Competition Thursday: 2020 Week Eight

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , ,

Well, week seven was pretty good to me as I picked up three points on Dan so I achieve my next target of getting his lead down to single digits so now I need to get within a couple of points and we’ll have a proper competition. There’s plenty of time left so let’s get to work on week eight’s competition Thursday.

Gee:Week 7:  7 – 7Overall:  49 – 57
Dan:Week 7:  4 –10Overall:  56 – 50

Falcons @ Panthers (-2.5)

This is an odd game to pick as both teams are coming off a loss, but the Atlanta Falcons only have one win this season and the Panthers have now established themselves as a competitive franchise despite the rebuild on defence and the number of veterans who left or retired in the off-season. The consensus lines and numbers are suggesting I take the Falcons and they did run the Lions close in week seven, but right now I have a lot more faith in the Panthers and as they are ranked eight places better than the Falcons by DVOA and are at home on a Thursday night I am going to go for the Panthers as they only have to win by a field goal to cover this line. I am aware that my old maxim of always back the home team on a Thursday night unless there was a really good reason to didn’t hold up, but I have a lot more faith in the coaching of the Panthers so that is where I am putting my faith.

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

Survivor Competition

We held serve last week with the strategy of picking against the Jets maintaining a 100% record, and there is little to suggest that will change this week with them taking on the Chiefs, but having lost with the Chiefs against the Raiders earlier this season I have to look. somewhere else in week eight. Looking at the matchups and the teams I have left I think my best option is to select the Packers hosting the Vikings and just hope I don’t’ get any divisional weirdness. Dan has gone in a different direction grabbing the Buccaneers visiting the Giants, which certainly makes sense as a pick.

Current Score

Gee: 5
Dan: 5

Week 8 Selection:

Gee:    Packers
Dan:    Buccaneers

Bold Prediction of the Week

So Dan allowed both of my bold predictions on the podcast this week  in a triumph of doing some preparation ahead of recording, but also ensuring I have to keep doing something I fundamentally disagree with.

My first prediction was the Tua Tagovailoa will have more passing yards against the Rams than fellow rookie quarterback Justin Herbert will against the Broncos.

Secondly, the Bills will score more points this week against the Patriots than they did against the Jets in week seven.

As Seasons Turn

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The NFL season feels as if is nearing the turn. We are looking at the week eight games coming up, the trade deadline is next Tuesday when the US goes to the polls (although many have already voted) and after week nine all teams will have played half of their sixteen games. It might simply be because the clocks have just gone back in the UK, but it feels as like we are properly into the autumn now, but I don’t want to wish away the year so let’s take a look at what happened in the week seven games.

What I Saw

The week seven Thursday night game was a slightly odd spectacle that saw the New York Giants fall behind the Eagles as the team from Philadelphia marched on their opening drive of the game to score a touchdown, then work their way back to take a 21-10 lead with under ten minutes left on the clock, but the Giants ultimately lost 21-22. The big talking point out of this game was Daniel Jones running for eighty yards and tripping over with no one near him only eight yards from the end zone. However, it is perhaps the play of Eagles’ quarterback Carson Wentz that is the most significant for the rest of the season. As I mentioned earlier, the Eagles moved the ball smartly on their opening drive, but after this initial six and a half minutes or so, Wentz looked like he was broken, trying to do to much rather than throw the ball away as the offence really struggled. Now with the injuries on the offensive line and at the skills positions there are some valid reasons for this, but it’s the stark disparity between this bad football and then Wentz finding his way in the fourth quarter to lead his team back that is confusing. Wentz finished the game with three-hundred and fifty-nine passing yards and two touchdowns to go with his interception, but he needs to find a way to lessen the lows to give his team a better chance of winning each week. Even with all their injuries the Eagles probably look best placed to win an NFC East division where all the teams are struggling, but if they can beat the Cowboys in the Sunday night game then their week nine bye could be the very real moment where they can try to get some players back healthy. Meanwhile, for all the Giants’ struggles this season, they have kept the last three games close and beaten the Washington Football Team in the process, but this week’s game against the Buccaneers is going to be a very different level of test.

The pick of the games when I checked the schedule for week seven was the unbeaten Pittsburgh Steelers visiting the unbeaten Tennessee Titans and ultimately winning out 27-24. The Steelers built a commanding 24-7 lead in the first half and was able to hold on for the win despite a strong comeback from the Titans in the second half. That said, the Steelers continue to show great balance in all three phases of the game, and even if their offence did slip out of the top ten by DVOA this week, they have a number of good young receivers that meant that with the Titan’s focussing on rookie sensation Chase Claypool they still were able to amass two hundred and fifty yards of passing offence. The defence looks to have coped despite the loss of linebacker Devin Bush and whilst the loss doesn’t change my mind about the Titans, you can definitely see why the Steelers are the sole unbeaten team in the NFL right now, but their schedule doesn’t get any easier this week as they take on the rested Ravens.

The Cleveland Browns played and entertaining game with the Cincinnati Bengals in a game that was decided by who had the ball last as neither defences were able to consistently stop each other. It was Baker Mayfield who was able to drive the Browns seventy-five yards in under a minute to seal the game 37-34 with a touchdown pass to Donovan Peoples-Jones. Rookie quarterback Joe Burrow continues to impress for the Bengals and threw for over four hundred yards this week, but a promising set of receivers does not a winning offence make and with continued issues on the offensive line as well as the defense we know what the Bengals are this season. There are some who think that this is okay as another poor record will secure the Bengals another high draft pick to build the team with, but there have been problems on the o-line and defence for too long now for me to be certain that the current regime can succeed in that endeavour. The Browns continue to make me think that they are on the right track, and even if Baker Mayfield is not the long term at quarterback, a 5-2 record is not to be sneezed at and this is not your usual 2.0 version of the Browns that have only made the play-offs once in the twenty-two seasons since the franchise returned in 1999.

The final game I saw this weekend was the rip-roaring game between the Arizona Cardinals and the Seattle Seahawks that saw the Cardinals manage to kick the game winning field goal in overtime on the second attempt having handed the ball back to the Seahawks on second down the previous drive after their first game winning attempt was missed. For all that there were some questionable decisions late in the game, this was a highly entertaining matchup where the defensive play of the contest was made by Seahawks receiver DK Metcalf chased Cardinals Safety Budda Baker down after he intercepted a Russell Wilson pass and ran it the length of the field, expecting to get the touchdown when Metcalf not only made up the yards to catch Baker but then made a great tackle. It was a game turning play because even if the Seahawks ultimately lost, they stopped the Cardinals from scoring in the following drive and then marched the ball down the field to score themselves and in this close a contest that really mattered. However, the three interceptions Wilson threw meant his continued production was not enough for the Seahawks to win the game this time. The NFC West is a monster of a division in 2020, with all four teams having winning records and if this game is anything to go by, there will be plenty more great divisional games to come during the rest of the season.

What I Heard

There has been lots of discussion about the trade deadline next week, not least because the salary cap is going to come down significantly next season thanks to the revenue drop from not having full stadiums. Already we have had some players moving including a disgruntled Carlos Dunlap heading from the Bengals where he is their all time sack leader to a Seahawks team who desperately need some pass rush.

It feels like because of the complexities of football the possible upsides from such trades is unlikely to match the fan excitement, but I do wonder if we will see more action because of the effects of Covid-19 and we have all ready seen teams signing veterans to the practice squad so they can get a longer look at them and get the player acclimatise before they have to carry them on the roster. The best teams are always looking to make best use of the rules they can so we have to see if someone can make a material improvement to how their team looks.

What I Hope

With the Bengals are hosting the Titans this weeken,d I fear for our run defence against Derrek Henry so I mainly hope we can keep the game competitive and Burrow healthy.

What I am really excited about is the chance to watch Tua Tagovailoa make his first start for the Dolphins against the Rams, and I just hope the bold prediction Dan forced me to make on the pod doesn’t coincide with something bad happening to Tua.

2020 Week Seven Picks

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I am so annoyed with myself regarding the result of the Thursday night game because as much the numbers were telling me one thing, I wrote that the Giants had been playing hard, I knew that the Eagles were fighting injuries and I don’t know why I thought the Eagles were going to be four points clear. Luckily Dan made the same mistake but I need to make sure that I am careful with the lines that I am offered in what looks to be a tough week of picks.

Early Games:

The king of the early games is the unbeaten Pittsburgh Steelers taking on the unbeaten Tennessee Titans in a something has got to give match that is my game of the week. The Titans have come back strongly from their Covid-19 outbreak and won two games in six days but their defense is creaking and not as strong as last year whilst the Steelers are top ten in all phases of the game. I haven’t had a chance to watch the Steelers yet this season so I am really looking forward to seeing if Ryan Tannehill can maintain his level of performance against the league’s second ranked defense by DVOA as well as what physical feat Derek Henry can manage next. This is a meeting of two hard nosed football teams and is not one to be missed.

The other game I am really interested to see the result of is the New Orleans Saints coming of a bye hosting the 3-3 Carolina Panthers. This should be a fun divisional matchup where the Panthers may have lost to the Bears last week, but they will still pose a stiff challenge to a Saints team that just hasn’t clicked this season despite their talent on paper.

My thoughts on the other early games:

  • Both the Lions and the Falcons are coming off wins, but the Lions are going to need to do a lot more to convince whilst we will soon find out if the Falcons turn around last week was a bounce back after their coach was fired or if it is something that can be built upon.
  • The Bills have lost two tough games in a row and some cracks are showing in their defense so a trip to face the Jets is probably just the pick me up they need. I’m not sure about the line, particularly with a number of Bills’ players testing positive for Covid-19, but it’s hard to see where the Jets are going to get a win from at this point.
  • The second battle of Ohio of the year gives the Bengals a chance to avenge their earlier loss against a Browns team whose quarterback situation is even murkier with Baker Mayfield nursing injured ribs. The Bengals need to learn how to finish having taken a twenty-one point early lead against the Colts last week so we shall have to see if the coaching staff can get things heading in the right direction.
  • The Cowboys were abysmal on Monday and the noise surrounding the coaching staff this week were not exactly encouraging although Mike McCarthy does have a point about anonymous sources. Still, if the Cowboys can’t be a struggling Washington team then it could well be time for full panic stations in Dallas for those who are not there already.
  • The Packers will want to prove that last week’s performance was a one off, and it will certainly help that no-one can confuse the Texans defense with the Bucs separated as they are by twenty-four places in the DVOA rankings. The Texans are a team that I need to watch soon to get a better feel for them but I think their offence could give the Packers defense some problems so this could be one of the more entertaining games of the week.

Lions @ Falcons (-2.5)

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

Bills @ Jets (+12.5)

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

Browns @ Bengals (+3.5)

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

Cowboys @ Washington (+3.5)

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

Packers @ Texans (+3.5)

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

Panthers @ Saints (-7.5)

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

Steelers @ Titans (+2.5)

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

Late Games:

The highlight of the late games for me is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers riding high from their convincing win over the Packers travelling to take on the high scoring Raiders coming of the bye. I clearly don’t have a great feel for Raiders as in week five I stated they would struggle against the Chiefs with their defense ranked in the thirties by DVOA and yet they won that gamet. That said, the Buccaneers defense is a very different proposition to the Chiefs and with the Raiders only managing seven sacks so far this season you can seen Tom Brady being comfortable and picking apart that same thirtieth ranked defense. If the Buccaneers can get more of their receives healthy and in sync with the Buccaneers they could be very scary by the end of the year and this will be a good test of how serious a threat they are.

Late game thoughts:

  • The Chiefs are giving a lot of points to a Broncos team who have won two straight including prevailing over the Patriots last week. I do not think the Broncos have a defense that can stymie the Chiefs that much, but I do wonder if this divisional game might be closer than this line suggests and could have a surprise or two in store.
  • The Patriots struggled last week and Cam Newton did not look good returning from Covid-19 but Bill Belichick teams seldom lose two weeks in a row even if they also don’t usually have a losing record. The 49ers at 3-3 are hanging in despite their injury list and this could be an intriguing game, particularly with Kyle Shanahan scheming again the Patriots defence.
  • The Jaguars are not good, but this is a lot of points to lay for a 1-4 Chargers team whose only win was a close fought affair against the Bengals in week one. As much as rookie quarterback Justin Herbert has impressed, I wonder if they can win this game as convincingly as the line suggests or if this game will be close given how often the Chargers seem to be in close games.

Buccaneers @ Raiders (+2.5)

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

Chiefs @ Broncos (+8.5)

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

49ers @ Patriots (-2.5)

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

Jaguars @ Chargers (-8.5)

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

Sunday Night Football:

Seahawks @ Cardinals (+3.5)

The Sunday night game showcases the NFC West meeting of the Seattle Seahawks amd the Arizona Cardinals. The curious thing about the Cardinals is that Kyler Murray only completed nine of his twenty-four attempts against the Cowboy last week as they still ran out easy winners, but they will need to be more efficient than that this week as despite their problems on defense, the Seahawks offence with Russell Wilson playing so well is more than capable of keeping up with the Cardinals. This is a game that definitely has the potential to be a really good contest and whilst I think I do give the edge to the Seahawks, I am not convinced by this line.

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

Monday Night Football

Bears @ Rams (-5.5)

This is an intriguing game where I think the line might be off. The LA Rams have shown plenty of potential this season but are probably a tier below the front runners in the NFC. This is a real test for the Rams as whilst the visiting Chicago Bears are once again limited on offence and relying on their defense to keep them in games, this formula has been enough for them win five games so far this season. The Bears definitely have the players to disrupt quarterback Jared Goff with pressure and so I wonder how the Rams offence will look and whether this is a close tense game or if Sean McVay can scheme enough productivity that the streaky Nick Foles led Bears offence struggles to keep up. A fine matchup to finish off the week.

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

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 7

Tags

, , , ,

It’s been a rough week with one thing or another, and so having missed some games and the windows to record a pod/write a mid-week blog I am easing back into the swing of things with a Competition Thursday.

If I am going to drag myself back into the picks competition then the first step is to actually beat Dan in a week and that finally happened in week six so now I just have to put together a string of wins and hope to get a big week when Dan doesn’t but one thing at a time. The next milestone is getting his lead down to double digits…

Gee:Week 6:  7 – 7Overall:  42 – 50
Dan:Week 6:  6 – 8Overall:  52 – 40

Giants @ Eagles (-3.5)

There are plenty of issues with the Giants roster, and Daniel Jones threw another bad interception last week, but they are playing hard for first year head coach Joe Judge and got their first win last week. Thanks to the weirdness in the NFC East this still leaves the Giants only one game behind the Cowboys at the head of division and both them and their opponents the Eagles will be looking at the Cowboys performance on Monday and wondering if they can get themselves into the race for the division. This should be more likely for the Eagles, but they have so many injuries again this season that you have to wonder if they have hit a critical mass, although a close loss to the Ravens last week could be cause to hope in Philadelphia. The numbers tell me to go with the Eagles and I don’t feel strongly enough to go against them, but I do wonder if the Giants might spring a surprise tonight and I’m certainly looking forward to watching what happens.

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

Survivor Competition

So both of us scored last week, which leaves tied on four points and going into week 7 I am still trying to avoid picking the same team as Dan, but this week’s games have defeated me and so I’m going to have to join him in picking the Bills

Current Score

Gee: 4
Dan: 4

Week 7 Selection:

Gee:    Bills
Dan:    Bills

2020 Week Six Picks

Tags

, ,

So thanks to the schedule changes this week, competition Thursday has merged into Sunday picks and maybe the change up in schedule will breathe life into a season where I’m four games behind evens and a whopping eleven points behind Dan. First things first though, I’ll run through the late things from Thursday and then roll into games.

Gee:Week 5:  7 – 8Overall:  35 – 43
Dan:Week 5:  9 – 6Overall:  46 – 32

Survivor Competition

Not content with bad picks, I jinxed the Chiefs into a loss against the Raiders last week so Dan is now evens with me in this competition and I’ve wasted the Chiefs so we shall have to see how things go. I am really struggling to have a strong feeling on this one while Dan is still riding the whoever is playing the Jets strategy, but I’m not going to be scared off by last week’s mishap and I have been very impressed with the Ravens so even if they are on the road that’s where I am going.

Current Score

Gee: 3
Dan: 3

Week 6 Selection:

Gee:     Ravens
Dan:    Dolphins

Bold Prediction of the Week

My not very bold but I was really struggling prediction this week is that the Giants are going to get their first win of the season this week against Washington.

Early Games:

The split between the early and late games is even more lopsided than usual, but the pick of the early games for me is the divisional clash between the Cleveland Browns and the Pittsburgh Steelers. After the Steelers’ re-arranged non-resting bye in week four caused by the Titans Covid-19 outbreak, the Steelers maintained their unbeaten start to the season against the Eagles, but this week’s game is probably the Steelers’ sternest test so far. That said, Browns’ quarterback Baker Mayfield is nursing a shoulder injury and so we don’t know how well the Browns offense will play. The Browns will be pitting their fourth in the league by DVOA rushing attack against the Steeler’s league leading by DVOA rush defense and with Mayfield’s health being a questions I am leaning towards the Steelers in this one.

The other really interesting game for me sees the 3-2 Carolina Panthers hosting the 4-1 Chicago Bears. This is a game that will see Chicago’s strong defense led by Khalil Mack try to keep them close enough that an offence now helmed by journeyman if Super Bowl winning quarterback Nick Foles can do enough to win. The Panthers already seem to be building something in Matt Rhule’s first season as head coach and whilst I don’t have a strong lean in this game, I think the matchup of the Bears’ defense against quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and the Panther’s top ten offence should make for a fascinating game.

As for the rest of the early games:

  • I don’t know what kind of reaction the Falcons will have with Raheem Morris taking overt as head coach, but it feels like there are structural problems at the franchise, where as the Vikings have something to build on even if a 1-4 start does not inspire confidence
  • The Colts are 3-2 but there have been rumblings about the form of Philip Rivers. I don’t see them having a problem with the Bengals this week, but I have been wrong a lot this year and I’d love to see some signs of progress from the Bengals after last week.
  • I am not wholly sure what will happen with the Patriots hosting the Broncos given more players have gone on the Covid list for the Patriots and a Denver coach has also tested positive. The Patriots in theory should win this one but given all that has happened for both teams in the last week I would not rely on anything too much.
  • I am not sure what the Lions have done to be laying points on the road against the Jaguars. Both teams’ defenses are ranked in the thirties by DVOA and the stand out unit is the Jaguars offence so whilst I can see this being a close game and maybe the Lions do win, to win by four seems a little off to me.
  • The Houston Texans may have a got a win last week, but the Tennessee Titans came roaring back from their Covid-19 situation with a big win against the Bills and I have a feeling will do well against the Texans.
  • The whole situation with Washington’s quarterbacks feels odd, but this week they must take on the New York Giants. It’s strange to see the teams right next to each other in overall DVOA when Washington’s defense is top five, but I’m leaning towards the Giants and will be watching this game out of curiosity to see what is going on for myself.
  • The Ravens travel to Philadelphia looking for another win and the line reflects the problems the Eagles have had at the start of the season. I don’t see much changing for the Eagles in this one but there’s always the chance for a surprise.

Falcons @ Vikings (-3.5)

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

Bears @ Panthers (-2.5)

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

Bengals @ Colts (-7.5)

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

Browns @ Steelers (-3.5)

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

Broncos @ Patriots (-8.5)

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

Lions @ Jaguars (+3.5)

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

Texans @ Titans (-5.5)

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

Washington @ Giants (-2.5)

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

Ravens @ Eagles (+7.5)

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

Late Games:

The pick of the late games is the Green Bay Packers taking on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but with no home crowd to make life difficult for the Packers offence I have a feeling that Aaron Rodgers is still going to be okay against a Buccaneers’ defense who ranks second in the league by DVOA. It wouldn’t surprise me if this was competitive, but with Rodgers operating so well in his second year of running Matt LaFleur’s offence I think the Packers are the more likely to win, especially given the penalties that the Bucs can give away.

The Jets face a Dolphins team who are coming off scoring forty-three points in a big win against the 49ers last week and whilst I think it is unlikely the Dolphins repeat that feat, the Jets have given no indication that they can spring a surprise in this one. You cannot rule it out completely given that this is a divisional game, but with a dearth of positives to take from their first five games I think it is a pretty small chance for the Jets on the road in Miami.

Jets @ Dolphins (-8.5)

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

Packers @ Buccaneers (+1.5)

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

Sunday Night Football:

Rams @ 49ers (+3.5)

This is an odd game for the LA Rams who seem to have been travelling back and forth across the country in the opening five weeks and who are taking on a 49ers team beset by injuries. This divisional game still has the capacity to spring a surprise as the 49ers have been competitive in every game bar the last one, but they also have played four teams who currently have losing records and if the Rams cannot repeat the Dolphins success, you would expect their fourth ranked by DVOA offence to have enough for them to run out winners in this one.

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

Monday Night Football

Chiefs @ Bills (+3.5)

Once again, we are treated to two Monday night games and this looks like a tasty matchup between the Bills and the Chiefs. The Bills finally played the Titans on Tuesday having had several postponements, but it can’t have made preparations easy and they had a bad loss. The worrying thing is how many problems quarterback Josh Allen had against zone coverage and it will be interesting to see what the Chiefs’ defense can do a week after their loss to the Raiders. Last week was the Chiefs’ only loss in fourteen games dating back to last season and including the playoffs so it is certainly not time to panic, but neither team will want to lose two in a row and this could well be the matchup of the week if both teams can bring their A game. I think you would always back the team with Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes, but I certainly feel like the Bills could be able to compete at home in this one.

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

Cardinals @ Cowboys (+2.5)

Week six finishes with an intriguing game that sees Andy Dalton get his first start for the Dallas Cowboys after Dak Prescott’s gruesome displaced ankle fracture last week. With the experience Dalton has the Cowboys probably have the best backup quarterback in the league, but if Dak playing brilliantly was having issues keeping the Cowboys’ in games thanks to their awful defense, I do wonder if Dalton will be able to do the same. However, although the Cardinals beat the Jets comfortably on the road last week, this is their third game in a row on the road and with losses to the Panthers and Lions so far this season I do wonder if this game might be closer than the line suggests.

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

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.

Who Needs a Schedule Anyway?

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Well ,week five finished with an unexpected result that I called wrong in the picks competition, which is becoming a worrying trend, but at least the Titans are back playing games and the NFL looks like it can keep to its scheduling plan for now. Meanwhile, the Bills after facing two scenarios about who they were playing have to move on quickly as they face the Chiefs on Monday night.

That said, I feel all over the place with the site at the moment, and having spent a chunk of time yesterday dealing with how our dynasty league would managed the waiver wire this week given that we were still locked in week five, I delayed this post by a day as there is no competition Thursday this week as we have no Thursday night game.

So let’s take a look at what happened in week five.

What I Saw

The week five Thursday night game was a ragged affair that I still found entertaining thanks to the two good defences on display, but it was frustrating to get my pick wrong as my assessment of the Buccaneers ability was fairly spot on but it was their indiscipline on offence that cost the Bucs this game. The Bucs actually went up by ten points in the first quarter of the game as the Bears struggled to move the ball consistently but kept themselves in touch thanks to their defence. The Bucs finished this game with three-hundred and thirty-nine yards of offence, ninety-six yards more than the Bears were able to generate but the Bucs also were flagged eleven times for a loss of one hundred and nine yards. This was forty-three more yards in penalties than the Bears and the combination of penalties and the Bears defence meant that after the first quarter the Bucs were only able to kick field goals for the rest of the game. That said, despite being streaky, Nick Foles managed to complete more passes that Tom Brady, even with Bucs corner Jamel Dean seeming to wage a one-person battle on the Bears’ passing attack at the end of the game. The Bears were able to do enough on offence against a Bucs defence that was regularly getting pressure to eek out a one point lead at the end of the game, but with how tight the game was the key play might have been when Bucs’ running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn caught a short pass and fumbled the ball setting up the Bears offence with a short field and that led to their second and last touchdown of the game in a crucial burst of point scoring in the second quarter. This is a game that I feel the Bucs really could have and probably should have won, but they need to clean up the penalties if they are to reach their potential. Meanwhile, if the Bears can keep getting enough production from Nick Foles on offence then their defence is good enough that they will keep winning games even if they likely won’t maintain their current twelve win pace or compete with the best teams in the NFL.

I don’t want to spend too much time on the Bengals this week as they were very poor, but the problem remains the offensive line and I’m now getting really worried about Joe Burrow operating behind it. In fact, I have a wider concern, Zac Taylor is a young head coach, hired due to his relationship with Sean McVay and the Bengals stressed how much they committed to his plan with rearrangements of both the practice facilities and offices, as well as hiring Taylor the largest staff they have ever had, but the offensive line is a good representation of my wider worry. Taylor’s choice of Jim Turner as o-line coach didn’t sit well with me from the start. Turner not only tolerated the bullying in his position group whilst at the Dolphins, but the investigation into the resulting scandal implicated him in taking part. Not content with this, when he returned to Texas A&M he was involved in another scandal involving inappropriate jokes at a football clinic for women. It’s one thing for a person to make a mistake and learn from it, but I have no patience for bullies or people who clearly have no interest in reforming their ways. The o-line has been a problem since Andrew Whitworth was let go, and the lead in to last season was undeniably tough with injuries and retirements, but it doesn’t feel like anything is changing or that players are developing and if the head coach can’t see this then I have to wonder about their judgement. It is appears I lied about spending too much time on the Bengals, but moving on to the Ravens – the blip against the Chiefs aside the Ravens are clearly a very good football team who will meet far stiffer challenges over the rest of the season and likely emerge victorious from most of them.

The other early game Sunday game I watched this week was the Carolina Panthers winning their third straight game, beating the still winless Atlanta Falcons. It was not a spectacle of a game, but the seventeen points the Panthers scored in the second quarter was enough for them to comfortably beat a Falcons team who have continued to struggle and that ultimately led to both GM Thomas Dimitroff and head coach Dan Quinn being fired. The Falcons have been trending this way for a while, but it had to be a difficult decision as a lot of the basis for the team that went to the Super Bowl is still there, but they have just not been able to recapture that form. Meanwhile, the Panthers have quietly got themselves to 3-2 despite losing Christian McCaffery to injury in week two, but could very well still be in contention by the time he returns from IR and that is a lot more than I was expecting of them coming into the season. The rest of this year will be strange for the Falcons as both players and coaches will be trying to prove they belong in the league, but it is going to be a long time before the Falcons as an organisation can do anything directly in terms of replacing their GM and head coach. That said, if the head start in the background checks the Falcons get by making the decision now leads to a similar result as what the Panthers have got so far with their new head coach having made an early change themselves last season then they will be very happy.

The final game I got to watch in week five was the closely fought contest that the Minnesota Vikings narrowly lost 27-26 to the Seattle Seahawks. The Vikings scored thirteen unanswered points to build a halftime lead, but came roaring back in the third quarter with three touchdowns and were taken to the wire by the Vikings. The big talking point coming out of this game was the Vikings decision to go for it on fourth down on the Seahawks’ six yard line with two minutes on the clock rather than kick a field goal. There may well be a statistical argument for doing what they did, both in terms of if they made the first down and in turning the ball over with under two minutes left on the clock on the opponents six yard line, and I would usually totally support the decision if that was the case. However, there are a handful of quarterbacks that you feel could execute a ninety-four yard drive in that time and Russell Wilson would be very much near the top of that list, particularly with the form he is in this season. The Seahawks did precisely that, scored the winning touchdown but failed on the following two-point conversion. The same conversion they would have needed to take the game to overtime if the Vikings had just kicked the field goal and taken an eight point lead. It is easy to be wise in hindsight, and I would normally support the maths, but this is one of the few times where I would countenance taking the safe option.

What I Heard

I am going to have to start taking better notes as I have heard lots of interesting things and couldn’t immediately bring a lot of it to mind. However, one thing that did stick is that whilst looking for what coaching tape to watch, I decided to look at the Football Outsiders DVOA stats for offensive line and have a look at the best team. Well, according to the site the team with the best adjusted line yards were the Cleveland Browns (closely followed by Dan’s Dolphins [the real NFL franchise, not his dynasty team]) and this was not wholly a surprise. Unlike the Bengals, who many people have commented on as being poor (although not in adjusted line yards where they rank a lofty twenty-six despite conceding the most sacks in the season so far), I have heard several people talking about how good the Browns’ offensive line is, and how impressive this was given they had a new coaching staff that had to install their offence during a Covid- shortened pre-season. A lot of credit has brrn given to their o-line coach Bill Callahan, and whilst I don’t know enough to evaluate him or the praise, it does make sense and I am looking forward to getting a head start on the coaching film this week with no Thursday night game.

What I Think

Despite the situation with the Titans, the NFL has as yet not lost a game from their schedule and they will be hoping the problems in Tennessee were an outlier and not a foreshadowing of what is to come. The NFL are continuing to adjust their protocols and re-enforce existing ones with talk of restricting the roles of those who are found to have been close contacts of players who have tested positive. I am still pretty impressed that the season has run as well as it has so far, but we are now heading into autumn with the weather becoming more favourable for the virus so soon we shall know if this start was the positive beginning of getting the season finished, or the warning signs that things are about to get a lot tougher.

What I Know

I know the Bengals o-line is bad, that the Panthers are better than I thought they were and that I am looking forward to seeing what Andy Dalton can do with the Dallas offence this week. It may not seem like much, but with everything going on at the moment I’m clinging to the small things and hoping the rest falls into place. I just hope the NFL have planned more carefully than that!

What I Hope

There is only one possible thin I can hope after the week five games, and that is both that Dak Prescott make a full and speedy recovery from his horrible injury sustained on Sunday and that it is a long time until we see anything similar.

2020 Week Five Picks

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

We have two more rescheduled games this week, including a Tuesday night game that may or may not see the Titans return to action depending on if there are any further positive tests. I would like to think that there will be no more unofficial workouts by the Titans’ players and this might go part way to explaining the number of positives the Titans have had compared to the other teams. That said, the positive test of Patriots’ corner Stephon Gilmore who apparently had dinner with Cam Newton, and the number of the close contacts Newton had is again a demonstration that no one can take the Covid-19 protocols lightly and we will have to see if the current plans will hold, or if things will need to change.

Anyway, having fallen a further point behind Dan in the picking competition thanks to a Bears win on Thursday, I hope to stop the bleeding a little over the rest of week five.

Early Games:

There are various games that look interesting to me in the early slot, but not a lot of obviously compelling watches.

The nearest we have to a competitive matchup according to the lines is the Carolina Panthers taking on the winless Atlanta Falcons, with the Falcons laying three and a half points to the Panthers who are coming off two straight wins. I will be watching this game as I haven’t had a chance to catch either team yet and I want to take a look at what Matt Rhule is building as well as what is going on with the Falcons and in particular their defence..

The other game that is catching my eye is a little self-serving, but the Bengals are coming off their first win with Joe Burrow and travel to take on the Baltimore Ravens. The AFC North is always a competitive division, at least amongst the top team and the Bengals have had a tendency to play the Ravens close so with Lamar Jackson dealing with a knee injury during the week I think this is likely a closer game that the line suggests and has the potential to be one of those division games that could give us a surprise result, even if it is merely a closer loss for the Bengals than expected.

Other things of interest:

  • The Kansas City Chiefs are heavy favourites, which is understandable to an extent as the Raiders have not won in Arrowhead stadium for seven years and with the Raiders’ defence still ranked in the thirties I like the Chiefs to continue their win streak but it could be a challenge to cover this line.
  • The LA Rams should win in Washington, except the Rams have been back and forth across the country at the start of this season so perhaps the Football Team can spring a surprise off the back of a different quarterback starting.
  • The Arizona Cardinals have fallen back in their division after two straight losses but will be hoping to get things back on track against a Jets team who will be without struggling quarterback Sam Darnold thanks to the AC sprain in his throwing shoulder. There will be some serious questions to answer if the Cardinals lose a third straight game.
  • The Philadelphia Eagles coming of their first win of the season travel to face the Steelers in a game that I think the Steelers are likely to win given the strength of their defense and the problems the Eagles are having on offence, but this game has the potential to get interesting if the Eagles defensive line can get going or if Carson Wentz finds some form.
  • There will be some who think the Texans will get a new coach bounce, and whilst that is possible, I don’t see it being a huge factor as their roster has structural issues thanks to letting Bill O’Brien make short terms moves as GM over the last couple of season. The Texans may well get their first win of the season, but this line is too high for me and the Jaguars offence may have success against a Texans defense centered around an ageing JJ Watt and not a huge amount more.

Panthers @ Falcons (-3.5)

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

Bengals @ Ravens (-13.5)

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

Raiders @ Chiefs (-12.5)

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

Rams @ Washington (+8.5)

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

Cardinals @ Jets (+6.5)

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

Eagles @ Steelers (-6.5)

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

Jaguars @ Texans (-6.5)

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

Late Games:

The matchup of the late Sunday games is the Indianapolis Colts taking their league leading by DVOA defense to Cleveland to face a Browns team who have won three games straight. The injury to lead running back Nick Chubb is a blow for the Browns, and the Colts will prove a lot sterner test than the miserable Cowboys defense last week. The Browns are getting points at home this week, but I think this is a close matchup and I think could be one of the more competitive games of the week.

The Dolphins could not keep up with the Seahawks last week and now face a trip across the country to face a 49ers team who are staying competitive despite their extensive injury list. I like the 49ers to win this one, but I think this game could be closer than the line suggests, and I would not be surprised if the Dolphins managed an upset.

The Dallas Cowboys simply cannot afford to lose this game, although no one is looking that capable of winning the NFC East. However, the Giants have the easiest offence the Cowboys have faced this season so this could be a chance for them to find something and it won’t take much of a defensive effort for the Cowboys to win given how well their offence is playing.

Dolphins @ 49ers (-8.5)

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

Colts @ Browns (+2.5)

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

Giants @ Cowboys (-9.5)

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

Sunday Night Football:

Vikings @ Seahawks (-7.5)

I sometime worry that I am turning into Dan as I am really looking forward to this game as after a slow start the Minnesota Vikings are finding their feet on offence, and they will need every yard of the passing game to keep up with the Seahawks. That said, the Seahawks defense is not good and plain bad against the pass, ranking twenty-ninth by DVOA. I think this should be a fun game to watch given the offensive battle, and while it may be closer than eight points, it’s hard to see Russell Wilson losing this game given how well he is playing.

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

Monday Night Football:

Chargers @ Saints (-7.5)

The LA Chargers have named rookie quarterback Justin Herbert their starting quarterback and he has definitely shown promise, but the Chargers only win came against the Bengals with Tyrod Taylor getting the start. The New Orleans Saints might not look quite like themselves, but with talk that receiver Michael Thomas could return and the Chargers looking decidedly average I find it hard to see them springing an upset on the road, even if the Saints are missing their passionate crowd. This line might be too big to cover, but I will be surprised if the Chargers do manage to get the win.

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

Rescheduled Games:

Broncos @ Patriots (-10.5)

The first game of the Monday night doubleheader sees the Patriots host the Denver Broncos coming off their Thursday night win over the Jets. It is hard to know how the disruption of the last week will have affected the Patriots, but they will miss Cam Newton and so whilst I think that Bill Belichick will be able to lead his team to the win, I doubt they will cover this line. I could be wrong, but double-digit points after a disrupted week of preparation that sees the Patriots going against a well-rested Broncos team is too rich for me.

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

Bills @ Titans (+1.5)

After all the positive tests and the apparent out of facility workouts the Titans are currently scheduled to retake the field this Tuesday night, which sees the Bills game against the Chiefs that was supposed to happen two days later put back to the Sunday. No one truly knows if the Titans will be in a position to play this game, or how they will look when they finally do return to the field. I think the Bills should win if this game does get played, but a Tuesday night game puts the Bills in a situation no team will have seen to prepare for their Sunday night game against the Chiefs. We knew that this season would not be fair, and so it will be even more impressive if the Bills come out of their next two games with a win or two.

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

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 5

Tags

, , , , , ,

I had a terrible week four picking games and have yet to record a positive score and having fallen 9 points behind Dan so I’m beginning to wonder if I need to completely overhaul my process or be even more trusting of the numbers, and this game is doing nothing to help me make up my mind.

Gee:Week 4:  4 – 11Overall:   28 – 35
Dan:Week 4:  9 – 6Overall:   37 – 26

Buccaneers @ Bears (+5.5)

I am really looking forward to watching this game as I haven’t seen the Bucs since their underwhelming opening game against the Saints, or the Bears at all, but I absolutely hate this line which sits right that awkward zone between points around a field goal win and a touchdown win. Given the consensus number I’m getting an advantage for the Bears from this line, and a fairly sizeable one at that, but the Bucs have won three straight, are the best team by overall DVOA, have the second ranked defence and Tom Brady. I don’t trust the Bears offence as they shuffle quarterbacks and even with tight end OJ Howard going down I feel like the Bucs have too many players that can hurt the Bears defence. This might be the wrong move right now, but given how previous methods have failed me I’m trusting my gut on this one.

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

Survivor Competition

Well we are finally scoring some points and I’ve managed to maintain my slender advantage, but the combination of games and who we’ve already picked is making this a tricky week or at least that’s how it feels to me. Dan is rolling with his plan to pick against the Jets and hoping the Cardinals break their two-game losing streak whilst I’m finding it really hard to find a team that convinces me. There’s a couple of options, but given I don’t like this week I’m going to throw in one of the better teams and hope it doesn’t bite me later in the season.

Current Score

Gee: 3
Dan: 2

Week 5 Selection:

Gee:     Chiefs
Dan:    Cardinals

Bold Prediction of the Week

Sorry all, but with Dan on holiday and podcast taking a week off I’m not doing something I don’t like without the evil producer pointing me in that direction.

Reality Bites

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

We are through week four with a rescheduled bye week for the Covid-19 infected Titans and their week four opponents the Pittsburgh Steelers as well as first in week game delay. Before all teams are even through a quarter of their season, we have had our first coach firing of the season, there are six unbeaten teams though that is slightly inflated with the Steelers Titans matchup being postponed, and four winless teams that led to the first coach firing.

There’s a fair amount to get through and the NFL is not the only ones having disruption to their routine so let’s get writing whilst I still have time!

What I Saw

Week four may have started with questions still surrounding the Titans and Steelers game, but we got a surprise of the pleasant variety Thursday night when the less that enticing on-paper matchup of the winless Denver Broncos taking on the winless New York Jets turned into an enjoyable game. It was a relatively comfortable 37-28 win for the Broncos in the end, but a close first half saw a truly special run from Jets’ quarterback Sam Darnold opened the scoring with a forty-six yard touchdown, but it is becoming increasingly clear that the Jets have been unable to build a team around him their third year quarterback to truly evaluate him. Darnold had to leave this game for a short period having been thrown down on his right shoulder, and whilst he made a go of it on the night, he is now on the injury report with an AC joint sprain in his throwing shoulder and it is not known if he will be available on Sunday. It feels like only a matter of time before the Jets move on from Adam Gase, who has never really convinced as a head coach, but with the state of roster I don’t know whether they will try to rebuild around Darnold or if they will try something more drastic. The Broncos looked competitive in this game, but we know they were facing a struggling team and it is not too often a quarterback can throw three interceptions and still win the game. Their defence, which ranks twelfth by DVOA gives them something to build off, and Brett Rypien showed some good flashes when he wasn’t getting picked off by Pierre Desir. This was a surprisingly fun game to watch but hasn’t stuck in the memory so let’s move on to the weekend’s game.

Before the Cleveland Browns kicked off in Dallas against the Cowboys, Cam Newton had tested positive for Covid-19 and the Patriots visit to the Chiefs had been postponed in the hope of further testing allowing the game to play. The Browns started off by taking the lead with trickery as Jarvis Landry threw a thirty-seven yard touchdown to his fellow receiver Odell Beckahm and it looked like we could have ourselves a real contest as the Cowboys offence answered with a touchdown drive of their own and then took the lead. However, their defensive frailties started to show themselves at the start of the second quarter as the Browns equalised and as the Cowboys gave the ball away, the Browns quite literally ran away with the game, scoring twenty-seven unanswered points as the Cowboys failed to score until early in the fourth quarter. The pretty startling stat is that the Browns finished with over three hundred yards of rushing in this game and that’s with their starting running back Nick Chubb going down early with an MCL sprain. It is quite remarkable that the Cowboys’ managed to within three points with three minutes to go before a fifty-yard run on a reverse from Odell Beckham sealed the game 49-38. It was quite remarkable touchdown as by all rights Beckham should have been stopped well behind the line of scrimmage, but he managed to escape and got the distance. The Cowboys clearly have a potent offence, but they need the defence to step up so they can win games without the offence being perfect. They are 1-3 for a reason and could just as easily be 0-4. It is somewhat remarkable that are still second in the division and only a tied game by the Eagles from being top but they need to improve fast if they want to make anything of this season as it appears only one team will be coming out of the NFC East this year. As for Cleveland, they have a built a team who looks to have an identity and who can compete. I don’t know that they will push into the playoffs, but they are developing an offence that puts Baker Mayfield in position to succeed and not drive success and they are going to be a handful for anyone.

The other early game I saw was the Jacksonville Jaguars visit to Cincinnati to take on the Bengals in a game the Jaguars ultimately lost 25-38. The Bengals were fairly comfortable for a lot of this game with Joe Mixon having a productive game and Joe Burrow looking as good as he has done all season. Things seemed to have cooled off for the Jaguars after a positive opening that encouraged me after their first two games, but if there are some bright flashes from parts of the roster, they look a long way from promising I thought. The Bengals look to be changing generations at receiver and have some talent on both sides of the ball, but the offensive line has to improve as does the defence overall but in a season where I was only looking for hope, Burrow as show me at least that he could be the real deal. I’m just not as sure about Zac Taylor and I wonder if he is going to be hamstrung by his choice of offensive line coach.

The final game that I saw this week was the late game between the Buffalo Bills visiting the Las Vegas Raiders, which was not quite the contest I was hoping for with the Bills running out 30-23 winners and were another team who looked comfortable for a lot of the game. I was really impressed with the scheme of the Bills offence and the difference the addition of receiver Stefon Diggs made. If it were not for several drops Josh Allen could have had an even more impressive day throwing the ball, but Allen still throws some very hard passes at times so there’s still some touch to be developed. Still, the Bills really look like they have taken another incremental step forward with Josh Allen relying on his arm now instead of his legs to make the offence purr and the defence possibly rounding into shape so if they can keep things together they look like they could do more than just make the playoffs this season. Meanwhile, the problem for the Raiders is the same one they have had since Jon Gruden took over, which is that the offence can do as well as it can in the last two season, and is currently ranked tenth in the league by DVOA, but until their defence gets out of the thirties in defensive ranking then the Raiders are not going to be able to get where they want to go. Particularly sharing a division with the Kansas City Chiefs and their duo of Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes. Derek Carr might not be the elite quarterback you dream of, but the offence helmed by him is good enough to win if they had more help from the other side of the ball.

What I Think

I have a minor case study in how disruptions can affect your routine and throw you out of sorts. I’m not saying being away for the weekend is the reason my picks were so bad in week four, but it didn’t help, and I have been off kilter all this week for one reason or another.

I mention this not to look for sympathy, but because I am not an elite athlete competing with the world’s best in their field. That is what the NFL is asking of its players in the middle of the pandemic and we really began to see the consequences of that as that reality began to bite.

As of writing we do not yet know what lessons need to be learned about the outbreak in Tennessee, and the early hope of several days without positive tests and the facility opening have been dashed by two more players testing positive. If there is good news to be taken from the Titan’s situation it is that no Vikings seem to have been infected and so it is working in close quarters with team mates and contact outside of the field of play that looks to be driving infection and not the action on the field. However, that will be tested with other teams having positives.

While the Titans are paying the price for this problem with an early week four bye and will now have to play thirteen games straight, whenever they can actually get back to playing. The Steelers who had to deal with uncertainty for a lot of last week ended up with an unscheduled bye week where they were not recovering but preparing for a game that did not take place. They will also face a thirteen-week streak of games for no other reason than a quirk of the schedule. Whether there will be further outbreaks that require move rounds of games I do not know, but even with the other game delay we are asking a lot of the players.

I heard it suggested that one of the reasons the Patriots game was delayed was not because they had lost a quarterback, but because they were the first travelling team to have a positive test at the weekend. In fact the team travelled in two planes to separate the close contacts with Cam Newton from the rest of the team. However, the Chiefs are now being asked to play three games of football in a remarkably short ten days have been moved to this Monday, play again on a short week on Sunday against the Raiders before travelling to face the Bill on the following Thursday night.

If that were not enough, the news broke today that Patriots corner Stephon Gilmore has now tested positive for Covid-19 have played at the weekend and was seen embracing Patrick Mahomes after the game Monday. Mahomes could well be safe, but it is clear that there is still room for improvement in teams facilities for protecting the players from the spread of Covid-19 and it may well be time for the NFL to be more flexible in the approach to scheduling games and stricter on how it isolates teams with positive tests.

What I Hope

I wanted to write about coaches and culture in the wake of the firing of Bill O’Brien in Houston having listened to Peter King interview both beat reporter John McClain on the situation for the Texans, and Panthers head coach Matt Rhule after the Panthers got their second straight win in Rhule’s first year as head coach in the NFL.

It is a hell of a season to be building a new culture when you haven’t done it before and I was impressed by his approach, but with the current situation I cannot focus in on that like I would want.

What I really hope is that we can learn to live with this virus until there is a game changing treatment or a vaccine.

That applies to everywhere and not just to the NFL, and right now we have to take the solace where we can find them. I hope that football can continue to be that in some form, but just like everything else in the world at the moment, it won’t be the same form for a long tiem.

AAF: San Francisco 49ers Offence

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , ,

After two weeks of false starts it is quite a relief to finally write my first Amateur Adventures in Film post of the 2020 season.

There was an interesting discussion I listened to recently that was discussing the similarities between the Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan offences despite the personnel and formations being different, and with the 49ers being one of the teams I hadn’t seen yet this season, who beat the Giants soundly in week three I thought I would take a look at their offence with backup Nick Mullens as their quarterback.

The 49ers offence is ranked eighth by DVOA despite starting Mullens last week and having a number of injuries at receiver and running back as well as missing probably the best tight-end in the game right now in George Kittle. However, the 49ers are not a team that rely on a single running back and use 21 personnel and 12 personnel a lot and so certainly coped against the Giants’ eighteenth ranked by DVOA defence.

What I enjoyed was the way they switched personnel groupings and formations so that they frequently had two running backs on the field but would line up in shotgun or flex a running back out as a receiver. There was also nearly always motion before the snap to help Mullens identify what the defence was giving him, but this motion would also be used to present multiple actions out of the same look. The 49ers are also a team who run more out of shotgun formation than any other team I remember. The lack of motion pre-snap also was not a tell that a pass was coming, and I loved on their final touchdown run that tight-end Ross Dwelley (who was the player who probably moved most pre-snap all game) came across the formation in a jet motion but then blocked to allow running back Jeff Wilson to squeeze into the end-zone for a touchdown.

The commitment to the run was a foundation of how the 49ers offence was run, even if it was not necessarily that efficient as it only generated ninety-three yards off thirty-five carries, but the 49ers used this to keep the Giants’ defence guessing what was happening as well as scoring three touchdowns on the ground. For this offence there is very creditable threat that they are going to run the ball with a near 50-50 split of pass and run plays, which makes their play-action all the more convincing. This meant that despite no-one leaping off the screen in terms of a dominant player, the 49ers generated four hundred and twenty yards and four touchdowns whilst possessing the ball for nearly forty minutes of this game. This is no small feat with a backup quarterback but Mullins if unspectacular, looked efficient running an offence designed to put him in positions to succeed. The Giants defence would stuff a run every now and again, with former Jet defensive lineman Leonard Williams catching the eye multiple times against both the run and pass, but the 49ers always seemed to have answers.

It took some time for Kyle Shanahan and his hand picked GM John Lynch to build the franchise how they wanted, but after a couple of seasons they made the Super Bowl and have built a team good enough to compete despite and injury list that would have felled many a team in the NFL. I don’t know if they can maintain this throughout the season, but a well schemed offence that is running this well despite the current situation looks like it will go a long way to giving them a chance.