So last week was a bit of a shot to the ego. I have underestimated the Patriots’ ability to adapt to injuries, I have failed to give Carsen Wentz enough credit for his ability to run the offense, I had too much faith in New Orleans at home and the Bills….the friggin’ Bills!!!
Personally I think all of the Bills’ players read my article last week and used it as motivation; I mean that is the only reasonable explanation for that upset right? I will tell you what, my preseason pick for Arizona to win the Super Bowl is not looking so hot right now.
Ok, back on the horse for week 4. There are some very interesting matchups here and a lot of potential upsets. This week I could easily go 12-4 or 4-12 in my predictions. So let’s see:
Miami Dolphins @ Cincinnati Bengals
The Dolphins are just not that good and Ryan Tannehill may be looking for a new home after this season. That game against the Browns was atrocious and their victory was due more to the ineptitude of the Browns than it was their own abilities and prowess.
Both of these teams have struggled to run the ball and both offenses are predominantly reliant on their respective #1 receivers (A.J. Green and Jarvis Landry). Both quarterbacks have proven to be solid signal-callers, but neither has shown a consistent ability to carry their team. And both of these teams enter with a 1-2 record and if either team falls to 1-3, it could realistically end their playoff hopes.
But here is what it comes down to: while neither team has looked particularly good this season, the Bengals have played three very good opponents, whereas the Dolphins played an offensively inept Seahawks team, a Brady-less Patriots team, and barely escaped the Browns. I cannot in good conscience pick the Dolphins to win on the road in this game, Cincy wins.
Indianapolis Colts @ Jacksonville Jaguars
I expected the Colts to suck because they still have terrible offensive and defensive lines and I expected the Jaguars to win the division because of their emergence offense and young talent on defense. One of those assessments was correct.
The Colts have ugly losses to the Broncos and Detroit due to their inability to protect their passer and to harass their opponent’s quarterback. The Jaguars have just sucked. T.J. Yeldon has been absolutely useless at running back, Bortles has been inaccurate and making poor decisions, and the defense is still abysmal despite high draft picks and expensive free agents being added.
Both of these teams are terrible defensively, but their are two offensive statistics that stand out to me: (1) 3rd down conversion percentage, and (2) points per game. The Colts convert 43.6% of their 3rd downs and score 27 points per game. Not great, but consistent enough to keep themselves in games.
Conversely the Jaguars convert an anemic 28.6% of their 3rd down conversions and score a paltry 18 points per games. I know the game is in Jacksonville, but I like the Colts all day long in this one.
Carolina Panthers @ Atlanta Falcons
Right now the Falcons are sitting at 2-1 and are ranked 1st in the NFL for points per game and yards per game. Matt Ryan is avoiding turnovers and bad decisions, Devonta Freeman is averaging 6.3 yards per carry, and Tevin Coleman is not only vulturing all Freeman’s touchdowns, but is tied with Julio Jones with 10 receptions on the year. The Falcons are proving to be much more potent on offense than anyone would have initially realized.
The Panthers are middle of the pack in all offensive categories and Cam Newton has thrown only 5 touchdowns to match his 5 interceptions; not to mention he is completing less than 60% of his passes. But it is truly not his fault. The Carolina offensive line might as well not be there. They have been unable to clear running lanes and Newton has already been sacked 12 times. That line has been the main reason for the Panthers’ struggles this year and unfortunately for them it will be a season long problem.
I do not know if the Falcons can consistently get pressure on Newton, even with that iffy o-line, but I do believe that in the dome in Atlanta, that they can outscore him. I like the Falcons to move to 3-1 at home against Carolina.
Oakland Raiders @ Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens are not as bad as I thought. They may have played three terrible teams (Buffalo, Cleveland, and Jacksonville), but this is a team that makes minimal mistakes, is seemingly always in position, and they play a hard-nosed style of defense led by the ageless freak Terrell Suggs. Currently the Ravens are ranked second in the league defensively allowing only 254 yards per game.
Ironically, the Raiders boast the second best offense in the NFL, obtaining 436 yards per game and featuring an incredibly balanced attack. Derek Carr is effectively using all the weapons available to him on the field and Latavius Murray is shouldering the load and gaining 4.8 yards per carry. And on those rare occasions when he needs a breather, the Raiders bring in Jalen Richard whose quick burst has him running at a clip of 8.6 yards per carry.
This game is literally strength versus strength and it should be a good matchup. I am going with Oakland because I think their success has come over slightly better opponents and I like that young offense matched up against the aging Baltimore defense. Raiders go to 3-1.
Tennessee Titans @ Houston Texans
So J.J. Watt is now potentially out for the season. That is a major blow and may literally cost the Texans the ability to win their division. The nice thing for the Texans, however; is that they play in the AFC South where every team is a severe degree of awful.
The Titans are built to run. It is a very good idea. Lean on the shoulder of Murray and Henry, this also sets up the playaction for Mariota, which in theory should allow this offense to keep opposing defenses off-balance. The problem is that the head coach, for whatever reason, randomly decides to abandon the run and to rely on the arm of his enigmatic quarterback.
DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry have combined for 333 yards on 65 carries, and yet only have 1 touchdown between them. This team ranks 8th in the NFL in rushing, and yet 20th in overall offense; and a disgustingly low 31st in points scored (14 points per game).
Defensively the Titans are surprisingly effective, ranking in the top third of the league in both points and yards allowed per game; but they are completely incompetent when it comes to scoring.
The Texans are a bit better and have a few more offensive threats (that New England fiasco notwithstanding) and it is for that reason that I like the Texans to win in Houston, even without J.J. Watt.
Detroit Lions @ Chicago Bears
I said it last week and I will say it again this week: the Chicago Bears may be the worst team in football. They have zero playmakers, they are riddled with injuries, they have no identity, and they may also have no heart.
The Lions are not exactly loaded with talent, but they do have heart. They also happen to have a quarterback that can and will put this team on his back and carry them for as long as he can. Neither team realistically has a shot at the playoffs and the Bears have a 3-game stretch of very winnable games (vs Detroit, @ Indianapolis, vs Jacksonville). They could foreseeably win 2 of those games. I just do not think it will be this one.
I will take Matthew Stafford over anything the Bears have to offer, especially with the Bears fielding that junior varsity squad they call a defensive backfield. Lions win.
Buffalo Bills @ New England Patriots
Ok, you know what, Patriots win. I do not care if they pick up the freshman quarterback from the local high school. I don’t care if Belichick rests all his players and just plays the friggin’ practice squad. I just assume that the Patriots are going to win this game and every game, because apparently that is just what they do.
I do not know how they will do it…I just assume the football Gods hate all of us…Patriots win.
Seattle Seahawks @ New York Jets
Did you miss that? Let me say it again: 6 INTERCEPTIONS
And do not forget the fumble that Fitzpatrick lost too. I do not know what is going on up there in New Jersey, but the Jets entered this season with what was seemingly a very good team led by a very competent quarterback. But after that fiasco Fitzpatrick’s respectable 3:1 touchdown to interception ratio is now 3:7; and they are facing the league’s top ranked defense.
The one saving grace for the Jets is that the Seahawks feature the 28th ranked scoring offense in the league at 17.3 points per game. But you know what? It won’t matter. With the way Fitzpatrick is playing the Seattle defense will score more than enough to beat the Jets.
I like the Seahawks to get the W, even with a hampered Russell Wilson.
Cleveland Browns @ Washington Redskins
Washington just went into New Jersey and beat the division rival New York Giants and now they return home to host a truly horrid Cleveland team. A part of me feels like this could be a trap game, with the Redskins ripe for the upset; but I am not betting on it.
I like the Redskins at home just for the mere fact that they are better in every way (of course I said the same thing last week about the Cardinals/Bills game).
Denver Broncos @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
That Broncos’ defense is scary and the Bucs look like they are running around with their heads cut off. Tampa Bay is not really a bad team, they are just inconsistent. Their running game has been very mediocre, which means more pressure has been placed on the passing game. Winston has had moments of brilliance, but in the end has a touchdown to interception ratio of 6:5 and now he is going against a vicious defense led by perhaps the best pass-rusher in the NFL, in Von Miller.
This could be a surprisingly good and competitive game, but I am picking yet another road team to take the victory. Broncos win.
Los Angeles Rams @ Arizona Cardinals
I know I must be losing my mind. The Rams, led by Case Keenum and Football Fish are 2-1 with a win over Seattle, and the mighty Cardinals are 1-2 with losses to deficient Patriots and the Buffalo Bills. It is scenarios like this that led to my decision to not gamble on sports.
I am going with the Cardinals. I know they have looked out-of-sorts and Palmers looks completely off with his receivers, but at some point all the talent on that team has rise to the top and carry this team to victory and conversely the Rams at some point have to start looking like the pile of festering human waste that they actually are.
When looking at the team stats the Cardinals are better in virtually every offensive and defensive category, plus they have the benefit of being at home. Cardinals win.
New Orleans Saints @ San Diego Chargers
Drew Brees is doing his normal thing, but Ingram has yet to find the endzone on the ground, Willie Snead missed last week’s game due to injury, but regardless of all that the Saints just cannot compete while fielding 11 non-offensive players (calling them a defense is far too generous). The Saints are ranked 31st in points allowed giving up an astounding 32 points per game, furthermore they are ranked 31st in yards allowed giving up a brutally high 448.3 yards per game.
And while the Saints offense has historically kept them in games. And while they are 1st in passing yards and 3rd in overall offense, those statistics take a major dive when they are on the road.
The Chargers have been a terrible team as well, but they can score. Currently they score 29 points per game, ranked 3rd overall in the NFL. This week they may score 50.
I like the Chargers to take this game.
Dallas Cowboys @ San Francisco 49ers
What the hell is it with rookie quarterbacks this year? Apparently quarterbacks grow on trees now; who knew?
What this game comes down to is who can move the ball consistently down the field. The 49ers have the 29th ranked offense and 30th ranked passing offense. Despite Chip Kelly’s reputation as an offensive genius, his influence has not helped the 49ers so far and they are facing a Dallas team that is growing in confidence each and every week.
Prescott has been phenomenal. While he only has 1 passing touchdown, he avoids making mistakes and does what is necessary to keep moving the chains. He may not be the ideal for fantasy football, but I guarantee you that the Dallas football faithful are not complaining about having Dak at the helm.
I like the Cowboys to take this one and go to 3-1.
Kansas City Chiefs @ Pittsburgh Steelers
The Chiefs had a monster game last week causing Ryan Fitzpatrick to turnover the ball 7 times, including 6 interceptions. But now they are leaving the friendly confines of Arrowhead Stadium and heading to the Steel City to go up against a Pittsburgh team that was embarrassed last week.
The Steelers were many people’s pick to make it to and even win the Super Bowl and last week they were thoroughly outclassed by the Philadelphia Eagles in virtually every way. This week they will be looking to dominate at home, plus they get Le’Veon Bell back from suspension.
I expect the Steelers to steam roll the Chiefs in this one.
New York Giants @ Minnesota Vikings
I do not know how the Vikings are doing it, but by virtue of incredible heart and fantastic coaching they are 3-0 with wins over Carolina and Green Bay. Their overall offense is ranked 31st and their rushing attack is ranked dead last, but their defense has shouldered much of the load. The Vikings are among the league leaders in turnover differential and lead the league in sacks. Everson Griffen in particular has really stepped up his game and has been vital to the Viking’s success.
The Giants have had no problem moving the ball up and down the field and Eli has been incredibly accurate, completing 71% of his passes. Unfortunately for the Giants, they have had a lot of trouble converting touchdowns and have had several turnovers occur at very untimely moments.
Given the Giants historically weak offensive line and their penchant for turning the ball over at the worst possible time, I like the Vikings to take advance to 4-0, especially at home.