Friday, September 30, 2016

NFL Week 4 Primer (With Picks): Where Have All The Juggernauts Gone?

Drew Brees FINALLY returns to San Diego this week. It took Drew so long, they almost moved the damn team on him.
By Jeremy Conlin (@jeremy_conlin) and Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

What happened to all the dominant teams? Remember like, a year ago, when there were teams like New England, Cincinnati, Denver, Seattle, Carolina, and Arizona, who could kick ass, take names, and you felt totally comfortable laying anything under 10 points with any of those teams (unless they were playing each other)?

Where did they all go?

Entering this week, Cincinnati, Seattle, Carolina, and Arizona are a combined 3-9 against the spread. New England is 3-0 against the spread (somehow) and Denver is 3-0 against the spread (miraculously), but you get the sense that either one of them could falter at any time, given so many questions at quarterback.

Meanwhile, the Vikings, Eagles, and Ravens are a combined 9-0, and a combined 8-1 against the spread (according to the lines we've used in this space - if you use the closing Vegas lines, Baltimore technically covered their Week 2 win in Cleveland). We may be living in a world where either (a) the usual juggernauts don't exist, or (b) the juggernauts are teams that came completely and totally out of mother[expletive deleted]ing nowhere.

Last year was easy. You could just take those six teams and pretty much guarantee you'd go 4-2 or better. And if you were into teasers, you could throw pretty much any two or three of them, knock the spreads down by a touchdown or more, and feel totally safe. None of that exists this year. This year is going to be brutal. I, for one, am terrified.

Onto the preview/picks

Game(s) That Might Be Potentially Interesting

(With so many of last year's good teams stumbling, and so many of this year's "good" teams potential mirages, it's tough to genuinely call any games "Game of The Week" material, so we'll call them "Games That Might Be Potentially Interesting" for now)

Indianapolis at Jacksonville - in London (9:30 a.m. Sunday, CBS)

[expletive deleted] you, England.

Buffalo at New England (1:00 p.m. Sunday, CBS)

This is must-watch TV just to see who the hell the Patriots put back there at quarterback. My bet is that they sign Peyton Manning late Saturday evening just for the hell of it.

Carolina at Atlanta (1:00 p.m. Sunday, FOX)

Can Carolina get back on track? Or is Atlanta semi-legit? Both? Neither? We'll see.

Oakland at Baltimore (1:00 p.m. Sunday, CBS)

Both of these teams will be considered "good" until further notice. If the Patriots weren't potentially going to give Julian Edelman snaps at quarterback this week, this would be the 1 o'clock game to watch.

Kansas City at Pittsburgh (8:30 p.m. Sunday, NBC)

Both of these teams are good on paper and in theory. In practice, they haven't been as good. Whichever team figures it out first has the inside track for an AFC Playoff spot (which suddenly looks very competitive)

Here Are The Picks We Agree On (Home Teams In CAPS)

Miami (+8) over CINCINNATI

We're idiots.

JACKSONVILLE (+3) over Indianapolis

JC: Jacksonville is the nominal home team here, but it's neutral. Still, the Jags play a London game every year, so maybe the Brits have taken a liking to them. Although it's probably more likely that seeing the Jaguars every year has turned them off to the idea of American football altogether. But in this one, the Jacksonville offense will finally wake up against the garbage Colts' defense.

JP: Yeah, Jacksonville can't stop anybody, but neither can Indianapolis. I actually think this will be a pretty fun game, and could come down to the wire. Not sure who pulls it out in the end (althought the Jags are REALLY good at losing close games), so I'll just take the points and hope for the best.

WASHINGTON (-7.5) over Cleveland

JC: Washington's passing offense has actually looked decent so far this year, and they're one bad throw away from being 2-1. Cleveland, meanwhile, just can't get out of their own way, and they're starting Cody Kessler again.

JP: I was all set to pick the Browns, getting more than a touchdown, because they played Miami so close last week, and really should have beaten the Dolphins. Then I saw what Miami did last night...

NEW ENGLAND (-6) over Buffalo

JC: Because sure, why the hell not. I'm sure Fran Tarkenton will throw three touchdowns in the first half and then they'll bring back Drew Bledsoe for the second half.

JP: Really need Edelman to start at QB for my struggling fantasy team. I can still start him as my Flex, right?

Carolina (-3.5) over ATLANTA

JC: So, Atlanta has won their last two games, but given up 928 yards of offense in the process. Meanwhile, Carolina's offense has looked pretty bad at times, but how much of that has to do with playing Denver and Minnesota (only, you know, the two best defenses in football) for two of their first three games? Carolina is going to get going eventually, and it might as well be indoors against a porous defense.

JP: Atlanta is aight because they have two great backs and Julio Jones, but Jones may be hurt, and I'm not convinced that can slow, let alone stop, Cam Newton. Oh, and look for Kelvin Benjamin to bounce back with one of those 5 catch, 122 yard, three touchdown games. 

Detroit (-3) over CHICAGO

JC: The last time Chicago won at home against the Lions, the United States had just been attacked in Benghazi. That's how long ago that was.

JP: This line should be waaaaaaayyy bigger. Chicago is awful.

Tennessee (+5) over HOUSTON

JC: If you watch this game, we can't be friends anymore.

JP: With J.J. Watt out for an extended period, and Brock Osweiler playing like, well, Brock Osweiler, I see no reason to lay five with the Texans. Man, Denver is probably thrilled they let this guy go.

Dallas (-2.5) over SAN FRANCISCO

JC: I'm not quitting Chip Kelly, I just really like me some Dak Prescott. I think Dallas might be (potentially) really good. Their bizarre Week 1 notwithstanding, I don't think San Francisco can stop the run even a little bit. Dallas should be able to control clock here.


SAN DIEGO (-4) over New Orleans

JC: I haven't seen anything that would lead me to believe New Orleans can stop anybody, or anything that would lead me to believe that their offense is anything better than "pretty good" on the road. This one could get ugly.

JP: Did you know that the last time Drew Brees played in San Diego, he was a Charger? Yeah, it was that freaking long ago, way back in  2005, when his torn labrum in the final game of the regular season made it easier for San Diego to clear the way a young Phillip Rivers to start in 2006.

Since then, I think we can say both have had some success, with Brees making seven Pro Bowls, being named an All-Pro four times (3x 1st Team), and winning a Super Bowl in 2009. Rivers, was no slouch himself, being named to the Pro Bowl five times in that span, and having roughly 333 children.

What does this all mean? Nothing, really, I just thought it was crazy that this is Brees' 11th season in New Orleans, and the first time he's making his way back to San Diego to play that team that drafted him.

I mean, they almost moved the damn franchise on him it took so long. But yeah, I'll take the Chargers at home too.

Los Angeles (+7.5) over ARIZONA

JC: I'm going to float a hypothesis that Arizona's offensive line isn't good and it's tough for a vertical passing game to succeed when your quarterback spends most of the game on his backside. Arizona's run defense has also been unimpressive, so a recipe of Running Game + Pass Rush (which the Rams can most certainly put together) is probably trouble for the Cardinals.

JP: Stupid Cardinals were supposed to win the Super Bowl and make me a ton of money...

New York Giants (+5.5) over MINNESOTA

JC: Do you feel comfortable laying that many points with Sam Bradford? I certainly don't.

JP: Nah.

Here Are The Picks We Disagree On (Home Teams Still In CAPS)

JC: NEW YORK JETS (+2.5) over Seattle

Until I see the Seahawks play a real NFL game against a team that isn't the 49ers, I think I'm going to bet against them. If Russell Wilson is limited, Seattle's offense is going to look pretty ugly against a quietly-played-well-even-as-the-offense-literally-caked-their-underoos Jets' defense. Plus, it's not like the Jets are going to turn the ball over eight times AGAIN, right? Oh, their quarterback is still Ryan Fitzpatrick? Oh, well then I guess it's still possible. Maybe this is a mistake.

JP: Seattle (-2.5) over NEW YORK JETS

Methinks this is the week Seattle remembers how good it is on defense against the turnover prone Jets. I mean, it worked for Kansas City last week.

JC: BALTIMORE (-3) over Oakland

Baltimore's defense might be legit. Yeah, sure, they played Buffalo and Cleveland and Jacksonville, but they shut those terrible teams down, goddammit. Oakland's offense is similarly dubious - they lit up Atlanta and New Orleans, who couldn't do that? I'll ride with a dubious defense over a dubious offense, at least at home only giving a field goal.

JP: Oakland (+3) over BALTIMORE

This is the week we find out Baltimore is a total fraud, right?

JC: TAMPA BAY (+3.5) over Denver

Trevor Siemian actually looked pretty good last week, but I'm still going to bet against him, because I mean, come on, he's Trevor Siemian.

JP: Denver (-3.5) over TAMPA BAY

I'm all for betting against Trevor Siemian, and having irrational faith in the Bucs, but Denver's defense continues to dominate and, let's be real, the kid is doing exactly what he needs to do for Denver to keep winning. 

JC: PITTSBURGH (-5.5) over Kansas City

I wouldn't bet on Ben Roethlisberger throwing six interceptions. Also, Le'Veon Bell is back!

JP: Kansas City (+5.5) over PITTSBURGH

Ugh, Ben just hasn't looked good, really at any point this year. It's true, he's significantly better, and throws way fewer picks with Bell in the lineup, but the Steelers also came out of Philly with a bunch of injuries. Three of their four starting linebackers may be out on D, and they could be down a pair of linemen too.

Kansas City isn't amazing, but that defense showed it can take advantage of an offense that's pressing.

Jeremy's Record:
Last Week: 7-8-1
Season: 22-25-1
Last Week's Disagreements: 2-3
Season's Disagreements: 7-6

Joe's Record:
Last Week: 8-7-1
Season: 21-26-1
Last Week's Disagreements: 3-2
Season's Disagreements: 6-7

1 comment :

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