Nov 03 2016

NFL 2016 Week 9 Gameplan

It’s not yet midseason in the NFL – but after this week, all 32 NFL teams will have played at least 8 games. Next week I plan to revisit the Hypothesis Report. Last week, I went 8-4-1. Yeah, another tie. It’s all good, I went over .500 for the 8th week in a row. But some of the teams I was high on are starting to crumble:

– The Titans ran all over the Jaguars on TNF, taking a 27-0 halftime lead and winning 36-22. Tennessee RB DeMarco Murray had 123 rushing yards and a TD, while rookie RB Derrick Henry added 60 and a TD. Jacksonville replaced offensive coordinator Greg Olson with QB coach Nathaniel Hackett the following Saturday.

– Washington and Cincinnati met in London and produced a tie – the first time there were ties in the NFL in back-to-back weeks since 1997. I’m all for ties after overtime in the regular season. Save the epics of multiple overtimes for the playoffs, but in the regular season, we don’t have time to sit there waiting for 4 hours for a game to be decided. Washington missed a chip shot FG, Cincinnati lost a fumble. End the game. It’s the closest thing to a mercy rule we have. If neither team wants to win the game, then end it after 75 minutes. Winning is a privilege, not a right… 

– The Seahawks went to New Orleans and came up empty in the final seconds, losing 25-20 to the Saints. I’m banking on Seattle making that second half push, but damn, it would be nice if the Seattle offense could keep the defense from being on the field more than 35 minutes. New Orleans had to bench RB Mark Ingram after his lost fumble was scooped and scored for a TD by Seattle FS Earl Thomas, but they gave backup Tim Hightower 26 rushes and got 102 yards out of him. If only the Saints were to give Ingram that much work… 1

– Atlanta QB Matt Ryan found WR Mohamed Sanu for a game-winning 11-yard TD pass with 36 seconds left in regulation, and K Matt Bryant made the PAT to give the Falcons a 33-32 win over the Green Bay Packers. Ryan found eight different receivers, but Sanu led the team with 9 receptions on 10 targets for 84 yards.

– The week started with an offensive coordinator change following a primetime game, and that’s how the week ended. The Bears shut down Minnesota’s run offense on Monday Night Football, holding Vikings RBs Matt Asiata and Ronnie Hillman without a 10-yard rushing attempt in 18 tries. Chicago got a big game in particular from DE Akiem Hicks, who had 2.0 sacks, 2 QB hits, and 2 TFL. Minnesota offensive coordinator Norv Turner resigned, and he’ll be replaced by TE coach Pat Shurmur.

Six more teams on bye! The byes will start decreasing until Thanksgiving, and this will be the last week of only 13 games for the rest of the regular season:

  • The last time the Patriots were exactly 7-1 was in 2004, a season that ended with a Patriots Super Bowl. New England mixed and matched their CBs corps that season, highlighted by WR Troy Brown recording 3 INTs for a defense that T-2nd in points allowed. Now, the Patriots are relying on a similarly effective pass defense featuring five DBs 2 who have been together for 3 seasons. We’ll see if the Patriots are still a top-3 scoring defense after trading LB Jamie Collins to Cleveland.
  • Two seasons ago, the Bengals tied a game against the Carolina Panthers. Cincinnati felt terrible about that tie, as K Mike Nugent missed a 36-yard FG as overtime expired. They should feel lucky that they tied Washington, as Washington K Dustin Hopkins missed from 34 yards after being iced by Cincinnati head coach Marvin Lewis. The Bengals need better play from the run defense, as they’re 23rd in the league at stopping the run. The Bengals are 3-0 when they hold opponents under 355 total yards, and 0-4-1 when opponents gain at least 355 total yards.
  • The Texans are 5-0 at home and 0-3 on the road. That’s a good way to end 8-8 if that trend holds up all season. The last time Houston started 5-3 was in 2011, the first playoff season in franchise history. The 2011 Texans were excellent in the secondary and allowed the 2nd-fewest yards in the league after hiring Wade Phillips as defensive coordinator. The pass defense is still the strength of this team with Romeo Crennel as the defensive coordinator, as the Texans are 5th in total defense and 2nd in yards allowed.
  • Washington was once 4-3-1, way back in 1946 – 70 years ago! There was nothing special about that Washington team in 1946, and this Washington team looks thoroughly mediocre too despite the winning record. Washington is 3rd in the league in pass yards despite not having any receivers on pace for 1,000 yards. But while 9-7 was good enough for Washington to win the NFC East last year, they find themselves in last place in the division entering the bye.
  • Chicago’s primetime home win gave the Bears a 2-1 record in the NFC North. But they’re still 0-5 outside of the division, and they are off to a 2-6 start for the first time since 2002, when they were the worst rushing team in the league and finished 4-12. This season, the Bears are averaging a league-low 16.4 points per game. With QB Brian Hoyer on IR (arm), it’s up to QB Jay Cutler to show that he is still a starting caliber QB in the NFL while playing for a team that can’t wait to be rid of him.
  • The Cardinals have been around long enough that they also had a 3-4-1 record before, back in 1973. That was Don Coryell’s first season as head coach, back when the franchise was in Saint Louis. “Air Coryell” said more about the team’s opponents than it did about the Cardinals in 1973, as they allowed the most passing yards in the league in 1973 while finishing 4-9-1. The 2016 Cardinals are allowing the fewest yards in the league, but the offensive line is on pace to allow 50 sacks, while the special teams has been a key part in almost every game the team didn’t win.
Indianapolis Colts linebackers Fredd Young (56) and Barry Krauss (55) and defensive tackle Joe Klecko (73) team up to stop Green Bay Packers running back Brent Fulwood (21) during an NFL game in Green Bay, Wis., November 13, 1988. The Colts defeated the Packers 20-13. (AP Photo/Vernon Biever)

Indianapolis Colts linebackers Fredd Young (56) and Barry Krauss (55) and defensive tackle Joe Klecko (73) team up to stop Green Bay Packers running back Brent Fulwood (21) during an NFL game in Green Bay, Wis., November 13, 1988. The Colts defeated the Packers 20-13. (AP Photo/Vernon Biever)

The Indianapolis Colts are visiting the Green Bay Packers; the Colts haven’t won in Green Bay since 1988. I don’t think it happens for them this year either, despite the dramatic #ChuckStrong game from 2012 in Indianapolis. Now, the last time the Cowboys lost in Cleveland was in 1988. The Browns haven’t won all year, and Cleveland just blew a 3-1 lead, but I think the Browns can pull an upset:

Atlanta at Tampa Bay: Atlanta is 5-3, but they were actually 6-2 this time last year before collapsing in the second half of the 2015 season. While the Falcons have the best offense in the league, they are bottom 10 in yards allowed and bottom 5 in points allowed. And while head coach Dan Quinn has beaten Carolina and New Orleans, he has yet to solve the Buccaneers and QB Jameis Winston. Winston’s best game of the season came at Atlanta when he had a season-high 4 TD passes, and Winston is 3-0 against Atlanta with a 101.8 passer rating in his career against the Falcons. The Buccaneers were spotted two football fields at home and still lost to the Raiders, and they were blown out 56-14 when they last faced the Falcons on TNF, so Tampa Bay has to get a big game out of Winston to keep up with Ryan’s offense.

Detroit at Minnesota: Two teams with frustrating offensive line situations meet indoors. The Lions have an MVP candidate in QB Matthew Stafford, who has led the team to a 4th quarter comeback and game-winning drive in every win this season. But the Lions have the worst pass defense in the league right now, and Stafford hasn’t received the support of a 100-yard rusher since Jim Caldwell was named head coach in 2014. Minnesota hasn’t won since their Week 6 bye, and the offense can’t run, can’t protect the QB, and can’t get 1st round rookie WR Laquon Treadwell on the field. The Vikings defense has to bounce back, but Bradford and new OC Shurmur will have to overcome the lack of ability on the line of scrimmage against a soft defense.

Denver at Oakland: This is the Game of the Week, no question. The Broncos and Raiders haven’t mattered at the same time since 2000, the last year that both teams made the playoffs. Denver has yet to lose a game with a healthy head coach Gary Kubiak and QB Trevor Siemian, and they’re taking on an Oakland defense that gives up more yardage than any team in the NFL outside of Cleveland. But Siemian has to play well and take advantage of an Oakland secondary that allows 8.1 yards per pass (30th in NFL). Of course, Oakland is getting outstanding performances from QB Derek Carr, and that will continue if Denver’s front seven fails to stop the run and get in advantageous pass rushing situations.

Buffalo at Seattle: Who ever thought that we’d get a Percy Harvin revenge game this year?! The Bills lose a key skill position player every week it seems like, but Harvin is back after taking a career hiatus following 5 games with Buffalo last season. This is actually a contest between two QBs with similar playing styles, and Buffalo’s Tyrod Taylor (185 pass yards per game, 9 TD, 2 INT, 319 rush yards, 87.2 passer rating) has outplayed Seattle’s Russell Wilson (0 TDs passing or rushing since Week 5 bye). The Bills were lit up by New England QB Tom Brady last week, but Wilson has to start making plays if he’s healthy enough to be on the field. Seattle will key on Buffalo RB LeSean McCoy if he’s healthy; McCoy missed last week with a hamstring injury and was held to 2.9 yards per rush in his last game against the Seahawks (in Philadelphia, 2014).

The last primetime game at Oakland after Week 8 when both the Broncos and Raiders were over .500 was way back in 1980 on MNF.

The last primetime game at Oakland after Week 8 when both the Broncos and Raiders were over .500 was way back in 1980 on MNF.

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Ingram only has 2 career games with 26+ rushes, and his last one came 2 years ago this month.
  2. CBs Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan, Ss Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon

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