Last Week: 7-8-1
New York Jets (1-1) at Cleveland Browns (0-1-1)
Monday 7.00am NZT
The long wait for the next Browns victory continues after some missed field goals, poor game management and Drew Brees postponed the most eagerly awaited victory dance in NFL history last week. 18 points in the fourth quarter, the Saints really know how to keep ‘em sweating. And the Browns… they don’t really know anything anymore.
But the wait’s been shrunk by a short turnaround to play the Jets in Thursday Night Football and as everyone knows TNF is where the madness happens. Or, more accurately… where nothing much happens because the game buggers up every team’s recovery and training schedule and then happens so far removed from the rest of the week’s games that fans aren’t done dealing with the last one before TNF comes along and gets in the way.
Which is all good for Cleveland. Maybe like the nervous public speaker who can’t concentrate when they knows everybody’s looking at them, all the Browns need to get the monkey off their back is to play when nobody’s watching. Going up against the Jets isn’t exactly an anonymous task, certainly not when they’re all freaking about Sam Darnold. But I won’t be watching, if that helps them. Got a dentist appointment that day. I wish that was a joke but it’s not.
Speaking of Sam Darnold… what exactly is the connection between him and the broadway musical Hamilton other than that they both perform mostly in New York?
Tenuous at best, bro.
Wildcard’s Pick: Brown by 3
Buffalo Bills (0-2) at Minnesota Vikings (1-0-1)
Monday 5.00am NZT
As I sat there with my laptop watching stunned as Daniel Carlson missed his third field goal of the game to allow the Green Bay Packers to escape with a tie in a game in which Kirk Cousins threw 426 yards with 4 touchdowns and Green Bay were only really in position to win thanks to a blocked punt returned for a TD and a pick-six I said to myself that if Dan Bailey wasn’t the Vikings kicker within three days then he’ll probably be the Cleveland Browns kicker instead. The second most accurate kicker ever may have been cut by the Cowboys, for financial and health reasons, but even a Dan Bailey with a sore back is way too good to be unemployed while these other jokers are missing kicks left, right and not centre because that wouldn’t be a miss… unless it was short and went under… so yes left, right and centre. Sure enough…
Mike Zimmer was absolutely cutting in his press address about Dan Carlson too. This is not a man you want to cross. This is a man who will slice you up into five different pieces and dump those pieces in five different bins in five different locations around town in order to trace out a pentagram with his pattern of placement. Mike Zimmer is the Zodiac Killer, basically.
So pretty much the Minnesota Vikings who already have more talent on their team in more positions of the roster than it should be feasible for any team to maintain have just added one of the statistically finest kickers of all time. I can tell ya from fan experience that Bailey had his worst year last season and he’s not been a hundy health-wise for a little bit but it’s still not fair that the Vikings can just, like, add him to their roster and correct their biggest current weakness.
Also, if you want a laugh, check out Stefon Diggs (amongst others) on Celebrity Family Feud. Snuck that one past the censors alright.
And that’s just the week in Vikings news, I haven’t even gotten to the Buffalo Bills yet who, if you haven’t noticed, are extremely pathetic and poor Josh Allen’s gonna have a steep learning curve with this lot. Even steeper thanks to the retirement of Vontae Davis. The midgame retirement of Vontae Davis. A true American legend for taking a look at the scoreboard, taking a look in his heart, and deciding that he wasn’t about this life no more… during half-time of the game.
VD to The Undefeated: “Leaving was therapeutic, bro. I left everything the league wanted me to be, playing for my teammates while injured, the gladiator mentality, it all just popped. And when it popped, I just wanted to leave it all behind. So that’s why I don’t care what people say. That experience was personal and not meant for anyone else to understand. It was me cold turkey leaving behind an identity that I carried with me for so long.”
Mate, I rate that. I know a lot of people will grill him for quitting on his buddies and all that but I rate that he made a courageous decision that was in his best interests. This is a ruthless league that chews out players long before they’re ready to leave it all behind and Vontae Davis, regardless of how it happened, was able to give it away on his own terms. Respect. Also: hilarious. Because he retired at half-time of a blowout loss and that’s hilarious. I cannot stop laughing. But good on him.
Probably a good thing he’s not a pilot, though.
Wildcard’s Pick: Vikings by about a hundred
New York Giants (0-2) at Houston Texans (0-2)
Monday 5.00am NZT
Mate, I served up some trash with last week’s picks. It’s not often that I drop a losing week but that one was a shocker. The Vikings killed me with their missed field goals… although the Browns saved me with theirs, then I went and picked the Ravens even after explaining how I wasn’t gonna overreact to their week one win over a shocking Bills team. The Buccs beating the Eagles was a proper upset, same with the Pats losing to the Jags, although maybe not. The Steelers were close against KC and same deal with the Seahawks. I regret not picking the Dolphins to win… however that Titans team winning without Marcus Mariota was a blinder. I don’t really regret picking Detroit but another loss does leave them in a tricky situation. I dunno, maybe it was just a bad luck week. A losing week of picks is like dry weetbix though: tough to swallow.
I’ve seen very little to think the Giants are up to much this season so far. They’ve got some real quality in their offensive position players but that’s offset by an offensive line built out of swiss cheese and while their defence can do a few things, it’s certainly nothing special. I’d suggest it’s about time we saw Houston get something done this season. They’ve lost both games but each time they were within a score. With their next four games against the Giants, Colts (A), Cowboys and Bills there’s no reason they shouldn’t be back to at least 3-3 by the time they meet the Jaguars in week seven.
Wildcard’s Pick: Texans by 7
Green Bay Packers (1-0-1) at Washington R*dskins (1-1)
Monday 5.00am NZT
Early days but these are Aaron Rodgers’ combined stats in the two fourth quarters he’s played in 2018:
19/26 COMP | 324 YDS | 3 TD | 0 INT | 153.4 RATE
Alex Smith ain’t too shabby either, also yet to throw an interception this season – along with Rodgers and Smith, Dak Prescott, Drew Brees and Patrick Mahomes are the only other QBs who’ve started both games without a pick – but the R*dskins just aren’t getting to the red zone. They’ve got a guy completing at 71.1% and I don’t even care that he’s throwing short completions, those still add up when you’re getting almost three outta four of them, but they’ve played the Cards and the Colts and didn’t put them away so it’s hard to imagine how they’re gonna outscore Aaron Rodgers.
Adrian Peterson got some hype in week one but he’s rushing for 3.1 yards per attempt this season. He had 20 yards on 11 attempts against the Colts and that’s nobody’s idea of a stifling defence. An okay defence, perhaps, but they’re hardly Jacksonville, Denver or Minnesota. Nah, the Packers have got this one easy.
Wildcard’s Pick: Packers by 12
San Francisco 49ers (1-1) at Kansas City Chiefs (2-0)
Monday 5.00am NZT
Guts to Jimmy G, aye? The new darling of the quarterback class and he’s already been left in the shade for the emergent genius that is Patrick Mahomes.
No quarterback in history had ever thrown nine TDs in their first three NFL starts and Mahomes has now thrown 10. What’s more is that he didn’t even throw one on starting debut in week 17 last season so those 10 have all come in the first two games of 2018. Mahomes has won all three starts (winning early being something Garoppolo knows a thing about too) and has a 130.1 QB Rating with 866 yards. Only Cam Newton had more total yards in his first three starts, nobody has ever topped that QB Rating through their first three starts and, mate, this is only the beginning. Patrick Mahomes cannot sustain this pace forever but his first two games of 2018 have been completely incredible.
Wk1 at LAC – 15/27 COMP | 256 YDS | 4 TD | 0 INT
Wk2 at PIT – 23/28 COMP | 326 YDS | 6 TD | 0 INT
The concern is that they’ve given up 65 points in two games. This Chiefs defence is nowhere near the level of old and Mahomes does need to keep these numbers at a pretty elite level in order for them to keep outscoring teams. Granted, they’ve played Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger so two excellent opposing quarterbacks. Gotta chill on the Chiefs to a certain extent but they’re much better than I expected them to be and that’s 100% down to Mr Mahomes.
Meanwhile Garoppolo has thrown three picks completing at 55.9% so far through two games so pump the breaks on him for a second. We already knew he was a little bit pants in the red zone when the field’s all shrunken down but he was supposed to be able to throw straight. They got some brilliance out of Matt Breida last week though. He was subtly decent as a backup last season and bagged 138 yards off 11 carries last week. A more prominent running game will do their quarterback wonders.
Wildcard’s Pick: Kansas City by 7
Oakland Raiders (0-2) at Miami Dolphins (2-0)
Monday 5.00am NZT
Week Two of the Jon Gruden Experience…
Wildcard’s Pick: Dolphins by 6
Indianapolis Colts (1-1) at Philadelphia Eagles (1-1)
Monday 5.00am NZT
Guess who’s back…
Carson meet Andrew. Andrew meet Carson. This should be a lot of fun.
Wildcard’s Pick: Philly by 3
Tennessee Titans (1-1) at Jacksonville Jaguars (0-2)
Monday 5.00am NZT
I mean… I still can’t even comprehend this…
I’m also not entirely sure what was going on for the Titans to beat the Texans with Marcus Mariota standing on the sidelines. With their two best tackles absent too. Mike Vrabel got his first win as an NFL head coach with some brilliant bits of creativity, keeping his team playing with a quick tempo to generate yards despite the injuries, but that doesn’t fully explain how they won with Blaine Gabbert throwing for 117 total yards. That makes no sense to me.
The hope is that Mariota’s back this week. They’ll need him. They’re up against something special this week and I’m not even talking about Jalen Ramsay.
Tom Brady vs JAX: 24/35 COMP | 234 YDS | 2 TD | 0 INT | 106.1 RATE
Blake Bortles vs NE: 29/45 COMP | 377 YDS | 4 TD | 1 INT | 111.1 RATE
Wildcard’s Pick: Jags by 11
Cincinnati Bengals (2-0) at Carolina Panthers (1-1)
Monday 5.00am NZT
Prepare yourself for an eerie fact…
… the Bengals are 2-0 and both their wins have come by 34-23 scorelines.
It’s not that eerie, on second thought, but it is a bit weird. The Bengals were solid prospects but solid tends to mean seven to nine wins and here the Bengals are looking like they can win the division. And who is leading the way for them? Andy Dalton’s done okay but throw your love the way of AJ Green who leads the league with four touchdown receptions already (he only had eight in all of 2017). He scored three TDs in the first seventeen minutes of the game against the Ravens. They had no answer. The Panthers are going to have difficulty solving that one too.
Wildcard’s Pick: Bengals by 2
Denver Broncos (2-0) at Baltimore Ravens (1-1)
Monday 5.00am NZT
The thing with the Broncos is that they’re 2-0 and playing a bit crap. They’ve played the Seahawks and Raiders, both at home, and won by a combined four points. I don’t rate either of those two opponents to make the playoffs. Phillip Lindsay is grinding out yards but I’ve seen some silly drops from Demaryius Thomas while Case Keenum is getting yards and not much else. Three scores to four picks. Completion under 60%.
Look for this one to be a real test between two top quality defensive units who are being tasked with carrying their entire team because of the inconsistent offences on show. Case Keenum vs Joe Flacco is selling zero tickets but Von Miller vs Terrell Suggs sure should.
Wildcard’s Pick: Ravens by 5
New Orleans Saints (1-1) at Atlanta Falcons (1-1)
Monday 5.00am NZT
Wildcard’s Pick: Saints by 3
Los Angeles Chargers (1-1) at Los Angeles Rams (2-0)
Monday 8.05am NZT
Ah yes, the battle of Los Angeles. A city that moaned it didn’t have a team for so long that they gave them two at once and nobody even cares. That’s LA for you.
The Chargers slipped up to KC in week one but they won’t be the last team to get outscored by Patty Mahomes and company. Then they cruised to a win over the Bills, who might be the worst team in the NFL this season. Hard to say what to make of that but Philip Rivers has been excellent and having dual rushing/receiving threats in Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler gives them some real funk to work with. After this week they have the 49ers, Raiders, Browns (A) and Titans so they oughta hit their bye week in decent shape. But the Rams should be too much for them.
The Rams have an offence that is basically unstoppable. Todd Gurley calls the shots and you don’t keep that guy from getting his yards under any circumstances. But don’t worry about that. Worry about their defence. The Arizona Cardinals are pretty stretched for good players but they didn’t even cross midfield on offence until the final play of the game last week. It’s been nearly 12 years since a team was so completely dominated in territory. Aaron Donald hasn’t hardly even done much yet and the Rams have gone six straight quarters without conceding a point. Obviously it’ll get a lot harder from here on in but bloody hell.
Wildcard’s Pick: Rams by 10
Chicago Bears (1-1) at Arizona Cardinals (0-2)
Monday 8.25am NZT
Khalil Mack is everything we already knew he was and there are only a couple teams in the league with an elite pass rusher. We saw what that can do to a team with JJ Watt in his prime and now we’re seeing the Bears, a Bears team that prior to this trade looked like they’d do well to win six games, looking rather decent all of a sudden. They’re nothing special and Mitch Trubisky is incapable of doing anything off-script but Mack allows a bunch of interesting young defenders to do their thing while they already had some cool options on offence. Unlike the Cardies, who have nothing.
Wildcard’s Pick: Bears by 7
Dallas Cowboys (1-1) at Seattle Seahawks (0-2)
Monday 8.25am NZT
In Dak Prescott’s last ten games he’s averaging 183.6 yards per game at 6.4 yards per attempt.
In Russell Wilson’s last ten games he’s averaging 220.2 yards per game at 6.9 yards per attempt.
Neither of these guys are exactly being used to their potential in their current schemes, are they? At least Wilson still throws touchdowns, Dak only has one of them in his first two games. Actually Wilson’s only win in his last six games game against Dallas in week 16 of last season in which he threw for just 93 yards (three Dallas turnovers doing the work for him).
This is a different Seattle team though. They do still have Earl Thomas so that ruins that prediction of mine, that ET would be playing for Dallas in this game, but that doesn’t explain giving up 51 points in two games. Some teams can overcome that. Kansas City at the moment. But Russell Wilson is so far removed from every other player on his offence in terms of skill level that it’s a mess. That new offensive coordinator ain’t doing so flash yet.
Wildcard’s Pick: Cowboys by 4
New England Patriots (1-1) at Detroit Lions (0-2)
Monday 12.20pm NZT
The Master meets the ex-Apprentice. In movies and books this is usually a formative experience for the apprentice, defeating their mentor to step out of their shadow once and for all. In the NFL that tends not to be the case. How many great coaches have been grown on the Belichick tree? Not very many – you could argue that Bill O’Brien is the best there is and he’s not all that great, the Texans are 0-2 right now and O’Brien will probably be sacked if he doesn’t get a win in the next two weeks.
And put it this way: Matt Patricia was not the only Pats assistant who left last year. Josh McDaniels was on his way out too, pretty much already agreed with the Indianapolis Colts but the Patriots convinced him to destroy his own reputation to stay in New England instead. But they let Matt Patricia walk no worries about it. That’s not a perfect example but it’s a concerning one if you’re a Lions fan watching this team struggle in the early days of the season. It’s pretty hard to come back from 0-2 and still make the playoffs. New Orleans did it last year but under extremely different circumstances.
Josh Gordon on the Pats. Are we sure Josh Gordon is even that good still, though? Old mate hasn’t played six games in a season since 2013 so I’d be careful expecting him to do what he did back then. Then again, this is exactly what the Patriots always do. They take on talented wide receivers and they get a year or two of exceeded expectations out of them then they kick them back to the curb. They’re not kind. But they win. I just can’t even imagine Patricia getting anything over Belichick here, no matter how much he has to prove.
Also shout out to the Detroit Lions, who have now gone a record 70 games without a 100 yard rusher. They might as well just drive it through the middle all day here and try get 100 yards from 60 rushes because that might be about all they have to play for. Josh McDaniels and Tom Brady literally went up against Patricia’s coaching ideas in every training session last season so taking us much time off the clock as possible especially considering Tom Brady is 46-11 coming off a defeat in his career and hasn’t lost consecutive games since the 2015 season.
Wildcard’s Pick: Patriots by 10
Pittsburgh Steelers (0-1-1) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-0)
Tuesday 12.15pm NZT
Significantly fewer interceptions last week for Big Ben and a few extra touchdown passes, even if they did still lose. But along the way Roethlisberger passed John Elway for seventh on the all-time passing yardage list. Good for you, amigo. Probs gotta play a couple more years to catch Dan Marino but Eli Manning in sixth is still in sight. Also he has 800 or so yards of a lead ahead of Philip Rivers. Funky old duels going on there between three jerries all drafted in 2004. Ooh and don’t forget Drew Brees who with a couple more years under his belt than those three is going to break Peyton Manning’s record of 71940 yards in a couple games. He’s got 814 to go.
But how could we talk about quarterbacks for this game and take anything other than max three words to get to Ryan Fitzmagic? I can only apologise for my tardiness. Ryan, the stage is all yours.
48 of 61 passes completed
819 passing yards
8 touchdown passes to just one interception
13.4 yards per attempt, 17.1 yards per completion
I think Jameis Winston just lost his starting gig in Tampa. You cannot drop Fitzmagic after that.
Wildcard’s Pick: Steelers by 7… they’re due
The Wildcard is a staff writer for The Niche Cache. The jacket and gold chains are his but the chest hair is all Ryan Fitzpatrick’s.
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