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Week Five…

…started off with the second straight Thursday Night game that went down to the wire.  How about that?!

The Los Angeles Rams and Seattle Seahawks apparently played a barnburner, though we didn’t actually see much of it.  Because the Seahawks were wearing those hideous uniforms, we didn’t have the desire to even put the game on.

Ha!  No, not really.

Just with the Boston Bruins opening up their season and the MLB playoffs gearing up, without three or four sets of eyeballs, you imagine it may be hard to focus on one sporting event.

Just know that if it was the New England Patriots, we would have watched the whole game.  Maybe the next day, but still.

In any event, I hope this is a trend of the Thursday games meaning something.

Oh, and I actually did see Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein miss a 44 yarder to put the nail in the coffin of the Rams L.

The Rams’ “Big Z” is one of the better ones out there.  And most people around here wanted Stephen Gostkowski gone for quite some time now.  Once again I implore you to be careful what you wish for.

Best of luck, Mike Nugent.

New England Patriots (-15.5) at Washington 

I have no idea why Redskins coach Jay Gruden named his starting QB yesterday.  Gruden tabbed Colt McCoy for Sunday’s tilt.  I can’t say we should be surprised, because Case Keenum is still hurt and we all know Gruden doesn’t want to start Dwayne Haskins (didn’t help that he was putrid in relief of Keenum last week).  And that he loves McCoy.  But why not keep the Pats guessing up until game time?  Wait…I suppose it doesn’t matter.  Nevermind.

New England Patriots 41, Washington 9.  

Tampa Bay at New Orleans (-3.5)

Are the Bucs for real?  Not feeling it.  Yet.

New Orleans Saints 27, Tampa Bay 23.

Minnesota (-4.5) at New York Giants

The Vikings passing game sucks right now.  Hard to figure, with the weapons it has.  I know the coaches, specifically the new Offensive Coordinator, are trying to make the running game the center of the offense.  Which isn’t horrible I guess either, when you have someone like Dalvin Cook.  Though, you know, the NFL is now a passing league.  But I’m not the head coach I guess.  Anyway, realistically, even with the emergence of the Giants’ new kid QB Daniel Jones, the Vikings should win this game.  But I heard a stat the other day that was quite disturbing.  And I wish I could remember it exactly.  Or find it somewhere on the interwebs.  And I can’t do either.  Something about the Vikings being 0-12-1 or something as road favorites on the East Coast under head coach Mike Zimmer.  But don’t quote me exactly.  In any event, for better or for worse, it was at that exact moment I decided to take the G-Men in this game.

New York Giants 24, Minnesota 20.

Chicago (-4.5) at Oakland 

Does Chase Daniel give the Bears a better chance to win than Mitchell Trubisky?  Something to think about.

Chicago 23, Oakland 13.

Jacksonville at Carolina (-3.5)

Gardner Minshew vs Kyle Allen!!  Who had this one circled on their calendars in the preseason?!  Both have played well, give the backups credit for that for sure.  Who do you like better?  Side note, the Panthers lost the first two at home and won their last two on the road.  Weird.  Does that trend continue?

Carolina 24, Jacksonville 23.

New York Jets at Philadelphia (-13.5)

Luke Falk is still there.  ‘Nuff said.

Philadelphia 34, New York Jets 10.  Lock of the week.

Arizona at Cincinnati (-4.5) 

0-7-1 combined.  Ugh.  I have nothing to actually say about this game.  If I did, would you care?

Cincinnati 17, Arizona 14.  

Buffalo at Tennessee (-2.5) 

Similar to Daniel/Trubisky discussed above, does Matt Barkley give the Bills a better chance to win than Josh Allen?  As bad as Allen has looked, it’s hard for me to believe that one.  As we write this, Allen still has a chance to play.  Either way, the prediction will remain the same.

Tennessee 19, Buffalo 12.

Atlanta at Houston (-4.5)

The entire AFC South is 2-2.  Seems to me the Texans should be better.  Their games are always close, whatever that means.  Their 4 games have been decided by a combined 16 points.  With Atlanta head coach Dan Quinn on the hot seat, can the Falcons keep this one close to steal it in the end?  0-2 on the road already, my guess is a hearty “no”.  Probably time for a change in Atlanta.  And the Texans need this one with road games against the Chiefs and Colts up next on the slate.

Houston 31, Atlanta 17. 

Baltimore (-4.5) at Pittsburgh

Nice win by Steelers last Monday night.  But the Bengals are…really bad.  I can’t put a whole lot of stock in that win.  Besides, in the parts of the game I was able to see, Steeler quarterback Mason Rudolph seemingly only threw to the running backs.  With an occasional toss to a tight end.  That’s probably not gonna cut it against the Ravens.

Baltimore 34, Pittsburgh 20.

Denver at Los Angeles Chargers (-6.5)

I thought the Broncos were pretty bad and they are 0-4.  But their 4 combined losses are by 23 points.  And you would think a divisional game would also be close.  I’m not thinking that way in this one however.  Joe Flacco looks like a shell of himself.  And he wasn’t even that great in the first place.

Los Angeles Chargers 31, Denver 16.  

Green Bay at Dallas (-3.5)

Pair of 3-1 teams hooking up here.  Wide receiver Davante Adams is out for the Packers.  Things are probably lining up for everyone to pick the 3-1 team that is home.  But the Cowboys opened up against the Redskins, Giants (Eli Manning’s Giants) and the Dolphins.  Fairly easy to go 3-0 against those squads.  Then once they played a real team. they lost.  Sure the Saints game was on the road.  But it was also against their backup QB.  I’m not buying in on this Cowboy team…yet.  Remember, their coach is still Jason Garrett.

Green Bay 27, Dallas 24.

Indianapolis at Kansas City (-10.5)

The Chiefs had a scare last week on the road against the Lions, of all teams.  The Colts didn’t look so hot against the Oakland Raiders, of all teams.  The Colts are also missing a ton of players.  Not ideal for a trip to Arrowhead.

Kansas City 38, Indianapolis 17.  

Cleveland at San Francisco (-3.5)

Baker Mayfield vs Jimmy Football!!!  It’s actually an intriguing Monday Night Football matchup.  This time slot has been atrocious this season, so let’s hope it actually something worth watching.  I’m not sure I am buying into either one of these teams as of yet.  The Browns are off to an inconsistent start and while the Niners are 3-0, they haven’t really played anyone.  The fact that SF is coming off a bye and is at home is what I am looking at right here though for this one.  And I think the Niner coach is much better at his job than the Brown coach, for whatever that may be worth.

San Francisco 31, Cleveland 27.

Week (against the spread):  1-0

Week (straight up):  0-1

Lock Of The Week (season, ATS):  2-2

Season (against the spread):  33-31

Season (straight up):  43-21

Averting Disaster…

…in the most recent New England Patriot win, 16-10 this past Sunday in Buffalo.

Let’s face it though, this game should not have been as close as it was.

Sorry.

Let’s revisit, shall we?

Pats up 13-0, a little over 4 minutes left in the first half.  Tom Brady gets picked off in the end zone.  On a truly HORRIFIC pass.

If the Patriots score a touchdown there it is 20-0 (or at least 19-0, but we will get to that later).  With about 4 minutes left in the first half.  With the Bills being completely inept with their own offense, against a New England defense that hadn’t yet given up a touchdown this season to an opposing offense to boot.

GAME.  WOULD.  HAVE.  BEEN.  OVER.

Doesn’t matter that the Patriot offense did next to nothing the rest of the game.  They wouldn’t have needed to!

Perhaps the Pats offense still would have done something if that Brady pass didn’t “take the wind out of their sails”?

Worth thinking about.  And I know each drive is independent of each other.  But I kept saying it the rest of the game.  That pick really was the turning point and completely changed the complexion of the game.  Regardless of how bad the offense looked the remainder of the game.  The FEEL was just different.  There is something to be said for that.

You don’t think that fired up the Bills defense?  I mean, they seem to be pretty good in the first place.  But instead of being down three scores and maybe even packing it in after that, they had new life.

The next three possessions for the Bills offense?  Field goal, missed field goal, touchdown.

Hmmmmmmm…

Just sayin’.  This one should have been just like the others.  Smokeshows.

Brady played one of his poorest games in recent memory.  No, he is not done.  He has these once in a while.  He will rebound nicely in the subsequent weeks.  So don’t even go there.

The running game and offensive line didn’t do him many favors either.  It didn’t help that their best running back this season, Rex Burkhead, barely played as he is (again) battling injury.

But was Brady protecting his main receivers that were banged up as well?  Josh Gordon and Julian Edelman are a little banged up themselves.  And it was curious how he wasn’t going to Jules early on.  Seemed to be force feeding Phillip Dorsett more than anyone else.

Now, when the money was on the line, things changed.  But he definitely wasn’t throwing to Jules early.  Double teams?  Perhaps.  But when has that stopped Brady before?

Yes, Edelman had a bad drop on a potential long gainer.  And Gordon didn’t look all that great when he was being thrown to.  But still.

If those guys were more involved early, another reason I don’t think this game ends up close.

But that’s me.

As for the 19-0 or 20-0 referred to above, well, you know where we were going with that.

And now we have some…answers?

Placekicker Stephen Gostkowski was placed on injured reserve earlier today.  With some sort of hip issue, according to reports.

So was that the reason he was putrid this year?  Or are we still blaming the holder, punter Jake Bailey, at least a little?

I’m sure we will find out more as time goes on.  But I have some questions.  When did the injury happen?  If, as some reports say, he regrets not having the surgery in the offseason, then why didn’t he?  A hip injury to a kicker…kinda crucial, no?  And did the team know?  Why didn’t the Pats force the issue?  Or at least address it some other way?  And if the team knew, why the hell were they letting him kick off in games this year?  Shouldn’t they have reduced some strain by not having him do that?  Especially when Bailey kicked off most of the preseason and appears fully capable of doing so on a regular basis?

Gostkowski, despite many people disagreeing, has been pretty reliable over the years.  Both kicking for points and kicking off.  Kind of important that this position is somewhat stable, no?  We’ve seen it torpedo many teams over the years, no?

Regardless, Stevie has taken a beating from the fans this season.  My answer has always been “be careful what you wish for”.  The kickers on the streets are on the streets for a reason.

And now we are looking at Kai Forbath or Mike Nugent potentially for the rest of the year.  Part of me wants an injured Gostkowski still kicking over these guys.

Also, please stop with the Bailey kicking stuff too.  For this season anyway.  Yes, he kicked well in high school.  Repeat, HIGH SCHOOL.  He did not kick in college, from what I understand.  I am not sure the Pats have even had him practice placekicking from the day he arrived.  I would have.  But that’s not how it works.

I technically love the idea though.  Paying one guy peanuts (for now) to do ALL the kicking.  Absolutely.

But it ain’t happening this year, so forget it.

It still mystifies me that in this entire world that the NFL can’t find 32 good kickers…the cream of the crop…to kick in their league.  A quarter of the teams each year seemingly make kicking changes, and not because of injury.  And a quarter of the rest are putrid.  At least a quarter more.

So now we are looking at somewhere between kickers #33-40 (or #50?  #60?) I guess.

Yuck.

Los Angeles Rams at Seattle (-1.5)

The Thursday Night Football games have been mostly atrocious this season.  Last week’s game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Green Bay Packers was pretty good, however.  Very good actually.  What’s in store for this week’s game?  Your guess is as good as mine!  Both teams are 3-1.  But the Seahawks’ three wins have come against teams with a combined 1-10-1 record. They are usually almost unbeatable at home but are only 1-1 there thus far this season.  And that one win was by one point against a truly wretched Cincinnati Bengal outfit.  They lost their other home game to the New Orleans Saints, in Teddy Bridgewater’s first start after Drew Brees went down.  On the flip side, the Rams just got embarrassed at home by what seems to be a fair to poor Tampa Bay Buccaneer squad.  Their three wins against the Saints, Browns and Panthers though are significantly better than the Seahawk victories.

So who shows up on either side for this one?  Short weeks are always hard to predict.  But my guess is that the Rams will be pretty damn motivated to wash that bad taste out of their mouth as soon as possible.  I would say it will be a little bit of a dogfight to get that done though.

Los Angeles Rams 31, Seattle 27.  

Week (against the spread):  9-6

Week (straight up):  9-6

Lock Of The Week (season, ATS):  2-2

Season (against the spread):  32-31

Season (straight up):  43-20

Champs…Yet Again…

…surprised?  I am a little bit…actually, a lot.

Sure, the New England Patriots have a ton of talent.  But, on paper, was it on par with teams like the Los Angeles Rams, the Kansas City Chiefs and the New Orleans Saints?  Not so sure about that.  Not to mention having to play the AFC Championship Game in Kansas City.  With that atrocious (for them) road record this season.

But that’s why they play the games, as they say.

Plus…the Pats have Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.  So there is that…

Now, Brady didn’t exactly play his best last Sunday.  But did he need to?  I guess not the way the defense played.  And with how putrid Jared Goff looked.  Then again, it would have been nice to see some points on the board.  And not waiting until about seven minutes left to score a touchdown.  But that’s what happens when you don’t give Brady many weapons.

I’m not sure what happened to Chris Hogan this year.  Hogan had been a fairly reliable wide receiver during his first two years with the team.  But completely disappeared for most of this year.  He supposedly fell out of the “Brady Circle of Trust”.  But seemingly came back in during the playoffs.  Zero for six in the Super Bowl for catches and targets, however.  Disgusting.  And Phillip Dorsett played a good amount of snaps and no one even saw him on the field I don’t think.  James White had one catch on four targets.  Surprisingly not part of the game plan in that respect, but apparently was chipping the Rams’ D-linemen often.  So we will give him a pass.

Other than that?  Just Gronk and Jules.  But I guess that is all you need…Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman.  How could the Rams let those two catch ANYTHING?  Have to let those other stiffs beat you, no?

So the Pats won the game…with running and defense?  What, was this 2001 all over again?

Hard to believe.

When you look back, the running game wasn’t exactly stout the entire game.  154 yards is a nice total.  But it was also misleading.

What wasn’t misleading was the fact that the Patriots ran the ball down the Rams throat when it counted most.  Their last drive.  After Stephon Gilmore picked off a Goff floater inside their own five yard line with about 4 minutes left and the Pats up 10-3, the running game then took it to another level.  They marched down the field running the ball led by a pair of 26 yard runs, one each by Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead.  (Though Michel couldn’t get two yards on a third and about a yard and a half, but we won’t nitpick too much).

That drive obviously sealed the game.  When is the last time that anyone could say the running game wrapped up a game for the New England Patriots?  The Corey Dillon days?  Usually, Brady would be throwing screens to guys like Edelman and White to get 3-5 yards and first downs because they couldn’t run the ball.  Seemed weird.  But it worked.

The Patriot defense? Sure, they played pretty well.  But was the performance overrated?  Perhaps.  Goff was absolutely abysmal, in all aspects.  And Todd Gurley can tell anyone he wants that he wasn’t hurt.  But that can’t possibly be the case.  He HAD to have been hurt.  10 carries in the Super Bowl?  A handful in the NFC Championship Game?  It’s noble for Gurley to deny his knee was a problem.  But we all know it was.

Not having a healthy Gurley was a huge blow for the Rams…and don’t give me “well, C.J. Anderson was lighting it up after they signed him…”.  Anderson isn’t Gurley.  I think we can all agree on that.  A player isn’t on three different teams in one season for no reason.

I’m sure this factor has been talked about ad nauseam this past week.  However, I have not been able to listen to a lot of the chatter, unfortunately.  But Sean McVay got taken to the woodshed in the game.  Simple as that.

According to people who watch film, and all the other information available that has been analyzed and re-analyzed, it appears that the Patriots had two different calls for the defense for every play…or a majority of them anyway.  One to show the Rams a look before the 15 second mark on the play clock and another for after the 15 second mark.

Why the 15 second mark?  Well, you have all heard about this too.  McVay can talk in Goff’s ear until then.  After that, the line of communication is shut off.  So McVay helped Goff before the time limit, then Goff was helpless thereafter.  Because the Patriots changed things up and Goff had no idea what to do.

My main question is:  How come no other team has figured that out?  I guess teams “do what they do” and don’t strategize to that degree.  Kind of a mistake I would say.  But then again, when you have the same coach and the same systems in place for almost two decades, I guess that makes it easier for a team to do.

My second question would be:  Wow, is Goff really that inept that he can’t figure things out on his own?  Makes you wonder if he is really a franchise type guy.  Not our problem I guess.  But worth noting nonetheless.

So there is your story:  Coaching, defense, running game…and maybe a dash of special teams.  Stephen Gostkowski did have 7 of the teams’ 13 points after all.  Yes, a little shaky.  But the job was done nonetheless.

For all those people who thought the game was boring?  I understand.  If you are not a fan of the teams, I imagine that more offense would have been what you wanted.  If you were like most of the country, wanting the Patriots to lose, well, having the Rams score only three points couldn’t have been that exciting for you.  And…we know that offense is now the name of the game.  See the 54-51 game between the Rams and Chiefs earlier this year.

The fact is, the Patriots should have scored more points.  How many times were they into Rams territory with nothing to show for it?  Plenty.  But defense is still a part of the game.  And fans should have been paying attention to that.  Wasn’t a boring game for the Blowhard.  Then again, being out in a pro-Patriot crowd while enjoying some (many?) adult beverages will often help that, I will allow.

In any event, the New England Patriots are Super Bowl Champions for the 6th time.  Deal with it.  I’ve said it before and I will say it again:  People, for some reason, fail to remember the years before Robert Kraft owned the team.  Many failures, few successes, lots of laughable moments.  Drug scandals, head coaches in the playoffs creating distractions by taking other jobs before the season is over (Chuck Fairbanks AND Bill Parcells), sexual harassment scandals (Lisa Olson), a bogus roughing the passer call (Sugar Bear Hamilton), the Rod Rust (1-15) era, the Sullivan’s and their decrepit stadium, Matt Millen punching one of the Sullivan’s, James Orthwein, Victor Kiam, etc., etc., etc.  The list can go on.

Patriot fans should make no apologies for the past two decades of dominance.  Because we all know the other side of it…and how fast things can change going forward.  Who knows what this organization will look like once Brady and Belichick retire?  I believe that as long as the team remains under the Kraft’s ownership (which should be a significant amount of time, as undoubtedly Jonathan Kraft will take over for his father Robert at some point), I expect no 2-14 or 1-15 seasons.  But that does not mean they will continue winning Super Bowls.

Let’s enjoy this run, ignore the haters…and go for the seventh next year!

Which leads me to what’s next for this Patriot’s team.  Welp, seemingly a lot of roster decisions.  A whole slew of free agents of varying importance.  And we will cover that in due time…

Week (against the spread):  1-0

Week (straight up):  1-0

Season (against the spread):  147-120 (55.1%…1.5% better than last year!)

Season (straight up):  171-96 (64.0%…3.4% worse than last year…yikes!)

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