Saturday, October 14, 2017

NFL Week 6 Primer (With Picks): Still Confusing As All Hell

Is Ben Roethlisberger done? And, considering how flawed every other team is, does it matter?
By Jeremy Conlin (@jeremy_conlin) and Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

Quick, we're going to list eight teams, and you try to tell us what order they belong in, in terms of their average scoring margin so far this year. Ready? Here they are:

Patriots, Steelers, Raiders, Chiefs, Jaguars, Cowboys, Lions, Saints. Go.

Here's how they actually stack up, with their scoring margin and their overall league rank:

1. Jaguars (+11.2, 1st)
2. Chiefs (+10.6, 2nd)
3. Lions (+5.2, 6th)
4. Saints (+3.8, 9th)
5. Steelers (+2.0, 14th)
6. Patriots (+1.2, 15th)
7. Raiders (-0.2, 20th)
8. Cowboys (-1.4, 22nd)

How did you do? Probably nowhere close.

What the deuce is going on in the NFL this year? Outside of the Chiefs, are there any teams that are actually, you know, good?

If you were ranking all 32 teams on the scale of "if I had to bet my life on an NFL team to make the playoffs, I'd put them in this order," what would your list look like? Kansas City first, most likely, and then what? After last night, Philadelphia might be No. 2, and then maybe Atlanta? Green Bay? New England? Even all of those teams have serious flaws.

We feel like this has been a theme well-tread in this space over the last few weeks, so we promise we'll try to branch out in the coming weeks. But, like, while we're here, we might as well get our money's worth, right? Here are some crazy but confirmed facts about the 2017 NFL season, through five weeks:

1. The Jacksonville Jaguars have the league's best average scoring margin.
2. The New York Jets and New England Patriots have the same record (3-2).
3. The League's worst offense by any conceivable measure is the offense that features Jay Ajayi, Jarvis Landry, and DaVante Parker.
4. The Los Angeles Rams have the league's most efficient passing attack.
5. The Indianapolis Colts lead the NFL in rushing touchdowns.
6. There are five teams that have thrown six or more interceptions so far this season. Four of them play in the AFC North.
7. The Colts have the league's worst scoring margin, yet sit at 2-3, one game behind Jacksonville.
8. Alex Smith leads the league in QB Rating.
9. The Cleveland Browns are holding opponents to 2.9 yards per rush.
10. The New Orleans Saints have yet to commit a turnover this season.

What. Is. Going. On?

Last night got the Week 5 picks underway, and Joe once again storms out to the early lead, correctly backing Philadelphia as a three-point underdog. Jeremy continues to bet the wrong way in games involving Cam Newton, and is developing a savant-like consistency with it.

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

HOUSTON (-9.5) over Cleveland

JC: You can say whatever you want about Houston's defense (especially if you're saying it stinks, because it does), but Houston's offense has been fantastic lately. They're moving the ball efficiently in all phases of their offense, and even Lamar Miller looks like a worthwhile NFL running back. Life is going to be tough without J.J. Watt once again, but it shouldn't be too hard for the new rotation of guys to get their feet wet against a still-terrible Cleveland team.

JP: Cleveland is starting, roughly, its 3,125th quarterback since re-joining the league in 1999. I know, it seems like more.

New England Patriots (-9.5) over NEW YORK JETS

JC: The Patriots are kinda-sorta coming off a bye (they played last Thursday, so they've had extra time), and Bill Belichick is known for his teams playing well (a) following extra preparation and (b) when he's pissed off. Considering the team hasn't played up to expectations and has looked straight-up bad in four of their five games this season, it's safe to say that Belichick is pretty angry. This game is going to end one of two ways - either an all-out-ass-whoopin' by the Patriots (think, like, 42-10, or something), or an inexplicably close game that the Jets somehow win, followed by the Patriots cutting everyone on their roster not named Brady, White, and Hightower.

JP: It seems like every year the Jets play New England way closer than they should, and this would seem like the ideal spot for that game. But nah, the Patriots will roll by 28 as Belichick gets his defense on track and Tom Terrific really gets going.

ATLANTA (-12.5) over Miami

JC: There's a distinct possibility that Miami is the worst team in football but we just haven't realized it yet. Have you seen Jay Cutler? He's probably the worst quarterback in the league, and this is a league that also includes Mike Glennon, Brian Hoyer, and DeShone Kizer. He has 256 yards passing COMBINED over the last two weeks. At this point, the scouting report on Jay Cutler says "Pro: Arm Strength?" followed by the shrug emoji, and "Weakness: Giving a shit."

JP: Watching Jay Cutler play has been agonizing this year. The dude is clearly only there for the paycheck, not that I can blame him after the Dolphins were dumb enough to pony up. He's shying away from any kind of contact, and just surrendering in the pocket whenever he feels any pressure.

If I was Miami, I would cut my losses and bench/cut the guy. At least Matt Moore would be playing for his next contract. Cutler is going back home after this year.

Detroit (+4.5) over NEW ORLEANS

JC: The Saints have been rolling over the last few weeks, and it's probably for the best that they parted ways with Adrian Peterson, but I've just been more impressed with what Detroit has done over the last few weeks, especially on defense.

JP: Detroit is the more complete team, and they're getting the points, so...

Green Bay (-3) over MINNESOTA

JC: The Vikings are just a different team depending on who they have at quarterback. If Sam Bradford is healthy, they're good. If he's not, they're pretty average. He aggravated his knee injury on Monday night against the Bears, and isn't expected to play this weekend. With Case Keenum under center, the Vikings have had one good game (against the Bucs), and three bad ones. I'd expect another stinker, plus, if you take the Packers, you're betting on Aaron Rodgers playing indoors, which is always a strong play.

JP: At this point, I'll trust Aaron Rodgers to cover a field goal spread against anybody in the NFC.

San Francisco (+11) over WASHINGTON

JC: Wait a minute, Washington is getting so much respect that they're laying double-digits? Like, yeah, the 49ers are bad, but they've been in every single game they've played this season other than opening day. Their last two losses were in overtime on the road. Washington hasn't done anything this season except establish themselves as pretty average across the board. And now they're favored by a full 11 points? Am I missing something?

JP: Are we sure Washington is actually good? I mean, it seems like it might be pretty good, but 11 points is asking a lot.

Los Angeles Rams (+2.5) over JACKSONVILLE

JC: Both of these teams are good, apparently, but I don't trust either one of them any further than I could punt them. I'm taking the points and walking away.

JP: I like Jacksonville a lot, but LA is built stronger up front than Pittsburgh or Baltimore, so that means we'll have to see a lot more Blake Bortles. Given the way he's played this year, that's not a terrible thing, but I don't want to give points with it either, especially when LA has somehow become insanely efficient throwing the ball, and brutally effective running it.

Tampa Bay (-1.5) over ARIZONA

JC: I'm just going to bet against Arizona until the lines over-correct and it becomes ridiculous (if it happens). I just can't get over the fact that their two wins came against the Colts and the 49ers, both in overtime, and their total inability to run the ball in any capacity. This team has trainwreck written all over them.

JP: Tampa Bay is pretty good, and Arizona is pretty bad. This ain't rocket science. (fast forward to a 21-point Cardinal win)

KANSAS CITY (-4) over Pittsburgh

JC: Sure, the Steelers are better than their performance this past Sunday, as I wouldn't expect Ben Roethlisberger to go out and throw five more interceptions, but I can't imagine the Chiefs are the team that they want to be playing right now. The good news is, Pittsburgh's pass defense has looked legitimately good this year. Teams just haven't been able to throw against them. The bad news is, Pittsburgh's run defense has looked legitimately awful this year. They haven't been able to stop anybody. Chicago and Jacksonville both torched them, and now they're going up against The Next Great Running Back Kareem Hunt. So, probably not ideal for them.

JP: The Steelers have had the Chiefs' number recently, blowing them out in the regular season last year, and edging them in controversial fashion in the divisional round, but this feels different. Kansas City is, by every metric we have, the best team in football, and Pittsburgh just doesn't look like the same team it was last year offensively, primarily because Ben Roethlisberger looks over the hill.

DENVER (-12) over New York Giants

JC: THIS defense? Against THAT offense? Without maybe their THREE best receivers? I'm very excited. Jeremy needs new shorts.

JP: I have no positive things to say about the Giants at this point. How did they become the Jets?

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

JC: Chicago (+6.5) over BALTIMORE

Never underestimate Joe Flacco's ability to blow a winnable game against a team that has no business keeping it close.


I actually think Baltimore might just be good enough to mop up bad teams, and not good enough to hang with anybody above average. Look at what they did to Carr-less Oakland last week, compared to what they did against Jacksonville and (admittedly erratic) Pittsburgh.

Baltimore will take care of business at home against a bad team, because if they don't, there aren't many more wins out there for them. 

JC: Los Angeles Chargers (+2) over OAKLAND


JP: OAKLAND (-2) over Los Angeles Chargers

I'll admit that Oakland's performance without Derek Carr last week didn't exactly inspire me, but we really haven't disagreed on much, and I have a good track record betting against your man Phil.

Jeremy's Record:
Last Week: 6-7-1
Season: 35-41-1
Last Week's Disagreements: 2-2
Season's Disagreements: 9-13

Joe's Record:
Last Week: 7-6-1
Season: 41-35-1
Last Week's Disagreements: 3-1
Season's Disagreements: 14-8

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