The Wildcard’s NFL Predictions - Week 2

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Last Week: 11-4

Season: 11-4


Houston Texans (0-1) at Cincinnati Bengals (0-1)

Friday 12.25pm NZT

These Thursday night games tend to be very average entries into the new weeks of matches. I’m reminded of that time Jacksonville and Tennessee played in their brightly coloured alternate jerseys in one of the worst standards of NFL game I can ever recall. Usually those games are the ones you ignore during the main bulk, maybe check the score now and then, and watch the touchdowns of course, but they slide right on under the radar except when you get them on a Friday arvo with nothing else on. And for whatever scheduling reason it seems like the TNF games are always that bit more crap – short turnaround, etc.  

Except, that JAX vs TEN game I was talking about? Jacksonville won 19-13, outscoring the Titans 10-0 in the fourth quarter. It was a poor quality game but something about a poor quality game is fascinating to watch. Blake Bortles throwing a big 4Q interception only to later hit the winner after a big punt return saved his arse? Brilliant viewing.

And here we have two teams with playoff expectations each coming off a hefty defeat in week one. The Texans were so bad that Bill O’Brien benched Tom Savage after two quarters despite defending him all preseason. This is not a bad Texans team though. They made the playoffs last season with much the same players and without J.J. Watt. However when your QB is sacked six times in one half of football, there are probably a few people not doing their jobs. Savage most of all, he was like a standing target every time he dropped back. The strip-sack for a TD and the pick-six didn’t help either.

As for the Bengals, they gifted a few points away themselves. Andy Dalton’s Wk1 line reads as such:

16/31 ATT | 170 YDS | 51.6% COMP | 0 TD | 4 INT | 5.48 Y/A | 28.4 RATE

Plus he fumbled one.

That’s what you’re left with for this match-up. A couple potentially very good but currently hilariously panicked teams who would each very much prefer not starting things 0-2. The worse this game is, the better the spectacle it’ll be. Relish the futile drama like God must relish watching silly human election wranglings.

As soon as I smack publish on this bad boy I’m gonna watch that movie The Room. Also known as the worst film ever made. James Franco just did this movie recreating the making of it and I was doing some research and the myth can exist in the abstract no longer – I’ve gotta watch this magnificent train-wreck. Then the next day I’ll watch this magnificent train-wreck.

Ooh and they’re wearing the colour rush unis. Ah well, can’t have your cake and eat it too (strange saying, that – what’s the cake for if not eating?).

Wildcard’s Pick: Bengals by 6

Buffalo Bills (1-0) at Carolina Panthers (1-0)

Monday 5.00am NZT

One of three games featuring two undefeated teams, and buddy I ain’t picking a draw. Nope… I’m picking a Panthers win. On account of I think they’re far better at football than the Bills. Like, that’s not really a stunner, it’s kinda how the whole weekly pick concept works.

So… does Christian McCaffrey have special pictures of Ron Rivera or something? How does a 21 year old rookie end up with the most touches, including a few wildcat sets, while playing on a team with multiple offensive weapons who’ve played in the Super Bowl? 18 touches, 85 yards all up. They had him take snaps, they had him on designed runs, they had him playing tailback, they had him on passing plays at wide receiver…

Riverboat Ron: “It’s like getting that new toy at Christmas. You open up the box and there’s what you’d hoped for. But you also have to be wise and smart about when you play with it and when you don’t, because you don’t want to wear the batteries out. You don’t want to break it. What you want to do is utilize it and have fun with it.”

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When McCaffrey is the only player with more than two catches though on a team with Kelvin Benjamin and Greg Olsen then perhaps that’s not the best way of, haha, *utilising* him. But OC Mike Shula appears to be in love with the joker so expect more where this came from.

They still beat the Niners by 40 points though and if they can keep the Bills from putting up any points then they should win this one easily enough too.

Wildcard’s Pick: Panthers by 12

Chicago Bears (0-1) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-0)

Monday 5.00am NZT

After the Hurricane Irma postponement for their opener in Miami last time, the Buccaneers will host this game at the usual place and it’s bound to be a bit emotional after the natural devastation that swept through the state (and, especially, the Caribbean). Raymond James Stadium was spared the damage and Tampa Bay are ready to go. You think the Bears can shatter the emotional hype of the home team here? Nah mate, they aren’t Alan Rickman enough to pull off the bad guy act.

Wildcard’s Pick: Buccaneers by 8

Minnesota Vikings (1-0) at Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0)

Monday 5.00am NZT

Yes, this is the early game I’m most keen to watch. First thing that needs to be said is: how good was Antonio Brown!? There was one fumble which blighted things but other than that we’re talking 11 receptions for 182 yards. Dude was massive – he carried that offence and this week he’s matching up against Xavier Rhodes. Uh… gimme all of that one, please. Brown caught every pass that came his way and, mate, there were some tough ones.

That catch right there is beyond incredible, man.

Brown vs Rhodes could be the defining aspect of this game but only if Sam Bradford can repeat what we saw against the Saints, where he completed at 84% for 346 passing yards with three scores and not even a fraction of a pick. He was kinda fantastic but he does have a sore knee and the Saints are the Saints so that’s more than relevant. Still, would ya look at this!? Just look at it!

Wildcard’s Pick: Steelers by 2

Arizona Cardinals (0-1) at Indianapolis Colts (0-1)

Monday 5.00am NZT

You know how the Cardinals were like: ‘there’s no way we can have as much bad luck with injuries in 2017 as we did last season, don’t worry guy’? Well, it’s been one game and…

Ahh, right. Now, keep in mind that the Cardinals were up 17-9 with a few minutes left in the third quarter. Four minutes and three seconds, specifically, when Johnson fumbled and two plays later the Lions scored and they’d put on 20 in the fourth to end up winning with a bit of room, 35-23… and the Cards scored last too. It’s the kind of loss that could spoil the rest of their season if they don’t handle it properly but it also showed that for almost three quarters they were well in it against a fellow playoff possibility.

Lucky for Carson Palmer that he threw that late TD too. His three interceptions were a damn good reason why they collapsed in Detroit and there was no point in that game when he looked anything other than old and washed. It was sad, you know. But it’s only a legit concern unless if he can’t show up against the Colts who, as long as Andy Luck is out, are probably the worst team in the NFL. Sorry to hurl that one on ya but they really are.

Wildcard’s Pick: Cardinals by 10

New England Patriots (0-1) at New Orleans Saints (0-1)

Monday 5.00am NZT

Of all the biggest overreactions of the week, the worst is that the Patriots are anything other than what people thought they’d be before kickoff. Man, if Gronk had caught that TD pass – which he completely should have – then they were 14-0 up and strolling. Tom Brady’s had bad games before. That defence, about the most prepared team in the league, got done by a rookie running back and a game-managing QB who each played dramatically different to expectations. How do you prepare for that? Not like you can just plot an infinite number of plans to combat every possible outcome.

Some other overreaction from week one:

  • The Cowboys defence is great this season!
  • The Rams have an incredible offence, look at all the points they scored!
  • Sam Bradford for MVP!
  • J.J. Watt isn’t even the best player in his family!
  • Blake Bortles isn’t awful!
  • Seattle’s crappy run game!
  • Something’s wrong with Cam Newton and Russell Wilson!

Wildcard’s Pick: Patriots by 17

Cleveland Browns (0-1) at Baltimore Ravens (1-0)

Monday 5.00am NZT

I watched a fair bit of that Browns-Steelers game waiting for that insane Pittsburgh offence to start running away with it. Instead they ended up needing to get a couple first downs on the last possession just to hold on. Considering Martavis Bryant’s been out of the game for a year, it’s understandable that he’ll need some time. Same with Le’Veon Bell after his preseason standoff. And Antonio Brown, as already mentioned, was one of the stars of the week. But tell you who impressed me more: the Browns.

They’re getting about as close to the playoffs as Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un are to splitting a cordial cup of tea but amidst all the sensible week two thinking I’m already willing to say that Cleveland aren’t the worst team in the league any more. The Jets are worse. The Colts are worse. The 49ers are worse. The Bears are probably worse.

And guess what, they play Indy in week three. If Andrew Luck isn’t back, and I highly doubt he will be, then that’s a winnable game. Following that they host the Bengals who are in a weird place at the moment, then the Jets who, yeah they can definitely beat the Jets. A lot depends on this Kizer lad but he did fine on debut, didn’t he? Just gotta stop getting sacked so much, dude.

After the Jets it’s away to Houston (vulnerable) too, before things get hard with the Titans, Vikings and Lions all in a row. Say they grab a couple other ones and a five win season is a genuine possibility, maybe even another win on top of that. Mate, other than a 7-9 in 2014 they haven’t done better than five wins since 2007. All about them small mercies in Cleveland.

Ben Roethlisberger: “That team is going to surprise a lot of people, I'm glad we played them in Week 1.”

Wildcard’s Pick: Ravens by 5

Philadelphia Eagles (1-0) at Kansas City Chiefs (1-0)

Monday 5.00am NZT

Anyone else pick Alex Smith to be topping the passing yards chart after a week or was it just me? Haha, no – the only thing that’s got me more surprised than that fact is that Sam Bradford is second.

Anyway, this pick goes out to the great Andy Reid. He may look like a walrus and his late-game clock management is notoriously awful but he got Alex Smith to throw 350+ yards last week in an away game against the Patriots so you can probably imagine he knows what to do with the Eagles, his old cohorts. Tell you what, he’s looking slimmer this season too, good for you, chief.

I didn’t catch enough of the Philly game to talk about Carson Wentz’s performance but remember he started last season fantastically before fading so with him, and with most young QBs, the quest is mostly for consistency. What really impressed with the Eagles was how well they rushed the passer. The Chiefs will be a tougher ask, obviously. The Super Bowl claims are a little eccentric, especially now that Eric Berry’s hurt, but they’re definitely an early challenger.

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Wildcard’s Pick: Chiefs by 10

Tennessee Titans (0-1) at Jacksonville Jaguars (1-0)

Monday 5.00am NZT

Here’s where we really start figuring some things out. The Jaguars had an impressive win, did they? The Titans were preseason dark horses, were they? Marcus Mariota and Blake Bortles are primed for career years, are they? The Jaguars have the best pass defence in the NFL, do they? DeMarco Murray only had 44 yards in week one but that should prove an outlier for him and the Titans’ ground game will be much better going forward, will they? The Jaguars can still score points even with Allen Robinson out for the season, can they?

Well… did/were/are/do/will/can they?

Wildcard’s Pick: Titans by 3

New York Jets (0-1) at Oakland Raiders (1-0)

Monday 8.05am NZT

Do we really need to play this game? Can’t we just call it now under the mercy rule?

Wildcard’s Pick: Raiders by 21

Miami Dolphins (0-0) at Los Angeles Chargers (0-1)

Monday 8.05am NZT

Bad as most of that game was for the Chargers on offence, their late attempted comeback hopefully laid down a blueprint for the way things have gotta be from now on. None of this slow and composed stuff, man. We’ve got to see Rivers in that no-huddle a few times, we’ve gotta see big bombs down the field. This is the way the Chargers are going to win games.

Guts to my man Younghoe. First ever kick in the NFL and it’s a shot from 44 yards to tie the game. And he got it too, straight and true… but the Broncs had called a timeout. Then on the second attempt his protection collapsed and the kick was blocked. Chargers lose. That’s a rough as guts way to start a career – ah well, adversity makes or breaks us.

Dunno what to think of the Dolphins when they haven’t played a game yet. This is the first game in Los Angeles for the Chargers and the first game for Miami for Jay Cutler. Bound to be a cavalcade of entertainment… here’s hoping the Chargers can pack out LA better than the Rams have been doing (or rather: not doing).

Wildcard’s Pick: Chargers by 7

Dallas Cowboys (1-0) at Denver Broncos (1-0)

Monday 8.25am NZT

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Wildcard’s Pick: Cowboys by 6

San Francisco 49ers (0-1) at Seattle Seahawks (0-1)

Monday 8.25am NZT

It doesn’t matter how much healthier Russell Wilson is this season if that offensive line can’t block for him. I don’t wanna sound like I’m just making excuses for the lad but pretty sure this problem was obvious against the Packers and pretty sure Wilson’s earned the benefit of the doubt by now. He’s never had a Cowboys/Raiders level of protection and it’s getting worse.

Which doesn’t only affect him, obviously. That rush game was pathetic. Eddie Lacy had three yards on five carries and C.J. Prosise had 11 yards on four carries. Rookie Chris Carson has surely gotta leap up the depth chart after he posted 39 yards on six carries – though 30 of those yards came on one run. Thomas Rawls is far and away ahead of all three and when he comes back that’ll help, jeez they’ve gotta get something going eventually.

Yet they pushed Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay all the way despite that, which reflects marvellously on that slightly refurbished defensive unit – living up to the renewed hype at the first attempt. And I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say if they could give Aaron Rodgers problems (at least in that first half) then this current 49ers incarnation will be lucky to get within 20.

Wildcard’s Pick: Seahawks by 11

Washington R*dskins (0-1) at Los Angeles Rams (1-0)

Monday 8.25am NZT

46-9. Fourty-six to nine. The Rams have spent a decade as a team that loses games, as a team that barely scores a point. They have the youngest head coach in the NFL, 31 year old Sean McVay. Aaron Donald didn’t even play because of his contract holdout. And they utterly dominated.

A couple things on that. One is that while it’s funny that 70 year old Wade Phillips is working with 31 year old McVay, Phillips remains one of the finest defensive minds in the NFL. Couldn’t do it as a head coach but don’t let that cloud your impressions. Donald is back in training too so that defence is gonna be something oppositions will fear. Also, Todd Gurley didn’t do a lot in that game but there were some small glimpses that things’ll be easier for him this time out while Jared Goff, yeah he was wonderful.

But they were playing the freakin’ Colts, dude. I don’t care if they put 100 on them, Scott Tolzien makes whatever happens there irrelevant. However I’m far from high on the Skins too so, ah, yeah. Dunno what to believe. Bugger it.

Wildcard’s Pick: R*dskins by 3

Green Bay Packers (1-0) at Atlanta Falcons (1-0)

Monday 12.30pm NZT

Gonna leave this here, with one additional note: it ain’t gonna go this way again.

Wildcard’s Pick: Packers by 3

Detroit Lions (1-0) at New York Giants (0-1)

Tuesday 12.30pm NZT

Honestly, people have gotta chill on the Giants after one game. It’s a recurring theme this week, as it is every year, but you’ve gotta remember that they were without their best player on offence. Brandon Marshall didn’t get a catch until garbage time and they didn’t run the ball well at all and they only scored 3 points. That’s awful, sure.

But, like, they weren’t scoring points last year either. The combo with Marshall will come with time and when OBJ is in there that opens everything up – including the run (though this lot is never gonna have even an average run game, sorry). Seems like folks are forgetting that it was the defence which won them games last season and that lot was still pretty great, keeping the Cowboys to only one touchdown in that 19-3 defeat. It was 3-3 in the second half. Had Dan Bailey scuffed a couple field goals like a mortal kicker would then that game’s a lot closer. Chill on the Giants. They’ll get better.

I like the Lions though, and I like this Golladay fellow too. Third round pick in 2017, had a pair of TDs on his debut. It’s a really tough schedule for Detroit early on (at NYG, vs ATL, at MIN, vs CAR, at NO, vs PIT, at GB) but you know what that means: it gets easier. And if they’re 5-3 or better at the midway then they could run away with it. Can’t wait to see them up against the Packers. Then again, it’s overreaction week and they could just as easily lose to New York and Matt Stafford could break a mirror in the locker room and then break a leg on the field. And Jim Caldwell could be their head coach... oh wait.

This one goes out to Overreaction Week:

Wildcard’s Pick: Lions by 6


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The Wildcard is a staff writer for The Niche Cache. He just wants to find the person who killed his partner is all. If that ends up in an adventure of whirlwind and espionage, full of sex and subterfuge, then so be it.


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