Tag Archives: 2015 season

Week 8: Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Atlanta Falcons Recap

Rookie QB Jameis Winston was solid in the game Sunday in Atlanta.
Rookie QB Jameis Winston was solid in the game Sunday in Atlanta.

Final: Tampa Bay 23, Atlanta 20 (OT)

The Buccaneers watched a 17-point second half lead evaporate for the second straight week, but are able to pull it together in overtime to clip the sloppy Atlanta Falcons 23-20.  Tampa did not turn the ball over in this contest and rookie Jameis Winston looked solid in his decision making and pocket presence.  Doug Martin made a few tackle-breaking runs that reminded fans of his 2012 rookie campaign in the game as well, but the real star in this one was linebacker Kwon Alexander.  He was all over the place and was able to chase down and strip Julio Jones of the ball in the first quarter, and intercept an errant Matt Ryan pass late in the second quarter.  He had another pick wiped away due to a penalty on the Falcon opening drive.  Alexander also lead the team in tackles with six solo and five assisted stops.

This was one of the two turnovers forced by Tampa Bay linebacker Kwon Alexander from November 1st, 2015.
This was one of the two turnovers forced by Tampa Bay linebacker Kwon Alexander from November 1st, 2015.

As well as the Buccaneers played in this contest, the result may have been more based upon how bad the Falcons were.  They turned the ball over four times and committed a season high 11 penalties for 124 yards.  Matt Ryan’s numbers were respectable as he did throw for 397 yards, but when push came to shove in overtime, the offensive line was not able to slow the Tampa pass rush and Ryan could not deliver an accurate ball during crunch time.  Center Mike Person had a rough game as he was called for a hold, was beat a couple of times on the interior, and made a couple of bad snaps.  The Falcons also turned the ball over twice in the red zone against a team that had struggled in that area of the field.

As easy as it is to give kudos to the Buccaneers for this win, it is important to remember that they did cough up a 17-point lead.  They became the first team to do that in back-to-back weeks since the Vikings did it in 2011.  Tampa Bay has had a lot of trouble finishing games, and that is something that they will have to work on if they hope to even compete in the NFC South in the near future.  The defense gave up a game-tying touchdown pass in regulation with just 18 seconds left and luckily they won the toss in overtime, because had they not it wouldn’t have been a stretch to say that the Falcons would have ridden their momentum that they were creating to a win.  Nevertheless, Jameis Winston delivered a great drive when he had to in order to seal a win for his team.

The NFC South is as crazy as any division in football at the moment.  The Falcons have dropped to 6-2 and sit in second place in the division behind Carolina.  With this win the Buccaneers climb to 3-4 and are not completely out of it.  And don’t look now but the Saints are 4-4 and red hot coming into the second half of the season.  Atlanta will have to find some momentum soon otherwise they could risk seeing their hot start fade into the background.  One thing is for sure, they will not win many games turning the ball over four times.  A good win by Tampa Bay, but this game should be classified as more of a Falcon loss rather than a Buccaneer win.

The Skinny:

  • Atlanta turned the ball over four times in the game and did not force any takeaways themselves
    Jameis Winston had one of his best games this season on the road in Atlanta.
    Jameis Winston had one of his best games this season on the road in Atlanta.
  • Even though they won, the Bucs became the first team since 2011 to relinquish 17 point leads in back-to-back games
  • Matt Ryan completed 37 passes (tying a career high) for 397 yards in the game
  • Roddy White continued to fade as he made only two catches for 24 yards.  He was a ghost for the first three quarters
  • Kwon Alexander forced two turnovers and was flying around the field for the Buccaneers
  • Defending the middle of the field was a problem for Tampa Bay as Julio Jones and company ate them alive
  • The Buccaneers had allowed teams to score in the red zone on 25 consecutive drives entering this game.  They stopped the Falcons from scoring twice in this contest in those situations

Week 7: New Orleans Saints vs. Indianapolis Colts Recap

Andrew Luck faced a lot of pressure in the game Sunday against the Saints
Andrew Luck faced a lot of pressure in the game Sunday against the Saints

Final: New Orleans 27, Indianapolis 21

The Indianapolis Colts suffer a back-breaking loss at the hands of the New Orleans Saints at home, 27-21.  Sean Payton’s team dominated in the first half forcing three turnovers and two Andrew Luck interceptions.  Luke McCown also connected with Benjamin Watson on a 25 yard pass off of a fake field goal in the first quarter that lead to the first score of the game.  Overall, the Saints took a 20-0 lead into the half, which was their biggest in four years (since the last time they played the Colts, as a matter of a fact).

Andrew Luck started off very slow and had to dig his team out of a hole early.  He started the game off 0/5 passing with a pick, and didn’t get his first completion until the 9:11 mark in the second quarter, the slowest start in his career.  The New Orleans cornerbacks did an outstanding job covering throughout the game.  Delvin Breaux was victimized twice in the third quarter by T.Y. Hilton as he was tripped up trying to cover Indy’s number one receiver.  Both times he fell down, Hilton was able to prance into the end zone.  #13 finished the day with four catches for 150 yards; 131 of those coming on his two touchdown receptions.

The Indianapolis cornerbacks were actually very good in their own right in this game.  They did a fine job blanketing

Brandin Cooks made a clutch 47 yard catch in the fourth quarter of this contest from 10/25/15
Brandin Cooks made a clutch 47 yard catch in the fourth quarter of this contest from 10/25/15

Brandin Cooks and Marques Colston, for the most part, however the two of them were able to make a couple of game-changing plays.  On a 3rd and 8 at its own 3 yard line, Drew Brees hooked up with Cooks for a 47 yard gainer (with 8:54 to go in the game).  The other big play was the 20 yard completion to Colston with 2:09 to go in the fourth on a third and three.  Clearly the Colts corners were unable to make the plays when they absolutely needed to, but otherwise they were fine (which does not say much).  With that being said, the main downfall for Indy was its rushing defense.  Mark Ingram carved them up for 143 yards on 14 carries with a touchdown while Khiry Robinson slammed it in the end zone twice with his 14 carries.  The Saints rushed for a season-high 183 yards and three touchdowns.  That was a big factor in this game.

Andrew Luck still looked a bit rusty, and if it had not been for two major plays to T.Y. Hilton in the third quarter, his numbers would have been atrocious and this game would have been a blowout.  As it was, the Saints had their way with Indy, but the Colts did fight back in the end to make it look respectable.  Nevertheless, they fell to 3-4 while New Orleans moved up to the same record.  Luckily for the Colts, everybody else in the AFC South looks feeble and they should be able to wrap the division up in spite of their sloppy play early on.  For the Saints, they have looked good since getting romped by the Eagles a couple of weeks back, but since their division is strong (with 6-0 Carolina and 6-1 Atlanta), they are going to have to put together an impressive run going forward here.  They get a chance to do so next week at home against the Giants while the Colts travel to Charlotte next Monday night and attempt to be the first team to clip the unbeaten Panthers.

Mark Ingram ran for a season's high 143 yards and a touchdown on Sunday against the Colts.
Mark Ingram ran for a season’s high 143 yards and a touchdown on Sunday against the Colts.

The Skinny:

  • The Saints rushed for a season-high 183 yards and three touchdowns in the game
  • T.Y. Hilton had 131 yards receiving in the third quarter on two catches (both touchdowns).  One was an 87 yard score which is the longest reception in his career and the longest completion of Andrew Luck’s career
  • Luck’s slow start doomed the Colts in this one.  He began the game 0/5 with a pick and Indy trailed 20-0 at the half
  • A nicely executed 25-yard fake field goal pass from Luke McCown to Benjamin Watson got this game started off in exciting fashion, leading to a 1 yard Khiry Robinson touchdown plunge
  • Cameron Jordan looked solid yet again with a couple of quarterback pressures and two sacks in the game
  • Colts’ rookie Phillip Dorsett left the game with, what appeared to be, a greusome leg injury
  • Each punter kicked it away a season’s high ten times in this game

Week 6: Kansas City Chiefs vs. Minnesota Vikings Recap

Teddy Bridgewater celebrates with Kyle Rudolph after a touchdown from Sunday, 10/19/15.
Teddy Bridgewater celebrates with Kyle Rudolph after a touchdown from Sunday, 10/19/15.

Final: Minnesota 16, Kansas City 10

It was a beautiful Sunday in the Twin Cities as the Vikings ride some solid defense and timely offense to a six-point victory.  The Minnesota “D” held the Chiefs to only 51 total yards in the first half and shut them out for the first three quarters.  Of course, the stingy Viking defense was helped out by the ineptitude of the Kansas City offense which was really missing Jamaal Charles.  KC compiled only 19 yards rushing in the first half and 57 for the game.  The team was an overall 3/12 (25%) on third down and 0/2 on fourth down, mainly because they were in a number of long down and distance situations.  If it weren’t for Alex Smith passing for 237 yards in the second half, this game would have been a laugher.

The Kansas City defense was very good, however.  They withstood Teddy Bridgewater’s 143 passing yards in the first quarter and allowed just 106 for the rest of the game.  Allen Bailey was a force in the middle of the line, and Marcus

Action from Sunday's game between Kansas City and Minnesota
Action from Sunday’s game between Kansas City and Minnesota

Peters had himself a solid game on the outside.  Those were the two biggest standouts from this game for the Chiefs.

On the opposite side, the Vikings didn’t look overly crisp for a majority of the game on offense.  Bridgewater was able to step up in the pocket and make some nice throws, but he had to deal with a lot of pressure which lead to a couple of interceptions.  Stefan Diggs had his second straight impressive performance.  He caught seven balls for 129 yards and looked great running routes and creating separation.  He appears to be the best receiver for Minnesota.  They needed that on a day like this where Adrian Peterson was completely bottled up.  26 carries for 60 yards was all he could manage on the day.  15 of those carries were for two yards or less.

The Chiefs did have their opportunities to close the gap in this game.  Late in the third quarter, Charcandrick West was stuffed on a fourth and inches deep in the red zone.  After reviewing the play, it wasn’t so obvious that he was down and if he hadn’t been, he was able to make it into the end zone.  However, the ruling on the field was that he was down by contact.  Also, Kansas City had two chances to drive for the lead in the fourth quarter.  One time, West fumbled the ball away (with 4:32 left) and the other time they failed on fourth down right at the two minute warning.  Minnesota was then able to sit on the ball.

Some more bad news for the Chiefs: Jeremy Maclin left this game in the third quarter with a concussion.  He may struggle getting back on the field next week when his team takes on the Steelers.  The Vikings will hit the road and visit the Lions, a team that finally picked up their first win of the year on this same day.  Minnesota has something in Stefan Diggs, and if Bridgewater can continue to improve we might be talking about this team come time for the post season.

The Skinny

  • Stefan Diggs went off again for the Vikings, with seven catches for 129 yards

    Jeremy Maclin suffered from a concussion in the third quarter of Sunday's game.
    Jeremy Maclin suffered from a concussion in the third quarter of Sunday’s game.
  • The Kansas City offense was pathetic in the first half and looked like it really missed Jamaal Charles
  • Jeremy Maclin left the game midway through the third quarter with a concussion
  • The Chiefs were able to bottle Adrian Peterson up, holding him to 2.1 yards/carry and stuffing him for two yards or less on 15 of his 26 carries
  • The Minnesota offensive line did not have a strong game, and they allowed the Chiefs to bully Bridgewater quite a bit
  • Alex Smith threw for 237 yards in the second half and didn’t look too bad.  He is not the problem with the Kansas City offense

Week 5: Arizona Cardinals vs. Detroit Lions Recap

Carson Palmer scanning the field from 10/11/15.
Carson Palmer scanning the field from 10/11/15.

Final: Arizona 42, Detroit 17

It was a forgettable afternoon for Matthew Stafford, the Lions, and their fan base on Sunday as they suffered a blowout loss to the Arizona Cardinals at Ford Field.  The only good news for Detroit was on the shoulders of Calvin Johnson.  In the first quarter be made his 671st career reception, to set a new franchise record, overtaking Herman Moore.

Theo Riddick celebrates from Sunday's game.
Theo Riddick celebrates from Sunday’s game.

Speaking of Johnsons, the Cardinals had a trio of them who had big games.  Chris Johnson carried the ball 11 times for 103 yards in this game.  His runningback counterpart David Johnson was able to find the end zone twice on four carries.  Defensively, Reshad Johnson had a terrific game.  He recorded two interceptions as well as a fumble recovery.  Arizona forced six Detroit turnovers in the game and forced Jim Caldwell to pull Matthew Stafford midway through the third quarter.

The major turning point in this game was when Cory Redding intercepted a screen pass from Stafford.  After that play, the Cardinals built way too much momentum and scored at will on the Detroit defense, that was missing their star linebacker DeAndre Levy again with another hip injury.  He exited the game in the second quarter and was not heard from again.  Arizona really proved its dominance when they completed a 99-yard touchdown drive in the second quarter.  This series included a 49 yard pass play to John Brown and a 40 yard dash by Chris Johnson.  All and all, the Cards put up 28 points in the quarter, their most since 1987.

Dan Orlovsky came in in relief of the ineffective Stafford and did not fare much better.  He was intercepted once, but did throw a touchdown in the waning moments of the game.  For now, Jim Caldwell is saying that Matt Stafford’s job is safe, but you have to wonder how much more this Detroit fan base can take if the former #1 overall pick continues to struggle like he has this season.

Arizona improves to 4-1 on the year and will go battle the Michael Vick led Steelers in Pittsburgh next week.  Early indications are that the Cards will be heavily favored to win this match-up.  Meanwhile, the 0-5 Lions will hunt for their first win of the year at home against the division rival Bears.  Detroit is the only team in the league without a win so far on the season.  This is a talented team that has had an impossible time running the ball on the season.  Those struggles continued in this contest and if the Lions do not find some semblance of a ground game, they could be looking at a really pathetic season.

The Skinny

  • Calvin Johnson became the franchise leader in receptions for Detroit with 671, passing Herman Moore

    Calvin Johnson became the leading receiver in Detroit Lions history surpassing Herman Moore with his 671st catch on Sunday.
    Calvin Johnson became the leading receiver in Detroit Lions history surpassing Herman Moore with his 671st catch on Sunday.
  • Matthew Stafford was benched due to ineffective play in the third quarter
  • The Cardinals forced six turnovers in this game, the most the Lions have given it away since Week 10 of the 2011 season against the Bears.  The six takeaways was the most for the Cards since Week 11 in 2012 against the Falcons
  • The Cardinals scored 28 points in the second quarter, their most since 1987, and the most any team has scored in any quarter in a game since the Packers dropped 28 points in the second quarter on the Bears in Week 10 last season
  • The Lions, as a team, attempted 70 passes in this game, tying an NFL record
  • Carson Palmer has had a quarterback rating of over 100 in four of his five games this year and has thrown 13 touchdown passes, tying him for the league lead with Aaron Rodgers

Week 4: Green Bay Packers vs. San Francisco 49ers Recap

Randall Cobb making a nice grab from 10/4/15
Randall Cobb making a nice grab from 10/4/15

Final: Green Bay 17, San Francisco 3

It was a slug-fest in Santa Clara on Sunday afternoon that saw the Green Bay defense smothering the 49ers offense to the tune of six sacks, one interception, and an allowance of only one field goal.  Colin Kaepernick didn’t look much better than he did last week when he threw four interceptions against Arizona, and the Niners really struggled to run the ball (outside of a few quarterback scrambles).

Nothing was easy for Green Bay either outside of their opening drive where Aaron Rodgers took the team right down the

Colin Kaepernick and Clay Matthews have had their run-ins in the past, and Sunday was no different
Colin Kaepernick and Clay Matthews have had their run-ins in the past, and Sunday was no different

field and into the end zone for a touchdown.  After that they managed to score only ten more points as the Niners’ defense was pretty solid.  They were able to get off the field on third down, which was important, as the Pack was held to 5/15 on their third down conversions.  They were, however, two for two going for it on fourth down.  Tim Masthay punted six times, which, for Green Bay, seems like a lot these days.  It was the most they have punted in a game this season.

James Jones was the go-to guy for Aaron Rodgers, catching five passes for 98 yards, including an incredible toe-tipping grab on the boundary to convert a third and seven midway through the third quarter.  This led to a 1-yard touchdown run by fullback John Kuhn, his first score since Week 1 of the 2013 season.  Mason Crosby missed a 44 yard field goal going into the half, and hit a 31 yarder in the third quarter to finish his day 1/2.  The Green Bay defensive line was incredible in this contest.  B.J. Raji was especially impressive as he was constantly able to penetrate into the backfield.  The Pack did a nice job containing Colin Kaepernick, something they have struggled mightily to do in the past.

Kaep was only 13/25 throwing the ball for 160 yards.  More than half of those yards came on two plays, a 47 yard dime to Torrey Smith in the fourth quarter, and a 40 yard push pass to Quinton Patton in the second.  Outside of those two throws, Colin was not very good.  Of course, protection did not hold up well and he did not have the help of a running game either.  Green Bay’s defensive game plan was to have #7 beat them.  He was unable to do so.  Many throws came out of his hand awkwardly and he looked very skittish in the pocket.  San Francisco’s offensive woes can easily be traced back to the struggles of their offensive line and it showed in this battering.

Colin Kaepernick in action from 10/4/15
Colin Kaepernick in action from 10/4/15

San Fran will fly out to the Meadowlands to take on the Giants next Sunday night, a game that they will have to have if they want to make anything of this season.  Meanwhile, the Packers will host the Rams, who are coming off of a surprising road win over the Cardinals.  Green Bay is 4-0 for the first time since 2011 and they have looked very good doing it.  They, or New England, are without a doubt the best team in football right now.  A road win over the 49ers proved this, even though Frisco looks to be a feeble team in the NFC.

The Skinny

  • Aaron Rodgers has now thrown 11 touchdown passes and no interceptions this season.  He has not thrown an interception in the regular season since Week 15 last year
  • Colin Kaepernick threw for 87 out of his 160 yards on two plays in this game, a 40 and a 47 yarder to Quinton Patton
    Kaepernick running for his life from Sunday's game
    Kaepernick running for his life from Sunday’s game

    and Torrey Smith respectively

  • Green Bay has started 4-0 for the first time since 2011 while the 49ers have started 1-3, their worst start since going 0-5 back in 2010
  • Ty Montgomery stepped up as the number three receiver in this game, getting good separation.  He did drop a couple of catchable passes, however
  • After obtaining seven sacks a week ago, the Packers got to the quarterback a whopping six times this week
  • Aaron Lynch was the standout on defense for the 49ers with two sacks and a quarterback pressure
  • Aaron Rodgers has defeated Colin Kaepernick for the first time in his career.  He is now 1-3 against Kap

Week 3: Philadelphia Eagles vs. New York Jets Recap

Ryan Mathews stiff arms Jets' defender Antonio Cromartie from 9/27/15
Ryan Mathews stiff arms Jets’ defender Antonio Cromartie from 9/27/15

Philadelphia 24, New York 17

The Philadelphia Eagles gut out their first win of the season on the road over the New York Jets.  Philly is now an impressive 10-0 all-time versus Gang Green and they were in desperate need of a win to keep pace in the NFC East.

The defenses for both teams ruled the game as there were not too many big plays on either side of the ball.  For the Eagles, this is pretty much par for the course early on in the year.  They have seriously lacked explosive plays on offense

Brandon Bair hits Ryan Fitzpatrick from Sunday's game
Brandon Bair hits Ryan Fitzpatrick from Sunday’s game

and that is a big reason why they have struggled out of the gates.  With that being said, they ran the ball much better in this contest, and Ryan Mathews looked strong with many tackle-breaking rushes.  He fumbled once, but the Eagles were able to get the ball back on the following drive by forcing one of four turnovers.

The Jets came into the game with a +8 turnover differential and had forced five takeaways in each of their first two games.  In this one, they gave it away four times and were only able to strip the ball one time, although that doesn’t mean that the defense wasn’t good.  The front seven was dominant at the line of scrimmage and the secondary did a marvelous job in coverage.  Sam Bradford had some clean pockets to step up into, but rarely had any wide open looks.  Running backs for Philly had an edge when running wheel routes out of the backfield, however both Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles dropped what looked to be potential huge touchdown receptions on those plays.  Sproles made up for this with an 89-yard punt return for a touchdown and a rushing score, however, as he had an excellent day.

Brandon Marshall had his way with the Philadelphia defense as the game wore on.  He caught ten passes for 109 yards and a touchdown.  He did make a bonehead play in the second quarter when trying to pitch the ball backwards.  He chucked it right at Connor Barwin’s facemask and the Eagles recovered the loose ball and marched it into the end zone to take a 24-0 lead at the time.  The Jets really struggled to run the ball all game long.

Each defense made plays in this one, and both offenses were inconsistent and sleepy at times.  The true difference in this game was the Darren Sproles punt return for a touchdown.  Philly has their first win of the season, but it was not super impressive.  They had to tough one out, but at the same time it came against a rock solid defense on the road.  They will travel to Washington next week to play their second divisional game of the year while the Jets fly across the pond to battle the 1-2 Miami Dolphins in London.  At the end of the day the defenses were able to neutralize both offenses, but Philadelphia was able to find points in other ways via special teams for the win.

The Skinny

  • Philadelphia improves to 10-0 all-time against the New York Jets
  • Sam Bradford got the ball out of his hands quickly and was errant on a few of his throws, and the Philly receivers
    Philadelphia corner Eric Rowe and New York receiver Devin Smith battle for the ball from the game on 9/27/15
    Philadelphia corner Eric Rowe and New York receiver Devin Smith battle for the ball from the game on 9/27/15

    dropped a few catchable passes as well, contributing to the 14/28 clip

  • Ryan Fitzpatrick threw the ball 58 times in this game, tying a career high for him.  He was intercepted three times while throwing two touchdowns
  • The Philadelphia corners played a pretty good game.  Rookie Eric Rowe made a bunch of nice plays, Byron Maxwell played better than in weeks past, and Nolan Carrol was terrific.  Malcolm Jenkins pitched in with a nice effort as well
  • Eagles linebacker Jordan Hicks had an awesome game filling in for Kiko Alonso and Michael Kendricks.  He made nine tackles and an interception, the first Philly rookie linebacker to do this since Stewart Bradley in 2007
  • The Jets have only targeted tight ends five times on the entire year after this game
  • Darren Sproles’ 89 yard punt return for a touchdown was the second longest in Philadelphia history

2015 Season: Week 3 Predictions

So far the 2015 season has been as unpredictable as ever.  Who would have guessed that teams like the Seahawks, Colts, Eagles, and Ravens would be 0-2.  What surprises will Week 3 hold?  Here are my predictions (hoping to bounce back after an awful week).

Last Week: 5-11

Season: 13-19

Thursday, September 24th, 8:30 e.t.

Washington Redskins (1-1) @ New York Giants (0-2)

Matt Jones and Alfred Morris ripped apart the St. Louis defense last week while Odell Beckham Jr. had a field day against the Atlanta secondary.  Of course the Giants were unable to mount a late surge against the Falcons while the ‘Skins were able to find the “W”.  This week should prove a bit different.  The Giants are playing at home again while Washington is at a disadvantage having to go on the road during a short week.  Additionally, New York should be the better team anyways.

New York 26, Washington 16

Sunday, September 27th, 1:00 e.t.

Indianapolis Colts (0-2) @ Tennessee Titans (1-1)

Both teams are coming off of embarrassing defeats to teams that they should have beaten and are looking for redemption.  While Marcus Mariota has looked solid in two starts, he has been a bit loose with the ball.  He fumbled it three times last week and lost two of them.  Meanwhile, the Colts offense has stumbled out of the gates in a big way.  Look for Andrew Luck to bounce back on the road against a team that he tends to dominate.

Indianapolis 37, Tennessee 17

 Philadelphia Eagles (0-2) @ New York Jets (2-0)

If I told you two weeks ago that one of the teams in this game would be winless and the other would be undefeated, you probably would have believed me.  However, you probably wouldn’t have guessed which one was which.  The Eagles have been particularly awful on offense (especially on third down) while the Jets have been good on defense and passable on “O” with Ryan Fitzpatrick in control.  On the road against a tough defense, the Eagles could struggle again, but I think Chip Kelly gets some sort of game plan going to pull out the “W”.  The birds have a decent defense as well and that should show in a tough game on the road.

Philadelphia 31, New York 24

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-1) @ Houston Texans (0-2)

The Buccaneers shocked the Saints on the road a week ago and are looking for their first two game winning streak in a couple of years.  The Texans have other ideas, though, and they will stop Tampa Bay in their tracks.  I see Jameis Winston struggling on the road while Ryan Mallet has a nice game against a really inconsistent defense.

Houston 30, Tampa Bay 16

Oakland Raiders (1-1) @ Cleveland Browns (1-1)

Each team pulled off surprising wins a week ago, however the Oakland victory was quite impressive.  Now that the Browns have decided to go back to Josh McCown, I honestly think that the offense will regress a bit.  The Raiders should be able to move on the road and scoop up the win.  It is weird thinking that one of these teams is going to be 2-1 if I may say so.

Oakland 23, Cleveland 12

Cincinnati Bengals (2-0) @ Baltimore Ravens (0-2)

The Ravens are a team that is a couple of plays away from being 2-0, but instead they sit with an ugly 0-2 record and have the AFC North leading Bengals coming to town.  This is the home opener though, and Baltimore does tend to play much better at home.  Even though Cincy has won in each of the last two seasons on the road against the Ravens, I see them dropping this game.  Baltimore has something to prove and could ill afford to fall to 0-3 on the year.

Baltimore 26, Cincinnati 20

Atlanta Falcons (2-0) @ Dallas Cowboys (2-0)

Both teams are undefeated, but have an entirely different feel about this one.  The Cowboys are without their three biggest weapons on offense from a year ago while the Falcons are looking pretty good, and could very well be the team to beat in the NFC South.  Matt Ryan, while a different quarterback on the road, is worlds better than Brandon Weeden and Julio Jones > Terrence Williams.  Atlanta wins.

Atlanta 27, Dallas 13

Jacksonville Jaguars (1-1) @ New England Patriots (2-0)

The Patriots jumped out to a huge lead on the road in Buffalo before letting the Bills climb back into it.  That said, they looked damn impressive on offense.  At home in front of a raucous crowd, Tom Brady throws for another three scores as the Patriots dominate the Jaguars who will be hitting the road for the first time all year.

New England 44, Jacksonville 14

San Diego Chargers (1-1) @ Minnesota Vikings (1-1)

The last time the Chargers visited the Minnesota Vikings, Adrian Peterson shredded them for an NFL record 296 yards back in 2007.  I think he will have a slightly less spectacular day, but still a good one with about 140 yards and a score or two.  Despite this, the Chargers, behind a big effort from Philip Rivers, will win the game on a last second score.  This should be a really good contest.

San Diego 31, Minnesota 28

New Orleans Saints (0-2) @ Carolina Panthers (2-0)

With the status of Drew Brees up in the air, and given how bad the Saints have been so far this year, I don’t feel safe picking them on the road against Carolina who still has a good defense.  Behind Johnathan Stewart and a nice running game, the Panthers improve to 3-0 on the year.  The good news for the Saints is that Mark Ingram rushes for 135 yards and two scores to keep the game interesting.

Carolina 23, New Orleans 20

Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1) @ St. Louis Rams  (1-1)

The Steelers have been hitting on big play after big play and they now go on the road to St. Louis to square off against a team that is prone to giving up a few of those every now and again.  This one will be much more competitive than many might think, but in the end my money is on Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown against a shaky secondary.

Pittsburgh 36, St. Louis 31

Sunday, September 27th, 4:05 e.t.

San Francisco 49ers (1-1) @ Arizona Cardinals (2-0)

San Francisco looked pretty bad on defense a week ago, but their offense was not too bad.  They should fare alright on the road against an Arizona team that can be quite good at times.  However, the Cards “D” will give up a play from time to time and I think that San Fran takes advantage of this en route to the shocker of the week.

San Francisco 14, Arizona 10

Sunday, September 27th, 4:25 e.t.

Chicago Bears (0-2) @ Seattle Seahawks (0-2)

The Seahawks (all things considered) didn’t look too bad on the road against the Packers.  Now they will have their hammer back in Kam Chancellor and will be taking on a Chicago team that will send out Jimmy Clausen as their quarterback.  Seattle finally gets into the win column with a dominant victory in front of the 12th man.

Seattle 38, Chicago 10

Buffalo Bills (1-1) @ Miami Dolphins (1-1)

I want to pick the Bills to win this game here because they are the better team, but for some reason I have a weird feeling that this will be the random game that the Dolphins play were they look like they can be a contender in the AFC.  Their offense is faster than Buffalo’s defense and Ryan Tannehill is better than Tyrod Taylor.  Rex Ryan coached teams do have a history of success down in Miami, but this time I give the ‘Phins the win.  Lets see if Cameron Wake isn’t a ghost in this one.

Miami 27, Buffalo 16

Sunday, September 27th, 8:30 e.t.

Denver Broncos (2-0) @ Detroit Lions (0-2)

The Broncos looked pretty terrible in the first half a week ago until they intercepted Alex Smith and then Peyton Manning got rolling.  This week, they take on a Detroit team that has to be frustrated with their 0-2 start.  Logic would dictate that you go with Denver here due to their incredible defense and passable offense, but because I like to get a little frisky with my picks I will take Detroit.  I say their defense shuts down Peyton Manning and the offense does just enough to get them the victory in a gritty game.

Detroit 19, Denver 17

Monday, September 28th, 8:30 e.t.

Kansas City Chiefs (1-1) @ Green Bay Packers (2-0)

The Chiefs should really be (or could really be) 2-0 at this point but they fumbled away the game against the Broncos last Thursday night.  A little later in the week, Green Bay flexed its muscles and clipped the Seahawks at Lambeau.  Any time you play the Pack in Wisconsin, I wish you the best of luck.  They are a tough out.  Aaron Rodgers should light this defense up and the Packers will roll to an impressive victory.

Green Bay 45, Kansas City 23

Week 3 Bonus Predictions

Upset of the Week (0-2): San Francisco over Arizona

Sure Bet of the Week (1-1): Seattle over Chicago

Rookie of the Week: Melvin Gordon, RB, Chargers

Offensive Player of the Week: Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers

Defensive Player of the Week: Glover Quin Jr., DB, Lions

Best Overall Offense: Green Bay Packers 

Best Overall Defense: Seattle Seahawks

Feel free to leave a comment stating what you think will happen in this weekend’s games!

Week 2: San Francisco 49ers vs. Pittsburgh Steelers Recap

Markus Wheaton in action from 9/20/15
Markus Wheaton in action from 9/20/15

Final: Pittsburgh 43, San Francisco 18

The big plays continued to come in bunches for the Steelers on Sunday afternoon as they completed a whipping of the previously 1-0 49ers in the Steel City.

The Niners dominated on defense in their Monday night 20-3 win over Minnesota in Week 1, but this time around it was a different story.  Ben Roethlisberger had his way with Eric Mangini’s defense, throwing for 369 yards and three scores.  DeAngelo Williams had another solid game on the ground, contributing with three scores of his own while rushing for 77 yards.  Pittsburgh racked up 453 yards of total offense while possessing the ball for only 23:01.  Explosive plays were the name of the game here, and Big Ben made plenty of them.  The Steelers averaged a whopping 8.7 yards per play and 13.7

Ryan Shazier dragging down Colin Kapernick from Sunday's game 9/20/15
Ryan Shazier dragging down Colin Kapernick from Sunday’s game 9/20/15

yards per pass play.  In comparison, the Niners gained an average of 5.0 yards per play and 5.8 yards per pass play.  Antonio Brown had a monster game with 195 yards receiving and a touchdown (on nine grabs).  He now leads the NFL in receiving yards by a mile, two games into the season with 328 yards (Julio Jones is next on the list with 276).  Defensively, the Steelers looked much better than they did against New England.  Ryan Shazier shined yet again, showing amazing speed to chase down the athletic San Francisco quarterback on numerous different occasions.

San Francisco, as bad as they were on defense, does have a reason to be slightly optimistic.  Colin Kaepernick played well, throwing for 335 yards and two scores.  He set a career high in attempts (with 46) and completions (with 33) and was able to find the end-zone twice, one of those coming on the back-end of a monster 75 yard touchdown strike to Torrey Smith on a skinny post.  That said, the 49ers really wasted a lot of opportunities.  They had two 17-play drives in this game that netted them a grand total of three points.  Carlos Hyde showed some toughness in this game as well coming back after suffering a knee injury in the first half and a head injury in the second.  He was a non-factor due to the fact that the game got out of hand pretty quickly.

Colin Kaepernick throwing the ball from 9/20/15
Colin Kaepernick throwing the ball from 9/20/15

The Niners look to bounce back on the road at 2-0 Arizona next week while the Steelers take on the Rams in St. Louis.  Looking back on this game, it is safe to say that each team had a completely different experience from the one they had during the first week of action.  Pittsburgh looks like they might have the best offense in all of football while the 49ers have some questions to answer on both sides of the ball.  However, if San Fran can combine the offensive effort they put forth this week with the defensive one they put up last, they would be a formidable team.  The season is still young, but it is safe to say that the Niners have a long way to go while the Steelers are right where they should be.

The Skinny

  • Both teams put up over 395 yards of total offense in this game, joining the Atlanta Falcons as the only teams to do that in both games this year (Pittsburgh is the only team with over 400 yards in both games)
  • DeAngelo Williams becomes the first Steeler since Willie Parker to score three rushing touchdowns in one game, and
    Antonio Brown outrunning the San Francisco defense during Week 2
    Antonio Brown outrunning the San Francisco defense during Week 2

    he saw the end zone three times for the first time since 2008

  • The 75 yard touchdown reception that Torrey Smith hauled in during the 4th quarter was the longest of his career
  • San Francisco wasted over a quarter’s worth of time on two 17-play drives where they were only able to score three points
  • Pittsburgh went for a two point conversion twice in this game and succeeded both times.  It would appear as though Mike Tomlin will be quite aggressive when it comes to going for two seeing as how Josh Scobee missed an extra point in this game as well
  • Antonio Brown makes 7+ catches for the 13th consecutive game, an NFL record

2015 Season: Week 2 Predictions

Week 1 was full of surprises and now that we have a slightly more clear idea of how the teams are beginning to look, the predictions should become a bit easier.  With ten 1:00 e.t. kickoff games, there will be plenty of action crammed on a Sunday afternoon with a few dandy primetime games to boot.  Here is how I see the Week 2 games playing out.

Last week: 8-8

Season: 8-8

Thursday, September 17th, 8:25 e.t.

Denver Broncos (1-0) @ Kansas City Chiefs (1-0)

Alex Smith looked great in the Chiefs win over Houston last week while Peyton Manning left a lot to be desired against Baltimore.  Both teams won last Sunday though and that makes this game even all the more intriguing.  That said, Peyton has had a history of good games at Arrowhead, and I see that continuing on Thursday night.  He throws for three scores while the Denver defense, which looked so good a week ago, contains Jamaal Charles and the Kansas City offense.

Denver 27, Kansas City 13

Sunday, September 20th, 1:00 e.t.

New England Patriots (1-0) @ Buffalo Bills (1-0)

This is arguably the best match-up of the weekend as Rex Ryan and Bill Belichick renew their rivalry at Orchard Park.  The Bills defense looked really good at home last week versus Indy while the New England “D” was not so great against Pittsburgh.  On the road against an emotional Buffalo team, I see the Pats dropping a tough one on a last second field goal kick by Dan Carpenter.

Buffalo 23, New England 21

 Arizona Cardinals (1-0) @ Chicago Bears (0-1)

The Bears were able to hang with the Packers for a majority of the game last week, however Green Bay does not have much of a defense to speak of.  Arizona does.  The Cardinals are very stingy when it comes to letting up points.  I see that happening again on Sunday.  Oh yeah, and Chris Johnson racks up 120 yards and a touchdown in this contest.  Watch it happen.

Arizona 17, Chicago 6

Atlanta Falcons (1-0) @ New York Giants (0-1)

Both of these teams are reeling from thrilling prime-time games last week.  They should each be 1-0, but New York (due to some horrific clock management) will enter the game winless.  That will change on Sunday.  Atlanta may very well be the team to beat in the NFC South, but travelling on the road to East Rutherford after a Monday nighter will prove to be too much for them to handle.  Not to mention, the home team tends to win in most Giants-Falcons contests.

New York 24, Atlanta 17

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-1) @ New Orleans Saints (0-1)

The Buccaneers got throttled at home by Marcus Mariota and the Titans last week.  The defense looked awful and the offense was not sharp.  That does not bode well on the road for them as they face a Saints squad that didn’t look terrible on the road in Arizona.  Watch as Drew Brees carves up the Tampa “D” to the tune of 365 yards and a couple of scores.  Jameis Winston struggles for the second week in a row.

New Orleans 36, Tampa Bay 17

San Diego Chargers (1-0) @ Cincinnati Bengals (1-0)

Philip Rivers really carried the Chargers in a come-from-behind win at home against the Lions last Sunday.  Keenan Allen made a whopping 15 catches as well.  Meanwhile, the Bengals dominated the Raiders on the road and look to continue that pace at home against the Bolts.  As long as Andy Dalton can avoid making the dumb mistakes that Matt Stafford did last week, Cincy should be fine at home.  Look for another big game from Tyler Eifert as well.  San Diego did struggle a bit last week in covering tight ends.

Cincinnati 29, San Diego 20

Tennessee Titans (1-0) @ Cleveland Browns (0-1)

After becoming the first ever rookie quarterback to throw four touchdown passes in the first half of his first game, Marcus Mariota looks to continue his early success on the road against a Cleveland team that looked awful last week against the Jets (especially in the second half).  The Browns turned it over five times in that game and just looked so out of whack.  I like the Titans to roll through their second straight opponent, assuming their offense operates with the same amount of efficiency as last week.

Tennessee 21, Cleveland 12

Detroit Lions (0-1) @ Minnesota Vikings (0-1)

This is a hard game to pick, only because both teams did not look the way I expected them to last week.  The Lions really miss their linebacker DeAndre Levy in the middle and that can significantly hurt their chances in this game as the Vikes should feed Peterson early and often after neglecting to do so in an ugly loss late Monday night.  However, the Lions have far to many weapons on offense to choke for a second straight week.  Even though I really wanted to pick the Vikings here, I am going to go with the road team.  Expect Detroit to play a little better defensively than they did last week.

Detroit 21, Minnesota 18

St. Louis Rams (1-0) @ Washington Redskins (0-1)

The Rams looked solid in a win over the NFC champions at home last week and now they take their show on the road to a mediocre Washington team that is without their best receiver.  Unless Nick Foles really flubs up, the Rams should have no trouble taking apart the Redskins on the road.  Todd Gurley should be good to make his regular season debut as well; that should be interesting.

St. Louis 25, Washington 6

San Francisco 49ers (1-0) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (0-1)

The Steelers offense looked pretty darn good last week against the Patriots, but their defense looked horrible.  The Niners were good on both accounts in a whipping of the Vikings at home late on Monday night.  Now the two teams collide in the steel city.  The way I see it, Ben Roethlisberger is much better than Teddy Bridgewater right now, and Antonio Brown will present a huge match-up problem for San Fran.  Look for Pittsburgh to get off the schnide with a nice home victory.

Pittsburgh 31, San Francisco 22

Houston Texans (0-1) @ Carolina Panthers  (1-0)

Out of all the games taking place this weekend, this one, to me, is the toughest to pick.  This is mainly because I really can’t tell if the Panthers are any good and I can’t tell if the Texans are that bad.  Week 1 didn’t reveal a lot to me for either side.  Even though Carolina has the edge on defense and at quarterback, the Texans do have a major edge at wide receiver.  DeAndre Hopkins is probably the best kept secret in the league.  I see him having a big game going up against the corners of Carolina.  Greg Olsen should shine as well against a team that really struggled to contain Travis Kelce, another good tight end a week ago.  When all is said and done, I am going to pick this game based on the decision that would create the most parody for the league.  That team is Houston.  It would be too easy for the Panthers to start off 2-0, now wouldn’t it be?

Houston 17, Carolina 16

Sunday, September 20th, 4:05 e.t.

Baltimore Ravens (0-1) @ Oakland Raiders (0-1)

The Baltimore defense was the bright spot a week ago on the road against Denver.  While that game was going on, the Raiders were being taken apart by the Bengals at home.  Derek Carr left the game early due to a hand injury, but quite frankly his exit didn’t have much of a bearing on the game.  The Raiders looked bad.  I think they’ll look a little bit better this week, but there is no way that the Ravens lose on the road again.  Joe Flacco should have a much better game this week as well.

Baltimore 30, Oakland 15

Miami Dolphins (1-0) @ Jacksonville Jaguars (0-1)

The Dolphins just barely escaped the ‘Skins a week ago and have a lot to prove down in their home state.  Although this will be a road game for them, they should have plenty of support in the stands.  Also, Miami has a (perhaps) even better defense than Carolina does, and their offense is definitely better.  They should bounce back nicely after an ugly win with a more picturesque one.

Miami 28, Jacksonville 14

Sunday, September 20th, 4:25 e.t

Dallas Cowboys (1-0) @ Philadelphia Eagles (0-1)

This very well could be a game between two 0-1 teams, but the Cowboys were able to come up with a thrilling last second win at home versus the Giants.  It did come at a lofty price, though, since they will be without Dez Bryant for a good part of the year.  The Eagles looked very good in the second half against Atlanta, and that alone almost got them the win, but a missed field goal, two interceptions, and a boatload of penalties sunk the birds on the road.  At home now against a Dallas team deprived of a lot of their weapons from a year ago, I see the Eagles picking up their first win.  Tony Romo can’t do it all himself, and the nation should see that on Sunday.  Oh yeah, and DeMarco Murray will play a much larger role in this game than he did on Monday night.

Philadelphia 33, Dallas 22

Sunday, September 20th, 8:30 e.t.

Seattle Seahawks (0-1) @ Green Bay Packers (1-0)

The Packers will open up their home schedule with the Seattle Seahawks, a team that was shocked on the road in St. Louis last week.  I think the ‘Hawks will feed Marshawn Lynch the football quite a bit to set up the play-action pass.  This should work against a team in Green Bay that was absolutely bullied up front a week ago by the bears.  That said, the continuing hold-out of Kam Chancellor will really hurt the Seahawks here as they will need all the help they can get in the secondary at Lambeau versus Aaron Rodgers.  I say the Packers win only because they catch Seattle at a good time here.  This one should be really close though.

Green Bay 30, Seattle 28

Monday, September 21st, 8:30 e.t.

New York Jets (1-0) @ Indianapolis Colts (0-1)

After an embarrassing performance on the road against a good defensive team from the AFC East, the Colts have a chance to redeem themselves at home against another good defensive team from the AFC East.  The Jets looked solid at home, but I don’t think they will be able to carry that performance with them to Indy.  Even though he did last year, I don’t see Andrew Luck starting off 0-2 in 2015.  The Colts are simply too talented to let that happen.  Luck carries the team to a win in a surprising shootout.

Indianapolis 38, New York 30

Week 2 Bonus Predictions

Upset of the Week (0-1): Detroit over Minnesota

Sure Bet of the Week (1-0): St. Louis Rams over Washington Redskins

Rookie of the Week: Phillip Dorsett, WR, Colts

Offensive Player of the Week: DeMarco Murray, RB, Eagles

Defensive Player of the Week: J.J. Watt, DE, Texans

Best Overall Offense: New Orleans Saints

Best Overall Defense: St. Louis Rams

Feel free to leave a comment stating what you think will happen in this weekend’s games!

Week 1: Carolina Panthers vs. Jacksonville Jaguars Recap

Blake Bortles attempting a pass from 9/13/15
Blake Bortles attempting a pass from 9/13/15

Final: Carolina 20, Jacksonville 9

It was a tough defensive battle in the sunshine state on Sunday afternoon as the Carolina Panthers (minus their star linebacker Luke Kuechly for a half) defeat the Jacksonville Jaguars after pitching a shutout in the second half.

The Panthers held a 10-9 lead at the end of the second quarter and came out in the third and made some plays on defense.  The biggest play of the game came midway through said frame when Josh Norman capitalized on a foolish throw from quarterback Blake Bortles.  He got his mitts on a dump pass to the flat to rookie T.J. Yeldon and was able to return it 28 yards to the house, giving Carolina a 17-9 lead at the time.  In the fourth quarter, only up by one possession, Ron Rivera’s team was able to hold on to the ball for just over eight minutes and convert three of four third down opportunities to ice the game.  Graham Gano added his second field goal of the contest to push the score to 20-9.

On the comeback try, Blake Bortles was pressured and threw an interception to Thomas Davis, although the referees missed a fairly blatant hands to the face on offensive lineman Sam Young, who was filling in for the injured Luke Joeckel.  That being said, the Jaguars were unable to do a whole lot on the field versus the tough Carolina “D” coached up by Sean McDermott.

Panthers' linebacker Luke Kuechly leaving the game from 9/13/15 with a concussion
Panthers’ linebacker Luke Kuechly leaving the game from 9/13/15 with a concussion

The big story coming out of this game has to be the status of Luke Kuechly.  He left the game at the end of the second quarter after ducking his head on a collision with T.J. Yeldon during a two-minute drill.  He failed the concussion tests conducted in the locker room and was banned from re-entering the game.  If the all-pro middle linebacker were to miss significant time for the Panthers, it is safe to say that the club would likely suffer.  However, A.J. Kline did a nice job filling in for him in this game, and Thomas Davis had himself a heck of an afternoon.  He was able to notch seven solo tackles, sack Blake Bortles, and intercept a pass.  His linebacking counterpart from Jacksonville in Paul Posluszny had an even better game.  He made countless plays including eight tackles and showed some good hands in the second quarter by intercepting a laser pass from Cam Newton.  The Jags did not lose this game because of their defense.  It was their inept play on offense that cost them the contest.

So the Panthers (barring a possible Atlanta win on Monday night) will sit all alone at the top of the NFC South as they look to defend their division crown and go for their third straight title.  Of course, without the leadership and on-field presence of Luke Kuechly, it could be hard for them to repeat.

The Skinny

  • Obviously the big story from this game is the fact that Luke Kuechly left in the second quarter with a concussion.  Before then, he was able to record seven tackles and a sack

    Chris Clemons bearing down on Cam Newton from 9/13/15
    Chris Clemons bearing down on Cam Newton from 9/13/15
  • The Panthers, who were on the bad end of some drops by their wide receivers in the preseason, continued this trend on Sunday as there were quite a few drops on the field
  • T.J. Yeldon had some nice downhill runs.  Look for the Jaguars to use him more frequently in the coming weeks
  • The Panthers showed dominance in the time of possession, much like they did a year ago, mainly due to an 8:03 drive in the fourth quarter that ended with a field goal, pushing it to a two-score game
  • Blake Bortles made a few nice throws but was still victimized by some poor choices, including a horrible pass in the third quarter that was intercepted by Josh Norman for a touchdown
  • The predominant “Luke” for Jacksonville was hurt in this game as well as Joeckel left the game in the third quarter due to an ankle injury
  • New Jaguars kicker Jason Myers missed a field goal and an extra point in this game, both coming in the first half