EVERY WEEK, THE BANNER YEARS WILL LOOK BACK AT NEWSWORTHY EVENTS IN THE NFL AND MAKE PICKS AGAINST THE SPREAD FOR THE WEEK AHEAD. ALL ODDS ARE AVERAGED FROM THOSE FOUND ON ESPN.COM.
By: Michael Conroy
Remember that little pretentious musing about renewing old addictions that appeared at the beginning of last week’s Odds and Endings entry? Maybe it’s time for an intervention here in Philadelphia, because we definitely just had a bad trip, but there’s no morning-after cocktail like another full slate of early season NFL football. Week three is on the horizon and it’s time for some struggling squads to sober up.
What We Learned…
The Struggle is Real
Two weeks of the NFL season are in the books, so as one would expect, the playoff stats about 0-2 teams are making the rounds. What no one expected, however is the abundance of championship-hopeful teams that populate the discussion this year.
The Colts, Ravens, Eagles and Saints certainly fared well in many pre-season power rankings. Now they each need back-to-back wins just to climb back to where they started. Statistically, just one or two of these teams will manage a playoff berth. To this point, the Ravens appear to he the most likely to do so, having lost two close games on the road, with Andrew Luck’s Colts a distant second.
Maybe the Pope can tell Philly fans what is going on with the running game because only God knows. The Cowboys are proving themselves to be capable on defense, but the Eagles were humiliated at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday. At this point, fans don’t really care why it’s broken anymore. They just want it fixed.
Chip Kelly’s hand-picked team made what can most aptly be described as an attempt at professional football and came up short. They can’t like their chances to right the ship in New York this weekend. More on that in a bit…
Down Goes Romo
The NFC playoff picture changed dramatically, when Tony Romo left “America’s Game of the Week” with a fractured clavicle in the third quarter. Down an elite Quarterback, Wide Receiver and Defensive End, Dallas cruised to a 20-10 win. The Cowboys are good enough to tread water until week 11 unless another NFC East team can get their act together.
Better Days Ahead in Seattle
The Seahawks don’t qualify as a “legitimate” 0-2 panic candidate. Their schedule, thus far, has not been kind. A road game against Aaron Rodgers is an assumed loss for most NFL teams, but the ‘Hawks put up a respectable fight. Kam Chancellor returns this week to help deliver what’s shaping up to be a pasting of epic proportions. Seattle can rest easy.
None of the aforementioned under-performers have played their way to an Endings declaration, — though the Eagles are pushing it — so let’s move on to a team whose situation is more definitively hopeless.
Ryan Mallett has completed just 49-percent of his passes this season and the Houston Texans can’t score points. To make matters worse, the defense has taken a step back. While colossal talents like Jadeveon Clowney and J.J. Watt will eventually wrestle success away from the jaws of failure, there’s no reason to believe that alone will make the difference in Houston.
Bill O’Brien needs — like so many flailing NFL coaches — to find his Quarterback. Luckily for him, the Texans’ impotent offense could play their way right into to the selection of a familiar Penn State prospect in the Spring.
Endings to date: Tampa Bay, Houston
Mercifully, week two is over with. It was not kind to Banner Years prognostication, but with more information to work with, expect an improvement over last week’s dismal record of 7-9.
Washington (+3.5) @ NY Giants
Washington is quietly ranked #1 in the NFL on Defense. Who knows if that will continue, but two games constitute a valid sample size when there’s only 16 in a season. The Redskins are rushing for a league-leading 171.5 yards per game and allowing just 70.5 to their opponents. Surprisingly, the secondary has been even better. The New York Giants have also fared well against opponents’ running backs, but rank dead last against the pass.
Washington will need to adapt in this game, because they’ve relied on a persistent ground attack to this point. To continue with that strategy against the Giants would be comically illogical. If New York was giving just three points at home, this pick might be more difficult. The Giants beat the Redskins 16-14.
Atlanta (-2) @ Dallas
The Atlanta Falcons still aren’t very talented, but they have a Quarterback and Wide Receiver good enough to put pressure on a barren Cowboys offense. Jerry Jones can spin this however he likes. Dallas just lost the one player they absolutely could not afford to lose. Brandon Weeden won’t bail out the ground game like Tony Romo did. From now until — at least — week 11, Cowboys fans will experience NFL games the way most of us do without a Quarterback: An uphill battle, barefoot, both ways. The Falcons win 24-20.
Jacksonville (+14) @ New England
I have to admit it: I am a Blake Bortles fan. I really am.
For all the talk about tendencies and play-recognition, there’s something to be said about looking the part. Bortles and the Jaguars threw all over the Miami Dolphins in week two. There’s no reason to think they can’t have some success against the Patriots. Let’s be clear though, Tom Brady is a man on a mission right now. The Jaguars will most definitely lose this game, but they won’t do so by more than two touchdowns. Patriots win, 30-20.
Philadelphia @ NY Jets (-2.5)
When the “Dream Team” of 2011 started to fall apart, criticism was rampant, but fans still managed to talk themselves into expecting an Eagles victory by each week’s end. Sometimes in the NFL, when it can’t get any worse, it gets worse anyway. The New York Jets are not the team they are supposed to be. They are competent, efficient and patient on offense and Todd Bowles has the defense playing at an elite level. If the Dallas Cowboys could hold Philadelphia’s head underwater for four quarters, the likes of Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie and Mohammed Wilkerson should have no trouble at all.
Chip Kelly will make adjustments as the season goes on, but a bad O-line and an ineffectual Quarterback are irreparable deficiencies. The Philadelphia Eagles roster is a mess at the moment, with Kendricks Alonso and now Demarco Murray all nursing injuries. Eagles fans should not let wishful thinking obscure that fact. Todd Bowles drops the Eagles to 0-3 by a score of 27-17.
Tampa Bay (+6.5) @ Houston
Just call this game the “Zombie Bowl.” Neither of these teams is destined for greatness in 2015, but it’s a fun coincidence that the first two teams eliminated this year will immediately play each other. Outside of Houston and Tampa, who really cares about the outcome of this game? Still, 6.5 is a lot of points for either team to give right now. Houston does not cover, winning 27-24.
Pittsburgh (-1) @ St. Louis
The Steelers absolutely dismantled a 49ers team that had shown signs of life against Minnesota. Big Ben can be trusted on the road anywhere and Antonio Brown is absolutely un-coverable at this point. The Rams will have a chance in this game, turning a ferocious pass rush on Pittsburgh’s inconsistent O-line. If St. Louis is going to pull off an upset, they’ll have to do so on the arm of Nick Foles.
Either team could plausibly come up with a win here, but Ben Roethlisberger will be the best player on the field and that usually makes the difference. Steelers send the Rams to 1-2 on the season with a 28-21 victory.
Buffalo (+2.5) @ Miami
On second thought, maybe Buffalo’s defense isn’t so terrifying. Tom Brady was comfortable in Orchard Park, throwing for 466 yards and three touchdowns on Sunday. The Bills made this game look much closer than it was, but Rex Ryan’s team never threatened the Patriots. At least Lesean Mccoy can drown his sorrows watching his old racist coach, Chip Kelly flail in Philly.
The Dolphins, meanwhile, struggled mightily against Gus Bradley’s suddenly explosive Jaguars. Ryan Tannehill is no Tom Brady, so the Bills should get back on track in Miami this week. Buffalo wins 24-20.
Chicago @ Seattle (-15)
The Bears wouldn’t have had much of a chance in this game with Jay Cutler at Quarterback, but with Jimmy Clausen at the helm, Chicago could be a part of something that is the wrong kind of special. Kam Chancellor rejoined the Seahawks after their second consecutive road loss. Perhaps the pro-bowl safety was banking on a slow start away from EnergyLink Field to grease the wheels on contract discussions. Did he always plan on a home opening debut?
Either way, this game will be a festival for the 12th man. People will be watching this game just to see how bad it can get for Chicago. Open wide for those 15 points. Seahawks run away and hide, 38-7
Kansas City (+7) @ Green Bay
Sometimes a pick makes logical sense. Other times, it just “feels” right. In this case, both happen to be true. Kansas City has shown they are capable of controlling the pace of a game. That’s exactly what they need to do against Aaron Rodgers this week. The Packers will most likely be without the services of Eddie Lacy for this game. If an ineffective running game allows the Chiefs’ front seven to get going, Andy Reid could secure himself an impressive road win. Alex Smith dinks and dunks his way to a 27-24 victory.
Denver @ Detroit (+3), San Francisco @ Arizona (-6.5), Oakland @ Cleveland (-3.5), San Diego (+2.5) @ Minnesota, New Orleans @ Carolina (-3), Indianapolis (-3.5) @ Tennessee, Cincinnati @ Baltimore (-2.5).
Week three kicks off at Metlife Stadium tonight with some sub-par NFC East action… Meh.