ARCHIVES (2016-Part 4)
QC's 5 Best Guesses | Week 9
Handicapping is more difficult during big bye weeks when the card reduces a
handicappers options by almost 20 percent. Broken replay equipment in
Carolina, which turned a Carson Palmer incomplete pass into a TO/TD, and Dan
Quinn impetuously violating the
Skinner Principle by sacrificing from
favored Atlantas final score in order to increase variance turned what
could have been a 1-1-3 week into a 1-3-1 week. It will not be any easier in
Week 9 as again just 13 games are on the card.
1. Falcons -4 over Buccaneers. Teams that
play a fifth quarter as Tampa Bay did in Week 8 against Oakland are now 0-3 ATS
the next game after Atlanta OC Kyle Shannahan and QB Matt Ryan dissected the
Bucs defense. On the plus side for Tampa Bay, Jameis Winston played
another turnover-free game and carved up the Falcons coverage before he
was flattened and had to leave the game with an injury.
2. Jets +3.5 over Dolphins. Miami is on
two-game winning streak in which RB Jay Ajayi tied an NFL record with
back-to-back 200+-yard rushing performances. Can Ajayi make it three in row? QC
doubts it. NYs strength is stopping the run. Last week the Browns
generated just 4 first downs on the ground and the week before that the Ravens
generated 0. Thats zip, zero, zilch. Only Arizona and RB David Johnson
has rushed for more than 86 yards against Todd Bowles' D. Dolphins QB Ryan
Tannehill has looked good with Ajayi moving the chains on the ground, but if
that dimension is gone he probably will go back to being as turnover-prone as
Jets QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. Miami has been turnover free for the last two
games, but in the 4 games before those, the Dolphins averaged 2.75 giveaways a
game. Both teams are on a two-game winning streak and the winner stays in the
thick of the annual race for second place in the AFC East. A field goald plus
the hook is too big a subsidy to pass up here.
3. Vikings -5.5 over Lions. Its
painful to say this, but Minnesota without Norv Turner is probably better off.
Turner is a fine play designer whos designs produce. But he is stubborn.
His pass designs take a long time to develop and, given the Vikings severe pass
protection limitations, that puts QB Sam Bradford in jeopardy. Bradford is
unflappable, played for a zillion play designers, and had no familiarity with
Turner until he was traded to Minnesota before Week 1. So he is unlikely to
miss a designer to whom he had such little attachment. Moreover, Bradford is
the best QB in the NFL when under pressure according to the guys at Pro
Football Focus. So the Vikings can withstand some pass pressure. They just
cant withstand a jail break on every play. New OC Pat Shurmur is
ultra-risk averse. He will trade less production for not putting Bradford in
harms way as much. Combined with a return home and a defense that will
pin its ears back against Matt Stafford because the Lions cannot run the ball
at all, Minnesota still should have enough to return to something more closely
resembling its early season form than its form of the last 2 weeks. The Lions
have lost their last two games on the road to Chicago and Houston and neither
of those venues are as hostile as the Vikings' new home.
4. Chiefs -7 over Jaguars . Nick Foles
stepped in for an injured Alex Smith last week and looked great. Dont
forget, Andy Reid is the coach that drafted Foles and Reid cut all of his other
backup QBs in pre-season, including 2016 pick Kevin Hogan who has already seen
the field in Cleveland. Reid has a lot of confidence in Foles. KCs
running game is banged up but Charcandrick West did a fine job in 2015 when
asked to play. Moreover, Jacksonville was dismantled by San Diego and Tennessee
in 2 of its 3 games on the road. KC DC Bob Sutton features difficult, attacking
designs and the Chiefs are one of the best teams in the NFL in generating TOs,
led by ball-hawking DB Marcus Peters. Jaguars HC Gus Bradley sacked OC Greg
Olson during the bye week. QB coach Nathaniel Hackett is now the OC and
play-caller. Jacksonville owner Shad Khan, his son Tony Khan, and GM David
Caldwell met with the players after the debacle against the Titans and asked
them what is wrong with team. He might as well cued up the music from
Jaws as theme music. Bradley seems all but gone. If the players
also sense that blood is in the waterand they probably dofading
Jacksonville (currently 3-4 ATS) should be one of the most reliable plays of
the second half of the season.
5. Bills +6.5 over Seahawks. Both Seattle
(Russell Wilson and Michael Bennett) and Buffalo (LeSean McCoy and Lorenzo
Alexander) come in with a key performer on each side of the ball bandaged
pretty much from head to toe. (Bennett is out.) Until Rex Ryans team
encountered New Englands varsity QB last week, the Bills were the biggest
overachievers in the NFL according to QCs experimental
overachievement/underachievement statistic. A loss to the Patriots alone is not
enough to think Buffalo cannot recover that form. QB Tyrod Taylors
passing statistics are dreadful, but he is crafty in the running game and
rarely makes big mistakes. In other words, he is similar to Wilson. And Taylor
is healthier. Ryan and the hitherto undistinguished Alexander have resurrected
the Bills' pass rush and the Seahawks have had great difficulty protecting
Wilson. Neither team has won a game in 3 weeks and Buffalo, who has already
topped Arizona, LA and San Francisco, can claim an unofficial NFC West title if
it can win SU.
Last Week 1-3-1
QC's Week 8 Thoughts
After blasting Buffalo, 41-25, in a game that was much more one-sided than the
final score, New England is now ranked No. 1 in the NFL in play design
differential for the first time since it beat Miami to conclude its 16-0 season
in 2007. Yes, thats right, its been more than 8 years since the
best HC in the NFL Bill Belichick, has fielded the best designed team in the
NFL. In the intervening period, the Patriots almost always have ranked in the
top half of the NFL in play design differential, but where they have really
been superior is in turnover differential. In the 135 regular season games New
England played in that period, the Patriots were +108 TO or +0.8 TO per game.
Any team that is on average +1 TO and designed at least as well as its opponent
is going to win a lot of games. But on any given Sunday, such a team is
vulnerable if turnovers, which are not as reliable as design, turn on the team.
Buffalo is a textbook example. The Bills reeled off 4 consecutive wins during a
+8 TO stretch (+2 TO per game). But Rex Ryans play design differential
has been negative all year. Thus, it is not surprising that as soon as the
turnover subsidies dried up, the Bills fell to Miami and got blown out by New
England. What is surprising is that the greatest HC in NFL history, Belichick,
has not posted the best play design differential in such a long time. This does
not diminish Belichicks greatness or call into question play design
differential in QCs opinion. What it shows is that Belichick has no peers
when it comes to buying and selling risk on the field. Belichick is still
willing to forgo hunting if the opponent is willing to feed his team tasty
turnovers. Now that he has a team that can hunt, the rest of the NFL had better
look out and linemakers soon will start to make the Patriots carry point loads
that have not been seen since 2007.
In a 30-24 overtime win over Tampa Bay, Oakland set an NFL record for penalties
(23), missed two field goals, and suffered a turnover. Still, the Raiders won
SU and ATS on the road for the fifth straight time this year. The outcome had
many writing off Oakland as the luckiest team in the NFL this year and Pat
Kirwan of NFL Radio and CBS anointing the Raiders as the team to beat in the
NFLs toughest division, the AFC West. The truth lies somewhere in
between. For the first time on Sunday, Oakland won on the road despite being an
underachiever as measured by a new achievement statistic with which
QC is experimenting. So the Raiders were lucky against the Bucs. But in their
four previous road games, the Raiderss success could be attribute to
overachievement as opposed to luck. What is Oaklands secret
overachievement ingredient? The answer is two-fold: Turnover differential (+7)
and Derek Carr TD passes. Carr is tied for the lead in the NFL with 17 TD
passes and 5.3% of every pass he has thrown has resulted in a TD. Of QBs who
has attempted at least 200 passes, that ranks behind only Drew Brees (308 pass
attempts), Matthew Stafford (282), Matt Ryan (279), Aaron Rogers (275), and
Marcus Mariota (248) and Carr has attempted more passes (323 attempts) and
posted a lower interception percentage (<1%) than any of those QBs despite
all those attempts. All of this means it is dangerous to use yards-based
statistics to evaluate the Raiders probability of winning.
Everyone will blame Washington kicker Dustin Hopkins for the 27-27 draw in the
match in London with the Bengals because Hopkins failed to nutmeg a 34-yard
potential matchwinner with 2:13 to play in extra time. But Redskins
gaffer Jay Gruden is just as responsible for the result. QB Kirk Cousins and
his Redskins mates on offense were in good form, asking questions and
dominating the run of play early in the second quarter when Gruden sacrificed
from his teams final score in order to increase variance by eschewing a
set piece from a similar distance in order to go for it on fourth down.
Cincinnati refused to capitulate and Gruden needed those 3 points at the end of
full time. NFL gaffers continue to pull this howler on a regular basis and cost
themselves chances to be covered in glory. (See Football Glossary Here).
Early in what would become a 29-23 overtime win over Philadelphia, some on
Twitter were jumping off the Dak Prescott bandwagon and calling for the return
of Tony Romo as the Cowboys starting QB. They were mostly muted by the
end of the game. Prescotts final numbers6.8 QCYPA + 2 TD passes +
TD runwere good by the end of the game. No QB is infinitely productive
every week. The Romo-backers also should consider these numbers: In games Romo
started in 2015, Dallas was -7 TO. In games Prescott has started in 2016, the
Cowboys are +4 TO. It would be mad to lift Prescott and reinsert Romo at this
point with Dallas in the top 5 in the NFL in play design differential and with
a positive turnover differential. Prescotts ability to avoid turnovers
and be a dual-threat may be the biggest threat left in the NFC to Mike
Zimmers defense and Minnesotas quest to represent the NFC in the
QC's 5 Best Guesses | Week 8
In Week 7, turnovers gave to QC (thanks Jaguars) and turnovers took away (#@!!#
Case Keenum), but what hurt more was the Titans giving up the cover to the
Colts with less than 2 minutes to play and the Redskins giving up the cover to
the Lions with less than 1 minute to play. The Brock Osweiler road auto-fade
remained a stopper, but the inability of Tennessee and Washington to close kept
QC from capturing momentum. The linemakers are making a handful of
underachievers lay points in Week 8 so maybe we can another heartbreak.
1. Falcons - 3 over Packers. Atlanta
suffered its second straight tough loss last week, but despite just a 4-3
record, the Falcons remain the best designed team in the NFL. The Falcons also
are infinitely productive on offense and +2 TO. Green Bay, on the other hand,
is in the bottom ten in the NFL in play design and -3 TO, but still has a 4-2
record. Packers QB Aaron Rogers has never been the same player on the road that
he is in Lambeau Field. This has all the makings of a blowout.
2. Browns +3 over Jets. A few weeks ago
gambling's "Mr. October," @majicratsf, previewed the MLB playoffs
using the songs from the Broadway musical "Hamilton." That's not
really QC's bag, baby, but The Rat has correctly predicted every MLB playoff
series so far and did make QC aware that one of the songs in
"Hamilton" is called "My Shot." This looks like the Browns
shot. No QB in the NFL has been more generous than NY's Ryan Fitzpatrick (11
interceptions). Cleveland should have Josh McCown back at QB and the last time
he was under center in a home game vs. Baltimore the Browns did everything but
win. The Browns pass defense has disintegrated the last 3 weeks against Tom
Brady, Marcus Mariota and Andy Dalton. Fitzpatrick is a significant step down
in quality from at least 2 of those 3. If DC Ray Horton's pass coverage can
regress to the mean a little and, more importantly, Fitzpatrick helps the cause
with a few more turnover subsidies, Hue Jackson could get his first SU win as
3. Cardinals +3 over Panthers. This line
looks weird given that Carolina is on a 5-game losing streak and Arizona is
2-0-1 in its last 3 games. The last time Arizona came east the line looked
weird too and the Cardinals got ambushed by Buffalo. In addition, the Panthers
are coming off a bye and Bruce Arians is coming off 5 bruising quarters with
Seattle. So there is plenty to be nervous about here. But the Panthers are the
biggest underachiever in the NFL in 2016. And the Arizona defense is top-notch.
If the Cardinals were laying so much as a point, QC would stay far away. But a
full field goal subsidy is just too generous for QC to pass up here.
4. Raiders +1.5 over Buccaneers. Tampa HC
Dirk Koetter has taken the ball out of QB Jameis Winston's hands and put it in
RB Jacquizz Rogers hands more the past two weeks. As a result, the Bucs have
been +2 TO and picked up wins over Carolina and San Francisco and climbed to
within 1/2 game of Atlanta in the NFC South. It's a mirage. It may be safer to
have the ball in Rogers' hands more than Winston's hands, but it's a lot safer
for the defense too. And that's good news for Oakland because defense is not
the Raiders' strength. QB Derek Carr is Oakland's strength, particularly his
ability to throw TD passes while avoiding turnovers. This is the Raiders'
second straight game in Florida, but they had no trouble last week with
Jacksonville and are now 4-0 SU and ATS in the Central and Eastern time zones.
Tampa is one of the biggest underachievers in the NFL in 2016 and wins over two
of the other biggest underachievers is skewing this line. QC likes Oakland to
once again dominate the turnover battle and improve to 6-2 with a SU win.
5. Vikings -5.5 over Bears. Just when it
seemed Mike Zimmer would force the linemakers to begin making his team carry
heavy points, the Vikes pass protection evaporated in a stinker of a loss at
Philadelphia. But it was not as bad as it seemed. Zimmer's defense still was
its regular nasty self as Eagles rookie QB Carson Wentz barely produced above
Cable. Philly also tallied a special teams TD, received 4 turnover
subsidies, and stopped Minnesota on 4DN inside its own 10-yard line. It
happens. On the other hand, Chicago is coming off a bye and starting QB Jay
Cutler is returning to the lineup. So it looks like the Bears might be on an
uptick. All of this combines to depress a line that at a bare minimum should be
Minnesota -7.5. You cannot blame the linemakers. Zimmer's recipe is not one the
public likes back, particularly when they have to lay more than field goal to
do it. But QC knows a tasty stew when he smells one.
Last Week: 2-3
QC's Week 7 Thoughts
Three weeks ago, Miami was struggling offensively in the stretches. HC Adam
Gase fired a couple of linemen. Since then, in two games, the Dolphins have run
for 456 yards. In San Francisco, the 49ers have given up 561 yards rushing the
last two weeks. Maybe HC Chip Kelly needs to roll some D-line heads.
Speaking of the now 3-4 Dolphins, their win over Buffalo (4-3) tightened up the
annual race for runnerup in the AFC East.
After QB Case Keenum threw 4 picks in a 17-10 loss to the Giants in London,
Rams HC Jeff Fisher said that QB play was not the cause for the loss. He's
right. QB play (5.302 QCYPA; 2.16 play productivity +/-) and OC design caused
the loss. How can LA call 53 passes with RB Todd Gurley in the backfield?
Cardinals K Chandler Catanzaro and Seahawks K Steve Hauschka exchange of missed
chip shot field goals in a 6-6 ranks only third at best all-time on the list of
failed field goal duels. The second best failed field goal due came in the
longest NFL game in history, Miami's 27-24 playoff win over Kansas City in
1970, Chiefs K Jan Stenerud missed a 31-yard field goal with less than a minute
to play and then saw his attempt on the first possession of OT blocked. Then
Dolphins K Garo Yepremian missed before Garo ended the game with a 37-yarder in
the second OT. And the greatest failed field goal duel came in Miami's 41-38
loss to San Diego in the 1981 playoffs. With second's to play, Chargers TE
Kellen Winslow blocked Uwe Von Schamann's 43-yard attempt. Then San Diego K
Rolf Benirsche missed a 27-yard attempt and Chargers DE Leroy Jones blocked Von
Schamann's next attempt from 34 yards. Finally, Benerischke won it for San
Diego with a 29-yard field goal. Heck, Cantanzaro's performance (he had another
field attempt blocked earlier in the game) was not even the worst in Cardinals
history. In a 1983 Monday Night Football game, Cardinals K Neal O'Donghue
missed 3 field goals , including a 19-yards attempt, in a 20-20 tie with the
QC's 5 Best Guesses | Week 7
QC was feeling smug deep in Q4 of SNF in Week 6. Then Indianapolis collapsed
and Houston rallied to push. Still, it was a profitable week for the
QuantCoach. It is time to try to build some momentum.
Titans -2.5 over Colts. It felt like
Indianapolis just ran out of gas against the Texans. This will be the Colts'
third road-trip in four weeks and one of those journeys was to London and back
without a bye. QC doesn't know about you, but when he pulls a late-nighter
analyzing coaching stats, he is still pretty sparky the next day or two. But
the third day? Crash. On the field, Indy's pass protection is poor and Dick
LeBeau's defense has registered 6 sacks each of the past 2 games against the
Dolphins and the Browns. Yikes. On offense, QB Marcus Mariota has thrown 6 TD
passes and committed just one turnover. The Titans also should have no trouble
running on the Colts's D. Still, people have made a lot of money since 2012
betting Andrew Luck 1) against division opponents and 2) off a loss. Also, this
is Chuck Pagano's Super Bowl. If the Colts can win, they will be in the thick
of the division race with nothing but home games left against their division
rivals. If they lose, they will be 0-3 against the division and likely done.
This is far from a no brainer. QC will go with the team who's gas gauge is not
Raiders +1 over Jaguars. Oakland is 1-2 SU
and 0-3 ATS at home. But the Raiders are 3-0 SU and ATS in the central and
eastern time zones this year (New Orleans, Tennessee, Baltimore). Jacksonville
eked out a desperately needed 1-point win in Chicago in Week 6. Oakland QB
Derek Carr played his worst game of the year last week against Kansas City.
Look for Carr to rebound and Jags QB Blake Bortles to continue his eratic play
against an Oakland D that has scattered a few moments of mediocrity (Tennessee,
Baltimore) amongst otherwise horrific performances.
Rams +3 over Giants. New York overcame
Baltimore last week and a -3 TO differental last week on the strenght of an
enormous game from Odell Beckham, Jr. To beat the Rams, Eli Manning will need
an encore. The Giants come into the game a little less than 2% better designed,
but -10 TO. LA is a on 2-game skid, but really could have won both games if
Jeff Fisher had not remembered QC's 8th Commandment that special teams involve
little play design and not faked a punt against Buffalo and been content to
take a chip-shot first-half FG against Detroit. Rams' QB Case Keenum has
acquitted himself fairly well since a nightmare showing Week 1 in San Francisco
as evidenced by LA's respectable +1.64% play design differential. And RB Todd
Gurley has got to explode one of these weeks. Doesn't he?
Redskins +1.5 over Lions. Washington has
steadily improved since starting 0-2. The Redskins play design differential was
-3.4% after those two games. Now it is +1.89%. The Redskins had not beaten a
positively designed team until last week when they dominated Philadelphia more
than the 27-20 final score indicated. In particular, Washington's pass rush
tormented Eagles rookie QB Carson Wentz. If the Redskins can put similar heat
on Matt Stafford, it could be a tough day for the Lions who do not run the ball
or play defense well. This is Detroit's third straight meeting at home with a
better designed team. In the first two games, the Lions upset Philadelphia and
Los Angeles when the Eagles and Rams generously provided Q4 turnover subsidies.
If the Redkins can run the ball anywhere close to as well as they did against
the Eagles (33-230), QB Kirk Cousins should be able to avoid the subsidies that
everyone from Washington is known for.
Broncos -7.5 over Texans. This is the third
straight week QC is betting against Houston and its multi-million dollar QB
Brock Osweiler. The Texans may be 4-2, but in two road games against quality
defenses Osweiler is yet to produce above the JaMarcus Cable. Denver's D is easily on par with the
New England and Minnesota defenses that over-matched Osweiler. On the other
side of the ball, sore-shouldered Broncos QB Trevor Siemian looked a lot like a
RD7 draft pick for more than three quarters in a loss to San Diego. He has had
10 days to heal and will have HC Gary Kubiak back on the sideline calling
plays. Until Osweiler shows that he can produce when facing elite defenses,
Houston is a road auto-fade.
Last Week: 3-1-1
The Browns Doctor Is "In" | Week
6 Therapy Session
QC thinks the Browns may have reached their nadir Week 6 in a 28-26 loss to
Tennessee that was not nearly as close as the final score suggests.
For the second week in a row, an opposing QB shreded the Cleveland secondary.
Titans' QB Marcus Mariota averaged mover than 12 QCYPA and tossed 3 TD passes
as CB Joe Haden was a game-time scratch and S Jordan Poyer left with a
lacerated kidney. Mariota exploited the Browns' depleted coverage to stake
Tennessee to a 28-13 lead.
With the loss, the Browns play design differential fell to a season low -5.14%
and their player productivity differential fell to -7.84 points per game. The
latter indicates that in game where both teams are even in turnovers and solid
in the kicking game, the average team would beat Cleveland by almost 8 points.
It also is an indication that the defense has unraveled.
Qualitatively, there were a few positive developments in Week 6. Rookie QB Cody
Kessler rallied the Browns by directing two late TD drives. Kessler has thrown
just one interception all year despite trailing in games nearly 80% of the
time. His passer rating is 93.8. That is all encouraging.
As he has all season, Hue Jackson gave Cleveland its best chance to win by
trading points for variance and going for a 2-point PAT after Cleveland's first
Q4 TD cut the deficit to 28-19. That the 2-point PAT failed is far less
important than the fact that Jackson again demonstrated that he is a deft
manager of in-game variance.
The Browns will conclude a rugged 4 road games in 5 weeks (the one home game
was against New England) when they travel to Cincinnati in Week 7. Although the
Bengals have a couple of wins, there is very little difference between the
teams from the perspective of coaching statistics. Each team has faced only one
opponent who to date has posted a negative play design differential, the Ravens
and Jets, respectively. The Browns gave away a win Week 2 versus Baltimore
while New York gave Cincinnati a win Week 1. The Bengals beat Miami while
Cleveland would have beaten Miami if K Cody Parkey had made his
last-play-of-regulation field goal attempt. Cincinnati QB Andy Dalton and WR
A.J. Green are a dangerous passing combination and the Bengals may have stud TE
Tyler Eifert for the first time this season. So they could be a handful for the
DC Ray Horton's defense, which has struggled to pressure opposing passers and
cover opposing receivers.
Still, this game is probably the Browns best chance to get a win since the
Miami game. If they can pull it off, QC expects them to improve somewhat
steadily in the second half of the season, which will be just in time for
Cleveland fans coming off an NBA champship and, perhaps, a World Series
QC's Week 6 Thoughts
Has there ever been a streakier HC and QB combination than Carolina's Ron
Rivera and Cam Newton? In 2013, the tandem and the rest of the Panthers won 8
in a row. in 2014, they lost 6 in a row before closing with a 4-game win
streak. In 2015, they won 14 in a row. Currently, they have lost 4 in a row.
But it may be a little early to write them off even though the offense and the
defense look like a hot mess right now.
Since 2012, Indy QB Andrew Luck has owned the Colts' AFC South opponents.
However, Indy has lost it last two division games to Jacksonville and Houston.
The latter was particularly painful. Until the last 5 minutes of the game, the
Colts seemed to be incontrol and Texans HC Bill O'Brien seemed to be warming
still another AFC South hot seat. Then QB Brock Osweiler, threw a pair of TD
passes, and lifted (with a good deal of help from RB Lamar Miller) Houston to
an OT win. Meanwhile, in Chicago, Jaguars QB Blake Bortles followed up on win
over Luck two weeks ago in London by overcoming an early red zone interception
with a late TD pass that lifted the Jaguars over the Bears, 17-16.
After two dreadful performances by his offense in losses to Cincinnati and
Tennessee, Miami HC Adam Gase fired two of his offensive lineman, Billy Turner
and Dallas Thomas. The shakeup paid immediate dividends at the Dolphins stunned
Pittsburgh 30-15. It was not just that the Dolphins won (just their second
victory of the season), it also was how they did it. The Steelers did not sack
Miami QB Ryan Tannehill even once and RB Jay Ajayi erupted for 204 yards
rushing, the best rushing 2016 output by any NFL running back.
QC's "5 Best Guesses" | Week
At 13-12 for the year, QC has battle the linemakers to draw so far. Now let's
see if we can find some value in some unexpected places.
Rams +3.5 over Lions. Los Angeles was
locked in a death struggle with fellow over-achiever Buffalo last week until QB
Case Keenum (pick-6) and HC Jeff Fisher (unsuccessful fake punt call) tried to
do too much and--Boom! Right there!--suddenly the Rams became underachievers
(again). QC expects a chastened Fisher to get back to letting the game come to
LA this week in Detroit. Last week the Lions broke smartly from the gate, but
were gassed in the stretch. Then, late in Q4, Philadelphia suddenly lost its
turnover virginity and Jim Caldwell's team stole a 24-23 victory. As a result,
the linemakers are generously weighting Detroit with a hook that they probably
otherwise would not have asked the Lions to carry.
Jaguars +2.5 over Bears. Chicago is going
to make the linemakers a lot of money. It just won't be QC's money. The Bears'
play design differential is above average. Chicago QB Brian Hoyer is putting up
career numbers. There is even talk that Hoyer will not give the job back to Jay
Cutler when Cutler heals. Hoyer has throw 2 TD passes in each of the last 3
games without an interception. He is do for some regression to the mean.
Jacksonville RB Chris Ivory returned last week and with him the Jaguars running
game found some life. QB Blake Bortles has posted just one above average outing
(> 6.67 QCYPA) so far this year. He is do to break out. By "only"
giving Jacksonville 2.5 points, the bookmakers are begging you to take Chicago.
Don't take that cheese, my friends. Don't take it.
Patriots -8.5 over Bengals. Every square
bettor on the planet will be on Tom Brady in his first game back in Gillette
Stadium since the "Commissioner's Name Who Shall Not Be Mentioned"
banished Tom Terrific to "NFL Azkaban." (Don't feel bad for Tom.
Turns out you get to lay around on the beach necked with supermodels in NFL
Azkaban.) The linemakers will need the Bengals badly. It won't happen. The
Patriots ran a whopping 80 plays last week in Brady's first game back. Both TE
Rob Gronkowski and WR Chris Hogan went over 100 yards receiving as Brady was
11-15-240 yards out of 11 personnel. That's lethal stuff. Meanwhile, Cincinnati
QB Andy Dalton is getting sacked and struggling. HC Marvin Lewis has lost a ton
of play design talent in the last few years when Mike Zimmer, Jay Gruden, and
Hue Jackson left to take HC jobs of their own. Whether it is the loss of play
design catching up to Cincinnati, poor play on the line of scrimmage, receivers
failing to get open (TE Tyler Eifert is still out), or a combination thereof,
it really does not matter. Whatever is causing the Bengals' malaise, it is
unlikely to lift in New England.
Raiders PK over Kansas City. Chiefs HC Andy
Reid almost always cashes tickets off a bye. But here are some numbers QC
cannot ignore: 11 v. 5. That is the number of TD passes Oakland QB Derek Carr
has thrown versus the number of TD passes Kansas City QB Alex Smith has thrown.
The Raiders have won two games by 1 point and another by a field goal so many
will expect them to regress and suffer an L to the rested Chiefs. But when your
QB throws TD passes at the rate that Carr is throwing them, your team is a
very, very tough out. There are too many issues with KC to fix, even in two
weeks. Look for the Raiders to squeak out another win and stand alone in first
place in the AFC West.
Colts +3 over Texans. Indy QB Andrew Luck
and K Adam Vinatieri are playing great football. Last week they willed the
Colts to not only a win, but a cover. Indy's defense is bad. But as long as it
can slow opponents a bit, Luck will move Indy into scoring position and
Vinatieri will make sure that when he does the Colts always cash in for at
least 3 points. It's not a sexy formula, but it is fabulously effective for
covering games. On the other side of the ball, Houston QB Brock Osweiler is due
to rebound some. Last week, Osweiler was overmatched, looked shell-shocked, and
simply quit trying to get the ball downfield against Minnesota. So QC expects
him to come out firing. If so, one of two things will happen. Either, he will
pierce the Colts' porous pass defense (8.444 QCYPA). Or he will provide a
treasure trove of turnovers. QC thinks it will be a little of both--piercing
early, subsidizing late. Luck also is at this best late so put a double shot of
espresso in the Keurig before you go to bed so you are not a zombie Monday
morning after watching your cover.
The Browns Doctor Is "In" : Week
5 Therapy Session
Let's be honest... Did everyone expect the Patriots to put a beat down on
Cleveland? Yes. So all we received was what we had expected. Bill Belichick's
defensive design did what it so frequently does and took way what the Browns do
best (the running game) and Cleveland, who lost starting QB Cody Kessler to
injury in the first half, could not keep up with Tom Brady. There was nothing
to see that we did not expect to see. If anything else had happened, it would
have been merely the result of luck and not repeatable anyway.
The Browns are now 60% through the toughest part of their schedule with sets of
back-to-back road games sandwiching New England. So far, Cleveland's play
design differential has softened during this period from a middle-of-the-pack
-.52% to a bottom-third-of-the-NFL -4.19% . Such a decrease is not surprising
for a young team facing such a tough stretch.
The Browns now face another set of back-to-back road games at Tennessee and at
Cincinnati. However, those teams are more of the caliber of Baltimore than they
are of New England. The Browns should return to a competitive level during the
next 2 games, although the record of Titans DC Dick LeBeau versus rookie QBs
(27-3) suggests that a victory in Week 6 is not expected. The Bengals will be
coming off games against Dallas, New England, and Pittsburgh by the time they
meet Cleveland in Week 7 and may be out of the playoff race and physically
If the Browns can weather the next two weeks and some of their injured players
can heal (Corey Coleman, Carl Nassib, etc.), then we can cautiously expect to
see the play design differential improve starting Week 8 against the Jets. When
the play design differential starts to improve, the first wins of the season
Minnesota crushed Houston 31-13 as the Vikings D
kept Texans' QB Brock Osweiler's productivity well below the
The Vikings rank No. 1 in the NFL in turnover differential (+11) and No. 2 in
play design differential (+6.57%). The only team to rank No. 1 in both
statistics since 2008 is the 2013 Seahawks that rolled to a Super Bowl
championship. On the other hand, it was Osweiler's second consecutive flameout.
Houston HC Bill O'Brien was audibly vexed when Osweiler fired a quick screen on
4th and 16 late in Q3 and the receiver was tackled 10 yards short of the first
San Diego suffered another frustrating loss, 34-31, to Oakland to fall to 1-4.
The Chargers have been almost 5% better designed than their opponents (6th in
the NFL), but Q4 turnovers against New Orleans two weeks ago and 3 early
turnovers and a late special teams breakdown against the Raiders have
undermined San Diego. Against Oakland, a fumbled hold on field goal attempt
that could have tied the game ended the Chargers' last chance to tie the game.
For Phil Rivers, it is deja vu all over again.
In 2010, the San Diego ranked No. 1 in the NFL in
play design differential, but finished 9-7 and missed the playoffs due to awful
special teams and turnovers.
It is not often that one NFL team simply runs over the other. Tennessee did it
to Miami in a 30-17 win in Week 5. The Titans ran for 235 yards. The powerful
ground game loosened up the Dolphins D in the red zone and led to 3 Marcus
Mariota TD passes. More importantly, Mariota did not commit a turnover. In the
aftermath of the win, QC has heard noises from some people whol seem eager to
pile on the Titans bandwagon. On NFL Radio's "Moving the Chains,"
host Pat Kirwan said one of his colleagues at CBS--QC speculates it's Bill
Cowher--is "almost" ready to pick Tennessee to win the AFC South.
This seems like a classic recency bias overreaction to QC. One turnover-free
game does not a reliable QB make.
Atlanta HC Dan Quinn is finally seeing his D generate some meaninful pass
pressure. In Denver, the Falcons made Broncos rookie QB Paxton Lynch's first
NFL start a rough one. Lynch lost more than 1 yard per pass attempts on sacks.
Atlanta LB Vic Beasley, who had been looking like he might be a draft bust,
erupted for 3 1/2 sacks on this own. Beasely wreaked most of his havoc against
a backup tackle. It remains to be seen if he and the rest of the Falcons can
keep pressure on opposing passers. But if Atlanta can continue to generate that
anything close to 45% as much pressure as it put on Lynch, the Falcons will be
a serious contender for the NFC championship.
Green Bay throttled another running game in a 23-16 win over New York, holding
Giants runners to 43 yards. For the season, the Packers have yet to yield more
than 50 yards rushing to any opponent and have held opposing ball-carriers to a
miniscule 1.99 yards per carry. But they have not faced anything resembling a
quality running team (Jacksonville, Minnesota, Detroit and NY). That will
change when Dallas and RB Ezekiel Elliott come to Lambeau Field in Week 6. The
Cowboys torched the Bengals for 180 yards on the ground in a 28-14 win and have
rushed for 199, 194 and 180 yards the last three weeks. Most observers think
this road trip will prove if Dallas is a "real" contender. But QC
thinks the real test will be if the Green Bay run defense is real or just a
mirage resulting opponents "lost in the desert" rushing
QC's 5 Best Guesses: Week 5
Vikings -6.5 over Texans. Until Minnesota loses at home or the
linemakers start making the Vikings carry more than 7 points, QC will be laying
the points with Minnesota at home. The only time Bill O'Brien's team has been
on the road it was disaster in New England. Mike Zimmer has designed a defense
that has befuddled Aaron Rogers and Eli Manning. Do you think Texans QB Brock
Osweiler can solve it? Osweiler has been shaky aginst lesser competition and
produced below the JaMarcus
Cable at New England. In front of a raucous crowd, the wheels could
come off even more. On the other side, Vikings QB Sam Bradford has played like
he has ice water in his veins since arriving in the land of the lakes. Both
teams have excellent special teams and you cannot afford another Will Fuller
punt return if the Vikings are to cover for the 19th time in their last 22
Browns +10.5 over Patriots. Tom Brady is returning and everybody will be
on the Patriots. Cleveland HC Hue Jackson has gotten the Cleveland running game
going the last two weeks and Buffalo controlled the ball for over 36 minutes
last week against New England. If the Patriots were fully healthy--TE Rob
Gronkowski has still yet to play anything close to a full game--and Brady had
not spent the last month laying around necked in Italy, a double digit point
spread might not be enough. But Jackson has the Browns competing like crazy and
they may make Brady's return--though likely a triumph--more challenging than
Eagles -3 over Lions. Everything really began to fall apart for
Philadelphia and ex-HC Chip Kelly when they traveled to Detroit on Thanksgiving
last year and got stuffed like a turkey by Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson. Of
course, Megatron is no longer a Lion. And ex-Detroit HC Jim Schwartz is
probably the kind of guy who would like to stick it to the team that fired him
as he rebuilds his resume for another HC gig. Normally, QC puts no weight on
"revenge." NFL players play for money, not for spite. But Schwartz
seems like the kind of guy who might get a defense to believe in atonement. On
the other side of the ball, phenom rookie QB Carson Wentz has yet to throw an
interception. It seems unlikely that the Detroit defense that Green Bay's Aaron
Rogers toyed with in the first half last week would be the D that gives the kid
his first taste of NFL adversity.
Colts -4.5 over Bears. Everybody is ready to bury Indy who returns from
the UK with a loss to division rival Jacksonville as carry-on baggage. But QB
Andrew Luck is actually playing much better and has always been an
overachiever. In the context of coaching statistics, the Colts have almost
always looked like a below average team since they drafted Luck in 2012. Yet,
still , they have made the playoffs every year except last year when he was
hurt. Luck has been particuarly good ATS off a loss. Chicago, on the other
hand, has been underachieving most of the year. The Bears have a slightly
positive play design differential, but they are 1-3 and barely held off Detroit
lasat week. Quite simply, Chicago struggles to put points on the board. Indy's
Luck struggles with a lot of things, but putting points on the board is usually
not one of them. Indy should rebound.
Redskins +4 over Ravens. Washington rescued its season two weeks ago
when it rallied to beat the Giants and then short-circuited a core melt-down by
collecting 3 Q4 turnovers from the Browns. The Redkins faced three of the best
offenses in the NFL the first 3 weeks so their defensive statistics are not
impressive. But Baltimore QB Joe Flacco is averaging only 6.1 QCYPA, including
just 5.6 QCYPA last week against Oakland's flimsy defense. The Ravens also have
given away 7 turnovers in 4 games. Baltim\more's ground game did wake up a bit
last week, but in the first 3 weeks of the season it could muster no more than
84 yards. With all due respect to the Raiders' Derek Carr, Washington QB Kirk
Cousins and WR DeSean Jackson and TE Jordan Reed will be the most dangerous
downfield passing attack the Ravens have faced so far. And the Redkins have
taken reasonably good care of football with just 5 giveaways and +3 TO.
Last Week: 3-2