Category Archives: 2016 season

2016 NFL Season

2016 Season: Super Bowl LI Prediction

Super Bowl LIThe biggest game of the year is upon us and the ultimate question everybody has is: who will win?

The Patriots are appearing in a record 7th Super Bowl while this will be the Falcons’ second ever.  Each has ridden a great offense and opportunistic defense to get to the dance and now that they are here it will probably come down to which “D” can make the crucial stand when it needs to.  The Patriots boast the #1 scoring defense in the league while the Falcons have the #1 scoring offense.  When opponents hold Atlanta to less than 30 points this year, they are 5-1 against them.  On the flip side, when the Falcons score 30+, they are 10-0 on the season (including playoffs).  The Patriots will be doing everything they can to slow down the Atlanta attack by attempting to shut down Julio Jones.  I can see them having a little success with this, but he will certainly have his moments.  The one matchup that is even more intriguing than Jones vs. the New England secondary is Matt Patricia’s 2nd ranked run defense against Kyle Shanahan’s 9th ranked rushing offense.  It might sound funny, but if the Falcons are to win the Super Bowl, they will have to rely on their running game to make way as well as a couple of big plays from the defense.  Tom Brady and the Pats are not turning the ball over so it will be hard for Atlanta to rely on that.  In the end I think that New England can move the ball better and take care of it.  Matt Ryan has had an incredible season and I think he will have a great game.  I can see this being the first ever Super Bowl to go into overtime (for a bold prediction).  When it gets down to it, Tom Terrific will get the job done.  Also, I feel obligated to roll with the Pats here since I did pick them to win it all back in August and I foolishly picked against them a week ago.  We are due for a good game in the playoffs and I don’t think the Super Bowl will let us down.  I cannot wait to see how it all unfolds!

Final: New England 32, Atlanta 26 (OT)

2016 Season: Championship Round Preview

Championship Sunday, or the Final Four if you will.  The Packers and Falcons will do battle for their claim to the top spot in the NFC while the Steelers and Patriots square off in Foxboro for that same right in the AFC.  These are four very capable offenses so points could fly this weekend.  Here are my predictions.

Championship Sunday

Last Week: 3-1

Playoffs: 7-1

Sunday, January 22nd, 3:05 e.t.

#4 Green Bay Packers (12-6) @ #2 Atlanta Falcons (12-5)

The Packers and Falcons are two of the hottest offenses in the league right now and neither defense is all that great against the passing game.  Atlanta has had some good fortune lately against bad offenses making it seem like they’ve righted the ship but I don’t see them getting enough pressure on Aaron Rodgers to effect his game.  Despite injuries I see Green Bay going on to the Super Bowl continuing their hot streak.

Green Bay 33, Atlanta 30

Sunday, January 22nd, 6:40 e.t.

#4 Pittsburgh Steelers (13-5) @ New England Patriots (15-2)

The Steelers, much like Green Bay, have been on quite a roll lately but so have the Patriots.  New England is simply doing what it always does and that is taking care of business against weaker teams.  Pittsburgh is finding itself on offense and they have been strong running with LeVeon Bell lately.  Also, the Steelers have enough weapons on offense to expose the New England defense, something that some of the inferior teams with lesser quarterbacks may not have been able to do.  I see the Steelers taking the win and meeting Green Bay in the Super Bowl.

Pittsburgh 29, New England 25

Enjoy the two fantastic matchups this weekend.  I will be back on soon with my Super Bowl prediction!

2016 Season: Divisional Round Preview

The Wild Card round has come and gone and four undeserving teams were written off in embarrassing contests.  There should be some good games this time around though as the final eight teams give it a go over the weekend.  Who will be moving on to the championship game?  Find out with my picks!

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Playoff Record: 4-0

Saturday, January 14th, 4:35 e.t.

#3 Seattle Seahawks (11-5-1) @ #2 Atlanta Falcons (11-5)

This could be a good game.  The last time these two teams met was Week 6 in a contest that went down to the wire.  The last time these two teams met in the playoffs was in the divisional round of the 2012 season.  There is an excellent chance that this one will end in thrilling fashion.  I am not very high on Seattle’s offense right now, so they will have to rely on their good defense.  Unfortunately there is a big difference between playing at home against an inconsistent Lions’ offense and on the road against the best attack in football.  I see the Falcons doing enough with the ball in their hands to win the game.

Atlanta 32, Seattle 27

Saturday, January 14th, 8:15 e.t.

#4 Houston Texans (10-7) @ #1 New England Patriots (14-2)

The Texans lucked out by facing a depleted Raiders team at home last week, but let’s face it… they are one of the five teams that made it into the playoffs that were not deserving.  The defense may play well here, but I don’t think they will be able to hold the New England offense down to the point where their own can keep up.  This was a 27-0 drubbing in Week 3 with Jacoby Brissett in at QB.  Tom Brady > Jacoby Brissett.

New England 38, Houston 14

Sunday, January 15th, 4:40 e.t.

#4 Green Bay Packers (11-6) @ #1 Dallas Cowboys (13-3)

The Packers looked darn good from the middle of the second quarter on last week against the Giants and were able to slaughter the G-Men at home.  This week they will hit the road against a Cowboy team that beat them in Lambeau 30-16 earlier this season.  However, this time the Pack will have playoff experienced veterans and coaches to rely on versus a team filled with youngsters who have never been there before.  Also, I’m not sure that having (essentially) two weeks off for Dallas is a good thing against a hot Green Bay team.  I like the Packers to continue rolling with their offense in Big D.

Green Bay 31, Dallas 21

Sunday, January 15th, 8:20 e.t.

#3 Pittsburgh Steelers (12-5) @ #2 Kansas City Chiefs (12-4)

This game was pushed back to 8:20 due to inclement weather conditions, which is good news for the Chiefs because the Steelers are more accustomed to playing in the snow/elements than they would be.  The last time these two teams faced off this year it didn’t end so well for Kansas City.  This go-round, however, sees them as the hosting team and that makes this contest that much tougher to choose.  I really want to go with the Steelers here because they are such a hot team, but the Kansas City offense is starting to become a force.  Their defense might have what it takes to slow the Pittsburgh offense and keep them in the game.  Could be one of the best playoff games this season.

Kansas City 23, Pittsburgh 20

Enjoy the games!  I will hop back on next week with my Championship Round predictions.

2016 Season: Wild Card Weekend Preview

At last, we have arrived with the playoffs.  This wild card weekend will feature four teams who have recently won Super Bowls over the past decade; that is half for those of you counting at home, two teams who have never won a Super Bowl, and two who are hoping to return to relevancy.  Cooky things can happen in the first round of the NFL’s post season, and I am here to try to sniff them out.  Here are my picks for the Wild Card round.

Eli Mannings

Last Week: 11-5

Season: 144-105

Saturday, January 7th, 4:35 e.t.

#5 Oakland Raiders (12-4) @ #4 Houston Texans (9-7)

We get our traditional Texans game to kick off the playoffs, and this matchup will feature Connor Cook versus Brock Osweiler.  Consider that battle a wash.  When determining the outcome of this game we have to look elsewhere, and I really like what Houston brings on defense against a rookie QB  At home, look for the Texans to take out the Raiders and put an end to their once very promising season.

Houston 24, Oakland 13

Saturday, January 7th, 8:15 e.t.

#6 Detroit Lions (9-7) @ #3 Seattle Seahawks (10-5-1)

The big story coming into this game is how the Seahawks have not been playing good football lately and that is uncharacteristic of them.  I can see them turning things around a bit in this contest.  At home in front of an always rowdy crowd, the defense could be swarming.  It will be on the offense in future games for the ‘Hawks, but I think their “D” will be enough to slow down an inconsistent Lions’ offense and earn them the win.

Seattle 27, Detroit 10

Sunday, January 8th, 1:05 e.t.

#6 Miami Dolphins (10-6) @ #3 Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5)

The Steelers come into this game tied with the Patriots for having the longest winning streak in football (seven straight games).  They seem to be peaking at the right time and that feels like bad news for a Miami team that sort of backed its way into the playoffs.  You get the feeling that there are only three true Super Bowl contenders in the AFC, and Pittsburgh is one of them.  No way do they drop this game at home.

Pittsburgh 40, Miami 20

Sunday, January 8th, 4:40 e.t.

#5 New York Giants (11-5) @ #4 Green Bay Packers (10-6)

This weekend’s best game will be saved for last, and it is fitting that it will feature two teams with storied pasts and two former Super Bowl winning QBs.  The Giants are the sexy pick for this one because the last two times they won it all, they had to go into Green Bay and knock off a heavily favored Packer team and they did it.  There were a lot of experienced players and coaches then, and that is not the case now.  The Packers could be “that team” going forward and I think they get the job done at home with their defense playing much better and the Giants offense still struggling to score points.

Green Bay 21, New York 16

Hope you all have a good weekend and a great time watching the games.  I’ll be back next week with my Divisional Round predictions.

 

Week 17 Recap: New York Giants @ Washington Redskins

Final: New York 19, Washington 10

Giants Redskins Football
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie finished the game with two picks.

In a game where the Washington Redskins desperately needed a win, it was the Giants who showed up in a big way and took the victory.  New York rode its defense as it has for the majority of the season and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was able to come away with the game-winning interception late in the fourth quarter to bring the Giants their eleventh win of the season.  Perhaps most surprisingly is that Big Blue kept most of their starters in for a majority of the game instead of resting them for the playoffs.  Speaking of the post-season, the Redskins are now eliminated from the dance and will have to stew in the bile of a crushing defeat until the 2017 season kicks off.

Washington’s offense was, for the most part, handled by the Giants defense.  They had just six first downs through the first three quarters and 4/12 on third down throughout the game.  Kirk Cousins was not great, but also not completely terrible.  He did not see some open receivers and was a little off on some of the throws.  There was plenty of pressure on him throughout the game accounting for some of this.  He was under duress when he floated the game-ending interception to Rodgers-Cromartie late in the fourth quarter and the throw was a bit behind the intended receiver as a result.  The offensive line was poor in this game and did nothing to bolster any kind of a rushing attack until late in the game when they began pulling their guards on sweep plays.  Again, Cousins did not receive optimal protection either and he had trouble getting the ball to open receivers since the New York secondary was in lock-down mode, even after Janoris Jenkins was pulled.  Pierre Garcon and Jordan Reed were the standouts on offense for Washington.  Reed was a favorite target and did get open a bit underneath while Garcon was the man who converted a 3rd and 17 later in the fourth quarter that lead to a game-tying touchdown to Reed on the next play.  The lack of a running game is what ended up killing the ‘Skins shot at a postseason berth here because they were unable to find any kind of balance that would keep the offense unpredictable.

Kirk Cousins
Kirk Cousins in action from Week 17.

The flip side to the story was how well the Giants’ defense played on the road.  They received huge performances from a lot of their men.  First of all, it was quite a bit surprising to see how much man-to-man coverage that they rolled out.  Washington normally thrives in these situations and they were unable to do so here.  The secondary was outstanding.  Eli Apple had one of his better efforts of the year, but it was Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie who was making all of the splash plays on the back end with two picks (he also nearly blocked a PAT in the fourth quarter as well).  Up front for Big Blue, Damon Harrison was a monster and probably the best player from the New York defense in this contest.  He accounted for a couple of hurries and run stops as well as a sack.  He did a beautiful job sniffing out a screen pass by the Redskins that did have some promise with blockers out front in the final frame.  Keenan Robinson showed a lot with some solid form tackling and a nice sideline to sideline presence.  The Giants “D” was terrific and deserves a ton of credit for keeping the explosive Washington offense at bay.

The New York offense was not overly impressive here, but they were able to do some nice things, starting with a great effort running the ball.  This game resembled what the Giants were back in 2008 with a fantastic defensive performance coupled with a dominant running game.  Paul Perkins turned in the first 100+ yard rushing game for the G-Men on the season and did a lot of the dirty work behind the left side of the offensive line and Ereck Flowers, who had a nice game despite being flagged for yet another holding penalty.  Eli Manning did underthrow a few of his passes, but his waning arm strength did not look to be an issue late in the game when he hooked up with Tavarres King for a 44-yard gain that lead to the go-ahead and eventual game winning field goal.  The New York receivers were easily able to get open early in the game against some pretty soft zone coverage.  Josh Norman did follow Odell Beckham Jr. around for most of the game while OBJ was in there and while he did not let up an explosive play, Beckham did get the better of him quite a few times with good routes.  The Giants did fall into a bad lull in the second half offensively after they were so good in the first couple of quarters and this was mainly due to the fact that they were not able to run the ball with as much success.  When the ground game was cranking, New York was able to move the ball up and down the field, but the Redskins did catch on to this and once they shut the rushing attack down it was tough sledding for the #5 seeded team.  Going into the playoffs the Giants will have to be sure to address this spot because the offense yet again did not put up a lot of points.  Six of them came on the final play of the game when Trevin Wade picked up a loose ball and walked it into the end zone.

Eli Manning
Eli Manning made the plays he had to in the Giants’ 19-10 win over Washington.

Defensively for Washington, the team was pushed around a bit early on but they eventually got their bearings straight and were able to contain the Giants’ attack.  In the second half they really stacked the box and began to load the left side of the formation to cut down on the rushing attack that was pretty successful at the open.  The Redskins’ secondary was not great but was also very conservative and more concerned with guarding against the big play.  They did a good job with this until the aforementioned 44-yard completion to King.  Greg Toler was not too good in coverage, but Brashaud Breeland was, someone who had stepped his play up considerably over the final weeks of the season.  Also, as a side nugget, Mason Foster was everywhere in this game getting in on 17 tackles, 15 solo.  Ryan Kerrigan did leave the game with an injury in the first quarter and there was certainly a lack of a pass rush after he did exit.  All and all, the Redskin defense has nothing to be ashamed of in this game, they were not the reason why the team will be missing the playoffs at 8-7-1 following this heartbreaking loss.

The Giants will now hit the road and play the winner of the NFC North on the road in the wild card round.  Their offensive woes will need to be overcome if this team is going to make one of their runs towards the Super Bowl, but they certainly have the defense to keep them in many of the games they may be playing.  For the Redskins, this is a crusher.  Kirk Cousins had a great opportunity to lead his team down the field for the win and a playoff berth in the waning seconds, but was unable to do so and that is going to be a big black mark on their 2016 season.  He did end up throwing for nearly 5,000 yards this year and that alone could land him a big contract, but it is going to be tough to overlook the failure that was this game for the Redskins.  Their offense let them down when they needed a win the most.

Jordan Reed
Jordan Reed celebrates after his fourth quarter touchdown against the Giants.

The Skinny:

  • The Washington Redskins are eliminated from playoff contention with this loss.  A win would have earned them the #6 seed.
  • Washington could not run the ball for the majority of this game and only managed one rushing first down throughout the entirety of the contest.
  • The Redskins defense did a good job limiting the explosive plays and keeping the ball in front of them, but unfortunately they did not receive much help from their offense come the end of the game.
  • The New York defense was great yet again as they intercepted Kirk Cousins twice and held the Redskins to 4/12 on third down.  Washington was tops in the league when it came to not going three and out and the Giants forced them to do just that five times.
  • For the first time this year, the Giants offense had a 100+ yard rusher in Paul Perkins who has come on lately and is looking like he could be the lead back heading into the playoffs and next season.
  • The Giant offense is still very much a work in progress as the team managed only 13 points on that side of the ball.  Their game became predictable and easy to shut down in the second half and could be a problem come playoff time.

2016 Season: Week 17 Preview

It is the end of the road for 20 teams after this week, and with the AFC all sealed up team-wise there is only seeding left to determine.  For the NFC, however, there is a lot to sort through still as the Packers, Lions, Buccaneers, and Redskins will all be fighting for the final two spots in the playoffs.  It should be exciting.  For the final time in the regular season, here are my picks.

Antonio Brown

Last Week: 9-7

Season: 135-100

Sunday, January 1st, 1:00 e.t.

Baltimore Ravens (8-7) @ Cincinnati Bengals (5-9-1)

The Ravens fought hard but the Steelers stole a win and the AFC North away from them last week at Heinz Field in the final seconds.  Now Baltimore hits the road with a bad taste in their mouth.  That could mean motivation, but now this team has nothing to play for and I think they will come out deflated and the Bengals can take advantage of this playing at home.

Cincinnati 20, Baltimore 14

Cleveland Browns (1-14) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (10-5)

Cleveland finally has a win this year, and it took them 15 games to get it.  That was a good thing too because if they didn’t win that game this one wasn’t a great bet for them.  Although the Steelers essentially have nothing to play for, I think they will go out and get the “W” because that is the Mike Tomlin way.  Call this a warm-up game before they host Miami next week.

Pittsburgh 24, Cleveland 9

Houston Texans (9-6) @ Tennessee Titans (8-7)

The Titans were stabbed multiple times in the chest last week losing their quarterback Marcus Mariota and their season all in one day.  This game could have been for all of the marbles, but instead it is a rather meaningless affair with everything decided between these two squads.  Still, with a decent defense and an offense that has shown a bit of a shriek with Tom Savage at the helm, I see the Texans walking away from this game with the season sweep.

Houston 29, Tennessee 17

Jacksonville Jaguars (3-12) @ Indianapolis Colts (7-8)

The Colts were finding somewhat of a rhythm on defense until they headed out to Oakland and got hammered.  This week should provide them with a good bounce-back opportunity against a Jacksonville team that is very inconsistent across the way.  Their defense should keep them in this one though but I certainly like Indy’s offense over the Jaguars’.

Indianapolis 22, Jacksonville 17

Carolina Panthers (6-9) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-7)

The Panthers, and specifically Cam Newton, have been a mess this year as the 2015 MVP is completing just 45% of his passes over the past month.  On the road against a Tampa Bay team that needs to have this one seems like a tall task, but I’m smelling an upset.  Doug Martin will not be in this game due to a drug suspension and that could take some wind out from behind Tampa’s sails.

Carolina 30, Tampa Bay 22

Chicago Bears (3-12) @ Minnesota Vikings (7-8)

Matt Barkley showed us all that he is still Matt Barkley when he threw five picks against the Redskins last week.  Sure, the Bears were in come from behind mode and he had to force the issue a bit but it doesn’t change the fact that he can be reckless with the football.  On the road against a Viking defense that has been humbled lately, I like Minnesota to bounce back and play well.  Their offense has been watchable lately, even against some decent defenses.

Minnesota 18, Chicago 13

Dallas Cowboys (13-2) @ Philadelphia Eagles (6-9)

The Eagles looked like a different team with Lane Johnson in at right tackle and their defense played the prototypical bend but don’t break style last week against the Giants.  The Cowboys ride into town having nothing at all to play for.  Jason Garrett won’t be resting his starters, but at the same time there won’t be a huge sense of urgency.  Playing at home, I think the Iggles can drop a NFC East foe for the second straight week.

Philadelphia 27, Dallas 17

Buffalo Bills (7-8) @ New York Jets (4-11)

Rex Ryan was shown the door Tuesday and now it will be Anthony Lynn taking over as head coach.  Remember when this guy was the running back coach at the beginning of the year?  Funny how he’s been on the rise while the only thing the Bills do well is run the ball.  The Jets can stop the run, but I just don’t think their offense has enough firepower to hold off the stampeded from Buffalo.

Buffalo 20, New York 10

New England Patriots (13-2) @ Miami Dolphins (10-5)

The Patriots and Dolphins are headed to the playoffs and in this game Miami won’t have anything to play for since they are locked in at the #5 seed.  New England, however, will have the #1 seed in their sights as a win will bring that to them.  Matt Moore has been solid in relief of Ryan Tannehill, but I don’t see him standing up to Tom Brady.  I also think the Pats will be able to run the ball against the ‘Phins which won’t bode well for the home team.

New England 35, Miami 21

Sunday, January 1st, 4:25 e.t.

Kansas City Chiefs (11-4) @ San Diego Chargers (5-10)

A Chiefs win and a Raiders loss will bring the AFC West crown to Kansas City so they should be playing with a lot of heart on Sunday.  This KC team can be scary because they have a suddenly explosive and playoff level offense to pair with their opportunistic defense.  The Chargers will likely be playing for the final time in San Diego on Sunday so they should be fired up, but I don’t like the mistakes their offense is prone to making and that prevents me from picking them here.

Kansas City 31, San Diego 24

Arizona Cardinals (6-8-1) @ Los Angeles Rams (4-11)

The Cardinals shocked the world and clipped the Seahawks for the first time at home last week and will finish their season on the road against a Rams team that struggles to break 10 points most weeks.  David Johnson has his eyes set on breaking 100 scrimmage yards for each game in the 2016 season here also, and I think he will.  Arizona’s offense has gotten up off the mat over the last few weeks while the Rams continue to be stuck in neutral.

Arizona 31, Los Angeles 13

New Orleans Saints (7-8) @ Atlanta Falcons (10-5)

I was going to pick the Saints in an upset here, but this is a different Falcon team that is winning all of the games they should be when they have to.  They have a shot at reeling in the #2 seed, and I don’t think they will pass up that chance at home against the Saints who have nothing to play for besides spoiler.  Their defense has regressed some and that is not good news facing the best offense in football.

Atlanta 38, New Orleans 28

Oakland Raiders (12-3) @ Denver Broncos (8-7)

On the road in Denver with Mr. Matt McGloin doing his thing under center, it is tough to see the Raiders walking away with a win, but I think this Bronco team is in a horrible funk right now.  Their offense has been atrocious the last couple of weeks, and the defense has seemingly given up at times.  With noting to play for, don’t be surprised if they come out flat, even against a backup QB.

Oakland 23, Denver 12

New York Giants (10-5) @ Washington Redskins (8-6-1)

The Giants were able to move the ball against the Eagles, but three Eli Manning interceptions doomed the G-Men on the road.  Now they will be facing one of the better offenses in the league this week.  If Kirk Cousins passes for more than 370 yards, he will have a 5,000 yard season believe it or not.  I don’t think it will happen, but I do see Washington playing a good game and scoring some points against a Giant team that has still been showing struggles keeping up on offense.

Washington 26, New York 18

Seattle Seahawks (9-5-1) @ San Francisco 49ers (2-13)

The Seahawks did have a minor hiccup last week at home against the Cardinals, but they will get an easy game on the road against the 49ers who can’t beat anybody outside of the Rams this year.  I think that Seattle will keep it held back on offense and try to win this game with their “D”.  They should get that running game cranking against a team that has been horrible in that department as well.

Seattle 24, San Francisco 13

Sunday, January 1st, 8:30 e.t.

Green Bay Packers (9-6) @ Detroit Lions (9-6)

This game could be a loser goes home scenario in addition to a battle for the NFC North title.  Ford Field should be rocking early, but I don’t think they will be late because this Packer storm is coming on strong and each week they are looking more and more like the 2010 team that won it all.  Aaron Rodgers has fought his way back into the MVP conversation and after seeing the bad effort put forth out of Detroits’ defense on Monday night, I don’t have much confidence in them being able to get the job done with all the marbles on the line.

Power Pick of the Week: Green Bay 34, Detroit 21

Week 17 Bonus Predictions

Sure Bet of the Week (13-2): Arizona over Los Angeles

Upset of the Week: Carolina over Tampa Bay

Offensive Player of the Week: Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons

Defensive Player of the Week: Khalil Mack, LB, Raiders

Rookie of the Week: Tyreek Hill, WR, Chiefs

Best Quarterback: Andrew Luck, Colts

Best Running Back: LeGarrette Blount, Patriots

2016 Season: Week 16 Preview

We have reached the penultimate week in the 2016 NFL season and there are still a number of teams hoping to punch their tickets to the playoffs.  That list will likely be narrowed quite a bit after this week.  Who will end up taking home “W’s” following this week of action?  Here are my picks.

Matt Barkley

Last Week: 11-5

Season: 126-93

Thursday, December 22nd, 8:25 e.t.

New York Giants (10-4) @ Philadelphia Eagles (5-9)

The Giants defense has been one of the most improved units across all of football and now it really has the team aspiring to make a bit of a run in January.  However, Thursday night in Philly seems like a upset special to me.  The Eagles could have easily won their last two games and this week they will get back their right tackle Lane Johnson.  With Carson Wentz better protected, I think he will cut down on the mistakes that plagued him the first time these two teams faced off.

Philadelphia 24, New York 17

Saturday, December 24th, 1:00 e.t.

Washington Redskins (7-6-1) @ Chicago Bears (3-11)

The Bears gave the Packers all they could handle last week at home coming back from 17 down only to watch the “W” slip away with a last second field goal.  Meanwhile, the Washington offense really struggled at home against a much maligned Carolina Panther “D”.  On the road in Chicago could be another upset for the Redskins.  Matt Barkley is actually the third graded QB in the league ever since he took over as the starter behind Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady.  Who’da thunk it?

Chicago 28, Washington 25

Atlanta Falcons (9-5) @ Carolina Panthers (6-8)

The Panthers showed a lot of heart on Monday night on the road, but the Falcons are now coming to town and they are rolling.  It will be hard pressed for the Carolina corners to stand up to this high octane offense that will be looking for a playoff berth with a win and a lot of help.  Atlanta is getting healthy and they are quickly becoming a team that nobody wants to play in January.

Atlanta 37, Carolina 31

San Deigo Chargers (5-9) @ Cleveland Browns (0-14)

If the Browns are going to get a win this year, this will be their best shot at it.  The Chargers have fallen off the face of the earth following their devastating loss to Tampa Bay a couple of weeks ago and are playing some rather uninspired football.  I think they will get Cleveland’s best shot in a while this time out, but the Browns just don’t have the talent to get it done.  Their defense could get shredded.

San Diego 30, Cleveland 24

Tennessee Titans (8-6) @ Jacksonville Jaguars (2-12)

The Jaguars finally got on firing Gus Bradley and now Doug Marrone will step in to fill the head coaching vacancy.  The Titans are coming off of a great road win over Kansas City and have a good shot at locking up the AFC South with a win here and at home over Houston next week.  I like the Titans to get the job done on the road against an offense that is still a mess while the Tennessee defense is beginning to peak.

Tennessee 26, Jacksonville 10

Miami Dolphins (9-5) @ Buffalo Bills (7-7)

The Dolphins have actually won eight out of their last nine games and they had an impressive showing out of Matt Moore who had not passed the football in about half a decade.  He threw four touchdowns against Gang Green and was very accurate with ball placement.  I can see him regressing a bit on the road in a tough place to play.  The Bills are desperate for a win and I think they will play like it here.

Buffalo 24, Miami 19

Minnesota Vikings (7-7) @ Green Bay Packers(8-6)

If you stopped following football a month ago you would have sworn the Packers were dead in the water, yet here they are holding down the #6 seed in the NFC.  The Vikings defense is finally beginning to crack having to shoulder the weight of a pretty bad offense.  On the road at the Frozen Tundra without the ability to run the ball, I really don’t like the Minnesota Vikings’ chances.

Power Pick of the Week: Green Bay 45, Minnesota 17

New York Jets (3-11) @ New England Patriots (12-2)

The Patriots have already ensured themselves a first round BYE in the playoffs, and could secure the #1 seed this week if they win and the Raiders lose.  Of course, they cannot control what Oakland does, but I do think that they will easily be able to knock off the Jets with that greater goal in mind.  The New England defense is beginning to pick up their play and the Pats will really be tough to handle if Tom Brady is able to pick secondaries apart like he has for a majority of the year.  Also, Bill Belichick isn’t always to friendly towards younger quarterbacks.  Good luck Bryce Petty.

New England 34, New York 14

Saturday, December 24th, 4:05 e.t.

Indianapolis Colts (7-7) @ Oakland Raiders (11-3)

The Raiders are heading back to the playoffs for the first time since 2002, which is exciting.  Meanwhile, the Colts managed to save their season in a dominant road win over the Vikings.  Can they do it again in the Black Hole?  I am feeling another upset.  Andrew Luck could go to town on this secondary as long as the Indy offensive line can somewhat slow down Khalil Mack and company.

Indianapolis 26, Oakland 23

Saturday, December 24th, 4:25 e.t.

San Francisco 49ers (1-13) @ Los Angeles Rams (4-10)

The Rams and Niners hardly screams must-see football, but this will serve as a good litmus test to see what Jared Goff can do.  If he can’t move the ball against a Niner team that surrenders 31 points per game.  And if Todd Gurley was ever to get going, this would be the time.  I do think that L.A. will have a decent game on offense, and for them that will net 20+ points.

Los Angeles 22, San Francisco 15

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-6) @ New Orleans Saints (6-8)

Didn’t I just cover this game?  Why yes, I did.  In Week 14, these two teams squared off and the Bucs held the Saints to a lowly 11 points.  New Orleans responded by throwing up 48 on the road against the league’s #1 defense.  How is that for a statement?  The Buccaneers hung in there with Dallas a week back, but were ultimately overwhelmed by the Cowboys’ offense.  I see this happening again with this pick hinging on the fact that the Saints will play like the Saints at home.

New Orleans 34, Tampa Bay 24

Arizona Cardinals (5-8-1) @ Seattle Seahawks (9-4-1)

The Seahawks have not been overly explosive on offense lately, but their defense has been lights out at home for the most part.  The Cardinals scored 41 points a week ago, which will win you a game 98% of the time, but their defense was shredded by the Saints.  While I don’t think this unit will have a bad game here, I don’t think they will do enough to carry what I think will be a struggling Arizona offense in the Emerald City.  We could see a couple of random deep balls in this one, but otherwise I don’t see them putting together enough cohesive drives to get the job done.

Seattle 26, Arizona 17

Saturday, December 24th, 8:30 e.t.

Cincinnati Bengals (5-8-1) @ Houston Texans (8-6)

Tom Savage came in and righted the ship for Houston a week ago against the Jaguars.  But, let’s be honest, this was the Jaguars and their offense was equally terrible.  The Texans do play a much better brand of defense at home, however, and the Bengals have not been great on the road.  If they can’t get a running game going, they could find it tough sledding in Houston.

Houston 20, Cincinnati 14

Sunday, December 25th, 4:30 e.t.

Baltimore Ravens (8-6) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (9-5)

This is a great game on Christmas that will essentially decide the AFC North.  The Steelers will lock it up if they can get the win, but the Ravens can put themselves a whole game up on Pittsburgh if they can yank out a road win.  Unfortunately this game will be played in the Steel City and the Steelers are hot right now.  This could be a signature win for their 2016 season because I think Ben Roethlisberger can make some plays outside the numbers in this one.

Pittsburgh 33, Baltimore 20

Sunday, December 25th, 8:30 e.t.

Denver Broncos (8-6) @ Kansas City Chiefs (10-4)

The last time these two hooked horns, it resulted in, perhaps, the best contest of the 2016 season.  The Chiefs are in good shape in the AFC playoff hunt and have a couple of different ways to lock up a playoff berth this week, the easiest being a win at home over a struggling Bronco team.  Denver’s offense seems broken and that does not bode well against one of the better “D’s” on the road in a hostile environment.  The Chiefs will likely be motivated to win this one after dropping one in frustrating fashion a week ago against Tennessee.

Kansas City 30, Denver 16

Monday, December 26th, 8:30 e.t.

Detroit Lions (9-5) @ Dallas Cowboys (12-2)

The Lions and Cowboys have engaged in some great battles over the years, and this game should be no different.  When it comes to picking this one, I have to say I trust the Dallas offense more than Detroit’s.  Yes, the Lions defense has been playing great lately, but they have not been tested on the ground that much.  That will change against Ezekiel Elliot and the Cowboys in Big D.

Dallas 35, Detroit 27

Week 16 Bonus Predictions

Sure Bet of the Week (12-2): New England over New York Jets

Upset of the Week: Indianapolis over Oakland

Offensive Player of the Week: Drew Brees, QB, Saints

Defensive Player of the Week: Aaron Donald, DL, Rams

Rookie of the Week: Jordan Howard, RB, Bears

Best Quarterback: Aaron Rodgers, Packers

Best Running Back: David Johnson, Cardinals

Week 15 Recap: New England Patriots @ Denver Broncos

Final: New England 16, Denver 3

Patriots Broncos Football
Dion Lewis racked up nearly 100 yards on the ground Sunday versus Denver.

The Denver defense fought valiantly, but in the end they did not produce enough pass rush and were outplayed by the Patriots at Sports Authority in a 16-3 loss.  It is easy to draw comparisons between this game here and the AFC Championship contest a season ago, but we are not going to do that.  Let’s break down this contest as its own entity.

The Denver offense was stuck in the mud for most of the game, especially in the second half.  They managed only five first downs after the midpoint of the second quarter and the offensive line was not very good.  Trevor Siemian did not have a lot of time to scan the field, and it did not help that the Pats had excellent coverage throughout the game.  Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders were bottled up by Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan, and Eric Rowe and did not have much of an impact in the game.  After a promising start in the first quarter, Justin Forsett was pretty silent for the second straight week.  Denver’s inability to run the ball really handicaps this offense, one that relies heavily on play action and bootlegs with the quarterback.  Siemian did try a couple of rollouts, but the New England pass rush and linebackers were quick to sniff them out and give him a tough time trying to find outlets.  Former Patriot A.J. Derby was probably the most consistent target in the game Demaryius Thomas finished with seven catches for 91 yards, but a lot of that came in garbage time.  A lack of a run game and decent pass protection really dragged down this Devner offense.

The New England offense was nothing special in this contest, but their offensive line was remarkable.  Facing the talented Denver “D”, the game plan was to run the ball and not allow the Broncos to hit Tom Brady all that much, and this worked.  They ran the ball 38 times and Dion Lewis nearly cranked out a 100 yard game.  LeGarrette Blount found the end zone for his 15th time this season, the most any back has this year and also in New England franchise history.  Marcus Cannon did a heck of a job containing Von Miller.  Miller was a virtual non-factor as he was chipped and double-teamed a majority of the game, but even the plays where he was not in two on one situations, Cannon was very good against him.  Tom Brady did tie a career worst start to a game missing on his first six passes, but he did eventually settle down and connect with Julian Edelman who was great against the man-coverage employed by Wade Philips’ “D”.  The Patriot offense was not spectacular, but it did not have to be since their defense was lights out.

Patriots Broncos Football
The Patriots passing game never got going until Julian Edelman got involved early in the second quarter snapping Tom Brady’s 0-6 mark to start the game.

Credit certainly has to go to the New England secondary in this game.  Eric Rowe made a couple of nice plays on PBUs.  Malcolm Butler completely blanketed Emmanuel Sanders as well.  Logan Ryan picked off a Trevor Siemian pass on the first play of the second quarter and brought it back 42 yards to thwart a Denver scoring chance.  The D-line of New England was pretty good as well.  They threw a lot of stunts at a struggling Broncos’ offensive line and were able to get home with three sacks, two of which went to the second year budding star, Trey Flowers who was a force in the middle of the field.  Not only did Logan Ryan have an excellent interception (with a fantastic read and break on the ball), but he also lead the team in tackles with seven unassisted.  The New England defense, which was very much the weak point of the team heading into this game, turned in their best effort of the season and really put a dagger in the Broncos’ playoff hopes.

Trevor Siemian
Trevor Siemian throwing the ball against the Patriots from 12/18/16.

The Denver defense did everything a fan could have wanted them to outside of getting significant pressure on Tom Brady and stopping the run.  That sounds like a lot of failure, but considering the way the Pats have been able to rip through opposing secondaries this season, the Broncos were great against the pass.  Aqib Talib and Chris Harris were solid in their coverage and the Denver “D” allowed just one play over 20 yards in this game, a 34 yard completion to Martellus Bennett in the fourth quarter.  Otherwise, they really limited the opportunities that New England had with some great zone coverage and a mix-in of the occasional press.  Jamming the Pats’ wide-outs was effective and the held Brady to a lowly 188 yards on a 50% completion clip.  Shane Ray accounted for one of the two Denver sacks and forced a fumble.  He and Todd Davis were the best players on defense after watching this game.  Davis did a great job filling in for Brandon Marshall at the Mike linebacker spot as he was in on 13 different tackles (seven unassisted).  Jared Crick was responsible for the other sack and really flourished with a lot of attention being focused on Von Miller.  DeMarcus Ware did not have a great game as he was unable to win a lot of his battles on the outside and failed to create much pressure against Tom Brady in this one.

The Patriots improve to 12-2 after a healthy 13 point win in Denver where their defense dominated.  This is important because earlier in the year it was easy to point out the New England defense as a major flaw and the reason why this team would not win the Super Bowl.  Now with this game, and their effort over the past couple of weeks, it is easy to see that they have turned the corner and could be a force against any team if their secondary is able to shut down their opposing receivers the way they did in this contest.  For the Broncos, this is their second straight game where their defense was solid but the offense failed.  Last year when they made their run to the Super Bowl, their offense wasn’t the greatest, but they were at least able to run the ball.  This year, that is not something this team can lean on and hence why they are now 8-6 and fighting for their playoff life.  Denver will hit the road and take on Kansas City in a must-win game next week on Christmas day.  The Patriots, in the meantime, have locked up the AFC East and a first round playoff BYE and will host the Jets next week with a chance to lock up homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.  This was a dominant win for the Pats, and one they can build on as they hope for yet another Super Bowl run.

Tom Brady
The Patriots secure the AFC East as well as a first round BYE in the playoffs with a 16-3 win over Denver on Sunday.

The Skinny:

  • The New England offensive line holds up well as Tom Brady is only sacked twice in 32 dropbacks.  The running game for the Patriots really got cranking as well as the team ran it 37 times for 137 yards.
  • The Patriots corners were terrific in coverage completely shutting down both Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders in this game.  Denver’s greatest output in the passing game came from their tight ends.
  • LeGarrette Blount hammered his way into the end zone for his 15th time this season, a New England franchise record.  The Patriots were also able to secure a first round BYE and another win of the AFC East title with this victory.
  • The Bronco offensive line was pushed around in this contest.  Denver was unable to run the ball yet again and that really took away from the play action pass opportunities that a Gary Kubiak offense is predicated on.
  • The Denver pass rush was not much of a factor in this game which was a shame because the coverage on the back end was fantastic.  The Broncos’ secondary was very good in this game.
  • A Jordan Norwood muffed punt in the first quarter as well as a Trevor Siemian interception really hampered the Broncos as they contributed to a (potential) 10 point swing.  The Patriots were +3 in the turnover battle.

2016 Season: Week 15 Preview

Back at it again for the fifteenth week of NFL action.  There were a lot of good games last weekend and this slate of games should not disappoint either.  Here are my picks for the sixteen matchups on the docket.

Von Miller

Last Week: 10-6

Season: 115-88

Thursday, December 15th, 8:25 e.t.

Los Angeles Rams (4-9) @ Seattle Seahawks (8-4-1)

The Seahawks got crushed last week in Lambeau against a suddenly hot Packer team and it looked like the absence of Earl Thomas really affected them.  However, they draw an easy out on Thursday night at home (being the only team in the league undefeated in their own stadium) with the Rams coming to town after just having fired Jeff Fisher.  Going into a hornets nest is LA, I do not like their odds at even keeping this one close.

Seattle 29, Los Angeles 10

Saturday, December 17th, 8:25 e.t.

Miami Dolphins (8-5) @ New York Jets (4-9)

The Jets looked like they quit early on the road in San Fran, but Bryce Petty made some plays and got his team the W over a crummy Niner’s squad.  Now they will be hosting the Ryan Tannehill-less ‘Phins who are hit or miss on the road.  This is a tough matchup to pick because we don’t know what the quarterbacks are going to do.  In the end I actually like the Jets because I think that their run defense will play much better than they did last week against Carlos Hyde and really make things tough on Miami.

New York 20, Miami 14

Sunday, December 18th, 1:00 e.t.

Philadelphia Eagles (5-8) @ Baltimore Ravens (7-6)

The Ravens defense got blasted in New England Monday night, but they should have no trouble rebounding at home against an Eagle team that is in a tailspin.  Aside from what I thought was a great performance from Carson Wentz against Washington, nobody on the Eagles was all that great a week ago and a 1-6 road record is no mistake.  Plus, for whatever reason, Joe Flacco gets it done at home against NFC teams.  I’m taking Baltimore here.

Baltimore 26, Philadelphia 14

Jacksonville Jaguars (2-11) @ Houston Texans (7-6)

A week ago, everyone was talking about how bad the Texans were, but now they have a sweep of the Colts under their belts and a 4-0 record in their division.  Playing at home against a Jaguar team should be an easy win for them.  The Jacksonville defense was humbled by Minnesota last week and will probably bounce back here, but I just don’t like their offense against a Houston “D” that usually dominates at home.

Houston 20, Jacksonville 9

Tennessee Titans (7-6) @ Kansas City Chiefs (10-3)

Can you believe that the Titans are 7-6?  They have been one of the more fun teams to watch this season and have a good shot at getting into the playoffs.  The Chiefs essentially ensured themselves of a playoff spot by completing the sweep of the Oakland Raiders last week.  Their defense was great in that contest and should be the key in this game.  Their pass rush should give Marcus Mariota headaches and they will not make mistakes on offense en route to a nice win.

Kansas City 30, Tennessee 19

Cleveland Browns (0-13) @ Buffalo Bills (6-7)

The Bills defense got ripped apart by Le’Veon Bell and the Steelers last week and are in desperate need of a win this time out.  Luckily they get the Browns who continue to find new ways to blow games.  Buffalo will likely end up feeding LeSean McCoy 25 times and also get the ball in the gut of Mike Gilislee, a very underrated back himself, and cram the running game down Cleveland’s throat here.  The Browns still have difficulties stopping the run which just so happens to be the Bills’ specialty.

Buffalo 27, Cleveland 17

Green Bay Packers (7-6) @ Chicago Bears (3-10)

Matt Barkley has been solid over the past couple of weeks, but I don’t see the Bears slowing down the Packers this week.  Green Bay has been in win or go home mode for a couple of weeks now and after crushing the Seahawks at home, going on the road to take on a three-win team should not be that difficult of a task.  Dom Capers’ defense deserves a lot of credit for their play lately and that should continue on Sunday.

Green Bay 41, Chicago 17

Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5) @ Cincinnati Bengals (5-7-1)

Don’t look now, but the Steelers are peaking.  They have only three divisional games remaining and winning two will probably get them into the postseason (as long as one of those wins comes against Baltimore).  The Bengals have a cute little two game winning streak going but that comes to an end here.  Their secondary has some real problems and I can see Ben Roethlisberger picking them apart giving Le’Veon Bell’s legs a rest after he rolled up nearly 300 yards from scrimmage against Buffalo a week ago.

Pittsburgh 36, Cincinnati 20

Detroit Lions (9-4) @ New York Giants (9-4)

This is a nice little game in the Meadowlands pitting two playoff hopeful teams.  This is a litmus test for both squads because they will know if they are ready for January football based on their performance in this one.  The Lions have not played a game outside since Week 4, which is insane, and we will have to see how Matthew Stafford’s finger holds up in the cold.  The Giants’ defense has been great lately and thy just held the Cowboys to 7 points.  They should find some more success against the Lions who have struggled to protect Stafford lately.

Power Pick of the Week: New York 20, Detroit 16

Indianapolis Colts (6-7) @ Minnesota Vikings (7-6)

You don’t get any lollipops for beating the Jaguars, but the Vikings offense had one of its best efforts of the year against a pretty decent defense.  The Colts were unable to take control of the AFC South last week and now their offensive line has to stand up to a Vikings pass rush that can be brutal at home.  But the Colts have played some good football following losses this year and I can see them stealing a road win in Indy on the right arm of Andrew Luck.

Indianapolis 23, Minnesota 16

Sunday, December 18th, 4:05 e.t.

New Orleans Saints (5-8) @ Arizona Cardinals (5-7-1)

The Saints and Cardinals have been disappointments this year, and any hope that the Cards had at the playoffs was dashed with a loss on the road to Miami.  It is entirely possible that you see an uninspired team on Sunday at home, but I still think that their defense will make some plays.  Drew Brees has thrown no touchdown passes and six picks over the last two weeks.  He’s had it rough.  It will continue on the road in Arizona.

Arizona 25, New Orleans 16

San Francisco 49ers (1-12) @ Atlanta Falcons (8-5)

Ok, I’ll say it: the 49ers are the worst team in football.  How you choke away a 17 point lead at home to the Jets is beyond me, and they have a serious lack of talent up and down the roster.  The Falcons have no such problem in their corner and also have an excellent chance to go up by a game in the division with two to play.  Atlanta’s offense is going to be a nightmare for a poor Niners’ “D” to handle.

Atlanta 38, San Francisco 17

Sunday, December 18th, 4:25 e.t.

Oakland Raiders (10-3) @ San Diego Chargers (5-8)

The Raiders were handed their first loss on the road this year last week in Kansas City.  They will get a crack at their eleventh win a second time against the Chargers, a team that was held at bay in Carolina.  San Diego has been turning the ball over a lot lately and could have real problems on offense without Melvin Gordon.  The Raiders should be able to come to town and throw the ball on them.  Derek Carr usually plays well against the Bolts.

Oakland 34, San Diego 27

New England Patriots (11-2) @ Denver Broncos (8-5)

The Broncos have had a tough go of it lately having an impossible time running the ball.  Their defense has fallen from where it was last year and the beginning of this one.  However, they can erase a lot of woes with a win at home over the Patriots.  Denver is the only team in football that Tom Brady does not have a winning record against and that will continue this week.  Call me crazy but I think that the Broncos will get their offense going this week against a New England “D” that has not been that great this season.

Denver 19, New England 17

Sunday, December 18th, 8:30 e.t.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-5) @ Dallas Cowboys (11-2)

The Dallas offense has been pretty bad over the last two weeks and they draw a Tampa Bay opponent who has been balling out on “D” lately.  Teams have had a tough time throwing the ball against the Bucs, but after Dak Prescott struggled the way he did last Sunday night, I can see Dallas protecting him some this game by running the ball.  They won’t lose twice in a row in prime time.  They should be able to control the clock and win this game.

Dallas 26, Tampa Bay 17

Monday, December 19th, 8:30 e.t.

Carolina Panthers (5-8) @ Washington Redskins (7-5-1)

Kirk Cousins is getting better and better as a pro quarterback and the Redskins really need to pay this man, but that is a different story.  This week Washington could really use a win to keep pace in the Wild Card race.  The Panthers were able to run the ball a bit against the Chargers and that could serve them well here.  I was going to pick Carolina in an upset, but I don’t know if I can given the weapons that the ‘Skins have on offense and the injuries the Panthers of to their “D”.  Kirk Cousins could be in for another good game.

Washington 32, Carolina 24

Week 15 Bonus Predictions

Sure Bet of the Week (11-2): Atlanta over San Francisco

Upset of the Week: Denver over New England

Offensive Player of the Week: LeSean McCoy, RB, Bills

Defensive Player of the Week: DeMarcus Ware, LB, Broncos

Rookie of the Week: Tyreek Hill, WR, Chiefs

Best Quarterback: Kirk Cousins, Redskins

Best Running Back: LeSean McCoy, Bills

Week 14 Recap: New Orleans Saints @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Final: Tampa Bay 16, New Orleans 11

Jameis Winston
Jameis Winiston throws the ball against the Saints from 12/11/16

The Buccaneers continue their hot streak as the team picked up its fifth consecutive win for the first time since 2002 in a chippy win over the plummeting New Orleans Saints.  The Tampa Bay defense was marvelous in this game, holding their division rivals to just three field goals on offense and clamping down in the red zone on a couple of different occasions against what was the best scoring team within the 20 in football.  Here’s how they did it.

As stated above, the Buccaneer defense deserves almost all of the credit for this win.  Their cornerbacks were all over the New Orleans receivers for almost the entire game.  There was one instance where Brandin Cooks beat them deep in the second quarter for what should have been six, but otherwise the team let up nothing over their heads and were making solid tackles.  Kwon Alexander and LaVante David had big games at linebacker.  David shot the gap and made a nice tackle for a loss at one point in the game and was filling the hole with great regularity alongside his very underrated teammate.  The real star in this game was Gerald McCoy.  McCoy was double-teamed frequently, but still managed to get a couple pressures against what is regarded as one of the better offensive lines in football and he was helpful in slowing the run; something that the Saints have excelled at doing lately.  SS Kieth Tandy was a man on fire in the secondary.  He is the one who officially sealed the win for the Bucs with an interception on fourth down with less than a minute to go in the game, absolutely mugging Willie Snead, but he was all over his assignments all day and had eyes on Brees passes throughout the entire contest.  Holding the Saints to just two field goals in two red zone possessions was huge for Tampa Bay and the biggest reason as to why they won this game.

Saints vs. Buccaneers
Drew Brees threw three picks in back-to-back games for the first time in his career.

New Orleans was, by no means, dynamic on offense in this game, but they did have their chances to score.  There was a play in the second quarter were Brandin Cooks got loose in the secondary and Drew Brees overthrew him.  On that same drive, Travaris Cadet dropped a gimme touchdown that would have brought the Saints to within a point going into the half.  Later, at the end of the third quarter on a third down play, Brandin Cooks let a ball drop right out of his hands to the grass after it was initially ruled a touchdown in the end zone.  Playoff teams make these plays, and the Saints did not and that is why they are sitting at 5-8 with a nearly impossible climb to the post season.  Besides those mistakes, the team combined for a season-high 13 penalties and a disastrous three turnovers.  The offense converted just 30% of their third down tries (4/13) and was 1/2 on fourth down.  A huge reason for the lack-luster offensive performance was a mediocre effort turned in by the New Orleans O-line.  Drew Brees was not afforded great protection and they did not get much of a push for the running game.  The tackle combo of Andrus Peat and Terraun Armstead was not great in this game as they were getting beat one-on-one on the edges with double team focus being put on Gerald McCoy in the middle.  Tampa Bay played a lot of man-to-man early and then switched it up and played a ton of zone in the second half and the 180 in schemes under defensive coordinator Mike Smith really baffled the Saints.

We would be singing the praise of the New Orleans defense had their offense showed up today because they were actually quite good.  Cameron Jordan had his usual impact, completely bowling over Gosder Cherilus at one point in the game.  Delvin Breaux was awesome while he was on the field, although he did leave with an injury during the middle of the game.  The Saints did not bring a ton of pressure in most situations, but they did bring heat when they stuffed the run for the safety in the second quarter.  Keeping seven men in the box was their strategy to stop the run, and it worked well as the Bucs only rushed for an average of three yards per play on 35 tries.  Paul Kruger had a nice game, officially recording two tackles and a QB pressure.  He was a force when rushing the passer and made life tough on the Tampa O-line.  Nick Fairley was an animal in stuffing the run.  He finished the afternoon with six tackles.  In the secondary, the effort of Von Bell, Ken Crawley, Delvin Breaux, and Sterling Moore was remarkable.  Mike Evans, who typically struggles against the Saints, continued that trend as he was held to just four catches for 42 yards.  This was the same player that lit up one of the best secondaries in football a couple of weeks ago in Seattle.

Doug Martin,Stephone Anthony,Nick Fairley
The Saints defense stepped up on Sunday, but unfortunately their offense managed only three field goals in a 16-11 loss.

The Tampa Bay offense got off to a hot start but quickly fizzled out because they were unable to run the ball with great success or create many big plays with the passing game.  Jameis Winston did not score a touchdown in this game for the first time in (possibly) his entire life.  He did, however, make some nice throws under pressure and showed some more tremendous mobility and strength in the pocket.  This kid grows with each start and really seems to be blossoming into one of the league’s better passers.  Charles Sims was actually the better of the two running backs today.  He broke more tackles than Doug Martin and finished with 17 yards on four carries.  Nobody ran the ball particularly well, however, as the longest rush of the game belonged to Jameis Winston.  It officially went for 14 yards.

Special teams played a big role in this contest.  Newly signed Josh Huff did muff a kickoff and the ball squirted out of bounds at the one yard line, leading to the New Orleans safety.  Roberto Aguayo was 3/3 in the kicking game and hit his lone extra point try, which is news considering the awful start that the young Florida State product had to his career.  Brian Anger pinned the Saints inside the five twice in the fourth quarter with excellent punts (along with a brilliant save by Ryan Smith who sold out to keep a punt from going into the end zone).  This really put the New Orleans offense in a tough place and contributed mightily to their eighth loss.

Now that the Saints do have eight losses, the playoffs are nearly impossible.  They will have to win out and hope for a ton of help, so it seems as though they are cooked and will have to play spoiler going forward (perhaps in two weeks when they replay these Bucs).  Tampa Bay keeps pace with Atlanta, who also went to 8-5 with a blowout win over Los Angeles this week.  The good news for the Bucs is if they keep winning they will have a good shot at a wild card spot, if not the division.  They will be tested next week on the road as the team pits their five game winning streak against the team with the best record in football, the Dallas Cowboys.  New Orleans will head to Arizona to play the Cardinals in Week 15.

Ryan Smith
Special teams ace Ryan Smith saves a punt from going into the end zone Sunday versus New Orleans.

The Skinny:

  • The Buccaneers win their fifth straight game for the first time since 2002, largely because of their defense which has allowed an average of 12.8 points per game over that stretch.
  • Jameis Winston does not account for a touchdown for the first time in his career, but he did show some more impressive mobility within the pocket throughout the game.
  • Roberto Aguayo nails three field goals and an extra point without a miss as the rookie seems to be getting back on track for the Bucs.
  • Drew Brees, for the first time in his career, throws three picks in back-to-back games and was held without a touchdown pass for his second consecutive game as he appears to be falling into a bit of a funk.
  • New Orleans had their chances in this game.  Brees overshot Brandin Cooks on a deep throw which would have been six in the second quarter, and then Travaris Cadet dropped a would be touchdown on that same drive while Cooks botched one in the end zone that would have put the Saints in front going into the fourth quarter.
  • The New Orleans defense was not to blame for this loss.  After surrendering a quick 13 points to the Bucs, the Saints defense held Tampa to just three points over the team’s final six drives, including one safety.  They held Mike Evans in check as the star wide-out finished with a line of 4-42-0.