Completely did not have time to write up a preview of Jacksonville/Tennessee. I picked Jacksonville though, so I am starting out this week on a high note. This week has been filled with so many exciting things, and we have not even gotten to the NFL yet! Bryce won MVP, OSU lost, the Warriors are still winning, and there are many more. The NFL is sure to throw another twist at sports fans this weekend, and I hope it is in the form of a Bears victory. Not to say that is a crazy idea, but I feel like some football fans would be shocked if that happened.
As always, all stats come from ESPN or football outsiders unless otherwise noted.
Here is a crazy thought: Could the Colts be better with Hasselbeck than they were with a beat up Luck? It is possible. The Colts were not that bad with Hasselbeck in his one start this year, and this hurt version of Luck is a shell of himself. But I don’t think it will matter very much. the Falcons have lost three of their last four dating back to week 6, and are currently on a two game losing streak. The Falcons schedule is pretty easy down the stretch, and they could make a serious playoff push. As for this game, look for Devonta Freeman to attack the Colts below average run defense(bottom 12 in DVOA). Dan Quinn’s defense should be able to get some pressure on the QB, especially against the Colts offensive line. The Falcons should win this, as they are more in need of a win than the Colts.
If I had told you I would have been making this pick about 5 weeks ago, how long would you have sat here laughing at me? Twenty minutes? Thirty? Probably something in that range, and yet here we are. Unfortunately for the Bears, Peyton Manning is not playing in this game. Who would have thought someone would have ever said that over the course of Peyton Manning’s career. I will say, that if there was a secondary in which Brock Osweiler could show his stuff off against, this Chicago secondary is the one to do it against. The lack of an offensive push often puts pressure and wears down the vaunted Broncos defense. That is where Chicago can strike. This is a revenge game for John Fox and Jay Cutler. They both should really want to win this game even if they would never admit it publicly. Jeremy Langford has been a beast in the two games that he has started so far this year, and Alshon has been equally as unstoppable. The Broncos secondary has been able too shut many great receivers down this year, so it will be interesting to see if Alshon can continue to play well since finally recovering form his injury earlier in the season. I have no faith in Brock Osweiler to be able to deliver a victory for the Broncos. This may be a bit of a homer pick, but I am making it anyway! Give me the Bears!
The Cowboys were winless without Tony Romo, and I think that his return will be just the spark that this Cowboys team needed. The Dolphins have gone 1-2 since trouncing the Titans and the Texans under their new head coach. It turns out that this team still is not that good, but it is not terrible either. The Cowboys with Tony Romo have a much better team than the Dolphins do. He adds another element to their game. Teams now have to respect their passing attack, which should give the running game a bit more room to operate. Dez Bryant should also be doing backflips. The loss of Cameron Wake will really hurt the Dolphins’ ability to test how recovered Romo truly is. I think that the Cowboys barely squeak one out, but the return of Romo will be the difference for them.
The next few games follow a similar pattern: Team A, a team that is in contention for a playoff spot that needs all the wins it can get, vs. Team B, a team that is arguable one of the worst in the league. Hopefully, Derek Carr can show us what makes people believe that he has begun to turn the Raiders around. The Lions have been awful this season, but at least they beat Green Bay! Seriously, thank you Detroit! The Lions do not have a great pass defense, ranking as one of the worst five according to DVOA. Amari Cooper should be very excited to play this Sunday, and could be in store for a big day. I don’t want to waste to many words here, the Raiders are the better team and should win. However beware because I said the same thing about the Packers last weekend and we all know how that turned out.
This is another example of decent team going up against a bad team. I have no idea what happened to the Ravens this year(well, I have some ideas… but none that I’ll elaborate on, cough cough Trestman cough). The Rams are still 2 games out of the wildcard, but have some competition(Bears!Bears!Bears!). This is a must win for this Rams team. The weakness of the Ravens defense is their secondary, but the Rams QBs are just not good. Maybe Tavon Austin can get deep once and have a huge gain. They will yet again have to lean on Todd Gurley, which is not necessarily a bad thing. I think he continues his run of excellence this Sunday, with 150 yards. This Rams defense should be looking for a bounce-back performance after giving up 37 points last week. They should have that opportunity this week against Marc Trestman’s offense. The lack of imaginative play-calling should help the Rams(here is a hint: If it is third and long, there is a decent chance it will be a screen to Forsett. Thank me later St. Louis) The Rams are clearly the better team, and should come away with the victory.
The final part of decent teams vs. bad teams. Sure the Texans beat the Bengals last week, but they have just not been that good all season. The Jets have the secondary to contain and shut down DeAndre Hopkins, who will probably see a lot of Revis on Sunday. Their front seven should also be able to put a bunch of pressure on Brian Hoyer, who has actually had a decent season thus far. One interesting stat I found was that despite the fact that Houston has an average passing defense, they have been in the bottom ten in the league when it comes to defending opponents’ top two WRs. Things are looking up for Marshall and Decker. I think that the Jets defense will be the difference on Sunday and lead New York to victory.
Fun fact: Both of these teams are 4-5. Also fun fact: the Eagles are my eliminator pick because of the bye weeks, and it is that part of the season where options are limited. Really hoping Chip can pull one out Sunday. After starting slow, the Eagles have actually turned around their run game. Murray has actually been effective, but the Bucs have 4th best run defense in the league according to footballoutsiders. The Eagles will need to get the running game going if they want to win, as Mark Sanchez will be starting for them. On the positive side for the Eagles, they have had a pretty good defense so far this year(2nd in DVOA). They shold make it hard for Jameis and company to get anything going. This is what I think will allow the Eagles to pull this one out. I think the Eagles win a close one, but a W is a W no matter what
We all keep thinking that the Panthers will slip up at some point, but I doubt it will be this week. Washington will make it a fight though, they are better than people think. Washington has the 20th ranked rush defense according to DVOA, yet the Panthers have been one of the better teams running the ball this year. Jonathan Stewart is probably very happy to face them this weekend. I also think this is the game where Cam has a huge day on the ground. Washington’s run game has not been strong this year, and that should not change against a Panthers team that is 13th against the run. However, it will be interesting to see Kirk Cousins test that secondary of Carolina, which has been the 2nd best team at guarding the pass. The Washington air attack is ranked 10th, but a part of me wonders how much of that is due to the shredding of the awful Saints secondary from last week. Anyway, I think that Cousins will throw 2 picks, and that will be the difference in the game. The Panthers win, but only by one score.
Like Bill Simmons, I am not counting the Chiefs out in the AFC West until I get a look at Osweiler. The Chargers have the worst run defense, and C. West should be excited. The Chargers also do not have a good pass defense, their entire defense is just not good. Maclin and Kelce also should have the chance to have great days. For the Chargers, the Chiefs do a pretty good job at guarding tight ends and running backs, so Woodhead and Gates could play a limited role in this game. The Chargers have to rely on Rivers carrying the team, which he has done a pretty good job of doing this season. It would be nice to see them involve Melvin Gordon more, but their offensive line has not really allowed that too much this year. The Chiefs should be able to limit the effectiveness of the Chargers offense, and the Chargers defense should not be able to stop the Chiefs offense. Give me the Chiefs.
At some point, the Packers have to actually win a game right? Actually scratch that, I would be completely fine if the Packers lost the rest of their games. That being said, I think they win this week. The Vikings defense has been okay this year, DVOA is not a huge fan, and their secondary is not great at covering the opponents’ best WRs. They also rank 29th against the TE, so look for Richard Rodgers to have a decent day with a score. Aaron Rodgers at some point will have a statement game because, well, he is Aaron Rodgers and he needs to remind Packers fans to relax despite the three game losing streak. On the Vikings side of the ball, Stefon Diggs should have a good day as the Packers are one of the worst 10 teams at guarding the other team’s top WR. Adrian Peterson is obviously a beast, and the Packers aren’t great at stopping the run. He won’t get 150 yards, but 100 is not out of the question. As I said earlier, this should be a statement game for Rodgers, as I feel like this is the first time in a while the Packers have not been first in the NFC North. I’ll take the Packers
Don’t overthink this. Sure the Seahawks have not been that good this year compared to the last couple of years, but this SF team is not good. This needs to be a statement game from the Seahawks, a game where they need to come out and dominate from start to finish. If the legion of boom wants to get a little swagger back, facing Blaine Gabbert should be a nice treat(I have been burned by this before). The offense needs to put up at least 35 points, and even more would be really nice. Look, the 49ers are ranked dead last in DVOA, including ranked 30th in both offense and defense. Seattle on the other hand is in the top 5 for DVOA(somehow), and has a top 10 defense and their offense is ranked 11th. The Seahawks are far and away the better team, and should pick up the W Sunday
This is the game of the day. This is the NFC team that I like the most, versus an AFC team that a lot of people are starting to doubt because Dalton finally had a bad game. Look, Dalton has played well this year, but I don’t think he plays a good game against the Cardinals top five pass defense. The Cardinals do a great job at eliminating the tight end, so Tyler Eifert could be limited on Sunday. The Bengals run game is also not that good, so the Cardinals should have no problem shutting it down. For the Bengals, they also have a god defense, top 10 in both run and pass defense in terms of DVOA. The Bengals are not great at guarding the opposing teams’ top WR, so look for one of the Cardinals WR(my guess is Fitz) to have a good day. I think that Cardinals are the more complete team, and will show up on Sunday.
For the last few weeks I have said to not overthink it with the Patriots, and each week they seem to come closer to losing a game. They came close to losing to the Bills back in week 2, and this should be another close one again. The loss of Edelman hurts, but hey the Pats still have Brady and Gronk, and that is really all that matters. Sammy Watkins flashed some explosive talent against Revis, and the Patriots have been vulnerable to opposing teams top WRs despite having a good pass defense through 10 weeks. The Patriots are still the best team in the league, and will continue to be so until further notice. The injuries are starting too pile up, but this was the best offense in the league according to footballoutsiders, and they also have a top 10 defense. I think Tyro Taylor has a disappointing game Sunday, and that is what sinks the Bills and hands the Pats a 10 point victory.
Eliminator: Panthers, Seahawks, Rams, Jets, Patriots. Deeper: Eagles, Raiders
Not sure what my schedule will be for next week as I have a big speech to prepare for Monday, and will be going home late Tuesday night. At some point my review column should be out, and then an extended Thanksgiving Preview Piece by Wednesday Night/ Thursday morning. But that one revolves around my schedule when I get back home.
Ted Van Green(@TVG_5)
Spark Sports NFL Analyst