Sportsball, 2019 Week 4 Preview: Movin’ Right Along

 

Sportsball, 2019 Week 4 Preview: Movin’ Right Along

 

Sooo…. this happened:
 

 

Talk is indeed cheap. Enough talk, let’s get straight to those week four game previews! The comments section is always open for business if you want to share your own opinions, or Twitter is a fun place to start some shit. Dig in!

 

Thursday, 26 September (8:20 pm)

Eagles (pre-game record: 1-2 / pre-game prediction: 4-12)
Packers (pre-game record: 3-0 / pre-game prediction: 14-2)

 

Crown of Talons (Blood Eagle)Wolfpack (Barrett)

 

As always, we’ll begin with the Thursday night game. We know how to operate a calendar; we know Thursday has already happened. But it hardly seems to matter: through four consecutive Thursday games, our prediction has not been correct a single time so far. Compared with a 31-13-1 record for the Sunday/Monday games through three weeks.

The turnaround to prepare for a game with such a brief time since the previous Sunday afternoon can be tricky. But in this window of just a few days, the Green Bay defense that had dominated their first three games suddenly started looking fallible, and Aaron Rodgers‘ offense finally started showing some signs of life — and meanwhile, Philadelphia recovered a bit from the injury bug that had bitten them so badly in the weeks prior. All these factors came together into a fairly entertaining (and very evenly matched) contest — including a sequence of a few touchdowns back and forth, but when it was the Packers turn to strike back, their quarterback chose an unfortunate moment to throw his first interception of the season, with the Eagles leading and less than 30 seconds on the game clock.

 

Sunday, 29 September (1:00 pm)

Redskins (current record: 0-3 / current prediction: 4-12)
Giants (current record: 1-2 / current prediction: 8-8)

It may have taken a bit of luck, in the form of a bizarre penalty followed by a missed field goal, but “a win is a win,” as they say, and the Daniel Jones era has begun in New York with a win.

Meanwhile, Washington has looked worse each week they’ve stepped onto the field — dropping their most recent excursion at home against Chicago, with Case Keenum throwing three INTs and only two TDs. Meanwhile the running backs finally combined for more than fifty yards for the first time this year, although they still haven’t had twenty carries in a single game. While the Giants remain very much in a state of disarray, Jay Gruden needs to take a good look at his team’s approach if they hope to secure their first win of the season (and ultimately, if he hopes to keep his position as head coach secure!)

 

Sunday, 29 September (1:00 pm)

Chargers (current record: 1-2 / current prediction: 4-12)
Dolphins (current record: 0-3 / current prediction: 1-15)

Welcome back, Melvin Gordon! Although with the productivity of Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson in his absense, it’s unclear how much this Los Angeles team has really missed him. And going up against 0-3 Miami who thus far has been outscored 133-16 (ranking dead last or close to it in virtually every major statistical category), it makes perfect sense for head coach Anthony Lynn to be in no hurry to reinsert Gordon in the Chargers‘ backfield.

 

Sunday, 29 September (1:00 pm)

Raiders (current record: 1-2 / current prediction: 9-7)
Colts (current record: 2-1 / current prediction: 12-4)

After dumping a two-time Pro Bowl receiver (for a first round pick) last October, Oakland probably felt pretty confident adding a seven-time Pro Bowler (six as a receiver) and five-time All Pro (four of which were first-team) for basically peanuts (out of their massive stockpile of draft picks) just a month before this year’s draft. Well, we all know how that turned out. And through the first three weeks of 2019, Derek Carr has averaged 233 yards per game through the air. How many of the Raiders catching those balls can you name? Does it help if I mention that one of their receivers was on the team’s 2018 roster?

While the squad in silver and black may not have accomplished much since the Broncos visited RingCentral Coliseum three Sundays ago, newly-minted starting QB Jacoby Brissett and his Indianapolis teammates have followed a dramatic overtime loss to the Chargers by squeaking out two- and three- point victories over Tennessee and Atlanta. With safety Malik Hooker (who has amassed ten tackles and one of the Colts‘ two interceptions so far this year) already ruled out, and leading receiver T.Y. Hilton (who has more receptions and more yards than the next two players in each category combined) listed as doubtful, coach Frank Reich‘s mettle and ability to rally the team will continue to be tested when Oakland comes to town this weekend.

 

Sunday, 29 September (1:00 pm)

Panthers (current record: 1-2 / current prediction: 4-12)
Texans (current record: 2-1 / current prediction: 9-7)

The artist formerly known as “Superman” — Carolina quarterback Cam Newton didn’t look like himself through the first two weeks of this season. But then, he hasn’t looked like himself for quite a while. The last time he started a game the Panthers ended up winning was November 4, week nine of the 2018 season. Meanwhile, filling in during a meaningless week seventeen match to close out a lost year against an opponent who had already clinched the top spot in the conference, and then reprising the role of starting QB after Newton was held out of this year’s week three tilt against the Cardinals with a foot injury, undrafted free agent Kyle Allen has put together a 2-0 record with six touchdowns and zero interceptions.

Can that string of success (if a total of two nonconsecutive games can even be called a “string”) continue this week, with the 2011 first overall pick remaining sidelined with what is now being speculated as a Lisfranc sprain? That will all depend on the home team at Houston‘s NRG Stadium this Sunday. Specifically, their defense which has totaled ten sacks, five fumbles, plus one Whitney Mercilus interception. It may have taken a minute to adjust to the departure of Jadeveon Clowney but this Texans team appears to be hitting its stride now…

 

Sunday, 29 September (1:00 pm)

Chiefs (current record: 3-0 / current prediction: 14-2)
Lions (current record: 2-0-1 / current prediction: 4-11-1)

The first of two match-ups between unbeaten teams this week, one can only assume Detroit (who did end up with a tie against Arizona, but technically they haven’t been beaten by anyone yet) will have a stiff challenge ahead when Andy Reid‘s Kansas City team comes to Ford Field. It should surprise no one that the Chiefs rank in the top three in terms of passing yards, total yards, and points per game — their offense under QB Patrick Mahomes should be expected to continue flourishing. The rushing offense is much farther down the rankings (22nd) so far, but after the departure of their #1 RB of the past couple years, and with injuries sidelining starter Damien Williams and possibly limiting veteran LeSean McCoy, that’s certainly excusable.

Of greater concern might be the defensive side of the ball for Kansas City, where they are around the middle of the pack in points per game and passing yards per game, but closer to the bottom in total yards and especially rushing yards (all of which mirror the team’s performance last year). Meanwhile, running with the ball has been a concern in Detroit for years. Their leading rusher Kerryon Johnson (who finally hit 100 yards in a game against New England last year — the first Lions player to have done so since 2013) has not reached the 50-yard plateau yet this year, and the team as a whole has only exceeded 100 yards once — at Arizona in the week one contest which stretched a full seventy minutes.

Matt Patricia‘s team stunned the football world when they dismantled the eventual Super Bowl winners last September, and following Green Bay‘s week four TNF loss, Detroit enters this weekend holding first place in the NFC North. Might they have another surprise up their sleeves against 2018 MVP Mahomes and company?

 

Sunday, 29 September (1:00 pm)

Patriots (current record: 3-0 / current prediction: 15-1)
Bills (current record: 3-0 / current prediction: 11-5)

These AFC East rivals both carry 3-0 records into New Era Field, but how they have achieved those records has been slightly less identical. New England has outscored its opponents 106-17 (allowing two touchdowns through three games, one coming on a fumbled punt and the other on an interception, both in the second half against the Jets in week three), although the teams they’ve beaten — also including Miami and Pittsburgh — have a cumulative record of 0-9 this year. Buffalo‘s opponents have had a similar lack of overall success in 2019 (combined record 1-8), though those victories have been a bit less one-sided: falling behind 0-16 partway through the third quarter against the Jets before clawing back for a 17-16 win; piling it on against the Giants (with four touchdowns to New York‘s two) just before they had reached the breaking point with Eli Manning; and then leading the Bengals 14-0 at halftime but allowing the visiting team to tie it up entering the fourth quarter, ultimately ending up with a four-point triumph for Buffalo.

So in other words, while this match-up will be the toughest competition either of these teams will have faced thus far, how they each stand up to that adversity may reveal much about the 2019 version of both teams and where they may be headed this season.

 

Sunday, 29 September (1:00 pm)

Browns (current record: 1-2 / current prediction: 4-12)
Ravens (current record: 2-1 / current prediction: 12-4)

Divisional rivalries always produce tough-fought battles. Well, almost always. Cleveland may have had a recent two-year stretch where they won just one of thirty-two games. But in both the 2015 and 2018 seasons, they defeated Baltimore once in overtime, and lost the second game by less than one touchdown. While this year’s Browns are underachieving expectations — especially on offense, which is crazy for a team whose first-time head coach was promoted to that position after achieving a moderate amount of success during less than one full season in which he’d been promoted to interim offensive coordinator! The Ravens, on the other hand, are exceeding where anyone thought they would be offensively. The team’s depleted defensive ranks due to a number of off-season departures may not have been enough to overcome the Chiefs last week, but may be more of a formidable opponent for Baker Mayfield and company this afternoon.

 

Sunday, 29 September (1:00 pm)

Titans (current record: 1-2 / current prediction: 7-9)
Falcons (current record: 1-2 / current prediction: 9-7)

This was supposed to be the year for Tennessee‘s Marcus Mariota to rise up to meet expectations, getting himself that big new contract in the process. Being sacked seventeen times (and 25 hits) through the first three weeks of the season was not part of that plan. Coach Mike Vrabel may say he isn’t ready to turn to backup Ryan Tannehill right now, but if this offensive line stays as porous as it has been, such a switch might be inevitable anyway.

Atlanta, meanwhile, has managed only five sacks this year (the same number they’ve allowed against opposing defenses); their defense ranks in the top half of most categories except points. Which is admittedly a pretty important statistic. The offense ranks similarly low there: averaging 20 points per game and allowing 25 is not going to have a team chalking up many Ws on the board. Quarterback Matt Ryan, meanwhile, has been as adequate as he seems to be every year; it remains to be seen whether adequate will be good enough against this Titans defense — which has snagged four interceptions (two returned for touchdowns) through three games. (As poor as the Tennessee offense has looked overall, losing 122 yards on sacks so far, as well as losing four fumbles, there have been no interceptions by any of their opponents yet.)

 

Sunday, 29 September (4:05 pm)

Buccaneers (current record: 1-2 / current prediction: 10-6)
Rams (current record: 3-0 / current prediction: 9-7)

Tampa Bay was coming on strong in the final minute of their game at Raymond James Stadium last Sunday, with a couple big passes from Jameis Winston, and practically had their second win of the season wrapped up, only to see that victory sail wide right from 34 yards out. Sunday night in Cleveland, on the other hand, the Browns were similarly driving down the field as time was ticking away, and were only prevented from tying the Rams at 20 when Baker Mayfield‘s final pass of the game was intercepted in the end zone. With games as tight as these were, these teams’ records (1-2 and 3-0) could just as easily be reversed. Expect to see another close victory for one of these teams today.

 

Sunday, 29 September (4:05 pm)

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

When Seattle finally came against an opponent that has won at least one game this year, even though that opponent was on its backup quarterback, and even though the game was played in the familiar setting of CenturyLink Field, the Seahawks seemed to falter a bit. Now they are visiting Arizona, who always tends to challenge their NFC West opponents even in years where they aren’t playing so well overall. This year’s Cardinals are actually looking better than anyone predicted — although they haven’t won any games yet, rookie QB Kyler Murray has not looked entirely lost, keeping his team competitive for the most part (except for this past week when the defense simply had no answers for Panthers backup Kyle Allen). The Seahawks defense has also been struggling, keeping games against the 0-6 (combined) Bengals and Steelers much closer than perhaps they should have been — and if Arizona is to steal away their first victory of the year, conditions just may be right for an upset today.

 

Sunday, 29 September (4:25 pm)

Jaguars (current record: 1-2 / current prediction: 5-11)
Broncos (current record: 0-3 / current prediction: 6-10)

When Joe Flacco moved from Baltimore, it seemed like a perfect fit: the Broncos have had quarterback issues for years, but a strong enough defense to make up for it — and the Ravens won a Super Bowl with Flacco at the helm, using that exact same formula. So who could have seen this Denver team registering exactly zero sacks, zero forced fumbles, and zero interceptions through three games? Can they get back on track welcoming the Jaguars to town, who will be fielding a quarterback making his third career start? Perhaps if that rookie was someone other than Gardner Minshew, quickly developing a cult-like following across the league, with five passing touchdowns and only one interception (three and zero in the two games he started). Jacksonville has also allowed just five sacks to Minshew (none coming in the team’s win over the Titans last week), so the outlook for Denver turning things around today seem pretty bleak.

 

Sunday, 29 September (4:25 pm)

Vikings (current record: 2-1 / current prediction: 10-6)
Bears (current record: 2-1 / current prediction: 10-6)

Following the Packers‘ loss on Thursday, the NFC North could end the weekend with the Lions adding to their lead with a victory over Kansas City, but a Detroit loss earlier in the afternoon followed by this game ending in a tie would leave Green Bay out front with the other three in a close second at 2-1-1. Perhaps the likeliest scenario here is either Minnesota or Chicago, at 3-1, sharing first place with the Packers by the end of the day, while the other drops to 2-2 and to fourth place in the division.

As to which will be which? Hard to say — both teams have seen middling-at-best performances from quarterbacks Kirk Cousins and Mitch Trubisky, but generally have made up for it with a strong defense. While both teams rank in the top five for defense where it counts most (15.7 points per game for the Vikings ranks fourth, and the Bears‘ 13.0 ranks second), offensively Minnesota comes in eighth (26.0 per game) compared with Chicago‘s less-impressive average of 16.7 (good for twenty-sixth in the league).

 

Sunday, 29 September (8:20 pm)

Cowboys (current record: 3-0 / current prediction: 14-2)
Saints (current record: 2-1 / current prediction: 6-10)

Tonight in prime time initially looked like it would feature the two heavyweight contenders of the NFC — but that was before Drew Brees suffered a thumb injury during week two that required surgery and was expected to keep New Orleans‘ franchise QB off the field for six to eight weeks. Brees was never placed on injured reserve, though, and he’s now saying he plans to return sooner than expected. Whether that ends up being the case or not, his team may be in better hands than we previously thought: Teddy Bridgewater took the Saints into Seattle and did just enough to come away with a win. While he may have thrown for only 177 yards, his nineteen completed passes included one touchdown to Michael Thomas and one to Alvin Kamara (who ran one into the end zone as well). But the New Orleans defense and special teams did the rest, tacking on touchdowns on a punt return and an interception return.

Dallas has looked plenty dominant through the early part of this season, at least on paper — outscoring opponents 97-44, but once again it needs to be taken into account whom they’ve played against so far: the Giants, Redskins, and Dolphins, whose combined records are just 1-8. So Dak Prescott keeps continuing to impress, and keeps waiting for that new contract deal to be complete, but tonight will be the first real litmus test for these Cowboys — and perhaps will be the huge clash we had originally been hoping for, after all.

 

Monday, 30 September (8:15 pm)

Bengals (current record: 0-3 / current prediction: 4-12)
Steelers (current record: 0-3 / current prediction: 8-8)

…which brings us to this Monday night encounter between bitter AFC North rivals. While these teams both rank among the five to start the 2019 season with three losses, there have been plenty of dramatic, contentious moments between the two in recent years. Besides, Steeler Nation reaches far and wide — a nationally televised game featuring this team will always draw big numbers of viewers. And Pittsburgh has had great success in night games, especially in Heinz Field, over the past several years; not to mention the run of victories against Cincinnati lately.

But so far in 2019, Cincinnati has faced the 2-1 Seahawks (ending up losing by just one point), and a pair of 3-0 teams (San Francisco and Buffalo); Pittsburgh has also lost a close one to Seattle and another to the 49ers, but were completely crushed when they went up against the 3-0 Patriots. So while recent history seems to favor the home team in this case, recent-er history might give us enough reason to wonder: is there really an appreciable advantage for either of these competitors?

 

2019-20 Playoff Picture (Pre-Week 4 Edition):

AFC:

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

 

NFC:

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

 

Super Bowl LIV:

  • W: Kansas City Chiefs
  • L: Dallas Cowboys
Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.