Last Week: 11-4-1
Last Season: 171-85
Baltimore Ravens (1-0) at Cincinnati Bengals (1-0)
Friday 12.20pm NZT
Wildcard: Nah Joe Flacco’s washed, he’ll be dropped by the end of the season. All aboard the Lamar Jackson wagon, that’s the only way the Ravens are doing anything. Flacco’s best preseason in ages? Pfft, forget about it.
Joe Flacco: 25/43 COMP | 236 YDS | 3 TD | 0 INT | 121.7 RATE
And the Ravens beat the Bills 47-3. Shows what I know, aye?
What’s funky is that the Ravens still did use a lot of Lamar Jackson. They brought him in for several trick plays, throwing four times for one completion of 24 yards and rushing seven times for 39 yards. Plus he also got sacked once. Mixed bag but it’s a cheeky little system that John Harbaugh’s drafting up there.
The biggest thing to remember about week one is that it’s only week one. You can’t form any concrete opinions yet because there’s no context to these games. It takes three or four weeks at least before we get a genuine idea of who’s doing the goods and who ain’t. So I’m not all that convinced about the Ravens yet considering how terrible Buffalo was in that game especially. Can’t ask for a better start though. Edgar Allen Poe would be proud.
Wildcard’s Pick: Ravens by 3
Kansas City Chiefs (1-0) at Pittsburgh Steelers (0-0-1)
Monday 5.00am NZT
Two things to know about the Pittsburgh vs Cleveland game:
1) I picked Cleveland to win. It was risky, it was reckless. They didn’t win. But they should have won, and at least they didn’t lose, so I’m counting this as a moral victory. Who else did you see get closer with their pick? Mate, that’s what’s up.
2) Big Ben is usually pants in September anyway. Probably didn’t expect him to be three picks and two lost fumbles bad but he is a traditionally slow starter, surely more so now that he’s 36 years old.
Big Ben in September through his career:
21-20-1 WLT | 63.6% COMP | 62 TD | 39 INT | 7.44 AY/A | 253.7 Y/G | 90.9 RATE
Those are his worst numbers per month of any month in most cases, with a couple exceptions where his November numbers dip lower, except the thing is that he has a 66% winning record in November despite that while here obviously he’s now way back at 50%. Not his best work by any means… which is how you know not to freak out about it.
More interesting is this Le’Veon Bell situation and while James Connor looked pretty darn solid for most of that game, his late fumble didn’t help things when they needed to string a couple first downs together. I liked what he did, particularly as an option in the passing game too, but let’s not kid ourselves that he’s offering anything close to what Le’Veon does. They need that hombre back if they’re going to be taken seriously when it comes time to meet the Patriots in the playoffs. Consolation is that just as Big Ben will improve as things go, so will the Steelers offence with Bell still to return. He just knows that they’re gonna make him run forty times a game because they know he’s leaving, so he’s trying to dodge a few of those games to begin with. It’s an ugly situation right not, however I reckon a mutually beneficial solution is achievable.
And now we pause to pay attention to a fella called Patrick Mahomes.
I mean, just look at this glorious parabolic arc.
Yeah I’ll dig that. I’ll dig that and then some.
Wildcard’s Pick: Steelers by 6
Miami Dolphins (1-0) at New York Jets (1-0)
Monday 5.00am NZT
First throw of Sam Darnold’s career. There’s a stadium full of Jets fans all ready to believe the hype, this is their guy. They’ve invested in him. Youngest starting rookie quarterback in history and there had to be a good reason for that. If the Jets are getting back in contention any time soon then Sam Darnold’s going to have a lot to do with that and here’s Darnold now, taking the snap. He drops back deep out the back of the pocket and fakes the handoff. Rolls right. Pressure’s coming. Looking up. Firing now, firing, back across the field and it’s intercepted by Quandre Diggs and run in for the pick six. First pass of Darnold’s career. Last dude to throw a pick six with his first pass attempt was Jameis Winston, before him it was Brett Favre. There you go.
But you know what? After that he was bloody impressive. 16/21 for 198 yards with two touchdowns. The Lions were their own worst enemies with an abysmal performance from Matt Stafford but Darnold made it count. He held his own. Seemed to read the defence quite well, got the ball out quick (mostly) and hit his targets. Plus he’s got good feet, able to weasel his way out of pressure. We’ll see how he goes against a team that doesn’t completely wet the bed with turnovers – the Jets scored 31 points in the third quarter! – but Miami might be another decent matchup for SD.
Rookie QB Power Rankings
Sam Darnold (NYJ)
Lamar Jackson (BAL)
Josh Allen (BUF)
Wildcard’s Pick: Jets by 4
Philadelphia Eagles (1-0) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-0)
Monday 5.00am NZT
Philly Special vs Fitzmagic. What’s there not to get excited about?
It has to be the beard, right? That dude threw 417 yards on 28 pass attempts, four touchdowns and not a pick amongst them. He out-gunned a 10 outta 10 performance from Drew Brees in New Orleans and nobody does that, let alone a 36 year old backup quarterback who once threw six picks in a single game. Like, as much as I talked up the Saints preseason, I can’t even be mad at that defeat because they still scored 42 points.
Oh and by the way… SCORIGAMI!
Wildcard’s Pick: Eagles by 15
Cleveland Browns (0-0-1) at New Orleans Saints (0-1)
Monday 5.00am NZT
Kinda feel like I’ve already talked about both these teams.
Wildcard’s Pick: Saints by 17
Indianapolis Colts (0-1) at Washington R*dskins (1-0)
Monday 5.00am NZT
The good news is that Andrew Luck looked alright in his comeback game. A little rusty perhaps but alright just the same. The bad news is that the rest of the Colts were every bit as average as expected. This’ll be a proper test though. The Skins looked surprisingly excellent on offence last week, I expected as much from Alex Smith being the dependable bugger that he’s always been but getting massive production out of the likes of Chris Thompson (125 yards from scrimmage with a touchdown) and Adrian Peterson (166 yards from scrimmage with a touchdown) really gives them something to work with. Having said that, week one. They were playing the Cardinals and the Cardinals are awful. Sam Bradford with his checkdowns.
File this under things you don’t wanna see:
He got through it though. He took some serious hits in week one and got through it. One thing you know for sure is that Luck puts up points one way or another and the R*dskins, you know, scored 21 of their 24 points in the second quarter. I already said they looked excellent last week but I have to stick to my week one rule and not overreact. Don’t overreact. Come on.
Wildcard’s Pick: Colts by 6 for a laugh
Los Angeles Chargers (0-1) at Buffalo Bills (0-1)
Monday 5.00am NZT
Wildcard’s Pick: Chargers by 7
Minnesota Vikings (1-0) at Green Bay Packers (1-0)
Monday 5.00am NZT
Yet again we must collectively bow down at the greatness of Aaron Rodgers. We are, as the saying goes, not worthy.
They were 20-0 down. Rodgers was carted off injured in the first half. He came back to win.
That just shouldn’t be possible. Even watching it, it didn’t feel possible. Aaron Rodgers is too much.
Should be a great game, this one. Rodgers has supposedly escaped with just a sprained knee so gotta expect he plays this one after a little rest during the week. The Vikings were solid in taking care of the Niners. Kirk Cousins thoroughly outplayed Jimmy Garoppolo… although it’s not just him clearly, having Dalvin Cook, Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen helps a bucket load too. Same for a defence that forced four turnovers and gave Jimmy G his first career loss as a started. The Vikings are going to win a lot of game this season. So are the Packers if Rodgers is healthy.
Wildcard’s Pick: Vikings by 3
Carolina Panthers (1-0) at Atlanta Falcons (0-1)
Monday 5.00am NZT
The Falcons in the Red Zone vs Philly in the 2018 Opener:
First & Goal - Devonta Freeman, 5yd rush (0-0)
Second & Goal – Devonta Freeman, 0yd rush (0-0)
Third & Goal – Matt Ryan incomplete pass (0-0)
Fourth & Goal – Devonta Freeman, -1yd rush (0-0)
First & 10 – Matt Ryan complete to Austin Hooper for 3yds (0-0)
Second & 7 - Matt Ryan incomplete pass (0-0)
Third & 7 – Defensive Penalty (0-0)
Third & 3 - Matt Ryan incomplete pass (0-0)
Fourth & 3 – Matt Bryant 21yd field goal (3-0)
Second & 5 – Tevin Coleman, 2yd rush (6-10)
Third & 3 - Matt Ryan pass intercepted (6-10)
Second & 1 – Matt Ryan sacked for -7yds (12-18)
Third & 8 – Matt Ryan complete to Mohamed Sanu for 10yd (12-18)
First & 10 - Matt Ryan incomplete pass (12-18)
Second & 10 - Matt Ryan incomplete pass (12-18)
Third & 10 - Matt Ryan incomplete pass (12-18)
Fourth & 10 – Defensive penalty (12-18)
First & 5 - Matt Ryan incomplete pass (12-18)
Look, we knew they had problems converting in the red zone last season and we know from vast recent experience that the Eagles are as good a red zone defence as there is out there. But honestly this was a mess. Matt Ryan was all over the show and the Falcons lost a game they could have definitely made a big statement in.
Luckily for them I also wasn’t impressed by the Panthers’ inability to cash in on their opportunities against the Dallas Cowboys in a first half where Dallas could barely move the ball two yards forward. Carolina got the biscuits in the end but it was close for way longer than it had any right to be. Gotta imagine the Saints weren’t too worried by what they saw from either major division rival, it’s those pesky Buccs everyone’s watching out for now.
Wildcard’s Pick: Falcons by 5
Houston Texans (0-1) at Tennessee Titans (0-1)
Monday 5.00am NZT
Haven’t seen too many games like that Dolphins vs Titans one before. Early kickoff and it was still going after the late afternoon games were all done and dusted. Not really sure you can learn anything from a game that was as much rain delay as it was game. Shout outs to the Fins for winning the rain delay. Now if they can only make the lighting come back when the Patriots are in town then they should be sweet.
The Texans know what’s up with playing the Patriots already, they’ve copped that L. The Titans will find out in November. Theme of the week, it’s too early to make judgements, but both teams really need this win. The Texans have a better schedule so they can absorb the loss if they have to, though coming from 0-2 to make the playoffs is a big hurdle. The Titans, meanwhile… bloody hell. Lose this and they’ve got the Jaguars and Eagles to play straight afterwards and that’s a hole you do not want to find yourselves in when you’re trying to get back to the playoffs. Big fan of these early season boilers, mate. Can’t miss ‘em.
Wildcard’s Pick: Texans by 2
Arizona Cardinals (0-1) at Los Angeles Rams (1-0)
Monday 8.05am NZT
Oh please, the Rams will fustigate them. Not even close.
Wildcard’s Pick: Rams by 20
Detroit Lions (0-1) at San Francisco 49ers (0-1)
Monday 8.05am NZT
Here’s one to wet the ol’ whistle. Two team coming off frustrating losses with a point to prove, a couple top notch quarterbacks who somehow threw a combined seven interceptions between them last week. Yeah nah, this one should be a ripper.
Matt Patricia was understandably not a happy chappie watching his top ten QB get dominated by a rookie on debut and I’m reminded that Belichick disciples don’t actually have much of a great record in the NFL. But I do rate the pencil behind the ear look, that’s a nice flash of intellectualism in a league increasingly defined by annoying idiots shouting loudly at the telly. The backwards hat and beard could use some work, hey he’s coming from the sleeveless sweatshirt culture of New England so these things do take time. The important thing is that he remains true to himself, as his mother might say.
Some games are easy to pick. Others, such as this one, are not. See I thought the Lions were alright coming into the season so I’m trying to avoid the… I’ve already explained the week one rule. You get the picture. The other thing is I’m simply not convinced the Niners are going to win more than they lose in 2018. Like, where’s the evidence? Jimmy G’s not a superstar because he got a superstar contract, they gave him that trusting he can grow into it. They’ve got a slick defence, DeForest Buckner had 2.5 sacks of Kirk Cousins a week ago, but they’re skint for running backs with Jerick McKinnon’s ACL gone and relying on some unproven WRs too. Jimmy G got everyone too excited in that late season spurt in 2017. That was garbage time.
Hey, speaking of immaculate style…
Wildcard’s Pick: Lions by 1, get some
Oakland Raiders (0-1) at Denver Broncos (1-0)
Monday 8.25am NZT
It’s… who… he… what!?
Week One of the Jon Gruden Experience…
Wildcard’s Pick: Broncos by 6
New England Patriots (1-0) at Jacksonville Jaguars (1-0)
Monday 8.25am NZT
The Jaguars could do absolutely anything if they only had a better quarterback. Or even one that they can trust just a little. The Jags barely beat the Giants in a game they largely dominated and the reason for that is Blake Bortles. Not specifically him alone, the coaches are trying to hide him and they’d be better off loosening the rope, but it all comes back to Bort one way or another.
Before the first game of the year, coach Doug Marrone was asked what he wanted to see from Bort this season. His answer was thus:
"Zero turnovers. I mean really, and I say that with anyone on our team that touches the football. That's the one thing that is the biggest cause of winning and losing games. I think that we talk about ball security and that's not just for a quarterback, but for our receivers, our tight ends, running backs, all the time. When you turn the ball over, it's hard to win football games."
Bort had an interception and a lost fumble in week one. To be fair, he also had a 41 yard rush which was exhilarating to say the least. Hey and this is a rematch of the AFC Championship game.
Week one thoughts on the Patriots…
Wildcard’s Pick: Patriots by 2
New York Giants (0-1) at Dallas Cowboys (0-1)
Monday 12.20pm NZT
The Giants and the Cowboys, a couple teams that always seem to play within the first two weeks of any new season. Also a couple teams that hung about last week only to lose in the end, unable to orchestrate the comeback, only able to hover about in range. The G-Men didn’t score a touchdown until the fourth quarter against Jacksonville. The Cowboys also didn’t score a touchdown until the fourth quarter of their game against Carolina.
Dak Prescott needs to be open to the run when things break down. He doesn’t have a great set of receivers and he’s not a gambler, so those guys aren’t going to get open for him every time. But Dak’s quick, he can dash. Bringing Zeke more deliberately into the passing game would help too however Dallas has an issue with playing from behind the line of scrimmage. So many plays are rushing plays or screens or short completions and what killed them in the first half against Carolina was that, well for one thing you’re letting the linebackers go to work when you play so shallow and the Panthers are pretty loaded in that position, and then also a short run gain and an incompletion or sack was leaving them with third and long all day long. Eventually they picked up the pace and Dak got a couple ones going but they need to learn that lesson swiftly if they’re going anywhere this season. On the plus side, their defence kept them in it. That’s a useful unit all of a sudden.
The Giants were a little funkier because they had two things going for them. One was Odell Beckham who was fantastic, 11 catches for 111 yards. Didn’t have anything longer than 24 yards and that’s reflective of a superb Jags secondary but he still got the ball in his hands one way or another. The other thing was Saquon Barkley. The rookie with a ridiculous run for a 68 yard score near the end, getting his team back into it. The Giants put a lot of faith in Barkley by taking him over a quarterback like, say, Sam Darnold. That play was everything they’re hoping for from him. (So maybe not the best time to burst the bubble and say aside from that run he had 17 rushes for 38 yards).
Wildcard’s Pick: Cowboys by 3
Seattle Seahawks (0-1) at Chicago Bears (0-1)
Tuesday 12.15pm NZT
For one half of a game of football the Bears were stupendously good. Showing all kinds of funky looks in Bill Nagy’s new scheme, lining up an offensive lineman at wideout one time, and they were 20-0 up against the Packers for a reason. Khalil Mack’s first half debut was as good as they get. Absolute wrecking ball. They were bashing Aaron Rodgers almost on every play.
But when Rodgers came back and sped up the pace of play, neutralising the pass rush, Chicago had no idea. Mitch Trubisky threw for 171 yards in this one. He needed 23 completions from 35 attempts to get to that number. Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen mean he doesn’t need to throw 400 yards to win but I’m concerned about how timid he seemed, like he was following instructions and that’s all he does. An automated quarterback. Aaron Rodgers changed the game by adapting and Trubisky didn’t have it in him. Tough comparison, obviously, for anyone let alone a second year dude.
But yes. 171 yards. He was 4/4 for 54 yards with a rushing touchdown on his team’s first offensive possession. One quarter in and this was our reality…
Thing was, he got more and more conservative as the game went on and they needed another score to win, needed to get the foot on the accelerator. You learn from that though. The Bears weren’t supposed to be this useful so quickly. Next step is to shave the moustache.
Seattle are exactly what we expected. Earl Thomas showed up and immediately had an interception, their defence was okay but not what it’s been in recent years. And offensively they’re still entirely reliant on Russell Wilson. Nothing’s changed.
Wildcard’s Pick: Seahawks by 4
The Wildcard is a staff writer for The Niche Cache. Nothing’s changed there either.
Be a good bugger on our Patreon to aid the TNC Revolution.
Smash an ad if you fancy the NFL words.