Top 10 Andrew Luck Moments

The shock of Andrew Luck’s retirement this weekend is still with me. Just as the NFL looks to start its 100th season, there has really never been a quarterback of this caliber who walked away from the game just shy of his 30th birthday.

Maybe Luck returns in a year or two, but for now, let’s assume his career is over. This would have to make him the all-time choice for the “what if he stayed healthy?” quarterback. Luck was truly unique despite playing in an era as good as any in NFL history at the position.

I think it’s important to write something like this to preserve his legacy, because Luck could very well be forgotten in the near future. Luck was never a league MVP or first-team All-Pro quarterback. That’s not just a matter of playing the same time as Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Aaron Rodgers either. In fact, Luck saw Cam Newton (2015), Matt Ryan (2016) and Patrick Mahomes (2018) ascend to those levels in the last four years. Luck never threw for 5,000 yards and topped out at 40 touchdown passes (2014). He never reached a Super Bowl and finished with a completion percentage barely over 60 percent and 7.2 yards per attempt. He played in 86 regular-season games and eight more in the playoffs. In all likelihood, he’ll never get a serious push for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Some statistics will look favorable for Luck over time, but overall, he won’t stack up to his peers and the Hall of Famers people thought he’d compare to as one of the most hyped prospects in draft history. Luck was always better on video than he was on paper. Luck was closer to John Elway than he was Peyton Manning, and it’s a shame the Colts kind of screwed the pooch after drafting all three of those players No. 1 overall. The difference is Luck is checking out before we see if he has another level to ascend in his game, or if he would get there by finally having superior coaching and talent around him.

That’s probably the most disappointing part of this all: we likely never got to see Peak Andrew Luck. Health was the main culprit, and we can place the blame in multiple places there, including on the quarterback himself who had a reckless style from Day 1 until Frank Reich had him releasing the ball faster in 2018, his swansong which netted him a Comeback Player of the Year award. When Peyton Manning exploded with 49 touchdown passes in 2004, that was his seventh season in the league. Tom Brady’s 50 touchdown pass season in 2007 was his seventh as a starter. Drew Brees’ best statistical years were in 2009 and 2011, his 9th and 11th NFL seasons. Joe Montana’s statistical peak was 1989, his 11th NFL season. Even the aforementioned Matt Ryan peaked in 2016, his ninth season. Most quarterbacks aren’t like Kurt Warner, Dan Marino and (likely) Patrick Mahomes, who figured things out immediately in their second seasons. Most top quarterbacks have their best moment in the midpoint of their career, but Luck only lasted seven seasons, playing in six of them.

Despite only 94 starts, Luck provided several memorable moments. With respect to the debate this week about whether Luck or Bert Jones was the third-best QB in Colts history behind Manning and Johnny Unitas, I will point this out. Jones really doesn’t have any highlight reel to speak of. Part of it is an era/technology difference, though most hardcore NFL fans who were born after the 70s, myself included, have visual aids for the likes of Roger Staubach, Fran Tarkenton, Ken Stabler, Terry Bradshaw, Dan Fouts, etc. I really can’t recall a single play from Bert Jones’ career. The most famous game he played in was Ghost to the Post, a playoff loss to the Raiders in double overtime. Jones never won a playoff game (0-3) actually. He threw four touchdown passes twice in his career, including one loss where he also threw four picks (one for a touchdown in a 45-38 final). His legacy is really that of a three-year stretch (1975-77) where he was incredibly efficient in the toughest era for passing statistics since the merger, and it was highlighted by that 1976 season. Like Luck, his career was marred and shortened by injury.

I’ll take Luck over Jones, and it’s for reasons like the games I’m about to go through. When I shared that tweet earlier about Luck being one of the QBs you can count on to drag a team to double-digit wins, it’s because of games like this where he delivered for rosters that usually had no business winning double-digit games and going to the playoffs. Luck did that four times in his career.

Here are Luck’s top 10 moments as judged by me, a fan since Day 1, who is still trying to wrap his head around the idea that we won’t see any more of this.

10. 2016 Week 17 – 17-Point Comeback vs. Jaguars

The Jaguars had the best defense in the NFL in 2017, and many of those players were on the field for this matchup in the final game of the 2016 season. Jacksonville led 17-0 early, but Luck clawed the Colts back to a 20-17 deficit before getting the ball back with 1:33. He led a 75-yard touchdown drive, finishing the Jaguars off with a 1-yard touchdown pass to Jack Doyle for a 24-20 win. Luck’s elation spilled over after the throw, ending a comeback season after a miserable 2015.

LuckJags2016

9. 2014 AFC Divisional – 3rd-and-16 at Broncos

The biggest playoff win the Colts had in the Luck era came in Denver in the 2014 AFC divisional round. Luck didn’t have a stellar game, but against a strong defense, he came out of the locker room in the third quarter and engineered a 72-yard touchdown drive that gave the Colts a commanding 21-10 lead in a game they went on to win 24-13. The drive was kept alive by a 32-yard pass to Coby Fleener on a big third-and-16.

8. 2013 Week 7 – SNF vs. Broncos

Denver came to town with a red-hot Peyton Manning and a 6-0 record for Sunday Night Football. This was Luck’s first chance to outscore his predecessor in a game and he delivered by throwing for three touchdowns and rushing for another in a 39-33 win, handing Denver its first loss of the season.

7. 2015 Week 3 – 13-Point 4QC at Titans

Luck was a major nuisance for the division rival Titans in his career. He was 11-0 as a starter and had four of his 21 4QC/GWD against the Titans, his most against any team. The most memorable happened to be in 2015, Luck’s lost year to injury after he reportedly injured his shoulder in this game. Still, he played through and finished in style. The Colts fell behind 27-14 in the fourth quarter and threatened to fall to 0-3 on the season. Luck led three touchdown drives in a 35-33 win.

6. 2015 Week 9 – Lacerated Kidney vs. Broncos

While 2015 was the roughest playing year of Luck’s career, he ended it on a high note with his game-winning drive in a 27-24 win against Manning’s Broncos. Denver had the best defense in the league that year and Luck had one of the finest games against it, and he did this despite playing with a lacerated kidney. Luck’s season ended after this game, but it was one of the best wins of his career.

5. 2013 Week 9 – 18-Point Comeback at Texans

This was another Sunday Night Football game where the Colts pulled off the improbable comeback, and Luck and T.Y. Hilton became the Houston’s secondary worst nightmare. Down 24-6 late in the third quarter, Luck found Hilton for three touchdowns, including a 58-yard bomb that wouldn’t be the last time Hilton split the defensive backs in Houston. The Colts won 27-24.

4. 2012 Week 13 – 12-Point Comeback at Lions

Luck set a rookie record with seven game-winning drives in 2012. Perhaps none were more memorable than the walk-off score in Detroit in a 35-33 win. The Colts actually trailed 33-21 with just over four minutes remaining. After one touchdown drive, Luck got the ball back with 1:07 left and drove the Colts 75 yards for the win. On the game’s final play, Luck improvised before flipping the ball to Donnie Avery for the score with no time left.

3. 2012 Week 5 – ChuckStrong vs. Packers

This was probably the first moment where it looked like the Colts had something really special in Luck. Indy (1-2) was a touchdown underdog at home against Green Bay, and head coach Chuck Pagano was just revealed to have cancer that week. The Colts trailed 21-3 at halftime, but this would be the first of 11 times Luck led the Colts to a win after trailing by at least 12 points. Down 27-22 late, Luck engineered a 13-play, 80-yard touchdown drive, overcoming three third-and-long situations. Reggie Wayne came up big on the drive and had a 4-yard touchdown. The Colts won 30-27.

2. 2014 AFC Wild Card – TD vs. Bengals

Many of Luck’s big moments were comebacks and close games. This was a 26-10 final, but it was his most efficient playoff performance of his career. The touchdown in particular came at a big moment when the Colts only led 13-10 in the third quarter. Luck stepped up and delivered a dime to Donte Moncrief for a 36-yard touchdown. Luck finished the game by completing 31-of-44 passes for 376 yards. That was his only touchdown pass, but it was as fine as you’ll see.

1. 2013 AFC Wild Card – 28-Point Comeback vs. Chiefs

You knew the second-largest comeback in playoff history was going to be No. 1. In many ways, this is a career-defining game for Luck as it gives you the full experience of his career. His team came out playing disgraceful football as the defense was shredded by Alex Smith and the Chiefs. The ill-fated Trent Richardson trade led to a fumble in the second quarter. Luck was down 24-7 and had only thrown two incomplete passes to that point. He also threw a couple of ugly interceptions in the game, which the Chiefs led 38-10 in the third quarter.

For as bleak as it looked, Luck continued playing his game and eventually led five touchdowns in a six-drive span. He threw for 443 yards and finished the scoring off with a perfect 64-yard bomb to Hilton to split the defenders again. But the ultimate highlight in this 45-44 win that will always survive the test of time is Luck’s recovery of God Dammit Donald Brown’s fumble. Luck corrected his teammate’s mistake by picking up the ball and lunging forward for his own touchdown to save the comeback.

That game was Luck in a nutshell. It wasn’t always pretty, but he found a way to be successful even if the odds and the team around him weren’t in his favor.

Andrew Luck never became the next Peyton Manning, and it appears Patrick Mahomes may go down as the quarterback of the NFL’s next decade. But Luck was a special player in his own right, and for those of us who were able to see him play, we’ll have to talk about him to future generations in the words of the late Rutger Hauer at the end of Blade Runner.

I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Three 11-win seasons with Ryan Grigson as the brains of the operation. I watched Trent Richardson stumble in the dark near the end zone. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.

Goodbye, Andrew.

BRunner

2018 NFL Divisional Round Predictions

Even though the home team wins 71.4% of the games in this round since 1970, it’s often the most dramatic and best weekend of the year. In the 32-team era, 2002, 2004 and 2015 are the only seasons where the home teams finished 4-0 in the divisional round. Someone is likely getting upset and leaving their fans upset in the process. Even the Patriots have an actual challenge this week with the smallest spread (-4) of the weekend.

Colts at Chiefs (-5)

This was my big preview at FO, so go there and read that one. Basically, I’m going to assume the snow isn’t a big deal today. The game comes down to Andrew Luck playing efficiently and effectively to limit Patrick Mahomes’ drives and make him score more than 30 to win. The Colts defense isn’t that good, but the Chiefs are certainly worse in that area despite better numbers at home. I see Mahomes putting up his usual points, but Luck will have a chance for a late game-winning TD drive and this defense is going to have to make a play to stop him. So do something this time, Orlando Scandrick.

Final: Chiefs 30, Colts 26

(IND +5, Under 56.5)

Cowboys at Rams (-7)

Both offenses are a little shaky to me. Dak Prescott takes way too many sacks and isn’t aggressive enough on third downs this season. That’s bad news against Wade Phillips’ defense, and especially with Aaron Donald against this interior OL. Dallas is 10-0 when scoring 20+ points this season and they’ll definitely need to hit that total here. It should be noted that Dallas only surpassed 17 points on the road three times, though LA isn’t a huge home-field advantage yet and the Cowboys may actually feel at home with more fans in the seats. Still, the Rams have scored 23+ in every game this season except for the disaster in Chicago (15-6). Jared Goff has been shaky since the bye, but at least the last two games were good. Dallas has a good defense but I’m not blown away by it or anything.

With this week’s coaching hires revolving around finding the next Sean McVay, it would look really bad if McVay lost this game to fall to 0-2 at home in the playoffs. He was a favorite of 6.5+ points in each game too. I’m going to back the Rams in this one, but I think it’s still an underrated story of how the offense misses Cooper Kupp in the slot.

Final: Rams 26, Cowboys 20

(DAL +7, Under 49)

Chargers at Patriots (-4)

The Chargers have played better than the Patriots this season, but there’s just something about this opponent where San Diego Los Angeles goes into extra Chargering mode. I’ll spare the lowlights of Nate Kaeding or Marlon McCree from many years ago, but just look at this Travis Benjamin punt return from a 2017 game coached by Anthony Lynn in New England:

There’s a good reason why Philip Rivers is 0-7 against the Patriots with Tom Brady at quarterback. They are their own worst enemy in these games. Now Rivers can stand to play better against Bill Belichick’s defense, but at least his ACL won’t be torn this time around. He however has not been sharp in the last month and will need to play better. And it figures it could be a snow game when Melvin Gordon has been banged up for the Chargers. On defense, the Patriots are 2nd in DVOA at home and 31st on the road. Nice to get this game at home against a team with a better record. Don’t let the fact that NE is 4-0 against playoff teams hide the fact they lost five times to non-playoff teams.

Again, I think the Chargers are a better team this year, but I can’t bring myself to picking them in this venue. Especially not with the Patriots coming off a bye, which I think is huge for their old offensive players (not just Brady, but Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman). Also, despite the loss to the Eagles in the Super Bowl, Belichick is still money against new playoff opponents and the Chargers have only seen this team once in the last four seasons. It was a comedy of errors in that 21-13 loss last year, and I can just imagine what they’ll cook up this time. Maybe Hunter Henry fumbles in the red zone in his season debut (I cribbed this from Marvin Harrison vs. 2007 Chargers in AFC-DIV). Maybe their kicker (Michael Badgley) gets hurt so the new guy they signed for kickoffs blows a game-winning field goal.

This is the game where the Chargers can show it truly is a different year, but do you trust them?

Final: Patriots 27, Chargers 20

(NE -4, Under 48)

Eagles at Saints (-8)

This would definitely be a huge upset if the Eagles can continue their late run here behind Nick Foles. In Week 11, the Saints waxed Philly 48-7 with Sean Payton and Drew Brees pouring it on with a long touchdown pass on fourth-and-6 in the fourth quarter. The Eagles come in with virtually zero pressure to win while the Saints are the favorites to go all the way.

I’m ultimately picking the Saints to win, but let me just state some facts and thoughts why an upset is possible here:

  • Carson Wentz had the worst game of his career in Week 11. He’ll be replaced by a QB in Foles who has incredible playoff stats in five starts and is simply better at getting this team to win games of this magnitude, not to mention better in crunch time and in shootouts. The Eagles aren’t just a front-running team with Foles under center.
  • Doug Pederson is one of the most aggressive coaches on fourth downs and two-point conversions, so knowing he has nothing to lose here, look for him to take advantage of +EV chances.
  • The Saints are a below-average passing defense and struggle with wide receivers, especially on deep throws (32nd in DVOA). Foles gets the WRs involved in this offense and is willing to take deep chances.
  • Brees struggled down the stretch this season, though most of those games were on the road. He took off Week 17 as the Saints really didn’t put much effort into that game period. Now with a bye week too, could we see some rust and a slow start? It’s happened before to teams that rest early in addition to the bye.
  • Perhaps we can keep talking about this if Saints advance, but it’s incredible to me that this passing offense is so successful despite how much it relies on Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara. Thomas is great, but he’s not the all-around athlete Julio Jones is, he’s not as good after the catch as Odell Beckham, not as good at the catch point as DeAndre Hopkins, and not the kind of deep threat Tyreek Hill is. He has a great connection with the accurate Brees, but I would often double team him and make other players step up to beat you. Kamara is dangerous after the catch and on screens, but he’s still limited as a RB in just how much damage he’ll do to you. His only catch vs. Eagles was that 37-yard run-up-the-score TD. Now the Eagles are too banged up in the secondary to really afford to double team, but it’s something to think about should Thomas have a bad game. Where else will the production come from?
  • Finally, in Week 11 there was this stat (see below) where Brees had a completion rate that was +20.5% above expectation based on next gen charting data. He was on fire that day, but obviously with that being his best performance this season, it’s hard to expect him to repeat that. So what if the Eagles are able to get him to throw into tight windows with good coverage again, but some of those passes just don’t connect this time? I think this is a good sign for the Eagles going into this one.

I mean, if the 2010 Jets can go from 45-3 to beating the Patriots with Mark Sanchez at quarterback a month later, is it really asking that much for the defending champion Eagles to turn 48-7 around with Foles going into the Superdome? This wouldn’t be the upset of the decade, but it would create one hell of a quarterback controversy in Philadelphia, if we aren’t already there. For that reason alone I wouldn’t mind seeing the Eagles win, but I’m not betting on it.

Final: Saints 30, Eagles 27

(PHI +8, Over 52)

2018 NFL Wild Card and Full Playoff Predictions

The 2018 NFL season has been so competitive that I can’t help but think we’ll get some stunning playoff results this year. The point spreads being quite small (1-to-2.5 points) in three of the games this week looks like a good start for that. The last five chalky postseasons have produced nine No. 1 seeds in the Super Bowl and the 2016 Falcons were a No. 2 seed. The wild card teams aren’t necessarily strong this season, but the Chargers had a good year, the Colts are hot with Andrew Luck, the Eagles won the Super Bowl with Nick Foles last year, and the Seahawks are always a tough out. Throw in Baltimore’s old-school approach and the Chicago defense, and there’s a better chance we see a non-bye team go on a good run again.

Before I pick the whole tournament, I’m going to preview each of the four wild card games. I’m really just throwing out some thoughts at 5 A.M. (sleep schedule is FUBAR) rather than building a structured narrative or detailed analysis of the matchups. You can read the previews on FO for more of that.

Colts at Texans (-1)

It’s amazing these teams are here with double-digit wins after starting 0-3 and 1-5. Both defenses have benefited from a soft schedule (the softest of any two defenses in the NFL), though that’s a bit immaterial when they’re playing each other this week with a good quarterback matchup. I like the over. Houston has won a lot of close games and relied on some opposing coaching mistakes, including that memorable Frank Reich move in overtime in the 37-34 win by Houston. Had he taken the tie, this game would likely be in Indy this week, but I don’t think it’s a huge deal for the Colts in the end. They have won in Houston this year, they’ve won there before, and if you’re going to win a Super Bowl this year, you have to go beat a team like Kansas City anyway. Hell, it might even set up better if the Ravens or Chargers can knock off the Patriots, Indy’s personal nightmare venue.

But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, it’s Round 3 with Houston and a roster with some really talented players. None of those players are on the offensive line however, and I think Deshaun Watson’s tendency to hold the ball and take sacks can really help out an Indy defense that doesn’t have a dominant pass-rusher. Watson took 5 sacks in the last meeting and had to lead his team in rushing against a Colts defense that stops the run well. DeAndre Hopkins is always a problem, but T.Y. Hilton has been incredible in his career against Houston. He had 199 yards in the last matchup and has been playing at a high level despite his health. The Colts protect Luck much better this year, he’s changed his playing style to be more dart thrower than gunslinger, and I think the Colts can win this one on the road as long as he avoids the dumb interceptions like we saw on the pick-six in Tennessee on Sunday night.

Houston was 1-4 this year when allowing 24+ points with the only win being 37-34 over the Colts in overtime. Indy has scored 24+ in 11 games this year, including both against Houston. I like the Colts to score enough in this one and close it out late.

Final: Colts 27, Texans 24

Seahawks at Cowboys (-2)

Like the first game on Saturday, these teams are hot, and in Dallas’ case, playing a schedule with the AFC South and NFC East has helped out too. The Cowboys are 7-1 in their last eight, and 7-2 since the trade for Amari Cooper. He’s turned in some huge games that helped the Cowboys win the NFC East, but he also has 13 catches for 83 yards and a lost fumble in his last three games combined. That’s the problem with Cooper in that he’ll put up 180 and a score one week, then struggle to break 20 yards the next. The Seahawks don’t have Richard Sherman anymore, and while a respectable defense overall, they were 25th in DVOA against #1 wide receivers. Cooper needs to come up big in this one.

I like that Dallas has put more responsibility on Dak Prescott in recent weeks. He threw for 455 yards against the Eagles and added 387 against the Giants in Week 17, a game where Ezekiel Elliott and a couple star lineman didn’t even play. Prescott has been playing better the last eight games, but his problems this year are that he takes way too many sacks and he doesn’t pull the trigger as much as he should. If he’s not taking a sack, he’s settling for a checkdown, which is why he has the worst third down ALEX in the league. Those third-down struggles are also why his advanced stats aren’t too hot.

I’ll still take Russell Wilson any day over Prescott, but I think in many ways the Seahawks are the team Dallas wants to be when it comes to running and defense. The Seahawks are running the ball as much as anyone not named Baltimore, and it’s worked for the most part this year. Wilson didn’t even throw for 3500 yards, but he was efficient, had a dominant efficiency season with Tyler Lockett, and he still threw 35 touchdowns. Wilson hasn’t even broke 200 yards against Dallas in the last two meetings, and this Cowboys defense is playing better, but it didn’t matter. The Seahawks still won 21-12 and 24-13 after Prescott and the offense struggled in both matchups. I can see that happening again here, though with Cooper in the mix, Elliott back in action, and Prescott having experience to pull games out late, I think Dallas has a good shot in this matchup.

I’m still going with Seattle just because I trust Wilson and Pete Carroll more than I do Prescott and Jason Garrett. But it really is a game that could come down to Prescott hitting Gallup on a deep shot and Wilson not connecting with Lockett on a similar play like they have done so well this year.

Final: Seahawks 23, Cowboys 20

Chargers at Ravens (-2.5)

This was my big preview at FO, so go there for 3500+ words on the matchup. Basically, it boils down to both teams need to have a good start, but it’s even more important for the Ravens so they can keep up their style of running the ball and pressuring on defense. Philip Rivers can lead a comeback, but probably not from 14+ late against this defense. Can Lamar Jackson deliver enough with his arm if called upon? It’s best if the Ravens don’t find out yet, but with the way they play defense, special teams, and one of the best home-field advantages in the league, I think they take care of the Chargers in this one.

Final: Ravens 26, Chargers 20

Eagles at Bears (-6.5)

Outside of Colts-Texans, this might be the game with the widest range of possible outcomes this week. The Bears have a great defense that gets the most turnovers, but the Eagles have played better offensively with Nick Foles at quarterback. He’s also been prolific in the postseason, albeit that’s four starts. He seems to be good to go this week with the rib injury. With Mitchell Trubisky, the Bears aren’t exactly sure what they’re getting. I see him as a deluxe Rex Grossman with scrambling skills maxed out, but as a passer, he’s either Good Mitch or Bad Mitch each week. If the Eagles can pressure him and force him into mistakes, then they have a great shot of advancing as a true underdog this year.

Something I really like about the Bears under Matt Nagy is that they haven’t had a bad game yet this season. They finished 12-4, but they lost two games in overtime. They blew a huge lead in Week 1 against Green Bay and would have won that game if Kyle Fuller held onto Aaron Rodgers’ interception late. They would have beat the Dolphins with a field goal in overtime. They had a Hail Mary completed to the 1-yard line vs. New England, so maybe go for two there to win in regulation if they could have got that yard. They should have gone for two at the end of regulation against the Giants on a day Chase Daniel was QB1. Nagy, like Doug Pederson, hasn’t been afraid to try unorthodox fourth downs or two-point conversions this year. So the Bears haven’t laid any eggs this season, which is impressive for a rookie head coach with a team that hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2010.

The Eagles definitely win out at big-game experience, but I’ll trust the Bears to deliver on defense at home. The Bears are 12-0 when allowing fewer than 24 points this year (0-4 when allowing 24+). The Eagles have gotten to 24 points in Foles’ last three starts, but none of those defenses are on the level of Chicago.

Final: Bears 26, Eagles 19

In the end, I’m going with road dogs on Saturday with the better quarterbacks and the top two scoring defenses at home on Sunday.

2018 Full NFL Playoff Predictions

Here is my crack at predicting the whole tournament.

Wild Card:

  • Colts over Texans
  • Seahawks over Cowboys
  • Ravens over Chargers
  • Bears over Eagles

Divisional:

  • Chiefs over Colts
  • Saints over Seahawks
  • Patriots over Ravens
  • Rams over Bears

Conference Championship:

  • Chiefs over Patriots
  • Saints over Rams

Super Bowl LIII

  • Saints over Chiefs (Super Bowl MVP: Drew Brees)

As always, every postseason has its own narrative and I tried to craft one here but still couldn’t force too many upsets. I honestly think the Colts can win in KC and same with Baltimore in New England, but I’ll go with home-field advantage in the AFC again. After the two No. 1 seeds squaring off (with the better defense winning and the Drew Brees fanboys celebrating his Super Bowl MVP over Patrick Mahomes’ regular season MVP), my 2nd pick for the Super Bowl would actually be McVay and the Rams beating Belichick and the Patriots. That’d be the second year in a row an NFC team with a second-year head coach outdid the Patriots on the big stage. Then again, I can just as easily see the Bears knocking off the Rams in the divisional round to create a much different McVay narrative (0-2 at home!), but I can’t wait to see how things play out here.

One final look at my 2018 results, which were pretty good on straight up picks at least.

wk1-17

NFL Week 2 Predictions: Embracing Mediocrity

I always like it when the afternoon games I’m most interested in are on my local CBS and FOX affiliates, which is the case this week. Without failure, each season someone is shocked that I don’t have Sunday Ticket, but why would I ever want or need such an expensive service? I prefer to watch a full live game if I can, particularly the Steelers, but I also have the RedZone channel. Then there’s Game Pass and torrents. So I get the league-wide access I need at a favorable cost. If there’s a drive full of 4-yard papercuts to Jarvis Landry that I need to see, I’ll see it in due time. No worries.

Bengals at Steelers

This is easily the game of the week. That may not mean it will play out as the best, but it is the most important game — the next chapter in a heated rivalry. It also brings up one of the more fascinating stats in the NFL: Marvin Lewis is 6-7 in Pittsburgh, but 2-13 at home against the Steelers (including two crushing playoff losses). The road team just happens to play better in this series, and Cincinnati’s 6-7 record in Pittsburgh trails only Jacksonville (3-1) and New England (3-2) since 2003 among teams with at least 3 trips to Heinz Field. Part of this weird split is that Ben Roethlisberger’s stats are better in Cincinnati than at home where he has had some of the worst games of his career in low-scoring struggles, including last season’s 16-10, three-pick defeat. At least this won’t be a game where Roethlisberger is just returning from injury as was the case last year.

In his career, Roethlisberger is 54-4 at home when the Steelers allow fewer than 21 points, but three of those losses were to the Bengals. Lewis’ defense has a good feel for defending this offense, including pressuring Ben and containing Antonio Brown as a receiver (he does have 3 punt return touchdowns against the Bengals). In Brown’s last 48 games with Roethlisberger at quarterback, he’s had at least 5 catches in all 48, and at least 70 yards in 40 of them. Only the Ravens (4), Bengals (3) and Seahawks (1) have held this duo under 70 yards. I think the Bengals can limit his damage again this week, and A.J. Green is going to have the bigger game. He almost has to with both offenses experiencing many departures, putting the onus on their star receivers to dominate. Heath Miller retired, Ladarius Green and Tyler Eifert are injured, Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones are gone, Martavis Bryant is suspended and Markus Wheaton appears to still be injured. This means newcomers have to contribute, including Eli Rogers, Brandon LaFell and Tyler Boyd. While a game of HORSE between Brown and Green would be interesting, the offense that gets more secondary receiver contributions is likely to win this game. I do not think either running game is going to go off, though I’d give the Steelers the edge there with DeAngelo Williams still looking really good at an advanced age behind this offensive line. I’m still not sure what to think of Jeremy Hill after a disappointing 2015, and he’ll especially be happy if Ryan Shazier isn’t at full strength after Shazier’s dominant playoff game helped eliminate the Bengals. The Steelers ought to be happy that Vontaze Burfict is still suspended for this one after Burfcit injured Le’Veon Bell, Ben and Brown on hits last season.

Defensively, I would be concerned that the Steelers did not get much rush on Washington and gave up their share of plays, but got enough big stops to limit the points to 16. That is always key, but a similar offense in Cincinnati should get rid of the ball quickly and there really is no one capable of matching up with Green in this secondary. Andy Dalton is usually one of the best-protected quarterbacks in the NFL, but he took seven sacks on the road last week. The Steelers are going to have to get their front seven to deliver more this week. I would expect a few sacks from the Bengals of Roethlisberger, but he’ll be glad to see no Reggie Nelson in the secondary. The offense had few problems in the last three quarters against Washington, but must build off that performance. You saw the ugly first quarter and how a few turnovers could really change the game around. The Bengals have the better defense in this matchup.

So home field has been established as pretty irrelevant in this particular series, but I do give the Steelers a slight edge going into this one. They’ll be happy to be home given six of their last seven games were on the road thanks to being a 6th seed in the playoffs last year and opening this year on the road. Monday night’s performance was impressive enough for me to think this offense is clicking well enough early despite the personnel losses that they can pull out a close one here.

Bengals 21, Steelers 24

Colts at Broncos

I hope I’m not relying too much on “fighting narratives” to make game picks this season, especially after a bad Week 1. But this was a game where I picked the Broncos to win when I went through all 256 games before opening night. Yes, it is true that Andrew Luck has had great success against the Broncos (3-1), including the most efficient and effective game any QB had against them last year while he lacerated his kidney. Maybe he took those matchups with Peyton Manning personally, really wanting to impress the Indy fans. He doesn’t need any extra motivation to avoid going 0-2 this week, but he hasn’t seen this Wade Phillips’ called defense on the road yet. The Broncos are still very much led by that defense, which feeds on the crowd energy to play even better at home. Trevor Siemian threw one pass over 15 yards in Week 1 and it was intercepted. He may get a boost this week with the Colts’ beat-up defensive unit struggling to get pressure and cover receivers. The Demaryius Thomas injury is a little concerning given Denver is basically two deep at that position, but I like Emmanuel Sanders this week. Right now, Siemian looks like Alex Smith without the draft pedigree, but the Broncos can win with that as long as C.J. Anderson is making great cuts behind an improved run-blocking line. Luck looked great last week, but I fear his line on the road this week against a much tougher unit. I absolutely think the Colts can win this one since you really don’t need to score many points to beat Denver, but I just don’t see it working out this time. The Colts need more of a big defensive effort than a big game from Luck (smart will do).

Colts 17, Broncos 20

Seahawks at Rams

I always like to say I get a lot of predictions wrong throughout the season, but I still get more right. It never fails to amaze me when I mention a long streak and it gets broken in the next game or two. All throughout the summer I feared a Russell Wilson injury this year due to his unusually good durability despite a frantic playing style behind a porous offensive line. Was this the year that would catch up to Seattle? Then he hurts his ankle in Week 1 and just barely limps to a late win over Miami. Unless the Seahawks are covering it up, Wilson seems to have avoided the dreaded high-ankle sprain and will start on Sunday. We don’t know anything about what Injured Russell Wilson looks like since he’s always been healthy. However, if his mobility is limited, then that’s a huge problem against a Rams defense that always gives him fits even when he’s on his game. Who saw the Rams going into Seattle in Week 16 and pulling out that win? Jeff Fisher can’t sniff a real Super Bowl again, so he treats these Seattle games as his team’s Super Bowl, and the success has been pretty good given Seattle’s overall dominance since 2012.

After the game on Sunday, I was determined to pick the Rams to win this game in their home Los Angeles opener given the Wilson injury. And then Monday night happened — an embarrassing 28-0 shutout to Blaine Gabbert and the 49ers, projected to be a bottom-two team this year. They drafted Jared Goff No. 1 to be inactive for this shit? Forget 7-9 bullshit, this looked like the start of 2-14 c*cksucker blues. And they want to give Fisher an extension? It’s madness.

And yet, as much as that game cooled me off the Rams’ upset, I still think they’re going to give Seattle a game here. I just don’t think it’s going to be enough because of that horrific offense against this great Seattle defense. Wilson may not need to throw for 100 yards. Just don’t turn the ball over.

Rams 6, Seahawks 16

Packers at Vikings

Opening a new stadium should be a joyous occasion, but in Minnesota, the throng of yawns in the air have already given the new place a stale smell of boredom and disinterest. Nothing can suck the life out of a fan base more than having to start Sam Bradford at quarterback after trading a first-round pick for him. Vikings fans, get ready to embrace mediocrity.

Mediocrity would actually be an improvement over most of Bradford’s career, but it’s really the best-case scenario this year. He plays at a league-average level, but does just enough in the right moments to get this team enough wins. Adrian Peterson is going to have to play much better than last week, though the Titans were built to stop the run and stink at the pass. Green Bay is a solid, but not great defense, and Sam Shields being out should help. I wouldn’t expect much from Bradford, but honestly, why would you ever expect much from Sam Bradford?

The other side of the ball is what interests me most about this one, because what the hell has happened to this Green Bay passing game? It went from years of being one of the most efficient attacks ever to a broken mess. Where are the timing plays and the chemistry on the back-shoulder throws? Anymore this offense works best by producing broken plays and taking advantage of offside penalties. It’s not sustainable, and it hasn’t been effective even though the Week 11 game in Minnesota is one of two times the offense has scored 30 offensive points in the last 13 games.

Aaron Rodgers has five seasons with at least 8.2 YPA. ¬†He still ranks 5th all time in YPA (7.99). So it’s incredible when one of the most efficient passers ever has been held under 6.0 YPA in five of his last six games. That’s something Rodgers has only done in 12 other starts in his career. He’s been held under 7.0 YPA in 11 of his last 13 games (including playoffs). One of those two was the Hail Mary in Detroit to boost him up. Even though Jordy Nelson returned last week, he wasn’t the same receiver as he didn’t make the big plays. In fact, his 6 catches for 32 yards (5.33 YPC) is the lowest YPC he’s ever had in a game with more than 1 catch.

The effect this stretch of play¬†is having on Rodgers’ career stats is interesting. He was at 8.22 YPA thru 116 regular-season games. Now after going a Joey Harrington-esque 5.96 YPA¬†in his last 11 games, he’s down to 7.99. He still manages his TD-to-INT ratio well, but it’s hard to call this depressed passing game effective. Keep in mind the Packers are 6-7 since a 6-0 start last year. Rodgers has tore up the Vikings many times in his career, but not last year against Mike Zimmer’s defense. I think that defense rises to the occasion in this one, but the offense lets them down as Green Bay does just enough to sneak away with the win in the new stadium.

Packers 19, Vikings 16

2016 Week 2 Predictions

Well I was some 7-9 bullshit in a bad opening week. At least I changed my mind on the Jets starting 0-6 to give them the Thursday win over a growing mess in Buffalo. See, Ryan Fitzpatrick sucks against Rex Ryan defenses, but that Rob Ryan D is another story.

Winners in bold

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

Week 1: 7-9

NFL Week 9 Predictions: Records for Peyton Manning and NFC Showdown

A solid schedule this week, so here are some thoughts on the three games I’m most focused on.

Packers at Panthers

Regardless of last week’s interesting matchup in Denver, this was always the more important game since it’s for first place in the NFC. This is probably the toughest two-game stretch for Green Bay in the Aaron Rodgers era. They get back-to-back road games against the top 2 pass defenses. Rodgers’ last six games against top 5 pass defenses have not gone well. As I mentioned last week, Green Bay is 1-9¬†on the road against playoff teams since 2012. That’s probably 1-10 given the Broncos are now 7-0.

Jonathan Stewart could have a big day against a subpar Green Bay run defense. He’ll have to really, because I don’t see this passing game getting on track this week with Cam Newton and his receivers. Carolina needs to run Newton a lot and be the more physical team. If you punch Green Bay in the mouth early, you’re usually in good shape.

Randall Cobb is starting to show a bit of the “Peerless Price Effect” as he’s not suited to be a star No. 1 WR. Jordy Nelson was, and Cobb is definitely not the same caliber of player. Carolina has to like the matchup with Josh Norman there, so it really is on James Jones to have a big game. I don’t think much of Davante Adams, Ty Montgomery or Richard Rodgers at this point as big producers, and the running game isn’t up to par this season.

So why would I still pick Green Bay? 

I think the Packers walked into Denver as a confident favorite against an unfamiliar opponent and had their weaknesses exposed against a great defense and an offense that’s starting to put things together. I don’t think Carolina, coming off an emotional Monday night win, is as lethal on either side of the ball and the Packers will use Sunday night as a wake-up call. Rodgers will be more decisive with the ball and maybe scramble more. Carolina won’t be able to cover the receivers as well as Denver’s secondary did. I saw open receivers galore on Monday night, but Andrew Luck made some really horrible throws and decisions. Remember, this is a Carolina defense that let Luke McCown complete 31-of-38 passes with three drops. It’s a shitty reason to pick a team, but I just can’t fathom Rodgers playing so ineffectively two weeks in a row. He’ll get more out of the offense and the defense has fewer threats to worry about offensively. Regardless of what you’re hearing, Newton is not playing anywhere near MVP level.

Neither team is really good at playing from behind, so I would imagine we’ll get a good taste early of who is going to take control of the NFC with a big win here.

Final score: Packers 23, Panthers 17

Raiders at Steelers

It’s come to the point where Steelers fans basically expect to lose to Oakland, which is just another sign that it’s one of those 8-9 win/miss the playoffs kind of seasons. It happened in 2006, 2009, 2012 and 2013.

Yes, Ben Roethlisberger is 1-4 against Oakland in his Hall of Fame career, which up until this point has seen the Raiders as probably the league’s worst team in that span. This is the best Oakland team he’ll face yet, though the optimism¬†is largely on the offensive side of the ball. That’s why I think this can be a shootout with plenty of passing numbers. Sure, DeAngelo Williams can effectively replace a lot of what Le’Veon Bell did, but this has to be a bounce-back game for Ben, which means a lot of Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant and Heath Miller. Remember, Oakland has struggled greatly with tight ends this season. I think a 1 p.m. game at home helps Pittsburgh a bit against a West Coast team coming off a huge win. They smashed San Francisco in that situation in Week 2. Not many road triumphs on the resume for a young Derek Carr, but he’s definitely playing the best of the sophomore QBs. I hate to pick a final score this year with Pittsburgh because the defense keeps beating expectations, but I really do see a high-scoring game here. I just think Roethlisberger makes up for last week’s blunder and takes advantage of a middling defense with his weapons.

Final score: Raiders 24, Steelers 34

Broncos at Colts

I knew the NFL would schedule this game around this point since it’s about the time where Peyton Manning should break a significant record we’ve been expecting him to one day own¬†for a long time. They did an even better job than expected, as Manning can set the all-time records for wins and passing yards in the city that drafted him into this league. Manning has thrown for at least 284 yards in about 45 percent of his games, so it’s not a given, but likely to happen. He would break the record in his 264th game — it took Brett Favre 302 games to compile 71,838 passing yards.

(CLICK TO ENLARGE)

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Denver will likely push for the record, though the Broncos have struggled for a good chunk of all three of Manning’s games with the Colts. They were largely ineffective in the second and third quarters in the 2013 game. The second half of last year’s opener was a struggle, and nearly the whole playoff game in January went poorly as I’ve detailed greatly before. But this week is a bit different. It’s not Manning’s first time back in Indy and he doesn’t have a high ankle sprain like in 2013. It’s not in prime time. It’s not a season opener when things are still new and teams are “full strength.” It’s not a playoff game where Manning is playing on a torn quad. It’s also the 2015 Denver defense taking on a 2015 Indianapolis offense that has by and large looked terrible when not trailing by multiple touchdowns this season. Pep Hamilton was a problem for the Colts, but not even a top-five problem. They fired him as a scapegoat to show some change this week, but good luck to new offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinksi trying to game plan for this defense. There’s not much he can really do at this point of the season that would be different, though I guess the Colts have some factor of unpredictability on their side. I just wouldn’t trust any of it (passing to the TEs? more Frank Gore?) to work well against this defense.

Final score: Broncos 31, Colts 19

2015 Week 9 Predictions

I had the Bengals winning by double-digits on TNF. That was an easy choice.

Winners in bold:

  • Jaguars at Jets
  • Titans at Saints
  • Redskins at Patriots
  • Packers at Panthers
  • Dolphins at Bills
  • Rams at Vikings
  • Raiders at Steelers
  • Broncos at Colts
  • Falcons at 49ers
  • Giants at Buccaneers
  • Eagles at Cowboys
  • Bears at Chargers

Season Results

  • Week 1: 10-6
  • Week 2: 6-10
  • Week 3: 14-2
  • Week 4: 11-4
  • Week 5: 9-5
  • Week 6: 8-6
  • Week 7: 10-4
  • Week 8: 10-4
  • Season: 78-41 (.655)

NFL Week 8 Predictions: The Undefeated Teams

I was going to save this space for a rant about the bunk that is “does more with less,” but we have some pretty good games worth talking about this week instead.

Packers at Broncos

I thought about doing a formal preview for this game, but there’s just not enough history between the two given they’re in different conferences. You also don’t want to get too wrapped up in the numbers after just six games, which is what I’m probably about to do next.

Clearly, this is a step up in competition for both teams, who both had a bye week to prepare. Green Bay’s offense hasn’t seen a defense like Denver’s. Denver’s defense hasn’t seen an offense like Green Bay’s. I’m not going to make the mistake I made in previewing Super Bowl 48 where I thought the matchup of the lesser unit of each team (DEN D, SEA O) would be the deciding factor. Let’s stick with the strength vs. strength deciding how this game will play out.

These teams actually rank first (GB) and second (DEN) in points allowed with just one point separating them. However, Green Bay ranks seventh in Pts/Dr and 22nd in Yds/Dr. That’s a bit odd, but it’s possible because the Packers allow the third-fewest points per red zone trip. Denver’s offense has struggled in the red zone this season, ranked 30th. Denver may need to hit some big plays or take advantage of some great field position to crack this defense in the red zone. That’s how Philip Rivers turned a 500-yard passing game into just 20 points in GB. They tighten up down there. Surprisingly, the Packers go three-and-out on offense more than just five teams. Unless Aaron Rodgers takes advantage of Denver’s aggressiveness with a ton of hard counts to draw offsides and free plays, I think it’s going to be very hard for Green Bay to rack up points in this one.

Denver’s defense has pretty much shut down every offense¬†its played so far. Only Minnesota was able to crack 20 points, and that included some good field position off of Manning interceptions and a big run by Adrian Peterson on fourth down. Green Bay probably needs more than 20 to win in Denver, but not a lot more. The Packers have been fairly mortal on offense in the last three games. Eddie Lacy hasn’t had a great season by any means. Rodgers doesn’t have the same vertical prowess without Jordy Nelson, and he hasn’t even tried to replace that part of the offense with his other receivers. This passing game is more reliant on YAC. Rodgers is scrambling more than he ever has this season, so he could be a problem for an aggressive Denver defense when he leaves the pocket. Shane Ray is out, but DeMarcus Ware should return to action. The Broncos will need Ware and Von Miller to provide good pressure in this one, but I really do think Rodgers will use his legs a lot if the Denver secondary is doing its job in coverage against the receivers. If Rodgers is holding onto the ball, then Denver will have a good chance to add on to its high sack total (26 in six games).

Denver’s offense has been a mess for various reasons this season. Some of those things are not fixable, because it’s not like they can find a good tight end or experienced slot WR in Week 8. They have to tough it out with what they have, but there’s enough here to be playing much better than they have. I recall an old NFL Films clip of Mike Holmgren saying “He’s gotta know he’s fucking up out there” in reference to a young Brett Favre. Gary Kubiak might be saying the same thing about an old Peyton Manning this year, who has 10 interceptions. Clearly that part can’t continue, and I don’t think it will since so many of the plays are mental and situational more than they are physical problems. Cutting down the picks is one step forward. Another is giving more carries to Ronnie Hillman, who has clearly outplayed C.J. Anderson this season. Demaryius Thomas has to stop dropping big passes, and his track record suggests that should also happen. This offense is close to putting it together, but keeps shooting itself in the foot with mistakes. I expect a sharper performance at home after some time to regroup against a Green Bay defense that you can definitely move the ball against. We’ve seen some productive games on the ground and through the air against them already.

Green Bay has not excelled in this type of environment. Since 2012, the Packers are 1-9 in road games against playoff teams. In case you were wondering, Rodgers started all 10 games as none of those were when he missed time in 2013 (broken collarbone).¬†At 6-0, Denver looks destined for a playoff spot. However, the lone win in that stretch for GB was in Houston in 2012 against a team coached by Gary Kubiak and Wade Phillips. Rodgers threw six touchdowns on Sunday Night Football. He’ll be fortunate to get to half that total in this one, but at least that is doable for him. I don’t think the Broncos have played great offensive competition¬†so far, though the reason I like them is because they’re at home. Green Bay’s offense just isn’t that lethal on the road, where they’ve only played twice so far. Unlike last year when the Broncos were so dominant early in the season thanks to playing five of their first seven games at home, this year’s team has been on the road for four of the first six games, including four of the last five. Mile High is always a tough place to win and I think we get a few more points out of this one than expected, but I see Denver closing in the end on defense again.

Final score: Broncos 28, Packers 20

Bengals at Steelers

Under Marvin Lewis, the Bengals are 5-7 in Pittsburgh and just 2-11 at home against the Steelers. It’s one of those weird splits, but I truly do believe the Bengals get up for these games in Pittsburgh. They have enough motivation for this one to continue their 6-0 start and silence the return of Ben Roethlisberger by dropping the Steelers to 4-4. That wouldn’t lock up the AFC North, but it would damn near come close to doing so on the first day of November.

I think the Steelers have the better offense when everyone’s healthy, which looks to be the case for the first time since the end of last season. However, the Bengals have the better defense, and their offense is humming along very well this year. Andy Dalton has yet to have a bad game and he had his best game against the Steelers yet in Week 14 last season. I think his receivers have very favorable¬†matchups against a defense that will be missing Stephon Tuitt and Will Allen. Pittsburgh’s defense has certainly exceeded expectations, only surrendering more than 23 points to the Patriots. However, I think the Bengals are the best offense the Steelers have seen since the Patriots. Dalton is protected well behind a line that has only allowed six sacks and he gets rid of the ball quickly. Tyler Eifert is giving this offense a new dimension down the seam and in the red zone that it’s lacked in recent seasons. That is somewhere I see the Steelers struggling to defend here, especially with health issues in the secondary. A.J. Green might feast here too.

I never ever like picking the Bengals in a big game, but I just feel like they’re the more complete team, coming off a bye, and they are playing better than the Steelers have this season. They should win. I know I’ve also seen enough games where Roethlisberger has returned form injury and looked rusty. You can’t look rusty when Geno Atkins and company are rushing, and this is the first game Roethlisberger will start with Alejandro Villanueva as his left tackle. He was beat by Tamba Hali for two big sacks in the fourth quarter last week. Sure, Antonio Brown should get back on track, Heath Miller won’t be a ghost again and Martavis Bryant is always a big-play threat, but no one has cracked 24 points on the Bengals yet this season. I think that continues here and they get another quality win.

Final score: Bengals 29, Steelers 22

Colts at Panthers

Maybe I’m just doing a better job of avoiding it, but I’m glad this wasn’t the week where we pretend Cam Newton has always been¬†better than Andrew Luck based on the last two months. We have several seasons to look at and see that Luck is clearly a superior player who doesn’t need as much around him to succeed. This year, he has yet another flawed roster around him despite the offseason additions. The major difference is he’s playing the worst football of his career, and it’s showing in the results for both his team’s record and his statistics. The team’s really in no worse shape than it was from 2012-14, but the difference was Luck played at a level high enough to overcome those flaws. Is it injury? That’s always my first thought¬†when a very good player is playing poorly, and Luck has missed two games with a shoulder injury. Something’s not right, and I don’t expect it to get right against a tough Carolina team.

Simply put, Cam Newton is playing at nowhere near a MVP level, but I’m sure we can focus on that ridiculousness another week. As the 2015 Colts should show, just having “names” around you at the skill positions means nothing for a QB if you’re not playing well yourself. You still have to make the plays. The Colts have been one of the worst offenses in the league, but they have a fighting chance in this one just because the Panthers aren’t good enough to drop one of those 35-45 point games on them. The Panthers are the more physical team and that’s a huge problem, but I like the Colts defense enough in this one to slow them down and keep the game at least manageable for Luck to pull out a GWD. However, I don’t expect it to happen on Monday night. If they want to shut T.Y. Hilton down with Josh Norman, then go ahead, because in theory Donte Moncrief, Andre Johnson and the very quiet tight ends should have matchup advantages. But hell, has this not been the case each week this season for the Colts? The pieces seem to be there, but the results are not.

And it all starts with how the quarterback is playing.

Final score: Colts 16, Panthers 24

2015 Week 8 Predictions

I had the Patriots winning 31-17 on TNF, and they actually spanked Miami 36-7. OK.

Winners in bold

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

Season Results

  • Week 1: 10-6
  • Week 2: 6-10
  • Week 3: 14-2
  • Week 4: 11-4
  • Week 5: 9-5
  • Week 6: 8-6
  • Week 7: 10-4
  • Season: 68-37 (.648)

NFL Week 6 Predictions: So the Usual Colts-Patriots Game?

There are three games this week between teams with winning records, but Bengals-Bills and Cardinals-Steelers lose some bite when you sub in EJ Manuel and Michael Vick for Tyrod Taylor and Ben Roethlisberger. That leaves SNF between two familiar AFC contenders.

Patriots at Colts

Hey, did you hear Tom Brady is pissed off and wants to throw for 600 yards and six touchdowns, and the Patriots want to drop 60 points? I guess all the sixes are natural when you’re talking about the devils of the NFL, but that’s been a heavy part of the lead-in to this game. The Patriots are looking to unleash hell over Deflategate.

So uh, remind me which of these teams was fined an NFL-record one million dollars and lost a first-round pick?

Remind me which of these teams was embarrassed 45-7 in the AFC Championship Game last January?

The Colts are the team with the right to be pissed and seeking revenge in this one, yet it hasn’t been written that way at all. I think that’s because no one expects them to do anything but get their ass kicked on Sunday night at home. The Colts have started this season poorly, especially on offense, and Andrew Luck has missed the last two games due to a shoulder¬†injury. He is questionable again, but should start. He has struggled in all four games against the Patriots, which have all been blowout losses in the end.

I don’t think anyone ever second-guessed the outcome in January over deflated balls. The Colts would have been blown out if they played with medicine balls or beach balls. Give LeGarrette Blount anything he can handle without smoking, and he was going to shred that defense. It was always about protecting the integrity of the game.

Before the season, I really did think the Colts would¬†close the gap like they did in 2005 against New England, but that hasn’t happened one bit. The additions have not panned out, leading to an even worse offense and the defense is still as unreliable as they come. Keep in mind the Colts haven’t even played a top-12 QB yet this season. The Patriots are playing much better than I expected from them so far. You knew the offense would be good as long as Rob Gronkowski was healthy, but they’ve been even better than expected while still attacking teams in an unconventional way from the inside, and now even more from the backfield with Dion Lewis looking like a¬†deluxe Shane Vereen. The front seven was expected to be good, and the revamped secondary is more than getting by. It’s not at a 2005 Duane Starks level, and you only expect Bill Belichick to get better play from that unit by season’s end. The same can be said for the offensive line, which had some struggles in Dallas and just lost LT Nate Solder for the year, but the Patriots usually get stronger as the season goes on. Do I see an undefeated team? Not really, but few road challenges exist on the schedule thanks to the Dallas injuries last week and the overall stank (not a typo) of the 2015 Colts to this point.

It would certainly be very amusing for the Patriots to lose this game since they’ve been hyped up like¬†a 21-point road favorite (actual line: 10 points), but I don’t see how that happens here. Luck would have to play one of the best games of his career, and the defense would actually have to keep flustering Brady for a full game unlike the half-game efforts last season.

BradyINDTweet

Even if they slow down Brady, what’s going to stop Lewis and Blount from running all over this defense again? Lewis could gain¬†9 yards every touch in this matchup. Hell, they can probably trot out Kevin Faulk for 8 yards per draw like he used to do against this defense.

The Patriots have had at least a 17-point lead in seven consecutive games against the Colts, going back to 2009. Peyton Manning made two of those games close, even winning the fourth-and-2 game. Dan Orlovsky lit it up in garbage time to a 31-24 final in 2011. But the Pagano/Grigson/Luck-era Colts have lost by 21+ every time. The gap has only widened between these teams since January.

Final score: Patriots 48, Colts 20

2015 Week 6 Predictions

I fumbled away the TNF pick the way Atlanta threw the game away. The quest for a perfect week of picks continues.

Winners in bold

  • Texans at Jaguars
  • Broncos at Browns
  • Bengals at Bills
  • Dolphins at Titans
  • Bears at Lions
  • Redskins at Jets
  • Cardinals at Steelers
  • Chiefs at Vikings
  • Chargers at Packers
  • Panthers at Seahawks
  • Ravens at 49ers
  • Patriots at Colts
  • Giants at Eagles

I’m trusting the Jags/Jets/Bengals and also Jay Cutler on the road. This probably isn’t going to end well.

Season Results

  • Week 1: 10-6
  • Week 2: 6-10
  • Week 3: 14-2
  • Week 4: 11-4
  • Week 5: 9-5
  • Season: 50-27 (.649)

NFL Week 5 Predictions: About That Colts-Seahawks Super Bowl 50…

Exactly one fourth of the regular season is over with 64 games in the books. We know there are a lot of teams with significant flaws, and we know there are a couple of good ones out there. Then there are two teams who fall somewhere in between.

You Fail Me: Colts and Seahawks

(I just wanted to fit a Converge reference into the title, to be honest)

Like a lot of people, I had the Colts and Seahawks meeting in Super Bowl 50 with Seattle winning. On October 10, it’s not like this still can’t happen, but it sure as hell looks less likely than it did a month ago when the regular season kicked off.

Both teams are fortunate to not have a losing record right now. The Colts (3-2) needed a 13-point comeback in the fourth quarter in Tennessee, and needed a kicker to miss twice on Sunday against Jacksonville. The Seahawks (2-2) just had that crazy Calvin Johnson fumble/no illegal bat play on Monday night.

Andrew Luck is hurt and has missed the last two games. Marshawn Lynch is hurt and will miss his second game in a row on Sunday.

The Colts are likely going to get their ass kicked next week by the Patriots. The Seahawks may be walking into a perfect storm of a rare ass kicking at the hands of the Bengals tomorrow.

Where has it gone wrong for both?

That damn offensive line. 

We may have made the mistake of overlooking the lingering problems up front that each team tried to conceal with sexy skill-player additions. The Seahawks traded Max Unger, who wasn’t a great and healthy starter in 2014, for Jimmy Graham, a TE who may as well be a wide receiver because he can’t block, who played in one of the pass-happiest offenses in NFL history. They also drafted Tyler Lockett, who has definitely made his impact felt on special teams. The Colts brought in Frank Gore and Andre Johnson while drafting Phillip Dorsett in the first round.

I spent actual work time this summer trying to figure out how the loaded Colts were going to disperse their targets with all these receivers. I received agreeable tweets that saw the Seahawks as being an unstoppable force in the red zone with so many ways to beat a defense.

Man, these offenses can’t even consistently score 20 points this season. You are not supposed to add all that skill talent and get worse.¬†

The Colts scored a league-low 21 points thru Week 2. Against the Titans, the offense pitched in 28 points, but got some help from a Mariota interception to set up an 11-yard touchdown drive. The offense only scored 16 points in an overtime game against Jacksonville at home, and were lucky to not lose 16-13 because of the kicker. On Thursday night, perhaps a return to Houston re-animated the corpse of Andre Johnson, and the offense finally perked up against a Texans defense that manages to be terrible despite having the best defender in the world.

The Seahawks scored 31 in St. Louis, but that included two return touchdowns, so the offense only scored 17 points. They scored 17 again in Green Bay before turning the ball over on the final two drives. They had another return TD vs. Chicago, so the offense again was held under 20 points (19). Then on Monday night against Detroit, the offense scored just 13 and even gave up a touchdown on a Wilson fumble. So this offense hasn’t cracked 20 points yet in four games. Scoring 20 has really never been a consistent problem in the Wilson era.

It’s not like these quarterbacks aren’t used to bad offensive lines. Andrew Luck has been the most hit QB three years in a row. Wilson has been the most pressured QB the last two years, including two of the highest rates in FO’s database going back to 2010.

This year, Luck has let the pressure rattle him to the point where he’s throwing more early interceptions in an attempt to just get rid of the ball. Wilson is taking more sacks — already a league-high 18 and an abysmal 12.4% sack rate.

The Colts brought in RG Todd Herremans, but he’s been demoted. They cut RT Gosder Cherilus, which really wasn’t a loss, but there weren’t¬†any significant gains to this OL. The Seahawks continue to struggle up front, and neither guard they drafted in the fourth round is a factor this season.

How are those skill players working out? Andre Johnson really looked like a guy who should retire before this Houston game. Maybe that gets him going. Gore has had two huge fumbles inside the 5-yard line. Dorsett had a big TD in Tennessee, but he’s the fifth-most targeted Colt and was always going to have an uphill battle to relevancy as a rookie. Wilson to Graham has been efficient (18/23 for 174 yards, 2 TD), but not dominant, and the 9.7 YPC is a career-low for Graham. You’re going to tell me they couldn’t get this production out of Luke Willson and save a first-round pick?

Yet myself and many others fell for the skill-player trap. “Oh, these quarterbacks are used to bad OL’s. Give them better weapons and watch them score more.”¬†It’s just not happening that way. To a similar extent, we see what the worst OL of Peyton Manning’s career is doing to his season, but that’s another story for another day.

The trenches are in fact still important with all these athletic defenders out there. They are even more important when you have two quarterbacks who like to hold onto the ball a little longer in Luck and Wilson, while many of the other signal callers are getting it out in under 3 seconds almost every time now. Maybe these offenses just need to adapt, putting the ball more quickly in the hands of the skill players they went out of their way to acquire. On paper, this is the best receiving corps¬†either QB has had in the NFL, yet these are the worst offensive results they’ve experienced so far.

Things still have time to get better, but they may get a little worse this week with the aforementioned matchups to come. We’ll talk Pats-Colts next week, but think about the potential outcome of this SEA-CIN game tomorrow.

It’s a 1 p.m. game, which means a 10 a.m. PST start time for Seattle. The Seahawks are 6-8 in such games since 2012. They are coming off a very emotional and controversial win on Monday night.

The Bengals are playing better on both sides of the ball and Lynch is out. Sure, the Seahawks have been extremely stingy on defense in the two games with Kam Chancellor back, but that was also at home against Jimmy Clausen and the winless Lions. Andy Dalton is 2nd in DVOA and DYAR. No really, true story. Geno Atkins and company should have a good day against that Seattle OL.

The Bengals with Dalton beat Seattle 34-12 in Seattle in 2011. The final score is a little misleading because of two late return touchdowns by the Bengals. Seattle trailed 20-12 and had possession with 4:45 left. That’s why the game is still part of Seattle’s historic 74-game streak that could be in real jeopardy on Sunday (click pic to enlarge)

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Sure, this is about the point in the season where the Bengals flop hard at home just when people are starting to take them seriously, but what if this year was different? What if the Bengals do drop the Seahawks to 2-3 with a commanding win?

Then we’ll probably start to hear revisionist history about how Cincy has built their team the right way (“in the trenches”) and the Seahawks have overpaid too many star players with egos. But nothing in Week 5 can diminish what the Seahawks have accomplished. It’s just that we’re starting to see the limitations of this roster show up in 2015 to the point where Wilson and this defense may not be able to overcome them anymore.

2015 Week 5 Predictions

Remind me to never pick a team with Brian¬†Mallett (or Ryan¬†Hoyer if you prefer) at quarterback to beat one of the AFC’s perennial winners. I had Houston on TNF.

Winners in bold

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

Only three late-afternoon games again? Come on, NFL. And the 49ers in prime time again? With The Walking Dead being a 90-minute episode, I figure you can start watching your DVR recording at about 9:27 p.m. EST and finish commercial-free on time to avoid spoilers.

I was looking forward to the return of Martavis Bryant, but that’s not going to happen on Monday after he tweaked his knee in practice. Looks like I’m getting my DFS target injured early this week. At least this one came early so I have time to swap him out of my lineups.

Philip Rivers is one of the few big-time quarterbacks to not have a history of shredding the Steelers under Dick LeBeau. Oh, he had some good numbers, but a lot of them came in garbage-time moments. The difference with Rivers was that in Norv Turner’s offense, he loved to dump off to running backs or throw deep to his tall targets. That played into the Steelers’ hands and they were able to effectively get pressure on him as he held onto the ball longer. To beat this defense you really need to dink-and-dunk, get rid of the ball quickly and rely on YAC. That’s exactly what Rivers has done under Mike McCoy and especially this year where he is barely getting the ball down the field. That’s why I think he’ll have a lot of success at home on Monday night with the likes of Keenan Allen, Stevie Johnson and Danny Woodhead leading the way. Antonio Gates is also back from suspension. This could have been a really fun shootout with Ben Roethlisberger playing. It still might be, since I don’t trust the San Diego defense yet. However, I expect the Chargers to get the (circadian) win at home.

Season Results

  • Week 1: 10-6
  • Week 2: 6-10
  • Week 3: 14-2
  • Week 4: 11-4
  • Season: 41-22 (.651)

NFL Week 15 Predictions: So We Meet Again

This week’s schedule has 11 divisional games we already saw this season. Setting aside Week 17’s, this is only the fourth time since 2002 a week had at least 11 divisional games:

  • Week 14, 2003 – 12
  • Week 13, 2005 – 12
  • Week 2, 2006 – 11
  • Week 15, 2014 – 11

I did a study on divisional rematches (2002-2013) that went up yesterday. You can’t reliably¬†use a first matchup to predict the second. The game’s too complex for that to work.

For some teams this week is almost a last stand for relevance in 2014. Lose and you might as well look ahead to next year.

Texans at Colts

As¬†has been the case since 2012,¬†this matchup features each team’s best player going head-to-head. As long as the Colts don’t let J.J. Watt live in the backfield, they’ll win the game like they always win at home against Houston. Why? The Texans never have¬†the quarterback to match points with Luck, regardless of how great Watt might be. I’m going to paste something I sent in an e-mail yesterday about the topic of Watt and the MVP, which I touched on last week.

I think Watt can make the case that he’s the best at his position by a wider margin than any other player at their position, including the quarterbacks. If we look at stats like Win Probability Added (WPA) or Expected Points Added (EPA) from Advanced Football Analytics, then Watt crushes his competition. Watt is 137 percent above the runner-up in WPA this year and 133 percent higher in EPA, while Aaron Rodgers ranks ahead of No. 2 Peyton Manning by 25 percent in WPA and 48 percent in EPA. However, the problem with these metrics for defenders is the same as the problem with evaluating defensive ends in general: we only focus on the positives. With quarterbacks, we’re still penalizing them for sacks, turnovers and incompletions which make scoring difficult. With Watt, he’s not docked for failing to generate more pressure or sacks or creating more turnovers. We don’t criticize him for getting blocked out of dozens of plays per game. Despite Watt’s monster season, Houston is a 7-6 team with a perfectly mediocre defense, ranked 15th in DVOA at Football Outsiders. Every quarterback the Texans have beat this season was either a rookie or has since been benched (RGIII, Manuel, Hoyer). Meanwhile, Rodgers and Manning are leading 10-win teams with the top two offenses in DVOA. That’s the mark of quarterback value shining through whereas one defender can only do so much for his team, even if he’s the best defender in the league.

Luck will do enough to continue this streak of 20-point games and the Colts will clinch the AFC South.

20

49ers at Seahawks

The wheels are coming off in San Francisco and now the 49ers head to the house of horrors known as Seattle. The 49ers are averaging 11 PPG in Seattle under Colin Kaepernick. They scored 3 points at home on Thanksgiving. This would be a huge upset that I just don’t see happening. Seahawks keep rolling.

Steelers at Falcons

I almost want to say I’ll eat my keyboard if both teams don’t score 28+ points, but there’s a reason I really don’t gamble on NFL games. This one looks destined for a ton of points, but you just never know. Julio Jones’ health can be a big deciding factor in what kind of track meet we get, because if he’s fine, then the Steelers are toast in the secondary again. The best quarterbacks the Steelers have played this year are Drew Brees and Andrew Luck and they really didn’t pass the test in either of those games. That’s why Ben Roethlisberger has to play great and I think he should be at that level against this Atlanta defense with its lack of a pass rush. Le’Veon Bell will also have a shot for a fourth 200-yard game. Maybe I’m thinking too much of the 34-34 tie (2002) or the 41-38 overtime game in 2006 between these teams, but I smell a game-winning drive again in this one and each quarterback will hope he has the ball last. Also a rare meeting between two QBs who actively have at least 25 GWDs.

Packers at Bills

Do you believe in deja vu? In Week 15 of the 2011 season, a hot Green Bay team (13-0) with Aaron Rodgers rolled into Kansas City and surprisingly lost its first game of the season. The Chiefs played shutdown pass defense and Kyle Orton was very efficient at quarterback in a 19-14 win. A lot of the ingredients are present again three years later with this game in Buffalo. The Packers have not been as sharp on the road this year and Buffalo’s pass defense can be stingy at times. More importantly the front four is good at getting pressure, which is the crucial element to slowing down Rodgers. You really don’t want to blitz him. His offensive line has been playing much better lately though and I still expect the Packers to win, but there’s potential here for an upset. It’s Buffalo’s last real shot to keep this season alive.

Broncos at Chargers

Ever since the schedule came out in April I had the Broncos pegged as a 13-3 team with losses at Seattle, at New England and at San Diego. The St. Louis game was a shock to say the least. But here we are this week and I’m a little shaken in confidence with San Diego, but I can’t forget Manning’s Law. Bad stuff usually happens when he plays the Chargers, and of course this team should be playing with the utmost urgency at 8-5. This won’t be an easy game even if the Broncos have already handled the Chargers once this year. I’m not sure where the offensive game plan is for this one, but the new reliance on running has taken something away from the crispness of the passing game. I expect Manning will throw for over 200 yards and a few touchdowns this week, but I also count on John Pagano’s bunch to come up with a takeaway and challenge this game to the final possession. Even if Denver’s up 21 points they still usually make the final score a one-possession game. Still, I think Denver gets the win with the chance to clinch the AFC West on the line.

NFL Week 15 Predictions

I bought into the Rams on TNF and paid for it with another impotent offensive showing against Arizona’s ridiculous defense. Not even Ryan Lindley could throw that game away.

Winners in bold:

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

I initially went Falcons, but finding out Sunday morning that Julio Jones is likely out, I’m going with Pittsburgh. I know, this usually backfires, but I think in a close, high-scoring game that will cut into Atlanta’s ability to score. The Steelers have the better offense to begin with. The gap’s bigger now.

Season Results

  • Week 1: 8-8
  • Week 2: 9-7
  • Week 3: 11-5
  • Week 4: 8-5
  • Week 5: 11-4
  • Week 6: 9-5-1
  • Week 7: 10-5
  • Week 8: 10-5
  • Week 9: 11-2
  • Week 10: 10-3
  • Week 11: 8-6
  • Week 12: 12-3
  • Week 13: 9-7
  • Week 14: 11-5
  • Total: 137-70-1

NFL Week 11 Predictions: 4th-and-2, Take Two

Five years ago today Bill Belichick gambled on a fourth-and-2 in Indianapolis and the rest is history.

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It’s only fitting that tomorrow night the Patriots return to Lucas Oil Stadium for the first time since that classic finish in what is a crucial¬†game for the AFC. While much has changed in five years, the Patriots still come in with a dangerous team that has opened up leads of 17, 28, 35 and 21 points on the Colts in the last four meetings in Foxboro.

That’s why I think home-field advantage is very important here and I wrote about that specifically in our preview at Football Outsiders.

For the Colts to win they must control the game with their offense: ball security, third-down conversions and touchdowns in the red zone. Andrew Luck has done a great job of spreading the ball in a high-volume, high efficiency attack that’s helped the Colts lead the league in scoring. The Colts lead the league with six wire-to-wire wins (never trailed), so they are very pass happy this year. Yet I still think this will follow the script of so many previous Pats-Colts games in that the Patriots will jump out to a big lead while capitalizing on Indy mistakes and Luck will have to lead a second-half comeback, which he of course is very capable of doing. The Colts have had 18-point comeback wins in both games following their bye week under Luck and both teams are coming off the bye for this one, which is a scheduling quirk that needs to die right away.

Luck has to bring his A-game, because if his accuracy is off the Patriots will tip balls and create turnovers. The cornerbacks will be physical with the receivers. I think T.Y. Hilton’s speed could work¬†against Darrelle Revis, but I think Brandon Browner may lock down the older, slower Reggie Wayne. At least one of the tight ends and Ahmad Bradshaw need to have really good games for the Colts, who I think need a minimum of 35 points to win in what should be a high-scoring game, even if it’s not a traditional shootout. Luck will have to throw for 350+ again. If the Week 2 Luck (vs. Philadelphia)¬†shows up, the Colts are toast.

The Patriots have too many advantages on the offensive side of the ball to not have a big scoring night. When Rob Gronkowksi is on like he’s been, there’s really no stopping him. The Colts’ best defender is Vontae Davis, but if he’s locked up with Brandon LaFell, the Patriots won’t have any problem with LaFell getting three catches for 30 yards, because they’ll just feed Gronkowski and Julian Edelman over the middle of the field against the linebackers and safeties. The Colts are 29th in DVOA against tight ends and 32nd against running backs, so watch out for Shane Vereen as a receiver too. I don’t think Davis can cover Gronk. I’m not even sure he can shut down Edelman based on the 2013 AFC Divisional matchup I took a quick look at here.

To beat Tom Brady is to pressure him. The Robert Mathis-less Colts couldn’t get pressure on Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger and they were shredded in those games. The Colts have to blitz to get pressure. Brady will succeed against the blitz more often than not, but the Colts still have to try because he’ll have all day to carve them up with three and four-man rushes. If you concede the Patriots are going to score a lot and you expect to score a lot too, then maybe a blitz-happy approach isn’t the dumbest plan¬†to have for Chuck Pagano. All it takes is a few well-timed pressures to turn a drive into a punt or field goal instead of a touchdown. The Colts will need a few of those stops, particularly on third down and in the red zone.

It’s a fun¬†matchup. We may see it again in January. Maybe I’m just dreaming, but I can see this being a game where everyone wants to crown the Patriots at halftime, but by the end of the night it’s another Luck-led comeback. Maybe this time Belichick punts on fourth-and-2 and Luck just goes the 75 yards anyway. He’s about due for a GWD. But I know better than to pick against the Patriots when they’re on a run like this and I think Gronkowski will be the difference.

Final prediction: Patriots 35, Colts 31

The Other Big Ones

We do have three other games this week between teams with at least a 6-3 record, making this a historic week in terms of the schedule.

Seahawks (6-3) at Chiefs (6-3) – Does Seattle struggle in early starts on the road? We saw them down 21-3 in St. Louis earlier this year. The Chiefs were fantastic on MNF against the Patriots in Arrowhead and have some favorable matchups here with Brandon Mebane (IR) and Bobby Wagner out. Expect a ton of rushing from both teams and even from both quarterbacks. Russell Wilson and Alex Smith are also throwing short a lot this year, which is nothing new for Smith, but has been a change for Wilson. So this game could be low on possessions unless both defenses play really tough. Travis Kelce needs to be fed Andy. I’m feeling the Chiefs at home, which would hardly be the most surprising outcome of the season for either team so far.

Eagles (7-2) at Packers (6-3) – Another very important game with Green Bay currently not slotted for a postseason spot. Losing another head-to-head game to a team likely to be contending with them would be tough, but I think home-field again wins out with Aaron Rodgers playing great and Mark Sanchez likely to make some mistakes in trying to keep up. I’d trust the Eagles more if the running game was like last year, but even with the offensive line in better shape they’re more reliant on the passing game. Sanchez was 2-19 with the Jets when NY allowed more than 24 points. I expect that to be 2-20 this time tomorrow.

Lions (7-2) at Cardinals (8-1) – Yeah, like you saw these teams battling for first place in the NFC in Week 11. I think the Lions should win the game, but their history is really making me want to pick Bruce Arians at home. In theory, Detroit’s defense should contain the running game and force Drew Stanton to carry the offense. Stanton will want to throw deep, which takes time to set up, which means Ndamukong Suh and company should get a good pass rush on him and create mistakes. Arizona will also shut down the run, but Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate are capable of making plays against Patrick Peterson and Antonio Cromartie. Matthew Stafford should outplay Stanton, but again, when do we see the Lions excel in these moments?

Remember this table? Stafford is 0-14 on the road against teams who finish the year with a winning record.

Staff9

I think it will be low scoring and close. The Lions have pulled off three straight 4QC/GWD in the final minutes. The Cardinals are 8-0 at upholding one-score leads in the fourth quarter. Something has to break here.

I’m definitely keeping an eye on the home teams in these big games. Discarding the now 5-5 Bills, there have been 38 games played in 2014 between teams who currently have a winning record. The home team is a staggering 28-10 (.737). As the mention of Buffalo shows, what constitutes a winning team in the early stages of Week 11 is not set in stone. If we look at regular-season games between teams finishing with winning records in recent years, we find the following home winning percentages: 24-15 (.615) in 2013, 33-13 (.717) in 2012, 19-16 (.543) in 2011, 25-17 (.595) in 2010 and 29-19 (.604) in 2009. So this season with its unusually high number of teams above .500 (17 entering the weekend) could end up well above average for home dominance.

NFL Week 11 Predictions

I hesitated on TNF, but I did have Miami solving the Buffalo puzzle, which reads “NO PLAYOFFS AGAIN” when you complete it.

Winners in bold:

  • Buccaneers at Redskins
  • Bengals at Saints
  • Falcons at Panthers
  • 49ers at Giants
  • Seahawks at Chiefs
  • Texans at Browns
  • Vikings at Bears
  • Broncos at Rams
  • Raiders at Chargers
  • Eagles at Packers
  • Lions at Cardinals
  • Patriots at Colts
  • Steelers at Titans

Looking for the Bears and Panthers to show some pride at home against flawed division rivals after last week’s prime-time embarrassments. I think the Rams might sack Peyton Manning a few times, but he could torch them for 400 yards and four touchdowns. Though we’ll see if Shaun Hill does anything different for the offense. Before his first start, I’m on the record as thinking Ryan Mallett sucks, so I don’t expect much from him tomorrow (or ever).

I was going to write something about the Steelers this week, but too much aggravation after last week’s loss to the Jets. There’s really nothing new to say. This is what the Steelers do on the road against inferior competition, and look what’s on the schedule this week. However, I’m sure this is the game where the lousy rookie QB (Zach Mettenberger) will make just enough mistakes to allow for an unimpressive Pittsburgh win.

Season Results

  • Week 1: 8-8
  • Week 2: 9-7
  • Week 3: 11-5
  • Week 4: 8-5
  • Week 5: 11-4
  • Week 6: 9-5-1
  • Week 7: 10-5
  • Week 8: 10-5
  • Week 9: 11-2
  • Week 10: 10-3
  • Total: 97-49-1