Sep 22 2016

NFL 2016 Week 3 Gameplan

Summer’s over.

Week 2 went much like Week 1 did – I went 11-5 again. The games continue to be close: out of 32 games, 21 of them have been decided by 7 points or fewer. The only season to start off with more close games through two weeks was 2013, with 22 out of the first 32 games decided by 7 points or fewer.

I have five more games to break down from last week:

– Lions QB Matthew Stafford’s bid for another game-winning drive against an AFC South team ended with Titans CB Perrish Cox’s INT with inside of 30 seconds left to play. Sweet redemption for Cox, who got trucked by Stafford earlier in the game. It was a brutal game for Detroit’s discipline, as they were penalized 17 times for 138 yards, three of which nullified TDs in a game they lost 16-15. Titans OLB Brian Orakpo had 2.0 of Tennessee’s 4.0 sacks.

– The Texans took two home losses against the Chiefs last season, including an embarrassing shutout loss in the AFC Wild Card, but they shut the Chiefs down this season in a 19-12 win. Houston didn’t record any INTs, but they did break up 8 of Kansas City QB Alex Smith’s 37 pass attempts, including two each by CBs Jonathan Joseph and A.J. Buoye.

– The Falcons went to the West Coast and absolutely lit up the Oakland defense for 528 yards in a 35-28 win. Atlanta QB Matt Ryan found nine receivers for 26 completions on 34 attempts for 396 yards, 3 TD, and 1 INT. Atlanta WR Julio Jones had a game-high 106 receiving yards and a TD. The Raiders have given up 500 yards in back-to-back games for the first time in franchise history, and they’re the first team since the 1967 Falcons to allow back-to-back 500 yard games in the first two games of the season. 1 Since 1940, no team has allowed more than the 1,035 yards the Raiders have allowed through the first two games of a season.

– I got another one off on Sunday Night Football, as the Minnesota Vikings opened the new U.S. Bank Stadium with a thrilling 17-14 win over the Green Bay Packers. The Vikings ended Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers’ night with an INT by CB Trae Waynes, who put three pass interference penalties behind him to force the game-saving turnover inside of 2:00 remaining. In Rodgers’ last 12 regular season games, he has a great TD-INT ratio (19-7) but a subpar 57.2 completion percentage while averaging just under 6 yards a pass attempt, compiling a below-average 82.0 passer rating. 2

– I had the Eagles winning two games all year – and so here we are after they won 29-14 in Chicago. Folks need to chill with the “It’s the Browns, it’s the Bears” qualifiers – because it’s the Eagles, too, and they’ve won convincingly. The last time the Eagles went their first two games of the season without turning the ball over was 1959 – and they did it with a rookie QB in Carson Wentz who barely played in the preseason and was a 1st-round pick out of North Dakota State.

Speaking of the Eagles! They host the Pittsburgh Steelers this week. The Eagles have beaten the Steelers eight times in a row in Philadelphia – the last Steelers win in Philadelphia was way back in 1965, a time that Steelers fans don’t acknowledge because it was before the Super Bowl era and because they were  before the Super Bowl era. 3 I fully expect the Steelers to break that streak this season. But despite my repeated efforts to not claim any team, I have already acknowledged that an Eagles upset will result in me wearing a Wentz jersey next week:

Houston at New England: Patriots South is coming up to New England, as the Texans look for their first road win in the series. Houston QB Brock Osweiler started against the Patriots last season in Denver, and he led the Broncos to an overtime win despite trailing 21-7 in the 4th quarter. The Patriots will be starting rookie QB Jacoby Brissett, the first African-American starting QB in franchise history, 4 and the first rookie to start for the Patriots since 1993. Houston’s defense has spent the season beating the crap out of QBs, so the Patriots are going to need another strong game from RB LeGarrette Blount. Only the Colts have a better record on Thursdays than the Patriots since Bill Belichick became head coach; beating his former offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien’s Texans will come down to winning the turnover battle and getting a lift from special teams.

Minnesota at Carolina: This is my Game of the Week, as we keep wondering how Minnesota head coach Mike Zimmer holds it together. In a 22-day span, he has lost QB Teddy Bridgewater, RB Adrian Peterson, and LT Matt Kalil to at minimum season-threatening injuries. On the spot for the 2-0 Vikings: QB Sam Bradford, RB Jerick McKinnon, and OT T.J. Clemmings. When considering Peterson’s poor performance to start the season, Bridgewater’s low-volume production, and Kalil’s inconsistency after his rookie season, perhaps the dropoff can be manageable. The Vikings defense is what leads this team, though, as that top-5 unit is going up against a Panthers offense that has put up 30+ points in their last 7 home games, including playoffs. This game is scheduled to be played despite the unrest in Charlotte following yet another fatal police shooting of an unarmed African-American male.

Chicago at Dallas: These two teams have one (!) postseason appearance each since 2010, and they both lost 10+ games in 2015. Sunday Night Football, everybody! Two big markets starting a retread backup (Chicago QB Brian Hoyer, in for perennially injured and uninspiring QB Jay Cutler) and a 4th-round rookie (Dallas QB Dak Prescott, who has yet to throw a TD or INT). The Chicago offensive line has been a major problem, though the Cowboys pass rush isn’t anything special. The bigger issue for the Bears is a pass defense that has to find a way to cover WR Dez Bryant and TE Jason Witten after losing major pieces on all three levels. 5

Atlanta at New Orleans: In Week 3, 2006, the Saints hosted the Falcons in the first game at the Superdome since Hurricane Katrina. Saints S Steve Gleason blocked a punt that was returned for a TD by S Curtis DeLoatch for a TD, and the Saints won 23-3. 10 years later, the Saints have to deal with Atlanta WR Julio Jones while running extremely thin on CBs. This could be a shootout, as New Orleans QB Drew Brees is off to a strong start and gets to face an Atlanta pass defense that has allowed 7 TDs already. But ironically, the Saints special teams has been shaky through two games, and that could be the difference in this Monday Night Football throwback.

When the Vikings beat the Panthers in November 2014, the Panthers dropped to 3-8-1. Since then, they have won 23 out of 27 games. (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt)

When the Vikings beat the Panthers in November 2014, the Panthers dropped to 3-8-1. Since then, they have won 23 out of 27 games. (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt)

Show 5 footnotes

  1. Those Falcons finished with a 1-12-1 record.
  2. For Rodgers’ career, he has a 64.9 percent completion rate while averaging just under 8 yards a pass attempt with a 103.8 passer rating.
  3. Before the 1972 season, the Steelers only had seven winning seasons and made the playoffs once in their first 37 seasons.
  4. The New York Giants are now the only team that has never started an African-American QB.
  5. The top three CBs and S Adrian Amos are all dealing with injuries, ILB Danny Trevathan needs thumb surgery, OLB Lamarr Houston tore his other ACL, OLB Pernell McPhee is on PUP, and NT Eddie Goldman has an high ankle sprain.

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