Sportsball, 2019 Week 3 Preview: Drama!!!

 

Sportsball, 2019 Week 3 Preview: Drama!!!

 

Well. Good morning, readers. What a long, strange week it’s been, amirite? Feels like half the teams in the National Football League have flipped completely upside-down at some point during the past month, and like half of those happened just within the past seven days.

In this increasingly unpredictable world, today we bring you our thoughts and observations for all of this weekend’s matchups — and just like in the first two weeks of the season, we’re including the predictions for the year-end results based on our current computations and calculations. Although as you may have noticed, all the injuries and roster moves and … drama!!! … across the entire league has really shaken up those forecasts.

Also as before, we start with the Thursday night game — even though this article is actually being published Sunday morning. But we wouldn’t want to skip over that contest, especially since the Thursday night competitors have been the inspiration for our musical selections each week, and this time around will be no different. But naturally at this point in time we already have seen the final results of that game, and — spoiler alert — that outcome did not exactly conform with our predetermined expectations.

Having said that, it will be fun reflecting on all of these predictions after the conclusion of the season, tracking how they changed over time, and how off-base some of them ultimately turn out to have been. Feel free to share your own opinions about how off-base we are down in the comments section, or just tell us we’re a moron over on the Twit machine.

 

Thursday, 19 September (8:20 pm)

Titans (current record: 1-1 / current prediction: 8-8)
Jaguars (current record: 0-2 / current prediction: 4-12)

 



 

Ever since the 2013 and 2014 Heisman winners, Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota (respectively), were chosen first and second in the 2015 draft by Tampa Bay and Tennessee (respectively), folks have been keeping a close eye on both their careers, inevitably comparing and contrasting the two along the way. Both are currently in the fifth and final year of their rookie contracts, both due to become unrestricted free agents next year — so both need their performances this season to prove their value, either to their current teams or to whoever else might be in the market for a quarterback going forward. Of the two, Winston has had more of a question mark based on issues outside of the football field, but both young men have had issues with uneven work on-field, to the point where they have not yet convinced their current franchises that they should continue to be those teams’ leaders in 2020 and beyond.

A division win would go a long way to seal the deal for either signal-caller, especially for Mariota in the AFC South: between Andrew Luck‘s retirement from the Colts and Nick Foles‘ broken collarbone expected to sideline him in Jacksonville through at least week 11, the division certainly seems much more up-for-grabs than it did this time last month. Going into Thursday night’s clash, the Jaguars were leaning on rookie Gardner Minshew starting his second career game, while their only other active QB was Josh Dobbs who had just come to town ten days prior, following two years with Pittsburgh in which he had started zero games, and completed six passes on twelve attempts.

Naturally, the outlook seemed pretty bleak for the home team, because no one could have anticipated the emergence of Minshew as a legend in the making, completing two-thirds of his passes including two touchdowns and no interceptions; and the Titans certainly didn’t realize they were traveling to the resurrection of “Sacksonville” — where Mariota was dropped to the Bermuda grass surface of TIAA Bank Field a total of nine times.

 

Sunday, 22 September (1:00 pm)

Bengals (current record: 0-2 / current prediction: 4-12)
Bills (current record: 2-0 / current prediction: 11-5)

After looking surprisingly competitive in Seattle for their first game this season, the Bengals‘ week two homecoming may also have represented a coming back to earth, to some extent. While Andy Dalton managed a little over 300 passing yards, around the same total as his defense allowed from San Francisco, the visiting 49ers also managed to advance the ball more than 200 yards on the ground, compared with a measly 25 yards for the team in orange and black.

Just like Cincinnati‘s first two opponents, Buffalo is also undefeated entering week three, having followed their fourth-quarter come-from-behind victory over the Jets with a solid showing against the other New York team. The Bills offense has been good but not great: Josh Allen has opened his second year with averaging about 250 passing yards and 30 rushing yards per game; with two passing touchdowns, two rushing touchdowns, and two interception in two weeks. Devin Singletary and Frank Gore have combined for 215 yards and added two rushing touchdowns throughout those games (although a hamstring injury will keep the rookie off the field today, leaving 36-year-old Gore to pick up all the carries). But with their defense as stifling as it has been so far, “good but not great” has been good enough to bring about success for the Bills. Welcoming the Bengals for the first game at New Era Field this season sure seems like a recipe for continuing that trend.

 

Sunday, 22 September (1:00 pm)

Lions (current record: 1-0-1 / current prediction: 3-12-1)
Eagles (current record: 1-1 / current prediction: 5-11)

Matt Patricia facing the team that defeated the Patriots in the Super Bowl while he served as their defensive coordinator, for his first time as Detroit‘s head coach. Current Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz having to contend with the Lions, for whom he had previously served as head coach, for the first time since 2016 (which was his first season in Philadelphia). Current Giants wide receiver Golden Tate, sitting at home serving a four-game suspension, watching this contest featuring the two teams who each included him on their rosters for half of last season. These are just a few of the major story lines going into this match between the slightly under-achieving Eagles and the slightly achieving Lions. Philadelphia put up quite a fight last Sunday night, just narrowly getting edged out in the final moments by Atlanta — but they came out of that game so banged up that they had to cancel a full day of practice this week. Not to mention, they’ve lost their past two games against Detroit (and three out of five this decade).

 

Sunday, 22 September (1:00 pm)

Jets (current record: 0-2 / current prediction: 3-13)
Patriots (current record: 2-0 / current prediction: 15-1)

New York was still reeling from the loss of starting quarterback Sam Darnold for the foreseeable future, when Browns DE Myles Garrett plowed through backup Trevor Siemian, ending his season (and coughing up over $40k in the process) — leaving Luke Falk as the last man standing, to lead the team into New England for his first career start. We’ve already seen what this Patriots defense has accomplished against longtime veterans Ben Roethlisberger and Ryan Fitzpatrick (outscoring their first two opponents of 2019 by 76-3), so all signs point toward a particularly nasty bloodbath at Gillette Stadium this afternoon.

 

Sunday, 22 September (1:00 pm)

Raiders (current record: 1-1 / current prediction: 9-7)
Vikings (current record: 1-1 / current prediction: 10-6)

Each of these teams launched their current campaigns with what seemed like statement wins: Oakland finally blocking out the noise (and drama!!!) of the off-season and preseason and pulling together as a team, and Minnesota demonstrating that their dominant defense and running game (featuring a buck-eleven plus two TDs just from Dalvin Cook) could carry them on a day in which quarterback Kirk Cousins doesn’t even hit 100 passing yards (not to mention no field goal attempts — which also means no missed field goals).

In week two, the Raiders defense managed to hold Patrick Mahomes scoreless for three full quarters, but ultimately fell to a Chiefs team whose 28 points accumulated in the second were just too much to overcome. Meanwhile, the Vikings dropped a close one to the Packers besides an increase in production from Cook and Cousins AND kicker Dan Bailey. We’re going to see plenty of teams lose to Kansas City and Green Bay before it’s all said and done, so nothing to be ashamed of there.

 

Sunday, 22 September (1:00 pm)

Ravens (current record: 2-0 / current prediction: 12-4)
Chiefs (current record: 2-0 / current prediction: 14-2)

Without a doubt, on paper this should be the marquee match of the week. On one side, last year’s league MVP Patrick Mahomes, who tossed four touchdowns and 278 passing yards in a single quarter at the Coliseum last week, which would be considered a decent output for many QBs for an entire game. On the other, Lamar Jackson, who followed up his 300+ yards and five TDs week one, by picking up 120 yards with his feet against Arizona in week two, reminding everyone of the dual threat with which he threatens.

Kansas City looks less terrible on defense than they did last year (which isn’t saying a lot), while Baltimore is no longer built around a plethora of defensive superstars who wins games (and championships) by utterly stifling opposing offenses (often to make up for their own lack of offensive prowess). In other words, each of these teams may have difficultly containing the other, so expect to see some fireworks at Arrowhead Stadium today. It’s a challenging place for visiting teams, to say the least, but Jackson and the Ravens pushed the game into overtime last December — so it feels like anything could happen there today.

 

Sunday, 22 September (1:00 pm)

Falcons (current record: 1-1 / current prediction: 9-7)
Colts (current record: 1-1 / current prediction: 12-4)

In case anyone was wondering, Julio Jones has still got it. His 54-yard scamper into the end zone just before the two-minute warning all but sealed the Eagles‘ fate last Sunday night. His two receiving touchdowns were a big contributing factor towards Atlanta‘s three-point victory, despite Matt Ryan‘s three interceptions. (The Falcons defense also picked off Carson Wentz twice and recovered one fumble, while their offense managed to not lose their one fumble, so the turnover differential ended up even between the teams.)

In Indianapolis, the initial shock of their #1 QB’s unexpected retirement seems to have worn off, and they’re quietly turning out an unspectacular yet steadily improving start to the season with new starter Jacoby Brissett. The Colts organization was clearly prepared to go with Brissett under center as long as necessary, and they were obviously unconcerned with that prospect. The team’s performance, coupled with injury (and/or more drama!!!) elsewhere within their division, may end up showing that their avoidance of pressing the panic button was entirely justified.

 

Sunday, 22 September (1:00 pm)

Broncos (current record: 0-2 / current prediction: 6-10)
Packers (current record: 2-0 / current prediction: 14-2)

Denver GM John Elway, who thus far has been about as bad at recruiting a quality quarterback as he was good at playing the position himself a few decades ago, presumably traded for ex-Raven Joe Flacco to just have a veteran presence while the team gradually worked in this year’s new draftee. Surely he didn’t expect a thumb injury to keep Drew Lock out of the lineup for the first half of the season at minimum. In any case, he certainly could not have foreseen his defense (which, for those keeping track at home, does still feature Von Miller) to register zero sacks, zero fumbles, and zero interceptions through their first two weeks.

On the other hand, in this topsy-turvy NFL season, Green Bay may be experiencing the expected offensive growing pains associated with bringing in a rookie head coach to work with a future hall of fame quarterback, but it’s the Packers defense that has looked particularly impressive thus far. Comparing this unit’s blanketing in Chicago during week one with the Broncos inability to do the same against the visiting Bears the following week, it’s tough to imagine this week turning out any different for either Denver or Green Bay.

 

Sunday, 22 September (1:00 pm)

Dolphins (current record: 0-2 / current prediction: 1-15)
Cowboys (current record: 2-0 / current prediction: 14-2)

Having subtracted another first-round talent from their dwindling roster this week, Miami then announced that they are now ready to hand over the reins to the young quarterback they brought in earlier this year. Although he was discarded by the Cardinals after just his first year on the job, Josh Rosen remains unproven, mostly because he hasn’t been given much of a chance to achieve success with the roster he was surrounded with last year. Ditto that for this Dolphins team, which is a virtual lock for a top-five draft pick (in addition to accumulating quite a treasure trove of other teams’ picks) in 2020. Now their task will be to somehow evaluate whether Rosen might be the one they will be rebuilding around, or if one of those picks will end up being spent on another new quarterback.

Dallas, meanwhile, clearly has struck gold with 2016 fourth-rounder Dak Prescott, and his ongoing contract negotiations with the team have only picked up more steam through the Cowboys‘ resounding victories against division rivals in weeks one and two. A visit to AT&T Stadium by Miami, who have scored a total of ten points through two weeks while giving up more than one hundred, should do nothing to quiet any of that noise.

 

Sunday, 22 September (4:05 pm)

Giants (current record: 0-2 / current prediction: 7-9)
Buccaneers (current record: 1-1 / current prediction: 11-5)

It was inevitable that New York would turn the page from the declining Eli Manning and put their trust in sixth overall pick Daniel Jones. Our data models, tabulating the probabilities of wins or losses throughout the whole season, took into account the likelihood of this happening at some point and the Giants improving their fortune throughout the latter part of the season, but the effort ultimately being a bit too little and a bit too late. With the various controversies the team has experienced over the past couple of years, it seemed most likely that they would hang onto the two-time Super Bowl winner just a bit too long. Who had week three in the Jones-watch pool? Anybody?

Down in Tampa Bay, new management is eschewing the confusing quarterback flip-flop we saw from week to week last year, giving Jameis Winston the opportunity to prove what he can accomplish, so the Bucs can make an informed decision as to whether his fifth year will also be his last with the team. After a humbling defeat at the hands of the 49ers defense, they quickly turned around and made short work of the Panthers in last Thursday’s game. Whether that was more because of Tampa‘s efforts or more due to a struggling Carolina team whose quarterback continues to deal with lingering injury issues, remains to be seen — and what happens when the Giants and their rookie quarterback (along with second-year running back Saquon Barkley who is already putting up Pro Bowl stats) visit Raymond James Stadium could go a long way toward answering that.

 

Sunday, 22 September (4:05 pm)

Panthers (current record: 0-2 / current prediction: 4-12)
Cardinals (current record: 0-1-1 / current prediction: 1-14-1)

Speaking of the quarterback situation in Carolina, Kyle Allen is preparing to make his second career start today, following a week 17 victory over New Orleans last season, although the Saints didn’t have their full starting line-up on the field for that game. While the NFC South truly feels open for absolutely any of its four teams to step up and grab the division crown, things seem to be slowly spiraling out of control for the Panthers. In the western division, on the other hand, Arizona finds itself staring up at three very good competitors, after two winless weeks of their own. But Kyler Murray has managed to keep his team within reach of both games so far, following a tie against Detroit with a back-and-forth affair that saw a very good Ravens team victorious by just a single touchdown.

 

Sunday, 22 September (4:25 pm)

Steelers (current record: 0-2 / current prediction: 8-8)
49ers (current record: 2-0 / current prediction: 12-4)

Following the loss of longtime franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for the remainder of 2019, who could blame Pittsburgh for smashing that panic button? After all, they had already sent their third-year, third-string passer to the Jaguars the prior week, leaving only third-rounder Mason Rudolph, just entering his second season but having experienced zero in-game snaps at the NFL level until filling in last week versus Seattle. The only other QB employed by the organization was undrafted Devlin Hodges, who was competent enough during the exhibition games to earn a spot on the team’s practice squad.

So naturally, following Monday’s statement regarding the franchise QB’s placement on the Injured Reserve list, within hours there were more headlines: this time signifying a trade for Miami‘s Fitzpatrick. But as it turns out, it wasn’t a desperation grab for journeyman Ryan who had filled in on so many other teams (and who will be serving as a mentor from the Dolphins‘ bench this week), but a swap of next year’s first round choice for last year’s 11th overall pick, safety Minkah. Mortgaging something that could greatly benefit the team next year to bolster a position of need right now, the Steelers are expressing their confidence that young Mason is indeed the heir presumptive to Roethlisberger. The same confidence they showed by dropping the veteran backup Landry Jones last year, and the same confidence they showed by retaining solely Rudolph, who had set numerous school records during his impressive years at Oklahoma State.

A cross-country trip to Levi’s Stadium with a quarterback making his first career start, and a safety (draft pedigree notwithstanding) who has only practiced with the team the past few days, may be a rather daunting undertaking for this Pittsburgh team, though. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo hasn’t been on the field for a full season in San Francisco yet, but he may finally be living up to some of the hype that surrounded him when he came over from New England to close out 2017. But the hype train is really in full force when it comes to this 49ers defense, almost single-handedly destroying Tampa Bay in week one, then made Cincinnati look like a shell of the team that had previously looked surprisingly adequate against Seattle.

 

Sunday, 22 September (4:25 pm)

Saints (current record: 1-1 / current prediction: 5-11)
Seahawks (current record: 2-0 / current prediction: 13-3)

It could be tempting to look at these teams’ records and predict another victory for Seattle. The Saints backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater didn’t impress in relief of Drew Brees last week any more than he did in leading the team in essentially a garbage-time week 17 game last season. But the QB did well enough during his tour of duty in Minnesota, and this New Orleans roster puts more than enough offensive weapons around him to repeat that. Meanwhile, Russell Wilson continues to amaze with his passing and scrambling abilities, but so far the Seahawks have defeated the Bengals by one point and the Steelers (who fielded a quarterback taking his very first career snaps for the entire second half of that game) by only two points. They appear primed for success this season, but remain unproven against any team with a winning record — or even with a win on their record.

 

Sunday, 22 September (4:25 pm)

Texans (current record: 1-1 / current prediction: 9-7)
Chargers (current record: 1-1 / current prediction: 4-12)

Week one: Houston keeps within two points of the Saints while Los Angeles squeaks past the Colts in overtime. Week two: the Texans pull off a nailbiter 13-12 against a Jacksonville team who had just lost their starting quarterback, while the Lions beat the Chargers by the margin of a field goal. Week three: this is a face-off between a pair of teams who have enough in each of their toolboxes to contend for first place in their respective divisions, but who also have enough injury and/or depth issues (oh yeah, and/or drama!!!) to hold either of them out of the playoffs altogether.

 

Sunday, 22 September (8:20 pm)

Rams (current record: 2-0 / current prediction: 9-7)
Browns (current record: 1-1 / current prediction: 4-12)

What Super Bowl hangover?? The faltering performance of the Panthers thus far this season might make that three-point week one victory slightly less impressive, and the swift exit of Drew Brees might have spoiled the highly anticipated NFC Championship rematch with New Orleans last week, but don’t let that take away from the fact that the Rams are piling up points and putting away opponents, more so than Cleveland has. Yes, the Browns were victorious last Monday night, but with the benefit of a few illegal hits from their defense that ultimately eliminated another quarterback from the already-diminished Jets roster. Tonight will be the stiffest competition the team in orange and brown will face yet, and so far they haven’t given much of a reason to believe that they are prepared for it.

 

Monday, 23 September (8:15 pm)

Bears (current record: 1-1 / current prediction: 10-6)
Redskins (current record: 0-2 / current prediction: 4-12)

Finally, Monday night pits last year’s NFC North champions against the third-place finishers for the NFC East. Thus far this season, both teams appear to be on a trajectory to drop off just slightly from last years’s results. After struggling a bit against a suddenly elite Packers defense, the Bears managed to pull out a victory against a Broncos defense that suddenly looks completely toothless. Meanwhile Washington‘s defense — theorized to make up for the team’s glaring shortcomings on offense — has permitted two consecutive division rivals to exceed 30 points. Forced, begrudgingly for some unknown reason, to start Adrian Peterson at running back after the prolific veteran was inactive against the Eagles, the Redskins‘ gameplan had quarterback Case Keenum handing AP the ball only ten times (in addition to a pair of tosses). The entire team accumulated merely 47 net yards on the ground against Dallas. Prior to his move to the IR list, previous starter Derrius Guice also had exactly ten carries in week one, a game in which Washington totaled only 28 rushing yards. A third performance resembling those first two, simply will not cut it against Chicago.

 

2019-20 Playoff Picture (Pre-Week 3 Edition):

AFC:

  • #6 Texans at #3 Ravens
  • #5 Bills at #4 Colts
  • Bye Week: Patriots, Chiefs

 

NFC:

  • #6 Bears at #3 Seahawks
  • #5 49ers at #4 Buccaneers
  • Bye Week: Cowboys, Packers

 

Super Bowl LIV:

  • W: Kansas City Chiefs
  • L: Dallas Cowboys
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