Folks, we officially have an offensive outage. The first week jitters are not an excuse. What we saw on Week 2 is more or less what we will get for the remainder of the season. Once again we saw low scores, poor quarterback play with very few big plays. Tom Brady and the Patriots shook off a weak opening week and Jameis Winston’s Buccaneers looked pretty damn solid in their debut.
On the flip side Cam Newton and the Panthers are the most underwhelming 2-0 team in the league. They were giftwrapped two games against easy secondaries yet Newton was only able to reach the end zone twice–in eight total quarters. Similarly Carson Palmer and the Cardinals can officially be written off. More on Palmer in a bit but the fact the Cardinals had to sweat out a game in Indy shows you all you need to know about them.
I hope this is just a down period for the NFL and not a glimpse into the future. Waiting for football season has become similar to craving White Castle at 3AM. In theory both sound capable of satisfying your need. In reality you hate yourself once you get it and often feel like taking a shit. Speaking of shit, let’s hop into this week’s three point stance.
Three Point Stance
I. They are who we thought they were.
To quote the late great Dennis Green some of these suspect quarterbacks are who we thought they were. By they I am referring to the underwhelming Bengals, Cardinals and to a much lesser extent, the Giants. The common thread in all three teams’ lack of success has been quarterback play.
Andy Dalton was borderline unwatchable last night. Had it not been for A.J. Green hauling in an insane 50 yard prayer Dalton would have finished with 174 yards with zero touchdowns. Last week he also threw for 170 yards and no touchdowns. Consistency is key and the key takeaway with Dalton is that he has officially led the Bengals into the “stay away” zone. Do not trust him or his team to cover any points.
This also applies to Carson Palmer who is redefining the term dusty. Against the worst team in the AFC, Palmer still looked like a shell of himself. He might also be developing amnesia because he seems to be forgetting Larry Fitzgerald is on his team. Through two games Palmer has slopped together a disgusting 600 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions. A return to Phoenix might do the trick for him to look competent but don’t bet on it. First impressions are everything and as of now the Palmer we saw Week 1 is the one we will get all season.
Now onto Eli Manning. I won’t shit on Eli, Giants head coach Ben McAdoo already did that. I will mention that of the three quarterbacks mentioned Eli’s struggles have the most to do with outside factors. His left tackle Ereck Flowers is to the Giants what Wayne Hunter was to the Jets a few seasons ago–a human turnstile. Having that as blindside protection is like driving on a racetrack with no side mirrors. Eli will look to get on track in Week 3 and maybe score some touchdowns for once. In terms of gambling, stay away from him and the Giants until further notice.
II. No offense.
If you took the points in every game last week you broke even. Underdogs were 8-8 last week, but the scoring, or lack thereof was still present. There were only two double digit spreads, Raiders home against Jets and Seahawks home against the 49ers. The Raiders covered thanks to their offense but the Seahawks predictably failed to score any points.
Heading into Week 3 there are a handful of offenses worth trusting with a spread greater than seven. Those teams are the Patriots, Raiders, Falcons and (healthy) Packers. That’s it. The rest you are leaving to fluke instances like Mike Glennon defecating himself against his own team or Sam Bradford being a last minute scratch.
If you are given the opportunity to take the seven-plus points right now you have to take it. The mix of bad offensive lines and quarterback play has led to some serious clunkers (i.e. Panthers and Bills last week). It may not be watchable football but with proper picking it is still profitable.
III. Are we sure they’re good?
Records early in the season can be misleading. For example two of my fantasy squads are 2-0. My highest scorers for those games? Jaguars defense, Ty Montgomery, Tyreek Hill and Buccaneers defense. Do any of those names scream title contender? Of course not. In real football there seem to be a couple fraudulent undefeated teams that we cannot be completely sure are worth are time and most importantly, money.
The team name that should hit you like a Troy Polamalu blitz are the Baltimore Ravens. The Bird Gang has covered both weeks and won in semi-impressive fashion, 20-0 and 24-10 respectively. Then you remember that they faced the neutered Bengals and Browns. Joe Flacco has yet to eclipse 250 passing yards and the committee of Buck Allen and Terrance West are not bad but certainly won’t scare you.
The Ravens’ NFC counterpart are the Panthers. They are 2-0 by the grace of the scheduling gods. Cam Newton has played like a guy recovering from shoulder surgery and he just lost Greg Olsen. The defense hasn’t really been tested by the 49ers or Bills, especially in the secondary. I have a hunch we will find out how good that unit is by Week 4 thanks to matchups against the Saints and Patriots in the coming weeks.
Other teams that fall into this category are the Dolphins, Buccaneers, Broncos and Lions. In the case of the Dolphins and Bucs we just want to see that they can replicate their success working on regular rest, not off a bye. The Broncos look to be legit but can we really trust Trevor Siemian? Ditto for the Lions who beat a hapless Cardinals team in Week 1 and a docile Giants offense in Week 2. Hold off on riding any of these teams because the first couple weeks could be a mirage.
Okay last week was brutal especially on the locks side. Sam Bradford going out screwed me and countless others so we’ll use that excuse. But always forward never back let’s fish out some locks and avoid another day in the red.
JAGUARS (+4) over Ravens
Poor London gets another rock fight across the pond. There is nothing appealing about this game whatsoever other than a possible Leonard Fournette-Terrell Suggs collision. The Jaguars followed up a dominant Week 1 outing by getting dominated themselves by the Titans. It was close early on but Blake Bortles struggled too much and put the defense in an unwinnable situation. Eventually Marcus Mariota and the Titans offense cracked through and blew the doors open.
On Sunday the Jaguars defense will not have to deal with an offense as potent as the Titans. They are actually facing an offense similar to their own. Thus far Joe Flacco and the Ravens have not lit the world on fire but they are 2-0. The Jaguars defense will be the true litmus test of how good this Ravens offense truly is. Buck Allen and Jeremy Maclin are decent weapons but the Jags corner duo of Bouye and Jalen Ramsey should hold the receivers in track. That will force Flacco to throw a lot of check downs and likely few points.
This has the makings of a total rock fight. Bortles is bad and Flacco has the potential to be unwatchable himself. Take the points here because chances are this will come down to Justin Tucker vs. Jason Meyers.
Prediction: Ravens 13, Jaguars 10
Saints (+6) over PANTHERS
Had Tyrod Taylor not badly overthrown Zay Jones inside the five to end the game the Panthers would be 1-1. Instead Taylor airmailed the pass and the Panthers are 2-0. Such is life in the NFL. Through two games Cam Newton has looked like shit which has had a chain reaction to the Panthers offense as a whole. To make matter worse Greg Olsen broke his foot last week and is out indefinitely. That puts even more pressure on Cam and the supporting cast.
The Saints come in 0-2 but have had to face two playoff caliber teams. Their backfield situation is the one thing they truly need resolved. Mark Ingram is likely the better option to Adrian Peterson which sounds absurd but it is true. The sooner the Saints cut bait with AP and ship him to a contender the sooner they can get back to what they do–spread the defense and have Drew Brees dissect the secondary. Brees should have a day against a suspect Panthers secondary even if he is still missing Willie Snead and possibly Michael Thomas.
Not only will I choose Brees and company to cover, I’m going to take a leap of faith and say they win this game.
Prediction: Saints 27, Panthers 23
PATRIOTS (-13) over Texans
Last week put all our concerns to rest. The Patriots are back like they left their car keys. Tom Brady was back to being the Brady we have all come to loathe and respect. Rob Gronkowski returned to his dominant self and the result was a laugher in New Orleans. Brady in particular was electric from the jump, eclipsing 300 yards in the first half and 447 for the game.
Now that any anxiety has been eased we can get back aboard the money train. This is a massive line, no question about it. However, we’re talking about the Texans. Deshaun Watson was solid in his first career start as he provided the lone touchdown in last Thursday’s slop fest. Watson instead of Tom Savage makes the Texans offense dynamic but the best way to attack the Patriots defense is through the air. You can bet your life Bill Belichick will have all the attention on DeAndre Hopkins leaving Watson with check downs to Lamar Miller and whoever else is in that subpar supporting cast.
Conversely, the best way for the Patriots to attack the Texans is through the air. The loss of A.J. Bouye was significant but luckily they have not been tested yet. Going from Andy Dalton and Blake Bortles to Brady is like increasing the difficulty from Rookie to All-Madden. Expect another statement win from the Patriots as they rid themselves of that opening night folly.
Prediction: Texans 13, Patriots 34
Raiders (-3) over REDSKINS
Just win baby. That is the famous saying of Al Davis, the late great Raiders owner and the philosophy Jack Del Rio has brought back to the Bay. Through two weeks the Raiders have proven they are worth our trust. They handled a good Titans team on the road and followed that with a beat down of the Jets at home. This week they fly back east to face the Redskins.
Kirk Cousins once again has proven the Skins correct for not extending him in the offseason. Through two games the offense has been docile and the defense nothing to write home about. To defend Cousins for a moment, his supporting cast got significantly worse from last season. Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson have been replaced by Terelle Pryor and Jordan Reed has not been himself. In their first primetime game of the year they get a tough draw in a Raiders team that picked up where they left off last season pre-Derek Carr injury.
It’s still early in the year but the Raiders seem eager to re-establish themselves as one of the league’s elite. Under the lights on Sunday night is the opportune time to make such a statement. Carr should have his way with the Redskins secondary and if not, Marshawn Lynch should find the same running holes Todd Gurley was able to find last week. Any way you slice it the Raiders have the advantage.
Prediction: Raiders 27, Redskins 21
The Other Guys
Dolphins (-6.5) over JETS
Broncos (-3) over BILLS
Steelers (-7.5) over BEARS
Falcons (-3) over LIONS
COLTS (+1.5) over Browns
Buccaneers (+1.5) over VIKINGS
Giants (+6) over EAGLES
TITANS (-2.5) over Seahawks
PACKERS (-9) over Bengals
CHARGERS (+3) over Chiefs
CARDINALS (+3) over Cowboys
Last Week: 7-9