NFL Preview: Week 10
No, your team isn't going to win the Super Bowl
Week 5 record: 4-10
Overall record: 54-80-2
La Cerradura De El Padre: 7-2
Continuing my magical run of terrible picks, I exploded for a impressively bad 4-10. This has moved beyond the realm of me just not knowing what I am talking about to a place where, even if I knew absolutely nothing I shouldn’t be able to be this bad (and yet my lock pick is inexplicably very good). I am still in what is now becoming a season long time out of being allowed to discuss each matchup. This means alternative analysis. This week I will be breaking out an analysis of exactly why your team cannot win the Super Bowl. Obviously some team is going to win the Super Bowl, but it just isn’t your team, and I will explain. Let’s go through each team alphabetically.
Arizona Cardinals: Age
The Cardinals made three very big name signings in the offseason. AJ Green, Rodney Hudson and JJ Watt. At the time I panned the signings. Their age and injury history told me this wouldn’t work. Sure enough, injuries have come for all three. Weirdly, on the other end of the spectrum, Kyler Murray still isn’t ready yet. I have seen a ton of growth from him this season slinging the ball to different targets. When push comes to shove though, he still struggles with accuracy and moving the ball consistently through the air. He needs to deliver in the air too, because his sprained ankle and general reduction in rushing means he has to be a throw first QB now.
Atlanta Falcons: Unbalanced Timelines
The Falcons will spend the next several years trying to fix the time lines on this team. The offense has been aging out for a few years, culminating with the departure of Julio Jones and the decline of Matt Ryan. While Ryan is showing he still has something in the tank, the youth at the skill positions is showing. Beyond that, the defense is years from being at the level needed to contend seriously for the Super Bowl. By the time the skill talent is in it’s prime and the defense is good (assuming that ever happens) Matt Ryan will be done and they will need a QB. I’m not sure this team will ever be on the same page.
Buffalo Bills: The Offensive Line
The Bills still have a very mediocre offensive line. It causes them to struggle to move the ball on the ground. It leads to struggles against teams with strong pass rushers who can match Josh Allen’s power and speed. Last week against the Jaguars, a good offensive line would have taken over, pounded a bad Jaguars defense into submission and lead to solid but unspectacular win. Instead, they barely ran the ball, and Josh Allen was forced into 3 turnovers. I think they can survive this, especially if they are at home, but right now, it looks like they are going to have to go on the road in the playoffs at least once.
Baltimore Ravens: Inconsistency
The Ravens have some very talented players, and a really strong coaching staff. This team consistently gets wins, the offense comes up with big plays and the defense creates turnovers. The problem is that the Ravens are maddeningly inconsistent. Not just from game to game, but sometimes half to half and quarter to quarter. It’s not just Lamar Jackson either, who is known to have his share of stinkers. The defense in particular has really struggled at times this year. They don’t seem to be able to win battles up front, and it has cost them in games when they have to stop teams on the ground or create pressure with just 4. Last night was a perfect example of all of this. It’s hard to for an inconsistent team to win the Super Bowl, especially without a bye. You have to be great for 4 straight games. The Ravens can’t do that.
Carolina Panthers: No Quarterback
The Sam Darnold experiment is likely over, just 8 games after it started. All it cost them was… A SECOND ROUND PICK. Yikes. In comes Cam Newton, but his best days are well behind him. They have no one to currently man the position and no one in the pipeline. This upcoming draft also offers basically no top end passer, exacerbating the awfulness of their decision to pass on a QB this year. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the Panthers also have one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL so anyone they do bring in has no real shot anyway. This is a problem that there is really no solution for. I expect them to be very aggressive looking for a veteran QB this offseason.
Chicago Bears: Terrible Management
The Bears management team of Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace have been a disaster for the last 5 years taking one of the best defense in the NFL, dismantling it, and creating one of the worst offenses in the league this year by yards. Their draft picks have been terrible, their signings bizarre and their handling of pretty much every possible situation a mess. This year their refusal to buy into Justin Fields cost him a preseason of number 1 reps and lead to his awful start (before showing signs of life recently). Until they get rid of these two, they are going nowhere near a Super Bowl.
Cincinnati Bengals: Mediocrity
The Bengals have gotten a lot better than the last few years. Their defense can hold teams somewhat in check, and some weeks the offense really clicks. Still, they are nowhere near ready for the level the playoffs demand. Joe Burrow very quietly leads the NFL in INTs. The running game is hit or miss and the defense still has major no shows against teams that they should absolutely beat (most recently the Jets). This team is simply average on both sides of the ball, capable of winning some and losing some. How they fare in one-score games will decide whether or not they get to lose in the first round of the playoffs or miss them entirely. The Bengals basically have two modes. Being abjectly terrible or slightly above average. We are back to slightly above average.
Cleveland Browns: No plan B
The Browns are very good at the two things they do well. They rush the passer really well and they run the ball really well. Their lines on both side of the line of scrimmage are dominant. The problem comes when teams are able to address those two things. If a team is able to get a lead on them, it very quickly neutralizes their strengths. They have to throw more and they have to account for the ground and air. This is a bad recipe for the playoffs, where the odds say they will have to mount a comeback at some point, and when they do, they will be playing against their strengths in a big way.
Dallas Cowboys: Regression
We started to see it this weekend when they were absolutely smoked by the Broncos. The Cowboys started the year with incredibly good fortune with turnovers. In one game that immediately started it’s progression back to the mean. Without turnovers, the Dallas defense is still it’s Achilles heel. It’s tough to bank on the other team making mistakes when you are playing the best teams in the league 3-4 weeks in a row. The Cowboys are also EXTREMELY reliant on Tyron Smith for their offense to work. His absence this week is part of a long standing pattern where his absence leads to losses, even more than the absence of any other player, including Dak. If he continues to miss time, they are in real trouble.
Denver Broncos: No Quarterback
It’s the same problem the Panthers have, but with a slightly better overall team and the Panthers QB from last year. The Broncos did themselves no favors by settling for Teddy Bridgewater this offseason when decent options were available in the draft. There won’t be good options available in the next draft, so now it comes down to: can they convince a quality veteran like Aaron Rodgers to come there in the offseason. As for this year, they lack the passing ability to challenge even mediocre defense that can stop the run. You can’t win in the playoffs for 4 straight games without that.
Detroit Lions: Being the Detroit Lions
No franchise run from top to bottom like the Lions are can win the Super Bowl. They never have. They haven’t even won a playoff game since 1991. Until they are run in a completely different manner in every single aspect they will not win the Super Bowl.
Green Bay Packers: The Playoffs
The Packers are once again cruising through the regular season. The offense isn’t quite as good as last year, but the defense has shown some improvement, especially lately. The problems arrive in the playoffs. Inevitably Aaron Rodgers will have a dud game, the coaches will botch a game plan, the defense will vanish or there will just be some classic boneheaded blunder, but somehow, in some way, this team will find a way to lose. They always do.
Houston Texans: The Roster
This team was designed to be bad. They are bad. They have traded away anything that is not nailed down for anything they might consider a future asset. I don’t blame them. This is a lost season. But the problem is… the roster isn’t going to be that much better next year. Or the season after. It’s gonna take a long time to rebuild this. This team isn’t just bad. It’s old. And it’s on short term contracts. It takes a decade to build the kind of talent depth good teams have. You don’t just need good players, you need decent backup for those players. The Texans have neither at many positions.
Indianapolis Colts: Passing
The Colts have some good pieces on offense. A steady O-line and ground game get them points and allow them to hold leads. On defense players like Darius Leonard and DeForest Buckner keep teams from moving the ball effectively on the ground. The problem is passing. The Colts are not particularly adept at throwing. They lack dangerous weapons in the passing game. They lack cornerbacks and safeties that can keep teams from making big plays. This is a huge problem in a league where passing is the primary focus of most teams, and it will keep them from the Super Bowl.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Urban Meyer
This team has an enormous amount of holes, but it has become clear very quickly the biggest one is at head coach where Urban Meyer has been completely out of his depth this season. I am not even talking about the obvious moral lapse in judgements like hiring a strength coach known for racism and the incident at his bar. I am talking about simple things like getting the right players and amount of them on the field. I’m talking about evaluating positions like kicker or WR or running back. I am talking about understanding what types of plays produce winning. He has no grasp of the NFL and it shows in very egregious fashion.
Kansas City Chiefs: Turnovers
For whatever reason, Patrick Mahomes has developed the yips over the list 5 weeks. He is also tied for the league lead in interceptions and last week the team basically took the ball out of his hands to win the game, prioritizing not making mistakes over scoring points. The Chiefs are simply not built to win like this. Mahomes has to be able to open it up without making costly errors. Their defense is simply not good enough to win if they score 20 points a game, even without the turnovers that were hurting them. Mahomes must be able to score points without turning the ball over. Until he shows that, this is the biggest flaw with this team.
Las Vegas Raiders: Sanity
The Raiders season is rapidly going off the rails. The situation with Jon Gruden followed by the situation with Henry Ruggs has added a ton of chaos to an already combustible situation. While Derek Carr is playing some of his best football, the team as a whole will have to contend with a leadership void, new roles and new challenges created by this. They desperately need an offseason to reset. I think the struggles will only grow as the season moves along and the adrenaline of dealing with a crisis wears off.
Los Angeles Chargers: Details
The Chargers annual struggle with Special Teams continues under a new administration. The sun rises and sets and the Chargers will have a bottom 5 unit in the NFL in Special Teams. A team with a defense this good and and offense this capable should not be this mediocre, but every year the Chargers struggle to win in the margins, and this year is more of the same. Till they clean this up, they will underperform where they should be.
Los Angeles Rams: Predictability
The Rams are clearly a Super Bowl favorite after adding Von Miller for peanuts (at least salary wise). The problem is that it feels like the book is out somewhat on what they like to do both on offense and defense and it has made them vulnerable. Adding Stafford has allowed them to open up the playbook a little bit after last seasons collapse with the limited Jared Goff, but there are clearly still teams that have figured out how to keep that offense in check. Since their Super Bowl collapse against the Patriots, it feels like the secret is out. On defense, the talent level is elite, but the results are mixed. Teams are starting to catch on to the style used by teams like the Rams where they try to keep defenders back and play the run with fewer players in the box. Overall, the Rams defense is down from where it ended last year. I wonder if all the teams copying the Sean McVay scheme have caused it to lose some of its steam. We will see when they encounter an elite defense in the post-season. Adding Odell Beckham does very little, as they were struggling to find targets for Desean Jackson before he was let go.
Miami Dolphins: A Leadership Vacuum
The Dolphins stripped the team of most of it’s veteran leadership in the offseason creating a leadership void I am assuming the coaches expected to fill. It has not worked out. This is most clear along the offensive line, where the lack of veteran leadership has lead to one of the worst offensive lines in modern history. It is evident in a number of other areas though, with chronic issues of sloppy plays, penalties, bad special teams and poor decision making that the team was simply not exhibiting last year. The leadership at the top hasn’t been any better, wasting most of the season on a fruitless quest to add a sexual predator to an offense that needed help at almost every position but quarterback. All that was really accomplished was undermining the top 5 QB pick they apparently are now disinterested in (despite playing just as well as his peers for the most part). Even last night, in a game they dominated, tons of questions remained. Why was Tua benched to start the game, when he was clearly better than Brissett? A total mess from top to bottom.
Minnesota Vikings: Not Beating Good Teams
The narrative of Kirk Cousins career is that he is great at winning the games he is supposed to, but against stiff competition he comes up short. This is true this year of the Vikings as a whole. They beat the Seahawks, Lions and Panthers, all fellow losers. They have fallen to the Bengals, Browns, Cardinals, Ravens, and Cowboys. All good teams. They simply don’t have the talent on offense to punish a good defense or the pieces on defense to hold down a good offense. And definitely not do both on the same week. This team is mediocrity defined.
New England Patriots: Talent gaps
The Patriots, as always, are using very creative schemes to mask some of their talent deficiencies in the secondary, at WR and at QB. While Mac Jones has been able to avoid the interception plague his fellow rookie QBs have endured, he simply lacks the ability to push the ball down the field to make plays. Part of that is simply lack of talent at WR, and part of it is him just being a rookie. Ultimately, they will run across a team they can’t scheme their way through, whether it keeps them from the playoffs or ends them when they get there. They simply don’t have the talent other teams do.
New Orleans Saints: Misfortune
The Saints has been deeply misfortunate in recent seasons, seeing their years end in either magical plays or unfortunate referee decisions. At this point, it is a little more straight forward. Michael Thomas and Jameis Winston are done for the year, and nothing they have can replace that. They simply don’t have the horses this year, and probably never did as they try to climb out of salary cap jail. They are still having a pretty good year all things considered, but they aren’t going to the Super Bowl.
New York Giants: Bad Decision Making
This team is just constantly making the wrong decisions, whether it’s with their draft picks, with trades, with signings, with coaches, with GMs, on the field, with the ball, without the ball, with penalties and with general awareness. This team has shot itself in the foot so much they are just two stumps collapsing in a heap. It’s a sad fall from a team that won two Super Bowls with the previous group. They need a total house cleaning.
New York Jets: False Hope
The Jets have mastered false hope like no other team. Having a tough year, get a high draft pick! Get a QB! Pick a player that looks very much like the wrong guy. Have a bad coach? Get a new coach! A trailblazer! Get the same results. Struggling at a key position? Get a surprise performance that is incredible from out of nowhere! At the expense of your number 1 pick that now looks like a disaster. The Jets will sign a bunch of people in the offseason to restore the cycle for a new year. That cycle will not include the Super Bowl.
Philadelphia Eagles: Simple Schemes
The new Eagles head coach promised simpler schemes that would be easier for the players to learn and execute. This has proven 100 percent correct. The Eagles have played 2 deep zones almost the entire season on defense, and run an extremely simple offense for limited passer Jalen Hurts. The problem is, simple schemes are fairly simple to beat unless you have a significant talent disparity (for an example of this, look at the Legion of Boom defenses in Seattle that played a really simple cover 3 scheme all the time that terrorized everyone because of their talent). Bad teams HAVE to mix their schemes to hide their deficiencies. The Eagles have little interest in this, so they are just exposing their deficiencies. They can pound teams like the Lions, but the second they take on a good team like the Cowboys, they get smoked.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger
The offensive line isn’t great at all, but the obvious problem with this team is at QB where Ben Roethlisberger’s goal on every single play is to get rid of the ball as fast as humanly possible, usually to a hot read or running back. On the rare forays down the field, he simply quickly lofts a high lob that eventually results in a jump ball for someone down the field. This is fine against bad teams, but the second they take on a good defense they get eaten alive. The thing that made Ben Roethlisberger so good at QB was his ability to absorb contact, hold the ball, and make a huge play. He no longer has any interest in being this player, and the player that is left is not a winning QB.
San Francisco 49ers: Window closure
The window has officially closed on this roster, and you get the sense Kyle Shanahan knew it this offseason when they decided to take Trey Lance, a player that was very unlikely to help this season. The talent has dipped considerably on defense, and the result is a defense that can struggle to be consistent week to week. On offense, Jimmy Garoppolo is simply not good enough to make up for drop off in the run game which is no longer unstoppable. Just like the Rams, more teams have started to copy their run heavy scheme and defense have been seeing it more and more and making adjustments. The convergence of injuries (again), the loss of originality in the play calling, the defensive drop off and the aging out of some vets means the window is officially closed on this group as a contender.
Seattle Seahawks: Non-Russell Wilson players
The Seahawks showed during his absence just how far this roster has fallen since it’s heyday with the Legion of Boom. The defense is nearly bereft of playmakers besides Bobby Wagner (who was always more of a delegator in terms of playmaking). On offense, limited offensive like skill and skill options after DK Metcalf and the very up and down Tyler Lockett means that without Russell Wilson, this team just isn’t capable of making the playoffs. With him, it could still sneak in, but they lack the talent of the top contenders and definitely won’t have the very needed home field advantage.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Secondary
The Bucs are VERY reliant on their secondary for a number of reason. They love to stuff the box to stop the run. They often are trying to protect a lead. They frequently find themselves facing top QBs in the postseason. This year they have seen a huge drop off in the secondary, partly from their losses by injury and partly from a drop off in some players play. The numbers don’t lie, and this is a bad secondary. They need to play perfect on offense in the playoffs to keep enough points on the board to keep advancing. It is also unlikely they will have the magical health they found last postseason, which saw them field nearly their entire team in their magical post season run.
Tennessee Titans: Quarterback
No matter what the statistics say, when the chips are down, this team cannot rely on Ryan Tannehill alone. He can do it off of play action. He can hold a lead. He can survive a 10-6 game without making a huge mistake. What he can’t do is come out, start throwing the ball and score points. Eventually, this team needs him to do that every year, and every year, he can’t. It’s coming now with the threat of Derrick Henry gone. He won’t be up for it. They won last week thanks to two miraculous turnovers. They won’t get that every week, and he doesn’t have enough skill/pocket presence to make up for it.
Washington Football Team: Organizational Incompetence
Like having an Indian burial ground in the basement, Daniel Snyder exists in the proverbial basement of this team, and until his spirit leaves the house, they will be bad. This year, pretty much everything has been bad for a team that was solid last year. Ultimately, the same problems will keep coming until there is a spiritual cleansing.
My terrible picks:
Baltimore Ravens vs. Miami Dolphins +7.5 (I missed this one kinda on purpose. At this point I am going to use my powers to help the Dolphins where I can. I took the Ravens and the jinx worked to perfection)
Atlanta Falcons vs. Dallas Cowboys -8
New Orleans Saints vs. Tennessee Titans -2.5
Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Indianapolis Colts -10
Cleveland Browns vs. New England Patriots -2.5
Buffalo Bills vs. New York Jets +11
Detroit Lions vs. Pittsburgh Steelers -8
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. WTF +9.5
Carolina Panthers vs. Arizona Cardinals -10.5
Minnesota Vikings vs. Los Angeles Chargers -3
Philadelphia Eagles vs. Denver Broncos -2.5
Seattle Seahawks vs. Green Bay Packers -3
Kansas City Chiefs vs. Las Vegas Raiders +2.5
Los Angeles Rams vs. San Francisco 49ers +3.5 La Cerradura De El Padre