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Saturday, 28 September 2013

TPL Picks: Week 4 + spread picks & Game of the Week

Week 3 had a fair dose of craziness scattered through it. Cleveland flipped Trent Richardson to Indy, benched Brandon Weeden and then went out and won a thriller in Minnesota just when everyone thought they were running up the white flag at the Factory of Sadness. Then there was the 7-sack beat down the Carolina Panthers put on the Giants.

So what do we get this week? Well if you haven't been paying attention, the Vikings and Steelers have made their way across the pond for the first of two "International Series" games this week, as the NFL continue to dip their toes deeper into the UK sports market. Is it a precursor to a permanent franchise being based here? Maybe. After all they are upping the schedule again to 3 games next year, but we'll have to wait and see how that next litmus test goes.

For our picks, Toby's increasingly dodgy spread picks and our game of the week, you'll have to go to the other side of the jump!


Pittsburgh Steelers (0-3) @ Minnesota Vikings (0-3)
Sunday in Wembley Stadium, London @ 1pm ET

Oh, you thought we might go with Seattle's visit to Houston or maybe Monday night's battle of the unbeatens? C'mon man!

So, a pair of winless teams have made the long trip across to visit us and we've been able to tag along for some of the ride. And what has that insider access told us about this match up? Well unsurprisingly both teams are desperate for a win. Neither side was willing to publicly call this game a "must win", but it's clear that they both need it and want it. Jared Allen was a ball of fiery passion in his press conference, and was matched by the air of controlled frustration that Mike Tomlin bought with him on friday.

The big news on the field for this game is that the Vikings are going with Matt Cassel at quarterback over an "injured" Christian Ponder. I use that term because everything about this has seemed a little fishy. Ponder said to the media that he "Got the news [Tuesday] morning that it was injured". That's not the usual language a player uses when discussing injuries.

Meanwhile everything we've seen from him in our limited exposure to their practices indicated he wasn't hampered by any injury. He was moving ok and didn't seem to have any issues completing his throwing motion or throwing accurately with 100% effort. Was this planned all along?

On Wednesday's ESPN Fantasy Focus: Football podcast Adam Schefter said: "I personally think that with them being 0-3, if there's a question about Ponder I think it gives them a great reason to go and look at Matt Cassel, which I think they've been curious about doing anyway. I think it's a case where Christian Ponder and Josh Freeman were running neck-and-neck for the QB that would be benched first ... Now with Ponder nursing that injury it would not be surprising if they when to Matt Cassel just to see they've got there." - Intriguing, no?

But for this game all we know is that Ponder is out and Matt Cassel is in. So what does Kansas City's former starter bring to the Vikings? Well in 48 games with Kansas he managed to complete 57.4% of his passes for 9,549 yards (at 6.4 per attempt) with 59 TD's and 44 INT's. Not bad numbers, but not exactly anything to get excited for and bench a 3rd year player who this front office invested a 12th overall pick in. Sure Ponder's had his ups and downs, but you can't accuse him of not playing hard. It's a curious decision, but one that shouldn't affect their passing game too much. Cassel can take care of the football and get the ball where it needs to be.

Obviously much of the focus has been on the Minnesota run game and their reigning MVP. It's not quite clicked for Adrian Peterson and his blockers yet but none of them sounded at all worried. Peterson made the point that things didn't really catch fire for him until the 2nd half of the season in 2012, adding: "I trust those guys up front and I know things will open up eventually."

Those guys up front are going to have a difficult time of it. Pittsburgh has only given up 3.3 yards per carry this season, and that's to 3 teams that are usually committed to running the ball. Sure, none of them have AP but despite the turnover in personnel the Steelers front 7 has seen they're still an excellent unit, with a Hall of Fame co-ordinator who will have plans A-Z ready for stopping Peterson.

As for the Steelers offense? Well first and foremost they've got to handle Jared Allen. "He's one of the best pass rushers, high motor guys in the NFL." Ben Roethlisberger told us, adding: "So I'm going to have to know where he is at all times, and our tackles better know where he's at too." Keeping him quiet for 60 minutes is a tricky thing, Cleveland managed it last week, but Pittsburgh don't have Joe Thomas to rely on, they have Mike Adams.

And when Ben isn't dropping back we're going to have a very movable object, in the 4.4 ypc allowed Vikings run defense, against the completely resistible force of Pittsburgh's ground game. Fortunately for the Steelers they're getting an X-Factor back for their offense. Rookie running back Le'Veon Bell returns, and both Mike Tomlin and Ben Roethlisberger sounded excited about getting him into the game. We even found out during their practice that he will be "co-starter" with Felix Jones, whatever that means! Bell's return should give some explosion to what has been a rather pedestrian stable of running backs, and as a result help the offensive line, which has been adjusting to Fernando Velasco coming in at centre and a bigger emphasis on zone schemes.

So who wins? My money is going on a narrow Vikings victory. They've been taking the ball away at a good rate, Harrison Smith has become something of a terror at the back end in just his second year in the NFL, taking pride not only in his centre field ball hawking but also his hard hits. Meanwhile the Steelers are yet to create a take away despite a healthy Troy Polamalu who looks to be in vintage form.

Matt Cassel has always been able to look after the ball while Big Ben has been giving it away a lot, and despite Le'Veon Bell and the trouble a returning Heath Miller will give the Vikings defense, you have to go with the best player on the field in tight match-ups like this and that is the #28 in purple. (TD)


TD's Spread Picks (2-4 this season):

Oakland (+3) over Washington

It's not been a great set of picks for me so far, so I'm going to pick Terrelle Pryor a week after being knocked out of a game and his Oakland Raiders. Why? Well the Redskins have to travel across the country and are bringing the league's worst secondary with them. Terrelle Pryor has shown a massive improvement since his Ohio State days, and while the offensive line may struggle he's got the ability to break out and rampage through a defense when he tucks the ball away.

New England Patriots (+1.5) over Atlanta Falcons

One of the closest lines of the week. An unbeaten but shaky Patriots travel to the Georgia Dome for a big Sunday Night Football clash. Atlanta is one of the toughest places to play for road teams because of the crowd noise (It was Seattle before Seattle turned the volume up to 11), and is the first BIG road game for the rookie receivers who have been so up and down for New England this season. But I'm taking the Patriots because with Steven Jackson and Roddy White hurt it really focuses the New England defense on Julio Jones. Meanwhile the Patriots should be getting Rob Gronkowski back which will improve both their run and pass game.

Cincinnati Bengals (-3.5) over Cleveland Browns

Cleveland are playing at the Factory of Sadness for the first time since trading Trent Richardson. And sure, they won last week in exciting fashion, but the Bengals are a different proposition entirely to the Minnesota Vikings. A well balanced attack that is featuring Giovani Bernard more and more, and even Joe Haden is going to have trouble keeping AJ Green in check. Tyler Eifert and the rest of the Bengals receiving options are too good for Cleveland's others to cope with, while the Browns right side of the offensive line is in shambles, which should allow Geno Atkins & Co. to go hunting.

Weekly Picks:

     

Toby Durant 
Phil Gaskin 
Gur Samuel

49ers @ Rams

49ers 
49ers 
49ers 
Steelers @ Vikings

Vikings 
Steelers
Vikings
Ravens @ Bills

Ravens 
Ravens
Bills
Bengals @ Browns

Bengals 
Bengals
Bengals
Colts @ Jaguars

Colts 
Colts
Colts
Seahawks @ Texans

Seahawks 
Texans
Seahawks
Cardinals @ Bucs

Cardinals 
Cardinals
Cardinals
Bears @ Lions

Bears 
Bears
Bears
Giants @ Chiefs

Chiefs 
Chiefs
Chiefs
Jets @ Titans

Titans 
Titans
Jets
Cowboys @ Chargers

Cowboys 
Chargers
Chargers
Redskins @ Raiders

Raiders 
Redskins
Raiders
Eagles @ Broncos

Broncos 
Broncos
Broncos
Patriots @ Falcons

Patriots 
Patriots
Patriots
Dolphins @ Saints

Saints 
Saints
Dolphins




Last Week: 

8-8 
7-9 
7-9 
Season: 
31-17 
27-21 
30-18 

1 comment:

  1. Great blog guys!
    I'm not sure how many viewers this blog gets but I would have to suggest writing articles about specific players or specific teams to appeal to more uneducated football watchers like myself :) Or if more views aren't your main priority then continue as you were because this is a great blog regardless. Also, Gur is VERY well spoken; it sounds like someone took some classes on rhetoric.

    ReplyDelete