming off a short week having played Wednesday. The Steelers are a good team, but having had an awkward week of preparation and game moves in week twelve, they have a short week to face Washington and whilst I think the Steelers should win, it would not be surprising to see the Football Team make this game more competitive than this line suggests given how they have been playing recently.

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

Bills @ 49ers (+2.5)

The San Francisco 49ers are hosting the Buffalo Bills in Arizona thanks to not being able to train or play at their own facilities. The 49ers beat the Rams last week and starting to get some players back from injury and might have a chance to drag themselves into playoff contention. The Bills beat the Chargers solidly last week having been unlucky to lose to the Cardinals in week ten, but I think this will be a tough game for them and I would not like to predict a winner, but I do like the 49ers getting the points even if home is not actually home this week or for the rest of the season.

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

Tuesday Night Football

Cowboys @ Ravens (-9.5)

The Baltimore Ravens host the Dallas Cowboys on Tuesday night, somehow getting the better end of the schedule this week than the Steelers despite being the cause of their game being postponed until Wednesday. Dan has picked the Ravens depending on the status of Lamar Jackson, but the problems the Ravens are having this season are more than just those caused by Covid-19 last week. The Ravens have lost four of their last five games and the offence has not looked right for the majority of this season. I don’t exactly trust this Cowboys team and particularly as Washington absolutely battered them on Thanksgiving after the Cowyboys had even more problems on the o-line, which leaves me in a conundrum. I think that Dan will likely get to stick with the Ravens as it is thought that Jackson should come off the Covid-19 list by Tuesday, but despite all my concerns about the Cowboys the numbers strongly indicate the Cowboys and given how seldom I have won going against the numbers I’m going to reluctantly back the Cowboys, but I also reserve the right to change my mind nearer the game.

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

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.

The Second Wave Hits the NFL

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Against a backdrop of second waves of Covid-19 across Europe and the United States it is not a surprise that there has been an increased affect on the NFL in recent weeks that means that I’m writing the week twelve summary post with one game left to finish as I put this post live. The Baltimore Ravens have become the second team to have a facility-based outbreak of Covid-19 and so for reasons of medical safety as much as anything the Ravens take on the Steelers on a Wednesday afternoon nearly a week after it was initially scheduled to play. I will mention the other team who had a serious Covid-19 issue later, but while the cracks are showing in the NFL’s strategy, it is holding up so far and it is clear the league are now determined to keep to their weekly schedules even if they are moving individual games around.

Still, let us start with the games I have seen before we get to the details of the schedule changes that stretch into week thirteen.

What I Saw

A slightly underwhelming pair of Thanksgiving games which saw two forty point blowouts started with the Houston Texans beating the Detroit Lions 41-25. The Lions actually moved the ball well on their opening drive and scored a touchdown to take an early lead. However, the Texans quickly answered with a pick-six touchdown from JJ Watt before the offence got in on the act with a touchdown of their own. The Lions got a second rushing touchdown from Adrian Peterson to give them their last lead of the game as the Texans soon scored another touchdown and hardly looked back. I’ve heard Greg Cosell talking about how well Deshaun Watson has been playing for a number of weeks so it was nice for him to get to demonstrate this on a national stage, but the truth is that this was not a competitive game. The Lions took what seemed like the inevitable step of firing GM Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia after this latest loss and will be looking to start over again as the rebuild with Quinn and Patriicia after the firing of Jim Caldwell produced worse results. This game featured two tweams who started the season with former Bill Belichick coordinators as head coaches, but while Bill O’Brien’s actions as GM of the Texans let himself down despite a good record as head coach, from the outside it looks like Patricia’s attempt to recreate Belichick’s formula rather than create his own was his downfall. This is a pattern we have seen before with the Belichick coaching tree, and stands in contrast to the success that Brian Flores is having with Miami, but it will be interesting to see in what direction both of these franchises head come the off-season.

The second Thanksgiving game saw the Washington Football Team go to Dallas and beat the Cowboys 41-16. There have been problems with the Cowboys’ defence all season, but the offence’s struggles in this game at least could be explained as the pair of alternative tackles that were starting their second game for the Cowboys both went out injured early, reducing them to third string tackles. Throw in a poor day and a fumble from Ezekiel Elliott and it’s easy to see how this game got away. It’s not as if Ron Rivera had an easy task turning around the Football Team to start with, but his coaching through cancer treatment is frankly remarkable, and his team are playing tough football and looks to be heading in the right direction. Alex Smith is not a long term answer at quarterback but there is already talk of him coming back next season, whilst rookie running back Antonio Gibson looks to be establishing himself and finished this game with over a hundred yards rushing and three touchdowns. With the injuries on the offensive line and to Dak Prescott there is some cover for Mike McCarthy’s difficult first season, but the Cowboys are probably still under-performing in a very winnable NFC East and it is the defensive side of the ball that would worry me if I was Jerry Jones. It wouldn’t take much to get the Cowboys back in the race for the division, but even if they do drag themselves back into contention there’s going to be some serious decisions to be made in the off-season.

Continuing the theme of the NFC East, the New York Giants took a share of the division lead with their 19-17 win over the Cincinnati Bengals. This was more of a contest than I was expecting, with the Bengals defence stepping up to an extent but the offence was only able to generate a total of one hundred and fifty-five yards of total offence and the one touchdown drive took place late in the game against a Giants playing a prevent defence. In truth, the Giants were in control for the majority of the game, had the ball for more time and I like where their defence is headed even if the offence has its limitations with Daniel Jones at quarterback. I worry what the Bengals long term prospect are, even with Joe Burrow who is a phenomenal talented young quarterback, but Zac Taylor has not convinced me with his total of four career wins and the ugly truth is that the Bengals have not had a winning season since 2015. It feels right now like my mindset as a fan has to be a lot more like the pre-Marvin Lewis Days and I find that deeply concerning. I would love to be proved wrong, but right now I feel better about how the Giants are shaping up under first year head coach Joe Judge (and there is no shortage of questions there) than how the Bengals are building. I truly hope I am proved wrong next year and it always used to be said that you shouldn’t judge a coach until their third year. These days teams are a lot quicker to judge (except ironically the Lions) but as old school as Bengals’ owner Mike Brown is, I wonder how long he will put up with the Bengals losing now they have a franchise quarterback.

The final game I watched in it’s entirety this week was the Tennessee Titans return trip to face the Indianapolis Colts that was another forty point blow out (there have been five so far in week twelve) where the Titans won 45-26. The downfall for the Colts was that their top ten defence by DVOA, that had only given up three one-hundred yard plus rushing games going into Sunday, allowing over a hundred in the first half as the Titans amassed a total of two hundred and twenty-nine yards rushing, with one hundred and seventy-eight of them coming from Derick Henry. This efficiency on the ground let the Titans keep the game script how they wanted and they quite literally ran out easy winners. There’s still a little over of the quarter of the season to go, but after a bit of a wobble the Titans have won their last two games to take sole position of the AFC South as they prepare to host the Cleveland Browns next week. The Colts are only a game back from the Titans and are solid football team so I expect these two to be neck and neck going forward unless there is a significant change to either teams roster, which is even more possible than usual this season with Covid-19 stalking teams as well as the more traditional injuries that an NFL team face throughout a season.

What I Heard

I wanted to step away from podcast topics this week to go straight to the head coach of the Denver Broncos after they were forced to play against the New Orleans Saints on Sudnay without any one of the four quarterback on their roster being available.

The reason this happened was fairly straight forward, third string quarterback Jeff Driskel tested positive for Covid-19, which is not so unusual this season. However, all four Broncos’ quarterbacks on the team/practise squad held their own workout on Tuesday and broke the protocols enough to be deemed close contacts of Driskell. This was discovered late enough in the week that none of them had five days to register clear tests ahead of Sunday and be available to play. In fact, the news broke so late that the Broncos only had a few hours to prepare a practice squad receiver Kendall Hinton, who had played some quarterback in college, to start Sunday’s game. It is unsurprising that he only completed one of his nine passes whilst throwing two interceptions.

If there is a positive to come out of this situation, I would say it is the way Fangio handled the discussion after the game stating that he was disappointed in the players for putting the team and the league in this position, but also owning up that he had obviously hadn’t done a good enough job of selling the protocols to them, when they are on their own.

You can see him talk about this and get a snippet of Kendall Hinton discussing the game here.

What I Think

It’s seems pretty clear that the NFL are very focussed on sticking to their schedule of games in a week, even if specific games do get moved about, but at this point they are doing that for medical reasons and not those of competitive balance. The Ravens got moved because they had an outbreak and then delayed an extra day so the players could have some form of in-person workout before playing.

The Broncos however, despite asking for a delay were not granted one because although at a competitive disadvantage, were able to field a team safely from a medical point of view on Sunday.

This week the teams were only allowed to operate virtually on Monday and Tuesday because of concerns over people having out of town visitors for Thanksgiving, and against a background of a second wave of Covid-19 building as we go from autumn into winter the NFL is concerned about getting to the end of its season at it’s usual pace, trying to minimise medical issues, but not worrying about competitive balance to their usual degree.

Given that teams have been fined millions of dollars and a draft pick so far over Covid-19 protocol violations, and still teams like the Raiders have been repeat offenders, perhaps the example of the Broncos playing without a recognised quarterback will sharpen people’s focusses. I remember questioning whether entire position groups going down would delay games early in the season, and now to an extent we have our answer. Unless there is in-facility transmission the answer appears to be no, you are going to have to find a way to cope.

What I Know

I knew it was going to be an odd season, but it somehow feels like it has been going on for months and yet I still can’t quite believe that we are nearly three quarters of the way through the regular season. For all that there were problems in week twelve and as a consequence we have another Wednesday game in week thirteen, I think that if you had told the NFL that they wouldn’t have lost any games by the start of week thirteen, they would definitely have taken it.

What I Hope

It feels more relevant than ever with how the world is to hope that the NFL gets through this pandemic season with no one catching a life changing version of Covid-19. Yes, I hope the league makes it through the season, and I am grateful for football as I always am, but if we learned anything from this week it is how important following protocols are for protecting yourself from Covid-19. Whatever that means for you, I hope you stay safe. With vaccines on the horizon if we can hold things together for a few more months then there is a real chance we can get back to a lot of things we are missing, even if the world will still be a different place.

We owe it to ourselves and all we’ve lost to learn from this experience, and I hope that as we can get back into the world that we do a little better with it and each other. That feels like something worth holding on to as we head into the depths of winter.

2020 Week Twelve Picks

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In keeping with my last couple of days in the house, my Thanksgiving picks were a sodden mess of leaking points undermining my attempts to catch up with Dan as he extended his lead to double digits. At this point I think I am just waiting for the end of the season to put me out of my misery but let us see if I can rescue something out of the week.

Early Games:

I think there are two stand out games in the early slate, although they are for slightly different reasons.

The first is the Tennessee Titans return visit to play the Indianapolis Colts to see if they can avenge their loss from week ten. The Colts must be taken seriously, yet the loss of DeForest Buckner will be a blow to a top five defense by DVOA, but they looked pretty good against the Packers last week. Dan and I were both discussing how we were struggling to pick the Titans, but head coach Mike Vrabel seems to have a real feel for game management and working clever little advantages, and although the offence has sputtered a little in recent weeks, we are getting into the time of year where Derrick Henry seem to keep getting stronger. I think this should be a competitive game and I am determined not to miss watching the Colts again.

The other game might not be quite the same contest, but the chance to watch Justin Herbert is not one to miss and with the Buffalo Bills coming off a bye their pass first offence should be raring to go. I might be wrong, but I think this is game is likely to be a high scoring watch that should be a lot of fun, even if I think that ultimately the Chargers will fall short on the road.

What else to watch:

  • The Las Vegas Raiders will be looking to bounce back after a last drive loss to the Chiefs and with Julio Jones battling to get fit for Sunday, I think this could well be a get right game for the Raiders as Matt Ryan looks like a very different quarterback without Jones.
  • I now have a certain fascination in what Brandon Allen can do with the Bengals offence, but given what happened when Burrow went down I am not exactly excited. I still like the direction that the Giants are heading, and although their schedule may preclude actually winning the division, I can see them winning this game easily, but would love to be proved wrong.
  • The Jaguars are moving on from Jake Luton after he threw four interceptions against the Steelers last week, but it is Mike Glennon who gets the start as Gardner Minshew II still works his way back from injury. Frankly, given recent results for the Jaguars, I have a feeling that this won’t matter a whole lot, and the real interest in this game is what the Browns offence does now that they’re not playing in terrible weather and can throw the ball. I’m not expecting fifty drop backs like the Bengals have been trying, but it will be interesting to see how the offence runs without Odell Beckham now that throwing is actually an option.
  • The Miami Dolphins ran into a defensive coach who had a game plan for Tua Tagovailoa and now that tape exists the Dolphins will have to work out how to counter it. Still, that might not be a problem this week with Tagovailoa struggling with a thumb injury so currently Ryan Fitzpatrick is looking more likely to get a start. I’m not sure either QB will have to do too much to beat the Jets given how well in the other two other phases of the game the Dolphins are playing.
  • I’m really not sure what to make of either team in the matchup of the Carolina Panthers at the Minnesota Vikings. Whilst I like the direction the Panthers franchise is heading, their defense is unlikely to pitch another shut out and they must develop before they are going to truly compete. The Viking meanwhile lost to the Cowboys last week despite Dalvin Cook generating plenty of yards, as did Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson in the passing game. Either the Vikings recovery was over blown or last week was a blip and this game will shed some light on that, although Adam Thielen being out with Covid-19 will muddy matters. To be honest, I’m not that convinced by either side going into this one.
  • It is truly weird to see the New England Patriots getting points at home, but that is where we are with them hosting the Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals have extra time to recover from their loss last week, and have a chance to bounce back against the New England Patriots, but this is not the easiest of road trips and whilst the Cardinals are another team where I like where they are headed, I don’t exactly trust them.

Raiders @ Falcons (+3.5)

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

Chargers @ Bills (-5.5)

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

Giants @ Bengals (+5.5)

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

Browns @ Jaguars (+6.5)

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

Titans @ Colts (-3.5)

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

Dolphins @ Jets (+6.5)

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

Panthers @ Vikings (-4.5)

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

Cardinals @ Patriots (+2.5)

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

Late Games:

The game that leaps of the page out of the late games is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hosting the Kansas City Chiefs, but the Bucs have not looked right for a couple of weeks now and whilst I can see Tom Brady and the Bucs offence having some success against the Chiefs defense, they have not all been on the same page recently and I find it hard to believe that they can keep up with Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs explosive offence. It is not impossible given the talent the Bucs have, but even laying points on the road I like the Chiefs in this one.

The breaking new on Saturday was that thanks to close contacts after Jeff Driskel tested positive for Covid-19 the Broncos have no quarterback available to them when hosting the New Orleans Saints. The Broncos receiver Kendall Hinton is going to play QB and so this game is likely to be a curiosity if nothing else. I already thought that the match up of the Denver Broncos offence going against the New Orleans Saints’ offence with Taysom Hill as the quarterback was going to be the matchup of the game. With their win last week Sean Payton demonstrated that Hill was a viable option to win a game, but the jury is out on whether he can maintain this for enough weeks that Drew Brees can get healthy and compete in the play-offs. I’m not sure about watching the whole game, but I am definitely interested in the coaching tape of the Saint’s offence this week.

Finally, a divisional game between the San Francisco 49ers and LA Rams will always have some interest thanks to the offensive schemes of the two head coaches, but even getting some players back a win feels like a tough ask for the 49ers and the Rams should be looking to apply pressure on the Seahawks with a win in this game.

Saints @ Broncos (+5.5)

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

49ers @ Rams (-6.5)

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

Chiefs @ Buccaneers (+2.5)

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

Sunday Night Football:

Bears @ Packers (-8.5)

This line feels high to me because the Chicago Bears defense is still ranked fourth by DVOA, but their offence is ranked twenty-ninth for a reason and it feels like they will need to address quarterback in the off-season as neither of their options has exactly convinced this year. The Packers will still be smarting from their loss to the Colts last week, and they have had some concerning losses this season, but they are a good team and I would expect them to win this one. If you want to be really simplistic a matchup of Aaron Rodgers versus Mitchell Trubisky is not much of a contest.

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

Monday Night Football

Seahawks @ Eagles (+5.5)

I am all for letting Russell Wilson play like one of the best quarterbacks in the league, but it was good to see the Seahawks run the ball more last week and get some support from the defense as they beat the Cardinals. I really hope that Pete Carroll doesn’t revert to type and get the run-pass balance too far towards running the ball as has been his desire in previous seasons, but a balanced attack should help this Seahawks win. I would love to say that the Eagles can spring a surprise, and you can’t entirely rule it out, but it seems unlikely for a team who appear to have broken their quarterback and look a shadow of the team who a Super Bowl only a few seasons ago.

Gee’s Pick:      Seahawks
Dan’s Pick:      Seahawks

Maybe Night Football

Ravens @ Steelers (-3.5)

The poor Pittsburgh Steelers have again had their schedule messed around by an opponent struggling with Covid-19 cases, and there are some real questions about their game against the Baltimore Ravens getting played on Tuesday. It seems like the Ravens have had player to player transmission given they are up to nineteen positive cases, and with them not even able to get into the facility you have to wonder if this game will get played, never mind whether the Ravens can make it competitive. The Ravens were already struggling this season, and this can’t help, whilst the Steelers have managed to overcome every obstacle put in their path but I’m really not sure how the NFL is going to play this one. We can only wait and see, but I think there is only one way we can pick this game.

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

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.