Oct 20 2016

NFL 2016 Week 7 Gameplan

1/3 of the NFL season is wrapped up – still no head coaching changes! That’s great – what’s not so great is that I’m coming off my worst week of the season, going 8-7. That’s still over .500, so I’m not tripping too much. That said, let’s take a look back at the past week:

– The Chargers finally ended their ridiculous losing streak within the AFC West, defeating the Broncos 21-13. San Diego got strong games from a couple of rookies: 5th-round ILB Jatavis Brown had a game-high 13 solo tackles, a TFL, a FF, and 1.0 sacks, while 1st-round DE Joey Bosa added 2 QB hits.

– The Bills have won 4 straight games for the first time in 8 years, beating the 49ers 45-16 and spoiling San Francisco QB Colin Kaepernick’s 2016 starting debut. Buffalo RB LeSean McCoy finally exacted revenge on former Philadelphia head coach Chip Kelly, rushing for 140 of Buffalo’s 313 rushing yards and scoring 3 of the 4 rushing TDs.

– The Bears entered the 4th quarter with a 13-0 lead over the Jaguars, but Jacksonville came back to win 17-16. Jacksonville rookie DE Yannick Ngakoue is showing up consistently, adding another sack and 2 QB hits in Chicago.

– The Dolphins ran the football against a Pittsburgh defense that failed to get adequate replacement performance in the absence of DE Cameron Heyward and ILB Ryan Shazier. Miami RB Jay Ajayi gained 204 rushing yards and 2 TD, including a 62-yard score to give Miami a 30-15 win.

– The defending NFC champions are 1-5. New Orleans QB Drew Brees became the latest passer to torch Carolina’s secondary, hitting the Panthers up for 465 pass yards and 4 TD in a 41-38 Saints win.

– Kansas City RB Jamaal Charles may be the headliner, but teammate Spencer Ware continues to be the workhorse for the Chiefs. Ware gained 131 rush yards and a TD in Oakland to lead the Chiefs to a 26-10 win over the Raiders and their 32nd ranked defense.

– The Cowboys gained 191 rush yards against a Packers team that had allowed only 171 total rushing yards in their first 4 games of the season. Dallas rookie RB Ezekiel Elliott had 157 of those yards in a 30-16 Cowboys win in Green Bay.

Two more teams are on a bye this week – and it’s a couple of teams that we’ve discussed already:

  • The last time the Cowboys were 5-1 was in 2014 – a season that saw them lose in Week 1 and then not lose again until Week 8 of that season. Just like RB DeMarco Murray carried the offense in 2014, Ezekiel Elliott has done the heavy lifting for the 2016 Cowboys.

Now, this Sunday (October 23) marks the ten-year anniversary of QB Tony Romo coming off the bench to replace QB Drew Bledsoe. Rookie QB Dak Prescott has a 103.9 passer rating – the only season that Romo had a higher passer rating was in 2014 (league-leading 113.2). Dallas has the rare QB controversy where both players are good, and it will drag into November with Romo (back/old) still not cleared to practice.

  • On the flipside, the Carolina Panthers are 1-5 for the first time since 2012. Unless they come back and run the table, they will be the worst team ever to follow up a 15-1 season. The 2012 Panthers would end up 7-9, but the issue with that team was a lack of weapons in the pass game outside of Steve Smith and Greg Olsen. In 2016, the top-10 offense isn’t the problem – only the 49ers and Saints allow more points per game, and only the Lions, Browns, Falcons, and Bengals have allowed more than the 13 TD passes Carolina has given up. For at least a season, they have failed to replace CB Josh Norman.

The Falcons are hosting the Chargers this week. The only time in franchise history that the Falcons lost to the Chargers was in 1988, a 10-7 Chargers win in Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium – Atlanta has won the other 8 meetings, although only two of them were in Atlanta. I’m expecting them to get another one Sunday:

Chicago at Green Bay: The Bears actually won at Lambeau Field last season. It was on a Thursday too! But the Bears are somehow worse this year than they were last year when they had the NFC North basement all to themselves, and their lack of TD scoring is the big problem. Green Bay was ran over at home against the Cowboys, Packers QB Aaron Rodgers has been mostly bad for about a year now, and now RB Eddie Lacy is on IR. But I expect Green Bay’s front seven to bounce back and force some turnovers of Chicago QB Brian Hoyer, who has basically usurped Chicago QB Jay Cutler’s starting role with a string of 300-yard, turnover free performances.

New England at Pittsburgh: A few days after complaining about his head coach’s practices perhaps leading to injuries, Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger undergoes knee surgery that will cost him multiple weeks. This is still the Game of the Week, because now Pittsburgh gets to show that they can be a competent team without their QB, just like the Patriots proved this year and in 2008 without QB Tom Brady! Now, the Steelers did beat a Patriots team that wound up finishing 11-5 (and out of the playoffs, somehow) in New England with Matt Cassel starting, so the Patriots and their bend but don’t break defense could look to eat up scattershot Pittsburgh QB Landry Jones to return the favor. Ultimately, I don’t care who the Pittsburgh QB is, since the New England QB is playing. In Brady’s five games against Mike Tomlin’s Steelers, he has thrown 17 TD and 0 INT, a trend that should mostly hold up against a Pittsburgh defense that can’t get to the QB and is 30th in pass yards per game allowed.

Seattle at Arizona: This game is in Arizona, but the Seahawks love it there. Seattle beat the Cardinals 34-22 on TNF in 2013, Marshawn Lynch hit BeastQuake II on SNF in 2014, and the Seahawks blew the Cardinals out 36-6 in Week 17 last season. Common themes include QB Russell Wilson torching the Cardinals through the air and Seattle getting unruly levels of pressure on the passer. You’re also hearing less and less about Seattle’s offensive line lately, although that will be tested in Arizona with OLBs Chandler Jones and Markus Golden playing well for a Cardinals defense leading the lead in takeaways. The Seahawks will also have to hold up against the best RB in the league in David Johnson, 1 who leads the league in yards from scrimmage and TD.

Houston at Denver: Man, did Houston QB Brock Osweiler have me SKRESSED Sunday night against the Colts. But Osweiler stopped throwing INTs to WR DeAndre Hopkins long enough to hook up the people with a SNF comeback for the 2nd straight season. Now, I can sit back and relax 2 while the defending Super Bowl champs tee off on their “disloyal” backup QB. It’ll be glorious to watch, and I fully expect this to happen with the Broncos at home after playing (and losing) on TNF in Week 6. It also helps Denver that head coach Gary Kubiak is back so that QB Trevor Siemian isn’t throwing 50 passes again like he did in San Diego.

In 2008, the Steelers had the pleasure of going on the road to New England and feasting on Tom Brady's sub at QB, Matt Cassel. In 2016, the Patriots have a chance to return the favor in Pittsburgh with QB Landry Jones starting in place of the injured Ben Roethlisberger. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)

In 2008, the Steelers had the pleasure of going on the road to New England and feasting on Tom Brady’s sub at QB, Matt Cassel. In 2016, the Patriots have a chance to return the favor in Pittsburgh with QB Landry Jones starting in place of the injured Ben Roethlisberger. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Fight me on this if you want to.
  2. In reality, I’ll be writing at my desk at NFLN…

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