Friday, September 15, 2017

NFL Week 2 Primer (With Picks): Do. Not. Overreact.

No way Sam Bradford and the Vikings light it up again, right?...
By Jeremy Conlin (@jeremy_conlin) and Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

Week 1 is officially in the books, as is the the traditional Week 2 Thursday rock fight between two teams nobody really wants to see that badly, and we're ready to move on to what we think we learned from Week 1.

Here's the rub, though - we didn't really learn anything from Week 1. Did anything we saw really drastically change our opinions on any given team? Sure, Cleveland and Chicago looked like competent football teams, but that's bound to happen. Atlanta and New England didn't look as impressive as they looked last January, but again, are we thinking about writing them off? Of course not.

Don't over-react to Week 1. Just don't do it. Otherwise you end up buying way too high on a team like the Rams (who might in fact suck and just happen to have played one of the few teams worse than them) or selling way too low on a team like the Giants (who may look pretty bad until Odell Beckham comes back and then proceed to torch everyone in their path).

Like we both said last week, if you actually did your homework coming into the season, your initial evaluation of a team is probably going to be far more accurate than the first real life impression you saw from Week 1. If you went into the season thinking the Jaguars were going to suck, don't let Week 1 dissuade you - they played a miserable offensive team that was just coming off of a natural disaster throwing body blows at their home city. They were understandably flat and not-that-great-at-anything.

Conversely, if you came into the season thinking the Redskins were the best team in the NFC East, don't worry - maybe Philadelphia is better than we thought, and Washington just needs a few weeks to figure out all of the moving pieces involved in their offense and they'll start clicking by Week 4.

Just keep plugging away.

So, stick with your guns. Joe and Jeremy both stuck with their guns (their guns that said Cincinnati's offense might fall apart after losing their two best offensive lineman and now into Year 2 of Not Having A Competent Wide Receiver Opposite A.J. Green) and took home a win Thursday night. The Bengals were giving 6 points at home against a still-pretty-good Houston defense, which would involve them, you know, actually scoring at least six points. That seemed like a tall order (and it turned out to be), so both Joe and Jeremy start Week 2 with a winning record.

[Ed. Note - Joe and I just text each other our Thursday picks. We need to get into a better habit of posting them to Twitter or somewhere else public - for nothing else but posterity's sake. -Jeremy]

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

Houston (+6) over CINCINNATI

See above.

Tennessee (-1.5) over JACKSONVILLE

JC: I'm still riding Tennessee this year until it really blows up in my face. All things considered, they didn't look bad at all against Oakland - they just couldn't cash in on a few long drives and had to settle for short field goals (once from the 5-yard line, once from the 8-yard line). Tennessee was one of the better red zone teams in the league last year, so just slightly better execution makes that a totally different game. Similarly, I'm not sure how much credit to give to a Jacksonville team that, on paper, blew out a bad Houston team, but in reality just beat up on an atrocious quarterback and only managed 280 yards of total offense themselves. They didn't really do much. I'll stick with the Titans.

JP: In the spirit of not over-reacting, I'll go with the Titans, but Jacksonville looked far better than I anticipated, even considering what their opponent was dealing with (not sure how Houston got up for that game at all). Still, the Titans were my pick to win this division preseason, and they open up AFC South play with a win.

BALTIMORE (-8) over Cleveland

JC: Cleveland looked like an NFL team on Sunday, at the very least, which can only be seen as a step forward from a year ago. But playing at home against Pittsburgh (a quietly shaky road team over the last handful of years) is totally different than playing at Baltimore (one of the best home teams in football over the last decade). Baltimore is coming off an all-out whoopin' of Cincinnati where their defense looked top notch. I expect a repeat performance.

JP: Baltimore is going to make a living murdering bad teams. The Ravens' defense is healthy and good again, which should make the race at the top of the AFC North very interesting... Like it always is, come to think of it.

New England (-6.5) over NEW ORLEANS

JC: You want to bet against Bill Belichick, coming off a loss, against a team with serious questions at pretty much every position besides quarterback? Good luck with that.

JP: Yeah, we should totally count out the Patriots. BRADY IS DONE, I TELL YA!

Arizona (-7) over INDIANAPOLIS

JC: One scenario in which it's okay to over-react to Week 1: when a team's best player gets hurt and their entire season becomes a question-mark. Look, I get it. David Johnson was probably the first pick in your fantasy draft, and for good reason. But let's not forget that this is the same Arizona team that turned a 30-year old Chris Johnson into a viable starting NFL running back in 2015. They still have depth at the position, and they're playing against a team that just lost by six touchdowns. I think they'll be fine.

JP: This pick is totally about Indy for me. The Colts are bad. Like, real bad. Like, I knew Andrew Luck masked a lot of their flaws, but holy hell do I now have even more respect for that guy.

Philadelphia (+6) over KANSAS CITY

JC: This is me not over-reacting to Week 1. I still think the NFC East is good and I still think Kansas City could be, well, not as good. I don't think Alex Smith throwing 70-yard bombs is going to happen every week. Philadelphia's defensive front should control the line of scrimmage and control the game.

JP: Look, Kansas City impressed me last week, but do I really think they're going to be able to push around this defensive line the way they did New England's last week? Probably not, and six points is a lot to give after one great performance. 

Chicago (+7) over TAMPA BAY

JC: Obviously, we haven't seen Tampa Bay yet, so I'm reverting to my pre-season prognosis, which is a resounding "meh." Meanwhile, Chicago looked vaguely frisky against Atlanta, and their defense looked, actually, pretty good. They were one busted coverage and a few missed tackles on Austin Hooper's long touchdown from maybe winning that game. I do think Tampa Bay is better than Chicago, but I'm not laying a touchdown without seeing them play football first.

JP: Another line that is just too big for comfort, especially considering the Bears didn't look terrible in Week 1, and the Bucs are opening their season. 

OAKLAND (-13.5) over New York Jets

JC: Less than two touchdowns? Sign me up.

JP: Geez, Vegas really wants you to take the points this week.

Washington (+3) over LOS ANGELES RAMS

JC: Again, let's not overreact to Week 1. If Indianapolis is the worst team in the league (definitely possible) and Philadelphia is on their way to a 12-4 season (also certainly possible), then Week 1 starts to look a lot more reasonable. I still think Washington is good, and I still think the NFC West is not, so I'm more than happy to put a field goal in my back pocket for this one.

JP: I don't believe in the Rams, but I am nervous about this pick, because holy hell did Kirk Cousins look terrible last week. I'll chalk that up to Philly's pass rush rattling him, but LA's only strength may be it's DL... But yeah, still gotta go with Washington. 

San Francisco (+14) over SEATTLE

JC: I'm not even sure Seattle can score 14 points given the state of their offensive line. They ran 18 times for 90 yards on Sunday, which looks nice until you realize 59 of those yards came on two plays. If you aren't a math major, that means the remaining 16 rushes accrued a grand total of 31 yards. San Francisco's defense looked competent against Carolina, and they've spent a ton of draft capital on their front seven over the last few years. Look for a low-scoring game, and I'd also look for Seattle to have a hard time covering a spread half this size.

JP: Too many points to pass up.

Green Bay (+3) over ATLANTA

JC: Plain and simple - I think Green Bay is the best team in the NFC, and I think Atlanta is taking a few steps backwards (their vague stumbles against Chicago being the first indicator). Also, this allows me to bring up one of my favorite pet stats - Aaron Rodgers' career numbers when he plays indoors. A Passer Rating north of 111, nearly a 5-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio, and a yards-per-attempt rate almost a full yard higher than when he plays outdoors. Look for a shootout that Rodgers will win.

JP: Atlanta looked less than impressive last week, and I think Aaron Rodgers begins his MVP campaign this week. 

NEW YORK GIANTS (-3) over Detroit

JC: Signs are pointing towards Beckham suiting up in this one, but I retain my right to change my pick up until kickoff time if Beckham rides the bench again [Ed. Note: Jeremy did change his pick last Sunday night once news broke that Beckham wouldn't play, so his official record will show a correct pick of Cowboys over Giants for Week 1]. If Beckham plays, I'd expect the Giants to have a lot more explosiveness in their offense, and I'm still not ready to buy stock in this Detroit defense.

JP: I think the Giants are going to be better than people think, but mostly because of their defense. That said, the difference in this one, as Jeremy said, will likely be whether or not OBJ plays.

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

JC: CAROLINA (-7) over Buffalo

I wasn't overly impressed with Carolina last week, but they got the job done against a bad team, and their defense looked to be on the right page. Buffalo took down the Jets last week, but, it was the Jets. Carolina's front seven should be much more equipped to corral Buffalo's rushing attack than the Jets.

JP: Buffalo (+7) over CAROLINA

Is Buffalo really bad enough to be giving 7 against someone other than New England (or anybody, at this point)? Tyrod Taylor may be the most underappreciated quarterback in football, and Buffalo should be able to make some hay in the running game with Shady McCoy.

JC: DENVER (+2.5) over Dallas

Sure, Dallas took the Giants out to the woodshed on Sunday night, but that was a Giants team without their best offensive player. As you've likely heard, the Giants played over 90 percent of their offensive snaps last year in "11" personnel (1 tight end, 1 running back, 3 wide receivers). If all of a sudden their best receiver is out and their second-best receiver is new to the team, there just isn't a lot of continuity in the passing game (and it showed). So am I surprised that Dallas won the game easily? Of course not. So am I that impressed by Dallas in general? Not really. You're giving me two and a half points, with Denver's defense, at home? Yeah, I think that sounds good.

JP: Dallas (-2.5) over DENVER

Denver's defense has been impressive the past few years, but the Broncos have actually struggled against the run (28th in the league last year at over 2,000 yards surrendered), while Dallas was the best team in football at slowing down opposing ground attacks. Since I doubt Trevor Siemian turns into Peyton Manning overnight, this come probably comes down to C.J. Anderson vs a great run defense, and Zeke against a bad run defense. For the sake of my pick, and my fantasy team, I'm hoping Zeke takes the W.

JC: PITTSBURGH (-5.5) over Minnesota

I'd like to see what Minnesota's offense looks like against a team that hasn't finished 30th or worse in total defense every year since Dwight Eisenhower was President. Call me crazy, but I don't see the Vikings putting up 470 yards of offense every week.

JP: Minnesota (+5.5) over PITTSBURGH

I think it's gonna take a few weeks before we really see this Steelers offense click. They're experimenting with four wide sets, and Le'Veon Bell looks like a dude who hasn't played football since January because, well, he hasn't. Pittsburgh's defense is improved, but it still isn't a vintage Pittsburgh D, so I think Minnesota hangs around, and maybe steal this one.

JC: LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (-3.5) over Miami

The Chargers looked really good in the second half against Denver on Monday night, and that was against maybe the best defense in the league. They'll likely have an easier time against this Miami team, and I wouldn't expect Jay Cutler to come out like gangbusters against a Los Angeles secondary that looked pretty strong in Week 1.

JP: Miami (+3.5) over LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

South Florida could really use a win right now, and I think the Dolphins deliver in a half-empty stadium on the road.

Jeremy's Record:
Week 1: 9-6
Week 1 Disagreements: 2-1
Last Season: 121-127-8

Joe's Record:
Week 1: 8-7
Week 1 Disagreements: 1-2
Last Season: 127-121-8

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