Like the Dolphins, I got back to my winning ways last week posting a 9-5 record. The Dan Campbell Effect was in full force and like he said in his Monday post-practice press conference, we cannot do like we have been doing: getting a big win and then falling into a lull the following week. Message received and understood coach!
Seattle at San Francisco
I have almost developed a foolproof plan for predicting the Thursday night game: look at whoever I picked and take the other team. I am 0-6 this season on Thursday night. Can I break the streak this week? The Seattle Seahawks look, well... lost. Offensively, they aren't that good. Defensively, they look weaker than expected. They have dominated for 3 quarters, only to give the game up in the fourth. They enter this game tied with their opponent for the worst record in their division. Many would have predicted that for the Niners. The Seahawks however were supposed to be the class of their conference. Needless to say this is a HUGE game for them. A loss drops them at best 2 games back from the Cardinals, and they would be 0-2 in the division. At 2-5, they can basically forget about a 3rd Super Bowl trip. The Niners on the other hand, can do two things with a win here. They can effectively derail their bitter rival's season while catapulting themselves into the NFC Wildcard race and possible the NFC West race. Both teams have struggling OLs. Both teams have QBs that can create yards with their feet. Both teams will try to establish the run game. Despite the records, this one should be fun to watch, since there is so much at stake.
Seahawks 17 - 49ers 14
Buffalo at Jacksonville
This game could be more interesting than it would appear on the surface. The Jaguars have some weapons on the outside, with emerging receiver Allen Robinson leading the way (28-488-5). They face a tough defense this week with the Bills. There could be some internal issues brewing with the Bills though. QB Tyrod Taylor has played well for the most part this season, but he missed last week and E.J. Manuel got the start. He was bad and if he starts for the Bills, it could spell trouble for their offense. On defense, there have been some hints at discontent at Rex Ryan's schemes. The Bills led the league in sacks last season with 54, which is over 3 sacks per game. It was expected that the defensive expertise of Ryan would create even more sacks. This season, they have 9 in 6 games, or 1.5 sacks per game. So they aren't getting to the QB like they did last season. They have a good secondary, but in terms of yards per game, Jacksonville is slightly better than them. This game SHOULD go to the Bills as they have a more talented roster overall. But this game has "fluky results" written all over it.
Bills 24 - Jaguars 20
Tampa Bay at Washington
This game could become a festival of interceptions. At least Jameis Winston can chalk his up to being a rookie. What's Kirk Cousins' excuse? This game will come down to which team can run the ball better than the other.
Redskins 17 - Buccaneers 14
Atlanta at Tennessee
The Titans just felt the wrath of a Dan Campbell led Miami team. The Titans were gashed for 180 yards by a Dolphins team that prior to the game, averaged less than 70 yards per game. Now they face the NFL's second leading rusher and his 9 rushing TDs. And they also have to contend with Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and the emerging Leonard Hankerson. And Marcus Mariota may not play. Things aren't looking good for the Titans in this one. Interesting weird stat: Andrew Franks was the first kicker to score a field goal against the Titans this season.
Falcons 31 - Titans 17
New Orleans at Indianapolis
I saw a tweet regarding the now infamous fake punt play the Colts attempted last Sunday night. The tweeter said he was glad Chuck Pagano went the "You'll have to fire me, I'm not quitting" route. That the best explanation of that play I've seen so far. The Colts are the beneficiaries of playing in the worst division in football. One could argue that the AFC South is the worst ran division in the NFL too. Ryan Grigson has made two good moves of note: picking Andrew Luck first overall and trading for Vontae Davis. He kinda fell into the first situation so it's not like it took a keen sense to make that move. And the Davis trade could be chalked up to incompetence from Miami's previous staff. Aside from that, Grigson makes Jeff Ireland look like a good GM. He has failed to build a solid OL around his franchise QB. He has failed to build a decent defense. For a team that was expected to contend for a Super Bowl title, the Colts look more like an also-ran. The good news for them is they get to face a Saints team that isn't very good this year either. The bad news is that Drew Brees is still playing well and gets to face the Colts defense. The Colts just had their biggest game of the season against the Patriots on Sunday night. With everyone watching, and needing a win to gain some credibility as a true contender, they ran THAT FAKE PUNT PLAY! The only thing "deflated" right now is the Colts.
Saints 35 - Colts 28
Minnesota at Detroit
The Lions finally got on the board with an OT win over the Bears. This week they face a tougher challenge in the Vikings. The Vikings can play defense, run the ball, and Bridgewater is good enough to beat them. On a side note, I've seen lots of tweets saying that there is no "chemistry" between Teddy Bridgewater and Mike Wallace. Wallace is on pace for 70 catches, 819 yards, 3 TDs, and a career low 11.7 YPC average. Meanwhile Rishard Matthews is on pace for 74 catches, 1162 yards, 10 TDs, and a sparkling 15.7 YPC average (picture Ryan Tannehill sipping tea here).
Vikings 24 - Lions 21
UPSET OF THE WEEK
Pittsburgh at Kansas City
The Steelers will most likely turn to 3rd string QB Landry Jones for his first career start this week. As a reward, he gets to face a good Chiefs pass rush without starting left tackle Kelvin Beachum. The Chiefs aren't good offensively, but the Steelers aren't good defensively. The Steelers have some weapons on the outside. But how effective will they be with Jones? Meanwhile, the Chiefs NEED this win to possibly salvage their season. I think the Chiefs take a close win at home.
Chiefs 20 - Steelers 17
Cleveland at St. Louis
The Browns lost in the most Browns' way possible last week: a close loss at the end against the Broncos. Both teams have a decent defense and both offenses have weapons to exploit the weaknesses in those defenses. I'll take the home team.
Rams 20 - Browns 17
GAME OF THE WEEK
New York Jets at New England*
The Patriots* look unstoppable right now. But... look at their opponents for a moment. They have beaten the Steelers, who are bad defensively. They beat the 1 win Jaguars. They beat the Cowboys without Tony Romo or Dez Bryant. They beat the 3-3 Bills and the 3-3 Colts. In other words, they haven't really faced anyone tough yet. This week, they get a tough opponent. The Jets have the #1 defense in yards per game and points per game. They are second in rushing yards per game allowed. They are second in the league in turnover differential and third in takeaways. Offensively, the Jets have the 7th best rushing offense led by the NFL's #3 rusher in total rushing yards and yards per carry, Chris Ivory. The Jets have won in every game Ivory has played this season and the lowest points they scored in any of those games was 20. The Patriots* are 22nd in the league in rushing yards per game allowed. Any guesses as to what the Jets are going to do? The Patriots* always try to take away a team's best weapon. So expect Belichick* to focus on shutting down Ivory. It will then fall on the arm of Ryan Fitzpatrick. Can he lead the Jets to victory? Can the Pats* stop Brandon Marshall? Can the Jets defense, led by Darrelle Revis, contain the Pats* offense?
Patriots* 27 - Jets 20
Oakland at San Diego
Philip Rivers threw for over 500 yards last week, with no interceptions, and lost the game. He is on pace to have a monster statistical season. The Chargers are only 2-4 though and are third in their division; right behind their opponent this week, the Raiders. The Raiders are better than people expected, and their pass rush could cause problems for the Chargers. But Rivers is playing too well right now and will lead his team to a victory.
Chargers 27 - Raiders 20
Dallas at New York Giants
To be fair to the Cowboys, they'd be running away with this division if they had Tony Romo and Dez Bryant. This division is so blah and this game will highlight that. The Cowboys will start Matt Cassel this week... yeah. Greg Hardy came back two weeks ago and looked pretty good against the Pats*. He could have a big game against the Giants' OL.
Cowboys 21 - Giants 20
Philadelphia at Carolina
Cam Newton is quietly having an MVP caliber season. No, his stats aren't as good as Aaron Rodgers or even Andy Dalton. But those players have several quality pass catchers and running backs. Cam Newton has Greg Olsen and that's about it. Ted Ginn Jr. is Carolina's most targeted wideout, followed by Corey Brown and Jerricho Cotchery. Jonathan Stewart is the leading rusher by yards, but Newton is only 73 yards behind him, with 29 less carries. Carolina's defense is still pretty good, led by breakout cornerback Josh Norman. Luke Kuechly returned last week after a concussion and played like expected. Carolina is winning games ugly, but they are winning games. And they now sit atop the NFC South. The Eagles are atop the NFC North, but they are at 3-3. They don't look as good as people thought they'd be and I don't expect them to roll into Carolina and get a win over the stout Panthers.
Panthers 24 - Eagles 13
Baltimore at Arizona
The Cards look great one week, lousy the next. The Ravens look bad about every week. Joe Flacco can make some "wow" throws at times and then other times, he leaves you scratching your head. The Cardinals have a good enough defense to make Flacco's evening a tough one. Carson Palmer had a tough week last week, but he should rebound against Baltimore's 27th ranked pass defense.
Cardinals 27 - Ravens 14
Houston at Miami
What. Was. That? Lamar Miller had 19 or more carries 3 times under Joe Philbin. Dan Campbell runs him 19 times in his first game. He responded with a 113 yards and a TD on those 19 carries. The offensive line was a sieve the first 4 weeks. Last week, they allowed a total of 6 pressures. Billy Turner struggled with the Philbin finesse game. With Campbell's punch-you-in-the-mouth kinda style? He played like a starting caliber right guard. I mean, you expected the Dolphins to play with a little more passion. But the contrast from a Campbell coached team to a Philbin coached was so stark, it was like night and day. The Dolphins looked like an NFL team. They didn't sleepwalk through the game; they played aggressive. I don't know if the X's and O's stuff will carry over week end and week out. But I do know that the WAY the Dolphins played WILL carry over.
There were two plays that I thought highlighted the contrast. In the first quarter, Miller runs right for a 22 yard gain. At the end of the run, Miller was at the sideline with a defender bearing down on him. The Philbin Lamar Miller steps out of bounds right there. The Campbell Lamar Miller stays in bounds and hits the defender. He doesn't gain much - maybe a yard or so. But that showed me that he's buying in to the toughness.
The second play was towards the end of the game, right after the 2 minute warning. Miami was up comfortably 31 - 10. It is 3rd and 8 from the 12. Miami is going to run the ball, wind some clock, turn it over on downs, and be happy about a big win. Except, they don't. Tannehill takes the shotgun snap, no play action, just a straight drop, and fires the ball into to Jordan Cameron for a touchdown. Tannehill has already put them away on the previous drive, going 5-5 for 89 yards, capped off by a 2 yard PA rollout to Dion Sims. That final TD was a statement: "We are not going to just beat you, we are going to crush you!"
In Monday's post practice presser, Campbell said they needed to stay aggressive and not fall into that post-win lull that the team had done previously. I think this team has enough veteran leadership that they will continue the drive to compete and play tough. They know all of the good will and positivity from the victory over the Titans will disappear quickly if they come out flat against the Texans.
The Dolphins have never beaten the Texans and now would be as good a time as any to do that. The Texans are 2-4, and are rolling with Brian Hoyer at QB. They still have Arian Foster and DeAndre Hopkins is leading the league in receiving yards. Houston is middle of the pack defensively and could be without CB Kareem Jackson and ILB Benardrick McKinney. They still have J.J. Watt and Jadaveon Clowney though. Miami's OL will have their work cut out for them, especially the guards, who I assume will be tested heavily by Watt.
Last week was about the Dolphins and how they would respond to Campbell. We got that answer. This week, it's about how Campbell and how he will fare after the "new" has been worn off. Can the Dolphins get 2 straight wins?
Dolphins 24 - Texans 20
Duke's Overall Record: 50-41-0