Last Week: 9-4
Carolina Panthers (6-3) at Pittsburgh Steelers (6-2-1)
Friday 2.20pm NZT
I hate these Thursday night games, aye. They’re on such a weird timeframe, closer to the end of the last week than the start of the next one, and it buggers up the preparation and recovery time for the teams involved. I know the players hate it. Literally the only valid reason they exist is for the telly ratings and it has to be Thursday night so it doesn’t clash with the college sports because watching amateur kids play sport is something that Americans love to do for some reason.
Busy week this week, not to mention the ol’ laptop dramas (if you own a laptop, probably if you spend any amount of time on computers in general, then you know what I’m talking about) so I’m publishing the picks after this game has already taken place. You have no reason to trust that I picked the Steelers before the game took place but that’s not my problem, sorry mate. Just gotta believe me anyway. The Panthers are a team I like a lot but I seems to have a thing with the Steelers because year after year I’m sitting here talking them up.
Say here’s a funky touchdown from last week…
So yeah, the Steelers laid the beat down. I didn’t watch a huge amount of it live, mostly just the first couple quarters, which means I saw the way it was going but… jeez, 52 points!? Quite the shocker when I caught up on it all. This is not a weak Panthers defence. Absolutely roughed up Cam Newton and picked the Panthers to pieces, mate it was incredible. Ben Roethlisberger gets the man of the match biscuits for sure with a 22/25, 328 yards, 5 TDs, perfect passer rating performance. Antonio Brown looked unguardable. If the Steelers can take this level of performance into the playoffs then they’re 100% Super Bowl contenders, especially with a few of the expected big fellas in the AFC simply not getting it done to date (Houston, Jacksonville, Tennessee…).
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Wildcard’s Pick: Steelers by 7 or so… ended up being more
Washington R*dskins (5-3) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-5)
Monday 7.00am NZT
Wildcard’s Pick: R*dskins by 6
Arizona Cardinals (2-6) at Kansas City Chiefs (8-1)
Monday 7.00am NZT
Okey doke, so here we are nine weeks into the season and I do believe that there are three leading MVP candidates: Drew Brees is the sentimental pick as probably the greatest quarterback in history never to have won it before, his would be a career reward as much as anything – although his incredible performances in 2018 mean he’d clearly deserve it. Patrick Mahomes is your hype pick as the breakout player who is changing the way people look at the position he plays, his is the opposite of Brees as this is the only evidence we’ve got, it’s his first season as a starter, so it’s taking a gamble and setting his legacy bloody early – not that he doesn’t deserve it for the unprecedented things he’s doing. Then there’s Todd Gurley who is the stable pick as the best player on the best team (although Drew Brees had something to say about that, didn’t he?). Fella is just consistently excellent, grinding away and scoring at will. Compare the cases, if you will…
DREW BREES – 76.3% COMP | 2336 YDS | 18 TD | 1 INT | 120.6 RATE
PAT MAHOMES – 66.2% COMP | 2901 YDS | 29 TD | 7 INT | 116.7 RATE
TODD GURLEY – 1230 TOT YDS | 4.8 Y/C | 9.8 Y/R | 16 RRTD
I s’pose if I had to chuck some other names in there then folks like Philip Rivers, Cam Newton, Matt Ryan and Jared Goff would all be in consideration. But really I find it hard to conceive of anyone outside that trio winning this thing. Then again, there’s still half a season to go so there’s heaps of time for things to change. Injuries, form, scandal, corruption, divorce, addiction, insanity… all sorts of things could upset the race.
As for this particular game, I could hardly conceive of a more one sided contest.
Wildcard’s Pick: Chiefs by 30
Buffalo Bills (2-7) at New York Jets (3-6)
Monday 7.00am NZT
Sam Darnold is injured for this one however he might have been rested even if he could play. Things have gotten bad for the rookie and since leading the Jets to a win over Indy in week six he’s been just awful – three games with completion below 54% and interceptions aplenty. Last week he threw four picks for zero scores, his team has 33 combined points in those three games. Combine the last three games and he’s at 46.3% completion for 196 yards per game, 2 touchdowns and 7 interceptions at a passer rating of 43.3. Adjusted yards per attempt of a miniscule 2.85.
So, yes, a strained foot and a brief spot on the sideline will not go astray. Sometimes you need a bit of perspective to regather your form and the Jets still have a bloody useful backup in Josh McCown to chuck out there. Honestly, the Bills cannot win games of football without the other team helping them out so a reliable veteran like McCown can come in and guide the team to victory here, let Darnold soak up the experience of seeing how games are won, and then if he’s more mobile on his foot next week then get him back out there. If not then hold him back because there’s nothing much to gain from getting him bashed up.
By the way, Nathan Peterman last week? 31 completed passes. Good on him. Did that from 49 attempts at 63.3% completion but that’s something. Now to do something about the interceptions… the Bills might wanna injury-bench Peterman too but they don’t have much of a bloody choice with the injuries. It might even be that Matt Barkley starts here… I was wondering what happened to that lad and the answer is not glamorous.
Wildcard’s Pick: Jets by 9
Jacksonville Jaguars (3-5) at Indianapolis Colts (3-5)
Monday 7.00am NZT
Struggling to come up with much to say about this one, you know. Blake Bortles against Andrew Luck seems to make up its own mind except that the rest of the two teams are the exact opposite. Say, imagine if they combined the two into a super team… which pretty much means trading quarterbacks and getting Lucky onto the Jaguars. Now that’s be a team that could do something in the AFC. But alas instead we have to watch whatever this is going to be.
Instead let me just tell you that I watched that film Mandy the other night. The new one with Nic Cage. It’s very Nic Cage, man. He takes that sucker to eleven. Hallucinatory story about revenge full of gore and violence and psychedelic brutality… a nice casual Sunday watch if you’re interested. I realise I’m off track from the NFL but, buddy, I’m behind my deadline and I can’t really be bothered.
Wildcard’s Pick: Colts by 3
Detroit Lions (3-5) at Chicago Bears (5-3)
Monday 7.00am NZT
I’m a fair bit concerned about the idea of the Detroit Lions going up against Khalil Mack a week after giving up ten sacks to the Minnesota Vikings, that offensive line is just a mess. A dirty, slimy mess. Gunk on the floor mess. It’s a shame because I like the Lions, I like Matt Stafford and what he’s got to work with. Kerryon Johnson is quality, the best running back he’s had since… what, Reggie Bush? But this team is bottom four in interceptions made and rush yards conceded, getting ground down and unable to take the ball away. Not the best combination.
Meanwhile the Bears… curious little team, the Bears. Outstanding defence, a little edgy in the secondary but still an outstanding defence – you know they’ve only given up one rushing TD all season? Considering what the Lions are like on the ground, don’t expect them to win this if Matt Stafford is anything short of superb. Some great contributors on offence too. Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen are exciting players, Howard I’d like to see get more touches but he’s solid, man. But then you get to Mitch Trubisky.
Dude can’t throw. That’s the bottom line. Can’t make plays off the cuff although that’s an experience thing as much as anything. And yet somehow he’s on course for one of the best Chicago quarterback seasons in ages… typical Chicago. If the fella repeats the dose over the second half of his season then we’re talking about 64.2% completion, 3898 yards, 32 touchdowns, 14 interceptions… this is what I don’t understand. He looks bloody average and he puts up the numbers. This is what’s got me confuddled about the Bears. I can’t figure out if they’re a real challenger or not… I s’pose winning this game would go a long way towards proving something. Realistically, if they’re a legit playoff candidate then they’re winning a divisional game like this with the opportunity to effectively knock their rivals out of the chase.
Wildcard’s Pick: Bears by 3
New Orleans Saints (7-1) at Cincinnati Bengals (5-3)
Monday 7.00am NZT
Disclaimer: it might be a good idea to skip ahead and read the Cowboys vs Eagles preview first and then return to this one, just in case you think I’m getting too frisky with the Saints.
Right… in case you missed it last week, here’s a recap of a thing that happened…
The New Orleans Saints are one hundred percent a title candidate. They were the same last season, when they only missed out on the NFC Championship game by a last second miracle, shout out Steffon Diggs, and they’ve gotten better since. Taking away the zero from the Los Angeles Rams like they did by just blasting them out of the gates and then continuing to make plays and hold on to the W. Superb gridiron football. Also a superb result for the course of the season, like it sucks that the last undefeated team has lost but now we’ve got an incredible playoffs picture beginning to take shape. The top of the table is magical. Watch those highlights again. That’s what we’re looking forward to.
Then the Saints went one better and signed up Dez Bryant to add one more weapon, possibly the final touch… only for him to bust his Achilles at training and that’s kinda ruined my week, aye. I was so pumped for that signing. He would have been incredible for the Saints – he wouldn’t be incredible for too many teams because he doesn’t get separation, he’s a physical receiver. But give him the most accurate QB in the game and she’s all over, son, lock the gate and throw the key away. Hope he recovers quick. Hope it ain’t as bad as it sounds.
By the way, another reason for me to hate the Cowboys at the moment, when Mike Thomas pulled out the flip phone from under the goalpost (bought it at the liquor store, apparently) Troy Aikman in commentary just ripped into the act, talked about it like he’d ruined an incredible game, as though he’d pissed on the American flag or something. What an arse. The phone celebration was incredible, easily one of the coolest things all season. Joe Horn reckons he teared up when he saw his famous party trick paid homage to in such fashion. Good ol’ Mike Thomas.
I mean, go on and tell me this dude isn’t elite but I won’t listen…
Wildcard’s Pick: Saints by 8
New England Patriots (7-2) at Tennessee Titans (4-4)
Monday 7.00am NZT
One from the vault…
Wildcard’s Pick: Patriots by 4
Atlanta Falcons (4-4) at Cleveland Browns (2-6-1)
Monday 7.00am NZT
Julio Jones finally got his first touchdown right at the end of the Falcons’ eighth game and, mate, it was an absolute ripper. Check out the moves here, I thought I was watching a running back at first.
Not that it really mattered whether he was scoring or not. It was just a matter of time and he was shredding with the passing yardage anyway so you know he was contributing to the team’s success either way. He makes it possible for the rest of them to do what they do, Calvin Ridley and all his mates. Matty Ryan too, even, which is a weird thing to say about an MVP candidate. With three straight wins the Falcons are finally back to .500 and they’re gunning for that wildcard spot after all – even the defence is playing better. Yeah this game’s gonna another one that’ll be pretty one-sided.
Wildcard’s Pick: Falcons by 17
Los Angeles Chargers (6-2) at Oakland Raiders (1-7)
Monday 10.05am NZT
Week 10 of the Jon Gruden Experience:
Ooh and throw it up for Philip Rivers once again…
Wildcard’s Pick: Chargers by 20
Seattle Seahawks (4-4) at Los Angeles Rams (8-1)
Monday 10.25am NZT
The ol’ bounce back game for the Rams. Sucks to be Seattle at a time like this, destined for 8-8 the way things are going. They’re getting much better, the offensive line has made crazy improvements from the first couple games… actually I’ve got a screenshot for that. This is not including last week…
How about it? Except here they’re up against the best team in the NFL, certainly one of the top three even if that loss last week makes a debate out of it. They conceded early points which meant Todd Gurley was taken out of the game a bit, with more pressure on Jared Goff to do things. He’s good that fella but he’s the one you can get to. The Rams did incredible to get back into that game at 35-all, it just wasn’t quite enough in the end.
Todd Gurley has scored a touchdown in every game so far. Adam Thielen lost his 100yd receiving streak last week, Julio Jones lost his no-TD streak… but Todd Gurley continues to do what he does. Only scored one, granted, which means 16 scores in nine games, falling below that 30-TD threshold I’ve been keeping an eye on for a few weeks. He’s also up to 1230 yards from scrimmage having not done much against the Saints. So it goes. Last time these two teams plays, back in week five, Gurley scored three rush TDs.
Wildcard’s Pick: Rams by 10
Miami Dolphins (5-4) at Green Bay Packers (3-4-1)
Monday 10.25am NZT
Wildcard’s Pick: Packers by 6
Dallas Cowboys (3-5) at Philadelphia Eagles (4-4)
Monday 2.20pm NZT
I’m done. I cannot continue on this path. This Cowboys team has the talent to compete and the NFC East is shockingly open but they simply keep on finding ways to lose and they lose in these incredibly grinding and frustrating manners, it’s too much to take. Way too far along for me to renege on my Cowboys fandom but, I’m making this official now, I have to take a step back. I can’t be this emotionally invested in a team coached by Jason Garrett. I’ll get back on board when he’s fired… which might be three years from now because of Jerry Jones and company.
Like, he’s got Amari Cooper now and he still can’t figure up how to get any depth to the offence. Had a bye week to work on things so don’t tell me it was only last week. They gave up their goddamned first round pick for him, that is a Win Now move. That is a move which says you are going all in for the playoffs which is the right thing to do if you believe it’ll give you that opportunity. But against the Titans all I saw was the same old Cowboys. It started well and then Dak Prescott threw a stupid pick into the endzone and when they needed to regather the momentum they’d lost they never could. Abysmal stuff on third down defence. Rubbish with the offensive strategy. They’re so unbelievably predictable and I refuse to participate in this torture any longer.
It is thus that I declare I’m going to adopt the New Orleans Saints, a team I’ve always had a soft spot for which you’ll know if you’re a long term reader here, as my temporary reserve team. I shall be supporting Drew Brees and Alvin Kamara the rest of the way. Sort of like when a backup quarterback steps in for the injured starter. That’s what’s going on here.
Just quietly Carson Wentz is well and truly back. He’s looking better with each passing week and his season stats are stacking up with about where he ought to be, about time he got some credit for that. The Eagles are considerably worse in the rushing stuff and on defence but they still have a legit quarterback holding down the show so chill on that matter.
Wentz in 2018: 70.7% COMP | 252.3 Y/G | 13 TD | 2 INT | 109.6 RATE
Wildcard’s Pick: Eagles by 8
New York Giants (1-7) at San Francisco 49ers (2-7)
Tuesday 2.25pm NZT
They’re running an ad for this one at the moment selling it as Odell Beckham, as Saquon Barkley… not even a whisper about poor Eli Manning. That’s the Giants these days, a team with one win from eight games. I’m not about to make my same case about how the Giants couldn’t fix all their problems in one year so might as well keep Eli around for one last swing. I’m not going to do that because why would I spend any more time than I already have on an isolated Tuesday game between two teams with three combined wins. They don’t really care so why should I? The only saving grace is the opportunity to see Nick Mullens again after he threw 3 TDs on debut against the Raiders last time out. Knocked old mate CJ Beathard back to backup.
Wildcard’s Pick: 49ers by 2
BYE: Denver Broncos (3-6), Minnesota Vikings (5-3-1), Baltimore Ravens (4-5) & Houston Texans (6-3)
The Wildcard is a staff writer for The Niche Cache. Don’t talk to him about the Cowboys, he doesn’t want to talk about the Cowboys. Unless Jason Garrett’s been sacked, in which case talk all you want.
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