Tag Archives: Todd Gurley

Week 8 Primetime Moneymakers: Highly Favored

Another week in the NFL meant another string of brutal injuries. Odell Beckham is out for the season after tearing his ACL and Kenyan Drake will miss time with an ankle injury. We also got word on Wednesday that the Houston Texans shut down their facilities following a player having a positive COVID test. Fortunately, they are on their bye week so we should avoid any rescheduling. That’s assuming the Green Bay Packers, their Week 7 opponent, don’t have any positives pop up.

We broke even last week, bringing us to 4-6. It’s a feat only possible due to the flexing of Bucs-Raiders out of primetime. That game and the Thursday game (Giants-Eagles) came through against the spread. The Cardinals made a statement over the Seahawks, as did the Rams over the Bears. But those just added to the loss column for our purposes. Nailing the total has been a challenge too, but we still hit .500 there too. As usual, there’s money to be made so we might as well make it!

Primetime Moneymakers Week 8: Highly Favored

Atlanta Falcons (1-6) @ Carolina Panthers (3-4)

Spread:  Panthers -2.5

O/U: 51

What more can you say about the Atlanta Falcons (2-5 ATS)? Rarely is scoring the go-ahead touchdown a recipe for disaster. But that’s what happened after Todd Gurley fell into the end zone against the Lions. Atlanta’s 27th-ranked (DVOA) defense allowed Matthew Stafford and the Lions to march 75 yards in five plays and the game-winning touchdown. Their pass defense has been particularly atrocious, ranking 32nd in yards and touchdowns allowed.

The Carolina Panthers have been a mixed bag this season. They are 3-4, which isn’t great. But they’ve only beaten one team with a winning record. Teddy Bridgewater is second in the league in completion percentage but has only thrown eight touchdowns to five picks. Mike Davis has filled in admirably with Christian McCaffrey out of the lineup. But the dynamic back has an outside shot at playing in this one. He missed the first meeting between these two teams, which the Panthers won 23-16.

It’s almost impossible to put money on the Falcons. They have blown leads in every way imaginable. After getting a brief respite in interim-head coach Raheem Morris’ first game; a 40-23 washing of the likewise bombing Minnesota Vikings. Carolina’s offense is 10th in DVOA (Atlanta is 23rd) and their defense is 23rd (27th for Atlanta). There could be a lot of points put up, but the under hit last time they met. Avoid the spread and take the Panthers moneyline. The under is also appealing, though the offenses are far superior to the defenses in this one.

Dallas Cowboys (2-5) – Philadelphia Eagles (2-4-1)

Spread: Eagles -7.5

O/U: 43.5

What’s more ridiculous? That the Philadelphia Eagles play in primetime in back-to-back weeks? Or the Dallas Cowboys getting another primetime game at all? Whatever, we’ll hold our nose and take a swing. Philly (2-5 ATS) eeked out a victory against the wayward New York Giants. Carson Wentz threw just one (or fewer) interception for just the third time this season and the Eagles (25th in DVOA) ascended to first in the NFC East in the process. Now they’ll get a shell of the Cowboys.

The D in ‘Big D’ must stand for despair. After losing star quarterback Dak Prescott to a gruesome ankle injury a couple of weeks ago. Dallas (0-7 ATS) saw replacement Andy Dalton take a cheap shot from Washington Football Team linebacker Jonathan Bostic. He’s now in concussion protocol and, as of Wednesday, wasn’t practicing. In steps rookie seventh-round pick Ben DiNucci at quarterback. He took as many sacks as he had completed passes last week and the Eagles pass-rush is still fierce. They’re third in sacks and fifth in ESPN’s Pass Rush Win Rate.

Listen, nothing has been easy for the Eagles this season. They have been one of the most inconsistent and injury-riddled outfits in the NFL. This one, though, might be the gimme-est of gimmes. A third-string quarterback making his first NFL start playing behind a porous offensive line and backed by an even more porous defense is food for the battle-tested Eagles. Dallas hasn’t covered all season and you shouldn’t expect them to now. The Cowboys likely struggles should also suppress the score here, putting the under in play.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-2) – New York Giants (1-6)

Spread: Giants +10.5

O/U: 46

Antonio Brown made headlines this week when he signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-3 ATS), further solidifying the deepest stable of weapons in the NFL. Tom Brady is having a throwback campaign and has thrown 18 touchdowns (second in the NFL) to just four picks. Brown won’t play in this one but the Bucs boast the sixth-best offensive DVOA without him. Add that to their defense (first in DVOA) and it’s a tall task for any opponent.

Daniel Jones has regressed this season. Granted, New York (4-3 ATS) has suffered as devastating injuries as any team. Saquon Barkley comes to mind. But Jones is throwing fewer touchdowns and more interceptions and still has a fumbling problem. The Giants are 30th in offensive DVOA. That defense (19th in DVOA) won’t be able to save them. They were able to keep it close against the Eagles last week. That probably won’t be the case against the Bucs.

To put it in no uncertain terms, this should be a blowout. Tampa has scored 23-plus points in every game but one while the Giants have allowed 22-plus in four of seven contests. New York was able to move the ball and even put up points against the Eagles. Tampa, the number one overall team in total DVOA, is a different animal entirely. 10.5 might not be enough for the Giants to cover this week, friends.

Game Preview: Chicago Bears at Atlanta Falcons

If you thought Chicago Bears fans were all in on the team’s 2-0 start, think again. While many are not complaining that the Bears are undefeated after their first two games, it seems nobody is planning the championship parade route just yet.

Bears @ Falcons Preview – September 27, 2020 – Noon CT

Records: Chicago Bears (2-0); Atlanta Falcons (0-2)

Last Meeting: September 10, 2017, at Chicago – Falcons 23 – Bears 17

Week 2 Results: Giants 13 @ Bears 17; Falcons 39 @ Cowboys 40

Several factors are leading to the skepticism in Bears nation:

  • The quality of the Bears last two opponents: the Lions and the Giants are a combined 0-4
  • The continued inconsistency of Mitchell Trubisky: one good fourth quarter in the opener against the Lions, and one good first half against the Giants
  • Doubts about whether the Bears’ defense will ever return to top ten form

That the Bears will be taking on another winless team in the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday will probably not do much to change the perceptions by the fans if they happen to win and move to 3-0.

For Atlanta, they are coming off one of their most humiliating defeats in team history; save for their 25-point come from ahead defeat to the Patriots in Super Bowl 51. The video of the Falcons special team players in last Sunday’s game against Dallas inexplicably letting the Cowboys on-side kick attempt roll past 10 yards without falling on the ball has been played on repeat this past week.

Will the Falcons be ill-tempered at kickoff on Sunday, with a chip on their shoulders? Or is this an opportunity where the Bears can kick a team while they are down (and injured)?

When the Bears Have the Ball

As mentioned, the inconsistency of Trubisky remains a problem. Three good quarters of football out of eight remain problematic for the Bears, despite the 2-0 start. His 59 percent completion percentage ranks 26th, and his passer rating of 92.7 percent puts him in the middle of the pack at 18th.

Yes, there are some drops and near misses in those numbers, but that is true for all quarterbacks across the league. Trubisky will have a chance to improve on those numbers against a Falcons defense that has surrendered nearly 40 points per game in the early going. Both Atlanta starting defensive ends Takkarist McKinley and Dante Fowler Jr. are listed as questionable for the game.

So far Chicago has committed to be more balanced on offense in 2020, and this bears out in the number of passing attempts (64) versus rushing attempts (60) through two games. Look for the Bears to continue the trend in running the football, utilizing the trio of David Montgomery, Tarik Cohen, and Cordarrelle Patterson to pace the league’s 12th ranked rushing offense in total yards.

If ever there was a game for Allen Robinson to get untracked for the season, this would be the ideal scenario. Teams are completing an astounding 77 percent of their passes against the Falcons for a total of 744 yards through two games. The Falcons also do not have an interception to date. The Falcons secondary is also decimated, with rookie starting cornerback A.J. Terrell placed on the reserve-COVID-19 list, and starting safety Ricardo Allen out with an elbow injury.

When the Falcons Have the Ball

Where the Falcons defense giveth, the Falcons offense taketh. Atlanta comes into the game with the second-ranked passing offense with 351 yards per game, including six touchdowns in the air against only one interception. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan continues to play at a high level, currently ranked ninth in quarterback rating at 110.

The Bears secondary will be thoroughly tested Sunday afternoon, provided Atlanta All-Pro wideout Julio Jones can play. He is currently questionable with a hamstring injury. Even if he doesn’t play, the Falcons boast the league’s top receiver in Calvin Ridley, who has 239 yards and four touchdowns on the season. Look for the Falcons to test Bears rookie cornerback Jaylon Johnson, who has impressed in the early going, albeit against lesser caliber receivers than the Falcons present.

The Falcons rushing offense has been less than dynamic, ranked 28th in the league. Todd Gurley II is averaging only 3.34 yards-per-carry and roughly 60 yards rushing per game. The Bears rushing defense improved to 10th in the league with 213 total yards allowed. Part of that improvement was a result of the season-ending knee injury to Giants running back Saquon Barkley early in the first half. Still, this is a game where Akiem Hicks, Bilal Nichols, and Roy Robertson-Harris need to prove they can contain the Falcons running game nonetheless.

Prediction

Atlanta is hungry for a win and will play fast and will play with an edge. Jones will play despite the hamstring injury, and Ryan and the Atlanta offense will prove too much for the Bears defense to contain. Trubisky and the Bears offense will not be able to keep pace.

Falcons 35 – Bears 24

Free Agency Best and Worst: NFC South

Our Best and Worst series is in full bore. We’ve already covered the AFC and NFC North, the AFC and NFC East, and we just finished our AFC South entry. We now turn our focus on the NFC South, a division that would be up for the “Most Dramatic Changes” award if such an award existed. Quarterback changes, roster overhauls, and record-setting contracts, this division has it all.

Best and Worst of Free Agency: NFC South

Atlanta Falcons

Best Move: Upgrading at RB

Surely there will be some who will look at this and immediately question how is going to a running back rumored to be dealing with a degenerative knee disease an upgrade over the back the Atlanta Falcons made (at the time) the highest paid in 2017? When the new guy is Todd Gurley and the last guy was Devonta Freeman, that’s how.

The Los Angeles Rams parted with the former Offensive Rookie of the Year (2015) and Offensive Player of the Year (2017) largely due to uncertainty around the long-term health of his knee but fiscal motivations were not absent. Freeman (494 total touches, 2339 scrimmage yards over the last three years) has dealt with injuries that caused him to miss all but two games in 2018. If Gurley (912 total touches, 4988 yards since 2017) is close to his old self the Falcons won’t experience any dropoff and may see better production.

Worst Move: Half Addressing Pass Rush

Yet another where readers may be scratching their heads. After all, Atlanta signed free agent Dante Fowler to a three-year deal worth up to $48 million. Unfortunately, that’s about all they have done to address the issue. After they recorded more sacks than the woeful Miami Dolphins, one guy isn’t going to be enough.

Fowler had 11.5 sacks in 2019 and that his presence will help immensely. But Atlanta let Vic Beasley walk. Despite his inconsistency during his time in Atlanta, he had a strong finish to last season and led the team with eight sacks. They lost another six combined sacks between Adrian Clayborn and De’Vondre Campbell. The 16th-overall pick will be very useful.

Next Move: Lockdown the Corner

A theme we have visited elsewhere, Atlanta has a glaring need for some help on the corners. They finished 2019 ranked 22nd in passing yards allowed. Some of that was thanks to a lackluster pass rush. But none of their corners played particularly well. Desmond Trufant (Detroit Lions) was their best corner and he was only available for nine games.

Isaiah Oliver, Kendall Sheffield, and Blidi Wreh-Wilson aren’t an intimidating trio by any stretch. Wreh-Wilson only allowed quarterbacks to complete 45 percent of passes in his direction but was only credited with being targeted 33 times, or five fewer times than Trufant who missed nearly half the season. Atlanta’s first two picks should be EDGE and cornerback, or vice versa.

Carolina Panthers

Best Move: Bridging the Gap

Cam Newton is probably the greatest to ever do it for the Carolina Panthers. No player has the accolades or had the connection to the area he did. But that time is over and the Matt Rhule regime is getting off on the right foot with a  player in Teddy Bridgewater who seems poised to pay off on the promise he had coming into the league.

Touted as an accurate, athletic pocket passer, Bridgewater got derailed by a knee injury that threatened not only his career but also his limb. He regained prominence with the New Orleans Saints filling in for an injured Drew Brees for five games. The Saints went 5-0 and Bridgewater completed 69.7 percent of his passes for 1205 yards, nine touchdowns, and two picks.

Worst Move: Repeating the Past

No, this isn’t about Christian McCaffrey’s (record-setting) contract. So far the Panthers plan is just as well thought out as the last one. They have a (potential) stud at quarterback and some weapons around him. But their fatal flaw will once again prove to be a lack of proper protection. Carolina traded guard Trai Turner and received tackle Russell Okung from the Los Angeles Chargers.

Not only is Okung a worse player (irrespective of position) but he is also five years older. The need for a tackle will often outweigh the advantage of a quality guard. But the difference in age (even if linemen can play longer) and the added salary make this look like a losing deal for Carolina and they still need more help protecting their new franchise passer. Also, don’t pay running backs.

Next Move: Replace Heart and Soul

Sounds easy enough, right? The reality of the situation is Luke Kuechly’s retirement is similar to Newton’s departure in that it marks the end of an era. The difference is the Panthers got to make the decision on Newton. Kuechly, who has dealt with numerous concussions in his career, made seven Pro Bowls in eight seasons and was named an All-Pro five times.

But accolades aside, the Panthers will need to find the leadership and dependability elsewhere. Carolina saw eight players leave on defense who started at least nine games. Granted, any time there is a coaching change a roster overhaul is to be expected. But Kuechly would have made the transition easier for new defensive coordinator Phil Snow.

New Orleans Saints

Best Move: Landing WR2

It’s not often that landing a secondary receiver deserves praise. But when that receiver will be with the Saints catching passes from Brees, exceptions are made. Emmanuel Sanders split 2019 between catching passes from Joe Flacco and Jimmy Garoppolo. To say Brees is an upgrade is an understatement.

New Orleans hasn’t had a capable complimentary option since Brandin Cooks left town. Ted Ginn in 2017 was the closest they’ve come. Sanders is a year older than Ginn was then, and is a more versatile receiver. A torn Achilles ended his 2018 early and he returned to put up over 800 yards and play in 17 games last season.

Worst Move: Choosing the Wrong QB2

Somehow Taysom Hill has convinced folks down in the Bayou that he is worthy of being the top backup option. Some have even gone so far as to suggest that he has franchise quarterback potential. Hill is a nice, versatile athlete. But he isn’t a full-time quarterback, let alone a starter. New Orleans gave it away by going with Bridgewater over the more familiar Hill when Brees went down.

Now, this is being stated with a full understanding of how the economics played into this. With Brees returning, retaining Bridgewater became impossible. But selling HIll as anything more than a gadget player (with Brees and Bridgewater still in limbo) was an oversell and if New Orleans stands pat at quarterback, they will regret it if Brees misses time again.

Next Move: Someone to Truzz

The Saints had the fewest rushing yards as a team in the three years since Alvin Kamara arrived. They clearly missed Mark Ingram and the energy he brought to the field and sideline. Latavius Murray gave New Orleans eight fewer yards than Ingram did in his final season. But the latter ran for over a thousand yards the two years prior and did so again with Baltimore last year.

If the Saints want to get the mojo back in their ground game the will try to find another runner with that same type of violent running style. Kamara remaining healthy is probably the bigger boost, but the need for a proper compliment to him cannot be overstated. For all their effort though, finding someone to match Ingram’s infectious energy could be close to impossible.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Best Move: Brady Bunch

Tom Brady signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was the biggest move this offseason in the NFL, not just the NFC South. The only thing comparable is Peyton Manning joining the Broncos in 2012. This surpasses that by far but does have similar questions along with it. Among them is questioning how much Brady’s declining numbers are due to waning ability.

Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, (for now) O.J. Howard, and Cameron Brate will make it clear if Brady is up to the task or not. It’s hard to say the six-time Super Bowl champ has ever had a more talented receiving corps. If there is one thing to complain about it’s the protection that wasn’t great for a more mobile Jameis Winston in 2019. Tampa might also want to finally find a running back.

Worst Move: Not Protecting the Franchise

Recurring themes are becoming a recurring theme. Another team (rightfully) making an investment in a franchise quarterback and surrounding him with weapons but failing to address porous blocking. Brady is 42. ‘Sack’ needs to be treated like the four-letter word that it is for this organization and, so far, their moves don’t show that.

Next Move: Fill the Gaps

Let’s not act like the NFL draft won’t provide the perfect opportunity to address the issue laid out in the previous section as well as address the lack of a run game. Tampa also needs some help in the secondary but they have youth there. Whatever they choose to do in the draft, the top needs to be the offensive line and secondary, in whatever order.

A sneaky move could be for the Bucs to take a pass rusher much sooner than anyone expects. Shaquil Barrett is playing on the franchise tag and Jason Pierre-Paul just re-signed for two years but is already 31. Tampa also lost Carl Nassib, their third-leading sack artist with six. Add pass rusher to the early part of the Bucs draft checklist.