Apologies for the less than usual amount of content this week. It’s been a busy non-football week for me. And so, this week, we’ll have an abbreviated version of the picks:
Redskins at Buccaneers:
The Buccaneers and Redskins have some similarities on defense. They’re front sevens are both good, although missing some key parts. For the Skins, those missing parts are of course Brian Orakpo and Adam Carriker. For the Bucs, it’s DE Adrian Clayborn, a 2nd year guy that was beginning to play well. They also both have secondaries have been abused this year. The Bucs are dead last in the NFL in passing yardage allowed, with 353.3 per game. The Redskins are second to last, giving up 337.3.
There are two players on the Bucs defense that have really impressed me so far this season. They are DE Michael Bennett and DT Gerald McCoy. Bennett pressured Tony Romo all day last week, often beating Doug Free, Jason Witten, or Mackenzy Bernadeau when he stunted inside. He had a couple sacks, a couple TFLs, a batted pass, and a forced fumble that should have been a Bucs TD if the replacement officials hadn’t blown the play dead. He’s tall, lean, and extremely athletic. Tyler Polumbus will have his hands full.
The Bucs’ offense is odd. They have some players in the passing game in Vincent Jackson, Mike Williams, and Dallas Clark to go along with a good tandem on the left side of their line in Donald Penn and Carl Nicks, but are reluctant to throw the ball. On 1st and 10, the Bucs run the ball more than 60% of the time. They’re 4th in the NFL in running percentage on 1st down, which is odd considering they don’t even run the ball all that well (3.4 YPC). You might think that the Bucs would want to open up their passing game against the Skins this week. I’m not so sure. I don’t think they trust it. Meanwhile, the Redskins, for the first time in a long time, look very dangerous in their passing game. They should be able to move the ball well in Tampa, provided they can keep Michael Bennett and and Gerald McCoy off of RG3.
Skins comfortably, 34-21.
Giants at Eagles:
I’ve talked at length about this matchup on my podcast, as well as hitting some basic bullet points here earlier in the week, but this game will be the most interesting when the Eagles have the ball. Each team has very serious worries in that situation:
- Demetress Bell isn’t going to block Jason Pierre-Paul all night, but can he at least make it respectable, or can the Eagles figure out a way to give him extra help without leaving the rest of the line too thin? If not, I suspect the Eagles’ parade of turnovers won’t end tonight.
- Can the Giants’ extremely banged up secondary cover the Eagles receivers, who are now close to being back to full strength? If you’re the Giants, do you blitz Michael Vick as you normally might, or are you worried that you’ll be asking too much of the secondary on the back end?
The Giants have gotten better each week, while the Eagles have been the model of inconsistency through three weeks. I have very little trust in Michael Vick right now. I have all the trust in the world in Eli Manning. Giants 27-20.
Bears at Cowboys:
The Cowboys’ OL has been bad, as expected. Doug Free is simply not playing adequate football right now, and the transition for Tyron Smith from RT to LT has not gone smoothly. Free and Smith are tied for the league lead in penalties with 6 a piece, and they’ve given up pressure to every team they’ve faced so far this year. The Cowboys OL also haven’t been able to open up many holes in the running game for DeMarco Murray. It’s kind off strange to see that the Cowboys are dead last in points scored, with 47. They’re tied with another surprise team in that category, the Eagles. The Eagles have missed scoring opportunities because of turnovers. The Cowboys are missing them because penalties are stalling drives, receivers are dropping passes, and the OL can’t block anybody.
They’ll now get the team that leads the NFL in sacks, the Bears, who have 16. And they’re not just coming from one place – the Bears have 4 players with at least 2 sacks. They’re also 2nd in the league in takeaways, with 9.
The Cowboys defense, on the other hand, has been great so far (they’re ranked #1 in yards per game), while the Bears offense has been sloppy.
I don’t think the Dallas offense is as bad as they’ve looked so far, and I expect a moderate bounce back against a good Bears defense. Cowboys win an ugly one, 20-16.