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Week 9 NFL Picks

The Falcons can’t score. The Falcons stink. They can’t even get Julio Jones the football. Also, is Green Bay punting the season?  (Photo by Bill Kostroun/AP)

Last Week: 11 – 2 – 0
Season:     73 – 46 – 0

Thursday Recap

Bills 21 at Jets 34
Another unwatchable Thursday night contest. Just for kicks, take a look at Josh McCown’s numbers extrapolated out to 16 games; 358/508, 70% completion, 3,680 yards, 24 TD, 14 INT. Those passing numbers are better than any of Kaepernick’s last three seasons in the NFL. Kaepernick should be in the NFL, but let’s not forget he, along with 75% of the QBs in the league, isn’t very good.

Early Games (1:00PM ET)

Ravens at Titans
Baltimore owns victories over the Bengals, Browns, Raiders and Dolphins. Those teams have a combined 10-20 record. Baltimore’s four losses have come against the Jaguars, Steelers, Bears and Vikings, who own a combined 19-12 record. In other words, the Ravens only beat bad teams. The Titans aren’t great, but they’re not bad either. TITANS If I were Charles Barkley; Titans -3.5

Buccaneers at Saints
At the halfway point of the season the NFC South is completely up for grabs. The Falcons appeared headed to repeat as champs at 3-0 before a disastrous October dropped them to 4-3. Then the Panthers emerged as the favorite before an ugly two game slide headlined by 6 Cam Newton turnovers required a bandwagon evacuation. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, the New Orleans Saints rode a 5 game winning streak to take over the top spot in the division. At this point, I don’t know if any of the three are good, any of the three are just okay, or any of the three are bad. I do know that Tampa Bay is a hot mess. SAINTS If I were Charles Barkley; Saints -7

Rams at Giants
We overrate rings when evaluating players. If Eli Manning doesn’t own two improbable Super Bowl victories over the Patriots is he still the Giants quarterback? Manning isn’t awful by any means, but quarterbacks many of us use as a punch line are replicating his numbers. Joe Flacco is another example. I’m pretty confident the Giants and Ravens could put any number of average Joes under center and get equal production to what they’re getting now. RAMS If I were Charles Barkley; Rams -4

Broncos at Eagles
I loved the trade the Eagles made at the deadline as much as I loved the trade they didn’t. No, there were no reports of a potential trade other than the move to bring in Jay Ajayi for a 4th round pick. However, I was scared about the Eagles overpaying for an offensive lineman with a Super Bowl run in mind. If this were an older team then sure, I’d understand the move, but this Eagles core is young and talented. Better to roll with what you have than mortgage the future for a lineman that won’t perform near the level of the injured Jason Peters. The increase in play over what they have now wouldn’t match the lost value of a future 2nd, 3rd, or …gulp… 1st round pick. Besides, outside of adding an all-pro tackle, the best way to protect Carson Wentz is with a reliable, punishing ground game. Adding Ajayi to LeGarrette Blount should bolster an at times inconsistent running game and spell doom for opposing defenses in the 4th quarter. My only hope this week is for Wentz to enter the bye week healthy and not in Von Miller’s jaws. EAGLES If I were Charles Barkley; Eagles -8

Falcons at Panthers
Julio Jones is my favorite player outside of the 63 players on the Eagles, so I’m not completely unbiased in my assessment of the disappointing Atlanta Falcons. On the other hand, there are some obvious fixes in Atlanta that they seem to ignore for reasons I cannot understand. As far as we know, Jones is healthy and functioning at full strength. Only 8 targets per game for the most dynamic receiver in the league isn’t close to enough. Antonio Brown is averaging nearly 12 a game (and still complaining for more). DeAndre Hopkins is at 10.5. Did I mention those guys lead the NFL in receiving? Is it possible more opportunities lead to better production for great players? WHY YES, OF COURSE IT DOES! Jones has seen his targets decrease from nearly 13/game in 2015 to 9/game in 2016 to only 8 this season. If Jones matched his season high in targets this week (13), he’d still trail Brown by 25 targets entering Week 10 (Brown is on a bye). Take a look at the names with more targets this year than Julio Freaking Jones; Pierre Garcon, Devin Funchess, Keenan Allen, Adam Thielen, Jarvis Landry… the list goes on and on. Jones isn’t even in the top 20. It can’t be a coincidence that Atlanta’s offense is way down this year. The offense is down 41 yards per game from 2016. Oh look at this… their passing offense is down 44 yards/game this season! They’re also scoring 12 points less per game than their league leading 33 points/game in 2016. The balance nonsense isn’t working. Give Michael Jordan the rock. PANTHERS If I were Charles Barkley; Panthers +1

Bengals at Jaguars
I don’t understand the AJ McCarron love. I don’t understand why the Browns would surrender so much for him and I don’t understand why Marvin Lewis was hesitant to move him. The Bengals and Jaguars epitomize what life in the NFL is like for good teams with subpar quarterbacks. The Jacksonville defense and Leonard Fournette are good enough to drag Blake Bortles to victories. I’m just not convinced they’re good enough to drag him to the postseason. As for the Bengals, Andy Dalton hasn’t improved in two seasons and is on the wrong side of 30. Maybe he has a Carson Palmer-esque run in the twilight of his career but the Bengals can’t wait around for it to happen in Cincinnati. He’s scuttled a talented roster for the better part of 6 years. The Bengals can move on from Dalton after this season for a minor cap hit. If they truly believe McCarron has a future, why not give him some reps down the stretch? If he’s good, let Dalton walk. If not, keep the Red Rifle and his friendly contract around while you keep searching for that elusive franchise cornerstone. BENGALS If I were Charles Barkley; Bengals +6

Colts at Texans
Andrew Luck is now officially gone for the year and Indianapolis is likely keeping Chuck Pagano employed to guarantee themselves a top three pick. While it may be doom and gloom for the Colts right now, a disappointing 2017 will likely set them up for a bright future. Assuming Luck’s shoulder returns to normal health for the 2018 season (which at this point isn’t guaranteed), the Colts should have plenty of teams longing for their top three pick in the upcoming draft. As we’ve known for a long time, you’ve got nothing if you don’t have a franchise quarterback. Carson Wentz, Dak Prescott, Deshaun Watson, and Jared Goff have strongly reaffirmed that notion over the past 18 months. Teams will be dying to grab their future franchise cornerstone and they’ll pay a ransom to get in that position. If Luck is ready to go in May, Indianapolis will be in position to send away that pick for a collection of assets that, if used wisely, will give Luck, his new coach, and the franchise a solid foundation for years to come. TEXANS If I were Charles Barkley;

Afternoon Games (4:05PM ET)

Cardinals at 49ers
We all kind of knew Arizona’s season ended when David Johnson went down in Week 1. Then we were all but certain their season was over after Carson Palmer broke his arm two weeks ago. Now, there is no doubt after the Cardinals received word that Johnson’s wrist injury will keep him out for the remainder of the year. Also, credit to Kyle Shanahan for not wasting time. He benched Brian Hoyer (who was playing well… or as well as one could expect from Hoyer) after 5.25 starts. Shanahan then handed over the reigns to rookie CJ Beathard for three weeks. Most coaches would play the veteran too long instead of seeing what he had in the rookie. Shanahan saw enough (or not enough) to make a move for Jimmy Garoppolo. Now he has his franchise quarterback and he did so in half a season. 49ERS If I were Charles Barkley; 49ers +2

Redskins at Seahawks
Deshaun Watson is incredible. What he’s done this year has been a thrill to watch and great for the NFL. With that said, can we stop pretending he’s already better than Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers or even Dak Prescott? I’m not arguing he won’t be, I’m just saying let’s pump the brakes a bit, especially you, Richard Sherman. Watson lit up the Chiefs in garbage time. He threw three interceptions while picking Seattle’s defense apart. And let’s not pretend Seattle’s defense is the same defense from three years ago. They’ve surrendered 30+ points five times in their last 13 contests dating back to Week 14 of last season (postseason included). For reference, Seattle allowed 30+ points only 3 times in 38 games during their heyday from 2013-2014 (postseason included). So maybe it’s your defense that has gotten worse, Mr. Sherman, and not so much that Watson is already at the level of the NFL greats. (And now Watson is gone for the season. Bummer.) SEAHAWKS If I were Charles Barkley; Redskins +7.5

Chiefs at Cowboys
There are currently six NFC teams with five or more wins. That obviously doesn’t include the four-win Cowboys, Falcons or Packers. Add in teams capable of squeezing into the mix like the Redskins and Lions and that’s 11 teams alive and well in the playoff hunt. I know, I know, we just got to November. Still, I think each of those 11 teams is capable of winning a playoff game. I’m excited about the next two months of football, especially in the NFC. CHIEFS If I were Charles Barkley; Chiefs +2

Sunday Night (8:30PM ET)

Raiders at Dolphins
The trendy thing these days is to criticize the NFL. Pick a reason, there are plenty available, from any viewpoint, value system or political affiliation. The one that carries the most water (at least with me) is how many bad games there are each week. Good football depends heavily on good quarterbacks. Last year we saw glimpses of stardom from a number of young quarterbacks who appeared ready to take another leap in 2017. They’ve mostly disappointed. Derek Carr and Marcus Mariota have taken a step back and are on pace for career lows in yardage and touchdowns. Matt Ryan’s season has been mostly a disaster after an MVP campaign in 2016. In fact, he’ll finish with his worst output since 2009. Ryan Tannehill and Andrew Luck lost their 2017 seasons before they even began. That’s five young quarterbacks underperforming or not performing at all. That’s 15% of the league. The NFL needs stellar play from its quarterbacks and with the aforementioned five added to a poor Cam Newton year and an Aaron Rodgers injury, it’s easy to see why some have complained about the product this year. DOLPHINS If I were Charles Barkley; Dolphins +3

Monday Night (8:30PM ET)

Lions at Packers
Speaking of bad quarterbacks… I don’t get why the Packers didn’t look for a proven veteran over their bye week to hold down the fort until Aaron Rodgers returns. Do they know Rodgers is done until 2018? Look at their next six games; DET, @CHI, BAL, @PITT, TB, @CLE. 3-3 is totally doable and 4-2 isn’t that crazy. That would put Green Bay at 7-6 or 8-5 with Rodgers able to come off injured reserve in Week 15. Furthermore, the NFC North isn’t running away from them. Sure, the Vikings are out ahead at 6-2. They’re also starting Case Keenum or Sam Bradford at quarterback. The iceberg is coming. The Lions are fine but they won’t run away from the pack either. We’ve only seen one full start from Brett Hundley, so maybe he’s better than he displayed in Week 7, but man it’s hard to imagine Green Bay making it through the next six weeks without a losing record given what we saw two weeks ago. LIONS If I were Charles Barkley; Lions -3

*****

If I were Charles Barkley;
Last Week: 5 – 8 – 0
Season:    54 – 62 – 3

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