Thursday, September 29, 2016

Week 4 NFL Picks: Being An Adult

This week, there's been a lot of stuff that I haven't really wanted to do. Medical shots. Yard work, including little trafficked areas of serious overgrowth. Trying to catch up on running miles, because I'm about a week behind. Paying attention to the presidential campaign, because I need to gauge just how much work I'm willing to do to avoid feeling bad if things go wrong. Paperwork, cleaning, etc., etc. It's all about as much fun as it sounds.

But, well, it is what it is. Adulting seems to be on the extinction list, what with people puling for special snowflake choices that aren't realistic, using the greatest communication breakthrough in the history of the species to troll women and lower the discourse, and just, well, avoid work. Like reading the intro to picks columns. Who the hell wants to do that work, anyway? Just gimme the meat!

And with that... on to the picks!

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Miami at CINCINNATI (-7.5)

Last week at home against Denver, the Bengals fed power RB Jeremy Hill on the opening drive. Hill gashed the Bronco defense for big gains, eventually punching it home and ending a +70-yard drive for the early lead. And then... well, they didn't exactly forget about Hill, but they certainly didn't press the advantage, and the Bronco secondary did work against QB Andy Dalton. Hill wound up with 17 carries for 97 yards and 2 TDs. On Terrible Night Football, against a Dolphin team that is competent kicking from 0-3 with a home loss to the Browns while working with QB3, expect ground, pound, and pound some more.

Bengals 24, Dolphins 13

INDIANAPOLIS (-2.5) at Jacksonville

Two teams that don't deserve prosperity, but one will get it in London, because that's what the AFC South is all about. Jacksonville might be in the final days of the Gus Bradley Era (remember how much we wanted him, Eagles Fans? We were so young then), because what tends to happen in UK games are beat downs followed by mid-season coach firing.

Colts 41, Jaguars 20

Tennessee at HOUSTON (-4.5)

The Texans are coming off their worst loss of the year, and the loss of do-everything DL JJ Watt. But they also are at home, with extra rest, against a Titans team that hasn't been able to avoid turnovers. In the long run, losing Watt is going to crush this club, but the long run has nothing to do with Sunday's game.

Texans 24, Titans 17

CLEVELAND (+7.5) at Washington

We're supposed to lay over a touchdown for DC, a 1-win team with massive injury issues and a shaky QB situation, against anyone? Not going to do it, especially with the poor Factory of Sadness showing surprising friskiness in two of three games this year. DC still wins, but it will be a fight, and WR Terrelle Pryor will show he wasn't just a one-week wonder for fantasy honks.

Slurs 27, Browns 24

Seattle at NY JETS (+2.5)

There's a reason why Ryan Fitzpatrick is so well-traveled; he's a turnover machine, and the bad games are truly terrible. But there's also a reason why he keeps getting starts, and that's because he bounces back in places you wouldn't expect... and that's where the Seahawks come in. QB Russell Wilson might miss this one, the defense is more about stopping you than generating turnovers, and the way to beat the Legion of Boom is with big post up WRs... which is to say, Brandon Marshall and Quincy Enunwa, and maybe even new TE Austin Sefarian-Jenkins. The topper for me is that it's a 1pm EST / 10am PST start, which doesn't usually work for West Coast clubs.

Jets 24, Seahawks 20

Buffalo at NEW ENGLAND (even)

Massive QB uncertainty, a game they don't need and a Bills team that looked good when things were bleak last week at home leads many to think this is the week that the Patriots don't come through, prior to getting back suspended QB Tom Brady and laying waste to the NFL. This is where I note that they are at home, on long rest, and the Buffalo defense is coached by the worst DC in the history of the NFL. So, um, yeah, going for the Pats, and thrilled to have a nil line.

Patriots 23, Bills 16

CAROLINA (-3) at Atlanta

Anger time for the 1-2 Panthers, who have extra time, a recent track record of treating the Falcons like a speed bag, and much more need for the win that the home team. Atlanta also is dealing with a sudden and shocking drop in production from WR Julio Jones, which is not exactly the way to go after the Panthers this year. And the Falcons' 2-headed RB isn't the way to get them this year, either.

Panthers 31, Falcons 20

OAKLAND (+3.5) at Baltimore

Just can't see the Ravens going to 4-0 with their current +13 point differential, and while the Raiders have been a terrible road team, maybe the defense has come alive after last week's exercise in competency. But I gotta confess to you, this one's low on the confidence scale, especially if Ravens RB Kenneth Dixon can return and put the middling committee backfield to rights.

Raiders 26, Ravens 24

DETROIT (-3) at Chicago

Are the Bears one of the worst teams in the league? You'd have to think so, especially when they are going with QB2, RB2, and CB8 and up. Detroit's a bad bet on the road, but the Bears just aren't beating anyone right now, and the Lions can move the ball enough to get it done.

Lions 24, Bears 20

Denver at TAMPA BAY (+3)

The Broncos are undefeated, coming off a great road win in Cincy, and basking in the glow of rookie QB Trevor Siemian, who was the best QB in fantasy scoring last week. But what the box score doesn't tell you is that he was damned lucky to avoid multiple turnovers, and bad things tend to happen to road teams on their second straight week away from their own beds. In the swampy hell of Tampa, against a defense that got gashed by the toothless Bucs, I'm looking for a moment of pride for the home team.

Bucs 23, Broncos 20

LA Rams at ARIZONA (-8)

Two inexplicable teams, but a reversion to form for the home team with the mostly functioning offense is in order here, especially with the division on the line. With the win, three teams will be tied for first in the division, which just seems like it's rubbing it in to poor Nero Kelly in San Francisco. (Well, that and the Eagles being one of the best teams in football by doing everything they humanly could to reverse all of his decisions ASAP.) Anyway, back to this game: QB Carson Palmer in a bounce-back effort, and surprising ease, because you can hurt this secondary if you get the front seven blocked.

Cardinals 34, Rams 20

New Orleans at SAN DIEGO (-4)

The Drew Brees Vengeance Game! Well, no, because that was a lifetime ago, the Saints aren't nearly as potent outdoors, and are coming off a short week where the got punked at home. The Chargers are maimed all over, but not at QB, and you don't need first-team offensive personnel to score a lot against the Saints. Look for both teams to do major damage with their TEs in this game, because neither club has a LB that isn't a dumpster fire.

Chargers 34, Saints 27

DALLAS (-2.5) at San Francisco

A few years ago in an opening game road win, Niner Fan took over Jerruh World, because the home fans knew their team was trash and wanted to cash in for, well, something. Consider this one that game in reverse, because Cowboy Fan is crazy for the Dak, and Niner Fan knows that this current team in mid-collapse on defense, and won't get better against this multi-faceted and patient offense.

Cowboys 30, Niners 19

Kansas City at PITTSBURGH (-5.5)

One of these teams has a healthy RB1, is coming off an embarrassing beatdown, has downfield threats in the passing game, and is at home. The other team, well, not so much. Look for the Steelers to deal a fresh blow to the idea that the Chiefs are an elite defense, because for most of the year, they really haven't been. Also, note that it's the SNF game, so weird stuff will happen. Just not weird enough.

Steelers 33, Chiefs 20

NY Giants at MINNESOTA (-4.5)

Time to admit defeat in the idea that the Viking defense wasn't going to be able to replicate 2015 triumphs, and the Giants' RBBC isn't going to get it done here, either. As it's a national broadcast, look for WR Odell Beckham Jr. to do something to show the world that he enjoys doing odd things on camera. Also, turnovers from QB Eli Manning. That happens pretty often, too.

Vikings 27, Giants 20

                                                     * * * *

Last week: 7-9

Year: 18-30

Career: 777-780-49

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Eagles Are Making Their Own Luck

Doug Shows The Way
In the day after of one of the more surprising and encour- aging wins in the history of the Philadelphia Eagles franchise, I am struck by how, well, lucky the franchise has been so far this season.

This is where you might start to think about the unsustainable part of how rookie QB Carson Wentz has played three games without an interception, which is almost freakishly fortunate... but that's not what's going on. Having seen all of the snaps, I can tell you that even if Wentz had gotten unlucky, there wouldn't have been more than a pick or two in those games. Part of this -- OK, a lot of this -- is coaching, but the kid just hasn't put the ball in harm's way very often.

Next, you might look at whether the defense had been fortunate. Not overly so. Defenders have been close to the ball on any number of occasions, and haven't converted a freakish number of those plays into takeaways. There have been big and well-timed plays -- the Jordan Hicks INT against Cleveland that prevented a loss of the lead, Bennie Logan's blocked field goal early in the Steeler game -- but nothing that has turned a game around. Some luck, like the PR TD in Chicago, have also gone against them.

What's really been the luck for this franchise is, frankly, Teddy Bridgewater going down in Minnesota, and GM Howie Roseman being able to get his price to send Sam Bradford out of town. There's a very real possibility that, given how well the defense has played, that the team would be 3-0 with Bradford at QB as well, and a Drew Brees v. Philip Rivers narrative might have started in town, even while the ceiling for the team stayed limited. But with Bridgewater going down (and honestly, no other franchise was going to come down the pike and pay that price for him, it's not as if Cleveland is going there, and there really isn't another team that is desperate for Bradford), that's just, well, luck.

But what isn't luck is the single biggest advantage that this team has over recent years, and that goes for the last years of Andy Reid as well, is the remarkably better coaching. Frank Reich was almost a head coach after resurrecting Rivers in San Diego, but his star fell with the Chargers not being able to stay healthy. Jim Schwartz had some rising moments in Detroit, and no one ever said he couldn't coach a defense. Dave Fipp led the Kelly Eagles to extraordinary special teams performance, and Pederson kept him despite what I'm presuming is Roseman's desire to purge the place of all of them. He also kept Duce Staley and convinced him that continuing to coach the running backs was a good career move, and the depth RBs have performed admirably. For the first time in forever, the defense makes sense to the personnel, gets better over the course of a game, and Pederson has, in all three games, coddled the clock and kept his defense protected and fresh.

You don't make the playoffs in September (well, unless you are New England), and the best team in the league int he first few games of the year almost never is the team that wins at the close. This is still a team that beat two terrible clubs before dismantling a good one, and there's every chance that it was just a bad day for that team. If they come out of the bye week flat and lose in Detroit (and yeah, I'm going to be at that game, so count on it), or suffer a major injury or two, this could still turn south in a hurry. There are always surprise teams in the NFL, and there is also always surprise fades. It's September. Deep breaths.

But what your eyes tell you is that this is a smart and well-coached team, with an athletic defense that's opportunistic. Their QB has been dynamic in terms of getting big chunks of yardage, while avoiding turnovers, and no one thinks that he's reached his eventual ceiling yet.

And finally, this.

I've watched this laundry for longer than many of you have been alive.

I've never been more encouraged after the first three games.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Top 10 NFL Week 3 Takeaways

Nero For Never
10) Ryan Fitzpatrick must have had the Kansas City defense in fantasy this week, because he completed six passes to them

9) Pittsburgh trailed by the most points in a game in nearly 20 years as Eagle Fan took their good fortune with patience and a clear understanding that this is just September

8) Cleveland somehow lost a road game by missing three field goals despite playing QB3 and QB4, who is also WR2, because the Factory of Sadness never sleeps or stops innovating

7) Oakland proved that they could win on the road and play defense, so long as they got to go against the Titans

6) Carolina is now 1-2 after a home loss to the 3-0 Vikings, and this doesn't so much for the Adrian Peterson is Important theory

5) Washington saved their season with a 2-point win in New York, which proved that Kirk Cousins can too beat a +.500 team, so long as they aren't much over .500, the punter executes a game-changing fake, and the defense makes a couple of saving picks

4) Green Bay got out to a big lead early and hung on against Detroit, despite their offense still not being close to right

3) Indy nearly lost at home to San Diego to go 0-3, which would have made Patriot Fan who blames them for getting caught in Deflategate to take their good fortune with humor and patience

2) Rex Ryan saved his job with a dominant performance over the Cardinals at home, because that's how he's kept the job this long. you know, despite being an utter train wreck

1) Chip Kelly got his head kicked in by Seattle despite QB Russell Wilson being unable to finish the game, while his old team went to 3-0 with their best start in forever, so, um, yeah, scoreboard, you fat lying piece of garbage

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Eagles - Steelers Diary / Takeaways

This Image Keeps Working
Exceptional coverage on WR Antonio Brown for no gain to start, and immediate stop of TE Jesse James to set up third and long and defensive competency

> To get off the field quick, it's no pressure and Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger floating a ball to WR Eli Rodgers for 32 yards of easy

> Yeah, it's Secondary Worry Time as Brown gets 13 off a screen as two guys take terrible angles

> RB DeAngelo Williams with good running for low results, then third and 6 and get off with just a figgie try is Ben for the scramble first as the line loses contain

> Running plays do nothing but make life difficult for Yellow, leading to third and 13 and please get off the field, which is dropped by WR Markus Wheaton on a classic Ben schoolyard throw

> K Chris Boswell is blocked from 36 by DT Bennie Logan, and that is a bullet dodged

> RB Ryan Mathews for a 2 yard loss as the o-line fails, then QB Carson Wentz from the empty backfield to TE Brent Celek, who does damage to LB Ryan Shazier, which could be really meaningful

> Super nifty screen to RB Darren Sproles, with LG Allen Barbre ducking a flag, for a 40-yard gain

> Red zone work is a big damned deal against good teams, with Wentz oddly going into triple coverage to throw it away to Celek, then WR Josh Huff getting just one on the bubble screen against a blitz

> Third and red zone money from the 13 is Huff again for a yard, just a poor design, and that looked way too conservative in a league where DPI gets called a lot in the end zone

> K Caleb Sturgis slaps a knuckler through from 29, and it's Green 3, Yellow 0

> Good strategic kick by Sturgis and coverage, aided by holding, starts Yellow at their 8

> Screen to Williams for 2, then easy bubble to Brown to move the sticks

> CB Nolan Carroll fights through Wheaton to cause a third down, with an all-out blitz just barely getting there; holding declined and the defense gets off the field

> Shazier back as Yellow run blitzes for another Mathews loss, then Yellow LB Lawrence Timmons picks up a dumb 15 yard flag at the end of TE Trey Burton's crawl for another first

> Wentz to Sproles for 2 after a terrible snap by C Jason Kelce, then Huff gets a little run that comes back due to WR Jordan Matthews' hold

> Wentz through the hands of WR Dorial Green-Beckham to make third and 12 a problem, then a laser to DG-B for the redemption first down

> That throw gave us all wood, and ended the first quarter with Green 3, Yellow 0

> Impressive work by Huff to spin off tacklers and get a first down, then  Wentz tries Burton in triple coverage off multiple fakes, and Yellow had that scouted well

> Nice ball to Celek for another first, and kid's got heat for days

> Now in figgie range, it's RB Wendell Smallwood an ankle tackle away from six as the left side of the O-line does manly work

> Smallwood for one, then a perfect cross to Matthews for the score, and Eagle Fan is getting dangerously excited about this team right now

> Sturgis with the PAT, and it's 10-0 Green after 17 minutes

> Yellow runs it out again to no good effect, Timmons leaves the field, and everything's coming up green right now

> S Malcolm Jenkins with the near pick, then James for six yards as the pressure is everywhere but where it needs to be

> Third and continue the avalanche is Ben from the gun to WR Sammie Coates, who is open for the entire 41 yards of arc

> Ben to Brown for another 20 as CB Ron Brooks isn't at this level, then Williams gets two as Yellow does Green the favor of not throwing at shaky corners for a play

> Coates for a yard as Jenkins closes with a vengeance, then third and 7 and save points is Ben to the ground as DT Fletcher Cox gets an excuse-me sack for a de facto four point play

> Boswell from 40 is true, and Yellow is on the board halfway through the second

> Huff to the 23 as both teams are angling kickoffs, then DG-B with an easy catch and power for a first down

> Nifty fake by Wentz out of the bubble screen to Agholor for 7 yards, then 2 yards to Agholor

> Third and 1 and keep the ball is a big play, and made worse by a Kelce flag

> Third and 6 as Phil Simms and Jim Nantz talk a lot of Not Game, with a late DPI call on CB William Gay against Agholor; really big play and a marginal call

> Wentz for 10 as Yellow doesn't cover the right side of the field, and the QB avoids contact for a promising moment of mental development

> Sproles for 4, then RB Kenyan Barner gets room on the sweep for 14 and another first as LT Jason Peters gets multiple defenders

> Fake jet sweep is a near disaster as Yellow has it scouted hard, but Wentz barely avoids grounding and a turnover

> 2 for Barner, then 4 for Sproles as Wentz continues to play tight in the red zone; after the Mark Sanchez Experience, we'll live with it

> Sturgis from 38 connects, and it's Green 13, Yellow 3 with 2:25 left

> Williams for 8, but comes back on a hold; Brown gets 10 on a de facto screen, which takes the clock to the 2-minute warning

> Too much time leads to a throwaway, then 3rd and 4 and wow, this really could get well fast is a checkdown with excellent coverage on Rodgers for no gain and a three and out

> 3 points and a missed figgie against this offense in a half is really doing monster work

> Sproles to the 20 with 93 seconds left and two Green timeouts; enough for this offense on this day

> Near pick on first down as Yellow CB Artie Burns cheats the Huff out, then Sproles for nothing as Green gets a little disturbingly conservative; Yellow time out

> Great play and execution on the misdirection screen to Burton, who gets the first

> Wentz just misses Burton downfield as LB James Harrison gets the hurry; the hurt TE Zach Ertz might have had that

> Burton drops a 2nd and 10 throw as the QB is holding it too long; worrisome

> Third and 10 is Don't Screw It Up, with a screen to Sproles only getting 6 and stopping the clock

> Shazier in continued pain as P Donnie Jones does the job; Yellow at their own 15 with 2 timeouts and 27 seconds left

> Williams for nothing as Yellow is content to end it, and with Green getting the kick to start the second, a 10-point lead is more than fine

> Wentz to Sproles for 73, and dear heavens, Green might be a good team or something

> Just a next level bit of improv by the QB to tightrope the line of scrimmage and make Sproles open, and suddenly it's a 17-point lead with 27 minutes left to play

> Yellow's going to have to be really good the rest of the way, and haven't been so far

> Ben to Brown for 5, then 19 more as Ben handles a bad snap and the WR is just absurdly good

> Poor challenge by Pederson might be his first clear coaching mistake in 3 games

> A sack for any other QB, incomplete for Ben, as he shrugs off DE Vinny Curry

> Williams for 15 great yards, and yeah, Yellow isn't just going to fold their tents

> Ben misses a wide-open James for a serious gain as the MLB has a brain fart, then is nearly picked by Carroll

> Third and prevent points is another near pick as Rodgers falls, with S Rodney McLeod not staying up, and it's not Yellow's day so far

> P Jordan Berry falls down on contact, with S Chris Maragos with the mistake; just a terrible play

> 4th and 5 brings back the offense for the biggest play of the game, as Yellow avoids the 50-yard figgie, and Jenkins nearly picks another ball; Yellow holding is declined, and even the mistakes are working out for Green today

> Huff loses yards and gets bailed out with a face mask on Gay for 15; Yellow just giving out gifts all over the place

> Rodgers out as Yellow is losing more than a game

> Barner for a straggling yard as Green starts to run clock, then Wentz hits Celek on a perfectly covered blitz for an easy 24 yard gain

> Sproles loses a little, then Smallwood gets 14 on a draw, and the RB Carousel is working fine

> Smallwood on the same play gets another 12 as the line is just destroying Yellow, and, um, wow

> Heavy package from the one as Yellow looks unsettled, but Smallwood is stopped

> Gun on second, easy run for Smallwood and his first NFL score, and this is approaching rout

> Sturgis connects, and it's Green 27, Yellow 3 in what might be one of the more surprising results of the day

> MLB Jordan Hicks with the break-up, then Ben finally has a completion to Brown to set up third and five

> 20 minutes left as Yellow gets a bailout flag on CB Jaylen Mills for weak DPI; gahhh

> Wheaton separated from the ball by Jenkins, but that's mostly on the WR

> Ben to Brown moves the sticks for 17, then Logan for the avalanche sack, because the defense is still fresh and everyone knows what's coming

> Sack and strip by Cox, DE Brandon Graham with the recovery, and this offensive line can not deal

> Wentz tries DG-B in the end zone for the kill shot, and the ball is absolutely perfect, but the WR can't make the play

> As this is Green day all over, they get a gift 15 yard roughing the passer flag anyway

> 4 for Barner, then 14, and this is just domination

> Barner for 8 yards and the touchdown as Yellow has pretty much given up; Green 34, Yellow 3, and Ye Gads This Is Surprising

> Williams for 10, through Brown's hands twice but not very accurate either, and incomplete on third and 10 against pressure, and we might be at the point where Yellow just pulls Ben for safety

> End of three and about as happy as you'll ever hear the Linc

> Wentz to Agholor for 11, as CBS tries to will the offense into a sack or turnover

> Smallwood for 5, Agholor for 3 to get to 300 yards for the day, then a toss to Smallwood for the first, but it comes back on a hold

> Third and 13 as CBS trolls for sad Steeler Fan is a give up run for a loss, as Pederson plays it to continue the turnover-free streak

> Jones with a short one, but it's not going to matter

> Ben still in for no good reason, connects with Brown despite pressure and a face mask, so maybe Tomlin is playing his guys in fantasy

> DL Destiny Vaejo jumps, then Graham gets another sack, clean speed rush; 4th of the day for Green

> Near sack and a drop by Williams as CBS flashes that this is Yellow's biggest deficit in 20 years; 3rd and 14 is a missed screen

> 4th and 14 is a 4-0-7 defense, with DC Jim Schwartz getting porny; cheap yards stopped for a de facto turnover

> Even in this game, Brown has 127 yards, so yeah, no one should complain about taking him first in their nerd nit fantasy football draft

> Wentz still in for no reason, as Smallwood gets 12 on wide open spaces

> Smallwood for one, then five, and it looks like his RB1 job now, as much as Sproles will allow it

> Wentz to Matthews for an absolutely gorgeous arc ball, but there's no way it's a catch

> CBS is so bored they threw up a Merrill Reese chyron

> Ben still in, no idea why, and woe to Tomlin if he gets hurt; he makes a bunch of meaningless short completions, so good for him, I guess

> McLeod with a pick on an insane play in the end zone, because WR Darius Heyward-Bey is just that way, really

> Game ends without incident or injury, which is a relief, as both HCs played QB1 all the way to a gun in a blowout

> This is the third straight game where Green has made their opponent look like they play in North Dakota State's conference, didn't turn the ball over, and had a defense that looked like they can't stop smiling after the Nero Kelly Era

Top 10 NFL Week 3 Ad Questions

Flo Brings Chaos
10) Does Flo from Progressive routinely cause massive property damage by summoning fluid demons?

9) Is anyone else profoundly disturbed by fat creepy white guys spanking their terrible comfort food?

8) Does owning Toyotas make for uncomfortably close and borderline flirtatious relationships between brothers?

7) Has stand-up done so poorly for Demetri Martin that he's been reduced to New York Life commercials?

6) Is there something about owning a Dodge that inspires idiotic driving in rain?

5) Does anyone you know refer to their conference call as "the meeting field"?

4) Could Southwest cut fare prices if they didn't spend so much employee time on synchronized dance routines?

3) Do Honda Ridgelines come with Walter White's blue meth to give you the time-lapsed crazed energy to make all that crap?

2) Now that aliens are crying at Pizza Hut, doesn't that make their "food" a galactic war crime, rather than a simple crime against humanity?

1) If you are screaming about a lack of Wal-Mart pizza, don't you have far greater problems than crap food can solve?

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