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Week Sixteen…

…welp…we’ve heard it all about the New England Patriots this week.  2 bad losses in a row.  Uncharacteristic mistakes, stupid penalties…and a lot of them, drops, dumb interceptions, bad coaching/play calling, no offense, miscommunication, etc.

And then…Josh Gordon.

I’m not sure we need to rehash all of it.

We are just not used to seeing this kind of stuff in New England during the Bill Belichick/Tom Brady era.  Not often anyway.  People point to 2009.  Sure, there was some dysfunction there, as we learned in later years.  But at least Brady was on board back then.

Wait, he’s not on board now?  Yeah, I suppose he probably is overall.  But we all have to acknowledge that this year’s Brady is a different Brady.  For a few reasons.  But mentally he appears to be a great deal different.  Thanks Gisele…and Alex.

On top of that?  Key players are old and most assuredly hurt.  Brady is 41.  We’ve said it here time and time again:  never know when the end comes when you are talking 40-year-old quarterbacks.  Actually, they are usually done before that age.  Now, Brady has had a decent year, make no mistake about it.  He has had subpar talent to throw to as well.  But he’s nowhere near the MVP form of last season.  And the dumb interception at the goal line against Pittsburgh, combined with taking the sack at the end of the first half against Miami, just defies logic.  Plus, I don’t think there is any question he is hurt.  That doesn’t help.

Rob Gronkowski is clearly not the same guy either.  Obviously.  That’s not necessarily age.  But he is most definitely battling something…or many things.  Plus maybe all the hits have taken their toll.

Julian Edelman has been ok as well.  But I believe he is hurt as well.  And the drops.  Wow.  Some bad ones.

Having those three dudes at (much?) less than what they normally give you, for whatever reason, can certainly impact an offense.

And now, no Gordon.  Surprised?  Shouldn’t be.  I’m not.  But he was becoming a good piece.  Now we have to look forward to more Phillip Dorsett.  Yippee!!  At least Brady may go back to throwing to Chris Hogan when he is wide open…which according to people who watch film has been quite often actually.

One thing that hasn’t been talked about (at least from what I have seen) is the run defense.  Yes, it has been talked about.  But not in the way I am going to talk about it.  My opinion is that, at least in the Pittsburgh game, Bill didn’t care if the Steelers ran all over us with their 3rd and 4th string running backs.  He wanted to minimize the damage done by Antonio Brown and Juju Smith Schuster.  By having a thin D-Line and dime defense all game.  And they did minimize damage.  They had a combined 8 catches for 89 yards.

What happened to pointing to Bill taking away the guy(s) that are going to hurt you and letting the other guys beat you?  He did EXACTLY that.  The Steelers scored 17 points.

With the Pats, that should be more than enough to win.  Unfortunately, as noted above, the offense is simply not the same.  THAT’S the problem.  NOT the fact that Danny Shelton was a healthy scratch.  He’s apparently sucked the whole year anyway.

So the Patriots now return home to face the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets.  They should roll over those guys like a combined 75-10, go 11-5, win the AFC East and even sneak back into the #2 seed in the conference, once Houston loses to Philadelphia tomorrow.  The Pats yahoos will all be back on board and start proclaiming a Super Bowl run is now in the cards.

Will the Blowhard be on that same train?

Not really.

BUT…the NFL is WIDE open right now.  Kansas City, New Orleans and the Los Angeles Rams were juggernauts the first part of the season.  But the Chiefs have looked pedestrian in recent weeks and lost Kareem Hunt, a big part of their offense.  Their defense stinks.  The Rams have looked bad two weeks in a row and now Todd Gurley is hurt.  The Saints aren’t scaring anyone lately and Drew Brees has been average at best.

The Los Angeles Chargers and Chicago Bears are now everyone’s darlings.  But does anyone trust the Chargers in the playoffs?  And the Bears and Trubisky?  I don’t think so.

Houston?  Hahahahaha!!

Seattle was getting some nice momentum but threw up a stinker last week.  Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Dallas, Minnesota, Tennessee?  Meh.

Indianapolis may be the hottest team in the league right now.  But they are also not even IN the playoffs right now either.

Philadelphia?  Don’t rule it out.  Maybe the Eagles and Nick Foles ARE going to do it again.

It’ll be an interesting ride, that’s for sure.

Washington at Tennessee (-10.5)

This is a huge number for the Titans.  And I still don’t believe in that team.  So I don’t exactly feel that comfortable going this route.  But the ‘Skins are banged up all around.  And Josh Johnson is still their QB.  Being at Tennessee, I feel like I have no choice here.

Tennessee 27, Washington 13.

Baltimore at Los Angeles Chargers (-4.5)

Like three weeks ago, John Harbaugh was getting fired.  Now they are talking extension?

Los Angeles Chargers 30, Baltimore 20.

Jacksonville at Miami (-4.5)  

Speaking of getting fired, nice to know you Dougie Marrone.

Miami 24, Jacksonville 17.

New York Giants at Indianapolis (-9.5) 

Seven out of the last eight for the Colts.  G-Men got shut out last week and yet again without ODB.  Seems like a slam dunk here.

Indianapolis 38, New York Giants 10.

Atlanta at Carolina (-3.5)

A couple of underachievers here.  Let’s see what Taylor Heinicke can do.  Funny thing is, I am kind of interested in what he can (or can’t do).  Who remembers Heinicke’s 2-week stint on the New England Patriots practice squad last season?  I may be the only one, but I do remember.  I’m not saying he’s going to pan out.  It’s doubtful he will.  But if he does…nevermind…

Atlanta 24, Carolina 13.

Buffalo at New England Patriots (-12.5) 

See above.

New England Patriots 34, Buffalo 17.

Houston at Philadelphia (-0.5) 

See above, Part II.

Philadelphia 31, Houston 20.

Green Bay at New York Jets (-1.5)

I know the Packers haven’t played well this year.  Aaron Rodgers is banged up and is questionable.  The Pack would have every right to shut him down if they wanted to.  And they still may.  But even if they go with the backup, DeShone Kizer, can the Jets STILL be favored in this game?  When is the last time the Jets have been favored against ANYONE?

Green Bay 27, New York Jets 10.

Cincinnati at Cleveland (-7.5)

It’s a big line, no doubt.  But it’s all of a sudden hard to go against the Browns these days.  Imagine that.

Cleveland 24, Cincinnati 13. 

Tampa Bay at Dallas (-7.5)

The ‘Boys got whitewashed last week by the Colts after winning 5 in a row.  They are 6-1 at home, however.  The Bucs have played the Saints and Ravens tough the last two weeks but methinks that’s more a reflection of those two teams than the Bucs being any good.  Hate to say it, but Dallas bounces back in this one.

Dallas 27, Tampa Bay 17.

Minnesota (-5.5) at Detroit

I read somewhere that the Vikings are “revitalized”.  Why, because they smoked the Dolphins, who stink themselves?  We will see.  But they should beat a terrible Lions team anyway.

Minnesota 28, Detroit 9.  

Chicago (-3.5) at San Francisco

I ALMOST took the Niners here.  Because they are 4-3 at home.  And beat a decent Seahawks squad (who everyone had fallen in love with) there last week.  And because I think the Bears are completely overrated.

Chicago 20, San Francisco 14. 

Los Angeles Rams (-14.5) at Arizona

The Rams have not looked good for two straight weeks.  Todd Gurley is hurt and may not play.  Thank God for the Cardinals!

Los Angeles Rams 34, Arizona 3.

Pittsburgh at New Orleans (-6.5) 

Seems like every team that beats the Patriots gets crushed the next week.

New Orleans 38, Pittsburgh 24.  

Kansas City (-2.5) at Seattle

If the Seahawks didn’t lose to the 49ers last week, I probably would have taken them in this game.  Wait, I am going to take them anyway.  They are THAT unpredictable I guess.

Seattle 27, Kansas City 24.  

Denver (-2.5) at Oakland

They couldn’t have flexed another game into Christmas Eve??!!  Wait, this game actually may be entertaining.  So I’ll give it a chance.

Denver 30, Oakland 27.  

Week (against the spread):  9-7

Week (straight up):  9-7

Season (against the spread):  121-103

Season (straight up):  138-86

Disaster?

A few weeks ago, subsequent to their close win over the Chicago Bears, we had written about where the New England Patriots are heading this season.  We focused primarily on the defense.  Now…after the recent debacle against Tennessee…we need to talk about the offense.  Whoda thunk it?  Ten weeks in and the Patriots are having all kinds of issues on offense?  Inconceivable.

But man, things seem more than a little disjointed, no?

What it pretty much comes down to for me is that Tom Brady simply hasn’t looked the same this year.  I know, BLASPHEMY!!

Sure, Gronk has missed some time.  Julian Edelman was suspended the first four games.  When Sony Michel is playing, they are trying to force feed him the ball…and not through the air.  Rex Burkhead hasn’t played much.  And all that.

But does that explain Brady almost refusing to throw to Chris Hogan?  When on the field in his first two years, Hogan produced well enough.  As long as he’s no more than the third or even fourth option, Hogan adds some value.  When he was the teams’ number one receiver to start the year, that certainly miscast him.  In any event, according to people who watch film, Hogan has often been running around wide open this year.  And Brady doesn’t throw to him anymore.  Why?

Part of the reason is they are apparently trying to force feed Josh Gordon too.  And so far Gordon really hasn’t made the most of his targets.  Lot of drops.  He also apparently doesn’t run the right routes all the time, but that’s to be expected from someone signed in-season in this “probably too complicated offense for new receivers” that the Pats have run for years.  That’s a story for another day though.

Is it the offensive line?  Brady seems to be ducking a lot like there is someone in his face…and there isn’t.  But the line is virtually the same as it always has been.  Trent Brown replaced Nate Solder.  Brown has seemed to be decent enough.  Which is what Solder was in reality, despite all the hype that always seemed to surround him.  The other guys are pretty much the same.  You can say Marcus Cannon has been in and out of the lineup.  But you can say that about him every single year pretty much.

Many people point to the fact that Brady didn’t show up this offseason.  I honestly wish he would have, but I think we have to trust he knows how to get ready for a season after playing the sport for almost 20 years.  On top of that, sure, he could have worked on connections with new receivers such as Cordarrelle Patterson and other receivers who he didn’t really work much with last year, such as Phillip Dorsett.  But the fact of the matter is that Brady has a rapport already with most of the guys that actually get playing time…Jules, Gronk, James White, Hogan.  The only guy that is getting plenty of time that Brady doesn’t have experience with is Gordon.  But Josh wasn’t here in the offseason, so in this case, Brady not showing up in the summer is irrelevant.

Is it age?  Can’t ever rule that out.

Is it an injury that he is playing through?  Can’t rule that out either.

Personally, I think it is probably a combination of all of the above.  Plus some coaching/play calling decisions.  Plus…

…doesn’t every team hate the Patriots, so there is actually extra motivation on a weekly basis to beat them?

Ask Dion Lewis.  His postgame comments were blunt.  And most former Pats and most opponents probably feel the same way, they just keep it all under wraps.  Speaking of Lewis, he should be kissing Belichick’s and the Patriots’ arse every day.  This is a dude that was injury prone and a deep bench guy his first two years in the league.  Then was completely out of the league for about two years before the Pats came calling.  They gave him an opportunity in 2015…then he got hurt again.  Of course, the Pats gave him another year on his contract that year when they didn’t have to…and in his first two seasons with the Pats, he missed more than half of each season.  Had a pretty good year last year (his third with the team), even though he didn’t play much early on.  Then he bitched about not getting the ball enough in the Super Bowl, even though the offense lit it up there.  Dion forgot about how the Pats helped his career immensely and allowed him to get a nice shiny contract last offseason.  What a quality guy.  He should just count his money and shut the F up.

Malcolm Butler has a little bit of a bone to pick with the Pats and he’s taken nothing but the high road since he left.  Logan Ryan had nothing to say this past week.  He must know that, even though he sucked in New England for most of his career, a strong showing at the end allowed him to get paid too.  The Pats gave him opportunity.  He seems to get it.  For the record, we never heard anything from Josh Kline either!  But once again, shut up Dion.

So you’ve heard it a lot this week…ten weeks in, the Pats usually have it all figured out by now.  This year has always felt different, but I am telling you it is far from over.  There is time.

The team has one of the easiest schedules from here on in.  They will cruise to another division title.  Gronk and Burkhead are coming back.  Michel and Jules will get stronger from what is ailing them.  Brady hopefully will once again find Hogan.  Gordon will presumably keep getting integrated.  Etc.  I am not worried about the offense.

Brady must absolutely get better, sorry to say.  I’m thinking he will…though that could just be my homerism taking over.

Ultimately though…we still do have to worry about that defense…their Super Bowl chances simply rely on that unit at least being competent…

Green Bay at Seattle (-2.5)  

Still don’t know what to make of both of these teams.  Seems like they both should be better than the .500 they are hovering around.  The Pack is 0-4 on the road.  Not ideal.  With Aaron Rodgers leading that team, that kind of record should not happen, regardless of the quality of opponents.  So yeah, they should be better.  The “formerly unbeatable at home” ‘hawks are 1-2 in their friendly confines.  Their 5 losses are by a combined 25 points, none more than eight.  So yeah, they should be better too.  There’s a lot of contenders in the NFC with time running out.  We imagine this may be a good one, especially if these teams do show up with some urgency.

Seattle 30, Green Bay 27.

Week (against the spread):  8-6

Week (straight up):  7-7

Season (against the spread):  79-69

Season (straight up):  94-54

Week Four…

Looking for a big week here…

Cincinnati at Atlanta (-5.5)

I hate both of these teams.  Matty Ice.  Marvin Lewis.  Andy Dalton.  Whatever.

Atlanta 31, Cincinnati 23.

New York Jets at Jacksonville (-7.5)

I hate both of these teams too.  Is this going to be the theme of this week’s games?  The J-E-T-S have lost two straight since pummeling the Lions in Week One.  The Jags laid an egg last week against the Titans after apparently winning their Super Bowl against the Patriots in Week Two.  I think the Jags find some more offense this week while stifling Sammy Darnold on the defensive side of the ball.

Jacksonville 27, New York Jets 9.

Detroit at Dallas (-3.5) 

Oh boy, don’t like either of these guys either.  Actually, I’ve been pretty indifferent about the Lions for…forever.  But that changed a little last week after their mugging of the Pats.  Both teams actually kind of stink this year, so in that case, let’s go with the home team.  Really just comes down to that.

Dallas 20, Detroit 14.

Philadelphia (-3.5) at Tennessee

Nice win for the Titans over the Jags last week, as we mentioned before.  I’m not sure I see that happening again this week.

Philadelphia 24, Tennessee 16.

Buffalo at Green Bay (-10.5)

I can’t figure this league out sometimes.  It’s always hard to predict the games early in the season.  Teams are still trying to figure out who they are and all that.  But I think this year has been even worse.  The Bills were wretched the first two weeks.  Then they come out of the gates flying in Week Three and knock out the Vikings in Minnesota.  Unfathomable.  Can it happen two weeks in a row away in Green Bay?  Unfathomable.

Green Bay 34, Buffalo 17.

Houston at Indianapolis (-1.5)

1-5 between them.  Exciting?  This has to be the week the Texans win, right?  Right?!

Houston 30, Indianapolis 23.

Miami at New England (-7.5)

The whole world wants to bury the Patriots.  I get it.  Unfortunately, I really do get it.  And, as noted in the last piece, this year does have a different feel.  But losing to the Dolphins in Foxborough?  I can’t see it.  If they do, sh&t then gets real, I can say that much.  I don’t know if Josh Gordon plays.  Julian Edelman has one more week of suspension.  Gronk seems to have an ankle thing and has been subpar the past two weeks…though it’s tough to catch passes with five guys on you each play.  Rex Burkhead just went on injured reserve.  Sony Michel hasn’t done much.  Etc.  How are the Pats going to score points?  Especially when you think they may have to since the defense hasn’t stopped much this year (we don’t need to list any players there, I would say).  Call me a homer.  Just a gut feeling…

New England 27, Miami 24.

Tampa Bay at Chicago (-2.5) 

Fitzmagic gets to keep his job.  400 yards in three straight games to start the year can help you there.  But we’ve seen this movie before.  It never lasts.  Three picks last week.  I’m thinking some more regression this week.

Chicago 24, Tampa Bay 23.

Cleveland at Oakland (-2.5) 

Yuck.  Even though the Browns have moved forward with Baker Mayfield.  I suppose that would be one reason to watch though.

Oakland 20, Cleveland 17.

Seattle (-2.5) at Arizona 

The Seahawks are 0-2 on the road.  But it won’t matter this week.  The Cards have scored 20 points in three weeks.  I can’t say Josh Rosen is going to make much of a difference.  Maybe they pull a Bills last week in Buffalo when they started Josh Allen for the first time.  I’m not counting on it.

Seattle 20, Arizona 10.  

San Francisco at Los Angeles Chargers (-10.5) 

Feel bad for Jimmy Football for sure.  But he needs to know when to call it a day on particular plays.  Holding the ball too long has caused both of his major NFL injuries.  I think the world was waiting to see how Garoppolo did over a full NFL season.  I know I was.  So that is too bad.  But as we welcome the C.J. Beathard era, we also likely welcome the end of the 49er season.

Los Angeles Chargers 34, San Francisco 17.

New Orleans (-3.5) at New York Giants 

The Saints still score a lot of points and give up a lot of points.  The G-Men still aren’t very good.

New Orleans 34, New York Giants 24.  

Baltimore at Pittsburgh (-3.5)  

Don’t really know what to make of both of these teams as of yet.  The Steelers seem to be having defensive issues, similar to the hometown team.  But at least they are putting up points, even without Le’Veon Bell.  The Ravens?  Meh.  Divisional matchup in primetime makes it even tougher to handicap.  Oh yeah, did I mention that I hate both of these teams too?

Pittsburgh 34, Baltimore 31.

Kansas City (-4.5) at Denver

The Chiefs are 3-0 and seemingly unstoppable on offense.  Another of the NFL’s early season darlings.  Led by Patrick Mahomes, whose bandwagon everyone is jumping on after a mere 4 NFL starts.  We’ll see.  Did you know the Chiefs are giving up over 30 points a game though?  The Broncos are 2-1, but aren’t exactly lighting it up.  They are at home.  Another divisional matchup in primetime.  And another gut feeling on this one.

Denver 30, Kansas City 27.

Week (against the spread):  0-1

Week (straight up):  0-1

Season (against the spread):  22-27

Season (straight up):  27-22

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