NFL Stat Oddity: Week 8

November 1st was the date I highlighted where we would have so much knowledge about this year’s AFC race. Most of the big matchups have already taken place this season. So far, the Chiefs (7-1) and Steelers (7-0) look to be separating themselves from the pack, both featuring a nice balance of offense and defense with key victories in Baltimore.

Previous weeks in Stat Oddity:

The Ravens (5-2) remain a threat, but more on them below. Buffalo (6-2) also finally got the big win over New England that should put the Bills in the driver’s seat to take back the AFC East for the first time since 1995. Tennessee is slipping with another loss, and now has the same 5-2 record as Indianapolis with two meetings to go there (usually won by the Colts in that series). But those two teams look a tier below the best in the conference.

Chargers: Greatest Hits

The Chargers would be an interesting Wild Card contender, at minimum, if only 2020 wasn’t playing out like an album filled with their Greatest Hits on how to lose games.

Like come the fvck on, San Diego.

Don’t give up a 21-yard scramble on 3rd-and-20 to Patrick Mahomes. Don’t drop the beautifully designed lateral for a game-winning touchdown against Carolina. Don’t fumble before halftime with a 17-point lead to ignite a Tampa Bay comeback. Don’t miss a game-winning field goal in New Orleans. Don’t give up three touchdown drives in the fourth quarter to Dancin’ Drew Lock, or let him get bailed out with a DPI in the end zone on fourth-and-ballgame. Now you are 2-5 and even the Broncos have a better record in the conference. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a 2-5 team this realistically close to being 7-0 before, but here we are.

Some things never change, even in 2020.

Lamar Jackson: No Shortage of Kryptonite

Can you judge the true value of a player based on seven, non-consecutive games in their career? I’m not sure if you even should, but I do know that the results of four-to-six games from different careers have led to many people arguing over Joe Montana, Peyton Manning, and Tom Brady for the greatest quarterback of all time.

When it comes to Lamar Jackson, there are some troublesome trends that popped up against Pittsburgh, some of which I highlighted after the Ravens lost 34-20 to the Chiefs in Week 3.

Jackson is 24-7 as a starter, but he’s 0-2 at home in the playoffs, 0-3 against the Chiefs (Baltimore’s main conference rival), and now he’s 1-1 against the Steelers (main division rival) with seven turnovers in those two games. Jackson turned the ball over four times in Sunday’s 28-24 loss, including a pick-six to start the game and a pair of red-zone fumbles. So he can’t stop turning the ball over (or taking sacks) against Pittsburgh, and he’s only seen the gap between his production and that of Patrick Mahomes grow in those matchups.

Those two home playoff losses, where the Ravens never held a lead at any point, are the only starts in Jackson’s career where the team didn’t score at least 20 points. The Ravens actually tied the NFL’s regular-season record on Sunday, held by the 2012-14 Broncos, with 30 straight regular season games with at least 20 points scored. But it wasn’t enough as the Ravens needed another touchdown and Jackson wasn’t able to deliver on the final two drives.

In his career, Jackson only has one fourth-quarter comeback win: last year in Pittsburgh. The deficit was 3 points, and Jackson got his game-tying drive going with a questionable roughing the passer penalty on the Steelers. In overtime, Jackson went three-and-out, but quickly got the ball back at the Pittsburgh 34 after JuJu Smith-Schuster lost a fumble. The Ravens didn’t even attempt to put the ball in the air and Justin Tucker won the game with a 46-yard field goal.

Since that little comeback, the Ravens have almost never trailed in games, and certainly not in the second half. But the last three times that’s happened (playoffs against Tennessee, Week 3 vs. Chiefs, Sunday vs. Steelers) the Ravens lost all three games. Overall, the Ravens are 2-7 with Jackson when trailing in the second half of games by any deficit.

Again, it would be misleading to not point out that Jackson was impressive on Sunday Night Football last year against the 8-0 Patriots and their No. 1 defense. That was a big game with a real playoff atmosphere and he performed very well in a 37-20 win. However, you could find some criticism in that game in that he only threw 23 passes and for 163 yards. If Marquise Brown didn’t go low to catch a pass on the third play of the game, the Ravens start that one with a three-and-out instead of a touchdown.

On Sunday, Brown reminded us that there’s some DNA shared with his cousin Antonio Brown when he blew up on Twitter to say “What’s the point of having [soldiers] when you never use them (Never!!).” He quickly deleted the tweet. Brown’s only targets in the game came early in the fourth quarter, and he finished with one grab for a 3-yard touchdown.

That touchdown came on a fourth-quarter drive where Jackson made plays with his arms, but it was another game where he struggled to throw for 200 yards, didn’t complete 50 percent of his passes, took four sacks, fumbled three times, and relied too heavily on the run (16 carries for 65 yards).

Down 28-24, the Ravens used a very run-heavy drive where Jackson did not put the ball in the air once. On a fourth-and-3 at the Pittsburgh 8, it was obvious that he was going to run the ball again. He did so on a quarterback draw, but the Steelers were ready to stop it short on a play that actually became Jackson’s fourth turnover after he fumbled again with 1:57 left.

It’s seven games in a 31-game career, but the patterns are hard to ignore. When Jackson knows he’s in a big game, he looks to press, relies heavily on his legs, is erratic with the ball, makes bad decisions, and turns the ball over way too much. If that’s what he’s going to keep doing when they’re in a playoff game or playing a top rival, then it’s going to be hard for the Ravens to ever have postseason success.

As you can see from the seven games, the only win was when a Pittsburgh offense that did not have Ben Roethlisberger available served the game up on a silver platter in overtime last year.

Jackson will get a third shot at the Steelers in Pittsburgh on Thanksgiving night. Given the remaining schedule, it’s really his last shot at redemption before a presumptive third playoff run begins for Baltimore in January. Maybe the third time will be the charm, but the last time I said that for Jackson and this team, the Chiefs won 34-20 and Jackson completed 15-of-28 passes for 97 yards.

Once is an accident, twice is a coincidence, but three times is a pattern. If he has three bad Pittsburgh games to go with the three Kansas City losses, and then three lousy playoff games on top of that, then there is no reason to pick Baltimore to win anything for the foreseeable future.

Kryptonite isn’t supposed to come in so many flavors.

Steelers Continue Historic Season

I still to this day get the question if I’m a Steelers fan. The answer has always been yes, but I have never been afraid to be critical of the team or to pick against them in a big game. Being a massive Steelers homer is not a role I’ve ever had an interest in.

So when I see the Steelers at 7-0 and having a historic season by many measures, I have to say I’m happy, excited, and still a little confused. Is this really the best Pittsburgh team since the 2005 Super Bowl run? I could put them ahead of 2008 if only because the offensive line made that season such a struggle on that side of the ball. This year’s team is young, talented, and more balanced with Ben Roethlisberger having an impressive season in his return from injury.

I had this team making the playoffs, but 7-0 and winning in Tennessee and Baltimore like that? No matter where the heroes emerge, the Steelers walk away each week with the win and at least 26 points on the scoreboard. That puts them in elite company in NFL history:

Again, this is why I feel confused. Are the Steelers really in the same company as 15-1/16-0 teams that set the record for scoring in a season? Even the 2015 Patriots were one of Bill Belichick’s stronger teams before a weak finish. I know scoring is at an all-time high this season, so that takes some shine off that part, but you still don’t see anyone else but Seattle doing it so consistently this year. The schedule also wasn’t much to write home about, but road games against 5-0 Tennessee and 5-1 Baltimore? Pretty solid.

Sunday was the team’s biggest test of the year as Baltimore is a rough place to play historically. I mentioned that Roethlisberger was 0-7 in Baltimore when the Ravens scored 20+ points. They scored 24, but he still got the win, leading his 36th fourth-quarter comeback win that puts him in more elite company:

That was after one of the worst first halves of Roethlisberger’s career, but the offense really turned things on in the second half, something you wouldn’t always see in recent years with this team. Things just feel different this year with the youthful energy all over the offense. Even Eric Ebron made his mark on Sunday’s comeback win.

By getting past this game, the Steelers can realistically look at a 10-0 start with @DAL/CIN/@JAX as the next three games. Now those would be three trap games for this team in any year, so we’ll see how they handle that after really getting up emotionally for the last three matchups. But they very well could be 10-0 when they see the Ravens again on Thanksgiving night in Pittsburgh. If they win that game, it almost locks up the division with five games to go.

I wrote here the last two weeks why I picked against the Steelers, only to see them win by scores very similar to what I predicted for the games. Now things can change quickly in this league, but I have to say I do not see myself picking against Pittsburgh the rest of the regular season. That does not mean my official prediction is for a 16-0 season, but I just think they should be favored in every game except for maybe the Week 14 trip to Buffalo.

I haven’t felt this good about the Steelers since it looked like Jesse James scored a game-winning touchdown against the 2017 Patriots (real ones know). So I’m just going to continue enjoying the ride this season, and we’ll find out together if it’s going to be one of historical significance or not.

Huge Favorite Is a Good Look on Patrick Mahomes

One thing we (thankfully) rarely see in the NFL is a 20-point favorite. Even less common: a 20-point favorite who covers the spread. The Chiefs were a 19.5-point favorite (so basically 20) against the Jets, making it only the 15th such NFL game since the merger on record. In the first 14, the favorite was 14-0 SU, but only 3-11 ATS.

Make that 4-11 ATS as the Chiefs won 35-9 on Sunday.

Now usually we see these huge spreads in games between the Patriots and a scrub starting a backup quarterback, like the 2007 Eagles (A.J. Feeley) or 2011 Colts (Dan Orlovsky). From 1994-2006, there were not any 20-point favorites in the NFL, but since 2007, it’s happened nine times. The Patriots had five of those games and they were 0-5 ATS.

Guess we just found something else Patrick Mahomes is better than Tom Brady at, as he lit up the winless Jets with 416 yards and five touchdown passes. He did that despite the Chiefs rushing 20 times for 50 yards. The much-hyped Le’Veon Bell Revenge Game? Well, Adam Gase must have spent all his time preparing for it as run defense was the only thing the Jets did well in this game. Sure, the offense actually surprised by attempting four field goals on four first-half possessions, but the second half was vintage Jets: five three-and-outs, a fumble, and they declined to push to beat the spread on the final drive, handing off three times.

Oddly enough, Bell was the best hope the Jets had at beating the spread. He lost 3 yards on a 3rd-and-2 run to end a drive in the second quarter. In the third quarter, he was stopped for no gain on a 4th-and-1 run at the NYJ 14. It wasn’t until Mahomes’ fifth touchdown pass with 10:58 to play that the Chiefs finally had the spread covered, but that was enough.

Most games with at least four touchdown passes in a player’s first 39 games (regular season):

  • Patrick Mahomes – 10
  • Dan Marino – 6
  • Matthew Stafford – 6
  • Kurt Warner – 5
  • Jared Goff – 5
  • Deshaun Watson – 5

Here are the previous three games where a team covered a 20-point spread:

  • 2019 Cowboys (-22) vs. Dolphins (W 31-6)
  • 2013 Seahawks (-20) vs. Jaguars (W 45-17)
  • 1991 Bills (-20) vs. Colts (W 42-6)

Must be an AFC East thing. This will almost certainly not be the last time the Chiefs are a 20-point favorite in the Mahomes era.

New England, This Has Always Been Cam Newton

One thing I have repeatedly said this year is that of the Patriots’ 12 wins in 2019, they could have won 11 of them with a replacement-level quarterback. The only time Tom Brady was really vintage Brady last year was in the second Buffalo game, a 24-17 comeback win played in late December. That was Buffalo’s chance to take over the division, but they were denied again by Brady and Belichick.

Well, flash forward to Sunday and the Bills were 4.5-point favorites against the reeling Patriots, losers of three straight. It was going to be an extra challenging game with Julian Edelman and star cornerback Stephon Gilmore out. It’s hard to run a passing offense through James White’s YAC. But go figure, the one year where you actually couldn’t name New England’s wide receivers (Jakobi Meyers, Damiere Byrd) or running back (Damien Harris) or tight end (Ryan Izzo), Deion Sanders is nowhere to be found to give the New England quarterback absurd praise.

Oh, Deion is no stranger to praising Cam too, but the Patriots were game in this one. It helps that Buffalo’s defense isn’t as good this year, but New England was able to rush for 188 yards with Newton completing 15-of-25 passes for 174 yards.

In that last matchup with Buffalo, Brady led the Patriots to 24 points on nine drives. He only had to complete one short pass that Edelman took 30 yards on the game-winning drive, which was finished off by the ground game. This time around, Newton was the one looking to get the Patriots to 24 points on their ninth drive again, but that would have only set up overtime. Down 24-21, New England wanted a game-winning touchdown, which was a possibility after driving into the red zone. However, Newton took off on a designed run and fumbled on contact at the Buffalo 14 with 31 seconds left. The Bills recovered and that was the game.

It was easily the best Newton has looked since his COVID diagnosis, but it still wasn’t good enough for the win. The Patriots have now lost four in a row for the first time since 2002. New England is 0-3 this season in fourth-quarter comeback opportunities.

For Newton, this isn’t anything new. His career record at 4QC/GWD opportunities is 17-41-1 (.297), one of the worst among active quarterbacks. You can see in the updated table that Josh Allen (.611), who picked up his 11th game-winning drive in this one, and Brady (.561) have the best active winning percentages.

According to Stathead, Cam Newton is now only the sixth player since 2001 to lose a fumble in the red zone in the final minute of the game while down a field goal. Ex-Chargers running back (of course) Melvin Gordon did it at the 1-yard line against the Titans last year. Oakland’s Derek Carr infamously fumbled through the end zone on SNF against the Cowboys in 2017. Colin Kaepernick fumbled on a run at the 1-yard line for the 49ers against the 2014 Rams. Brett Favre (2006 GB vs. STL) and Kurt Warner (2002 STL-WAS) both coughed up the ball on strip-sacks in the red zone to end games.

In all, it is a rare ending to a game. However, Newton coming up a drive short has been the story of his NFL career from his first game to Super Bowl 50 to Week 2 SNF in Seattle to this crushing loss on Sunday.

It would only be fitting if the Bills delivered the final nail in the coffin to the Patriots (2-5), but maybe the Dolphins and (gasp) Jets will get their licks in as well. Then again, losing out and getting swept by the Jets so both finish 2-14, but Patriots draft Trevor Lawrence could be the master plan at this point.

NFL Week 8 Predictions: Steelers vs. Ravens

If you need an alternative to Cowboys-Eagles at night, it’s my understanding that Young Justice will be streaming on HBO Max starting tomorrow (Nov. 1).

The actual game of the day is clearly the renewed rivalry between the Steelers (6-0) and Ravens (5-1). For a change, it’s a game where both teams have their intended starting quarterback. It’s actually the first time Ben Roethlisberger will match his offense with Lamar Jackson’s offense. The Ravens are a 4-point home favorite, though playing in Baltimore isn’t as daunting this season as it would be under normal, non-pandemic circumstances. The Chiefs already waxed the Ravens 34-20 in that building this year.

How will the Steelers fare? I have to say last week’s win in Tennessee was both encouraging and discouraging. I picked the Steelers to lose 27-24, which is the score they ended up winning by after Stephen Gostkowski missed a field goal that would have forced overtime. But some of the road concerns with protecting the ball popped up again. Yes, Ben Roethlisberger threw three interceptions, but there were some extenuating circumstances there with throws into the end zone late in each half and a ball deflected high into the air at the line. What gets overlooked is the Steelers fumbled on the first two drives, but were fortunate to recover both and score 10 points. Throw in some drops and penalties and it was a sloppy performance despite the 20-point lead, third-down domination and ultimately a win.

On the other hand, the defense looked solid in holding down a potent Tennessee offense. They’ll have to do that again with the Ravens’ special ground attack that again leads the NFL in yards and yards per carry. Now one reason I’m optimistic this week is that Jackson has not been dominating through the air this season. He hasn’t thrown for 200 yards in his last four games and barely reached that number in his second game. Also, in his only start against the Steelers last year, he passed for 161 yards, 1 TD, 3 INT and was clearly pressing in a rare instance of the Ravens trailing in the second half of a game. Unfortunately, the Steelers had Mason Rudolph and Duck Hodges at QB that day and JuJu Smith-Schuster lost a fumble in overtime that set up the Baltimore victory.

Now with Roethlisberger at quarterback, the Steelers have a more potent offense to match with Jackson, but this will still have to be a defensive game. In his career, Roethlisberger is 0-7 in Baltimore when the Ravens score 20+ points. Guess what? The Ravens have scored 20+ points in all 28 of Jackson’s regular-season starts. He’s only been held under that number in both playoff games, which looks really bad for him, but there’s nothing he can do about that this weekend. The playoffs and Kansas City have been the problem teams in his career, but we’ll see if the Steelers can force him into a bad game for the second time in two tries.

It doesn’t seem likely that the Steelers can dink and dunk their way to a productive offensive day against this aggressive Baltimore defense. I think Roethlisberger has to hold the ball longer, maybe take some sacks, but also fire some shots down the field to Chase Claypool and James Washington to get some big plays that lead to points. It’s what the Chiefs have mastered with Mahomes against this defense. If it’s a minimal running day combined with the dink and dunk, look for Baltimore to hold the Steelers to a season-low in scoring. But if Roethlisberger does air it out more, he of course has to avoid the turnovers he had last week.

This should be a good one, but I’m just going to lean towards the rested Baltimore team that has played very well this year outside of that Kansas City game. It would be a huge win for the Steelers as the schedule really favors a 10-0 start before the teams meet again on Thanksgiving night. However, I think the Steelers will be looking for the season split that night as they’ll need a game to adjust to this team.

Final: Ravens 26, Steelers 20

NFL Week 8 Predictions

Here are the rest of my picks this week after another L on TNF. The Falcons just always do the opposite of what I want them to do.

We have our biggest spread of the week with the Jets as a 20-point underdog against the Chiefs. My Twitter is so far in favor of the Chiefs covering, but I wavered on this one.

You have to account for the obligatory Chiefs fumble and a lot of garbage time. While I could see the Chiefs winning 34-13, I don’t think they’ll have a monster blowout in back-to-back weeks after taking care of the Broncos 43-16 last week. I think the Chiefs will look for a huge ground game with Le’Veon Bell making his second appearance with the team in a revenge game for him on Adam Gase. When the Chiefs are ball-control efficient, that just depresses the score more and gives the Jets a chance to hang around in a 26-7 type of game. Honestly, I’d sooner bet on the over for Bell’s rushing yards than anything involving the point spread in this game. Chiefs by 14+ sounds good though.

NFL teams that are 20-point underdogs are 10-3 ATS and 0-13 SU since 1980.

Vote to Dump Trump

Finally, I just wanted to say that I screwed up four years ago when I did not vote for president. I was not a fan of Hillary Clinton, but I knew she was the superior choice to Donald Trump. They were not equally bad. I didn’t vote because I didn’t actually think this country would elect someone like that, and now we’re paying the price in the Supreme Court and who knows where else going forward. Clinton won my county, but lost my state (PA) in 2016 and we can’t let that happen again.

So this time I made sure to send in my mail-in ballot early and made the only logical choice I could: Joe Biden/Kamala Harris. I would have preferred Bernie Sanders over Biden, but I know this is the only vote I can make that will accomplish the goal of getting rid of Trump and his awful administration.

I know I’m probably preaching to the choir since I’ve spent much of this year cleansing my followers of MAGA/Trump supporters, but I hope you voted to remove Trump too. The next week, or weeks to come, could be a dangerous time for our country. I’m very concerned that on Tuesday night Trump is just going to declare victory since facts mean nothing anymore, and that any votes that come in after midnight are “fraudulent” and that there are many “irregularities” with the mail-in ballots, which we know will be largely Biden/Democratic voters. I’m worried they will try to steal this election, which is why the bigger the blowout, the harder it will be for them to pull this off.

So please vote this week if you haven’t already. And if you’re going to vote for Trump, put down the Kool-Aid first and think this through.

NFL Week 8 Predictions: Redemption Edition

As we near the midpoint of the 2019 season, some teams are in a desperate situation to get a win and get back on track before things fall apart and this becomes a lost season. We tend to forget the teams who start seasons poorly before going on a run later. We only remember them in their final form most of the time. For example, last year the Cowboys and Colts were 10-win teams with a playoff win, but Indy started 1-5 and Dallas was 3-5. There’s a chance some 3-4 team goes on a run starting this week and makes the playoffs. It works the other way too as some of those teams with the nice records now could be on the verge of a slide that leads to disappointment.

I probably didn’t pick the best week to talk about redemption, but I see Sunday as a very important day for several teams and specific players that I’ll highlight below.

It’s an odd week in that the average spread is about 8.1 points right now depending on what the number will be in the ARI-NO game given Drew Brees’ returning status. As I looked at earlier this week, this would be the fourth-largest spread of any week in the NFL regular season since 2001:

We already had a 17-point spread on TNF (WAS-MIN) and are looking at four more games above 11. There’s a bit more rot at the bottom than usual and it hasn’t been a good thing for the NFL. We also see that comebacks are down so once a team gets a lead this year, they usually hold it more often, which drives down the excitement late in games.

Let’s do some quick notes about redemption.

Seahawks at Falcons (+8)

Matt Ryan (ankle) will miss just the third start to injury in his career. That means 38-year-old Matt Schaub will face the team (Seahawks) that broke his confidence back in 2013 when he threw a late pick-6 to Richard Sherman when his team was nursing a 20-13 lead. Since that game, Schaub has gone 1-5 as a starter with his only win coming for Baltimore in a game won by a blocked FG returned for a touchdown.

This one is more about Seattle though, with Russell Wilson needing a rebound after one of the worst home games of his career last week against Baltimore. I think Atlanta is a perfect opponent for the Seahawks to get on track and win an easy game for a change. But it would be a nice little send-off for Schaub to play well in an upset win. At the very least, the Legion of Boom is long gone on that roster.

Chargers at Bears (-4)

While the Chargers are in full Chargering mode, the Bears really need to see something from Mitchell Trubisky. He’s in the danger zone right now with just 5.24 YPA this season.

Special shoutout to Troy Aikman: Trubisky’s yards per completion is also just 8.1, which would be the fourth-worst season (min. 100 passes) since 1970. When he’s not an inaccurate mess, he’s a worthless dink-and-dunker. He’s fortunate he doesn’t throw more interceptions or I think he would be benched already. Trubisky has to show something at home this week and I think the Bears will come through for him, possibly with considerable help from a Chargers team that can’t get out of its own way.

Giants at Lions (-6.5)

The Lions have lost three in a row and the referees haven’t been too kind in the process. I think the Giants present a perfect opportunity to get back in the win column with a turnover-prone rookie QB (Daniel Jones) and a secondary that looks lost at times. Matthew Stafford has been much more aggressive this season and is playing some of his best football. Detroit winning by at least a touchdown is a favorite pick of mine this week.

Jets at Jaguars (-6.5)

The Jets have played some absolutely putrid offensive football this season aside from the Dallas game, but I think the defense can keep them in this one. DJ Chark has been a big success for the Jaguars, but we’re starting to see more mistakes from rookie QB Gardner Minshew. I think after the “seeing ghosts” fiasco from Sam Darnold, he’ll play much better against this defense without Jalen Ramsey. I’m still on the Jags just because I think the Jets are closer to the terrible team rather than the one who beat Dallas, but this feels like a lock for a close 4Q finish.

Buccaneers at Titans (-2.5)

In 2015, the first NFL game for Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota was against each other. Four years later, Winston is just hanging onto his starting job after six turnovers the last time out, and Mariota has been benched for Ryan Tannehill. How fun. I think Tannehill struggles more this week, Tampa Bay should contain Derrick Henry on the ground, and Winston does just enough to get a win.

Eagles at Bills (-2)

This could really be one of those games where a win sends one team on a run while a loss starts a slide for the loser. Based on what these teams have been doing this year, I’m obviously referring to the Eagles pulling out the road win despite growing turmoil in the locker room and shaky results on the field.

Look, there’s plenty I could say about how I think Doug Pederson and Carson Wentz are both overrated and owe a lot of their success to Nick Foles and some good fortune. I mean, if it wasn’t Foles starting in the Super Bowl that year, it would have been Case Keenum (MIN) in an NFC that didn’t even have the Seahawks or Packers in the tournament, Ezekiel Elliott was suspended six games that year, and the Saints lost in spectacular fashion (again) in the divisional round. They won the title, but it wasn’t exactly the result of years of hard work or a track record that should make us believe there was more to come, especially without Foles at QB.

For as fast as people wanted to move –and the Eagles have paid — Wentz to the top tier of QBs, the fact is he’s more in the Kirk Cousins/Matthew Stafford tier than he is the very top of the league.

The good news this week is that Buffalo is a very poor man’s version of the 2017 Eagles, right down to their draft selection of Josh Allen that they hope would be their Carson Wentz. Buffalo is a below-average scoring team, and the Eagles shouldn’t have to expect Wentz to throw a lot of passes against one of the best defenses to get this win. You could see this being a 21-17 type of game where the run game is leaned on more. While Allen has had more 4Q success than Wentz, I think the Eagles rise above all the negative noise and pull this one out against an unfamiliar opponent.

Browns at Patriots (-12.5)

I seem to remember when this was going to be a “challenge” for the Patriots, yet here we are with another double-digit spread. Obviously, the Browns have been turnover machines this year with a lot of picks by Baker Mayfield. Some were tipped balls and bad luck, but their sloppy play has not been all fluke. We know the Patriots capitalize on mistakes better than anyone and it’s a terrible matchup for the Browns right now.

However, nothing would get the bandwagon fired up again for Cleveland than a good showing here after the bye week. Keep in mind this team did drop 40 points in a win in Baltimore, a team that some may start saying is the 2nd best in this godforsaken conference. So between the talent level and the fact that the New England offense has not been that great, I could see this actually being a close game. The Patriots are the only offense that hasn’t had a 4QC/GWD opportunity this year because they’re always leading since no one can really score on them. The Browns have the weapons to do some damage. There’s no way in hell I’d pick Cleveland to win this one, but at least they could do something respectable here instead of another blowout.

Packers at Chiefs (+5)

Finally, we have SNF where the Chiefs are a home underdog to the Packers. There’s really no redemption angle here. I’m just disappointed we’re not going to see Patrick Mahomes vs. Aaron Rodgers and may never see it unless they’re both still starting for these teams in 2023 or meet in a Super Bowl. This would have been a great game with Mahomes up for it.

My gut this week has been that the Chiefs will win one of the next two (vs. GB, vs. MIN) without Mahomes despite most expecting them to lose to quality opponents. I said this because I trust that Andy Reid can get Matt Moore playing well. Reid’s backups often play well aside from the 2005 Eagles fiasco (Mike McMahon/Koy Detmer). Tyreek Hill and Mecole Hardman are still fast as hell and Travis Kelce can make big plays too. Throw in some pass pressure for a strip-sack or two of Rodgers or Kirk Cousins and you can see the makings of an upset. Unfortunately, the Chiefs have so many other big injuries besides Mahomes that it just doesn’t seem like they’ll get the defensive help. Like who will rush the passer if Chris Jones and Frank Clark are both out? That’s bad, especially for a defense that gets gashed on the ground all the time too.

On the plus side, Mahomes was getting close to start this week and could be back for next week’s game. So maybe they won’t have to play two contenders without him, but they are this week and I’m going to go with the safe pick of the Packers covering.

NFL Week 8 Predictions

That was a lot more talk than I expected for a week that looks terrible on paper, but that just means the upsets could be spectacular. I had the Redskins covering on TNF and have to wonder how close that would have been if Case Keenum didn’t suffer a concussion.

2019Wk8

If you look at Miami’s upcoming schedule, I would definitely take some chances on the Dolphins getting a win. Fitzpatrick gives them a much better shot than Josh Rosen. I’m surprised the spread is still 14 in Pittsburgh, but I can also understand why no sane person would even want to watch that game on Monday night. We need to start considering flex scheduling for Monday games next year.

Or just don’t pick as many games that look terrible on paper. That works too.

2019Wk1-7

NFL Week 8 Predictions: Roller Coaster Edition

Warning: the following contains more personal feelings than any sports talk. Read at your own risk, but remember I’ll always write anything I want here.

When life hands you lemons, make lemonade. That’s what I did on Friday, and it turned out to be a great decision. I went to bed late last night with an overwhelming sense of peace. But life also can be a roller coaster you have no control over. The problem with feeling so high is that things can come crashing down quickly. I think my own roller coaster has a lot of up-and-down dips (pretty normal, right?). But in the last few years there have been some unbelievable high points that were met almost immediately with a huge drop. As if the universe didn’t want me to enjoy my position in life for even a day or two before something terrible came up.

On Saturday, I wasn’t expecting to wake up to the news that the latest mass shooting was only a few miles away. Anyone that’s been a student at a Pittsburgh campus has likely been to Squirrel Hill before. It’s one of the most diverse areas around. My favorite restaurant as a youth (Gullifty’s) was located there before it was shut down in the last decade. I wasn’t there to witness it because of school, but Gullifty’s was the place that served my grandma a hamburger without a beef patty after she had cataract surgery, and she didn’t even notice until several bites in. “Mmm, this burger is good,” she allegedly said. Silly little stories like that are the things you remember about local areas. It sickens me to know that Squirrel Hill will now forever be synonymous with mass shootings.

When despicable acts like this happen, just getting out of bed is hard. Talking about football feels pointless. I’m interested in several of the games this weekend, but I currently lack the motivation to write about them.

I’m sure Sunday will be a better day than Saturday as we start the ascending process all over again. I just know the next time things feel really great, I’m going to dread the inevitable descent back to reality.

The great thing about actual roller coasters is we have a choice not to ride them. I’ve never liked them. Unfortunately, we’re strapped in for life’s roller coaster, and people who have some control over where things head do not have our best interests in mind. I screwed up by not voting in 2016. I won’t do that again next week. Other than that, I’m not sure what else I can do right now but try to enjoy the ride whenever possible.

And how the fvck is it already Week 8?

NFL Week 8 Predictions

I had Houston winning on TNF, but Miami (+7.5) covering. That was silly, because Adam Gase’s Dolphins tend to only win close games or lose big. Duh, Scott.

2018Wk8

We have a major Disappointment Bowl to start Sunday in London with the Eagles vs. Jaguars. Both teams are 3-4. Since 1990, the only 3-4 teams to still reach the Super Bowl were the 1995 Steelers and 2001 Patriots, so it’s not looking too hot for these teams. The Jaguars apparently had a few players arrested in London already. I think Blake Bortles will play better to keep the leash longer on his job, but I have the Eagles pulling this one out 24-20 after getting enough mistakes from Bortles.

My favorite bet this week is Cincinnati -4. It’s a 1 p.m. home game, coming off a big loss, against a bad defense with a turnover-prone QB. This is Marvin Lewis in his element: a game called by Chris Myers and Daryl Johnson that no one is watching. I also like a teaser on the side of this week’s big favorites (PIT, KC, NE, LAR). Finally, I think the Giants steal one at home against the Redskins, though it’s not like Washington is an easy team to figure out this year.

Wk1-7

NFL Week 8 Predictions: Sleep In Sunday

As I look at the Week 8 schedule, I don’t see a whole lot of quality in the early slate.

Vikings vs. Browns – should be the lowest-rated London game yet. You like football more than I do if you get up at 9:30 A.M. EST for this kickoff. I might roll out of bed a little before noon for this one’s ending.

Raiders at Bills – somewhat interesting, and a game I would expect to cover in Clutch Encounters this week.

Chargers at Patriots – what’s the latest tragic loss Philip Rivers can suffer at the hands of Brady and Belichick? He’s 0-6 against that duo. Should put up some yardage at least.

49ers at Eagles – I guess San Francisco kicking ass in this game would be payback for the 1994 regular-season meeting won 40-8 by the Eagles. It would almost be that weird of a result with the 49ers still winless this year.

Panthers at Buccaneers – there isn’t a result you could predict that would surprise me with this one. Two very inconsistent teams.

Colts at Bengals – Both have two wins, but Bengals are a better team and should take care of business.

Bears at Saints – can you complete fewer than 10 passes and win in the Superdome? I’ll take Drew Brees at home.

Falcons at Jets – probably our most interesting one just because of the train wreck the Falcons have been, and the surprising competitiveness of the Jets this year.

It’s not until we get to the later games that we have some standouts.

Texans at Seahawks – how will Houston’s players perform after being at odds with comments made by their owner? This is an interesting matchup on paper with Deshaun Watson leading a sudden scoring juggernaut into one of the toughest venues to play in the NFL. Seattle hasn’t looked like the dominant team we have come to expect, so I would give Houston a good chance in this one.

Cowboys at Redskins – both teams are 3-3, but both have played a lot of good football this year. Washington just tends to fade in games, while Dallas has struggled defensively. The NFC is too wide open to count anyone out yet, but it is a very important game with neither wanting to drop to 3-4. I just think Dallas has a slight edge with more consistency on offense (translation: Dez Bryant and Ezekiel Elliott should make plays while you don’t know if Chris Thompson or Vernon Davis will rip off a 40+ yard reception again) and Washington’s defensive injuries hurting the depth.

Steelers at Lions – probably the right pick for SNF, I think Pittsburgh’s offense could have a strong showing with Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell leading the way again. They’ve benched Martavis Bryant, JuJu Smith-Schuster has played well, and the offense is getting the ball into the hands of its best players at a high volume again. Detroit has a lot of the same issues with running the ball and defending, and we know the Lions almost never beat a team destined for the playoffs. Pittsburgh isn’t performing anywhere near at peak level yet, but should be good enough to win this one on the road.

Broncos at Chiefs – someone is losing three in a row on Monday night, and there’s no way I’m picking the Chiefs to do that. The offense is way better than Denver’s, they’re at home, and while the defense is struggling right now without Eric Berry, the Denver offense hasn’t hit 17 points since Week 2.

2017 Week 8 Predictions

Of course I had Miami losing on TNF, but 40-0 was very unexpected. Still, is it really that much of a reach after this team should have lost 20-0 in back-to-back weeks to the Jets and Saints? Throw in a few late pick-sixes from the third -string QB and there you go.

Winners in bold.

  • Vikings vs. Browns
  • Raiders at Bills
  • Chargers at Patriots
  • 49ers at Eagles
  • Panthers at Buccaneers
  • Colts at Bengals
  • Bears at Saints
  • Falcons at Jets
  • Texans at Seahawks
  • Cowboys at Redskins
  • Steelers at Lions
  • Broncos at Chiefs

Last week was my best all season, and I feel good about this week being right up there.

  • 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
  • Season: 59-47

NFL Week 8 Predictions: Mid-Tier Edition

I see Week 8 with a lot of mid-level matchups and an appropriate main event in Philadelphia-Dallas on Sunday night. Of course, the Bears somehow got another stinker scheduled in prime time to end the week. But here are my thoughts on some of the games that should be helpful in judging where these teams are at the almost halfway point of the season.

Redskins vs. Bengals

Seriously, back-to-back London games at 9:30 a.m.? No thanks again, as I’ll just wait for the fourth quarter to see if Kirk Cousins can avoid the big mistake or not. I thought when the Bengals were down big in Dallas that even with a likely 2-4 start, the playoffs were not in doubt with the schedule lightening up as well as a very soft AFC (more on that later this week). Tyler Eifert is back at tight end, and Jeremy Hill had some big runs last week. Of course, it was the Browns, but the Redskins have been a poor run defense too, and they have some health issues in the secondary right now. That’s a bad recipe for defending A.J. Green, but this Cincinnati offense can be about more than just Green now. I like the AFC team here.

Chiefs at Colts

If this is half as good as the 2013 wild-card game…But the Chiefs have been so inconsistent this year (32nd in DVOA variance). The Colts (5th in variance) have been a pillar of consistency: they score and allow at least 20 points in every game, and Andrew Luck has had the ball in his hands late with a chance to lead his team on a GWD. He’s come through four times, but the defense wasted the Week 1 effort against Detroit. I think Spencer Ware should have a field day against the Indy defense, but wouldn’t expect a huge performance from Alex Smith. Luck should have a few more weapons back this week, but he’ll need to avoid going to the Marcus Peters well too many times. Peters can make him pay on a pick-six, but with Donte Moncrief and Philip Dorsett back, Luck shouldn’t have to force passes to T.Y. Hilton. Generally, I think Luck has played very well this season, but he’ll need to be on point in this one. My gut tells me KC, and I usually have a great gut for Colts games, but I still think I have to trust the Colts at home this week. Arrowhead? I’d say prepare for one of their blowout losses from 2012-2015, but I think they pull this one out.

Lions at Texans

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I expect Brock Osweiler to have a really solid game due to how terrible the Detroit pass defense is. He’s also at home, where things have gone much better this year than the difficult road trips to New England, Minnesota and Denver. That has to be the toughest road schedule in the league so far. That’s not to say Osweiler didn’t play like hot garbage, but as we saw against Chicago and late in the Colts game, he can still come through against a crap defense. That’s what Detroit has right now, and it will be on Matthew Stafford to have an exceptional road performance for Detroit to pull off the win.

Patriots at Bills

One of the dumbest things any team did this year was Buffalo’s waffling on playing Shady McCoy last week in Miami. Just let him rest with the hamstring issue and turn the ball over to Mike Gillislee. Instead they tried to play both, and it was just a mess after Miami’s front seven ate the Bills alive. Now McCoy is unlikely to play in what is essentially the biggest game of the season for the Bills: a chance to sweep the Pats and become a factor in the AFC. So poorly managed. Tyrod Taylor is down receiving weapons in what was already a limited passing game. I expect a far different outcome than the 16-0 shutout win that Buffalo got with Jacoby Brissett at quarterback for New England. Tom Brady was supposed to annihilate Pittsburgh through the air last week, but it’s more likely to come here in Buffalo.

Seahawks at Saints

Injury concerns are legit for Seattle again with Kam Chancellor and Michael Bennett out. You never want to be down key defensive starters in the Superdome against Drew Brees. Russell Wilson seems to get a new injury every week — I had no idea about the pectoral issue when I wrote Tuesday’s fantasy article about stacking him with Jimmy Graham. I still think the potential for a big day is there since this is the Saints defense, and Graham will want to show up his old team, but the injuries definitely are a concern. Wilson has 22 runs for 33 yards this season. He’s clearly had to change his playing style due to the leg injuries and throw from the pocket more, but it hasn’t been as effective. Again, at least this is a putrid defense and likely not one Wilson will need his legs against often. He can beat the Saints from the pocket, but I wouldn’t trust Seattle here if the game becomes a shootout.

Chargers at Broncos

I think this game can look a lot different from the recent TNF matchup, won by San Diego. The Broncos are now the home team, Gary Kubiak is going to be coaching this one, and Trevor Siemian is healthier. C.J. Anderson is out, but I think Devontae Booker fills in well at RB. Denver’s defense should be strong again as it was for much of the last meeting. Philip Rivers hasn’t had a good go of things against this Wade Phillips-coached D yet, and I expect that to be the difference this week.

Packers at Falcons

The Falcons need to stop the bleeding here. I think a big game for Julio Jones is in store, and the Falcons could have better rushing success against Green Bay than anyone not named Dallas this season. Matt Ryan needs to atone for the late interception at home last week. While the Falcons have allowed six game-winning drives in their last 16 games, we are talking about Green Bay here. If the Packers don’t start well, I wouldn’t expect a comeback win. I still think the offense was struggling against Chicago despite the odd stat line from Aaron Rodgers, but you could clearly see Chicago’s defense was worn out in the second half from having to defend so many passes and not getting any help from the offense. Atlanta’s offense will help the defense at home here. While I think getting creative with Ty Montgomery is good for Green Bay, I don’t think his small average gains are going to be enough here, nor do I expect Davante Adams to star in back-to-back games.

Eagles at Cowboys

This one could have really cranked up the drama if Tony Romo was making his season debut, but alas it’s two rookie quarterbacks. Dak Prescott has clearly been better than Carson Wentz. The Cowboys certainly run the ball better than the Eagles, and they throw it better too. I really like Ezekiel Elliott coming off a bye week behind that offensive line. The Eagles had a horrific run defense performance against Washington a few weeks ago, and even made Minnesota’s impotent attack look competent last week. I’ll take the Cowboys here.

2016 Week 8 Predictions

Starting to get a better hang of things this season. I had the Titans without any hesitation on Thursday night, and they blew the doors off the hopeless Jaguars.

Winners in bold:

  • Redskins at Bengals
  • Chiefs at Colts
  • Lions at Texans
  • Patriots at Bills
  • Jets at Browns
  • Cardinals at Panthers
  • Raiders at Buccaneers
  • Seahawks at Saints
  • Chargers at Broncos
  • Packers at Falcons
  • Eagles at Cowboys
  • Vikings at Bears
  • Week 1: 7-9
  • Week 2: 10-6
  • Week 3: 8-8
  • Week 4: 8-7
  • Week 5: 7-7
  • Week 6: 12-3
  • Week 7: 10-5
  • Season: 62-45

I would normally give myself a tie for the Seattle-Arizona game, because if those teams don’t have to take a loss, why the hell should I after losing hours of my time to not see a winner? But since I said last week that I liked Seattle by 8 points, or more than they scored in five quarters, I’ll take the loss here.

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 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 8 Predictions

Notice anything odd about the NFL’s Week 8 schedule? If Thursday’s stinker was any indication, it’s going to be a poor week. It’s literally the worst slate of games I have seen since covering the league on a weekly basis in 2011, and that’s not hyperbole. On paper, does it get any better than Dallas at Detroit? I rest my case.

Some have said the NFL does not like to compete with the World Series, which is going on now in case you didn’t notice. Yet is anyone going to deny that even a terrible collection of NFL games will kick the World Series’ ass in ratings?

“Hell, we’ll put six teams on a bye week, send the Jaguars to London to face the 49ers, put the Rams out to slaughter against Seattle, and even start the week with Greg Schiano in prime time and people will still eat it up.”

The most riveting baseball series in years would still struggle to beat out a host of prime-time games featuring the dreadful 2013 Minnesota Vikings, and don’t worry, the latter is coming. After Josh Freeman’s 33-incompletion night, we get the Vikings again facing the Packers on Sunday. After a trip to Dallas in what is hopefully a low-traffic Heath Evans time slot on FOX, the Vikings return to the big stage with a Thursday night home game against the Redskins in Week 10. Three prime-time games in four weeks. Can’t wait.

Yet in the NFL, where inconsistency thrives, we probably will get a few unexpectedly great games this week. But for most of us, even the worst games are still preferable to watching baseball.

2013 NFL Week 8 Predictions

We’ll see what happens next week with a real challenge, but the undefeated run continues on TNF with a pick of Carolina.

Winners in bold:

  • Cowboys at Lions
  • Dolphins at Patriots
  • Browns at Chiefs
  • Bills at Saints
  • Giants at Eagles
  • 49ers at Jaguars
  • Jets at Bengals
  • Steelers at Raiders
  • Redskins at Broncos
  • Falcons at Cardinals
  • Packers at Vikings
  • Seahawks at Rams

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
  • Season: 70-37

NFL Week 8 Predictions, Scam Newton and Writing Recap

It’s nearly November and most NFL teams are still an inconsistent mess, which makes it hard for predictions, but good for weekly coverage.

This Week’s Articles

Captain Comeback Week 7: Old vs. New, Eli Manning Upstages RGIII – Cold, Hard Football Facts

Random fact: all six quarterbacks to lead a game-winning drive this week are over the age of 30, which hasn’t happened since at least 1995. Yep. Another record for Eli Manning, CBS changes Tom Brady’s stats a week after I pointed out their interesting Week 6 graphic, and a list of Matt Hasselbeck’s game-winning/game-tying TD passes, which oddly slant heavily towards his brief time in Tennessee.

Eli Manning Has New York Giants Soaring Under the Radar Again – Bleacher Report

I rarely write a puff piece, but if I do, it’s going to have a lot of interesting data. This is on Eli Manning and the New York Giants, making note of how they have started 5-2 or better for nine straight seasons, tying the NFL record set by Dallas (1975-83).

I also took a step in the direction of quantifying the difficulty associated with fourth quarter comebacks by looking at Eli Manning’s 23 comeback wins and using win probability. Expect more on this in the future.

Following a Legend: Andrew Luck Week 7 vs. Cleveland Browns – Colts Authority

Luck had a career-low 35 drop backs this week, but the Colts went into a shell again after taking a 17-13 lead in the third quarter. Find out why Luck needs more shotgun in his diet.

Just What Is Going On With the AFC? – NBC Sports

The 2012 season will be the year we remember the NFC regaining control of the NFL as the dominant conference. NFC teams are 19-9 against the AFC so far this year, and have won three straight Super Bowls. Find out how they’ve swung back control, and a breakdown of all 16 AFC teams into their respectful tiers of quality.

The Thinking Man’s Guide: NFL Week 8 Predictions – Bleacher Report

This week’s previews include a look at Dick LeBeau’s 14-1 record vs. rookie quarterbacks since 2004, how impressive Andy Reid’s 13-0 record after a bye week really is, Josh Freeman’s lost comeback magic (which he did not need on Thursday), and expecting a career day statistically from Andrew Luck in Tennessee. Also the shortest Broncos/Saints preview out there.

More Scam than Superman: Cam Newton is NFL’s Worst QB in the Clutch – Cold, Hard Football Facts

Cam Newton can at least argue he is consistent, as his stats are very similar to this point last year, as is the 1-5 record. The other constant trend is his inability to close games at a historic rate, producing a 1-12 (.077) record at fourth quarter comeback opportunities. Here are the worst records I have been able to find so far (min. 10 attempts):

You cannot pretend to be Superman if all you ever do in the face of adversity is wilt under the pressure.

2012 NFL Week 8 Predictions

Why is it so hard to trust our gut? I knew Tampa Bay had the on-field advantages, but basically picked Minnesota since they had the better record and were the home team. 0-1 to start the week, which I have a feeling won’t be pretty after going 12-1 last week.

Winners in bold:

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

Bah, that’s a lot of road teams. Lions, Eagles and Cardinals win at home, is what my gut says, and I’m not listening again.

Season results:

  • Week 1: 12-4
  • Week 2: 11-5
  • Week 3: 4-12
  • Week 4: 10-5
  • Week 5: 10-4
  • Week 6: 5-9
  • Week 7: 12-1
  • Season: 64-40