Saturday, September 23, 2017

NFL Week 3 Primer (With Picks): Adjustments To Be Made

Just what are we supposed to think of the Jags right now? Jeremy and Joe have some differing thoughts.
By Jeremy Conlin (@jeremy_conlin) and Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

So, we're two weeks in. Excluding Miami and Tampa Bay, we've seen every team in the league twice now (and, thank all that is holy, we've seen the Rams and 49ers three times), and we're at the point where we can start to really take some things seriously. After this weekend, we'll have some firm data. Once is maybe just a coincidence. Twice is a trend. Three times is pretty convincing.

The trouble comes when Weeks 1 and 2 looked totally different. Take Jacksonville, for example. They looked great on the road in Houston in Week 1, then looked like hot Chinatown garbage at home in Week 2 against the Titans. So which one is it? Jacksonville has obviously been pretty bad over the last handful of years. So does Week 2 mean more of the same? On the other hand, they're a young team with a lot of talent. So should we read more into Week 1? It's tough to say. Seeing how they stack up against Baltimore this week will tell us something for sure.

Where it helps is when both Week 1 and Week 2 either reinforce what we thought going into the season, or totally contradicts what we thought going into the season. Did we think the Jets were going to suck? Yes? Well, the good news is, they suck indeed.

Joe and Jeremy both thought Pittsburgh would be the 2nd-best team in the AFC, and through two weeks, they look pretty good. On the other hand, both of us had Arizona returning to form and winning 10+ games. Well, they looked terrible in Weeks 1 and 2 and barely pulled out a win against the hapless Colts. Jeremy thought the Chiefs and Raiders would regress, through four combined games, they've outscored their opponents by 57 points.

So it's time to maybe make a few adjustments. Take your pre-season picks and ask yourself what you've been wrong about. Then make the necessary adjustments.

Week 3 got underway Thursday night with a (surprisingly) wildly entertaining game. Both Jeremy and Joe had Los Angeles -2.5 (along with everyone else in the country, apparently), but were more than happy to be wrong. Let's get to the rest of the picks.

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

INDIANAPOLIS (+1.5) over Cleveland

JC: Really? We think the Colts are so bad that they're UNDERDOGS at HOME against CLEVELAND? Really? Yeah, I think the Colts are terrible, but they're not THIS terrible.

JP: Do. Not. Watch. This. Game.

CHICAGO (+7.5) over Pittsburgh

JC: Well, Atlanta couldn't cover a touchdown spread in Chicago in Week 1, so I'm not sold on Pittsburgh being able to do it either. From time to time, the Bears have actually vaguely resembled a professional football team. Giving up a touchdown at home seems a tad too high.

JP: Pittsburgh is 2-0, but the Steelers have been far from impressive. Chicago looked downright ugly last week, but I just can't pull the trigger on giving a touchdown with Pittsburgh on the road yet.

Miami (-6.5) over NEW YORK JETS

JC: This is a team that I'm totally comfortable laying a touchdown against at home. The Jets are just about the worst team we've seen in the better part of a decade. And, for their part, Miami actually looked pretty good in their opening game against the Chargers. The Jets have given up 370 rushing yards through two games, so Jay Ajayi should expect to have a solid afternoon.

JP: Jets be bad, mane. If Jay Cutler throws less than three picks, the Phins should roll.

Denver (-3) over BUFFALO

JC: Denver's defense is still top-notch. They thoroughly beat up a pretty good Dallas offense last week, and held an underrated Chargers' offense to under 250 total yards in Week 1. Buffalo's offense has been less than impressive, managing just three points last weekend in Carolina. I think Tyrod Taylor is better than most people give him credit for, but I don't think he fares very well against the Broncos here.

JP: I was totally in the Tyrod-isn't-terrible camp too, but he ain't making me look good this year. If he is gonna turn it around, it probably won't start against this secondary or this pass rush.

Houston (+14) over NEW ENGLAND

JC: Just my gut reaction, but I think the Patriots are too banged-up on offense to lay two touchdowns against a legitimately good defense. Sure, they put up 36 points last week and Brady looked as good as he ever has, but that's the Saints. Bill Belichick's record against rookie quarterbacks is exactly as good as you'd expect it to be (15-5 overall, 8-0 at home). That being said, this Houston team gave Tom Brady some degree of trouble last January in the playoffs, and that was a Patriots offense with a healthy core of wide receivers and offensive lineman and a Houston defense that didn't have J.J. Watt. Neither of those things are true this week. Obviously I'm rooting for a New England blowout, but I'm hedging my bets.

JP: I hate lines like this, but I'll go with Houston's ability to at least slow down Brady and the boys. But... Part of me could see Houston failing to sustain a drive all game, and the Pats winning 24-0 without totally breaking out. Who knows. Again, I hate lines like this.

CAROLINA (-5.5) over New Orleans

JC: Until further notice, I'm betting against the Saints. They're surrendering more than 10 yards per pass attempt. ATTEMPT. Every time their opponent throws the ball in the air, they average first-down yardage. Does that sound good to you? It doesn't sound good to me.

JP: Sean Payton is mailing it in, Drew Brees is just piling up stats on a bad team at this point. Seriously, the Saints are circling the drain right now.

PHILADELPHIA (-6.5) over New York Giants

JC: Like I'm saying with New Orleans, I'm betting against the Giants until further notice. The offense is terrible, and you can't just blame it on Odell Beckham being out of the lineup - the offensive line is horrific, and Eli looks like Bad Eli again. Philadelphia has looked pretty good through two weeks, so I'll ride them at home.

JP: It's true that the Giants offense is awful, and you don't need the Pythagorean Theorem to tell you that!

Seattle (+2.5) over TENNESSEE

JC: IT'S A TRAP. Tennessee is the New Trendy Sleeper Pick and Seattle is That Team That Used To Be Great But Looks Bad Now. Don't fall for it. Yes, Seattle's offense has looked like [vomit noises], but their defense has maintained their excellence and I still don't trust Tennessee's defense, or their receivers, or, really, anyone on the roster besides Marcus Mariota. Until the Titans realize that Derrick Henry should be their starting running back, I'm tempering my enthusiasm.

JP: Not gonna lie, I don't feel great about this pick, but yeah, maybe Tennessee is getting a little TOO much respect right now.

Cincinnati (+9.5) over GREEN BAY

JC: I can hear you already. You're saying "but Jeremy, aren't you betting against New Orleans site unseen because of their bad defense and the Giants site unseen because of their bad offense, and isn't Cincinnati's offense the worst unit in the league so far this season?" Yes. You're absolutely right about that. But the other side of the coin is that Cincinnati also has the No. 1 ranked pass defense so far this season. They've allowed 209 passing yards. Total. In two games. Sure, it's been against Baltimore and Houston, two bad aerial attacks. But against a Green Bay team with two injured tackles and two injured wide receivers, I just don't trust the Packers to cover a line this big.

JP: Sure.

Tampa Bay (-2.5) over MINNESOTA

JC: It looks like Sam Bradford is going to be out, so I'm taking Tampa Bay because they're starting a person at quarterback that isn't Case Keenum. Also, I have a Buffalo Nickel wager on Tampa Bay's defense being That Unit That Emerges As A Top-10-Or-Better Outfit And Everyone Kicks Themselves For Not Seeing It Coming come week 7 or 8. I don't totally trust Jameis Winston on the road yet, but I think Tampa just has too much talent to blow a game against, again, Case Keenum. I can't stress that part enough.

JP:  Crazy to think that there are still mixed reports on whether or not Sam Bradford will play, but I don't really care. Minnesota looked like hot garbage against a disinterested looking Steelers team last week, and my annual "this is the year Tampa Bay is good again" parade has begun.

Oakland (-3.5) over WASHINGTON

JC: Yeah, I think I was wrong about the Raiders. They've looked on point through two weeks. Of course, Week 2 comes with a grain of salt, considering they played the Jets at home, for sure the easiest win to be had in the league this year, but they took care of business on the road against the Titans Week 1, and Washington hasn't been as impressive as I originally thought coming into the season. The half-point scares me, but I'll trust Oakland for now.

JP: The entire AFC West is scaring the hell out of me right now. Maybe New England won't have the cake walk we all thought they would back to the Super Bowl and, with Pittsburgh and Baltimore looking pretty good, maybe the AFC playoffs will be (gasp) interesting again!

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

JC: JACKSONVILLE (+3.5) over Baltimore (London)

You know what? I'm buying this Jacksonville team. I'm not sure why. This Baltimore offense has been squarely in the "meh" category, and I like the talent that the Jaguars have on their defense. And sure, Baltimore's defense has looked good, but it's looked good against Cincinnati and Cleveland, two pretty miserable offensive teams. I think Jacksonville can get in done in London.

JP: Baltimore (-3.5) over JACKSONVILLE (London) 

You know what? You're wrong! Jacksonville's Week 1 performance had nothing to do with them. They were playing a team whose city was literally under water, and whose players had been spending the past week helping said city and worrying about their loved ones. The word distraction gets thrown around for stupid things like Odell Beckham hanging out on a boat, but this was a legitimate distraction.

Playing an NFL team that was actually thinking about football, Jacksonville again looked like garbage last week. If the last decade is any indication, that is who the Jaguars really are.

But, on a side note, I can I voice the unpopular opinion that I love these London games? It gives you something to watch early in the morning in a unique time slot and, since this one is being streamed on Yahoo, you can watch it on your phone in bed, or in the kitchen while you're cooking eggs.

So whatever, keep having these stupid games in London, at least they gave me a funky game to watch every few weeks while I'm brushing my teeth.

JC: Atlanta (-3) over DETROIT

Here's where I'm at with the Falcons: If they're indoors on turf, I'm willing to lay points. If they're outdoors on grass, I'm out. Their speed informs literally everything else they do as a football team, and they're just a different team depending on where they're playing. Luckily for them, they get two indoor road games this year, and they already picked up a win outdoors.

JP: DETROIT (+3) over Atlanta

Detroit is... Good? I don't know about that, but getting three at home isn't a bad place to be.

JC: LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (+3.5) over Kansas City

The Chargers have to win a close game eventually, right? Or, maybe at least cover one?

JP: Kansas City (-3.5) over LOS ANGELES CHARGERS 

Nah cuz, the Chiefs continue to ground and pound their way to convincing victories. This team is gonna go 13-3, and I can't wait to see how Andy Reid screws it up in the playoffs.

JC: Dallas (-3.5) over ARIZONA

Another scary half-point that I don't like giving up on the road, but Arizona has just looked so bad over the first two weeks that I'm really not comfortable taking them against a good team. Without David Johnson, Arizona has absolutely no backfield presence, and Carson Palmer is doing nothing but throw interceptions. It just doesn't make for a friendly combination.

JP: ARIZONA (+3.5) over Dallas

Does anybody else feel like things are about to go totally off the rails in Dallas? Nope. Just me? Oh well, both these teams have disappointed me, so I'll take the points and the team playing at home.

Jeremy's Record:
Last Week: 9-7
Season: 18-13
Last Week's Disagreements: 2-2
Season's Disagreements: 4-3

Joe's Record:
Last Week: 9-7
Season: 17-14
Last Week's Disagreements: 2-2
Season's Disagreements: 3-4

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