Week 3 Review, London Game Pick

Posted: 10/01/2016 by levcohen in Football

Last week felt like a week in which the best teams in the league kind of separated themselves from the rest of the pack. New England blew out Houston with rookie quarterback Jacoby Brissett starting his first career game, moving to 3-0 without Tom Brady. Minnesota shrugged off the loss of Adrian Peterson, going into Carolina and dominating the Panthers. Denver went into Cincinnati and proved that they could win with their passing game, while Seattle got a better performance from their offense in a blowout win over San Francisco. That’s my top tier right now, with Pittsburgh and Carolina on the outside looking in. As for the bottom part of the league, I’m willing to cross off the 0-3 Saints after their second loss at home. It may only take nine wins to win a wild card, but I can’t see New Orleans going 9-4 to close the season. They have absolutely no chance at stopping any competent offense.
Top tier: New England, Minnesota, Denver, Seattle
Eliminated teams: Cleveland, Chicago, Buffalo, New Orleans

Here are some other takeaways from Week 3:

  • I’m not buying what the Falcons are selling. Yes, they’re 2-1 and coming off a total demolition of the Saints. And yes, they lead the NFL in total points with 104 and in yards per game with 448. But their production has come against New Orleans, Tampa Bay, and Oakland. I had high hopes for Oakland’s defense, and it does look a bit better after the grind-it-out win over Tennessee, but come on. Let’s see how Matt Ryan and the Falcons do against teams like Carolina, Denver, and Seattle, the next three squads they’ll face. If they come out of that stretch better than 3-3, I’ll be shocked. Julio Jones is a great player, and the Devonta Freeman/Tevin Coleman running back combination has its moments (like last week), but the offense is a bit too top-heavy to win games with a defense that can’t rush the passer and has only one good cornerback. Let’s call them the slightly richer man’s Saints until they prove otherwise.
  • Another team I’m not convinced belongs in the conversation with the NFL’s elites is Baltimore. They’re 3-0, but look at the teams they’ve played. They knocked off Buffalo by six, Cleveland by five, and Jacksonville by two. It’s true that two of those games came on the road, which is notable because the Ravens have long been much better at home than away, but they’ve been far from convincing. Now, there’s something to be said for a team that knows how to win close games, but I just don’t think that Baltimore’s offense — and especially their running game — is explosive enough to carry the team past Pittsburgh or even Cincinnati in the AFC North. C.J. Mosley and Eric Weddle anchor a very solid defense, and the Ravens should be 5-2 or 6-1 going into their BYE given that they have Oakland, Washington, and the two New York teams coming up, but they end the season with a brutal stretch of @New England, Philadelphia, @Pittsburgh, and @Cincinnati. Now, they have such a plum schedule that they could be 9-3 heading into Week 14, which would make it very difficult for them to miss the playoffs. But even if they do go 10-6 or 11-5, I’m not going to be convinced unless they start putting up more points or tallying wins against better opposition.
  • Terrelle Pryor is quickly becoming one of the most interesting and exciting players in the NFL, especially now that ex-teammate Josh Gordon is unlikely to play in the NFL this year. Pryor’s the new #1 receiver in Cleveland, and he had a huge week in Week 3, catching eight passes for 144 yards even though Cody Kessler was throwing him the ball. But the reason he’s so interesting is that he also threw five passes, completing three for 35 yards, and carried the ball four times, rushing for 21 yards and a touchdown. He became the first player since the 1980s to have two completions, two rushing attempts, and two receptions in a game, and it might not have been a fluke. Pryor’s an ex-Ohio State quarterback, and he would be a unique weapon if he can continue to threaten defenses with his arm and as a receiver. I’m rooting for him, both because it would be cool to have a QB/WR in the NFL and because I’d like a few good things to happen to the Browns.
  • I’m certainly overreacting, but my biggest takeaway from the Redskins-Giants game (a game Washington won, no less) is that I don’t know how any defense is going to be able to stop both Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard in the passing game. Everyone knows how great OBJ is, but I was shocked to see how good Shepard, a second round pick out of Oklahoma, is already. He has 16 catches on 19 targets this season and has turned those catches into 233 yards and two scores. When you pair that with Beckham, who has a few costly drops this year but still has turned 19 catches into 280 yards through three weeks, you get a terrifying duo. I can’t name a 1-2 combination I would take over OBJ and Shepard. I know the Giants lost last week, but that should still scare opponents. This week, they face the Vikings, so I guess we’ll find out just how good Shepard is.
  • J.J. Watt is out for the year. That’s a bummer for Texans fans, obviously, but it also sucks for fans of the NFL in general. There are few players who are as exciting to watch as a healthy Watt. He clearly wasn’t healthy at any point this season, and now he’s having back surgery. I hope he can return next season to be J.J. WATT, but back injuries are hard to rebound from. It’s also obviously a terrible blow for the Texans, but I think Houston’s defense has enough talent elsewhere to be ok without their star lineman. The Texans’ problem is their offense, which they invested in big-time this offseason (hello, Brock Oswiler and Lamar Miller) and which was absolutely horrific last week (shades of the playoffs against Kansas City). Houston is still the favorite in the putrid AFC South, but they could be headed for another first round playoff loss at home.

Last week’s picks:
6-10 straight up… 25-23 for the season (terrible week)
6-9-1 against the spread… 25-20-3
5-11 over/under… 25-22-1

So I’m still slightly above .500 against Vegas, but this was an atrocious week for me.

1-3 on upset picks… 5-8
0-1 on lock… 1-2 (thanks, Carolina. I guess I shouldn’t have picked against Minnesota’s defense after all)

Best picks of the week (none?):
Cowboys 21, Bears 13… Actual result: Cowboys 31, Bears 17
Colts 31, Chargers 28… Actual result: Colts 26, Chargers 22
Redskins 24, Giants 20… Actual result: Redskins 29, Giants 27

Worst picks of the week:
Texans 20, Patriots 14… Actual result: Patriots 27, Texans 0
Buccaneers 23, Rams 13… Actual result: Rams 37, Buccaneers 32
Cardinals 31, Bills 10… Actual result: Bills 33, Cardinals 18

Because there’s a London game tomorrow morning that starts at 9:30 Eastern, and because I don’t want to wake up early to get my whole picks post out, I’m going to write about that game now. Hopefully I can continue to rebound after last week (Thursday’s game went well for me).

Indianapolis Colts (1-2, 1-2 ATS) vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-3, 2-1) in London:
Spread: Colts favored by 2.5
Over/under: 49
My prediction: It’s hard to believe that the Jaguars are 2-1 against the spread, but they did indeed barely cover at home against Green Bay in Week 1 and Baltimore last week. But make no mistake about it: the Jaguars stink. Blake Bortles is a solid fantasy quarterback, but he’s only thrown three first quarter touchdowns in his career. Given that this is his third season, that’s actually pretty incredible, and it says a lot about Bortles’s performances as QB. When his team is down two touchdowns and the opponent is playing prevent defense, he can pile on the yards and points. But in a close game? No chance. The only thing that might make this game different is that Bortles is facing an Indianapolis team that can’t defend to save their lives. Bortles ranks 27th among 34 qualified quarterbacks in PFF rating (he has a 55 rating through three games. To put that in context, Tyrod Taylor is one spot ahead at 56.7 and Cody Kessler is a spot behind at 54.1), but this would be the week for him to pull that rating up, especially given that London games are generally high scoring. But I’m not going to pick Bortles here, not against Andrew Luck. Colts win 30-23.
Colts cover
Over

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