Week 14 Review, TNF Preview

Posted: 12/17/2015 by levcohen in Football

Week 14 was largely much of the same, with the best teams in the league continuing to separate themselves from everyone else (Arizona edged out the 8-5 Vikings, while Seattle, New England, and Carolina all won in blowouts) with one major exception. Cincinnati. The Bengals saw a change from the status quo, losing to the rising Steelers 33-20 and much more importantly losing quarterback Andy Dalton to a broken thumb. Dalton has his skeptics, but this is unarguably a disastrous injury. He was (is) in the midst of his best season yet, completing 66% of his passes while throwing for 25 touchdowns against only seven interceptions. He’s ranked third in the league in Football Outsider’s DYAR (overall value), second in DVOA (value per play), and third in QBR among quarterbacks. His replacement is AJ McCarron, the former Alabama standout who was drafted in the fifth round in 2014. McCarron was ok against the Steelers, but turned the ball over twice and couldn’t keep up with Ben Roethlisberger. He’s accurate and should be fine, but he’s no Dalton, and the Bengals are going to need Dalton back by the playoffs if they want to win their first playoff game in forever.

I’m eliminating Atlanta (boy are they brutal. Could they be the worst team in football?), Buffalo (they’re two games behind the Jets and Steelers in the wild card race), which means I’ve knocked out half the league. Still left: 3 NFC East teams, 2 AFC South teams, and Pittsburgh-New York, which looks like it’s going to come down to the wire for the second AFC wild card spot. One team from each of those three groups will make the playoffs; everyone else is pretty much in, although I could see the Vikings continuing their recent slide against tough opposition.

Eliminated teams: Chicago, Tampa Bay, Cleveland, Detroit, San Francisco, Tennessee, Jacksonville, Dallas, Baltimore, San Diego, St. Louis, New Orleans, Miami, Oakland, Atlanta, Buffalo

  • I know the Rams just beat the Lions, but really, Jeff Fisher’s getting another year as head coach?? I understand that no other team would keep Fisher employed and that owner Stan Kroenke is paying no attention to the team as he tries to move it to LA, but still… Fisher’s 25-35-1 in his St. Louis tenure, and his teams have gotten worse every year. Worse still, it seems like this team has a lot of talent, and Fisher still can’t do anything with it. The offense is abysmal, with Todd Gurley serving as the diamond in the rough. The defense should be dominant, and it ranks seventh in DVOA, but it’s not good enough to carry the carcass that is the Nick Foles-Case Keenum led offense.
  • Five sacks seems pretty good, doesn’t it? Wrong. It’s absolutely ridiculous, and it’s what Khalil Mack did last week in Oakland’s upset win in Denver. But guess what? This is nothing good for Mack, who has been great ever since being drafted fifth overall in the 2014 draft. Behind Josh Norman and J.J. Watt, Mack might be the best defensive player in football at this point.
  • Either Tom Brady or Cam Newton will win the MVP, but why not Russell Wilson? His offensive line is the third-worst pass-protecting o-line in the league, he’s lost Jimmy Graham and Marshawn Lynch, and he’s throwing passes to Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett. His slow start (and his team’s) will leave him out of the race, but in the last four games, he’s completed 75% of his passes while averaging 293 passing yards per game (on fewer than 30 attempts) and throwing for 16 touchdowns against zero interceptions. If that’s not an MVP stretch, I don’t know what is. The Seahawks have quickly gone from being a zone-read, run-heavy team to having a high-powered spread offense. They’ll be able to go either way with Lynch back in the playoffs, and that could be the difference in their quest to win another Super Bowl.
  • Could the Jags still win the AFC South?? After demolishing the Colts, they’re just a game out in the division, and their two rivals are currently without their starting quarterbacks. I still think they’re out of the race, since Indy and Houston play each other this week, but I also wouldn’t have thought that they’d be a game out at this point in the season.
  • I know it’s an unpopular opinion since they’re currently on a seven game winning streak, but I don’t think the Chiefs are any more than a solid team taking advantage of an easy schedule. Nothing about their team really excites me, and I think they’ll have some offensive troubles come playoffs, especially if they play the Bengals or Broncos in the first round. As it stands now, they seem likely to capture the five seed and will thus be favored in round one over the AFC South champion, but even if they win that game, I don’t think they’ll get past round two. Pittsburgh seems like the much better bet for a Super Bowl run among the wild card hopefuls.

9-7 straight up… 118-76
8-8 against the spread… 93-92-9
12-4 over/under… 100-90-6

Upset picks:
1-3… 22-28

Lock of the Week:
1-0… 11-3

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-7, 7-6) at St. Louis Rams (5-8, 5-7-1):*
Spread: Rams favored by 1
Over/under: 41
My prediction: For me, this hinges on one thing: Todd Gurley. If Gurley has a big day, the Rams will win the game, because the Buccaneers won’t be able to play from behind against St. Louis’s solid defense. If he doesn’t, though, the Rams are similarly screwed, because it’ll mean that Case Keenum will have to throw the ball. And the Bucs might not be good (they aren’t), but if they do one thing well, it’s stop the run; they’re fifth in rush defense DVOA. Buccaneers win 20-13.
Buccaneers cover
Under

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