Weekly Pick ‘Ems: Week Six

Week Six of the picks, and Ollie has started to stretch his lead at the top.

As things stand:

  • We all seemingly hate the Texans, or love the Jags.
  • Dutton has a hero pick on the 49ers, and shares the same brain as Thomas, thinking the Panthers win in Seattle.
  Paul Mainwaring Neil Dutton Andrew Symes Lucas Mitzel Thomas Moore Conor Allison Ollie Connolly
Falcons @ Saints Falcons Falcons Falcons Falcons Falcons Falcons Falcons
Washington @ Jets Jets Jets Jets Jets Jets Jets Jets
Cardinals @ Steelers Cardinals Cardinals Cardinals Cardinals Cardinals Cardinals Cardinals
Chiefs @ Vikings Vikings Vikings Vikings Vikings Vikings Vikings Vikings
Bengals @ Bills Bengals Bengals Bengals Bengals Bengals Bengals Bengals
Bears @ Lions Bears Bears Lions Bears Lions Lions Bears
Broncos @ Browns Broncos Broncos Broncos Broncos Broncos Broncos Broncos
Texans @ Jags Jags Jags Jags Jags Jags Jags Jags
Dolphins @ Titans Dolphins Titans Dolphins Titans Dolphins Titans Titans
Panthers @ Seahawks Seahawks Panthers Seahawks Seahawks Panthers Seahawks Seahawks
Chargers @ Packers Packers Packers Packers Packers Packers Packers Packers
Ravens @ 49ers Ravens 49ers Ravens Ravens Ravens Ravens Ravens
Patriots @ Colts Patriots Patriots Patriots Patriots Patriots Patriots Patriots
Giants @ Eagles Giants Eagles Giants Eagles Eagles Eagles Giants
Last Week 9-5 10-4 10-4 11-3 8-6 10-4 11-3
Overall 51-26 49-28 49-28 46-31 47-30 51-26 54-23

The 32: Keeping it brief

Indianapolis Colts v Houston Texans

By Andrew SymesLead NFL Writer

Due to other commitments, I will be publishing only my rankings this week with a few comments in the four downs section. The column will be back to full musings next week!

Press the reset button
Contenders for the number one pick

32. Houston Texans (Last week: 32) (Record: 1-4)
31. New Orleans Saints (29) (1-4)
30. San Francisco 49ers (28) (1-4)
29. Jacksonville Jaguars (26) (1-4)
28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (31) (2-3)
27. Chicago Bears (30) (2-3)
26. Detroit Lions (22 – Down a category) (0-5)
25. Tennessee Titans (25 – Down a category) (1-3)
24. Cleveland Browns (27) (2-3)

A point to prove
A rapid improvement is needed to get into the playoff hunt

23. Miami Dolphins (20) (1-3)
22. Baltimore Ravens (18) (1-4)
21. Dallas Cowboys (17) (2-3)
20. Kansas City Chiefs (20) (1-4)
19. Oakland Raiders (24) (2-3)
18. St. Louis Rams (20) (2-3)
17. Philadelphia Eagles (21) (2-3)
16. Washington (19) (2-3)
15. San Diego Chargers (13 – Down a category) (2-3)

Playoff Hopefuls
Knocking on the door 

14. Buffalo Bills (14) (3-2)
13. Indianapolis Colts (12) (3-2)
12. New York Giants (15) (3-2)
11. New York Jets (11) (3-1)
10. Pittsburgh Steelers (10) (3-2)
9. Minnesota Vikings (9) (2-2)

Divisional Contenders
The heavyweights battling it out for playoff seedings

8. Carolina Panthers (9) (4-0)
7. Seattle Seahawks (6) (2-3)
6. Atlanta Falcons (7) (5-0) 
5. Arizona Cardinals (5) (4-1)

The Powerhouses
The cream of the crop

4. Denver Broncos (4 – Up a category) (5-0)
3. Cincinnati Bengals (3) (4-0)
2. Green Bay Packers (2) (4-0)

1. New England Patriots (1) (3-0)

Four downs

1.  Seattle blew a massive lead in the fourth quarter against the Bengals, and as much as this was down to the suddenly magical Dalton, serious questions have to be asked about the sudden inability for the Seahawks to close out games. Their final six offensive possessions ended in punts, while the defense gave up scores on four of the Bengals final five drives. However, they have played the toughest part of their schedule, and it opens up nicely from here on in. My bold prediction is that the Seahawks now go undefeated through to the end of the season – providing Darrell Bevell figures out how to move his offense.

2. The Bills season could go into free-fall if Tyrod Taylor is missing for a long stretch. He made just enough plays to squeak a win out in Tennessee despite having a poor game. With EJ Manuel under center, things will be different. He is devoid of his two best receivers and two best running backs too. Buffalo need help to keep their playoff hopes alive.

3. Mike Tomlin deserves huge credit for coaching to win on Monday Night Football. We often lambaste coaches for coaching negatively and Tomlin deserves the plaudits for having the guts to go for the win instead of taking overtime. After his brave calls backfiring against the Ravens ten days earlier, it would have been easy to take the safe option. Well done Mike, I hope more follow your lead.

4. The Patriots against the Colts this week looked liked a tasty matchup in the preseason. I fear it could be a humiliation now. I fully expect the Patriots to stomp all over the Colts with a hitherto unknown running back picking up 280 yards and five touchdowns.

Andrew Symes is the Lead NFL Writer for UKEndZone. If you have any questions or plain disagree, you can find Andrew on Twitter @asymes86, or join in the conversation @UKEndZone, in the comment section below or on our Facebook Page.

Tagged: nfl

An Updated Look at the Coaching Hot Seats

New Orleans Saints v Philadelphia Eagles

By Lucas Mitzel

We’re five weeks into the season, and one coach has already cleaned out his office. Joe Philbin cleaned out his office upon returning to American soil last week, and tight end coach Dan Campbell got the nod to take the helm in the interim. So compared to the offseason and just a couple of weeks ago, how hot are the seats around the National Football League?

  • Chuck Pagano, Indianapolis Colts. I first heard rumblings about this back in August given that Pagano’s contract is up at the end of the season, but it boggled my mind. How could you let go of a coach who went 33-15 in his first three seasons and led his team one step further in the playoffs every year? His Colts are 3-2 so far this year, good for first place in the division thanks to beating all of their division rivals in the past three weeks, but they have won those games by a combined 12 points, including one game needing overtime. He’s been blessed with Andrew Luck, but Luck has struggled when healthy, sitting 34th out of 35 qualifiers in passer rating and dead last in QBR. His defense is no better: they’re average in points allowed, but near the bottom in yards and eighth-worst in yards per play allowed. I don’t see the Colts firing him midseason, but a contract renewal looks more and more in doubt.
  • Sean Payton/Rob Ryan, New Orleans Saints. Our editor, Ollie Connolly, noted that there was a shouting match between Payton and Ryan during the Saints’ loss to the Eagles on Sunday, and it’s hard to blame either man: the Saints’ defense has allowed the most yards and fourth most points through five weeks, while sitting near the bottom in yards per carry and at the bottom in net yards per attempt allowed through the air. The odds are pretty good that, like in Dallas after 2012, Rob Ryan will be the sacrificial lamb come Black Monday to appease Saints fans. If the offense continues to struggle though (passing yards notwithstanding because they throw a ton), Payton might be shown the door.
  • Jeff Fisher, St. Louis Rams. Expectations have been fairly high for the Rams in the last couple of years given the name power of their defensive line, but they haven’t won more than seven games in a season under Fisher. They have two strong wins against the Seahawks and Cardinals in their division, but have struggled outside the NFC West, including that head-scratching 24-10 loss to Washington in Week 2. He also hasn’t gotten anything out of Nick Foles through five games, as he ranks 29th in passer rating and 30th in QBR. It’s easy to say, “Channel that energy from the division games and play that way against everyone else!”, but if the Rams have the kind of protection of Foles they did Sunday against the Packers, energy levels won’t matter, and Fisher will be back in the unemployment line.
  • Jim Caldwell, Detroit Lions. I’ve been a critic of Jim Caldwell since around the time I started writing for UKEndZone, and it’s something I will continue. The man is a good offensive coordinator, but a terrible head coach. Going back to last season, he nearly cost the Lions the game in London against Atlanta (but Mike Smith would not be outdone), and he cost the Lions their playoff game against the Cowboys back in January with that punt following the picked-up pass interference flag despite it being a reasonable line to gain IN DALLAS TERRITORY. He has since punted four times in opposing territory this season, including an arguably inexcusable one down five in San Diego with nine minutes to play. I know Ollie doesn’t like the “coaching not to lose” maxim that some in the broadcasting use, but Caldwell has multiple examples of it. If this season continues this way for the Lions, Caldwell could be looking for work again.
  • Mike Pettine, Cleveland Browns. His 457 yard passing day notwithstanding, I have no idea why Pettine is sticking with Josh McCown. I’m all for not necessarily throwing your quarterback of the future into the fire and letting him learn behind your incumbent starter, but that strategy works better when said incumbent is Brett Favre and not a journeyman backup. That said, Cleveland’s upper management is worse than the head coaching, and I would not be surprised if a sub-.500 season led to Pettine’s firing because who needs consistency.

To me, these are probably the most likely five to get canned. Jay Gruden just missed the cut here in Washington, partially because they’re playing better than expected so far. Other than that, I think just about everyone else is safe for now. Of course, a lot can change between now and December.

Winners and Losers: Week Five

Arizona Cardinals v Detroit Lions

By Conor Allison

Winner: Old quarterbacks

In sports, and particularly in the NFL at the quarterback position, people lean towards the young guy. In Week Five, though, we saw a couple of reasons to believe in experience.

Backup Matt Hasselbeck’s efficient performance (20/27, 213 yards, two touchdowns and no turnovers) helped keep the Colts ahead in his team’s Thursday night road win in Houston, much like he was able to last week against Jacksonville. It hasn’t been pretty football from Indianapolis in Luck’s absence, but their 40-year-old stand-in has aided their hopes for a high playoff seeding these past two weeks. His performance Thursday also comes after he was, according to the ever-hyperbolic Chuck Pagano, ‘literally on his deathbed’ with a bacterial infection. Settle down now, Chuck, he’s not that old.

36-year-old Cleveland quarterback Josh McCown’s also had himself a day, setting a franchise-record with 457 yards passing. The Browns not only pick up an overtime win on the road, but further doom their rival Baltimore Ravens, who fall to 1-4.

Before we get too excited, though, let’s take a moment to run through the Browns’ upcoming schedule, which could realistically see them lose their next five games. Next week they host the Broncos, travel to St Louis in Week Seven, and return home for Arizona before two divisional road trips to Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. McCown may have had a nice fortnight, but the team needs this kind of performance consistently in order to be successful.

Loser: Jacksonville Jaguars

Although second-year quarterback Blake Bortles is showing signs of improvement, the Jags failed to pick up a road win in Tampa on Sunday.

After last week’s crushing overtime loss against the division rival Colts, falling further behind in the AFC South race (if you can call it that) is unforgivable against a team that hasn’t won at home in their last ten attempts previous.

They now fall to 1-4, with excuses running out for a coaching staff, headed by Gus Bradley, that has been given plenty of leash since coming to town. Whether or not you believe change is good or bad is relative to the situation, and in this case, it’s clear Jacksonville isn’t a team any staff can force a quick turnaround with. However, if, at the end of the season, we’re looking at another 4-12/5-11 performance, questions will be asked.

Winner: Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals are the hottest team in the league right now, and it starts with quarterback Andy Dalton. His new-found confidence is the credit of development in the offensive system, ran by a shrewd offensive co-ordinator in Hue Jackson.

Sunday marked a potential turning point in the Cincinnati/Dalton narrative of disappearing in big games, as they reduced a 17-point fourth quarter deficit to take the game to overtime and eventually win. Of all the stats I’ve ever scrolled past on Twitter, this contends for the most unbelievable: Teams are 1-427 in the last five seasons when trailing by 17+ points in the fourth quarter. The lone win is the Bengals’ on Sunday.

With much of the plaudits, ironically, heading Dalton’s way, it’s easy to forget the other contributors. This is a team with little to no weak spots, especially on offense. The emergence of Tyler Eifert has resulted in more teams having to respect not only A.J. Green, but the middle (and particularly deep), as well. The defense is also playing their part, with the return of a full-strength Geno Atkins the biggest factor, as well as cornerback Adam Jones enjoying a solid stretch.

There are a lot of fans and pundits alike who won’t buy what Cincinnati is selling until they prove it in January. This is fair, considering what we’ve seen over their past four playoff appearances, but there’s no denying that these Bengals are different. For how long they show it remains to be seen.

Loser: Jamaal Charles/Viewing public

In a similar vein to when Ben Roethlisberger went down in Week Three with a knee injury, the loss of running back Jamaal Charles for the season is not only a hit to the Chiefs, but to everyone watching, too.

Andy Reid has the tendency to suffer amnesia regarding the dynamic Charles, but when he is given an opportunity to be the focal point of this offense, he delivers. His absence is troubling for a Chiefs team who have looked uninspired this season, with a 1-4 record to show for it. With little offensive production by way of Alex Smith, something will have to be cooked up quick in Kansas City order to rescue what looks like a forgettable season.

Fourth-year back Knile Davis should assume Charles’ place, having played a bit-part role since being drafted out of Arkansas in the third round in 2012. His first test will come against a Minnesota rush defense which ranks 16th in yards allowed (502) despite ranking 27th in yards allowed per attempt (4.7).

Winner: Undefeated teams

It was another week of winning for New England, Cincinnati, Denver, Green Bay, and Atlanta, as they kept their 100% start to the season alive. Carolina, meanwhile, return from their bye week to face Seattle on the road.

For the Bengals, Patriots and Packers, the unbeaten record is a fair assessment of how they’ve performed. They all look, at this time, to be the cream of the NFL crop.

Carolina, Denver and Atlanta, though, have questions surrounding them. The Panthers have been solid in their opening four wins, but have yet to play a team with a .500 record or above (Jacksonville, Houston, Tampa Bay, New Orleans). With Cam Newton’s ragtag bunch at wideout, there’s only so high the ceiling can be for this team. With a tough four games ahead of them, don’t be surprised to see them fall back to the rest of the pack by Week Nine.

Atlanta, playing in the same division, have a similar issue. You can only beat the teams that are put in front of you, but when the toughest teams you’ll face all season are Indianapolis or the New York Giants, it’s hard to label this team as legitimate contenders. They deserve credit for outlasting teams in tight games so far, but how good they really are will likely be unknown during this regular season.

Denver, meanwhile, have the well documented regression of Peyton Manning to deal with, and have looked torrid running the ball. Without their defense, which may be the best all-round group in the league, their record would look significantly more stained after five weeks. They will win the AFC West, but their seeding and chances in January don’t look strong on current showing.

Loser: Detroit Lions

Another week gone, and another Detroit loss is in the books. All defeats are painful, but most don’t involve your franchise quarterback being benched whilst suffering a 42-17 home drubbing.

Stafford’s job isn’t up for question, but after throwing three costly interceptions, and with the game lost, a further loss to his confidence was at stake. He is noticeably struggling with the blitz, but is even throwing poorly in a clean pocket. There’s little to no chemistry with Calvin Johnson or Golden Tate, too, which is surprising considering their history of success. The former Georgia quarterback ranks last (38th) amongst starters so far this year, per Pro Football Focus, almost doubling (-17.0) the negative grade of his closest competitor, Colin Kaepernick (-9.8).

Like with any rough situation around the league, though, it isn’t squarely on one man’s shoulders. The defense, particularly against the pass, is getting burned on a weekly basis. If the secondary can perform to half the standard of which it did a year ago, and Stafford can limit mental mistakes and regain the rapport with his wideouts, there will be improvement. However, what we’ve seen so far doesn’t bode well for the rest of the season. There’s potential for their first win this Sunday versus divisional rival Chicago, but, at best, it’s a toss-up game.

The more interesting question is the direction of this team heading into next season. How do they regroup from what has been an abject misfire on all cylinders?

Conor Allison is a featured writer for UKEndZone. You can find him on Twitter @ConorAllison95, or join in the conversation @UKEndZone, in the comment section below or on our Facebook page.

Tagged: Andy Dalton, Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, cincinnati bengals, detroit lions, green bay packers, jacksonville jaguars, Jamaal Charles, Josh McCown, Matt Hasselbeck, Matthew Stafford, new england patriots, Winners and Losers

Thanks For Nothing – Fantasy Stars Who Failed: Week Five

Washington Redskins v Atlanta Falcons

By Neil Dutton, Lead Fantasy Football Writer

If this ever-changing world in which we live in makes you give in and cry, live and let die. Those were the words of Paul McCartney and Wings, “the band the Beatles might have been”. While Paulie Mac may have a point, I find it isn’t the world that makes me give in and cry, it’s the constant ability of supposed star players to stink in situations where we need them most (well, that AND the ever-changing world in which we live in). That is why I, once a week, offer up my hymn to those that were supposed to do great deeds, but instead made us sing the emptiest words we know.

 “Thanks for Nothing”.

 (Ownership statistics are courtesy of NFL.com, and all Fantasy Points are based on NFL.com standard scoring)

Matt Ryan (Owned in 99.6% of NFL.com leagues) 4.47 Fantasy Points

The Falcons managed to hold off a spirited Washington team on Sunday to improve their record to 5-0 on the season, but they managed to do this despite an awful showing from their quarterback (HYPERBOLE WARNING). “Matty Ice” may have been responsible for driving his team down the field late in the day to give them a late lead, which they were unable to hold, but his 24 completions for 254 yards contained zero touchdowns. He also tossed two interceptions to a Washington secondary who had recorded precisely zero all year prior to Sunday, AND lost a fumble. To be fair, this was Ryan’s first stinker of the season, and with a match against New Orleans coming on Thursday he should find his way back into my good graces fairly quickly.

C.J. Spiller (77.2%) 0.20 FP

Why did the Saints bother acquiring Spiller? This is a question that many Saints fans, not to mention fantasy owners, must be asking themselves. After his winning touchdown catch against Dallas, he disappeared against the Eagles. True, he and Mark Ingram were not expected to enjoy much success running the ball against a solid Eagles front, but people expected more than MINUS EIGHT YARDS on three catches, didn’t they? Spiller’s role in this offense is too hit and miss to be relied upon, and even with a matchup against an Atlanta team that practically gives away fantasy points to running backs, it’s very hard for me to endorse anyone selecting Spiller in all but the deepest PPR leagues.

Donte Moncrief (73.6%) 0.30 FP

Why should young pups have all the fun? On an evening where the Colts had a 40-year-old quarterback at the helm of their offense, it stands to reason that he’d have a greater chemistry with a receiver closer to his own age, doesn’t it? While Andre Johnson feasted on his former team mates, Moncrief was kept quiet to the tune of one catch for three yards. Highly disappointing from him, but he has shown enough this season to suggest that he won’t find his name on this list too many times going forward.

Randall Cobb (100%) 2.30 FP

It’s only natural that, on a day where Aaron Rodgers shows hints that he is in fact human and not a quarterbacking cyborg from the future, his supporting cast should come face to face with their own (fantasy) mortality. Cobb garnered just 23 yards on three catches, his lowest number of catches all year and his smallest yardage total since way back to 2012. He is still the main go to guy for Rodgers, but his touchdown potential is being eaten into by the Prodigal James Jones. You start Cobb every week, because of his quarterback, but the signs are there that he is capable of repeating this type of outing.

Charles Clay (91.2%) 0.70 FP

No McCoy, no Karlos Williams, no Sammy Watkins. The Titans shipping fantasy points to tight ends. If there was ever a time when a player should have been expected to be force-fed the ball, this was such a time for Clay. Instead, as the Bills offense huffed and puffed all afternoon, Clay chipped in with one catch for seven yards. This is precisely why we find it hard to trust you, Buffalo. You hint and tease, but very rarely deliver. Long term, I have no fears for Clay, who has shown himself to be a consistent member of Greg Roman’s unit, but with the news that Tyrod Taylor is likely to miss game time and be replaced by EJ Manuel, Clay’s fantasy ceiling is substantially lowered. All expectations should be tempered

Neil Dutton is the Lead Fantasy Football Writer for UKEndZone. You can find him on Twitter @NDutton13 and listen to his podcast here. Or join in the conversation @UKEndZone, in the comment section below or on our Facebook Page.

Tagged: c j spiller, Charles Clay, Donte Moncrief, matt ryan, Randall Cobb