NFL Week 10 Predictions: The Upside Down

A year ago, Week 10 was incredible in the NFL. It was the week that left us stunned after the election, and Sunday’s hyped games even managed to exceed the hype with Cowboys-Steelers and Seahawks-Patriots. We needed that so badly. I’m not sure I’ve enjoyed a football Sunday as much as that one in the year since.

When I look at this year’s Week 10 lineup, much like last week, I struggle to find a game to get excited for. Steelers might flirt with disaster in Indy, or it might be a blowout for the fourth year in a row (third year in a row where Andrew Luck won’t suit up for Indy). Sure, Tom Brady may not have a big game in Denver per usual, but he doesn’t have to when he’s playing against that Denver offense in the night game.

Game of the Week (?): Saints at Bills

I much rather would have preferred to see Saints-Bills flexed to SNF. At least that game is interesting on both sides of the ball. Drew Brees has dinked and dunked his way to a very efficient, but not quite as spectacular passing season. The running game has picked up since the Saints realized Adrian Peterson had no place in this offense, and rookie Alvin Kamara deserves more touches with Mark Ingram. The Bills play very opportunistic defense and get a lot of takeaways. New Orleans’ road struggles are well documented. But we also know that Buffalo struggles to manufacture scoring offense with a limited cast around Tyrod Taylor, though all eyes will be on Kelvin Benjamin in his team debut. Oh yeah, the Saints are actually playing defense too, which has really carried this impressive 6-game winning streak.

I feel like I’m leaning on old trends here, but I’m going with Buffalo at home, because I think the defense will get those turnovers that swing the game into their favor. Good day for LeSean McCoy so Tyrod doesn’t have to match score for score with Brees.

Cowboys at Falcons

Glad it looks like the Ezekiel Elliott suspension is starting. I just want that story to go away. It also presents an opportunity for Dak Prescott to gain traction in the MVP race and silence some critics that Elliott is driving their success. No, great QB play has been the biggest change in Dallas over 2015 when the passing game was terrible with Tony Romo injured. The running game was still top 10 that year, but so what? You need the QB first. I think they’ll run the ball just fine without Elliott too, but it’s about the defense keeping the score down. Dallas has allowed 30+ in every 2017 loss. I keep saying the Falcons could be 1-7 just as easily as 7-1, so they’re a dangerous team, both to opponents and themselves. I think Julio Jones rebounds from last week’s horrible drop with a big game and Atlanta gets on track at home. For Dallas, it’s not just Zeke’s suspension, but Tyron Smith is out and Dez Bryant might be gimpy.

This won’t stop anyone, especially those from the other side of Pennsylvania, from blabbering on about “Dak ain’t shit without Zeke”. Hey neanderthals, you have 280 characters now. No excuse not to add “Dak ain’t shit without Zeke, Tyron Smith, and a healthy Dez.”

(Yes, Week 11 will be lit.)

Jets at Buccaneers: REVENGE

This game is crap, but I just wanted to point out all the revenge options here. Josh McCown and Ryan Fitzpatrick have both played for the Jets and Buccaneers. Austin Seferian-Jenkins was supposed to be Tampa Bay’s TE1, but they found two better players in Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard. I guess that’s more revenge on New York’s side, but man, the big story is that Fitzpatrick has schemed his way into starting another game.

Fitzpatrick is so ready for this revenge game that he even shaved his fucking beard off. I know he went to Harvard — it’s true, if you haven’t heard — but I never hear what his major was. Alchemy? Dark arts? How else can you explain how a QB this bad can start a game 10 years in a row? I almost have to pick Tampa Bay even though I know the Jets have played better football for two months now.

2017 Week 10 Predictions

I told you this was the upside down edition, so here’s something brand new that I’ve never done in all these years. I’m going to start giving you my picks against the spread (ATS) every week in addition to the straight up (SU) picks I always deliver. I’m using Bovada’s lines on Saturday afternoon and I’m never going to bother updating them for any pre-kickoff changes. You get what you see.

2017Wk10

I know this is just going to annoy me more each week when so many spreads are determined by one play, like the late touchdown in SEA-ARI on Thursday night, but some have asked me for years to show my spread picks. I don’t have experience doing this, so we’ll just see how it goes. This is not my ideal season to start this (just look at my SU picks), but if not now, then when?

  • Week 1: 8-7
  • Week 2: 11-5
  • Week 3: 9-7
  • Week 4: 8-8
  • Week 5: 6-8
  • Week 6: 6-8
  • Week 7: 11-4
  • Week 8: 12-1
  • Week 9: 6-7
  • Season: 77-55

NFL Week 2 Predictions: Big Sunday

In 2016, offenses dominated the league. Quite arguably the best defense (Denver) failed to even make the playoffs. The best defense on paper in the playoff field (Giants) folded in the wild-card round. In the NFC, we saw Atlanta outgun the Seahawks (without Earl Thomas) and Packers. The Patriots and Steelers met for the first time in the playoffs since the 2004 AFC Championship Games, but both defenses were a far cry from where they were that year. The Super Bowl was of course highly offensive.

Now if the first 16 games of 2017 are any indication, then the pendulum may be swinging back to the defense. It wasn’t a pretty start last Sunday, especially when it came to the QB statistics. We have a team like the Bengals doing impotent things that haven’t been done since 1939 like going eight home quarters without a touchdown to start a season.

But I wouldn’t stick a fork in offense yet. This weekend has some stellar matchups scheduled and scoring will undoubtedly go up. It just may not happen when your team is starting Jacoby Brissett at quarterback. I’m also not sure the Mike Glennon Revenge Game is going to be much of anything in Tampa Bay, but glad to see the Buccaneers (and Dolphins) get started. We’ll start with that other Florida team that’s been irrelevant for a long time.

The Biggest Jaguars Game Since 2010

This is without a doubt the biggest game the Jaguars have played since 2010 when they were 8-5 and lost out to lose the AFC South to Indianapolis. Jacksonville has since had some 0-6 starts and really never been in a position to do anything even in a weak division. This week, they have a chance to drop the preseason favorite Titans to 0-2 with a home win. The Texans are struggling at 1-1, the Colts look like they won’t win a game without Andrew Luck, and so the Jaguars can take a nice early lead in this division race with two wins already.

That means it’s also the biggest, and perhaps the first relevant, game of Blake Bortles’ career. Does that mean he becomes a garbage-time hero again? Not if the Titans start slow like they did last year and did last week. I also think this is a game with two of the most uninspired coaching hires in years (promoting Mike Mularkey and Doug Marrone from interim title), but if this is the new race for the AFC South, then this is one to keep an eye on. Leonard Fournette surprised me last week as I really thought the Texans would have a spirited effort defensively.

New England at New Orleans

What an interesting game. Sure, we all expect a 45-38 game here based on the quarterbacks and the way these defenses looked in Week 1. However, don’t you just trust Bill Belichick to figure things out with a few extra days off since the Chiefs loss? Also, that was one lousy game by the Patriots (offense included). The Saints have been lousy on defense for years and I see no resistance coming in this one. The interesting factors are that it is in New Orleans where Drew Brees is usually money, and he does have great career success against Brady/Belichick (should be 4-0, but #DatRobRyanD). Without Danny Amendola, will we see Brady continue to try being a deep thrower like he so uncharacteristically was vs. KC? Then again, Rob Gronkowski, Brandin Cooks and Chris Hogan should all have great matchups against a defense that made Sam Bradford look like the GOAT.

No Dont’a Hightower is another interesting factor to consider for the Saints, but I get the feeling they may try to get the running game going to calm Adrian Peterson down after some early rumblings. The Saints are also missing their tackles and Willie Snead (suspension), so they have key flaws too heading into this one. It’s not like Brees played poorly on Monday night, but the offense definitely seemed to lack efficiency and explosion without Snead (and Cooks off to NE).

I feel like the “remember what happened last time NE got killed by KC in prime time?” thing is a false hope for this year. This is a 40-year-old QB now. This is a defense that is not magically going to be more talented, especially without Hightower available. The best news for NE is that they still play in the AFC East, and who in that division is going to replace them in 2017? So even if the Saints light up the scoreboard and drop the Patriots to an inconceivable 0-2, I still don’t see a need to panic. They’re still likely to have a home playoff game just because of the state of the AFC East.

Minnesota at Pittsburgh

Another good game, though I wonder what’s going on with Sam Bradford’s knee injury. This doesn’t sound insignificant by any means, and we heard nothing about it Monday night, a seemingly perfect night for him. With that injury in mind, I liked the Steelers in this one to begin with. I think while the Vikings offer a tough defense, this is a week where the Steelers will be more comfortable at home in getting Le’Veon Bell and Martavis Bryant better reacquainted with the offense. There was rust there, and it didn’t help that Todd Haley seemed to think he didn’t need to get creative to beat the Browns. The offensive line also didn’t get much push against that front seven (minus Myles Garrett), but I think they’ll put a much better performance on film at home.

Defensively, I think the Steelers contain Dalvin Cook. The bigger issue is defending Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen. Joe Haden did not have a good debut for the Steelers, and the secondary is still the weakness with this defense. If Bradford can deliver the ball on time, he’ll have great matchups with his wideouts, but I think Cook and Kyle Rudolph can be held in check. Ultimately, I think the Steelers get enough pressure against a quarterback on a potentially bad knee, and that’s enough for the edge at home.

Dallas at Denver

A few weeks ago I pegged this as a loss for Dallas, because I thought Ezekiel Elliott would be suspended. The run defense is the best way to attack Denver, which has suffered some injuries up front so far. Elliott seems to run well against just about any defense he faces, and I liked how Dak Prescott handled the Giants last week. I think this is a very winnable road game for the Cowboys, who can limit big plays for Denver’s offense. Rod Marinelli deserves a lot of credit for how he’s coached that defense. It lacks talent, they give up a lot of short completions, but they keep the play in front of them and tackle well. As long as Demaryius Thomas doesn’t take a short catch the distance, I think the Cowboys hold Denver to another low point total and get this win.

Green Bay at Atlanta

A very nice night cap to the day. I’m not sure much has changed for these teams from last year. It’s hard to outscore Aaron Rodgers three times in a row, but Atlanta certainly can do it with Matt Ryan and this offense. When Julio Jones has a quiet game like he did last week for his standards, he usually explodes the next week. We know he’s had some monster games in the past against Green Bay, including that NFC Championship Game win. Green Bay’s defense looked quite good against Seattle, but that’s probably going up against the worst offensive line in the NFL, and the Packers were not rolling offensively by any means. Ty Montgomery might have a big night here, but Falcons will be happy to have Desmond Trufant back to match up with Jordy Nelson. Ultimately, Atlanta needs the crowd to be fired up in opening the new stadium and to not be afraid to rush Rodgers like Dan Quinn did in the playoff game when they were very aggressive.

2017 Week 2 Predictions

Another Thursday game wrong. Damn those boring Texans and their low-scoring games with the Bengals.

Winners in bold.

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

Road teams were good last week. TNF excluded, I think home teams rebound this week.

Week 1: 8-7

NFL Week 8 Predictions: Saints in Primetime and Losing My Fandom

The NFL’s Week 8 schedule is pretty solid, so here are some thoughts on a few key games.

Packers at Saints: Prime-time Advantage?

I’ve always been better at predicting the AFC than the NFC, but the 2014 Saints have especially let me down this year. I had this team pegged for a first-round bye with an improved defense and Drew Brees finally winning his first MVP. Instead the Saints are 2-4, Rob Ryan’s defense is terrible and Brees has made some really poor throws in crucial spots. The Saints are also 0-3 at upholding one-score leads in the fourth quarter.

You might think Sunday’s game with Green Bay is a must win, but the whole NFC South has been a huge letdown this season. Look at how bad the Carolina defense has regressed. The Falcons were supposed to be improved, but look arguably worse than last year in recent weeks. Tampa Bay has already had two of the worst performances in recent time by an NFL team. At this rate the division will have a 7-9 winner stealing a playoff game (at home even) from a more deserving club. Hell, it might even come at the expense of the Seahawks.

If the Saints are going to climb back into things, they’ll do it with a statement win at home over a hot Packers team. In case you’ve been living under a rock, the Saints, and especially Brees, have been deadly in prime-time games in the Superdome:

BreesSD

That’s special stuff. The Saints are great at home in general, but some of their best games have come under the bright lights.

I expect Brees to have another fine day, but I don’t expect the Saints to stop the Packers enough when Aaron Rodgers has the ball.

Final prediction:  Packers 38, Saints 31

Bears at Patriots: Upset Alert?

I can’t figure out the 2014 Bears either. They’re 0-3 at home and aren’t scoring enough points despite one of the best supporting casts in the league and a coach, Marc Trestman, I want to believe is the right guy for the job. After last week’s loss to Miami, I find it hard to pick Chicago many more times this year. Heading to New England, I really don’t see a win, but let’s play the ebb-and-flow game.

The Bears just had a miserable loss and there’s some tension in the locker room apparently with Brandon Marshall mouthing off last week. Brian Urlacher has criticized Jay Cutler this week by saying he’s only elite in salary, which is a very true statement. The Bears aren’t in a good spot now, but I believe in talented teams turning things around. This isn’t asking for JaMarcus Russell to suddenly play well on a rotten Oakland team. I’m just looking for Cutler, Marshall, Jeffery, Forte and Bennett to score 24+ points on a New England defense missing the likes of Jerod Mayo and Chandler Jones. Let’s not forget the Patriots have barely squeaked by the Raiders and Jets at home this year. This team isn’t dominant. Chicago has the weapons to make this a high-scoring game and if the Bears can win the turnover battle, I think they’ll win the game.

But it’s still Jay Cutler and that’s why I expect multiple interceptions in Foxboro and a 3-5 record for the Bears. But it would be so New England to have a shocking home loss to be followed up with a win over the best team in the league next week (Denver).

Final prediction: Bears 20, Patriots 27

Colts at Steelers: Who Do I Really Like?

The Colts and Steelers are meeting for just the fifth time since the 2003 season. It was actually during their 2002 meeting, a 28-10 Pittsburgh win, that I started to appreciate the Colts with Peyton Manning and Tony Dungy. I guess I had enough of the Kordell Stewart  “run, run, incomplete pass, punt” offense and was drawn to Manning’s passing and no-huddle offense approach. So you might think I’m conflicted with which team to root for this weekend. That’s been true in the past, especially in the 2005 playoffs — one of the toughest days of my football-viewing life — and the 2008 meeting.

But on Sunday, I frankly don’t care who wins the game. You can say I’m outgrowing my fandom, and the consistent stream of .500 results from the Steelers has done a good job of accelerating that. I’m not going to drop the line of “I have 32 favorite teams now because I’m a writer”, because that’s a bunch of bullshit. But really, I don’t care who wins this one. I just want to see a good game and I think this can be one with both teams scoring in the 20’s.

These teams have changed quite a bit since the 2011 meeting, which I only bring up because it was the night Curtis Painter almost beat the Steelers and Jonathan Scott tried to block Dwight Freeney with his ass.

It didn’t work out on Monday, but I think this is the first time I’m picking against the Steelers in back-to-back home games. Indianapolis is better on both sides of the ball and has been playing better coming into this game. I expect the Colts will have a good day offensively as long as they control their turnovers. The real matchup is the Pittsburgh offense against Indianapolis’ surprisingly good defense. Two areas I see as a concern are handling the Colts’ blitz on third down and throwing deep. They don’t have Robert Mathis so they’re being really creative with sending guys from anywhere to get pressure, and it’s been working. The Steelers haven’t protected Ben Roethlisberger well (statement pasted from a clipboard) and this could be a game where he takes 5+ sacks (also from a clipboard). Ben’s deep passing has been lacking the last few weeks in regards to his sideline throws. He’s not keeping them in bounds. He did hit a nice one down the seam to Martavis Bryant on Monday, but I think he’s going to have a hard time on those throws against Indy’s cornerbacks, who are playing very well right now.

Final prediction: Colts 27, Steelers 23

NFL Week 8 Predictions

I had Denver on TNF, but again I would have been screwed on the point spread. That’s the first time in 15 meetings Peyton Manning has beat the Chargers by more than 11 points, and the first time he’s beat them by more than 8 points without a defensive touchdown.

Winners in bold:

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

Really tough call with Vikings-Bucs. Teddy Bridgewater definitely had an easy time with a bad defense (ATL) and struggled with the good ones (DET/BUF). The Bucs are a rotten one, but I’m leaning on home-field, bye week improvements and a big game from Gerald McCoy here. I also think Mike Glennon is solid. It’s the defense that’s the bigger problem, which is the opposite of what you should have expected in Tampa Bay this season.

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
  • Total: 66-39-1

NFL Week 14 Predictions and the Saints’ Superdome Dominance

I have been getting the “big games” correct lately, though the Patriots did not finish the job in Carolina. Still, that game provides part of the reason why I expect the Saints to beat Carolina on Sunday night. Until the last drive, which called for some desperate throws, Tom Brady picked apart the Panthers’ suspect secondary all night. The Patriots are the best passing team Carolina has played all season, which says a lot since it’s the worst New England passing offense since 2006.

The only other respectable passing game Carolina saw was Seattle in Week 1. While the Seahawks put up 12 points, Russell Wilson was 25-of-33 passing for 320 yards and a game-winning touchdown pass. Carolina enters on a nice eight-game winning streak, but the three wins against teams .500 or better came by a combined 9 points.

Playing a top quarterback makes a difference. Just ask the Kansas City Chiefs. While both games against Brady and Wilson were at home for Carolina, Sunday will be in New Orleans in the Superdome against Sean Payton and Drew Brees. Given how poor the effort was in Seattle on Monday night, expect a much better performance. The Panthers do not have the secondary to match what Seattle did.

Brees is typically lights out in these situations going back to 2006:

BreesSD

The very first game on the list was the emotional return to the Superdome following Hurricane Katrina. It was a great night for the Saints, but it was actually one of the weaker offensive performances on the list. The nine games since 2011 have been freakishly good, and there’s no great explanation for it. Four of those last nine wins were against playoff teams and that number could grow to five or six depending on how Miami and Dallas finish this year.

A Thursday game is beneficial to the home team in terms of not having to travel on a short week. A Monday game would give the Saints an extra day of preparation, which benefits the best-coached teams. But there’s no real reason the Saints should be any better at a Sunday prime-time game than the Sunday 1-4 p.m. games.

This season the Saints are 6-0 at home and four of the wins have been against teams .500 or better. Sean Payton has won his last 15 home games, dating back to 2011.

I have never been to New Orleans, but the atmosphere down there for a prime-time game seems like it would be more beneficial than for most teams. That’s why home-field advantage was so crucial for this team and why Monday was such a letdown, but truthfully it was always going to be a struggle to get the No. 1 seed. The Saints likely have to take care of Carolina twice just to win the NFC South, so this game is the most important one in the regular season for New Orleans. Forget about Monday. I’m sure the Saints have and will until they have to return to Seattle.

I’m not expecting Carolina to get blown out like many teams do in New Orleans, and that’s a tribute to the No. 1 scoring defense. But if the Saints handle this week the way they usually do against a Carolina team with flaws that have rarely been taken advantage of, it’s going to be a long night for the Panthers.

Final prediction: Panthers 17, Saints 28

NFL Week 14 Predictions

Apparently I am done picking the Texans again this season. Good lord…

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

Okay, including the fact Jacksonville already won, I have home teams going 15-1 by my picks. I’m totally screwed here. Just based on this simple fact, I’m going to change a few picks, so here are my official choices:

  • Dolphins at Steelers
  • Browns at Patriots
  • Bills at Buccaneers
  • Raiders at Jets (You’ve seen the Jets offense, right?)
  • Falcons at Packers (GB can’t win one without Aaron Rodgers)
  • Chiefs at Redskins
  • Vikings at Ravens
  • Colts at Bengals
  • Lions at Eagles
  • Titans at Broncos
  • Seahawks at 49ers
  • Rams at Cardinals
  • Giants at Chargers (Eli Manning finally gets a win over the Chargers)
  • Panthers at Saints
  • Cowboys at Bears (the real Josh McCown returns)

Okay, that looks better, even if I don’t feel any better about it.

Season results:

  • Week 1: 11-5
  • Week 2: 12-4
  • Week 3: 8-8
  • Week 4: 9-6
  • Week 5: 9-5
  • Week 6: 11-4
  • Week 7: 10-5
  • Week 8: 10-3
  • Week 9: 8-5
  • Week 10: 8-6
  • Week 11: 9-6
  • Week 12: 7-6-1
  • Week 13: 11-5
  • Season: 123-68-1