NFL Week 3 Predictions: I’m Empty, Please Fill Me

Once is an accident, twice is a coincidence, three times is a pattern.

The beauty of Week 3 in the NFL is trying to figure out which of the last two weeks was more telling for each team. This may be a fool’s errand in the grand scheme of things, but it’s what we do when we have nothing else to go on.

Still, the week got off to a surprisingly good start with the Rams-49ers putting on a show on Thursday night. We really could use a great Sunday of football after a slow Weeks 1-2 and after another difficult week in “the real world.” I doubt anything this weekend can match last season’s Week 10 timely greatness after the election, because that slate had awesome matchups in Seahawks-Patriots and Cowboys-Steelers.

But I have a few thoughts to share on several Week 3 games. A main theme this week is the idea of certain teams and players being in a desperate mode to avoid an 0-3 start. A guy like Brian Hoyer had to know he needed to play better to keep his job. He did even if the 49ers still lost. I think Mike Glennon is in a very similar situation in Chicago to hold off Mitch Trubisky, and while Eli Manning is in no real danger to lose his job in New York, the Giants need to start scoring some points again after this 0-2 start. The same thing can be said about Andy Dalton in Cincinnati. So this stuff is weighing into my predictions this week.

Bengals at Packers

I like for a huge game from A.J. Green, especially with Tyler Eifert out, but how do you go against Green Bay at home after a bad loss? Look for Aaron Rodgers to be much sharper as he usually is at Lambeau. He’s never beaten the Bengals (0-2), but those were Mike Zimmer-coordinated defenses. The Bengals just seem like a broken, lost team at this point. I think firing the OC will give some boost, but a lot of that can also be explained this week by playing a GB defense instead of the Ravens or Texans.

Browns at Colts

Weird to see Cleveland favored on the road, but without Andrew Luck, the Colts really are the most irrelevant team in the NFL right now. It’s like the season hasn’t even started for them yet. However, do I really trust the Browns to win here? If not for botching a 3rd-and-20 last week, I think the Colts would have beaten Arizona. Jacoby Brissett is an upgrade over Scott Tolzien, though the offense is still obviously a problem. I just think at home, the defense can get some hurries, sacks, and takeaways from DeShone Kizer, and the run defense hasn’t been that bad so far. So I’m going to stick with the Colts in this one, as I said they’d start 1-3 with a win over Cleveland if Luck was out the whole time.

Steelers at Bears

Is this not the perfect trap game for the Steelers on the road? Remember, they’re not good in these games away from the state of Ohio. Everyone expects them to win easily, but the Bears gave Atlanta all it could handle in Week 1. Mike Glennon beat the Steelers in one of their home letdown games in 2014 with Tampa Bay. He should have more success through the air against this defense than the Bears will have on the ground. Question is will the defense show up? I don’t think the Steelers have blocked well at all for Le’Veon Bell this year, and he hasn’t been a factor in the passing game. Blame that on skipping the offseason I guess. I also don’t think Ben Roethlisberger has been sharp despite a lot of advanced metrics suggesting things are just fine. He missed a lot of throws against the Vikings and only had success with Brown and the Outlaw in Week 1. This would be a good game to get Martavis Bryant going at a high level again, but either way, the Bears don’t have the defense to match up here so Pittsburgh should win.

But we’ve seen this movie play out before, especially with a big Baltimore game looming.

Giants at Eagles

I’d like to pick the Giants to get a win, but I just think the Eagles are playing better right now, and the defense should have its way with New York’s line. The Giants struggle as it is in Philly, but this is a bad time for this matchup. I think the defense has been fine for New York, so if Eli can get anything going, they have a decent shot here. But if you can’t score 20+ anymore, then you’re not beating the Eagles (or just about anyone).

Falcons at Lions

This could easily be the game of the week, a shootout expected for sure. I’d say Atlanta’s pass protection has been spotty at times again like last year, so Matt Ryan has to watch those drive-killing sacks. Detroit’s defense has been pretty solid, but I’m just not sure Carson Palmer and Eli Manning still have “it” this year at an advanced age. Ryan is in his prime and still on that MVP roll from last year. The defense also looks better for Atlanta, but Detroit’s small ball and tendency to throw to the RBs can definitely lead to points on this defense. Like I said, shootout expected and definitely a game that should come down to the final drive with two of the most prolific QBs at leading game-winning drives. I’m still picking the road team, because I trust Atlanta more than I do Detroit. This team has been pretty hot for a good stretch now with that one massive screw-up known as the 2nd half of Super Bowl LI. But I like the way they’ve started this year in response to that.

Broncos at Bills

Could have been an interesting first road test for Vance Joseph, but I don’t like the fact that Cordy Glenn is out at LT for Buffalo. This needs to be a game where LeSean McCoy dominates, because the Bills aren’t going to have any success with Tyrod Taylor scrambling and trying to throw into this secondary with his limited receiving corps. With Glenn out, I don’t see Buffalo winning up front too much, and they already give up a lot of pressure as it is. Marcell Dareus is also out, and lest we forget, Buffalo was a team pegged to be pretty awful coming into this season after getting rid of so many young contributors. Did you see Robert Woods and Sammy Watkins go over 100 yards each on Thursday for the Rams? The Bills could use some playmakers right now.

Buccaneers at Vikings

I wouldn’t count out Case Keenun making the game at least competitive at home. He did that a lot for the 2013 Texans, but just lost every close game imaginable that year. Vikings are talented, but QB injuries really suck. Tampa Bay was really good last week. Good opportunity for a 2-0 start with a win over another team expected to be in the playoff hunt.

Seahawks at Titans

At least it’s not a 10:00 A.M. start time for the Seahawks. This is the kind of game the Seahawks tend to lose: cross-country, aggressive defense that can get after Wilson, and a team that can run the ball offensively and has a quarterback with escapability too. However, are we sure this is the kind of game the Titans win? They don’t have much of a recent track record, and already flopped at home against Oakland in Week 1. I like this matchup since it’s two preseason contenders (division winners at least) and one is going to start 1-2. I’m still leaning towards Seattle, because I can’t believe that offense won’t be better than how it’s started, and I still like the defense very much.

Raiders at Redskins

In Week 1, Kirk Cousins tied for the team lead with 30 rushing yards. In Week 2, the Redskins had 3 backs go for over 60 rushing yards, a rare feat indeed. Cousins played much more of a dink-and-dunk game manager role in that one, though we are starting to see that the Rams just may not be that good defensively this season. But what kind of offense is Washington right now? Terrelle Pryor hasn’t quite acclimated himself well to the offense yet, Jordan Reed is eternally hurt, and Jamison Crowder has been less productive than RB Chris Thompson. Under Sean McVay as offensive coordinator, Jay Gruden’s offense was pretty consistent the last couple of years, but I see a unit that is struggling to find an identity after losing McVay and the top two wideouts. I’m just not sure what to expect from Washington in any given week, while I think Oakland brings a talented offense with a favorable matchup on any play since Josh Norman can only cover one of Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper at a time. These are unusual teams to see on SNF, but hey, we need some new blood in this league. I don’t think the Raiders are anywhere near being locks on the road to beat an average team, but it’s a decent test for them and not a bad way to end the day.

2017 Week 3 Predictions

I finally got a TNF right by going with the Rams, who almost blew it of course.

Winners in bold.

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

That’s a hell of a lot of road teams to pick, but I guess we’ll just have to tune in to see how it goes.

  • Week 1: 8-7
  • Week 2: 11-5
  • Season: 19-12

NFL Week 2 Predictions: The Matthew Stafford Playoff Predictor

Boy, after this week Roger Goodell could use an Oswald Cobblepot-type scheme to rescue a “kidnapped” baby to regain public support. Just don’t get caught with the “I played this stinking city like a harp from hell!” audio afterwards.

No matter how many times I try to run through a Ray Rice/Peterson-related monologue in my head, it just doesn’t come out right. Frankly, I’m tired of hearing about this stuff all week, so adding to it wouldn’t be very beneficial to anyone. It’s dominated the headlines, so instead of talking about how the Vikings can use Cordarrelle Patterson to drop the Patriots to 0-2 (would be huge), it’s all Peterson talk in Minnesota.

These stories aren’t the NFL I know. They’re the stories we hear every day on the local news, but now replaced with names of people we actually recognize. I just went to a local news’ website and found this familiar headline:

lnews

Following the NFL for a living is a bit of an escape from all the constant reminders of the terrible things that happen across the world each day. Sometimes they happen in the NFL too, but this week (and month, really) has been especially bad.

This is still a human problem, far bigger than the NFL. How does it get better? That’s really not up to Goodell or the league to regulate human indecency. Unfortunately, we’ve had many years to find solutions with little progress. Someone, whether they’re a rich athlete or just living in Wilkinsburg, is going to beat their kids or spouse this weekend. If you listened to that dumbass woman with her Ray Rice jersey, some will think it’s justified.

Every time you justify, another good in you dies.
Faith and fear sears me, and love and you pull all the right strings.
“How we get older, how we forget about each other” she said.
Entwined within the sadder of days.

— Converge, The Saddest Day

Matthew Stafford: Playoff Predictor?

Before the 2013 season I had a stat on how Matthew Stafford was 1-23 against teams that finished the season with a winning record. Now obviously that’s not all his fault. He had good wins over 8-8 teams (otherwise 8-7), he played an unusually tough set of winning teams (none were-9-7) and had some good performances. Arguably the best game of his career was a comeback win over Seattle in 2012. But how did this progress last season when the Lions collapsed after a 6-3 start?

Early in the season, it was easy to joke that the Vikings and Redskins (2012 playoff teams) must be in store for a bad year after losing to Detroit. Then when the Bears were swept and the Cowboys were swept away by a last-minute drive, there were similar sentiments of these teams not finishing above .500. Of course, by season’s end none of those teams did finish above .500, but on Thanksgiving something unusual happened. The Lions mopped the floor with the Packers, who entered with a 5-5-1 record, but had their 4th starting quarterback after the big injury to Aaron Rodgers. That seemed to lock up the NFC North for Detroit, but it would never win another game and Stafford had a brutal December finish.

So he’s upped his record to 2-27 against winning teams, but that Green Bay win almost needs an asterisk. When the Packers had Rodgers earlier in the season, Detroit lost 22-9 in a game without Calvin Johnson.

Staff9

After Week 1, I feel pretty confident in saying the 2014 Giants are destined for a losing record, so Monday night’s game, which was one of Stafford’s best, tells me very little going forward. This week’s game in Carolina will be a much better test. I didn’t have the Panthers finishing above .500 this year, but they were good without Cam Newton in Tampa Bay last week. Derek Anderson really surprised me and the defense was pretty much as dominant as 2013. Cam’s back and this should be a highlight on Sunday’s schedule. Carolina had the best defensive DVOA in Week 1. Another strong performance and Stafford’s stock will deserve to  rise, but another dud and we could have a new addition to the table by December.

NFL Week 2 Predictions

Just .500 last week. I always feel Week 2 is one of the toughest of the year, because how much of last week was useful going forward? I had the Ravens on Thursday night, but the point spread would have killed me the last two weeks. I thought Ravens would win by 3 (the norm in this rivalry), but 26-6 was completely unexpected.

Winners in bold:

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

This is more about the schedule than actual quality of team, but a great shot for Houston to start 2-0. If all goes well for Denver, it could be 2-0 in  a division with three 0-2 teams by Sunday evening. I think Dallas gets back on track offensively and Tony Romo guides a narrow win on the road. The Colts rarely lose back-to-back regular-season games. The Eagles are a tough test, but I like a game-winning drive from Luck in a 31-28 final on Monday night.

Maybe this coming week the news will actually be on the games again.

Detroit Lions: Rebuild. Restore. Reconsider.

Thanks to Sufjan Stevens for the titles. They give me some mileage when talking about the Detroit Lions.

Today’s article, Detroit Lions Using Familiar Rebuilding Plan For Success, is basically me drawing the comparisons in team building between the 2007-current Detroit Lions and the 1988-91 Dallas Cowboys and 1996-99 Indianapolis Colts.

Please check out the article, but here is a summary of the comparison:

  • Each team drafted a No. 1 wide receiver in the first round of the draft (Michael Irvin, Marvin Harrison, Calvin Johnson).
  • Each team had an awful season (3-13 for Cowboys, 3-13 for Colts, 0-16 for Lions) that resulted in a defensive-minded head coach hiring (Jimmy Johnson, Jim Mora, Jim Schwartz), and the No. 1 pick in the draft being spent on a quarterback (Troy Aikman, Peyton Manning, Matthew Stafford).
  • Each team struggled in that coach/QB’s rookie season (1-15 for Cowboys, 3-13 for Colts, 2-14 for Lions).
  • Each team used a 1st-round pick the following year on a running back (Emmitt Smith, Edgerrin James, Jahvid Best).

For Detroit to continue on with the success, they still have some holes in the roster to fill. The other two teams did it (Dallas better than most), and that’s Detroit’s goal.

I didn’t mention it in the article, but there’s also this little tidbit:

  • In 1990, Troy Aikman (2nd season) set a franchise record with 6 game-winning drives (link)
  • In 1999, Peyton Manning (2nd season) tied the then-NFL record with 7 game-winning drives (link)
  • In 2011, Matthew Stafford (3rd season) tied the franchise record with 3 fourth quarter comebacks (link)

Stafford was basically in his second season last year after the 19 missed starts in 2009-10. Detroit came back to win after a deficit of at least 13 points in four different games last season.