2016 NFL Picks: Week 2
We opened the season not with a bang, nor with a whimper, but rather a "meh". I managed to go 3-3 after jumping on the Lions bandwagon with Yax, but we have higher aspirations here at Questionably Qualified. Every week of the season is an opportunity to learn and shape judgments, though, so let's take a look at our picks and see what went right and wrong:
- Minnesota Vikings -2 AT Tennessee Titans - WIN - I expected the Minnesota offense to struggle, but I didn't think I'd need two defensive touchdowns to cover this spread. Their offense might be bad enough to sink them against competent opponents; the Titans aren't competent yet.
- Cincinnati Bengals -2.5 AT New York Jets - LOSS - I mentioned last week that Andy Dalton struggles under pressure, and the Bengals have protected him well over the years to avoid the issue altogether. On Sunday the Jets recorded seven sacks and nearly came away with a win. We're going to upgrade our assessment of the Jets defense and keep the Bengals right where we had them. They are who we thought they were.
- Buffalo Bills +3 AT Baltimore Ravens - LOSS - the Bills took last year's breakout from Tyrod Taylor as proof they need to hand off and throw check down passes all day. Until we see coaching competence in Buffalo, I'm going to stay away. Sorry, Meghan!
- Chicago Bears +6.5 AT Houston Texans - LOSS - I'm not willing to say Brock Osweiler is good, which in turn means my Bears are bad. Extra points to the Houston defense and demerits to the Bears in general. Sigh.
- New York Giants EVEN AT Dallas Cowboys - WIN - I'm lucky to have claimed this line early in the week before it moved to Giants -1.5. Eli manning couldn't cover more than a point against Dak Prescott, whose Cowboys controlled the clock for almost 37 minutes despite a mediocre debut from fourth overall pick Ezekiel Elliott. For some reason I needed a reminder to stay away from NFC East divisional games, and I suppose this was it.
- Detroit Lions +3.5 AT Indianopolis Colts - WIN - as we predicted on our podcast, the Colts were bad in every phase of the game that wasn't Andrew Luck. Jim Bob Cooter's (I know the offensive coordinator is only one piece, but I will use his name at every opportunity) offense picked up where it left off in 2015, lighting up bad defenses. How it fares against good defenses remains to be seen.
With this newfound knowledge, let's take a look at this week's lines and see who we like!
Many of the statistics I'll reference while making my case (particularly DVOA) will be coming from the folks at Football Outsiders who do a great job creating and applying advanced analytics. Another site, WhatIfSports, provides the simulation engine used to generate the winning scoreboards below. Finally, the spreads for each game come from Vegas Insider's Consensus line. A big thank you to all three sources as I embark on my quest for 60%.
New York Jets EVEN at Buffalo Bills
Here's what I wrote earlier this week about this (winning!) pick: pouncing on lessons learned in Week 1 can be dangerous, but if the Bills only mustered six points against the Ravens, the Jets (with Sheldon Richardson back in the lineup) will eat them alive. The Bills defense held up their end of the bargain last week by allowing only 13 points, but Baltimore's offense ranked 20th in DVOA last year. I think they'll struggle against Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall, and Eric Decker. There was a time when Rex Ryan was scary to go up against, twice knocking the Patriots out of the playoffs with Mark Sanchez under center; these days, I'll take Todd Bowles.
Kansas City Chiefs +2.5 at Houston Texans
The Texans shut down the mighty Bears and Vegas responded by putting them on par with the Chiefs, who beat them 30-0 in the playoffs eight months ago. One offseason is a long time in the NFL, but with the (admittedly large) exception of Justin Houston's health, these teams aren't much different than they were in January. The line probably reflects some apprehension over Kansas City's close opener against San Diego, but I chalk that up to Phil Rivers magic. That man can make any game interesting. Add in the encouragingly explosive offense on display in the second half, and concern begins turning into confidence. I think the Texans will struggle to reach 20 points (say it with me: Brock Osweiler is not good), so I'll take the Chiefs and the field goal.
Arizona Cardinals -6.5 vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The year of Jameis is upon us! Last week the second-year QB threw for 281 yards and four touchdowns to the delight of Bucs fans and those expecting him to make a leap this year. I think he'll be better, but I don't see him pulling a full 180 on his tendency to throw picks (15 last year). Arizona is coming off a disappointing home loss to the Patriots and will be looking to make a statement here; I think that statement includes three interceptions and a rout. Before Cards fans grow out their whiskers and rush to judgment, they should remember Bill Belichick is a wizard; the Pats went 11-5 with Matt Cassel in 2008, and he went on to win 25 of 64 games for other teams. I think Jimmy Garoppolo is a mirage, but a good enough one for Belichick to showcase over four games and flip for a first round pick.
Chicago Bears -3 vs Philadelphia Eagles
I'm already regretting my agreement with Yax to pick the Bears and Lions games every week. I'm almost ready to stick my head in the sand on the rest of this Bears season, but we're talking about the post-Chip Kelly era Eagles and rookie Carson Wentz. I think the Bears coaching is too good to slip to 0-2 against this team. If they do...well, I can always adopt Kat's teams. The Eagles looked very good dominating the Browns last week, but so has every team in the NFL since 2007. I'm going to remain skeptical of Philly until they beat a team comprised of NFL talent.
Yax: Chicago Bears -3 vs Philadelphia Eagles - Talk about a terrible Monday Night Football match up. Does anybody want to watch these two teams play that aren't delusional Eagles fans? Bears fans cannot want to watch this game. Either you don't look good enough beating a rookie quarterback or you are the laughingstock of the NFL.
There is no in between.
That being said, I think the Browns are garbage. Why did I pick them last week? Lack of judgment and thoroughness. The Browns started six defensive players that had 10 or less career starts before last week. Something I probably should have known going in. Alas, the Bears defense has players that have played before. This will probably make the difference.
Last week I was a pedestrian 2-2; John shared in my glory on the Lions; Matty Stafford was the best QB of Week 1, and I should have taken the Lions straight up as I threatened to.
I seemingly took Houston as an affront to John's precious Bears, but I was vindicated by my superior football knowledge and general evaluation of Brock Osweiler (hint: he's a world-class QB).
I can feel the heat from the Brock Lobster's pinpoint precision. I am about as hot and bothered as Thom Brennamen was about some of those throws (audio not available after cursory Google search; sad face)
Sarcasm font aside, it feels good to gloat. I came out ahead on our one head-to-head pick, but I did miss on two.
The Browns must, somehow, be even worse than I thought they were coming into this season. Carson Wentz looked like a world-beater, and RG III's hopes of reigniting his career ended in an all too usual flame out.
John spent one sentence on the horseshit showing that was the Bills, and I think we should just leave it at that. So, I'll just leave this here, and move on.
Detroit Lions -5.5 vs. Tennessee Titans
The Lions feel like an absolute lock this week. Although I am required to pick this game, it honestly seems like the safest bet on the card. That's just it. The fact that it seems like the safest pick should trigger PTSD flashbacks for lifelong Lions fans. As you'll see below, given the Lionsesque way in which they have attempted to win at the game of American football, being solid favorites is not a role that most Lions fans are comfortable with.
Despite all of that, I don't think that the Titans defense has the same day that they had against the Shaun Hill Vikings. For one, nine in the box isn't a strategy that is going to be successful against Matt Stafford. I am not convinced that the Titans defense will be as successful against an offense that leans pass-heavy given that PFF ranked them as the 29th best secondary entering this season.
The Lions defense shouldn't give the Titans the same problems as the Vikings defense mostly because the Vikings should be much better at defending the pass. With virtually identical rushing defenses from a year ago (19th and 20th in the NFL), I think the Lions should be able to have similar success to the Vikings in shutting down the Titans' run game.
If the Lions, like the Vikings, can keep the ball in Mariota's hands, that will give a decided advantage to our heroes in the Honolulu Blue and Silver. We just need to hope that the Lions' secondary is up to the challenge.
Truck: Detroit Lions -5.5 vs. Tennessee Titans - just like last week, my only source of concern is LIONS. If you aren't from the Midwest and you don't know us particularly well, that might seem intentionally obscure, but LIONS is in fact a very versatile word. For example:
- Remember last year when Detroit was about to beat Seattle and then LIONSed it up by fumbling into the end zone?
- Or that time former head coach Jim Schwartz threw a challenge flag in the most damaging moment possible? Haha, LIONS!
- How about when the LIONS went 0-16 in 2006?
The point is, the Lions most dependable trait is an ability to creatively make games complex regardless of the quality of their opponent. In this case, Tennessee shouldn't be able to slow down Matt Stafford and Jim Bob Cooter's offense, but maybe they'll be up 6 when Teryl Austin puts Ziggy Ansah thirty yards from the line of scrimmage to defend against the hook and ladder only to give up a hail mary. Ohhhh LIONS...
Yax's talk is what I'm accustomed to hearing right before the Lions plummet to the earth in a fashion spectacular for any other team. It makes me more nervous about the pick, but I can't go all the way to disagreement. Lions, ROAR!
Jacksonville Jaguars + 3 at San Diego Chargers
If Jacksonville is even half as good as I think they are, they are going to show up and terminate San Diego at Qualcomm.
Malik Jackson was held off of the stat sheet against the Packers last weekend. That will not happen this week against the Chargers' less than adequate offensive line. To be fair, they held the Chiefs, a good pass rushing team, to only one sack, but I don't think keeping Rivers upright is something that is going to happen too often for this unit. The loss of Keenan Allen is also going to play a factor for the Chargers' passing game; Danny Woodhead can only touch the ball so many times.
Philip Rivers is, at times, criminally underrated given the lack of talent around him, but you can only do so much with as little as he has. On a separate note, isn't Philip Rivers what Ryan Leaf would have been like had he been good? No?
To round it out, I think the Bortortle rolls. Keep Chris Ivory in the hospital; they won't need him. Yeldon and Shoelace are going off. The Allens will be unstoppable. Julius Thomas will be superhuman. Other such hyperbole for the rest of this offense against a San Diego defense that is most famous for lying about having a girlfriend.
Truck: I knew it wouldn't take long for the Bortortle to become a staple of Yax's picks, but I'm not comfortable with this one. I don't feel strongly enough to make it one of my picks, but there's no way I'd bet a round of beers on it. One team sucks with a really good quarterback. The other is trying to shed the baggage of years of sucking. I think the Jags have one more year to wait.
Green Bay Packers -2.5 at Minnesota Vikings
As much as it pains me, I am going to pick the Packers, a team name so stupid that I wonder if it wouldn't be better to name the team after something wholly unrelated to Green Bay (because nothing of note has ever come from or happened there). I mean, at this point, you could just be the Green Bay Lombardis. That is an infinitely better name.
My entire pick hinges on not giving a shit who is playing quarterback for the Vikings.
- Sam Bradford won't be much better (if at all) than Shaun Hill.
- The Minnesota receiving core is dog shit. Diggs isn't going to have over 100 receiving yards against a defense that can defend the pass. The rest of this unit is basically forgettable talent-wise.
That's it. Stack the box and dare them to throw.
On the other side of the ball they aren't playing Marcus Mariota. That is all.
Truck: I'm with Yax on this one, and I'm starting to wish I had made it one of my picks. Calling these teams neutral after the Vikings' putrid offensive performance in Week 1 just seems wrong. Also, agree on the Green Bay Lombardis!
Truck: 3-3 (.500)
Yax: 2-2 (.500)