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Still Experimenting?

The New England Patriots escaped with a 38-31 win over the Chicago Bears last Sunday.  That much we know.  And when we consider the circumstances (the week after a big win against conference leader Kansas City, road game, no Gronk, unfamiliar team from the other conference, with that team having played fairly well thus far this year, Sony Michel going down early, etc.), maybe no one should get worked up over how close the game was, how sloppy the Pats were or how bad the Pats defense looked (again)?

Maybe.

But one thing is hard to overlook.  As the schedule heads into November, the Patriots have historically “turned on the jets”, so to speak.  We all know how Bill Belichick & Company treat September as the proverbial “extended preseason”.  Then in October, they ramp things up and by the time November rolls around, they generally have become a well-oiled machine.  They look like a completely different team than the one that showed up in September.

Does anyone feel that way with this team?  The defense in particular?  The offense has been pretty damn good the last month or so, despite more interceptions than usual from Tom Brady.  And some fumbles.  And now heading into next week’s game against Buffalo with just James White and Kenjon Barner (who?) at running back.

But that defense…sigh…once again, there were opposing players running wide open all over the field.  As bad as Mitchell Trubisky was, he still threw for 333 yards to go along with his 81 rushing yards…including that ridiculous touchdown run where he ran like 60 yards on the field but like 8 yards on “paper”.  Ridiculous meaning the Pats should have dropped him for like a 20-yard loss.

The linebackers are slow and the big guys up front don’t seem to be getting to the quarterback and if they do, they can’t bring him down.  The secondary?  Yikes!  If they are trying to bring back Devin McCourty to his rookie year when he was a Pro Bowl cornerback and have him cover people now…welp, THAT ain’t workin’.  J.C. Jackson is getting some snaps…is that a good thing?  Not sure.  But he can’t be worse than Eric Rowe, Jonathan Jones and Jason McCourty though, right?  I guess we shouldn’t worry, Duke Dawson has started practicing and is coming back soon!!

All kidding aside, this defense has given up a boatload of points this year and looks…bad.  So my question, are the Pats still experimenting and it’s taking longer than anyone would have hoped and thought?  Maybe we get a decent defense in December now and we just have to wait a little bit?

My guess?  Nope.  Maybe these players are not any good.  Maybe guys like Dont’a Hightower, Devin McCourty and perhaps Patrick Chung are past their prime,  Adrian Clayborn sure is.  Maybe the young kids can play at some point.  But the ones that actually play do not seem ready (Jackson, Derek Rivers, Jones, Keionta Davis…and perhaps Deatrich Wise, though he appears to be injured).  I don’t know what happened to Malcom Brown.

What usually happens is that all of these guys fill a role.  Most of the defense is comprised of actual role players.  But they usually mesh better…and quicker.  I don’t get the feeling that things will continue to get better the rest of the year.  Not even to the recent years’ standards of “bend but don’t break”.   I’ve been wrong before, but they are running out of time…

Miami at Houston (-7.5)

The Texans have rebounded from their 0-3 start to win 4 straight and take over first place in the AFC North standings.  That may be more a reflection on how bad Jacksonville has been.  And how mediocre the division appears to be overall.  So seven weeks into the season, we still really don’t know how Houston is as a team.  Deshaun Watson does not appear to be all the way back.  But maybe the defense and running game can carry this squad until he is.  Then, they may actually become…dangerous.

I can tell you that the Miami Dolphins aren’t any good.  I know, they have the same record as the Texans.  I just have zero faith in Brock Osweiler…and Ryan Tannehill, if and when he comes back.  It also seems mystifying that the team is giving a young Kenyan Drake fewer carries than 153-year-old Frank Gore.  It should also be troubling to ‘Phins fans that Albert Wilson and Danny Amendola have the top two receiving yard totals on the team.  I know, Wilson is hurt now too.  Those guys may be decent receivers and good to have as part of the overall unit.  But they shouldn’t be leading ANY team in yards.

Houston 27, Miami 17.

Week (against the spread):  8-6

Week (straight up):  10-4

Season (against the spread):  54-53

Season (straight up):  66-41

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Logjam…

…in the AFC.  Normally, this space is where the Blowhard would comment on the most recent New England Patriots game.  However, despite the 43-40 win against the previously undefeated Kansas City Chiefs and all the good (and bad) that came from it, we have not actually seen the game.

WHAAAAAAAAAT???!!

Yup, but we had a good reason…attending Game Two of the Boston Red Sox game against the Houston Astros at Fenway Park that very same night.  Aaaaaand…haven’t had the chance to watch the replay or highlights or anything else.

I know…pathetic.  But…

So we can really only give some very generic thoughts here.  And of course, we will do that!!

Here’s the summary:

The Patriots defense stinks.

Done.

Other than that…one thing to note about the KC/NE game is that it just tightened up the race for the top.  If the Chiefs won that game, they would be 6-0 and two games up on everyone else in the conference.  The Pats would be 3-3 and in the middle of a slew of other teams in the AFC.

Now?  Nope.  Not only are the Chiefs 5-1 and the Pats right behind them at 4-2 (with of course the tiebreaker).  But the Los Angeles Chargers, Miami Dolphins, Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens are also 4-2.  The Steelers have rebounded to 3-2-1.  And the Jets (?!), Titans, Texans (?!) and the Jaguars are still in the mix at 3-3.

Yes, it appears that teams like the Jets, Texans and Dolphins are fraud teams.  Probably the Titans too.  But…this is the NFL.  So I guess you never know.

The Ravens appear to be the only team in the NFL to have some semblance of a defense.  But they haven’t exactly played the iron of the league as of yet.  No one else seems to be able to stop anyone.  Guess that makes sense.  Why?  No one can touch the quarterback anymore.  Nor the receivers.  Now we have this ridiculous roughing the passer rules.  “Can’t put your whole body weight on the QB…”  What the F does that mean?  And what the hell happened to the Jaguars.  THEY were supposed to have an elite defense.  Guess not.

I don’t even know where I am going with this.  Just needed to write something I guess.

Let’s just say this:  The Patriots may well still be the cream of the crop in the AFC, despite the fact that their defense is atrocious.  That’s what it kind of all comes down to.

As for the start of Week Seven:

Denver (-2.5) at Arizona

One may have thought that the continuously putrid Thursday Night Football games over the years may have finally turned a corner with the exciting Week 4 matchup between the Vikings and Rams.  Maybe even the Week 3 tilt between the Browns and Jets, where Baker Mayfield introduced himself to the world.  Nope.  Pats/Indy in Week 5 and Eagles/Giants in Week 6 followed.  Now we have this mess.  I bet the Broncos are glad they gave all that money to Case Keenum now.  Plus the coaching hire of Vance Joseph seems to be working out great.  That all being said…

Denver 27, Arizona 16.

Week (against the spread):  9-6

Week (straight up):  11-4

Season (against the spread):  46-47

Season (straight up):  56-37

Week Five…

…jam-packed personal schedule this past week = speed round:

Tennessee (-3.5) at Buffalo

Starting off with a bang here.  Despite wins against two good teams in the Eagles and Jaguars, I am still not buying the Titans.  Buffalo at home?  What the hell!!

Buffalo 17, Tennessee 16.

New York Giants at Carolina (-7.5)

Carolina had an early bye, the G-Men wish they did too.

Carolina 31, New York Giants 17.

Miami at Cincinnati (-6.5) 

The fraudulent Dolphins were exposed last week in New England.  That criminal Vontaze Burfict is back.  Plus, the Bengals have been lighting up the scoreboard.

Cincinnati 34, Miami 24.

Jacksonville at Kansas City (-3.5)

Should be a good one.  KC has been scoring a ton of points, but probably should have lost last Monday night to Denver.  Jax has a stout D.  Who wins this battle?  Even though the game is at KC, feel like the Jags make a statement here.  Even though Jax’ offense seems to be still quite suspect, the Chiefs are still giving up a boatload of points.

Jacksonville 24, Kansas City 20.

Atlanta at Pittsburgh (-3.5)

The Falcons were in the Super Bowl two years ago?

Pittsburgh 38, Atlanta 24.

Denver at New York Jets (-1.5)

JETS, JETS, JETS, J-E-T-S!!!  Nope…

Denver 24, New York Jets 13.

Green Bay (-1.5) at Detroit

Check out this post, courtesy of Rotoworld, from earlier this week:

“Coach Mike McCarthy singled out rookie Marquez Valdes-Scantling as the next man up at receiver should Randall Cobb (hamstring) and Geronimo Allison (concussion) sit Week 5 against the Lions.  McCarthy said he has “great confidence” in the other rookie WRs J’Mon Moore and Equanimeous St. Brown, but Valdes-Scantling will “have a role” and was named by the coach. It’s been pretty clear through four weeks fifth-rounder Valdes-Scantling is ahead of the other two rookies. MVS played 54-of-76 snaps last week as the starting slot man, catching a 38-yard pass on three targets. He’ll be in line for a bigger role if Cobb and Allison are unable to play.”
There are some quality names on that Packer wide receiver depth chart, no?  I’m rooting for Equanimeous to get something done this week.  Against Matty Patricia, that is entirely possible.

Green Bay 34, Detroit 20.

Baltimore (-3.5) at Cleveland 

Baker Mayfield certainly adds some excitement to the Browns…and perhaps the NFL as a whole.  But the feeling here is that it may be a little tougher sledding this week against the Ravens.

Baltimore 31, Cleveland 17.

Oakland at Los Angeles Chargers (-5.5) 

Both defenses stink.  Chargers should get it done.  That’s really all I have.

Los Angeles Chargers 37, Oakland 31.

Los Angeles Rams (-7.5) at Seattle 

The Rams have looked invincible.  Seattle has looked…average.  With Seattle at home here, another shot in the dark…

Seattle 27, Los Angeles Rams 24.  

Arizona at San Francisco (-4.5) 

The Niners may be without Jimmy G and are now 1-3.  But the Cards have scored 37 points in 4 games thus far.  Think about that for a second.

San Francisco 31, Arizona 10.

Minnesota at Philadelphia (-3.5)

Both teams have seemingly underachieved to this point.  The Vikes showed some life last week, while Philly seems to be still finding their way.  Possibly in part to getting Carson Wentz back in the flow.  Either way, this may not be a good one, but an interesting one, nonetheless.

Philadelphia 27, Minnesota 24.  

Dallas at Houston (-3.5)  

On the flip side, I’m completely uninterested in this one.

Houston 24, Dallas 20.

Washington at New Orleans (-6.5)

The Saints are 3-1, though they have been fairly unimpressive, to be honest.  Mark Ingram is back, for whatever that is worth.  Drew Brees will likely set the all-time NFL passing yardage record.  That’s nice.  The ‘Skins had an early week off.  Maybe that helps, maybe it doesn’t.  New Orleans is at home, sure, but the spread seems a little high.

New Orleans 31, Washington 27.

Week (against the spread):  1-0

Week (straight up):  1-0

Season (against the spread):  31-33

Season (straight up):  38-26

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