So for the better part of the last week I was ready to make the editorial part of this piece about which 0-2 teams that I believe will actually end up in the playoffs despite the tough odds(Seattle, Indy, and Baltimore).However, on Wednesday and Thursday, I noticed a slew of these types of articles around the web, and decided to go a different route. So this week will be picks as always(although I am tinkering with it), then I am going to look at some interesting statistical trends in the NFL through the first two weeks and try and figure out if I think they can continue.
Raiders over Browns. Man this is tough. Raiders are going to the east coast(well to that time-zone at least), and they have one of the best defenses in the NFL. The Browns have looked good, against the Jets and Titans. When unsure, take the better QB, and his name is Derek Carr.
Colts over Titans. An 0-2 Colts team has a great chance to get their first win of the season on Sunday against Tennessee. Mariota has shown a lot of promise so far, but he is no Andrew Luck. Speaking of Mr. Luck, I’ll set the over/under on his passing TDs Sunday at 3.5, and take the over.
Steelers over Rams. Fantasy owners rejoice! LeVeon Bell is back. Meanwhile the Rams continue to confuse me. They beat the Seahawks, then could not even manage to beat the Redskins. Watch for the Steelers offense to wear the Rams down slowly.
Chargers over Vikings. Melvin Gordon break out watch. Also, Rivers is on pace for a career year so far. Sure it is only a small sample size, but he has completed over 80% of his passes. Is he among the league leaders in INTs? Shhhh.
Patriots over Jaguars. Do I need to explain this one… NO? good. Oh, one quick thing: While I wouldn’t bet on it, but it would be a total Belichick move to just run the ball and not have Brady throw it this game. But this is Brady’s
huge middle finger revenge to Goodell by continuing to look unbeatable.
Panthers over Saints. No Drew Brees is going to spell trouble. Anyone trust Luke McCown? Anyone besides the guy in the Saints jersey? Didn’t think so. Look for Cam Newton to air it out as the saints have one of the worst passing defenses so far this year.
Jets over Eagles. Man I really want to believe in the Eagles at some point this year. It totally has nothing to do with the large amounts of Sam Bradford and Nelson Agholor stock I have for fantasy at all(please I just needyou to be average Bradford!). Chip has always been able to run the ball, but he needs to get this OL in order. The Jets defense meanwhile has been one of the best in the league so far. They have also been able to force turnovers at a crazy rate. Give me the Jets until I see signs of life in Philly.
Buccaneers over Texans. This is another game that I don’t feel great about. Neither of these teams have a good offense, and do not have great defenses. At the end of the day, I just hate the Texans offense. Nothing makes me excited, or makes me think that they could give Houston an advantage(I am not sure what they are getting from DeAndre Hopkins this week). Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson could be those kind of guys, and Doug Martin could also be serviceable. If Jameis can play well, Tampa will emerge victorious.
Cardinals over 49ers. Arizona so far is first in offensive DVOA, and is in the top 10 in terms of defensive DVOA(DVOA is explained here if you do not know what it is). Carson Palmer has played very well so far, and is 15-2 over his last two starts. Their defense should once again be able to limit what Carlos Hyde can do on the ground. Give me Arizona.
Buffalo over Miami. I’m riding the Tyrod Taylor bandwagon! Alll he needs to be is a game manager, and if he can do that the Bills will be very hard to beat this year. Their defense can improve, but I have faith that they will be able to do that. I am still a little bitter about the Dolphins losing to the Jaguars, so that could be tainting this pick.
Seattle over Chicago. I don’t want to talk about this one. Taking off my fan cap, and looking at this objectively, this game will not be close. Seattle is going to win big. In one of my picks groups(yahoo), I have to pick which team I think is going to score the least amount of points in a given week. The Bears are my choice this week. Read more of my Thursday week preview for more on my thoughts for this game, it depresses me to talk about a little.
Broncos over Lions. Peyton Manning sure did not look as old in the second half when he was allowed to run more of his offense. Of course will he get to run his offense this week? Of course not because Kubiak thinks that Manning should not run what makes Manning most comfortable. Enjoy killing Peyton Gary Kubiak!
Packers over Chiefs. Give me Aaron Rodgers at home on Monday Night. The Green Bay offense has bee clicking on all cylinders so far this year, and the addition of James Jones has really helped Rodgers. He has already caught three TDs this year, but whether or not this will be continued is to be seen. As much as it pains me to say this, no one can deny that Rodgers is the greatest QB alive, and arguably the best football player.
Now let’s look at some interesting trends that have developed over the first two weeks of the season(all stats are from ESPN or footballoutsiders.com). Yes I know that the sample size is small, but it is what we have to work with. Some of these will be trends that I believe will continue, others will be trends that I think won’t make it to midseason, while others could be trends that just confuse the hell out of me. So without a doubt, here we go:
The Arizona Cardinals’ offense ranks 1st in offensive DVOA.
This is a trend that would have astounded people if you had told them that in the preseason. The Cardinals rank first in footballoutsiders.com passing offense rankings, and 5th in their rushing rankings. The passing game has been incredible, highlighting just how valuable Carson Palmer has been to them. Peter King wrote before the season that Palmer could be the league’s most indispensable quarterback. So far this year, it looks like other quarterbacks are more indispensable to me(Rodgers, big ben, brady), but it does not look like Mr. King was that far off. Palmer has a great group of guys to throw the ball to. Larry Fitzgerald appears to still have something left in the tank, while John Brown and Michael Floyd are also great receivers. The rushing game has been good, and David Johnson looks like he could be a good back one day in the league.
But as to the question of whether this trend will continue? Sorry Cardinals fans, but I just can’t see their offense to remain as the team with the highest offensive DVOA. The Cardinals first two games came against the Saints and Bears, both teams do not have particularly strong defenses so far this year(the Saints rank 29th in defensive DVOA and the Bears rank dead last). Once the Cardinals start to face NFC West and AFC North opponents, their offense should not look as unstoppable. While the Cardinals could end the year with a top 10 offense, they will not be the best offense in the NFL, at least when it comes to DVOA.
Seattle Seahawks are among the worst 5 defenses in the league in defensive DVOA
Some might say that this one is cheating, but I don’t. The Seattle defense has not looked like it’s typical self so far this season. Against the Rams and the Packers, the Seahawks have given up a total of 61 points, they allowed. In 2013, it took them 5 weeks before they had allowed over 61 points on the season. To be fair, not having Kam Chancellor did hurt, but he is not the whole problem. In 2014 they allowed the least passing yards per game, and the third least rushing yards per game. So far, they rank 21st in passing yards allowed per game, and 15th in rushing yards allowed per game.
Obviously I have my doubts that this trend will continue because Seattle has been very good in years past at developing talent. It will be interesting to see where they stand in a few weeks because they get Kam back and they will not be playing an offense on the level of the Packers again this season, except for when they play the Steelers. This Seahawks team has been getting sacks and so far has two interceptions, the results will fall into place. Sometimes it just takes a while, like longer than two weeks. By the end of the season, the Seahawks should be a top ten defense in DVOA.
The Broncos currently rank 31st in offensive DVOA
Now after watching the Broncos so far, this stat does not necessarily surprise me. Their offense has not really looked great, and their offensive line is going to get Peyton killed. However, what does shock me is that Kubiak refuses to let Manning run his own offense. This is a trend that I really think will be reversed, but I have absolutely no confidence in that prediction(I almost did something with the Eagles for this, but I think that they are even more unpredictable). Kubiak said they were going to run the ball more this year, but with how poor the offensive line has been, football outsiders believes that they have had the worst rushing offense in the league(for what its worth, they rank 29th in the league in YPG).
The line problems have also not given Manning much time to throw, which has definitely contributed to some of his wobbly throws. Manning is, in all likelihood, no longer the qb that he once was. But arguably half the teams in the league would love to have Peyton on their teams right now. He is still surrounded by a great group of receivers who can help him out a lot.
Somehow, Kubiak and his coaches need to find a way to keep Manning up, if you have not guessed by now I would let Mannign run some the shotgun. If they can do that, this should be a top 15 offense. If they can not, well then they should rise up in DVOA a little bit, just as some abnormalities from the first two games correct themselves, they could be one of the worst ten offenses in the league in DVOA.
as always, follow me on twitter @TVG_5
Ted Van Green
Spark Sports NFL Analyst