Nailed it last week, gamblers—nailed it! Like a well-endowed stallion ready to deflower a trembling young…
Hey wait—this is a family column—at least on weeks I don’t pick the Vikings. AP!
Anyhow, week six saw ChuckingRocks go four for five against the spread. Minnesota, Cincinnati, and the Jets all won and covered, while underdog Carolina stunned the suddenly mortal Seahawks in Seattle.
In fact, we would have been perfect, but the damn Patriots only won by seven instead of eight—which is why I hate eight point spreads: because touchdowns are usually worth seven. But oh well. Through four weeks we’re 10/18, which means if you’re betting our picks, you should be making money.
Last week also included thoughts on the season so far. In that same spirit, I’ll try, with each week’s picks, to add some analysis or dialogue about goings on in the NFL. Since Fantasy Football and Daily Fantasy Sports are a huge part of that, we’ll sometimes shift our focus in that direction—like, for instance, today.
Earlier this year, one of the things I recommended people consider on draft day was offensive line. Of course, no one gets points directly from the big boys in the middle, as they remain the only un-scored position in Fantasy Football (yes, there are leagues that score punting), but that doesn’t mean they aren’t important. A good offensive line means bigger holes for running backs, protection for quarterbacks, and time for those quarterbacks to find your receivers and tight ends down the field.
In that column we promised updated O-line rankings after week four, but as it didn’t happen then (alas), we’ll do it now. The ranks below are based on two very simple factors: average rushing yards per game and the number of sacks allowed.
Is it a perfect metric? No. Obviously, running back and quarterback play have a lot to do with both numbers, strength of schedule varies wildly (for example, three of four Seahawk losses have come to undefeated teams), and of course, coaching matters. However, these are the two factors of the game an offensive line has the most control over—they can’t help the quarterback throw the ball down the field or get receivers open, nor can they turn the afterburners on to beat a safety to the end zone—but over time, they can open big holes for their backs and give their quarterbacks time to throw.
The number behind the ranking is the quotient: each team’s rankings in each category added together (so, for example, the Jets are number one in both categories: most rushing yards per game and fewest sacks—their number is two).
Offensive Line Rankings
1) NY Jets 2
2) Cincinnati 12
3) Carolina 14
4) Arizona 16
5) Green Bay 18
6) Baltimore 20
6) Washington 20
8) St. Louis 21
9) Tampa Bay 22
10) Philadelphia 24
10) Houston 24
12) Atlanta 25
13) Minnesota 28
14) Buffalo 30
15) Pittsburgh 31
15) Chicago 31
15) Dallas 31
15) New York Giants 31
19) Seattle 34
20) Oakland 35
21) San Francisco 40
21) Detroit 40
23) New England 41
24) Miami 43
25) Tennessee 45
25) Indianapolis 45
27) Denver 47
28) Jacksonville 50
29) Kansas City 51
30) New Orleans 54
31) Cleveland 55
31) San Diego 55
Now look, is anyone trading Phillip Rivers or Tom Brady because their O-lines are down on this list? Of course not. Ultimately, you still want to make fantasy decisions based on the specific player’s talent.
Where this list gets useful, however, is on the margins—especially as it gets later in the year. Remember, as the weather gets colder, the fields sloppier, the ball more difficult to handle, offensive lines and running backs gain a big advantage, playing a bigger role in the offensive scheme. The teams near the top are going to look to push their advantage, which could mean big days for their backs.
The other thing to consider is that teams down the list are generally playing from behind; looking to push the ball down the field, they run the ball less and take more sacks (New England being the clear outlier—they just throw the ball all the time). But who knows? Maybe it’s good to have receivers on those teams in the hope that they score some garbage time points. In any case, it’s more information, and that’s a good thing.
OK, onto the picks!
Lock of the Week
Pittsburgh (+2.5) at Kansas City
Pittsburgh rolls into KC after beating the Cardinals, a very good football team, with their second and third string quarterbacks (Landry Jones—who knew?), and a defense that’s starting to look like the Steeler defense of old.
It’s possible Ben Roethlisberger plays in this game, but even if he doesn’t, you have to like the Steelers to win and cover. Why? It’s simple. They’re good–Chiefs bad.
Seriously, what’s Kansas City’s motivation at this point? They’re 1-5, have no prayer of making the playoffs, and their best player on the field, arguably, is Alex Smith. Now make no mistake, Smith will be a great, great commentator or coach someday, but as a quarterback, he’s never been more than proficient.
And on Sunday against Pittsburgh, he’ll have one of worst offensive lines in the league protecting him and a running back whose name has more moves than he does.
Oh, and the spread is only 2.5—Pittsburgh wins and covers easily.
Buffalo (+4.5) vs. Jacksonville
OK, so it looks like Tyrod Taylor, Sammy Watkins, and Percy Harvin are out. Several key players on the Bills defense are injured as well.
Here’s why Buffalo will win anyway: they have to. If the Bills want to do anything this year, they have to beat the Jaguars in London on Sunday. They’re currently 3-3 and just out of the second wild card spot in the AFC. After Jacksonville they get the resurgent Dolphins, then the Jets, and then the Pats—three very tough games, two of which they’ll almost certainly lose.
So if Rex wants to give the team any kind of hope going forward, they have to beat Jacksonville. The Bills might be injured, but they’re also desperate, and I’ll take a desperate team to beat Blake Bortles and a young, inexperienced Jacksonville Jaguars teams that’s 30th in scoring offense and defense—and they’re banged up too, likely without running back TJ Yeldon.
The desperate Bills win and cover—be sure to set your clocks: this one starts early.
New York Jets (-9.5) at New England
So I’ll admit right off the bat it’s entirely possible this one gets away from the Jets and they get blown out in Foxboro…
But that’s really unlikely for several reasons.
First, New York comes into this game with the number one scoring defense in the NFL, so logic would predict that if the Patriots are going to have trouble putting points on the board against anyone, it’s going to be these Jets. And remember, New England lost it’s all-pro left tackle Nate Solder for the season. That doesn’t bode well against one of the nastiest defensive lines in the league.
Second, the Jets are actually pretty good at scoring themselves. They boast the 7th highest scoring offense in football, and they can beat teams running or throwing. Indeed, their running attack—best in the league so far—is a particularly big reason I don’t think the Jets get blown out on Sunday. Running takes time off the clock, keeps the opposing offense off the field, and wears down the opposing defense. So even if the Pats are up double digits late, there’s a good chance the Jets can score enough to get back within 9.5 to prevent New England from covering.
In other words, unless New England just stomps on their throat and keeps the pedal to the metal from wire to wire (sorry: I wanted to see how many bad sports clichés I could fit into one sentence), it’s unlikely they’ll be able to cover the spread. Again, it’s Tom Brady and Bill Belichick—two of the biggest assholes in sports—so they might just do that…
But I have a sneaking suspicion the Jets hang around—and who knows—maybe they pull off the upset?
Atlanta (+4.5) at Tennessee
Conversely, this game has blow-out written all over it.
Marcus Mariota—the only reason the Titan’s have managed to stay marginally competitive this year—is day to day, and honestly, if you’re in the front offices of Tennessee, I don’t know why in the hell you let him limp his ass out there. He’s the future of the franchise, and the future isn’t now—it’s probably three or four years and a coaching change away. So it would seem pretty stupid to risk your franchise quarterback (who’s looked every bit the part) for a game you’re probably going to lose anyway—but hey it’s Tennessee—where people think Sharia Law is a real threat, climate change isn’t, and they recently re-elected pro-life Republican Scott DesJarlais to Congress, a doctor who had sex with a patient and then pressured her to get an abortion. That was after he pulled his gun out during an argument with his first wife. So who knows—maybe family values get Mariota on the field—but I doubt it.
If he doesn’t suit up, Atlanta covers easily—and there’s plenty of reasons to think they will even if he does.
The Falcons, coming off an embarrassing loss to the Aints last Thursday night, have had 10 days to rest, practice, and stew about it. The Titans are going to get Atlanta’s best shot, and I just don’t think their defense can stop the two headed monster that is Julio and fantasy monster of the year, Devonte Freeman.
Think about this: in the last four weeks, Freeman has rushed for 462 yards, caught 25 passes for another 233, and scored 9 TD’s. If he continues that pace, he’ll finish the year with 1660 rushing yards and 880 more on 95 receptions, which is good for fourth all time for single season all purpose yardage. Oh, and he’ll finish with 33 TD’s, which would be a single season record.
Anyway, Tennessee has the 4th worst rushing defense in the NFL, so the plan for Atlanta will be pretty simple: give Freeman the ball and let him do his thing.