NFL Week 11 Predictions: “Tire Me” Edition

This easily could be an epic rant about the MVP race, or the Patriots/Eagles in general, because I like to do that from time to time on here. 140 280 characters on Twitter just doesn’t do it sometimes, especially when people take one part out of context and jump into something they don’t understand.

However, you can even try to have a conversation about these things and still get stuck in the mud. Yes, I went on WEEI in Boston on Thursday, and instead of getting a debate about where things stand in 2017, I felt like I never left 2003 when Patriots fans started using W-L record to justify Tom Brady’s greatness. It’s been 14 years of lousy “count the rings/wins, ignore the individual performance” arguments ever since, and it does get tiring at times to keep reading them. I also had a busy week with an ALEX update and another FiveThirtyEight article.

Just like how I don’t really read my articles after I write them, I don’t listen to my radio appearances. All I know is after it was over, I didn’t understand why I was accused of jumping all over the place when my point was the same beginning to end. Brady has not given the Patriots an edge at quarterback since 2001 that would be any greater than if a handful of his peers were in his position and provided the same advantages and breaks he’s had. The key to NE’s success is that the gap between Bill Belichick and the other coaches remains the largest in the NFL, and it only seems to have increased in recent years. It’s a plug-and-play system in NE. You provide a Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, or Drew Brees with the best coaching, the best clutch kicking, the hardest team to score 30 points on, the hardest defense to crack in the fourth quarter, a sad division that can’t find a worthy rival at QB/HC, and you damn well should expect similar, if not greater success.

But I’m going to stop right there, because it’s not like these stories are going away any time soon this season. This could be 2004 all over again with the Patriots, Eagles, and Steelers as the top three teams.

To be continued.

There are actually a few games I’m interested in looking at this week.

Jaguars at Browns

Really, this one? I’ve designed a career (recap close games, preview big games) where I can avoid covering games like this one that are crap on paper, but I can’t help but smell an upset here. While I gave the Browns this win before Week 1 when I picked the whole schedule, it is clear that Cleveland has been worse than imaginable and the Jaguars are better.

However, I like the matchup. Cleveland’s offense doesn’t really match up with any defense in the league, let alone one we’ve been calling the best in the NFL this year. But look at the contrast of styles here. The Jaguars shut down the pass, prefer not to pass with Blake Bortles, and are 30th in DVOA against the run. The Browns’ best trait is stopping the run, would like to run the ball on offense, and you can always get some takeaway opportunities from Bortles, who really cheated the football gods last week when he threw two picks after the two-minute warning and still got the win in overtime. Sure, the Jaguars have kicked some ass at times this year, but they’ve had their asses kicked too. Hell, Jacksonville already lost on the road to the Jets this year, albeit an overtime game. Cleveland lost by just 3 to the Steelers in Week 1 and played better than the final score suggests in Detroit last week.

The Browns are at home, and do you really want to pick an 0-16 season when there’s only been one in NFL history? A shaky, turnover-prone QB on the road with an injured crew of weapons sounds tempting to me. The fact that Jaguars are saying they’ll win in a shutout can’t sit well with the Browns. Hue Jackson needs a win in the worst way to save face.

Sure, the Jags may win 30-6 when it’s all said and done, but I like my gut enough on this one to go with Cleveland.

Rams at Vikings

This is the “Jeff Fisher Can’t Coach Bowl.” Case Keenum and Jared Goff had a terrible time in the Los Angeles offense a season ago, but give them real coaching and teams that understand how to use their talent, and both are in the top 5 in DVOA right now. This is a cool battle of 7-2 teams that probably no one expected to be 7-2 at this point.

I wrestled a lot with a winner in this game. In the end, I’m going with the Rams for arguably their most impressive win yet this season. I think Keenum is heavily dependent on Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, while the Rams can use a larger variety of weapons. Both defenses are really good, and haven’t been playing the best of offenses, so it’s a step up in competition for both. Admittedly, the two games I focused most on with Keenum this year the two losses (Steelers and Lions), so I’m probably looking at him in more of a negative light than someone who would have focused more on his two huge games against the Bucs and Redskins. But even last week he had a couple of picks in the second half, and I guess I’m rooting for some chaos where putting Teddy Bridgewater back at QB1 is a reality.

I will say that this is a game where Goff needs to show us something good. He’s getting MVP consideration after shredding the Giants and Texans the last two weeks, but he’s really been given an “EASY” button this year. He has the best starting field position, the highest play-action rate, doesn’t have to throw into tight windows, and gets the most YAC of any QB. If he can play some great games down the stretch I’ll change my mind, but he has probably the most misleading stats of any QB this season. I’m just glad he’s shown he can play competent football after last year, but I wouldn’t go all in on him being MVP caliber right now. He struggled with Seattle and special teams did much of the damage in Jacksonville. Let’s see how Goff does with this good road test this weekend.

Patriots vs. Raiders

I guess for six months I assumed this was a Monday night game, because that’s when Oakland played Houston in Mexico City last year. But it’s a 4:25 start, and it’s not nearly as interesting as we thought it would be for Oakland. Sure, the Raiders can prove something with a win, but I give the No. 32 pass defense that still doesn’t have an interception little chance here. The Patriots are starting to roll again offensively, and the defense hasn’t allowed more than 17 points in any of the last five games. You’d like to think Derek Carr can move the ball in this one to keep it close and exciting, but his red-zone performance has been brutal this season. You can’t win by settling for field goals against the Patriots. Brady tears up Jack Del Rio defenses regularly, but this is one of the weaker units yet that he’ll see. With losses already to Buffalo and Baltimore, Oakland slipping to 4-6 is just another step closer to an irrelevant rest of season.

Eagles at Cowboys

This should be a much bigger game, but things have gone really sour recently for Dallas. Never mind the Jerry Jones saga that is amping up. Actually, that could be uncomfortable this week with Dallas in high-profile games (SNF and Thanksgiving). But let’s not worry about that. On the field, Dallas could be without three of its very best players in Ezekiel Elliott, Tyron Smith, and Sean Lee. Hell, kicker Dan Bailey being out is a problem too.

This is why it’s annoying to hear the “Dak can’t score without Zeke” narrative when clearly there is far more missing than Elliott. Last week, Adrian Clayborn had six sacks with Smith out. He even admitted to having “one move” after the game, and Dallas failed to adjust for that. Regardless of who is on the field, a quarterback needs better protection than that, and the Dallas defense really struggled with Atlanta. It was a 10-7 game at halftime, but while Dallas missed a field goal in the third quarter, the Falcons added two long touchdown drives to take a 24-7 lead and blow that one open.

Philadelphia comes in  hot, fresh off a bye, and with one of the better defenses in the league at getting to quarterbacks. It’s a really tough matchup for Dallas, and I don’t expect the Cowboys to win this one. It would have been tough even with those players available.

2017 Week 11 Predictions

So I started picking against the spread last week. I went 6-8 compared to 12-2 straight up. This is a weekly thing now from me, and hopefully better weeks to come. Off to a good start with the Steelers impressing on Thursday night.

2017Wk11

  • Week 1: 8-7
  • Week 2: 11-5
  • Week 3: 9-7
  • Week 4: 8-8
  • Week 5: 6-8
  • Week 6: 6-8
  • Week 7: 11-4
  • Week 8: 12-1
  • Week 9: 6-7
  • Week 10: 12-2 (Spread: 6-8)
  • Season: 89-57 (Spread: 6-8)

NFL Week 6 Predictions: Brady, Benny and the Jets

With respect to a locked-in Philip Rivers and the improving Andrew Luck, I’ve known the AFC of the last decade to be dominated by three quarterbacks: Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger.

They’ve represented the AFC in 10 of the last 11 Super Bowls. On Sunday, they all face a familiar AFC foe with history well in their favor.

  • Tom Brady is 22-2 against Buffalo with 54 TD, 19 INT (100.1 PR).
  • Ben Roethlisberger is 18-1 against Cleveland with 28 TD, 13 INT (97.7 PR).

Those records are as good as it gets for a quarterback against a divisional opponent, but what does it really tell us? I find three main takeaways:

1. Despite many changes around them over the years, Brady and Roethlisberger have been two of the league’s best quarterbacks and will both be in the Hall of Fame. They play consistently well against a lot of different teams.

2. The Bills and Browns are two of the NFL’s most consistent losers. The Bills haven’t been in the playoffs since 1999 and the Browns 2.0 have one playoff season (lost to the Steelers for the third time in 2002).

3. Then there’s the makeup of these teams. Brady and Roethlisberger usually enjoy good defenses, while the Browns and Bills have struggled to find a quarterback capable of scoring many points. So these meetings turn into a lot of easy wins for Ben and Brady. Even when they don’t play well, it’s usually a win (see Week 17 last year for both).

If there was ever a time when Brady and Roethlisberger could both lose to their helpless rivals in the same season, it’s on Sunday.

Both will be on the road. Steelers-Browns is the first rematch of the 2014 season. Cleveland erased a 24-point deficit in the second half in Week 1 and nearly won in Pittsburgh. The Bills have roughed up Brady in the past, holding him under 5.6 YPA in both meetings last year (Doug Marrone’s first season as coach).  The problem is the New England running game usually stomps all over Buffalo’s poor run defense, but some are still skeptical of the offensive line this year.

These games could be very intriguing with first place in the AFC East on the line in Patriots-Bills. I’m not sold that Kyle Orton is ready to deliver against a defense that’s good at creating turnovers. In Cleveland, I think Roethlisberger will have a solid day leading the offense. Joe Haden has not been able to stop Antonio Brown in past meetings and they could pick on the rookie Justin Gilbert again. The problem is on defense. The Steelers don’t create turnovers while the Browns have been protecting the ball very well. The Browns are effective on the ground and with using play-action passing — two things that have plagued the Steelers of recent years.

I know better than to pick against the Patriots again. As for the other game, it’s just not in my nature to pick the Browns over the Steelers even if I think there’s a good chance the Browns take this game at home.

Final predictions:

Patriots 20, Bills 13

Steelers 24, Browns 21

Then there’s Peyton Manning and the Broncos against Rex Ryan’s Jets, losers of four straight. This one has the ingredients for a Denver blowout. The Jets are the 4th defense since 1940 to allow at least 12 touchdown passes and no more than one interception in the first five games of a season. How can they contend with Denver’s receiving corps, especially after Demaryius Thomas got on track with a huge game last week? Shut down Demaryius and the Broncos still have Emmanuel Sanders, who has caught 32-of-42 passes for 435 yards. His implementation into the offense has been immediately effective and highly efficient. Welker’s working his way back from a concussion and suspension. Then of course there’s Julius Thomas, who already has seven touchdowns. The Broncos can’t run the ball well, but that’s not what they’re going to rely on to beat the Jets.

Geno Smith has to start at quarterback, because we know Michael Vick isn’t the answer for any NFL team. Regardless, the Jets need a miracle to win this game to avoid a 1-5 start. I just don’t see any reasonable manner in which they pull this one off. Manning has done very well against much better Ryan defenses in the past.

  • Peyton Manning vs. Rex Ryan as Ravens DC/Jets HC (2005-10): 5-2 record, 126/197 (64%) for 1,738 yards, 8.82 YPA, 13 TD, 2 INT, 109.9 PR

One of the losses was the “Curtis Painter Game” in 2009. The second was in the last meeting, 17-16 in the 2010 AFC Wild Card, after the Jets scored on a last-second field goal.

Since 2009, 17 of the 18 teams to beat Manning scored at least 26 points. That 17-16 Jets game is the outlier. 

That’s also the last time Ryan had a winning team. To beat Manning’s Broncos, you have to score a lot of points and/or shrink the game by being efficient and effective on offense. That’s not the Jets.

Final prediction:

Broncos 34, Jets 14

NFL Week 6 Predictions

I had the Colts on Thursday, and for a change we actually had a good game I get to write about.

Winners in bold:

  • Lions at Vikings
  • Panthers at Bengals
  • Ravens at Buccaneers
  • Steelers at Browns
  • Packers at Dolphins
  • Broncos at Jets
  • Patriots at Bills
  • Jaguars at Titans
  • Chargers at Raiders
  • Cowboys at Seahawks
  • Bears at Falcons
  • Redskins at Cardinals
  • Giants at Eagles
  • 49ers at Rams

I had a lot of road teams, so I ended up changing some 50/50 picks at the last second to go with Vikings and Bengals at home.

Forget DeMarco Murray’s rarefied rushing company to start this season. Forget Russell Wilson’s rushing numbers on Monday night. I will be shocked if Marshawn Lynch isn’t the dominant player in Sunday’s big game against Dallas and its 32nd-ranked run defense. Don’t count the Cowboys out. Tony Romo led Dallas to a win in New Orleans (13-0 at the time) in 2009 and also knocked off the 9-0 Colts in 2006. Those are big wins, and yes, they really happened. This could be a good one, but who really wants to bet against Seattle at home right now?

Season Results

  • Week 1: 8-8
  • Week 2: 9-7
  • Week 3: 11-5
  • Week 4: 8-5
  • Week 5: 11-4
  • Total: 47-29

NFL Week 3 Predictions: Crystal Blue Polian and My Dark Passenger

You may have heard the Colts traded a first-round pick to the Cleveland Browns for Trent Richardson this week. While still trying to process that mind-blowing trade, one speck of analysis about it did catch my eye.

The more I hear from Bill Polian as an analyst, the more I wonder how he had a 25-year successful run as general manager in the NFL. Oh yeah, he had players like Bruce Smith, Jim Kelly and Peyton Manning. Still, he made some good moves at times too. While claiming Landry Jones was the best QB in the 2013 draft because “he’s a winner” was bad from Polian, this latest thought is probably worse when it comes to the general understanding of football.

Pro Football Talk’s Michael David Smith’s Twitter feed had the quote from Polian: Trent Richardson’s 3.5 yards a carry is good enough because “3.5 plus 3.5 puts you at 3rd & 3. Andrew Luck can convert those.”

WELL IF IT’S 3RD-AND-3, WHY NOT RUN RICHARDSON AGAIN FOR THE FIRST DOWN? SORRY PAT MCAFEE, YOUR SERVICES WILL NO LONGER BE REQUIRED. NO WONDER THE BROWNS WERE AN UNSTOPPABLE JUGGERNAUT LED BY RICH…OH, wait.

No wonder Polian hates the “stat geeks” as he’s expressed in the past. He fails to understand simple statistical concepts. Yes, Richardson averages 3.5 YPC, which is very low compared to the league’s baseline, but that does not mean he picks up 3.5 yards every play. So far this season Richardson has gained 3 yards or less on 17 of his 31 carries.

It gets better. Since 2012, no offense has been in 3rd-and-3 more than the Colts (27 plays). They have the third-best conversion rate too. That’s without Richardson, who was in Cleveland, who had just 12 plays on 3rd-and-3. That’s tied with the Giants for next to last. D’oh.

Polian was the decision maker on deals that involved millions of dollars and the hopes and dreams of franchises’ long-term success. Yet he can’t even figure out what a 3.5 YPC average says about a running back or how that would function in an offense?

I’ve said it before but the stupidity of experts is a big reason I got into the sports writing business. If I ever hit the Powerball like some lucky jackass did this week, I would write nothing but scathing attacks on the so-called experts when they say something dumb.

I’d never run out of material.

Steelers or Dexter: Which do I hate more right now?

I have watched every Steelers game live, in its entirety, since at least the 2003 season. It may even be since sometime in the 2001 season but I seem to recall missing the first three quarters of 2002 Week 17 against Baltimore. Might have went to church or something that would be laughable now on a Sunday morning for me.  So yeah, I’ve never missed a live snap of Ben Roethlisberger’s career.

But this week when the 0-2 Steelers play the Bears in prime time, I think come 9 P.M. I am going to turn the channel to Showtime to watch the series finale of Dexter, which is another thing in my life that has gone from a favorite to a like to a “I’m mad as hell and I can’t take it anymore” chore. The writers have butchered mostly everything with this show ever since the brilliant Trinity storyline (season 4). They could have made this 8-season show into six seasons. Seasons 5 & 6 had the exact same setup at the end, but different outcomes. I hope seasons 7 & 8 do not follow that, and they better not even think about having Dexter kill Deb. Michael C. Hall’s already been in the best series finale ever (Six Feet Under), so hopefully he doesn’t regress to the mean with a dud.

After that’s over — and I probably bitch about it on Twitter — I’ll take a quick look at the game, which should be heading to halftime, then I’ll start Breaking Bad on the DVR. That’s 75 minutes this week. I’m not even going to DVR the game thanks to the brilliance of Game Rewind. I’ll just watch it later.

Will I miss the Steelers game? Not if it’s anything like the first two miserable weeks. I’m doing my dark passenger a favor as watching the 2013 Steelers puts me in a rotten mood. Of course, I’m doing the unthinkable and picking them to win, so I’ll see what happens, but not live. There’s simply better TV options, or standards, this Sunday.

Hurry-Up

I posted some records as starters on Twitter on Friday. Matt Schaub is a perfect 29-0 when the Texans allow 0-19 points, but watch me jinx him in Baltimore on Sunday in what could be a low-scoring game between two teams who do not look that impressive so far.

019

My Trent Richardson Week 3 prediction in San Francisco: seven carries for 24 yards.

Good test for Green Bay’s offense: Cincinnati has not allowed more than 24 points in its last 11 games. They allowed 31 to Denver at home last year, so the elite QB/weapons can get the job done against this defense.

Will the Jaguars cover the 20-point spread in Seattle? Yes, barely, though it will be good to see a team not named the Patriots in this situation. Seattle shouldn’t allow more than single-digit points, but the offense needs to get rolling here in 2013. I’m thinking 24-6 final.

2013 NFL Week 3 Predictions

Last year I went 4-12 in Week 3, so hopefully this will be better. Off to a good start picking the Chiefs and their defense  on Thursday.

Winners in bold:

  • Texans at Ravens
  • Giants at Panthers
  • Lions at Redskins
  • Rams at Cowboys
  • Packers at Bengals
  • Chargers at Titans
  • Buccaneers at Patriots
  • Browns at Vikings
  • Cardinals at Saints
  • Falcons at Dolphins
  • Colts at 49ers
  • Bills at Jets
  • Jaguars at Seahawks
  • Bears at Steelers
  • Raiders at Broncos

Season results:

  • Week 1: 11-5
  • Week 2: 12-4
  • Season: 23-9