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NFL picks against the spread: Vic Tafur thinks Bucs defense could lock up wide-open NFC

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Well … we survived Week 1. There was loads of ridiculous stuff (Arthur Smith and Nathaniel Hackett, we’re taking a look at you), some upsets and a tie. And now, after everyone has weighed in with their ridiculous overreactions, there really isn’t any have to play the remaining of the season. Right?

I mean …

The Bills are going to win the Super Bowl.

Matthew Stafford’s arm is tousled.

The Chiefs are higher without Tyreek Hill.

Trey Lance may not survive the month.

Aaron Rodgers is screwed.

And the Cowboys’ season is over.

We forget anything?

GO DEEPER

NFL Power Rankings Week 1: Chiefs, Chargers amongst top 1-0 teams

The Bills’ one could also be legit. They were the primary team in NFL history to have a game through which they’d at the very least seven sacks, at the very least three interceptions and never punted. And Rams fans do need to be nervous about Stafford, though his arm seemed OK on his 85ish throws to Cooper Kupp.

The Chiefs looked great, but man, the Cardinals didn’t put up much of a fight. And while the weather was nasty in Chicago, Lance being outplayed by Justin Fields needed to have raised a few of his teammates’ eyebrows.

Finally, the Packers had some growing pains of their first game without Davante Adams, but there have been enough signs that they can be OK. And Sunday night, Rodgers gets to play the Bears, who he owns.

The Cowboys can be without Dak Prescott for slightly while, they usually didn’t look good with him last Sunday night. But that’s because persons are sleeping on the Buccaneers defense. With all of the chatter about Tom Brady’s training-camp disappearance, Devin White was flying around the sector and Shaquil Barrett was tying a profession high with seven quarterback pressures against the Cowboys. Defensive tackle Vita Vea, outside linebacker Joe Tryon-Shoyinka and cornerbacks Carlton Davis III and Antoine Winfield Jr., now within the slot, also looked great.

The NFC looks wide open, however the Bucs’ defense just may shut it down and lock it up.

It’s no surprise that our two favorite picks this week are the Bucs and Packers.

Last week: We were 8-8 against the spread, including the Eagles blowing an enormous result in not cover and the 49ers getting washed away in a monsoon. We split our two favorite games, because the Vikings cruised and the Panthers lost when Browns rookie Cade York booted a 58-yard field goal on the road with eight seconds left. I regret picking the Bills to win greater than 11.5 games after which overthinking it and going against them within the opener because they didn’t have Tre’Davious White. And I actually wrote that “the Cardinals could combust this season” after which, two paragraphs later, picked them to indicate some pride within the opener at home. Bad Vic.

All odds are from BetMGM and are locked when the pick was made. Click here for live odds.

Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs (-4) | 8:15 p.m. Thursday, Prime Video

The Chiefs had 33 first downs last week. That’s crazy. You need to know what else is crazy? The Cardinals were missing loads of bodies on defense, and their answer was to blitz Patrick Mahomes II many times. Didn’t matter in the event that they weren’t getting home or that Mahomes was picking them apart.

Mahomes was blitzed on over half of his dropbacks (54 percent) for the primary time in his profession, and accomplished 15 for 21 passes for 137 yards and 4 touchdowns when that happened, per Next Gen Stats.

And get this, despite all of the blitzes, Mahomes ranked fifth in average time to throw (2.33 seconds) last week. The Chiefs are even feeling their recent running back rotation.

The Chargers have a excellent defense, and this week can be a significantly better test for the Hill-less Chiefs. Actually, with Khalil Mack healthy and back to his old self and a beefed-up offensive line, the Chargers have essentially the most talent within the AFC West. They won’t even need Keenan Allen, who’s out with a hamstring injury.

The pick: Chargers (+4)

PPP: Man, how brutal was that Allen Robinson II one last week? (My poor fantasy team.) Our Player Prop that Pops this week is Austin Ekeler over 37.5 receiving yards. He had 52 in Kansas City last season and we’re still not sold on the Chiefs linebackers.

Me, starting Allen Robinson again: pic.twitter.com/tN4W0fjbNo

— Justin (@Justin_14P) September 13, 2022

Miami Dolphins at Baltimore Ravens (-3.5) | 1 p.m. ET Sunday, CBS

Recent head coaches were 6-3-1 last week, with Mike McDaniel leading the best way. The Dolphins dissected the Patriots like a stinky frog, they usually could have won by rather a lot greater than 13 if Tua Tagovailoa had been sharper. That is one other test for him, because the Ravens played mostly zone defense last week, and Tagovailoa ranks thirty fourth out of 41 qualified QBs (300-plus pass attempts) in EPA/dropback vs. zone, in comparison with twenty second vs. man.

On the opposite side, Lamar Jackson was dealing against the Jets — he led the league with 12 air yards/attempt, along with his average pass traveling 3.2 yards past the sticks. The Ravens are banged up on their offensive line already (in addition to within the secondary), plus the Dolphins will blitz, so Jackson can be hard-pressed to do this again.

Jackson probably shouldn’t run a lot this season given his contract status, but he could have to so as to win and canopy this week.

The pick: Ravens (-3.5)

Recent York Jets at Cleveland Browns (-6) | 1 p.m. ET Sunday, CBS

Are the Browns really about to go 2–0 with Jacoby Brissett? Well, they still run the ball rather well — they were the one team in Week 1 to record two runs of 20-plus yards against boxes of seven-plus defenders — and their defense still flies to the ball.

The Jets’ Joe Flacco might be not the person to guide an upset. Not only are his “elite” days far behind him but his patchwork offensive line is tough on the eyes and his receivers dropped 4 passes last week — tied for many within the league. Flacco ranked thirtieth out of 31 qualified QBs in air yards/attempt (4.85) in Week 1.

Jets coach Robert Saleh said Flacco didn’t actually stink and that he’s keeping receipts on all of the media haters and doubters. Hopefully, Saleh has an enormous box.

The pick: Browns (-6)



Jacoby Brissett starting 2-0? Perhaps. (Jim Dedmon / USA Today)

Washington Commanders at Detroit Lions (-1.5) | 1 p.m. ET Sunday, Fox

The Lions rewarded their many “Hard Knocks” fans by scoring 14 points late to cover the spread last week. Detroit was plucky as hell last season too and it does have an excellent offensive line that can be charged with stopping an excellent Washington pass rush.

Even without Chase Young last week, the Commanders posted Week 1’s highest pressure rate: 44.4 percent. They blitzed on a 3rd of the Jaguars’ dropbacks, and everybody knows the book on Jared Goff, this week’s goal. Goff ranks twenty eighth out of 30 qualified QBs (300-plus attempts) in EPA/dropback when pressured since taking on for the Lions. (That jumps as much as fifteenth when not pressured.) He will certainly need more help from his receivers than he got last week.

Then Wednesday, Lions running back D’Andre Swift, who was so electric within the opener, didn’t practice on account of an ankle injury. That’s not good.

The Commanders just need “Bad Carson Wentz” to calm down, in order that “Good Wentz” can keep hitting Curtis Samuel and Antonio Gibson and watch them go. The duo saw targets on 15 of Wentz’s 22 throws of 5 air yards or less, they usually totaled 89 yards after the catch, with five first downs.

The pick: Commanders (+1.5)

Indianapolis Colts at Jacksonville Jaguars (+4) | 1 p.m. ET Sunday, CBS

This picking games stuff is tough. The Colts tied the Texans last week, but they gained over 500 yards in order that’s a misleading result. The Jaguars lost to the Commanders but in addition they moved the ball pretty much and just missed on some big probabilities. The four-point spread … chef’s kiss, bookmakers.

Tough call … I’m going to go along with the Colts because Jonathan Taylor has averaged 22 carries for 148.7 rushing yards in his last three games against the Jags. Indianapolis will clean up a few of its mistakes from last week and I feel its pass rush can be an element. The Jags allowed pressure on the second-highest rate in Week 1 (46.7 percent).

The pick: Colts (-4)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Recent Orleans Saints (+2.5) | 1 p.m. ET Sunday, Fox

Recent Orleans really is Brady’s house of horrors. (And he shouldn’t be good against the Saints in Tampa Bay, either.) He has six touchdowns, eight interceptions and 10 total turnovers in 4 games vs. Recent Orleans — and the Bucs are 0-4 against the spread in those games against the Saints. (Compare that to 22 touchdowns, three interceptions and five total turnovers in eight games against the Panthers and Falcons.)

Dennis Allen, the Saints head coach and former defensive coordinator, has gotten pressure on Brady without excessive blitzing, however the Bucs are motivated to stop this trend. Allen is 1-0 after Falcons coach Arthur Smith choked away an enormous lead last week after which refused to try to win a house game by punting on fourth-and-1 on the Saints’ 42-yard line.

Allen won’t have the coaching edge on this one, and the Bucs defense should feast on some Jameis Winston mistakes. He wasn’t excellent against the Falcons’ base defense last week, but was capable of come from behind when things got desperate. Take the Bucs defense to the bank.

The pick: Bucs (-2.5)

Carolina Panthers at Recent York Giants (-2) | 1 p.m. ET Sunday, Fox

The Panthers had trouble stopping the Browns running game last week and now face a rejuvenated Saquon Barkley. Barkley, healthy again, detests the notion that he “dances” and he put his shoulder through defenders last week and only had two negative runs on 18 carries.

I’ll take the quarterback edge, though, with Baker Mayfield. Each teams have trouble handling the blitz, and while the Panthers allowed the eighth-highest pressure rate last week (40.6 percent), the Giants allowed the best pressure rate (53.3 percent). And while Mayfield shouldn’t be great against pressure — amongst 32 QBs with 500-plus pass attempts since 2019, he ranks twentieth in EPA/dropback (0.05) when blitzed — Daniel Jones is worse. He ranks thirtieth (-0.22).

Hopefully, Matt Rhule doesn’t get too conservative again.

The pick: Panthers (+2)

Recent England Patriots at Pittsburgh Steelers (+2) | 1 p.m. ET Sunday, CBS

I can’t imagine I’m about to defend Matt Patricia, the previous defensive coordinator and Lions coach who’s now calling offensive plays badly for the Patriots. But there isn’t exactly loads of talent on that roster. He gets a break this week because the Steelers can be without linebacker T.J. Watt, who for some reason can’t come back from a torn pec after six days.

A fast take a look at the Steelers with and without Watt last season:

• With: 30.1 percent pressure rate, 21.5 percent blitz rate, average time to sack of three.52 seconds.

• Without: 26.5 percent pressure rate, 26.8 percent bliz rate, average time to sack of three.78 seconds.

That dropoff in pressure rate is the difference between rating seventeenth and thirty first.

The Steelers, holding their breath with Mitch Trubisky at quarterback, are 1-0 because of the Bengals playing horribly AND missing a PAT on the buzzer last week.

The Patriots win if Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson improve on last week’s rushing attack that had 36 percent of their runs go for zero or negative yards. Patricia should have the ability so as to add some sprinkles and clear that bar.

The pick: Patriots (-2)



The Patriots should win if Damien Harris and the running game improves. (Jasen Vinlove / USA Today)

Atlanta Falcons at Los Angeles Rams (-10.5) | 4:05 p.m. ET Sunday, Fox

Are the Rams going to be salty, coming off that embarrassing loss to the Bills? Sure. Are they going to have the ability to run the ball well enough to construct and hold on to a sufficiently big result in cover the spread? Hmmm.

It comes right down to the coaching matchup and Stafford’s elbow when picking a side here. Smith looks slightly overmatched and flustered in Atlanta, and he still hasn’t discovered the way to use tight end/superhero Kyle Pitts. Last 12 months’s No. 4 draft pick can leap over buildings and has six games (out of 18) with 35 yards receiving or less.

The Falcons must blitz to have any likelihood of stopping the Rams’ offense, and Stafford should have the ability to select them apart, even with the wounded wing. Sean McVay praised Stafford’s toughness and promised to get Robinson more involved, and that’s adequate for me.

The pick: Rams (-10.5)

Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers (-9.5) | 4:05 p.m. ET Sunday, Fox

Congratulations to the Seahawks for winning their Super Bowl last week. The fans booed former quarterback Russell Wilson, after which the Seahawks made simply enough plays to carry on for the narrow win, much to the delight of Wilson’s former teammates who thought he got an excessive amount of of the credit for the one-Super Bowl win era.

They’ll have a letdown against the 49ers, and even in the event that they don’t, Geno Smith’s average throw of 4.4 yards wanting the sticks — essentially the most conservative of Week 1 — shouldn’t be going to chop it. And their defense goes to sorely miss safety Jamal Adams.

go-deeper lazyload

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The Niners, meanwhile, hit bottom in Week 1. I mean, the George Kittle quote to the San Francisco Chronicle’s Mike Silver about Lance — “I feel we’re going to do every little thing we will to play well around him. But he’s a grown man. I do know he’s young, but he’s played football.” Whoa. But San Francisco’s defense is just too good to begin 0-2, and Lance could have the time and weather to make enough plays along with his arm and legs to cover the massive number.

Pete Carroll could also be 9-4 against the spread when facing a quarterback in one in all the primary five starts of his profession, but that is the primary time playing per week after a “Super Bowl” win.

The pick: 49ers (-9.5)

Cincinnati Bengals at Dallas Cowboys (+7.5) | 4:25 p.m. ET Sunday, CBS

More numbers for the widespread Cowboys panic: The Cowboys averaged the second-most yards to go on third down in Week 1 (8.3), behind only the Panthers. And receivers CeeDee Lamb (2.0 yards) and Dennis Houston (2.1) had the eleventh and twelfth lowest average separation at time of catch/incompletion, per Next Gen Stats.

Wait, you don’t know Houston? How about Simi Fehoko and Noah Brown, the Cowboys’ other receivers after being ravaged by injuries?

Yeah, it’s not pretty. Good luck, Cooper Rush.

On the opposite side, Joe Burrow was really bad last week. Besides the 4 interceptions, he was sacked 41.2 percent of the time when he was pressured — an awfully high number. For context: Burrow was sacked on 27.7 percent of his pressured dropbacks last season, a rate that also ranked because the fourth-highest.

Let’s blame it on the appendix surgery in July and assume Burrow could have his feet under him slightly higher against a Cowboys team that can be fiddling with nothing to lose. Those are often good spots to take 8 points at home, but Rush to Fehoko shouldn’t be doing it for me. And Burrow is 10-2 against the spread coming off a loss.

The pick: Bengals (-7.5)

Houston Texans at Denver Broncos (-10) | 4:25 p.m. ET Sunday, CBS

I got here away very impressed with Javonte Williams on Monday night. He’s going to eat well against this Texans defense, which is able to unlock Wilson to play slightly higher after an honest debut for the Broncos. He does pretty much in these sorts of matchups — Wilson is 73-60 against the spread when favored by 10 points.

Defensively, the Broncos are well fitted to what the Texans will do. Recent offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton likes heavier formations — Houston ranked 18th in 11 personnel usage last season but thirtieth (38.2 percent) last week. The Broncos’ defense saw 24 snaps against two or more tight ends vs. the Seahawks and posted a 70.4 percent success rate — that ranks sixth amongst defenses that played at the very least 10 such snaps in Week 1. Seattle ran the ball 4 times with two tight ends, and the Broncos stuffed them for no gain.

The pick: What? One other big favorite? (Feels brow.) Yup. Broncos (-10)

Arizona Cardinals at Las Vegas Raiders (-5.5) | 4:25 p.m. ET Sunday, CBS

The Raiders will attempt to get the ball to Adams on this one. Last week, in his debut with former college buddy Derek Carr, Adams had the third-highest goal share (48.6 percent) of his profession. That’s the best goal share by a Raider in any game that Carr began.

The Cardinals won’t have the ability to stop Adams, let alone Hunter Renfrow or Darren Waller. The one likelihood I give them is that if J.J. Watt returns from a calf injury and throws across the Raiders’ patchwork offensive line like Mack did last week.

And Arizona could have a tough time maintaining as Kyler Murray has all but given up throwing the deep ball with DeAndre Hopkins out. Former teammate Chandler Jones and Maxx Crosby and possibly even Nate Hobbs will certainly hug Murray a few times as they’re so pleased to get their first win of the season.

The pick: Raiders (-5.5)

go-deeper lazyload

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Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers (-10) | 8:20 p.m. ET, Sunday, NBC

I had the Bears because the worst team within the league, and now they’re 1-0. Unless the heavens open up and mudslides form in Green Bay like they did in Chicago last week, the Bears should need to face their shortcomings on Sunday.

They won’t have the ability to decelerate Green Bay on offense, they usually won’t have the ability to guard Fields when he has to face within the pocket and deliver. Their raggedy offensive line could have no answer for Kenny Clark. Amongst players with 20-plus pass-rushing snaps in Week 1, Clark had the best pressure rate (25 percent). Plus, the Packers made some mistakes within the secondary they’ll surely clean up.

There’s actually a likelihood to get backdoor with such an enormous number that may likely only go up, but Rodgers will certainly wish to back up all his trash talk toward Bears fans. The Packers are 20-7 against the spread with Rodgers as their starting QB against the Bears.

The pick: Packers (-10)

Tennessee Titans at Buffalo Bills (-10) | 7:15 p.m. ET, Monday, ESPN

I can’t keep taking big favorites, it goes against every little thing I stand for. The Titans are well-coached, Ryan Tannehill is a troublesome dude who’s slightly higher than you think that he’s and Derrick Henry … surely he can’t have two bad games in a row. By EPA/rush (-0.27), Week 1 was Henry’s ninth-worst performance since 2018.

So far as the Bills, everyone has watched the film and even Dawson Knox is getting overestimated.

Ten points is an inflated number that may likely keep going up, similar to the Broncos’ line did last Monday night. And we had the Seahawks, who not only covered but won the sport. But we would need the backdoor TD to my guy Treylon Burks here.

The pick: Titans (+10)

Minnesota Vikings at Philadelphia Eagles (-2) | 8:30 p.m. ET Monday, ABC

Two teams I’m high on face off against one another. So I’ll pass …

Can’t try this? Well, Justin Jefferson is serious about giving Davante Adams a run at this best-receiver title, and I feel Kirk Cousins could have rather a lot more success off play motion against the Eagles than Goff did last week. (Cousins was 10-of-13 for 155 yards and two TDs against the Packers, while Goff was 6-of-11 for 70 yards against the Eagles.)

But given the apparent ease with which the Vikings beat the Packers, plus how the Eagles blew an enormous lead against the Lions, there could be some line value here. The Eagles at home possibly ought to be favored by 4 or 4.5.

They, in any case, have the X-factor in Jalen Hurts. Hurts’ 17 rushes vs. the Lions were the second-most of his profession, and his success rate as a runner in that game (64.7 percent) was the seventh-highest of his profession. (Of the six games through which he posted the next success rate as a runner, he never logged greater than 10 rushes.) And the Vikings … dating back to the beginning of last season, they rank twenty seventh in defensive EPA/snap vs. QB runs.

The pick: Eagles (-2)

— TruMedia research courtesy of NFL editor Aaron Reiss. 

(Graphic: John Bradford / The Athletic; photo of Devin White: Cliff Welch / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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