Category Archives: Week 3, 2016 Season

Week 3 of the 2016 season.

Week 3: Minnesota Vikings @ Carolina Panthers Recap

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Tom Johnson and Everson Griffen combining for one of eight sacks on Cam Newton.

Final: Minnesota Vikings 22, Carolina Panthers 10

It was a smothering effort by the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday afternoon as the team went on to score 22 unanswered points en route to a dominant road win over the 2015 NFC Champs.  There was not a ton to clap about on offense, however the defense swarmed and there were many standout players in this contest.

For the Vikings offense, the line was actually harassed by Carolina.  A lot of the time it is due to a dominant defensive effort, but that was not necessarily the case this afternoon.  Injuries and poor play really hampered the front and made it tough for Minnesota to do anything with the football in the first half.  Once the team went into the half and made corrections, it became much easier for them to move down the field.  Sam Bradford, after completing only four out of eleven passes in the first half, went a solid 14/17 in the second with a touchdown pass.  He was getting rid of the ball in a hurry on the back end of three step drops.  Credit Norv Turner for some fantastic in-game adjustments.  Stefon Diggs looked very good with his route running in this game, twisting many of defenders around.  Kyle Rudolph grabbed seven balls for 70 yards and a score.  Sam Bradford loves his tight ends and is fixing to make a star out of Rudolph.

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Sam Bradford went 14/17 in the second half to bring his team back from a 10 point first quarter deficit.

Defensively for the Vikings, there were a ton of stars in this game.  Danielle Hunter sacked Cam Newton in the end zone for a safety in the first quarter, and that looked small compared to some of the efforts from other players.  Everson Griffen pitched in with three out of the team’s eight total sacks as well as a couple of additional pressures and some help in the run game.  He was a force.  Xavier Rhodes did an amazing job locking down Kelvin Benjamin throughout this game in man coverage.  The Panthers’ number one wide-out was shut out in this game and was only targeted one time; very late in the game.  Harrison Smith played like a man on fire, flying all over the field and tackling everybody in frame.  Erik Kendricks missed a couple of tackles to account for one of the only down performances in an otherwise dominant defensive effort for the Vikes.

Offensively for the Panthers, it got ugly in a hurry.  They started out great, scoring ten points over the course of their first two drives, but their momentum was quickly stymied by the buzz-saw known as the Minnesota defense.  For starters, Carolina ran a surprising amount of 12 and 11 personnel (meaning one back and two tight ends or one back and one tight end).  This was likely to keep the Vikings in their base defense and force them into some rather vanilla looks.  On paper, this was a good plan but unfortunately Minnesota wised to it and outplayed the Panthers.  As stated above, Kelvin Benjamin was completely shut out, and the rest of the wide receivers looked very ordinary in this game.  Philly Brown and Ted Ginn did chip in with some nice plays, but neither of them were able to get behind the defense after the first quarter.  Cameron Artis-Payne was not bad in this game, and it would have benefited the Panthers to run the pall more with him.  They got too aggressive with the offense and were looking for the big play down the field in the pass game.  The Minnesota corners would not let the wide-outs shake loose and this forced Cam to hold the ball and take sacks.  Poor play-calling was a big part of the twelve point loss.  Also, the Panthers made many silly and sloppy mistakes.  False starts, illegal formations, and holdings were among some of the terrible penalties that hampered drives for Carolina making it hard for them to move the ball.  They may have gotten away with these errors had they been facing a more inferior team, but the Vikings are too good to goof up against.

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Adam Thielen with a one handed catch late in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s action.

On defense, the Panthers played a good game.  Luke Keuchly, as he often is, was the best player in the game.  He made quite a few run stops, had a QB rush and hit, and was flying sideline to sideline tackling everybody.  Thomas Davis did his thing as well, reeling in a sack and making 10 tackles.  The two lead the team in takedowns with a combined 23.  Tre Boston was around the line of scrimmage a lot, and made a couple of nice stamps however he was out of position on a couple of plays which really cost the team late.  James Bradberry, the rookie, was nice in man-to-man coverage but really struggled in zone when he was targeted on the afternoon.  Shaq Thompson was a no-show in this game, being completely neutralized by the Vikings on the afternoon.

Simply put, the Vikings looked like the better team in Carolina today.  Their defense was great after getting pushed around in the first quarter and they are the reason for the team’s 3-0 start.  Sam Bradford played well again and had no trouble reading the defense and taking what they were giving him once he was actually protected.  The offense made only eleven first downs in the game, but nine of them were in the second half and five of them came on the touchdown drive that gave them the lead out of the break.  Also, the team racked up 211 yards in the game, but 177 of them did come in the third and fourth quarters.  Marcus Sherels had a 54 yard punt return for a touchdown in the second quarter that contributed to the team’s win on the day.  The Vikings fly back home to take on the once beaten Giants next Monday night, a team that Sam Bradford got to play twice last year when he was on the Eagles.  The Panthers hit the road to face the Atlanta Falcons, the only team to defeat them in the regular season a year ago.  Being 1-2 with some very sloppy play, Carolina needs to rally the troops and play some better football if they hope to maintain their status as an NFC powerhouse.

Sam Bradford, Jeremiah Sirles
Sam Bradford celebrates a touchdown pass from 9/25/16.

The Skinny:

  • The Minnesota defense was awesome in this game.  They sacked Cam Newton eight times, three of them coming from Everson Griffen.  They also picked Newton off three times and completely shut out Kelvin Benjamin.
  • Marcus Sherels had a 54 yard punt return for a TD in the second quarter that helped the Vikings rally from what was once a ten point deficit.
  • After going 4/11 in the first half, Sam Bradford finished the game 14/17 in the second half despite a poor showing from his offensive line.  He looked good for the second week in a row and it is clear that the Vikings are no worse off at QB without Teddy Bridgewater.
  • The Panthers now have 30 straight games with 100+ rushing yards, but they were barely able to do it in this game, racking up only 105 of them, many coming late on scrambles from Cam Newton.
  • Carolina was flagged ten times for 65 yards.  Many of these were pre-play fouls which could have been prevented with better preparation and more sound play.  They also scored no points after jumping out to a 10 point lead after two drives.
  • Cam Newton is holding the ball too long and is trying to hit too many big plays down the field this season.  Teams that can run with their wide receivers stand a chance against Carolina if they can keep #1 in the pocket like Minnesota did today.
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2016 Season: Week 3 Preview

There is something smelly in town.  Could it be the New Orleans secondary?  What about the Los Angeles offense?  The Cleveland Browns quarterback situation?  How about the entire Raiders’ defense?  No.  It is none of this.  Instead, what reeks of pure disgusting and moldy cheese is my picks.  17-15?  Yikes.  Well, the first two weeks are in the books and we are beginning to get a better picture on who is going to be good this season and who will not be.  From here on out we are shooting for 70% or better!  Here are my Week 3 picks.

Last Week 8-8

Season: 17-15

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

Houston Texans (2-0) @ New England Patriots (2-0)

The Jacob Brisket era has begun in New England.  Jacoby Brissett will be making his first start against a Houston defense that has allowed only 26 points on the season.  The Patriots probably have the most giddy feeling of any team in the league this season as they are 2-0 without Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski.  They could lose these next two games and be fine when Brady returns in Week 5.  This is a good thing too because I see them losing this game to Houston.  As tempting as it is to pick the Pats here, we will have to go with the Texans.  New England will be wearing some very odd jerseys due to the color rush gimmick.  Fans are going to see highlights from this game and remember it as the game of the ugly jerseys and the one that they lost to the Texans at home in the waning minutes.  Houston actually has the longest regular season winning streak of any team in the league.  They will move to six games in a row with a narrow win on the road.

Houston 24, New England 20

Sunday, September 25th, 1:00 e.t.

Oakland Raiders (1-1) @ Tennessee Titans (1-1)

The Titans may be a sneaky smart pick for an upset this week, but it will not happen.  As you could probably tell from reading the opening narrative to this article, the Raiders’ defense ain’t so hot right now.  They have are the 32nd ranked defense in the league and haven’t so much as slowed down Matt Ryan or Drew Brees.  Luckily the team faces Marcus Mariota this week, a second year QB who hasn’t had a solid start to his season.  Oakland will actually get some pressure this game and force some errant passes, so long as the Titans don’t stubbornly spoon-feed the Raiders a heavy dosage of DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry with mild success that is.  Ken Wisenhunt’s smashmouth football strategy hasn’t really gotten going yet and in today’s league trying to force it is like jamming a hot dog into a cheerio hole.  That probably sounded dirtier than it should have.

Oakland 26, Tennessee 17

Cleveland Browns (0-2) @ Miami Dolphins (0-2)

What a barnburner this one is!  Cody Kessler will be getting the nod for the Brownies on the road.  This, for Cleveland, is amazingly the fifth straight regular season game where they will be starting a new quarterback under center.  Charlie Whitehurst will be holding down the fort from the sidelines in case Kessler doesn’t get the job done.  For Miami, the Dolphins looked good week one against the Seahawks on the road but were absolutely shredded last week by Jimmy Garoppolo in a quarter and a half.  The defense got it going once he was hurt but it was a little too late as the game was too far out of hand.  I have a feeling that the Miami defense will feast on the rookie quarterback at home and force a lot of bad passes.  If they can contain Corey Coleman, there shouldn’t be any issues down there.  The Browns did the best they could to jam every highlight of their season that they could into the first quarter last week versus Baltimore.  Mission succeeded, but now you gotta hit the road against a team that is desperate for a win in the early season.  Here comes a car crash.

Miami 31, Cleveland 6

Baltimore Ravens (2-0) @ Jacksonville Jaguars (0-2)

Every week in the NFL there seem to be eight easy games to call, a couple of upsets, and about four or five contests that could go either way.  This is one of those four or five.  As they say, a sheep deciding between two bales of hay will starve to death.  You just gotta pick one.  I’m going to go with the Jags, very begrudgingly.  Part of me wants to believe that Jacksonville is a team on the rise, but until I see them win a game at home like this, I’m going to hesitate on picking them.  They gave Green Bay a nice fight in Week 1, but then were shoved aside like a plate of broccoli at the kid’s table in San Diego last Sunday.  This should be a competitive game, but the Ravens did need to make a big comeback on the road in Cleveland.  If they had won that game convincingly, I’d have no issues picking them because we would all think they are back to form, but small wins over the Bills and Browns isn’t enough to get me excited.  Will the Jacksonville offense wake up?  This pick is me betting on them doing just that.

Jacksonville 30, Baltimore 20

Arizona Cardinals (1-1) @ Buffalo Bills (0-2)

The Cardinals broke out the belt against Tampa Bay and they are swinging for the fences as they hit the road against Buffalo.  The Bills defense is injury riddled and letting up big plays this season.  When you are facing off with a Bruce Arians coached team that loves taking shots, this is a horrible combination.  John Brown and Michael Floyd were invisible last week but should return here against a team that allowed two 100-yard receivers a week ago (and almost a third) along with a 100-yard rusher.  All signs point towards a blowout, but I doubt that Arizona is going to give the Bills a wedgie and take their lunch money.  This is probably going to be a close game that sees quite a few defensive plays being made on both sides of the ball.  In the end, I just can’t afford to throw caution to the wind and start picking teams like Buffalo to beat NFC powerhouses.  We aren’t trying for another 8-8 week.

Arizona 22, Buffalo 20

Minnesota Vikings (2-0) @ Carolina Panthers (1-1)

This is a good game.  Having it played in the 1:00 window and then having the Bears and Cowboys play Sunday night is sort of like enjoying your ice cream cake dessert before your lumpy meat loaf dinner.  Anywho, the Vikings are coming off of an impressive win over the Packers.  Sam Bradford looked great in his debut with the team and Stefon Diggs looks like he is trying to make the leap to an elite-level wide receiver.  Trying to join him in that journey is Kelvin Benjamin who already has three touchdowns on the year.  i’ll be picking Carolina for this game as they have way too much talent and look like one of the best teams in the league again, but it wasn’t without a thought.  Yes, Adrian Peterson will be missing several games due to a torn meniscus, but he wasn’t running roughshod on defenses this year anyhow.  Actually, the Vikings defense is what has carried this team, and asking them to slow down the Panthers on the road is not going to be easy.  Carolina takes the (ice cream) cake here.

Carolina 35, Minnesota 21

Denver Broncos (2-0) @ Cincinnati Bengals (1-1)

Here’s another game that is leaving me wondering why we get stuck with the Bears/Cowboys on Sunday night instead of a gem.  The Denver defense has been as good as it was last season while the offense remains the same.  There doesn’t seem to be any falloff after losing Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler over the offseason.  The Broncos are a good team.  The Bengals can say that they are too, even though they lost a week ago to Pittsburgh.  The defense did do a nice job shutting down Antonio Brown however.  They also draw the Broncos on the road here.  This will be their first game away from home and I expect that to play a huge role in this one.  It is also Cincy’s home opener in the 1:00 window.  The Bengals don’t normally lose these types of games and I don’t expect them to this week.  I see the Denver defense falling off a bit against a good offensive team.  Give me the home team here.

Cincinnati 27, Denver 13

Detroit Lions (1-1) @ Green Bay Packers (1-1)

The Packers season is almost identical to the Bengals season so far this year in the sense that they gutted out a tough road win in Week 1 and then lost on the road to a very good team last Sunday.  Now they will open the home schedule against a team that has had their number at Lambeau over the past… season.  Of course, we all remember how much trouble the Lions had winning in Wisconsin prior to their stunning 18-16 win a season ago in the (at the time not so) frozen tundra.  This Green Bay offense has to get going soon, right?  They are going to be moving the ball against a Detroit defense that barely did enough to win Week 1 versus Indy and let a middling sophomore quarterback lead a comeback drive in the final minute against them this past week.  Sure, Matthew Stafford has looked good at times, but he is Matthew Stafford.  This dude really struggles when playing winning teams.  And although Green Bay does not have a winning record at this point in the season, it is safe to say they have a winning team.  The Packers should take care of business at home and I think we are going to see a dramatic spike in their offense playing in front of a more friendly crowd.

Green Bay 34, Detroit 24

Washington Redskins (0-2) @ New York Giants (2-0)

Do we still like Kirk Cousins after the first two weeks of the season?  I can’t say I do as they guy is still yet to win against a team with a winning record.  The Giants are 2-0 and are winning games that they would have lost last season.  Sure, they didn’t score an offensive touchdown against the New Orleans Saints but they did still win the game.  That is what it all comes down to: finding a way to win.  The ‘Skins look like they are taking a step backward this season and they do not tend to play very well on the road against the Giants.  Kirk Cousins is very generous with the ball when he does play New York as he begins to rain interceptions like it were party confetti.  Of course, you can bet that if Washington did win the game, we would see Cousins yelling at reporters yet again.

You Like That??

^A great face to put on the $1 bill by the way.  At the end of the day, I don’t think that the Redskins have the caliber of team to run with the Giants if their offense gets hot.  This is a game that New York does want to win because they will be hitting a brutal stretch following this contest.

New York 27, Washington 15

Sunday, September 25th, 4:05 e.t.

Los Angeles Rams (1-1) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-1)

The Buccaneers flat out got stomped by the Cardinals a week ago and will try to bounce back against a Rams team that has scored a total of nine points in two games.  That should put them at 0-2, but as it is, LA is 1-1.  Tampa Bay doesn’t have to be perfect on offense to win this game.  All they have to do is slow down Todd Gurley aka the entire Rams offense.  They have not looked too bad against two of the fantasy football darlings so far this season in the run game (Devonta Freeman and David Johnson).  Of course, Johnson did have almost 100 yards receiving against Tampa in Arizona last week, and that is something that would be concerning if the Rams could actually throw the ball.  Since they really can’t, I have no problem in selecting the Buccaneers at home this week.

Tampa Bay 20, St. Louis 9

San Francisco 49ers (1-1) @ Seattle Seahawks (1-1)

Well I’ll be diddly darn damned.  The 49ers can actually play a little offense this season.  Unfortunately they still got run out of the gym by the Panthers a week ago, but they have shown some semblance of hope on that side of the ball for the first time in a bit.  The Seahawks however have scored just 15 points all season long.  You would think they are the worst offense in the league, but of course we know that Russell Wilson is hurting right now.  The good news for these guys is that their defense has surrendered only 19 points on the year.  This is a unit that really slammed the doors on Chip Kelly’s offense the last time they played in Week 14 in ’14 against Philadelphia.  I expect them to follow that blueprint and come out on top with a victory.  It’s only a matter of time before we start yearning to see Colin Kaepernick run Chip Kelly’s offense.  Okay, okay, that might just be wishful thinking on my part.

Seattle 21, San Francisco 10

Sunday, September 25th, 4:25 e.t.

San Diego Chargers (1-1) @ Indianapolis Colts (0-2)

This truly is a quarterback duel.  You got Philip Rivers and those guys versus Andrew Luck and these guys.  Rivers and Luck don’t have a lot of help in their games and will have to rely on their own talent to win some close contests this season.  At least Philip has a rejuvenated Melvin Gordon to lean on.  This San Diego offense is using a cane to get around these days as they have gone consecutive weeks with losing a valuable offensive weapon, first with Keenan Allen and next with Danny Woodhead.  Philip Rivers is ironman though, so we expect him to play through anything.  Andrew Luck is waiting on Donte Moncrief and T.Y. Hilton to wake up and smell some coffee.  He has not looked bad this season, but has literally had to do everything for the Colts.  Normally this is a bad sign, but I think that Indy comes out with a win this week.  The Chargers are just too banged up and the Colts are the more desperate team, I think.  They really cannot afford to fall to 0-3 with Houston getting out to a quick start.

Indianapolis 35, San Diego 26

New York Jets (1-1) @ Kansas City Chiefs (1-1)

Just how good are the Chiefs?  They beat a San Diego team at home in Week 1, but it took them overtime and a major comeback to do it.  They lost pretty badly to Houston last week without even scoring a touchdown.  The offense has looked inconstant and the defense hasn’t been making plays.  The opposite can be said about the Jets.  They have been putting heat on the opposing quarterbacks and defenses with sacks and big passing plays.  New York looks like it is a far better team at this point that do the Chiefs.  I was going to pick Kansas City given Andy Reid’s success against this franchise, but I just can’t.  The Jets are about to hit a make-or-break stretch early in the season, and this is a team that I expect to be in the running late in the year.  They simply have to win games like this and right now is a good time to draw the Chiefs since they are still trying to find an identity on offense and are reeling a bit out of the gates.  They will turn it around soon, but are also quite vulnerable right at this very moment.

New York 31, Kansas City 19

Pittsburgh Steelers (2-0) @ Philadelphia Eagles (2-0)

In yet another good game on the Week 3 docket, we get the battle of Pennsylvania when the Steelers take on the Iggles.  A lot is going to be learned of this Philly team and Carson Wentz this week.  He has looked superb in starts against weak secondaries.  Jim Schwartz’s defense has looked awesome, but it was, again, against the Browns and Bears.  Now they have to cope with the Steelers who boast what is undoubtedly the best offense in football.  The Eagles are prone to giving up big plays and that does not bode well for them here.  Antonio Brown is itching to go off after being held in check by the Bengals and I fully expect him to in this game.  Carson Wentz is obviously the story for the Eagles but I don’t know if there are enough playmakers on the offense for him to be able to go blow for blow with Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers.  This would be an attractive option for a trap game as far as Pittsburgh is concerned, and I do think Philly will be relevant this year, but the Steelers are too hot to pick against right now since they do look like the best team in football early on.

Pittsburgh 28, Philadelphia 21

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

Chicago Bears (0-2) @ Dallas Cowboys (1-1)

There is something wrong here.  How are we stuck with this game when there are many other brilliant contests taking place throughout the week?  All the Sunday Night Football games have been good this season, and this one likely will be also.  Dak Prescott has still not turned the ball over on the season and he is facing off against a Chicago unit that has been hit harder with the injury bug than any other team in the NFC.  You would think they were the Packers in that respect.  Dak should have a nice game, especially if the other rookie Ezekiel Elliot finally gets things going.  This is a perfect time for the Dallas offensive line to get right too since they are facing off against the inferior Bears D-line.  Let’s not forget about Brian Hoyer though.  He is certainly an entertaining guy to watch, sometimes for the wrong reasons.  It is the bald guy in the backup QB bowl who will be heaving it down field to Alshon Jeffery.  Unfortunately there won’t be enough jump balls to be had and I do see Dallas coming out with a win.  The Bears may struggle to score points all year and the Cowboys have a better roster up and down at virtually every position.  Hard to pick against a team in this situation.

Dallas 20, Chicago 14

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

Atlanta Falcons (1-1) @ New Orleans Saints (0-2)

The Monday night games have been snoozers so far this season, but that should change this week.  Atlanta’s offense looks very good and they are going against a secondary that would make you believe that the Saints are trotting just nine defenders out on the field on given plays.  That said, the New Orleans offense is definitely capable of putting up points if Drew Brees can be kept upright.  Luckily for them, the Falcons have a serious lack of a pass rush and there is a good chance that ole #9 picks them apart at home.  It is so hard to pick against the Saints on Monday nights as well since they seemingly always do well in these types of games.  America should see a shootout in this contest, but then again that is what was said about last week’s game between the Saints and the Giants.  Just goes to show how crazy this league can be.  I will be going with N’orleans here for the sheer fact that I think that Brees can cut right through this Atlanta defense and find some serious match-up problems.

New Orleans 38, Atlanta 31

Week 3 Bonus Predictions

Sure Bet of the Week (2-0): Miami over Cleveland

Upset of the Week: New York Jets over Kansas City

Offensive Player of the Week: Drew Brees, QB Saints

Defensive Player of the Week: Kwon Alexander, LB Buccaneers

Rookie of the Week: Ezekiel Elliot, RB Cowboys

Best Quarterback: Drew Brees

Best Running Back: Eddie Lacy, RB Packers