What a great third week of NFL action, except for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers game. Even the other games that were supposed to be snoozers turned into some quality matchups. Last week I went 9-7 and while I could have done a little better, it was good enough for a 3rd(t) place finish in our weekly prediction contest. I really considered switching my Raiders pick to Washington simply because the Raiders were answering pregame questions about everything but football. I posted in our fantasy football chat room that it felt like a trap game. Lo and behold it was.
Group Pick ‘em Play:
Week 3 Winner: For the first time we have a tie. So Mean Machine and Stuckbucintx you two must share the 4 lines of glory you so richly earned by going 10-6. Stuckbuc missed sole victory by not following my Sacksonville over the Ravens pick, the 3rd most missed game of the week. Meanwhile Mean Machine liked the G-men better than the Eagles and it cost him. The 2nd most missed game was that trap Oakland/Washington matchup and the worst……..ALL of our pool of 50+ picked Tampa over Minnesota so at least we are a loyal group of fools together.
If you have not signed up yet you can still compete for weekly glory: the winner each week will get their 4 lines of fame and we’ll be keeping season long track (with the worst 2 weeks of predictions dropped) in competition for the great prize below:
Enter Group #: 39438
Password : bucs (all lower case)
If you would just like to see the scores and bask in your glory: https://football.fantasysports.yahoo.com/pickem/39438
So what does the season long winner get? This question came up in last week’s column and I am so glad they asked. There certainly is a prize for the season long winner that’s beyond your wildest imagination. I considered straight cash money at first but I understand from some of the “big talk” in the comments section that so many of you are super loaded and just don’t need any more cash. Bucs games tickets was another idea but those are for a certain date and how rude would it be to impose upon your schedule without asking, unexpectedly, I mean my mother raised me better than that.
You do get something so much more exclusive. You get something truly one of a kind, far more exclusive, a genuine semi-official DP conferred title. Self-printed from your own laser or bubble jet and embossed with as much lettering as your local word processor can handle. This isn’t even a cheap short title like they prefer in Europe where soccer is king and they throw around terms like Count and Duke all willy-nilly. No this one is totally unique so that you can brag to your friends, have it printed on a name plate for your desk if you like, if you come in first in our contest you are (for one year) referred to as:
(Mr. or Ms.) Unbelievable Great or Lucky Year 2017 Semi-Non-Official Bucs Nation Prognosticator
If that’s too long for your desk plate feel free to abbreviate it and just refer to yourself as Mr. or / Ms. UGLY SNOB Prognosticator. If that’s on your desk you’ve got a serious conversation starter.
Games of the Week
Washington at Kansas City (Monday Night)
This game is going to feature more bunches than a farmer’s market. Both Andy Reid and Jay Gruden love their 3 WR stack formations. Jay Gruden deserves some serious coach of the year consideration if the Redskins continue to compete in the NFC East. Also needing mention is the fine work of Greg Manusky and Jim Tomsula on the defensive side of the equation. I like Captain Kirk Cousins but there are still some gaping talent holes on this team.
In spite of that, Gruden’s play calling Sunday night wasn’t just good, it was near flawless. He manufactured big plays when the time was right, moved the ball the rest of the time, and scored consistently enough to force the Raiders to try to counter. Meanwhile the defense bottled up the Raider ground game and manned up the outside corners with the best cover combo in the league. Alex Smith, who by his own admission is playing his last season in KC, is not so quietly putting together a resume that is going to land him a huge deal in the offseason. Smith is usually captain checkdown, but actually seems very liberated by the whole situation: he just decides to let it rip constantly. If this game were at FedEx field I would seriously consider Washington, but it’s in Arrowhead on a Monday night and the Chiefs are going to 4-0 by way of a 27-21 victory.
Oakland at Denver (4:30PM)
This is a huge early season matchup. At the rate the Chiefs are going, both of these teams need divisional wins to keep pace. Both teams are coming off disappointing losses: Oakland got out smarted by the Redskins while Denver’s offense fell flat against the Bills. Something about this game screams at me to pick the Raiders but I just can’t do it simply for matchup reasons. The best part of Oakland’s team is outside at WR, going against some of the best spots on Denver’s defense. Denver can stop the run with their front 6 while still getting a pass rush. If that’s the case then the question becomes can Trevor Siemian deliver against the Oakland D? I don’t think he can but I believe CJ Anderson can and that’s enough for me as Denver wins an ugly 18-16 battle for the AFC West’s second place.
Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans. (1PM)
The Titans face off against the divisional rival after they handled Seattle a little easier than most expected at home. Meanwhile, DeShaun Watson almost did become Michael Jordan by pushing the Patriots to the brink up in Foxborough. The Titans still have Murray/Henry and a physical line, in between they’ve got Mariota to distribute the ball and make plays when needed, but not turn the ball over.
The Texans defense is just as good as ever but Watson is showing why he won at Clemson, why he really should have been the 1st QB off the board this spring. One thing about both these guys is they can lead and it’s going to be a question of familiarity that decides this game. Houston has seen Mariota before and he’s seen Houston’s defense. Meanwhile Watson is almost a complete unknown as a pro to the Titans. Who will get the advantage from that, I’m not sure and neither is Vegas because they have the game as a pick-em. I think that’s probably spot on but I’m going with the Titans to eventually just barely wear down. Houston 25-24.
Chicago at Green Bay (Thursday Night). So Mike Glennon laid waste to the Steelers or the Steelers laid waste to themselves depending on how you view the game outcome. Jordan Howard ran all over the Steelers and Tarik Cohen weaved through them in the newest thunder and lightning combo. Even with that combo though the Bears are likely to need turnovers to beat the Packers, Aaron Rodgers did just throw his 2nd career pick six so check back in another 4 or 5 season for the next one. Rodgers powers the Pack over the Bears 35-10.
Buffalo at Atlanta. Matt Schaub’s parents should consider buying tickets to this game, he hasn’t played regularly since 2013 but appears headed to get in for mop up duty in this one. The Falcons may also get a look at Brian Hill and Terron Ward as late RB subs in this one. Buffalo isn’t very good and Atlanta may well be better than last season. Falcons hang nearly half a hundred on Buffalo in laugher 45-7.
LA Rams at Dallas Cowboys. The Rams have 10 days to prepare for this and the Cowboys have 6. More than that Dallas just handled the Cardinals pretty easily. This feels like a game that Dallas should be on upset alert for. If this was going to be in LA I would actually pick the Rams but I think Dallas rallies late to win with the home crowd at their backs 27-24.
Detroit at Minnesota. Just because we made Case Keenum look like a superstar doesn’t mean he is one. The Lions also have to be feeling like they got robbed on the Golden Tate touchdown that wasn’t followed by a 10 second run off. Detroit still can’t run the ball but really doesn’t need to here. Minnesota’s big play offense isn’t showing up 2 weeks in a row , Lions 27-12.
Carolina at New England. Right now Cam Newton can’t hit the broadside of a barn with a pass, Greg Olsen and now Kelvin Benjamin are out. Meanwhile Tom Brady just dropped 5 touchdowns on the Texans. Carolina may add some points against a weaker than advertised Patriot D, but not enough, Pats 42-28.
Jacksonville at NY Jets. I did call the London upset last week of Jags over Ravens, but I didn’t think the Jags would just take the Ravens to the woodshed like they did. That was painful to watch as the Ravens surrendered by early 4th QTR pulling their starters and getting set for a trip home. The Jags are on the road this week but I don’t see McCown having two good games in a row, Sacksonville 25 Jets 19.
Pittsburgh at Baltimore. Baltimore was flat against the Jags, but the reason they couldn’t rally is that they lack an elite player anywhere on offense. They have nowhere to “go-to” when the game turns against them, no runningback to break a big play, no big WR to convert a key 3rd down. That’ll cost them here against an embarrassed Steelers team, as the Steelers roll 34-15.
Arizona at San Francisco. This was a candidate for worst game of the week but I don’t want to keep picking on these two franchises. The Cardinals really could be a playoff contender if David Johnson were still healthy, despite Palmer’s slow decay, Fitzgerald is still great at the first down marker, JJ Nelson is a home run hitter, and the defense is still opportunistic. Fortunately for them they are playing the 49ers who are in tank light mode so those Cardinals pieces are enough as they overpower the 49ers 28-13.
Philadelphia at LA Chargers. I have to admit I’m taking a certain amount of perverse pleasure in watching Dean Spano’s LA plan slowly devolve into a disaster. The Chargers essentially have their whole season on the line while looking to avoid an 0-4 start. I thought facing 0-3 last week would at least “buck them up” against the Chiefs, it didn’t neither the execution nor the intensity was there. I’m learning from my mistakes here (I hope) and going Eagles 20-14.
Indianapolis at Seattle. Looks like Andrew Luck is targeting a week 6 return so this is one of the last chances for Jacoby Brissett to polish off his resume in what has been a strong showing thus far. It’ll be film for any team that’s interested in a future starter this off-season. It could also just be tape for whomever the Colts hire as their next head coach. Luckily Brissett will get a matchup in week 5 against the 49ers for his swan song because this one won’t be good. The Colts defense is in need of repair and the Seahawks offense is in need of successful game. They are going to get one here , Seahawks 29-21.
Worst Matchup of the Week: Cincinnati at Cleveland (Sunday 1 PM)
Oh where is former Bucs and Bengals Coach Sam Wyche to give us something interesting to talk about? He had one of the best quotesof all time in this rivalry when during a snow game against Seattle he opined “Will the next person that sees anybody throw anything onto this field, point 'em out, and get 'em out of here. You don't live in Cleveland, you live in Cincinnati!”. Coach Wyche is 1 year recovered from a heart transplant so I wanted to work in a way to wish him well. Expect some miscues offensively from Cleveland in this one. With a rookie QB that’s perhaps very understandable. Expect some huge defensive lapses by the Bengals caused by…we’ll just go with an overall lack of discipline. Two mistake-prone forces colliding is not my idea of great football. I’ll go with the Bengals , score hum..this feels like a game that will have a safety in it so I will say Bengals 19-11.
Upset of the Week :
New Orleans at Miami (Sunday 9:30 AM in London)
I am journeying back to London again this week for another upset special. The Dolphins just lost to the Jets which has everyone jumping overboard and away from the Phins. My.. my we NFL fans do love to over react to a single bad game. This is still a very bad Saints defense and the truth is the Phins were just flat. Perhaps Jay Cutler said it best after his loss when he noted that you can’t just show up and expect to win. No, Jay, you can’t. And now they’ve got a long plane ride to stew over it. That “stew factor” is why I’m going Dolphins 24-18.
Bucs Game of the Week: NY Giants at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last week, in the open thread one of the late coming posters posted a question about how bad the Bucs defensive injuries were. As I told him then it was actually a shorter list of regular starters who were not injured (3) or at least shaken up in the game than those who had fallen. That seldom augurs well. Gerald McCoy gutted out a game on a gimpy leg but we know David is out, Grimes as of the time of this writing may or may not play , and every edge rusher we have has been to trainers office. On the other side of this trench, the Giants can’t block anyone and it’s forcing their offense to get the ball out in under 1.5 seconds. Beckham and Ingram are great weapons but it really limits the offensive potential if you can’t run a route 10 yards downfield.
On the plus side for NY their defense had gotten Janoris Jenkins back and while he’s no shutdown corner, he makes life tough on opposing #1 WRs. He’s pesky, so Evans will win more than his fair share, but this won’t be a huge explosion week. Doug Martin is still a game away from coming back and we need him because our offensive line isn’t creating any holes. The long ball to Jackson still isn’t hitting, and that’s troubling because while we don’t have a runner worth stacking the line against right now, we do have a QB who needs protection. ’d love to go with the Bucs here at home, and if the defense was anything remotely resembling healthy I would, but even for all the Giants offensive flaws we’ve got serious problems in the secondary and until we can find some better play at CB, I think we are in huge trouble. Giants 20-16.