That is the number of QBs who have thrown more interceptions than Jay Cutler this year. There is a fun stat for you from this year. Another one? Both Blake Bortles and Ryan Fitzpatrick are in the top ten for touchdown passes this year. Oh you want to hear more funs stats? Brian Hoyer is in the top ten in the league in terms of quarterback rating.
Todd Gurley is already 4th in the league in rushing yards despite only really playing in five games this year. He is also averaging 16 more yards per game than any other back in the league. Smaller sample size? Sure, but he has still been incredible. Yeah, he is that good. Also impressive is that Chris Johnson, yes that Chris Johnson, is 3rd in the league in rushing yards. Devonta Freeman also is the only runningback with more than 6 touchdowns. That is surprising to me, but there is plenty of time left in the season.
It is always fun to find stats like that. One more: Antonio Brown is one of two receivers that has 1,000 yards receiving this year. Why is that surprising? Brown had three games this year without Big Ben where he had very down games. That just shows the brilliance of Brown, who is one of the best receivers in the league.
I missed my TNF pick, but the Jets made it close at the end. Probably should have put more faith in Tyrod Taylor and in the storyline of the Rex Ryan revenge game. Whatever, life moves on. My picks have not been hot lately, but I have a feeling that it will turn around this week. There are actually some intriguing games this week, with plenty of matchups that actually have significance of some sort, not necessarily for the playoffs though. Lets get to the picks!
I really want to pick the Bears here, but the possibility that they could be without their top two receivers and Matt Forte on Sunday make me scared to pick them. The Rams are also 3-1 at home this year, meanwhile the Bears are 0-5 against 0-5 against the NFC this year. That’s right, all three of the Bears wins have come against the AFC West(watch out Broncos!). DVOA also has the Bears as the 2nd worst team when it comes to run defense this year. That is not a good omen as Todd Gurley will be the back the Bears have to stop. Lucky for the Bears the Rams passing game has no bite at all. They do have to be careful with Tavon Austin, as he has burned the Bears in years past. As much as it pains me to do it, I have to go against the Bears if they will missing a lot of their top offensive skill position players.
It honestly looks like the Browns could have already packed it in for this season. At this point they need to evaluate the young players on their roster to see what needs they have to address in free agency and the draft, and they should be getting a pick in the top 10. The Steelers need to win this game in order to keep pace in the Wild Card race, even if they have to do without Big Ben. They still have DeAngelo Williams and Antonio Brown, so Landry Jones won’t be completely left out to dry. The Steelers just need to win this game more, they will have the urgency and get the job done against Cleveland
The Cowboys have not won since Tony Romo went down. They REALLY need to win this game if they want to have any slim hopes of being in striking distance of the NFC east title in a week or two when Romo comes back. Dallas has Dez back which is going to make life much easier for whomever ends up playing QB for Dallas(probably Cassel). The Buccaneers rank in the bottom ten in the league in terms of stopping the pass according to DVOA. They are tougher against the run, but Darren McFadden has looked particularly good this year(its funny to think that). If jameis can cut the turnovers down then he should be able to keep his team in the game for a while. I think Dallas wins because Dez will improve the QB play, and they just really need to win this game.
Really? Do I have to explain this one? Fine, I’ll make it quick. The Packers have lost their last two games, have Aaron Rodgers, and people are now doubting the Packers. If they are not destroying the Lions by halftime of this game, something might actually be wrong with this Green Bay team. Take the Packers and don’t think twice.
Another easy one, but not as easy as Packers/Lions. The Panther have come off two huge games in which they got wins in both. that is amazing for them, but they could have an emotional let down for this game. Obviously I still believe that they are going to win, but expect this game to be closer than we think, perhaps the Titans could even stick around for a half. however, the Titans do have a putrid rush defense, so look for a big day from Jonathan Stewart. The Panthers defense, while not elite, is still pretty good. It should be able to get pressure on Mariota and force some turnovers. The Panthers should win this one by a touchdown or two, but don’t expect them to come out of the gate firing.
The Dolphins looked really good under their new coach for their first two games… but those were against the Titans and the Texans. Those are two of the worst teams in the league, so it turns out that the dolphins might actually still not be good. The Eagles are also still only a half game back of the Giants for the lead in the NFC East, and need to get a win before the Cowboys get back to full strength. Philly has quietly had one of the league’s better defenses this year. The Dolphins offense, which looks better recently, will still have struggles moving the ball. Tannehill took a step back this year, after making some promising strides last year. I also feel like we are due for a game from Sam Bradford where he looks surprisingly decent, and I believe that this is that game. The Dolphins rank 25th against the pass in DVOA, giving Bradford a shot at decency on Sunday.
This was a tough one. Neither team is that good. I took the Saints just because I trust Brees more than Cousins. It should be a field day for quarterbacks. Football outsiders has the Saints as the worst passing defense in the league, and has Washington ranks 21st. Cousins could actually have a nice day, and could be a good streaming option in fantasy. Neither team has a great defense, but at least the Saints have a decent offense. Mark Ingram has helped them have a good rushing attack, and Drew Brees has come back the last few games to show he might not be completely done yet. I am taking the Saints just because I think they have the better offense, and that will matter in this shootout.
This is a game I have gone back and forth a couple of times on. Let’s make the case for both teams.
Case for the Ravens: They are playing in Baltimore. They have had an embarrassing season by their standards. They have also been a play or two away from winning nearly all of their games this year. Football outsiders pegs their estimated wins at 4, two more than they currently have. They also have a lot of pride as a franchise. You will never catch this team tanking. They are pissed off, at home, and want to win this game.
Case for the Jaguars: they have actually been decent this year, and are within striking range of the AFC south crown(just like every other team in that division) with Luck out. Also you know who has been alright this year? Blake Bortles, he is 18th in QBR. Last year he was 43rd. There are only 32 teams in the league. That means that there were ten teams last year that had both their starters and backups have a higher QBR than Blake Bortles. Bortles has some decent weapons this year, and his offensive line is not porous.
Overall, I have really been impressed with Bortles, and I think this is statement game for the Jaguars. I don’t feel great about it, but give me Jacksonville.
This is a game that probably did not look too interesting before the season started. That is why they play the games though. Both of these teams are in a pretty good position to make the playoffs this year. Each needs to win this game to keep pace, and the Vikings will probably need to win to stay in a tie for first in the NFC North. Bridgewater will play for the Vikings after being cleared to play. But he has not been good as we thought he would be in the preseason. The QB that has exceeded expectations for this season is the one matched up against Bridgewater on Saturday. The Raiders passing attack is ranked 4th by football outsiders, thanks in large part to Carr and star rookie Amari Cooper. He was touted in April as a NFL ready prospect, and he has looked the part through 9 weeks. Him and Crabtree, who has revitalized his career in Oakland, make a pretty good WR duo. The Vikings will need a way to slow them down, along with L. Murray who has had a good season as well. The Raiders appear to be the better team of this duo, and I will be taking them in this game.
Don’t overthink this one. The Broncos could have won last week, but Talib basically sealed the deal for the Colts last week. This Broncos defense is still the best in the league, and they get to face the Chiefs offense this week which is without Jamaal Charles. The Broncos have one of the best pass defenses in the league, and should not have that hard of a time shutting down Maclin and Kelce. On the flip side, the Chiefs have an average defense. If the Broncos can keep their defense on the field, they should be able to wear them down and break them. Peyton Manning is a smart enough QB mentally to eventually pick apart the Broncos defense. The Broncos should be able to easily win this game.
Like Bill Simmons, this is not a gimme game for the Pats like it has been in previous weeks. The Giants have always played the Pats well… for whatever reason. The Pats offensive line has some holes in it, and JPP did not look bad last Sunday in his season debut. This will also be their first game without Dion Lewis, who suffered a torn ACL last week. I am not that concerned about this because Belichick always seems to get the most out of his RBs. For all we know, Blount is about to have 1000 yards and 10 tds in the next 7 games. Gronk is always a looking factor in these Pats games, and he is a big part of why I think the Pats will win. Another is the Pats defense, which has come on strong over the last couple of weeks. Belichick loves to take away the opponents’ strength, so look for OBJ to have a slow day, well slow for his standards. This could be the toughest game for the Patriots so far, but they are just too good. They will emerge victorious on Sunday.
The Cardinals have not been that good the last couple weeks, nearly losing to the Ravens, and they were down 13 to the Browns in the first half of that game. The Seahawks also have a habit of turning it on over the second half of their season. Is it really that crazy to believe that the Seahawks could win their division? The Cardinals have faded recently, and do you really trust Nick Foles to lead the Rams? If the Seahawks can string together a couple wins they could be right back in the hunt. The biggest concern for the Seahawks is that their offensive line. It has not been great this year, and the Cardinals could be able to get pressure on Wilson. However, another reason that I think the Seahawks could win has to deal with Marshawn Lynch. He always seems to have a great game against the Cardinals historically, and he has not really had a great game yet this season. Give me the Seahawks, who will win behind a strong showing from Lynch.
This is another example of don’t overthink this. The Texans are a bad team, and have been without Foster for the last few games. The Bengals have been on a tear, and the Texans will not be putting a stop to that. The Texans are ranked 30th in overall in DVOA. The Bengals have been one of the most effective offensive teams this year, and could get a chance to flex their rushing game against the Texans weaker run defense. Again, don’t overthink this, take the Bengals.
Best eliminator picks: Bengals, Panthers, Packers, Broncos, and Patriots(be careful). Deeper pick: Eagles, Giants(this would be gutsy, but not all that crazy. I won’t be making this pick. more of an “if you’re desperate).
Stay tuned tomorrow, for a potential bonus column.
Ted Van Green(@TVG_5)
Spark Sports NFL Analyst