Last Week: 9-6
New York Giants (2-3) at New England Patriots (5-0)
Friday 1.20pm NZT
That whole Daniel Jones thing went quiet fast, huh? After his heroics against Tampa Bay, Danny Dimes was able to squeeze out a comfortable enough win over the Washington R*dskins but he did so throwing two picks with an adjusted yards per attempt that was less than half what he mustered against what’s a pretty great TBB defensive unit. Then came another great defensive team, the Minnesota Vikings, and DJ threw another pick and was sacked four times with a completion percentage of 55.2% and yeah it turns out that rookie quarterbacks don’t just wander into bad teams and suddenly make them good all by themselves. He’s won this gig and we probably won’t see Eli on the G-Men again unless there’s an injury but patience remains a virtue.
Particularly when his assignment this week is to try and compete with a Patriots defence that has given up fewer points in five games than the Giants conceded to Dallas in week one. A brief diversion to witness the incredible feats that the Patties are undertaking…
34 points allowed – 1st in the NFL
1192 yards allowed – 1st in the NFL
12 turnovers forced – 2nd in the NFL
0 passing TDs allowed – 1st in the NFL
4.0 yards per pass attempt – 1st in the NFL
4.3 yards per rush attempt – 13th in the NFL
That last one is a little bit of an outlier until you consider that the 90 rush attempts they’ve faced up against are the fewest in the NFL as well so even though they don’t stop the run at the same unfeasible rate they do the passing game… they turn the ball over so much, they create so much scoreboard pressure, and they create such long yardage situations that they don’t hardly have to deal with the rush. Christian McCaffrey has 105 rush attempts all by himself this season.
The only thing to say about the Patriots is that the one game they struggled in was the 16-10 win over the Bills who are the only team they’ve played who have a winning record. Other than that one their four victories have come against the Steelers, Dolphins, Jets, and R*dskins – combined record of 1-17. So there might be a fair case in saying this is the best defence in the league right now but let’s pump the brakes on anything historic for a few more weeks because the Giants aren’t throwing anything unexpected at them either. Not with Saquon Barkley already ruled out (Evan Ingram too, which hardly helps matters).
Wildcard’s Pick: Patriots by 20
Carolina Panthers (3-2) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-3)
Monday 2.30am NZT
All you need to know about Christian McCaffrey is that at the rate he’s going, he’s on pace to record 2771 yards from scrimmage with 22 total touchdowns in 2019. The all-time record for yards from scrimmage in a season is 2509 yards (Chris Johnson in 2009). That’s incredible. And what he did last week against the Jaguars was something on a whole other level to what any other running back is doing at the moment. I’m not saying he’s the best player in that position but he’s the most important non-QB to his team’s offence out there. So quick and elusive but tough as nails too.
CMC in his own words: “I look at a running back as a sprinter. And running is actually in the title of my job, my occupation. My job is to run, and it's to do it fast. Everything I do is really pertinent to track. All of my speed work is with a track coach. All of my lifting is with a track coach. Those are the fastest people in the world. And at my position, being fast does not hurt. It's a very big track-based program.”
Yeah man, and he looks like a sprinter too. Whatever he’s doing it’s working. He has 866 total yards and the New York Jets’ entire offence only has 718. Granted in one fewer game but that doesn’t take much shine off it. He also has more touchdowns than them as well. I don’t think he’ll get any serious consideration for MVP because a couple of quarterbacks are doing incredible things of their own, Russell Wilson most of all and I’ll come back to him but Patrick Mahomes and Dak Prescott and maybe even Deshaun Watson. But mostly Russell Wilson whose legacy deserves an MVP trophy to fully justify his permanent role in the top four of my Preseason QB ranks. The only worry here is that McCaffrey has been asked to carry an enormous role on this team and those reps tend to catch up with you eventually as the season drags on.
Which of course will lead to dumb people trying to argue that this is McCaffrey’s team not Newton’s team and they’ll use that as an excuse to say Kyle Allen needs to start and those people are dumb and we can’t be responsible for the dumb things that come out of dumb people’s mouths.
Wildcard’s Pick: Panthers by 6
Washington R*dskins (0-5) at Miami Dolphins (0-4)
Monday 6.00am NZT
He said that. And then he was called in for a meeting with owner Dan Snyder at 5am the next morning and whether his key worked or not… they fired him. Now, an 0-5 start is hardly ideal and this team is pretty damned average. But, like, their starting quarterback is Alex Smith who might not ever play again after the injury he suffered last season and interim starter Case Keenum is currently injured and he’s far from the only one on this roster either. I fail to see how any of this is Jay Gruden’s fault. It’s not like he was doing an outstanding job but they were mud before him too and sacking him now… not gonna make a sliver of difference.
This from Scott Van Pelt on ESPN the other day, courtesy of WaPo: “So far under Dan Snyder, the team has been coached by the respected coordinator, Norv Turner, the respected NFL head coach, Marty Schottenheimer, who won his last five to get to .500, only to be fired after one year to be replaced by the college guy, Steve Spurrier, who called in his resignation from the golf course. He was replaced by Redskins royalty, Coach Joe [Gibbs], who was under .500 and replaced by Jim Zorn, best described as the guy who would take the job. He went 12-20, just like Steve Spurrier. He was replaced by the coach who won Super Bowls elsewhere. Mike Shanahan got twice as long — 64 games, and he won twice as many games, 24. The symmetry’s astounding. He was replaced by the up-and-coming coordinator who was fired after the 0-5 start.”
R*dskins under Gruden: 35-49-1 | 41.8% winning rate
R*dskins under Snyder: 139-185-1 | 42.8% winning rate
Pretty much par for the course, right? That there is a joke of a franchise – let’s not forget that it’s old mate Snyder who has consistently ruled out any thought of even considering imagining the possibility of changing a blatantly racist team name.
Which leads us to a fascinating game here because the two worst teams in the NFL so far can’t both lose when they play each other. Ordinarily the league’s most blatant tanking effort in history should make the Dolphins a lock to lose every week but even they look stable compared to what the Skins are up to. They have two half-useful quarterbacks while Washington have a grand sum of zero. Maybe the Skins will come out with a point to prove, you never know, but one thing I definitely know is that picking the Dolphins under any circumstances is an act of insanity and if they do win and I get this one wrong then okay, I can cop that one.
Wildcard’s Pick: R*dskins by 3
Seattle Seahawks (4-1) at Cleveland Browns (2-3)
Monday 6.00am NZT
On Monday mornings, while watching the games, I’ll usually go through my picks again and scribble down who I had to win each game so I can remember and keep tabs as things flow on. And last week as I pondered that Tuesday game between the Browns and the Niners I had to double-take when I noticed I’d picked the Browns. Like, was that some kind of mistake? I dunno. I dunno what came over me… but I knew on Monday morning that I’d regret that one and sure enough, a day and a half later, I did. Turned into a real bitch of a week for picks in fact. I went 9-1 in the early morning Monday games and then 0-5 in all the others. Late morning kickoffs, Friday’s game, Monday arvo and Tuesday. What a bloody mess that was… I’m still yet to have a week of picks that I’m fully proud of, the only good thing is I haven’t had a shocker yet. Still getting more right than wrong each week. But yeah, at this point I just want to thank you for still reading this sucker. We all go through bad times and that’s no excuse but I promise the golden dawn will rise soon.
One thing I’ve said all along about the Browns though is that those bad habits of old don’t scrub off that easy. I had them out of the playoffs when picking that lot in week one, granted that was before the Steelers imploded but still they feel like a seven, eight, or nine win team and these inconsistencies are pretty common for a young team without an established culture of winning. They’ve literally alternated between wins and losses all 2019… a streak which is about to end with a repeat defeat here because Russell Wilson is on a whole other level right now. Guess what else? The Browns have a bye and then the Patriots away the week after to follow this so imagine being 2-5 after eight weeks. Hard to make the playoffs from there, tell ya what.
Back to Russell Wilson though…
My man is the runaway leader in the MVP race at this moment and with all due respect to Pat Mahomes and Christian McCaffrey, those two are unleashed through schemes that suit them perfectly whereas Wilson has the best numbers in the game despite playing for a team that would be anchoring almost any other quarterback. Tyler Lockette’s touchdown catch was unbelievable but he’s the only guy in the receiving crew where you’re like: yeah, that’s trouble right there. The Seahawks still haven’t quite got it going on defence with this new-look unit and that offensive line is as bad as usual with Wilson having been sacked 13 times already. He’s also doing this in what’s designed to be a run-first offence in which Chris Carson is getting almost 19 rushes per game for a pretty middling 4.0 y/c. And yet Wilson still LEADS THE LEAGUE IN TOUCHDOWN PASSES WITHOUT HAVING THROWN A SINGLE INTERCEPTION. I mean it when I say this: Don’t even argue with me.
Wildcard’s Pick: Seahawks by 7
New Orleans Saints (4-1) at Jacksonville Jaguars (2-3)
Monday 6.00am NZT
My dude. Nothing really to add there, this guy’s just a really good quarterback who continues to deliver each week – 66.7% completion for 1279 yards with 9 scores and 1 interception, he’s sixth in passer rating over the season – and I would like someday to maybe have a beer with him and throw the ball around at the beach, run a few out-routes and slants, then get some fish and chips and watch the sunset. I just kinda think we could be friends.
Rightio, three starts for Teddy Bridgewater and three wins. Mate and if they kept him on a leash against the Seahawks and Cowboys (understandable) they damn sure unleashed him against Tampa Bay, ol’ Teddy threw for 314 yards with 4 scores and a pick. This guy only had one other game in his career with for touchdown passes (only one with three, even) and that was back in 2015 in the Minnesota days. If he’s using this season as a shop window opportunity to get another starter’s gig after all those injuries then he’s going about it the right way. Plenty of teams will overpay for a guy like this… and bloody hell he’s still only 26! That’s younger than Jimmy Garoppoli, Derek Carr, Nick Foles… even younger than Taysom Hill.
But the secret to the Saints has been the immense level of talent around him. Alvin Kamara has 583 total yards from scrimmage which is tied-fifth across the board and that’s with Michael Thomas leading the league in both catches and receiving yards. Marshon Lattimore is already one of the premier corners on the damn planet. Cameron Jordan and Marcus Davenport are tearing it up off the edges. This is why I picked the Saints to win the title this season and seeing them play this well without their franchise quarterback has only reinforced that. When Brees is back, they’re instant contenders. They’re probably contenders even without him.
Wildcard’s Pick: Saints by 7
Cincinnati Bengals (0-5) at Baltimore Ravens (3-2)
Monday 6.00am NZT
I was wondering about Bears quarterbacks last week, and who might be available that could take them to the next level (it ain’t Chase Daniel that’s for sure, that dude got pasted by the Raiders in London) and I forgot about the best available candidate out there… forget about Ryan Tannehill or Tyrod Taylor or Nick Mullens or even Blake Bortles… the man they need to get their mitts on is Andy Dalton!
The Bengals are clearly in a downswing and without the gentle touch of Marvin Lewis there’s not really any safety net there. They’re awful and they’re even more awful than they should be with injuries hitting the team… AJ Green most notably, leaving Dalton with bugger all to work with. A first round pick would surely prise him away, in fact a couple lower picks might even do the trick and the Bears could afford to add a young defensive player into the mix. The Bengals are too poor to go at free agency and nobody wants to play for them anyway. The draft is where it’s at, it was through the draft that they built their last decent roster. Follow the lead of the Dolphins and get all the draft picks possible – Dalton’s not adding anything to this team the way they’re currently constructed anyway, his value is much greater elsewhere.
Either that or, you know, the Bears could always just sign Colin Kaepernick.
These two teams play twice in the next month. In between the Ravens are away to the Seahawks and home to the Patriots. They’ve been a confounding team so far, most teams have been, but in a division full of plenty more madness that hardly rules them out. The Browns are all over the show. The Steelers and Bengals are rubbish. 9-7 should do the trick and with two games against the Bengals and another against each of the Jets and Steelers on the way that means if they can beat the Browns in week 16, thus cancelling out their tiebreaker disadvantage, then one more win against the good teams they face’ll… ah look at me trying to rationalise the Ravens here. Look, I think they’re good. That’s all. A couple sketchy performances ain’t ideal but Lamar Jackson won’t throw three picks every week. All young starters need a bit of fuel for the fire. No need to panic.
Fun Fact: Jackson has also progressively been sacked one additional time each subsequent week this season. One sack in week one, two in week two, etc. Well it’s week six coming up and the Bengals only have six sacks in all of this season so if that meaningless streak is going to continue then bloody hell we’re in for a real one here. But it won’t and we won’t be.
Wildcard’s Pick: Ravens by 18
Philadelphia Eagles (3-2) at Minnesota Vikings (3-2)
Monday 6.00am NZT
You know what’s changed between the first three weeks and the last two for the Eagles more than anything? That pesky pass rush is what. They started to get it going against the Packers in that one but only got one sack to show for it (a couple turnovers too though). But then the Jets came to town and it was all on. 10 sacks and 16 total quarterback hits, leading to poor Luke Falk throwing two picks and fumbling twice (one lost and one recovered). That’s straight up carnage, my friend. Brandon Graham was the main wrath-bringer. And although Fletcher Cox is still without a sack all season he was sneakily the best he’s been all 2019 in that game.
Granted it was only against the Jets… but now they get to have a crack at Kirk Cousins as they enter a three-game road stretch which could be decisive in their season. Losing a couple of those early ones was rough, that Falcons game specifically, and it means they don’t have a lot of wiggle room as they travel to Minnesota, Dallas, and then Buffalo next. That’s tricky. They’re good enough to win all three but then they have the Bears at home, a bye week, then the Pats and Seahawks before things get way easier over the last five (MIA (A), NYG (H), WAS (A), DAL (H) & NYG (A)). Honestly a lot depends on the head to heads with Dallas because that’s the division on the line in those two. But there’s nothing coming easy over the next month and a half for Philly… which is probably exactly how they like it.
Wildcard’s Pick: Eagles by 2
Houston Texans (3-2) at Kansas City Chiefs (4-1)
Monday 6.00am NZT
I’d like to offer my sincere apologies to the Indianapolis Colts for doubting them. I’d also like to wish them a very pleasant bye week and since they’re not playing we can move on.
The good news for the Chiefs is that Pat Mahomes is training without limitations after injuring his ankle last week. He might be a little hobbled but there’s no doubt that he’ll be lining up and should still be able to do most of what makes him so amazing. But even if he can’t go dashing around then he’ll still hurl some dimes from in the pocket which is always an essential skill for the great ones. Mahomes is way more than just a highlight machine.
So what happened to the Chiefs last week? The Colts pretty much did what the Patriots did in the playoffs last season. They roughed them up something wicked. Man coverage most of the time, getting physical with those speedy receivers (can’t keep up with them in the open field so gotta slow them down somehow) and that kind of smothering coverage is risky in a league that’s putting more emphasis on pass interference but it paid off for the Colts with a fair few dropped passes. Mahomes has only twice had a worse pass completion percentage than his 56.4% here – 55.6% in a win over the Chargers last season in which he threw four touchdowns and zero picks and then 51.6% in the AFC Championship game against the Pats (still threw three scores and no picks). And then on top of that they bossed the line of scrimmage, sacking Mahomes four times and shutting down the run game. Hey, not everybody can do that so nothing too much to worry about for the Chiefs. Their defence hung around enough to keep them in the game too… although that might be more on Brissett and the Colts, dunno.
If Mahomes is something special, Deshaun Watson isn’t far behind. Despite playing with a turnstile offensive line he’s been delivering and undercover insane season so far. This week was the first time he didn’t take a sack (he’s had two six sack games – Houston’s two defeats) and he completed at 28/33 for 426 yards with 5 TDs and 0 INTs and a perfect passer rating. Now… it was only against the Falcons so gotta keep that in focus. But Mahomes against Watson will be an AFC Championship game one day… maybe even this season… and this should be one of the spotlight games of the week. Great contest.
Oh and shout out to Will Fuller. Wow. One of the all time fantasy games. And this on an offence that already includes DeAndre Hopkins, one of the five best WRs in the entire sport.
What’s more is that he was tackles at the one-yard line TWICE! He could have had five TDs. This game could be a shootout and I’m extremely tempted to pick the Texans and their superior pass rush… but I’m not quite there yet.
Wildcard’s Pick: Chiefs by 6
Atlanta Falcons (1-4) at Arizona Cardinals (1-3-1)
Monday 9.05am NZT
Kyler Murray is seriously fast, like that dude can moooove
He should be able to move well against a non-existent Falcons defence
Matt Ryan continues to push the ball, with at least 300 passing yards in each game and multiple TD passes in four of them but has also thrown seven picks, only Baker Mayfield has more
The Cardinals are not doing much of a job against the pass, seventh in pass yardage allowed and tied second in touchdown passes and they remain the only team without an interception in 2019
This could be a shootout
Shootouts probably favour the former MVP over the rookie starter
Probably best to avoid this one either way outside of the redzone highlights
Wildcard’s Pick: Falcons by 6
San Francisco 49ers (4-0) at Los Angeles Rams (3-2)
Monday 9.05am NZT
Right so we’ve found the latest NFL bandwagon… the 49ers are good now!
I mean, they’ve not beaten a top team yet but that win over the Buccs in week one looks a lot better as the weeks progress and while the Browns have been all over the show… nobody made them look worse than the Browns have. At least when Cleveland lost to Tennessee they did the damage all themselves. Here they got picked apart… Baker Mayfield with 8/22 completions and two picks. Not ideal.
But yeah, this is the game where they get to state their legitimacy either way, against a Rams team that are just a little more vulnerable than usual (and with Todd Gurley dealing with a few knocks). There are a lot of undercover guys on this Niners team who are way better than their reputations. George Kittle is one of the top tight ends out there and this SF49 rush attack is possibly the best in the business with 200 yards per game exactly from their four games. Only thing there is that they mix it up with Matt Breida (52 attempts), Raheem Mostert (41 attempts), Tevin Coleman (22 attempts), and Jeff Wilson (18 attempts) all having a crack. Although with fullback Kyle Juszczyk hurting his knee and set to miss at least a month that’s a big blow here. His lead blocks have been immense – not a lot of teams use fullbacks these days but the Niners are funky. But Kyle Shanahan is an offensive genius so benefit of the doubt there. There’s still room to grow too with the passing game well within itself so far.
Can they beat the Rams? Injuries to the offensive line as well as Juszczyk’s worries don’t help matters and even less so considering they’ve got to deal with Aaron Donald here. And while Richard Sherman and Akhello Witherspoon have been pretty useful so far, Cooper Kupp is a different beat getting the ball in tricky situations, probably bringing the linebackers into the pass game… hmm. Sean McVay’s a pretty useful offensive mind himself. And the Rams are coming off back to back defeats… with an extra few days to prepare after a Thursday night game… nah, gonna have to tip the home team here. Pretty pumped to see how this one goes though.
Wildcard’s Pick: Rams by 2
Tennessee Titans (2-3) at Denver Broncos (1-4)
Monday 9.25am NZT
Wildcard’s Pick: Titans by 4
Dallas Cowboys (3-2) at New York Jets (0-4)
Monday 9.25am NZT
Case for the prosecution: The Cowboys’ three wins came against the Giants (with Eli Manning), R*dskins, and Dolphins. They were 3-0 basically by default and were completely overrated and their two defeats since prove that.
Case for the defence: They absolutely crunched those three poor teams, and you can only beat the opposition put in front of you, and the two games they lost were against possibly the two best teams in the NFC so you have to look at it both ways. Sloppy mistakes cost them in both, not a lack of talent.
One thing’s for sure, we aren’t gonna learn anything from watching them play the Jets. Next week they face the Philadelphia Eagles in one of their two most important games of the season, the other being the next time they face the Eagles. Simple win this week and we’ll pick up the debate again next time.
Wildcard’s Pick: Cowboys by 21
Pittsburgh Steelers (1-4) at Los Angeles Chargers (2-3)
Monday 1.20pm NZT
The funny thing is that this probably looked like a great primetime game at the start of the season.
Wildcard’s Pick: Chargers by 7
Detroit Lions (2-1-1) at Green Bay Packers (4-1)
Tuesday 1.15pm NZT
Not sure what they fed Aaron Jones last week but I’ve never seen that dude looking fitter and faster and stronger than that before. The thing that stuns me most is that he only got 107 yards on the deck but with those four scores, mate, that was it. He had a good game against Minnesota but his previous two weeks, Denver and Philly, he’d run 23 times for 40 yards and that’s the Aaron Jones I’m used to. So him bossing on the Cowboys was not an enjoyable experience for me, no. The wild thing is that same as with the previous four weeks we still haven’t seen Aaron Rodgers anywhere near his best, playing within himself as the talent around him finally carries this team. And that’s a scary prospect. Aaron Jones dominating the line. The defence producing turnovers. Decent coaching. The Lions are on a pretty solid buzz these days but the Packers are right up there with the best and they tend not to lose too often to divisional rivals. That’s kind of their thing that they do.
Wildcard’s Pick: Packers by 5
BYE: Buffalo Bills (4-1), Chicago Bears (3-2), Indianapolis Colts (3-2) & Oakland Raiders (3-2)
The Wildcard is a staff writer for The Niche Cache. That’s his thing. His thing that he does.
Be a champ and support TNC on Patreon if you appreciate what we’ve got to offer
Also whack an ad whenever you read something decent
Keep cool but care