By: Dallas Soukup
So let’s see how your new favorite NFL guy did in his first week! What we learned, what we still want to know, and what makes no sense. I also overreact to Atlanta and Carolina, Odell Beckham Jr., and appropriately react to what appears to be yet another disappointing year by my beloved New York Jets. Without further ado, let’s dive in…
Miami Dolphins at Cincinnati Bengals (-7)
The Pick: Bengals 28, Dolphins 23
The Final Score: Bengals 22, Dolphins 7
It’s official, the Dolphins aren’t good. Shout out to Cincinnati’s uniform department- their new Color Rush white jersey is fantastic (albeit ruined by the Dolphins’ awful all orange getups). Tannehill made several inexcusably poor throws, including a fourth quarter pick where he clearly had no idea what he was doing, allowing Cincinnati to cruise to an easy win. I’m wondering if Tannehill is bad, Adam Gase is overrated, or both? The Dolphins hired Gase on the belief he could fix Tannehill, but after what Gase was able to achieve with Cutler last year in Chicago, I’m leaning towards Tannehill just isn’t very good. Unfortunate for the perennial offseason champion, but at least now Miami knows.
Throwback memory to the 2011 season of Hard Knocks – Tannehill has just been named the starter, and he’s talking to Richie Incognito, who says, simply, “heard you’re starting now. Don’t f*** it up.” Good advice from the model citizen of 2013, but apparently unheeded.
Indianapolis Colts (-2.5) at Jacksonville Jaguars
The Pick: Jaguars 16, Colts 14
The Final Score: Jaguars 30, Colts 27
The streak of bad teams losing a week 4 game in London and getting their coach fired is over! As is becoming the standard for Indianapolis, they give up a huge lead in the beginning and call upon Andrew Luck to win the game by himself. I have nothing but love for Andrew Luck, but he doesn’t have the supporting cast around him, at all. The defense isn’t great- name three players on the Colts’ defense, you can’t – and they need more help on the line. Their first round pick, Center out of Alabama, Ryan Kelly was a wise selection (and maybe we all judged the first round pick of Philip Dorsett last year too harshly- he looks good) but GM Ryan Grigson needs to get some more help on the offensive line because at this rate Luck won’t survive the season after being sacked 6 times and hit 13 times against the Jaguars. A rate like that simply isn’t sustainable. I’m hoping Jacksonville can turn the corner and build from this game- they gave the Packers everything they could handle in week 1- but I don’t have high hopes for either team this year.
Cleveland Browns at Washington (-7.5)
The Pick: Washington 30, Cleveland 17
The Final Score: Washington 31, Cleveland 20
First of all, that was a fumble recovered by Cleveland. Replacement refs strike again. I give the refs credit, they do a good job for the most part, but they just got this one wrong. It’s unfortunate for a desperate Cleveland team which has some solid players – Terrelle Pryor looks to finally belong in the NFL, albeit as a wide receiver – and rookie QB Cody Kessler doesn’t look totally awful. Isaiah Crowell had a hundred yards rushing, Gary Barnidge caught every ball thrown his way, and their kicker did not miss. Washington’s red zone efficiency was near-perfect – Jordan Reed had a great game- and Washington won the turnover battle. Cleveland should have maintained possession on that fumble, and who knows what might have been. Josh Norman finally got his pick, and Washington was the better team, but Cleveland again had a chance to cash in and failed.
It’s tragic how the Josh Gordon saga played out- Manziel and now Gordon, both two potentially great players that couldn’t stop doing drugs- and likely won’t ever see the field again. Hue Jackson is a great offensive coordinator, but he didn’t make it as the head coach of the Raiders in 2011 (albeit without a chance to try to fix the team in his second year that never happened)- the Browns are still years away. Also, they have the Patriots next week with Brady’s return. Good luck, Browns.
Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots (-4.5)
The Pick: Patriots 24, Bills 13
The Final Score: Patriots 0, Bills 16
This one was a shocker, Jacoby Brissett or not. After all the fire Rex Ryan endured in his first week of the season, Buffalo put up convincing wins over the suddenly vulnerable Arizona Cardinals and then topped that with the first ever shutout of New England at Gillette Stadium. The pregame brawl seemed to get into Brissett’s head, and while he didn’t play poorly, the Patriots got beat convincingly for the first time in years. I’m not looking too deep into this, though- Brady is back next week, and you’d better believe he is pissed. Rex’s firing of his offensive coordinator Greg Roman seemed to be picking a scapegoat, but it looks like Anthony Lynn knows what he’s doing- he’s been Rex’s guy his entire career and got head coaching looks this past offseason – and now that Rex has everyone he wants on his staff where he wants them, Buffalo might be dangerous. Lynn used LeSean McCoy to great effect (If Buffalo misses the playoffs, I’d anticipate the Bills will still make a change.) It’s possible Garoppolo was good to play but they didn’t play him because they can trade him before the deadline and his value will be as high as it can possibly get after what he showed in the first two weeks, but only Belichick knows what he’s going to do there. I wouldn’t anticipate their rematch going this way. Rex and Belichick had the shortest postgame exchange I’ve ever seen – wonder if Bill is as excited for Rex to transition to TV as the rest of the league is.
Seattle Seahawks at New York Jets (+2.5)
The Pick: Seattle 23, Jets 10
The Final Score: Seattle 27, Jets 17
Well, the benefit to your Jets fan columnist is that I have both Christine Michael and Jimmy Graham in fantasy. I didn’t anticipate a Jets win by any means, but it was somehow made even more heartbreaking after the Jets marched down the field on their first drive only to get stopped short of the goal line. As we’ve seen before (Kelce last week) the Jets can’t cover tight ends, there was a massive coverage breakdown leading to the easiest 42 yard TD pass you’ll ever see, to Tanner McEvoy who I wasn’t aware existed, and even the Jets’ vaunted defensive line couldn’t generate a pass rush against Seattle’s patchwork offensive line. Even without the threat of Wilson taking off and running Mike Vick in 2004 style, he was still able to shred the Jets’ suspect secondary, Ghost of Revis or not. It isn’t lost on me that Fitzpatrick has now thrown 9 picks in 2 weeks- they must really, really hate Geno in Florham Park. Marshall finally got his yards and his first TD of the season, and appeared to have had Sherman’s number, until Sherman read the over the shoulder fade route to perfection. The second pick wasn’t his fault, but Fitzpatrick needs to regain his 2015 form for the Jets to fix this. The Jets have the Steelers next week, who are fresh off a 43-14 beatdown of the Chiefs, and it looks like the Ghost of Revis won’t be available to stop Antonio Brown (or try and get beat for 40 yard TDs). At least I also have Antonio Brown in fantasy. Lastly, not loving how the Jets wear white at home now. White Seattle and green Jets is a great jersey matchup and we were robbed of it.
Carolina Panthers (-3) at Atlanta Falcons
The Pick: Carolina 27, Atlanta 21
The Final Score: Carolina 33, Atlanta 48
This time, at least, they got the concussion protocol right after the debacle with Cam in Week 1 against Denver. But let’s discuss the obvious- Julio Jones put up 300 (!!!!) receiving yards. Josh Norman, of course, had something to say (though Julio had 173 and a TD in the one regular season game Carolina lost last year, week 16 in Atlanta) but the fact of the matter is Matt Ryan played the game of his life and is in the NFL MVP conversation- last week against the Saints, the Falcons put up 45 and Julio was quiet all night. If kicker Graham Gano had hit that field goal in week 1 against the Broncos, Carolina would be 2-2, but everyone expected Carolina to run away with a weak NFC South and it doesn’t seem that’s the case this year. Cam is hurt, the defense suddenly looks vulnerable, and their game next week against the Bucs looks like a possible elimination game. Atlanta’s week 1 loss to the Bucs is a distant memory- I’m not ready to anoint them a top ten team as they have a very tough matchup next week in Denver, but they aren’t going to roll over, and if they win, they will absolutely be a top ten team. Also, in back to back weeks, Atlanta has pick sixes to close out games against divisional rivals- not necessarily sustainable, but a cool tidbit. Atlanta is averaging 38 points a game- the defenses they played weren’t great, but that’s still scary to think about. Carolina needs Cam to get healthy and resume his 2015 form, and they’d get a huge boost when The Daily Show Jonathan Stewart returns, but I don’t like their odds with what I’ve seen so far this season.
Detroit Lions (-1) at Chicago Bears
The Pick: Lions 31, Bears 13
The Final Score: Lions 14, Bears 17
I got that one totally wrong. Golden Tate appeared to be benched after his great year last year, and after his fantastic Week 1 game, Jim Bob Cooter’s (best name in football) offense looks dead in the water. It wouldn’t have even been as close as it was if not for a punt return TD and a deuce with two minutes to play- Chicago’s defense held Detroit to two field goals after getting embarrassed in back to back weeks by Philadelphia and Dallas. Jim Caldwell is now a safe bet for first coach fired – between him and Mike McCoy at this point.
Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans (-4.5)
The Pick: Titans 19, Texans 17
The Final Score: Texans 27, Titans 20
Will Fuller is the real deal- monster day receiving, punt return touchdown for what proved to be the winning score, and caught 7 of the 9 passes thrown his way. Lamar Miller also rushed for a solid 4.3 ypc (Miami not utilizing him at all last year is the single most confusing thing about the Dolphins to me in the past five years) and Osweiler played well enough to win. A performance like that won’t win against teams like the Steelers or Patriots, but it was enough against a still young Titans team. Mariota’s completion percentage was a poor 44%, and while DeMarco Murray had a good day running the ball, Mariota is still young and needs more. I’m surprised they didn’t utilize Derrick Henry at all- guy has potential and DeMarco Murray will break down. Either way, Houston is 3-1 and all other divisional opponents are 1-3, so Houston just needs to be decent and they can make the postseason. It wouldn’t shock me if a 7-9 NFC South team was a playoff team this year at all.
Oakland Raiders at Baltimore Ravens (-3.5)
The Pick: Baltimore 24, Oakland 20
The Final Score: Baltimore 27, Oakland 28
Everyone was wondering if Baltimore was for real- doesn’t look that way. Steve Smith had his usual monster day, but deep threat Mike Wallace against a very suspect Oakland secondary was held to only 44 yards on 4 catches with ten passes thrown his way. Carr threw 4 TDs, 3 to Crabtree, who had one of the best games of his career. Also, Oakland has only won one other East Coast game with a 1 PM start time since 2009- the Ravens had every chance to win this, and couldn’t get it done. Oakland’s running game was bottled up, the Oakland secondary did just enough to stay alive (the 50 yard TD pass to Steve Smith was a given), and Carr showed he can get it done in tight situations with a great late game drive to win with Crabtree’s third TD of the day. I still think Oakland needs one more year, but they have an outside shot at a wild card and will likely ruin another team’s postseason hopes.
Denver Broncos (-4) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Pick: Denver 20, Tampa Bay 13
The Final Score: Denver 27, Tampa 7
Once upon a time, I had a summer internship at the University of Florida. It was the summer before Tebow’s one season with my beloved Jets. I had to lie to basically everybody about how excited I was for Tebow the Jet. What does this have to do with Denver vs Tampa, you ask? Simple. It rained and stormed in the late afternoon nearly every day when I was down there. This is the second Tampa home game with a 4:00 start time that was delayed by lightning. Hell, their hockey team is called the Lightning (my too early Stanley Cup pick, but a topic for another day). Maybe schedule 1:00 games, Tampa. As for the game itself, I’m starting to think we should be worried about Famous Jameis. He only completed half his passes, threw two picks, and got no help from the run game sans Doug Martin- for a guy that was supposed to make the leap, I was hoping for more. Denver’s defense is fantastic, and I’m not shocked they won decisively, but I want to see more out of Jameis after he teased us with that outstanding week 1 performance against the Falcons, who I think are a good team. Doug Martin needs to get healthy quick. As for the Broncos, Lynch and Siemian looked to be more or less interchangeable (and neither of them are Mark Sanchez) and Demaryius Thomas had a great game- the Broncos are in good shape.
Dallas Cowboys (-2.5) at San Francisco 49ers
The Pick: Dallas 22, San Francisco 12
The Final Score: Dallas 24, San Francisco 17
Sorry, NFC East fans- the Cowboys are dangerous. While SF plays out of their mind on their opening MNF game then falls apart, the Cowboys keep rolling. Zeke Elliott looks like the player the Cowboys had hoped he’d be and Dak still hasn’t thrown a pick. Meanwhile, Gabbert is Gabbert, and he threw a pick to Morris Claiborne, who I thought had been cut. According to my Cowboy fan friends, he’s apparently good now, which is scary. Once again, those NFC East primetime games that are all over the schedule will be huge. SF gets to play a banged up and desperate Arizona team in a likely elimination game on Thursday.
New Orleans Saints at San Diego Chargers (-4)
The Pick: Chargers 34, Saints 28
The Final Score: Chargers 34, Saints 35
New Orleans’ defense steps up big in the final six minutes to get two huge turnovers leading to two Saints touchdowns. Obviously, just what I expected. San Diego was up 35-21 with 6 minutes to go and the ball, and according to ESPN Stats and Information had a 98.5% chance of a win, and manage to blow it. Emotional win for Brees in his first game in San Diego since leaving (the last Saints/Chargers game for which San Diego was the home team was in London) and I don’t know how San Diego keeps finding ways to blow it, up 21-3 against KC at the half week one, two lost fumbles leading to points and a pick to end this game, their defensive collapse against the Colts last week- they could easily be 4-0, but are 1-3 and need to take a long hard look at themselves to get back on track. Happy for Brees, who I keep pretending will end up a Jet somehow, and a huge win for the desperate Saints. Lastly, San Diego powder blue vs Saints white is another fantastic jersey matchup we were deprived of. Do better, uniform guys. Or just make powder blue the standard Chargers jersey.
Los Angeles Rams at Arizona Cardinals (-8)
The Pick: LA 23, Arizona 20
The Final Score: LA 17, Arizona 13
Called it. Arizona is rapidly approaching desperation- Palmer has a concussion and won’t play Thursday, I’m not sold on Drew Stanton, and they’re playing the 49ers which should be an easy win for them but without Palmer I’m not so sure. Poor Jared Goff- after their embarrassing 28-0 loss to SF in Week 1, the Rams are 3-1 and while they don’t look like a great team, they are winning games and trending away from the “7 and 9 bullshit” Jeff Fisher is so fond of. Hope Arizona can right the ship- maybe they have PTSD after the shellacking by Carolina in last year’s NFC Championship game- but they are trending south. The Rams have a knack for divisional games (they were 4-2 last year in the division) so they may shake things up for Seattle. Don’t expect them to be the best team in the league, but they aren’t as bad as we thought. They need to go back to the old gold and blue uniforms, though- those are beautiful.
Kansas City Chiefs at Pittsburgh Steelers (-5.5)
The Pick: Steelers 24, KC 23
The Final Score: Steelers 43, KC 14
Steelers have LeVeon Bell back, Antonio Brown went off, and the Steelers led 36-0 at the half. I bet we’ll look back on their 13-3 season and wonder what the hell happened in last week’s ass kicking at the hands of the Eagles. I never know what to make of KC – they crushed my Jets last week then got destroyed here- need more time and more divisional games to figure them out. The Steelers are a juggernaut and if not for their loss to Philly would get my vote as the best team in the league.
New York Giants at Minnesota Vikings (-5)
The Pick: Vikings 26, Giants 14
The Final Score: Vikings 24, Giants 10
Serious question – who has a better defense, Minnesota or the Broncos? If you count his 15-yard personal foul for being a knucklehead, Odell was worth 8 yards to the Giants. He needs to settle down, he’s hurting his team. I suppose when you’re 20 and do something amazing and all of America tells you how amazing you are nonstop for three years it gets to your head, but it wouldn’t shock me if players going up against him called Josh Norman for advice on how to get in his head- advice I’d bet Norman would happily provide. Giants were outclassed in all phases of the game, and Bradford continued to play well without Peterson. Cordarrelle Patterson showed up for a change, McKinnon played well in relief of Peterson, and the Giants might have some trouble in paradise with the headache Odell Beckham Jr. is giving them.
All lines from Vegas Sports Book
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