Last Week: 9-7
Minnesota Vikings (1-1-1) at Los Angeles Rams (3-0)
Friday 12.20pm NZT
Two of the most talented teams in the league, except that the Vikings have only won one game and just got thrashed by the Buffalo Bills so… yeah. Not entirely sure what happened there. I’m choosing not to read too much into that result because I already know that this is what Kirk Cousins does. He puts up class numbers but struggles to turn those numbers into Ws. Three straight years he’s dropped 4000+ yards and 25+ TDs and yet he’s never won more than nine games. Cut the interceptions and turn that into 13 wins and we’re talking MVP type figures but then that’s not Kirk Cousins.
This is a top quality Thursday night game. In fact it might be the best TNF game all season. The three so far have been pretty average, Baker Maysfield notwithstanding, and the rest of the year is mostly more of the same. Eyes peeled on Eagles vs Jaguars in Week 8 and Chargers vs Chiefs in Week 15 but yeah. Bit of a funky group of games as usual. Nobody likes playing on Thursday night where recovery schedules are all messed up so they give it to the trash teams with a few exceptions.
This being one of them. Vikings against Rams. Mate, if I wasn’t so tired any my deadline wasn’t coming up fast then I’d be all over this thing. Todd Gurley doing Todd Gurley things. Kirk Cousins doing Kirk Cousins things. Sean McVay and Mike Zimmer. Two incredibly exciting defences. Bloody get all over it, amigo. No point digging into the details when the whole thing is a treat.
Wildcard’s Pick: Rams by 7
Houston Texans (0-3) at Indianapolis Colts (1-2)
Monday 6.00am NZT
Just a nod to the fact that Andrew Luck is still coming back from a serious injury, when the Colts had one last chance for the hail mary at the end of last week they brought out Jacoby Brissett to throw it since Lucky didn’t have the arm strength. And for some reason that’s being talked about like some huge humiliation for Andrew Luck. Mate, he’s been injured. Of course his arm isn’t a hundy. What’s he gonna go out there and cost his team a chance to win a miracle game just to prove a tired point about his ego? No chance.
Interesting point about the Texans, opponents have been super imbalanced against them so far. Second fewest pass attempts against them and second most rush attempts. We already know what havoc that Houston pass rush can achieve to that goes a long way to explaining that. Also gives a nod towards them being 0-3. They’ve got a huge strength there that’s being negated because of other weaknesses. Gotta sort that out some time soon.
Lucky for them the Colts can’t run.
Wildcard’s Pick: Colts by 4 because I can’t help myself
Buffalo Bills (1-2) at Green Bay Packers (1-1-1)
Monday 6.00am NZT
The Packers have only won one game but they’ve also only lost one game. They could be 0-3 or they could be 3-0, it’s a weird one. Hard to figure out what to think of these jokers. Especially with Aaron Rodgers hobbling around in what looks like immense pain. I’m not in on the conspiracy that this is worse than a sprain because I’ve sprained a knee before and those suckers can sting but either way it’s not a positive thing. An impressive thing that he’s playing through it but not a positive thing. Might not even be the worst thing to give him a rest here given the Bills are as rubbish as the Bills are.
Oh no wait but they thrashed the Vikings!? Yeah, so what. Josh Allen played well and led his team to victory, every team has one big win in them each season. They did it without LeSean McCoy which is crazy but the Bills aren’t suddenly an excellent team because they won a game. This lot gave up a half century to the freakin’ Baltimore Ravens. Of course they can win this game, every team in the league is vulnerable when their QB is hurt. But for now I’m treating that game as an anomaly.
Wildcard’s Pick: Packers by a little bit
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-1) at Chicago Bears (2-1)
Monday 6.00am NZT
Let me be the 185,890,578th person to make the joke: Ryan Fitzmagic? More like Ryan Fitztragic!
Look, he was always going to revert to the mean, it’s just a shame it came in a nationally televised game. Fitzpatrick has 15 games in his career now with three or more picks. He once threw six in a game, another time he threw five. The only active players with more are Eli Manning and Drew Brees. Fitzy also has nine games with four or more touchdown passes including a six TD game for Houston in 2014.
This is the guy he is. Fitzy’s an up and down guy. Let it also be known that he still threw three scores for his three picks in that Steelers game and logged his third 400+ passing yardage game in a row which is not something regular at all for him. He’d only thrown 400+ yards in a game once before in his career. In fact no quarterback in NFL history has thrown 400 yards in three straight weeks before.
Surely Ryan Fitzpatrick has to stay on as starter. Surely he has to. Surely.
The Chicago Bears are fast becoming everybody’s favourite other team, being that underdog who suddenly got good and all that. Bit harsh on Mike Trubisky though because he’s starting to cop the heat from his team getting good ahead of schedule. He’s not ready to play like a veteran QB like they need him to be for them to hit their ceiling but he wasn’t supposed to be anyway, it’s just that Khalil Mack landed in their lap and now they’re really good so bugger it.
Anyway, in celebration of all things Bears, here’s the episode of Fuck, That’s Delicious where Mike Ditka went on and looked like a grumpy old bastard. It was classic television.
Wildcard’s Pick: Bears by 3
Miami Dolphins (3-0) at New England Patriots (1-2)
Monday 6.00am NZT
The Patriots tried to trade Rob Gronkowski. The Patriots have basically nothing exciting on offence right now and they actually thought about trading Rob Gronkowski. I realise that Bill Belichick’s got a pretty decent record at cutting guys at the right time but I also get some weird vibes from that guy lately. I know a few Pats fans are pissed off that he’d bench Malcolm Butler in a Super Bowl and it seems like those more personal grudges are a little more prevalent these days. Ever since he wrote that letter for Donald Trump he’s been an even bigger arsehole than usual - that glimpse at a deeper personality seems to have wrecked him. Or maybe this is just a typical early season speedbump and the Pats might not be as good as usual but they’re in a junk division so not too much to worry about. Bloody Patriots. I hate the pricks.
Shout out to the 3-0 Miami Dolphins. It felt like it was going to be a key season for Adam Gase and Ryan Tannehill and so far so good – no team has conceded fewer passing TD (3) or made more interceptions (8) through three weeks of this thing. Kiko Alonso’s playing great, Cameron Wake’s playing great, Robert Quinn’s playing great, they’re getting good stuff out of their wide receivers and Ryan Tannehill’s barely missed a pass all season.
Having said that, they’ve beaten the Titans, Jets and Raiders so not exactly a murderer’s row there. With the Patriots, Bengals and Bears coming up next we’re about to find out what they’re really up to. And, guess what, I’m a vengeful person so I think they’ll do outstanding and drop the Patriots to 1-3 now. Don’t even care. Come at me.
Wildcard’s Pick: Dolphins by 6
Detroit Lions (1-2) at Dallas Cowboys (1-2)
Monday 6.00am NZT
Argh look, I love the Cowboys but I can’t keep doing this every week. I’m going to pick them to win… but I can’t justify it. I cannot do it. They’re so bloody awful on offence that I don’t even know what to say. Defence looks excellent but Sean Lee is injured. I can’t do this. No more brainwaves can be wasted on this conundrum. Blind pick and we move on.
Wildcard’s Pick: Cowboys by 3
Cincinnati Bengals (2-1) at Atlanta Falcons (1-2)
Monday 6.00am NZT
This is just a really good game. Not much else to say.
Wildcard’s Pick: Falcons by 7
New York Jets (1-2) at Jacksonville Jaguars (2-1)
Monday 6.00am NZT
Blake Bortles vs NEP: 29/45 COMP | 376 YDS | 4 TD | 1 INT | 111.0 RATE
Blake Bortles vs TEN: 21/34 COMP | 155 YDS | 0 TD | 0 INT | 72.5 RATE
Wildcard’s Pick: Jaguars by 6
Philadelphia Eagles (2-1) at Tennessee Titans (2-1)
Monday 6.00am NZT
Not sure if Marcus Mariota will be back for this one or not but somehow Blaine Gabbert, who is still in the league, has won back to back games as Mariota’s replacement despite throwing 242 yards at 55.6% completion and only one touchdown pass. Like, this team is just offensively awful. Derrick Henry is getting 3.0 yards per rush attempt and Dion Lewis isn’t much better at 3.7 Y/A. Corey Davis is their top wideout with 151 yards on 13 catches in three games. Last week they beat the Jags despite only scoring nine points. The week before they beat Houston with 154 fewer yards of offence. This league is inexplicable, man. I don’t even know.
This’d be a nice time for the Eagles to start it up after a slow start to things. The rest of their division looks even more uneven so there’s nothing to worry about for Philly but surely they’ve got too many points in them for the Titans to keep up.
Hey so how about those new roughing the passer rules, aye? Pretty soft, right? Not the head-mashing, brain-crunching, life-shortening sport it was in the good old days, is it?
Wildcard’s Pick: Eagles by 5
Cleveland Browns (1-1-1) at Oakland Raiders (0-3)
Monday 9.05am NZT
I picked it, I bloody picked it. The first Cleveland Browns win since week 16 of the 2016 season. First win since 24 December 2016. They’re already guaranteed a better season this year than in the past two years combined. They could even be 3-0 with a bit more of a winning attitude. The future is here and all I can say is that I hope the Browns trade Tyrod Taylor somewhere good because I love ol’ Tyrod but this is Baker Mayfield’s team now.
Having Tyrod Taylor around for the first few weeks was the right decision, they needed that stabilising factor so that Baker was stepping into something decent that’d give him a chance to succeed. And, damn, it worked out perfectly. There’ll be ups and there’ll be downs but Baker Mayfield’s got a better arm than I realised and he moves like the goddamn wind. Are… are the Browns fun all of a sudden? Yes, I think they are. What a delightful development.
First Round QBs Selections from the 2018 Draft Class:
Baker Mayfield (Cleveland Browns) – Starting
Sam Darnold (New York Jets) – Starting
Josh Allen (Buffalo Bills) – Starting
Josh Rosen (Arizona Cardinals) – Starting
Lamar Jackson (Baltimore Ravens) – Not Starting
I’m starting to become concerned about the inaccuracies of my boy Derek Carr. I’ve heard the criticism, I’ve long understood that he’s never going to be Drew Brees with the pinpoint throws. He hurls some wild ones every now and then, even on his good days. But he’s been bad so far and I don’t know if he’s regressed, if he was overrated, if it’s all Jon Gruden, if it’s the lack of talent around him, if it’s all of the above… but Jon Gruden’s the one that worries me because he’s supposed to be the quarterback whisperer and he’s got Carr completing at 76.6%, which is superb, but with 2 TDs and 5 INTs, which is awful. Those turnovers are killing him.
Week Four of the Jon Gruden Experience:
Wildcard’s Pick: Raiders by 2 since they’re due
Seattle Seahawks (1-2) at Arizona Cardinals (0-3)
Monday 9.05am NZT
My God. Don’t even ask.
Wildcard’s Pick: Seahawks by 4
New Orleans Saints (2-1) at New York Giants (1-2)
Monday 9.25am NZT
One of the things to watch out for this season is Drew Brees and his assault upon basically every major quarterback record there is. And he’s already broken one massive one this season: most completions.
Drew Brees – 6326
Brett Favre – 6300
Peyton Manning – 6125
Tom Brady – 5693
Dan Marino 4967
Eli Manning – 4505
Ben Roethlisberger – 4256
Philip Rivers – 4246
John Elway – 4123
Warren Moon – 3988
He’s also likely to catch Peyton Manning’s passing yards total within a month and if he keeps hurling them to Michael Thomas the way he has been then he’s got an outside chance of getting to Peyton’s passing touchdown total too, although that one might have to wait until next year.
Eli Manning: “No surprise. Watched Drew play in college and his whole career. Known him for a long time so just he keeps doing it. He keeps being able to throw the ball accurately and still got great arm strength and get down the field, still runs around and looks young out there.”
How about that lad Michael Thomas though? It was him who caught the pass that took Brees past Favre in the second quarter against the Falcons – huge win that, by the way, the Falcons are pretty decent and that’s an early boost in the divisional stakes as well – and that’s just more of the same for Thommo in 2018. Already this season he has 38 catches for 398 yards with three scores. Only two targets out of 40 have gone down. Those are absolutely incredible numbers from one of the best WRs in the game. Which means a very tasty head to head with Odell Beckham Jr this week, while we’re at it. A guy who many believe is the actual numero uno. Also a man who MT should have a lot of time for after he set the benchmark for elite wideouts getting paaaaaid.
Wildcard’s Pick: Saints by 10
San Francisco 49ers (1-2) at Los Angeles Chargers (1-2)
Monday 9.25am NZT
What can you say? Sometimes as a fan you just know it isn’t going to be your year. Niners fans have copped that feeling pretty hard with their two best offensive players, Jerick McKinnon and now Jimmy Garoppolo, both ruled out for the season with knee injuries. Richard Sherman is also out for another week or two as well. Injuries are a part of the game but you never want to see them happen. Jimmy G was starting to come good after a shocker in week one, he’d completed at 68% for 457 yards, 4 TDs, 0 INTs and a QB Rating of 116.4 over the last two games (albeit with ten sacks). With him the Niners had a chance to build into this season. Without him they’re probably looking at another rubbish season. Might as well bring back Jarryd Hayne at this point.
Or, you know… Colin Kaepernick.
Most likely it’ll be C.J. Beathard given the opportunity for the meantime, a fellow you may remember from such moments as the six interceptions he threw last season in his five fill-in games as a rookie starter or perhaps the 69.2 QB Rating he put up or the 54.9% completion rate. That’s probably why they’ve had as many as seven free agents working out for them this week: Kellen Clemens, T.J. Yates, Tom Savage, E.J Manuel, Landry Jones, Matt Simms and Kyle Allen. Plus matt Moore told them to bugger off when they called. So this’ll be a long season in San Francisco. Maybe try enjoy the coffee houses and live music instead.
The Chargers are 1-2 but their defeats came against the offensive juggernauts of the Chiefs and Rams and they’ve scored at least 23 points in each of their three games. Their next few games read: Niners (H), Raiders (H), Browns (A), Titans (H), Seahawks (A), Raiders (A), Broncos (H), Cardinals (A) and literally none of those teams are likely to put 35+ on them like the Chiefs and Rams did. They could easily be 7-4 or better going into a difficult final stretch (Steelers (A), Bengals (H), Chiefs (A), Ravens (H) & Broncos (A)) which gives them every chance of bursting into the playoffs again. Just a shame nobody will be there to see it happen. Like a tree in the woods…
Wildcard’s Pick: Chargers by 11
Baltimore Ravens (2-1) at Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1-1)
Monday 1.20pm NZT
Oh right, Sunday night game already. I’m pretty confident the Steelers will win this one. They’re the better team and despite only winning once so far they’ve been putting up good stats, suggesting they’re better than this record. Ben Roethlisberger has 1140 passing yards in three bloody games, go on and count ‘em. If it weren’t for the interceptions then he’d be all up there.
The Steelers are going to win. They’re the better team. But my focus is on who wants to trade for Le’Veon Bell. Word is that he’s available now as the holdout continues so let’s see what’s up. The main thing is that I can’t really see them getting anything worthwhile for him at this point in the season where the Steelers need immediate playing assets to get it done while anyone trading for Bell is making a win-now move and don’t want to cost themselves that possibility… it’s almost a catch-22. Trading for him makes you straight up commanding except that trading for him means you lose the supporting cast that you need to maximise him.
But I have an idea. Tell me who says no… Earl Thomas for Le’Veon Bell.
For real. Two outstanding players who are in the middle of their own dramas, each holding out to some degree, both available for trade and of such a level of talent that you can’t find ‘em anywhere else. The Steelers can use that defensive punch, someone to be the new Troy Polemalu. Meanwhile the Seahawks are desperate for someone to get them some offence that isn’t named Russell Wilson. Nobody could use the help more than poor Rusty.
This from NFL.com: “This sounds improbable, because the Seahawks just drafted Rashaad Penny in the first round, but a deal involving Earl Thomas (and a runner?) going to the Steelers for Bell actually makes sense for both sides. The Seahawks are not afraid to make bold trades -- see Jimmy Graham, Percy Harvin, Duane Brown and Sheldon Richardson. They obviously value the running game more than most teams, and Seattle desperately needs some playmakers that can create on their own. This is an organization that takes big swings, and obtaining Bell fits with that mindset.”
Make it happen. That’s all I’m gonna say.
Wildcard’s Pick: Steelers by 10
Kansas City Chiefs (3-0) at Denver Broncos (2-1)
Tuesday 1.15pm NZT
How does one stop Patrick Mahomes? That is the question which teams will be asking themselves for the next decade and a half because it was another week, another masterclass from Pat. 314 yards at 62.2% completion with three more TDs and no interceptions. His worst QB rating of the season and it was 115.5 which is almost as good as the best season mark in history.
Some of those throws, man. Get outta here.
Wildcard’s Pick: Chiefs by 6
BYE: Carolina Panthers (2-1) & Washington R*dskins (2-1)
The Wildcard is a staff writer for The Niche Cache. He no longer believes he can make it as a quarterback for the Cleveland Browns. But there’s always head coach of the Dallas Cowboys to fall back upon.
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