Friday, September 14, 2018

NFL Week 2 Primer (With Picks): Commence Overreactions

Is Ryan Fitzpatrick starting a march to the MVP award, or might we be overreacting a bit?

By Jeremy Conlin (@jeremy_conlin) and Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

Everybody comes into Week 1 with some idea of what each team is going to look like. Invariably, some of those ideas conflict with the reality that we see on the field Week 1. And hence, we overreact.

The Lions suck! Matthew Stafford is washed up and Matt Patricia will be fired by Week 6!

The Ravens are the best team in the AFC! The Patriots' run is over!

Sam Darnold is the next great quarterback! The Jets will make the playoffs!

Tampa Bay has the best offense in the NFC! Take the over every week!

Well, here's where the confusing part comes in- Some of these over-reactions will turn out to actually be correct. Maybe Dallas does go 6-10 this year. Maybe Buffalo is actually the worst team in the league. Maybe the Jets and Browns are competitive this year for once. Maybe Pat Mahomes is just as good as Alex Smith, and the Chiefs will be just as good as they were last year. We just don't know.

In my experience (this is Jeremy talking here - hi friends), you're usually better off just ignoring (most of) what you see in Week 1 and sticking with (most of) your pre-season guns. Obviously, you have to take some things into account. Sam Darnold WAS way better than most people expected him to be, so I'll be more willing to bet on the Jets going forward. Kirk Cousins looked really good in Minnesota, so maybe they aren't the regression candidate I had in mind for the NFC. Deshaun Watson didn't look anything like he did last year, so maybe he's not fully recovered from his injury quite yet and maybe Houston isn't a sleeper AFC South team.

For the most part, though, it's better to keep a short memory. I'm not going to read much into performances on the extremes from teams like Baltimore, Detroit, Tampa Bay, and Washington. Those four teams, specifically, I thought looked substantially better or substantially worse than I had originally projected them to be. I'm going to keep those teams at an arm's length for now. If they keep it up, I'll obviously adjust.

Joe, on the other hand, is going all in on overreactions. Ryan Fitzpatrick is suddenly prime Peyton Manning? You bet your ass! Joe Flacco is now elite? I mean, when was he not? The Steelers and the Browns have the same chance of making the playoffs! Nathan Peterman is so bad he makes a playoff team from last year look like an FCS school playing Alabama? Of course, that dude is awful!

Ok, so all of those were sarcastic, except the Peterman thing. Seriously, the start of his career is about as bad as it gets.

As for how we did Week 1, we went 5-4-1 on our 10 agreements, but Joe jumped out to a big early lead on disagreements, winning 5 out of 6. However, historically speaking, Week 2 has been Jeremy's best week (he once went 14-1-1 Against the Spread - it was pretty cool). Here are the Week 2 Picks.

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

Baltimore (-1) over CINCINNATI

JC: Baltimore was probably the most impressive team of Week 1, while Cincinnati was perhaps the least impressive team among the eight teams that actually won. Sure, they won on the road, but they were behind in total yards, first downs, and pretty much every relevant category except for, well, points. If I'm buying stock in one of these teams, it's going to be the Ravens.

JP: I actually didn't pick this game before kickoff, but I totally would have taken Baltimore at only -1. I know me.

Carolina (+5.5) over ATLANTA

JC: Carolina's defense looked pretty stellar on Sunday, and Atlanta's offense sputtered over and over again in the Red Zone on opening night. If this game is won with field goals and defense, that suits Carolina's gameplan much better than Atlanta's. Carolina was able to grind out a lot of yards and churn through clock against Dallas, and Atlanta struggled against the run against Philadelphia, so that matchup should tilt in Carolina's favor as well. 

JP: Gimme the points, Cam Newton and a stellar D.

Los Angeles Chargers (-7.5) over BUFFALO

JC: I am perfectly willing to react properly to the Bills losing by 40 points last week. Yes, I understand that they aren't starting Nathan Peterman at quarterback anymore (a good move, considering his passer rating was a solid 0.0 last week), but the mere fact that Sean McDermott has chosen to start Peterman, twice, in the last year or so, both times on purpose - is by itself a fire-able offense. Hue Jackson is 1-31-1 over the last two-plus seasons and I'm not sure he's even the worst coach in the AFC. I'm perfectly willing to bet against the Bills every week this year.

JP: Man, I bet Buffalo is glad it ran Tyrod Taylor out of town now, eh?

NEW YORK JETS (-3) over Miami

JC: Alright, I'll buy into the Jets for a week or two. Sam Darnold looked legitimately good, the defense and special teams looked on point, and their skill position players aren't a laughingstock for once (Isaiah Crowell and Robby Anderson are, like, actually good at football). I'm not sure how long I'm on the train, but only giving a field goal at home against a mediocre team? I'll take that. 

JP: Man, it's been a while since I've been so low on the Dolphins (even when coming off a win), and so high on the Jets. I'm going to regret this...

Philadelphia (-3) over TAMPA BAY

JC: I'm going to go out on a limb and say that Ryan Fitzpatrick isn't going to put up 48 against the Eagles defense this week. Yes, Nick Foles and the Philadelphia offense looked pretty bad, but I don't think they're going to need too many points to win this game. Earler in the week, Tampa Bay was getting the extra half-point at home, which gave me pause, but an even three makes this an easy pick. I still like the Eagles here.

JP: Yeah, I don't see him going for 48 again, but I do like Fitz in this offense, and Tampa Bay has a really nice collection of skill talent. Still, the Eagles defense is no joke, and I trust Foles to get into rhythm... At some point.

Cleveland (+9) over NEW ORLEANS

JC: If the Saints defense looks anything like it did last week, then Cleveland should have no problem covering nine points. Cleveland looked lost at times offensively, but they were able to produce big plays, especially with Tyrod Taylor scrambling. On defense, they forced six turnovers, which seems like a recipe for keeping an otherwise lopsided game reasonably close.

JP: Dammit, I hate this line. On one hand, I know Cleveland isn't actually any good (they were down 21-7 before two Pittsburgh turnovers got them back in the game... And that was after 4 Pittsburgh turnovers earlier), and New Orleans isn't as bad as it looked last week. But asking for more than a TD with the ways the Saints' D looks right now is a lot... Yeah, I gotta take the points and pull for my man Tyrod.

LOS ANGELES RAMS (-13) over Arizona

JC: Woof. Arizona is lucky that the Bills are a team, otherwise I'd spend the next 45 minutes ranting about how bad they looked on Sunday. They did stone nothing on offense and what seems to be a pretty mediocre Washington offense generated over 400 total yards in one of the easiest wins I've ever seen. The Rams should be able to do whatever they please against the Cardinals here. I normally hate taking huge favorites like this so early in the season, but if I had to pick right now, I'd say that the Rams are the best team in the NFC (maybe the league), and Arizona is almost certainly the worst team in the NFC (and maybe the league). 

JP: I have a feeling the Rams are just going to be housing people all year, and given how awful Arizona looked last week, I might take LA if this line was 3 or 4 points higher.

SAN FRANCISCO (-6) over Detroit

JC: Well, something's gotta give here. Both of these teams looked pretty bad in Week 1, but Detroit certainly looked worse (and they looked bad at home, while the 49ers looked bad on the road, slightly more defensible). As weird as it sounds, I think I trust Jimmy Garoppolo and Kyle Shanahan more than I trust Matthew Stafford and Matt Patricia (I have to bone a former Patriot here one way or the other), especially after a few reports that Detroit veterans are already pushing back against Patricia's abrasive coaching style. If Patricia succeeds as a head coach, it feels like it'll be after he cleans house and finds his guys that buy in rather than right away. I'm fading Detroit for at least this weeks and then re-evaluating. 

JP: No way Handsome Jimmy lays two stinkers in a row, right? If there was ever a defense to get back on track against, this Detroit unit looks to be it.

New England (-1) over JACKSONVILLE

JC: The Patriots had a rather routine win over Houston - it didn't look easy, but it didn't look particularly hard, either. The Patriots are still the class of the AFC, for the umpteenth year in a row, and as good as Jacksonville's defense is, I'm not sure I trust their offense with Leonard Fournette's status still unknown as of Thursday morning. New England's defense certainly projects to be better than they were at the end of last year (if for no other reason than Donta Hightower is back in the lineup), so I'm not sure how many points you can reasonably expect the Jaguars to score here. 

JP: Jacksonville looked meh on offense again, and I trust that the Pats will do enough to slow down their ground game and put things in Blake Bortles' hands.

DENVER (-6) over Oakland

JC: I'll continue to fade Oakland and slowly start to trust Case Keenum more and more until it stops feeling weird. I just don't quite understand the Keenum thing. He sets effectively every Division I NCAA passing record in the books, then is snubbed on draft day, gets waived by the team that picks him up, bounces around practice squads, and then peaks in the NFL as a 29 year old? Really? Is he the dude that lit up defenses in college (throwing for 5000 yards in three seasons - only one who has ever done that) and looked great last year, or is he the dude that bounced around the league for a half-dozen years like the crappy gift at a Yankee Swap? For all of last year I was leaning towards the latter, but maybe he's actually good. Who knows?

JP: Boo Gruden! Go back to Corona commercials!

New York Giants (+3) over DALLAS

JC: In losing efforts, I thought the Giants looked slightly better. Saquon Barkley and Odell Beckham are certainly playmakers, and they made things happen against a really good Jacksonville defense. Dallas, on the other hand, looked pretty helpless on offense. Both of their defenses looked fine, so I'll roll with what I think is a slightly better team getting a few points here. 

JP: I never know which way these Cowboys-Giants games will go but, like Jeremy said, New York seems to have more play makers, and Dallas just seems to have lost its mojo.

Seattle (+3.5) over CHICAGO

JC: Vegas thinks Chicago is better than Seattle? Really? I get that Seattle missed the playoffs last year and seem to still have some glaring holes, but their defense still has a ton of talent and Chicago is still, well, Chicago. I'm almost able to talk myself into it just by picturing what Khalil Mack might be able to do against Seattle's offensive line (I mean, Denver shellacked Russell Wilson last week), but a still-pretty-good Seattle team getting more than a field goal against a still-pretty-underwhelming Chicago team in what might be a must-win game (I certainly wouldn't want to start 0-2 in this NFC)? I'm all over it.

JP: Chicago may end up being better than Seattle by season's end, but right now I'll trust the team with the star QB and playoff experience.

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

JC: Indianapolis (+6) over WASHINGTON

I think Arizona is bad more than I think Washington is good. Sure, Washington won on the road (and looked good doing it) while Indianapolis lost at home (and looked pretty medium), but I think these teams are roughly even, which makes me want to just grab the points, especially when I get Andrew Luck in the process.

JP: WASHINGTON (-6) over Indianapolis

I guess put me in the camp that thinks Alex Smith is actually pretty good, and doesn't trust the Colts (including Luck) at all. Oh, and I auto-drafted half of Washington's offense in one of my fantasy leagues, so I need a big day.

JC: PITTSBURGH (-4) over Kansas City

For some reason, the Steelers have struggled against the Browns over the last two years, especially in Cleveland. They tied, embarrassingly, last week. They barely escaped with a win in Week 1 of last season. Then in Weeks 17 of both last year and the year before, they won by a field goal (needing overtime in 2016). Sure, all of their relevant starters were on the bench because they had already clinched a playoff berth, but my point is not to overreact to the Steelers struggling against the Browns. They're going to be fine, especially at home. The Chargers were able to move the ball pretty well against the Chiefs last week, so I expect the Steelers to be able to as well.

JP: Kansas City (+4) over PITTSBURGH

I tried, Pittsburgh, I really did. I tried to pick you early in the year, even though every fiber of my being told me Roethlisberger was gonna be rusty as old nails, and that the Browns find weird ways to stay in games against the Steelers. Now you're giving four against Swag Mahomes? Nah dog, that's a no from me.

JC: TENNESSEE (+1) over Houston

Both of these teams looked worse in Week 1 than I was anticipating. Injuries are mostly to blame. Deshaun Watson just didn't look like himself - I have to imagine he's still not 100 percent. Meanwhile, Tennessee lost Marcus Mariota, Delanie Walker, and Taylor Lewan (only their three best offensive players) during Sunday's game. Mariota is likely to play here, but Lewan is questionable and Walker is on IR and done for the season. Still, the Titans getting points at home in a game that is otherwise pretty up in the air is enough for me to take them.

JP: Houston (-1) over TENNESSEE

I feel like I can't overstate this enough: Marcus Mariota is awful. Watson and Watt will be much better in Week 2 (and Watt never plays well in New England) for Houston, while banged up Tennessee doesn't seem to have much upside.

JC: GREEN BAY (Pick'em) over Minnesota

On one hand, it's a gimpy quarterback against one of the best defenses in recent NFL history. On the other hand, it's Aaron Rodgers against a team that I still suspect is going to be enough worse than they were last year that it counts as appreciable regression.

JP: Minnesota (Pick'em) over GREEN BAY

As much as Aaron Rodgers won that game last week, let's be honest: The Bears lost it. Now, I know we're back at Lambeau, but that place doesn't have quite the aura it once did. Mitch Trubisky had no problem building a big lead there last week, and now you're giving me Minnesota's weapons and defense? I love Rodgers, but the Vikings are just better everywhere else.

Jeremy's Record:
Last Week: 6-9-1
Last Week's Disagreements: 1-5
Last Year: 128-115-13

Joe's Record: 
Last Week: 10-5-1
Last Week's Disagreements: 5-1
Last Year: 126-117-13

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