Thursday Night NFL Pick
I got off work early today which couldn’t be sweeter with tonight’s Jets-Broncos match-up looming that is a real can’t miss game. So I get home and flip on NFL network to get my juices flowing. I turned it on just in time to see two things, Marshall Faulk looking positively O.J. like, and some reporter beating around the bush about how Mark Sanchez isn’t progressing as much as the team would like right now. What he really meant, I think, is that Sanchez stinks. Why is it that everyone is afraid (not allowed?) so say it? Does it have something to do with New York? This guy gets nothing but excuses made for him. He is in a great situation in New York and he doesn’t produce consistently. He isn’t so bad that I couldn’t see him eventually becoming a good QB, he just isn’t one right now. See, it’s not that hard to say.
One other thing I caught was this piece on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. http://www.grantland.com/blog/the-triangle/post/_/id/10013/ease-up-tampa-haters-their-schedule-has-been-historically-tough#more Definitely some good research here, but the reason it caught my eye was because I was doing some research of my own this week on how bad the Bucs really are. My conclusion: Bad. In 2009 the Bucs were not a good team. They didn’t get their first win of the season until the 9th week of the season and only finished at 3-13. But they had one important victory. They beat the eventual Super Bowl champion Saints in week 16 of the season, it was only their second loss of the season, even if it was an OT victory this win put Tampa on the map. They obliged the young and improving team narrative the next season by taking their improvement all the way up to 10 wins, and they threw one big upset in there also, over the Saints again. This season they sit at 4-5m with two of their victories coming over Atlanta and New Orleans, beating them has become familiar. The Bucs are defenitely a competitive team when playing within their own division. But is this divisional success misleading us when it comes to how strong the Bucs really are overall as a team? I wanted to find out. I took all of their victories from this season and from 2010 and I just did one simple thing, I removed the fact they beat the Saints. After that I added up the combined records of every team they have beaten over 2 seasons. The results? An ugly 49-107. The average team they have beaten is about a 7-9 team. The only good team they have beaten over that time frame is Atlanta this season, another division game. Not a single other team even had a .500 record. Basically they had one of the easiest schedules around last season because their division got to play the NFC West. (Remember how Atlanta went 13-3, yeah they weren’t that good either) So their schedule got them to 10 wins and this season they are playing like it. There are parallels between them and this years Chiefs. They also went 10-6 last season because they got to play 4 games against the NFC West. They have fallen apart in more spectacular fashion this season, with a big part of it being due to injuries, so the perception between KC and Tampa is probably not that close right now. And Tampa is better than KC, but there is nothing wrong with Tampa this season, they just never were that good to begin with. It is pretty safe to assume they aren’t about to turn things around and go on a playoff push.
Jets -6 over DENVER - That is a lot of points to lay on the road I know but I can’t go any other way. I have to start with the Jets first because I don’t think I have that much to say about the Broncos. The Jets will always be a dangerous team because of their defense but I never understood all this talk about them being back because of their recent wins, and I did not understand them as a favorite over the Patriots. The Jets were sitting at 2-3 before they got to play a home game against Miami that they won easily, but not before the Dolphins had a bunch of redzone possessions they could not convert on (and turned one into a Jets TD). They followed that up with another home game, this time against San Diego. San Diego outplayed the Jets. This didn’t look so bad at the time but after the last 3 weeks of football since that game it looks really bad. The Jets won because their defense was able to create key turnovers and score late in the game. They followed this game up with a division match-up against Buffalo, a team they are tailor made to beat. The Bills throw short and have no power on the offensive or defensive lines. The Jets kill short passes and still have some power on offense. It was a predictably easy victory. I don’t see how these three wins combined added up to a Jets team that was suddenly back on top. It didn’t. They didn’t look good against the Patriots, but what’s worse is they couldn’t even move the ball consistently on the Pats D, even going as far as to have trouble blocking the Pats negative pass rush. (my term for their abhorrent lack of a pass rush) Does any of this matter against the Broncos? Absolutely not. The Jets are the team that never goes away and they always seem to win when at times when they are being talked about negatively. The Jets are still a good team with a defense that can be great and they aren’t about to let the Broncos knock them out of the playoff hunt. Not that I don’t believe in Tim Tebow. I couldn’t be more excited to watch him go up against the Jets D. But I don’t think it will be pretty. Playing the Jets D is a lot different from Oakland and Kansas City. If Denver lines up and makes it obvious they are running the same offense from the last two weeks the Jets are going to have a field day going big and stuffing runs. In my mind the Jets either crush this one out of the park or they let Denver hang on and the Broncos pull out a close one. The points don’t even matter.
One more thing I will say for the Broncos. You have to love John Fox’s ability to adapt in the middle of the season and keep his team competitive. But even more than that you have to appreciate how he has been able to bring this defense along even though they really don’t have the players to be good. Last season the Broncos were horrible at stopping the run, they didn’t even look like an NFL team while trying to do so. But this season they have had some success against the run. Enough success that they have been able to keep almost every game they have played close. This is something to build on because they have Champ Bailey in the secondary still and two really good pass rushers in Elvis Dumervil and 2nd overall pick Von Miller, and with a name like Von Miller how can he not succeed really? Granted two good QB’s (Rodgers and Stafford) totally blew them out. But John Fox is proving his value in season one in Denver. It will be interesting to see if Tebow remains the QB next season and what this defense can look like when they add a bunch of draft picks.