Last Week: 10-6
Tennessee Titans (1-1) at Jacksonville Jaguars (0-2)
Friday at 12.20pm
Had a busy old week so the picks are a day later than they should have been. Lucky you because it means I get to reflect on a game which I picked completely wrong and therefore got to watch that torrid affair with a level of minor investment in the Tennessee Titans offence which just never looked like they could score points. God, they were shocking. Marcus Mariota threw 304 yards without a pick but he needed 40 attempts and got sacked nine times. A lot of that’s not his fault but he did not make his team better today. That’s a problem.
Especially while the great man Gardner Minshew II is out there dominating the scene with a cheeky 20/30 comps for 204 yards with a pair of TDs and no picks. Shows that the end numbers aren’t always reflective because a hundy fewer yards than Mariota came with an incomparably higher level of control from a quarterback in his second start as a rookie but seeming so comfortable, so settled already. Would have been a lot more yardage too if his receivers could catch a cold. Dede Westbrook was the big culprit there, only catching five of his nine targets and he dropped a touchdown in the process. Also while we’re on the subject of misleading stats how about Leonard Fournette who had a 69 yard rush yet still only had 66 total yards from 15 carries. -3 from his other 14 attempts, haha! Derrick Henry only had 2.6 yards per attempt on the other side but he had at least two decent first down runs chalked off because of incessant flags, which was the story of the first half and one more reason why this game never got into a flow. I’m not the only one either.
Apparently holding penalties are up 64% or something this season, at least according to the rules analyst guy on the telly. But since the common belief is that there’s holding on every single play what that really means is that the refs, contrary to popular belief, are doing their jobs too well. Why are these damn refs so good? It’s ruining the game!
Whatever, that game sucked. The real star of it was Gardner Minshew II’s dad, Flint. Who should by convention be named Gardner I you’d have thought but apparently not. But he has been chatting with media this week even before he rocked up in the crowd looking like exactly what Gardner Minshew’s dad ought to look like. Turns out the story of his granddad wanting to name him Beowulf is true. And that makes Gardner II the conservative option… only in America!
Flint Minshew: “That story’s true. His grandfather wanted to name him that. But his grandfather didn’t have to live with it every day. So it didn’t happen... In Mississippi if you’re a junior, you’re going to be called ‘Junior’ or ‘Bubba’. Beowulf Minshew didn’t work, and neither would Bubba Minshew, for entirely different reasons.”
And now we sit back and wait to see which teams are willing to offer multiple second round picks for Jalen Ramsay. Somebody’s gonna do it. My prediction is the Eagles but I think the Chiefs are in a better place to be able to offer those picks. There’s noise about the Raiders too.
Wildcard’s Pick: Titans by 7… d’oh
Miami Dolphins (0-2) at Dallas Cowboys (2-0)
Monday at 5.00am
Huh, what do ya know? Give a man a decent offensive scheme and some above average receivers and he’ll go to work.
Well now isn’t this lovely? The Dallas Cowboys with the best offence they’ve had in five years and here they are at home against a Miami Dolphins team that nobody wants to play for and which has conceded 102 points in two games. That’s 39 points more than the next two worst scoring defences which are the New York Giants and the Washington R*dskins… two teams that the Cowboys have already played. 39 points is rotten number to concede in one game, let alone to be the difference between yourself and the next most futile battlers. Dallas has conceded 38 in two victories.
One aspect of Dak Prescott’s start that’s been fantastic is how varied his production has been. Dude’s got an incredible eye because he’s thrown TDs to five different receivers already, he’s thrown completions of 18+ yards to six different receivers, completions of any distance to nine different receivers all whilst rushing nine times for 81 yards himself and with a RB in Zeke Elliot who has 164 yards with 2 TDs on the ground from the fourth most rush attempts of any running back this season. This offence is sizzling in all aspects and I’m bloody adoring it. Can’t wait to see some top tier stat padding on Monday morning.
Like ketchup on a burger, people. Not really my bag, personally, but I’ll defer to the majority.
Wildcard’s Pick: Cowboys by 102
Cincinnati Bengals (0-2) at Buffalo Bills (2-0)
Monday at 5.00am
Haha, what!? How did the Bills get undefeated! Oh right they’ve only played other New York teams, okay then, makes sense. Josh Allen is 7-5 as a starter though and has four comeback victories in amongst those so while he still doesn’t look like a particularly decent quarterback (aside from when he runs it) he’s getting results with a rebuilding team and that’s the most important thing. I actually think I’ve been a bit unfair to the Bills – they realise that they’re rebuilding and this year they seem to have taken big strides. This is a thing from Buffalo News kinda highlighting all that…
“Last year as a rookie, Allen threw to K’mon Benjamin, Zayward Jones and Robert Foster Home. We had a defensive HC, inexperienced OC, a WR coach as QB coach, and Nathan Peterman as veteran QB guru. We had no line, WR, TE, blocking or run game. It was criminal malpractice in coaching and team building for a young, raw, prized rookie from Wyoming by way of Firebaugh, Calif.
This year, with Brown and Beasley, Allen has veteran route runners who get open quick, catch with their hands, and then run with it afterwards. Who knew that was even legal? Dorsey knows how to play, coach and teach the position. The OL and TEs block. The backs either elude or bulldoze defenders.”
So fair play to them and with the Bengals on the cards they might even be 3-0 soon too. The Bengals were pretty awful against the Niners last week, which is a bummer of a way to go in your first home game after pushing the Seahawks really close in week one. But they’re riddled with injuries and that offensive line is the worst in the whole damn league. Through two weeks they’re averaging 1.79 yards per carry which is the worst since the merger 53 years ago. Joe Mixon is a pretty good running back and he has 27 yards on 17 carries so far - he was fourth in rush yards last season and he might as well be running backwards this season. I just don’t see how they can beat anyone until they get a little improvement in that blocking… but maybe they will, who knows?
Notes on the remaining undefeated teams…
New England Patriots – Next question.
Buffalo Bills – See the earlier portion of this preview.
Kansas City Chiefs – Pat Mahomes has 821 passing yards at 71.4% completion with 7 TDs and 0 INTs through the first two weeks and the reigning MVP is ruling the land once again.
Baltimore Ravens – More than a hundred total offensive yards more than anyone else with the legend Lamar Jackson in the hot seat but also the second fewest yards allowed on defence too. This team is legit.
Dallas Cowboys – Amazing. Incredible. So talented. So gifted. So well-coached. Just… perfect.
Los Angeles Rams – Nothing glamorous yet and the win over the Saints was obviously helped by Drew Brees’ injury but they sure don’t look like they’ve slowed down or anything.
San Francisco 49ers – They beat a turnover prone Buccs team and a Bengals team wrecked by injuries so probably a benefit of the schedule more than anything.
Seattle Seahawks – Two wins by a combined three points and the retooled defence hasn’t quite blossomed yet but Russell Wilson’s been great and they’ve ground out two valuable Ws in a division with three 2-0 teams.
Green Bay Packers – New coach, new scheme, impressive defence… so far so good in all the areas they needed to fix after the stasis of the last few years.
Wildcard’s Pick: Bills by 6
Detroit Lions (1-0-1) at Philadelphia Eagles (1-1)
Monday at 5.00am
I’ve always believed this, going back to when the two first came onto the scene together a couple years ago, but their individual situations were pretty contrasting with one guy withheld by the lack of creativity in his system and the other absolutely blossoming in a brilliantly coached unit. But Dak Prescott is miles better than Carson Wentz, I’m sorry. He’s less injury prone too and even if he did get injured there’s no chance that Nick Foles could just ease his way in and win a Super Bowl with the Cowboys. Prescott isn’t that easy to replace. It soothes my soul to be able to actually make this argument and not sound like a complete moron. It’s always nice not to sound like a complete moron. A partial moron sometimes is fine but never a complete one.
Carson Wentz Career Numbers:
42 GS | 24-18 W/L | 10,696 YDS | 74 TD | 30 INT | 92.3 RATE | 4 GWD
Dak Prescott Career Numbers:
50 GS | 34-16 W/L | 11,550 YDS | 74 TD | 26 INT | 98.0 RATE | 14 GWD
Geez if the Lions hadn’t bottled it against the Cardinals with an 11-point lead after three quarters then they’d be 2-0 right now. People still take the piss out of Matt Patricia at every opportunity and I guess that bottle-job against the Cards didn’t help but they do have a much better team there than I’d anticipated. It’s a useful squad I tell ya, still undefeated, and that’s before our first Kerryon Johnson bust-out game – now is a good time for that, since they’ve just released CJ Anderson. KJ has never had a 20-rush game in his 12 career games. Just let him off the leash, dude, he’s really flippin’ good.
Still think the Eagles are comfortably better than the Lions, especially at home, but Matt Stafford’s got that habit of winning games late and Philly are looking a bit of a mess against the passing game these days plus they’ll be without DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffrey which doesn’t really fill me with confidence about this pick. But I’ll stick with the initial instinct.
Wildcard’s Pick: Eagles by 6
New York Jets (0-2) at New England Patriots (2-0)
Monday at 5.00am
Ladies and gentlemen… welcome to the innermost circle of hell.
You should have already figured that out by the fact that the Amazon rainforest is on fire and there are multiple powerful nations with openly racist leaders and our lives are ruled by five internet-based super-corporations and nobody with any global influence is doing a damn thing about the climate crisis and our lives are so polarised these days that people can’t even have a conversation without making enemies or trying to cancel someone and usually they don’t even have a conversation at all because we’re embedded in our screens and people are getting dumber because nobody reads books anymore and the new Lion King movie sucked and… well, you get the idea.
Through two games the Patriots have scored 76 points and conceded 3.
Their next five games are against the Jets (H), Bills (A), R*dskins (A), Giants (H) & Jets (A).
Now, I don’t want to be one of those people screaming from the rooftops that it’s all a waste of time because the Patriots are already a lock to win the Super Bowl. They’re not and there are some outstanding teams around this league, not the least of whom being my one (yeah get some!). But this disgraceful franchise will be 7-0 before they even have a decent opponent and they play in the worst division in the league (not including themselves). There’s a tough little November schedule in there and there’s plenty of time before then for Antonio Brown to wreak some internal havoc but yeah if the Pats win fewer than 12 games this season then I’ll be utterly stunned.
Full credit to that Jets defence by the way, because their offence gave them absolutely nothing until it was too late but they didn’t embarrass themselves. Currently Sam Darnold is out with mono so he’ll miss at least a month, Trevor Siemian looked awful until he went over on his ankle which looked even more awful, and some dude called Luke Falk is their interim starter now. He did half decent too, with 20/25 completions, but the game was long gone by then. God, this team is in for some tough times. Best case scenario is that they start 0-6.
Wildcard’s Pick: Patriots by another 30-odd
Atlanta Falcons (1-1) at Indianapolis Colts (1-1)
Monday at 5.00am
The Falcons were awful against the Vikings and great against the Giants. The Colts have been nice and steady in the middle somewhere, losing close to the Chargers and winning close against the Titans. That combination of volatility versus stability really does not make this gig very easy. If Darius Leonard was fit and available then I’d be all in on the Colts getting big pressure on a dude in Matt Ryan who was sacked four times in week one and has thrown multiple picks in both games but he’s also been leading scoring drives and moving the ball too against a Colts team that prefers to run the ball these post-Luck days – shout out Marlon Mack on a wonderful start to the campaign – but honestly I’ve got no idea. I’m gonna ask the I Ching… hold up a sec…
“The Mountain does not overshadow the Plain surrounding it: Such modest consideration in a Superior Person creates a channel through which excess flows to the needy. Success if you carry things through.”
Hmm, right. Mountain. Plain. Matt Ryan’s exaggerated peaks don’t overshadow the valleys of the mistakes he’s made early on this season. But acknowledging that will help him bring out the best in those around him. And thus success. Yup, that’ll do me. Cheers, Ancient Wisdom!
Wildcard’s Pick: Falcons by 7
Oakland Raiders (1-1) at Minnesota Vikings (1-1)
Monday at 5.00am
Kirk Cousins: “I’m not going to be playing quarterback here much longer if I play like I did on Sunday.”
I mean… he’s gotten this far playing like that, hasn’t he? What’s the big deal?
Yeah okay normally he at least puts up some garbage time yards or something to make the stats look prettier. But he’s always been a reckless and inaccurate quarterback. He makes some great throws and he makes some shockers and on the whole he’s a solid option for a team outside the playoffs and you have to respect that little niche because it’s not easy to sustain that kind of role. Having only thrown ten times in week one, he had 32 attempts against the Packers and completed only 14 of them with two picks (and a touchdown pass). More than a quarter of his throws were deemed ‘uncatchable’ by PFF – fourth most in the NFL after Cam Newton (who has been weirdly off his game), Mitch Trubisky (no surprises there – he’s at risk of being Kirk Cousins 2.0… though they want him to be Jared Goff 2.0… I’m reserving judgement), and Ryan Fitzpatrick (plays for the Dolphins, no more words necessary).
Mike Zimmer: “Kirk had an up and down game last week. He’s going to be fine. We have the utmost confidence in him. He’s in a good place where he’s going to play good this week and continue to play good for the rest of the year.”
Yeah alright bro. Keep telling yourself that.
Despite all that I rate this Vikings team though. Much more than the Raiders, who I still don’t believe are up to much and beating Joe Flacco once doesn’t change that. Dear Lord, Flacco’s been depressing. Anyway I do like Josh Jacobs, their new running back, but Dalvin Cook leads the NFL in rush yards after two weeks and pretty much carried his entire team last week against the Packers with a career high 154 rush yards. He’s on fire right now – keep the ball in his hands until Kirk Cousins stops being an impetuous little muppet. But yeah, four turnovers lost against the Packers and they still only lost by five points.
Wildcard’s Pick: Vikings by 5
Baltimore Ravens (2-0) at Kansas City Chiefs (2-0)
Monday at 5.00am
Game of the round, lock it in. Set the alarm now. Don’t even bother with redzone or if you do then double screen it because this is the game that matters. Lamar Jackson against Patrick Mahomes. Baltimore against Kansas City. This is the most exciting game of the season so far.
Wildcard’s Pick: Chiefs by 4
Denver Broncos (0-2) at Green Bay Packers (2-0)
Monday at 5.00am
Opposing quarterbacks against the GB Packers this season:
Mitch Trubisky (CHI): 26/45 COMP | 228 YDS | 0 TD | 1 INT | 62.1 RATE
Kirk Cousins (MIN): 14/32 COMP | 230 YDS | 1 TD | 2 INT | 52.9 RATE
This week they face Joe Flacco.
Wildcard’s Pick: Packers by 12
Carolina Panthers (0-2) at Arizona Cardinals (0-1-1)
Monday at 8.05am
Cam Newton: Fashion Icon, Week 3 Edition…
Fashion aside, Cam Newton has been awful so far and it’s the level of awful which you don’t even get mad about, you get worried. He definitely has a foot injury but I get the feeling there’s more to that story than meets the eye – Ron Rivera walked out of a press conference midweek because he didn’t want to face any more questions about Cam, who hasn’t practiced this week and it sounds like he might not play on Monday morning either. Ordinarily they should be a sitter here but I just don’t know what to think about the Panthers right now.
Wildcard’s Pick: Cards by 3
New York Giants (0-2) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-1)
Monday at 8.05am
I’m not dying and the season’s not over. He also advised new Giants starting quarterback Daniel Jones to throw the ball to the guys wearing the same colours as him and he’ll be fine. Quality work from Eli Manning, who has been treated pretty crap by the Giants the last year and a half and handled it with dignity which not everybody would do. For the record I’m convinced he’ll play again this season, either from an injury or just for performance reasons, but they should have traded him at the end of last season after they broke his consecutive start streak. Oh well, so it goes.
Wildcard’s Pick: Buccs by 3
New Orleans Saints (1-1) at Seattle Seahawks (2-0)
Monday at 8.25am
It’s not the worst quarterback injury we’ve seen in the last couple weeks. Not even top three. But while Drew Brees will be able to return from this one in sorta six weeks to two months, that general range, the Saints are going to have to play a chunk of their season without him and if they can’t find a way to grind out a few wins in his absence then he might not have much to return to.
But I’m not too panicked about this lot. The Steelers, yeah they’re doomed. The Jags are doing okay without Nick Foles, the Jets might be playing quarterback dominoes but they were buggered before the season even started regardless. But the Saints should be sweet. They’ve never had more talent surrounding Brees – remember last season was a down year in all his main stats – and now it’s up to guys like Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas to step up and make some big plays when their team needs them. And more than anything I expect them to lean on a defensive unit that leads the NFL in sacks through the first two weeks and is second in QB hits. Might wanna do something about the 5.6 yards per carry they’re copping but they already lowered that number from where it was after the Houston game. Sean Payton’s pretty good at his job too, you know.
The one real worry is that Teddy Bridgewater looked rubbish coming in last week, completed 17/30 passes for 165 yards and nothing else. Just 5.5 yards per attempt. In fairness to Bridgewater it was his first meaningful game since 2015 (he started a rubber game last year when Brees was rested and did nothing of note) and he’ll be in a much better position to succeed with a full week’s preparation. Of course… that’s if they don’t go down the Taysom Hill road because Sean Payton has already said they’re approaching this game with a mindset of having two QBs. Fair enough, keep ‘em guessing.
If Brees does indeed miss six weeks then that’ll cost him games against: the Seahawks (A), Cowboys (H), Buccanneers (H), Jaguars (A), Bears (A) & Cardinals (H). The Saints are already 1-1 and I get a sneaky feeling that’ll be 1-3 in a fortnight as well. But those other four games are winnable even without their star man. The Jags are on a second stringer too, the Buccs don’t even have a first stringer given how Jameis Winston’s trucking, the Bears are going to bring a defence-first mentality which suits the Saints if they’re going to be limited on offence, while the Cardinals have a rookie QB. Once they’re back at full strength then they can compete with anyone so let’s say they get through to about 3-5, maybe even 4-4, then there ya go. Every team in the NFC South has at least one defeat already so that’s already saved them a game they don’t have to catch up… and even if they did they have four straight division games immediately after Brees’ expected return date (he’s not going on IR though, he’ll just be inactive, so he can return as soon as he’s ready).
In other words: Don’t panic, as the books says. Don’t panic.
Wildcard’s Pick: Seahawks by 3
Houston Texans (1-1) at Los Angeles Chargers (1-1)
Monday at 8.25am
The Texans traded away their second best pass rusher and a bunch of draft picks in a series of moves that showed they were shifting priorities towards maximising their quarterback and yet Deshaun Watson is still the most sacked QB in the NFL having been dropped 10 times already.
As for the Chargers, I’m not out on their Super Bowl potential but the pick that Philip Rivers threw at the end of that loss to the Lions, the one that sealed the result, was so depressing that I just need a week off from thinking about that team. A team which still doesn’t have Melvin Gordon as he continues his holdout.
All I’ll say is that the most sacked QB in the league through two weeks is facing Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram this week and that’s probably all you need to know.
Wildcard’s Pick: Chargers by 7
Pittsburgh Steelers (0-2) at San Francisco 49ers (2-0)
Monday at 8.25am
No Le’Veon was one thing but they had a whole season without him last time to get ready.
No Antonio is another but these days they’re looking pretty good for getting away from that show.
No Big Ben… well that’s a deal breaker.
The Steelers have not had a losing season since 2003 but the stark reality is that they might not be very good this year. I’m always one to give a lot of credit to the traditional powers, like how many times has Tom Brady been written off and bounced back, but for the Steelers to lose the three stars of their offence in suck quick succession… you don’t really recover from that. And it doesn’t help that Mason Rudolph isn’t exactly that good (not yet anyway). Their defence was already downskees, though trading for Minkah Fitzpatrick helps… seriously if it weren’t for the fact that this team always wins at least eight games then there’d be nothing to suggest they can turn this around. Fair play to Mike Tomlin but a coach can only work with the talent he’s got. Nah, they’re doomed.
The good news is that Big Ben just signed a three year contract and after flirting with retirement two years ago he didn’t do that lightly. He’ll be back next year and the year after to probably finish off his career, which means the Steelers don’t have to hit panic mode. However you do have to ask if the Minkah Fitzpatrick thing really makes that much sense now since there goes the one first round pick they might have actually gotten an early selection for. If that ends up being a top five pick then the Dolphins, who are far and away the worst team in 2019, are getting two top fives plus Houston’s wherever that one ends up. They also have two second round picks next year. Can’t abide with the tank but at least it’s working.
Doesn’t this guy look like the dumb bully in a high school movie? You know the guy who ends up embracing his inner nerd by the end of things and standing up to his oppressive coach/dad but spends the first half of the movie making dumb jokes and guffawing? He literally says the word “sucky” in this interview. He’s got rave reviews from inside Steelers HQ though so maybe he makes a decent go of it. What’s strange is that there seems to be a little changing of the guards going on. The same few QBs have been dominating for so long but writing the QB Rankings a few weeks ago it struck me how much the middle tiers had eroded because of a lack of young guys sticking around (Bortles, Winston, Mariota, etc.) and the older guys who are fading away (Eli, Flacco, etc.). But the emerging talent at that position right now is immense if unproven and that trend is only noticeable because it’s at the very end where we’re seeing the consequences.
Wildcard’s Pick: Niners by 2
Los Angeles Rams (2-0) at Cleveland Browns (1-1)
Monday at 12.20pm
So no one told you life was gonna be this way
QB’s a joke, coach’s broke, your pass rush DOA
It’s like your offence is stuck in second gear
When it hasn’t been your play, your drive, your game, or even your year…
Oh no wait that was every Browns team from the last two decades, not this season’s Browns. My mistake, apologies all around.
Just wanna point out though… these are the Browns’ next five opponents:
Rams (A), Ravens (H), 49ers (A), Seahawks (H) & Patriots (A)
What do those five teams have in common? They have a combined record through two weeks of 10-0… each of them is still undefeated. To be fair the Niners are a fake 2-0 team considering they only beat the Buccs and Bengals but that’s still a decent roster they’ve got there. It’s a bloody good thing the Browns were able to take care of the Jets (with little worry) because they could easily lose four of the next five without even playing badly. Gotta give a young team room to grow though – this was never going to be a championship season, rebuilds don’t happen that quick.
One thing I’ve noticed from the Browns so far: Baker Mayfield loves the feel of that ball in his hands, aye? Like, just let that thing go bro before you get clobbered and you’re sitting on an injury cart next to Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger. Dude’s seriously good when he gets it right but he seems to extend the play too long waiting for something to break open and he’s prone to the odd wobbly pass too… though we already knew he was a QB who tries to force a pass sometimes. I don’t mind that trait so much, just gotta be more discerning when it comes to risking sacks.
Oh yeah and that catch from Odell Beckham Jr last week. You know the one. Single-handed down the sideline… jeezus. Man, you haul those bastards in and you can wear as expensive a watch as you want, my son (just no tinted visors coz the feds will getcha).
Wildcard’s Pick: Rams by 10
Chicago Bears (1-1) at Washington R*dskins (0-2)
Tuesday at 12.15pm
Nah, I’m good thanks.
Wildcard’s Pick: Bears by 3
The Wildcard is a staff writer for The Niche Cache. Each week he consults his warehouse full of a thousand monkeys at a thousand typewriters and then collates their feral scribblings into a cohesive article which he can then claim complete authorship of because that’s how capitalism works.
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