NFL WEEK 6: TJ Calkins Weekly
Thanks for stopping back for Week 6. First things first, a review of last week, both the good and the bad. Starting with some bad, the Cowboys as the play of the week crashed and burned. What went wrong and what could we have done to avoid this loss? To answer the latter question first, it was an unavoidable loss. Moving to the former question, Kellen Moore called the worst game of any offensive play caller in 2019 and simply couldn’t get out of his own way. He simply would not commit to unleashing Ezekiel Elliott on the inept running back defense of the Packers and would be wholly to blame if quarterback Dak Prescott didn’t continuously stumble. Not only did Prescott throw three interceptions, he had a grand total of 0 passing yards on 3rd down despite throwing for 463 yards on 44 attempts. To highlight just how poorly Moore called this game, Elliott had just 12 carries despite averaging over five yards per tote. This was an unfortunate example of a play caller simply being unwilling to get out of his own way in what should have been an easy game to call.
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The Patriots and Eagles rolled as favorites in spots the line was simply not high enough. The Vikings, Cardinals and Panthers all won in favorable spots and the overs hit for us in the Houston and Dallas games.
We unfortunately were on all four of the teams that laid absolute eggs and likely to be looked at in hindsight as each team’s absolute worst game at the end of the season. Those teams were the aforementioned Cowboys along with the Chargers, Chiefs and Browns. The other losses included the Vikings Over, Saints under and Falcons.
The Ravens got hooked as 3,5 point favorite in a field goal win.
7-8 on the bad week, we will look to bounce back this week.
The Week Ahead
This week we have our first 9:30AM EST island game being played in London and they are always welcome. We get 15 hours of non stop football on those occasions and it’s everything we can ask for.
There are eight different lines that have moved at least two points early this week and certainly spots to make note of. Sunday night brings an underwhelming matchup but we get a fun divisional matchup on Monday night that will be quite competitive.
The Odds Provider of Week 6
Play Of The Week
There isn’t a completely head and shoulders play this week, but my favorite is the Chiefs in a bounce back spot at home. Scheduling clearly plays a part in this and it is not fool proof, but it should be noted the Chiefs haven’t lost back to back home games since 2013, head coach Andy Reid’s first year with the team. The offense was simply not in sync last week and the matchup with the extremely well coached Colts was a tough one to get things rolling against. That will not be an issue with the likely return of stud wide receiver Tyreek Hill against the Texans who have already allowed their opponents to surpass 30 points on two occasions this year. This is one of the lines that have moved and has dropped from 8.5 to 5.5 and finally to 4.5 and the Chiefs are extremely attractive laying far less than a full touchdown.
Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
9:30 AM EST – Played in London
- Opening Line: Pick ’em and 46
- Current Line: Panthers -2.5 and 47.5
This is already the second meeting of these two divisional foes this season, with the Buccaneers holding on for a win in a game that came down to the last possession and play, with a review needed for the spot of the ball and the outcome of the game. The game was so tight because injured Panthers quarterback Cam Newton was unable to take advantage of the Buccaneers woeful secondary, throwing incompletion after incompletion before finally letting his injury make way for replacement Kyle Allen to get the offense going. The Tampa matchup for quarterbacks and wide receivers is one of, if not the absolute best in the NFL and the Panther offense will have its way. Just last week the Bucs were scorched by subpar interim starter Teddy Bridgewater for 300 yards and four touchdowns. The question will be at what level will the Buccaneers be able to keep up. The Panther defense isn’t one of the elite of the league, but it is sound and should be able to keep the scoring pace of the Bucs behind that of the Panthers. The Bucs will score enough for the over 48 to hit, but Carolina -2 is the side to play.
- Panthers -2.5 at -106
- Over 47 at -110
Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens
- Opening Line: Ravens -8.5 and 48
- Current Line: Ravens -11.5 and 48
This is one of the early line movements to make note of and one that takes what would have been a sound play in the Ravens to a game where we won’t have any action. The Ravens have mostly been exposed as a fraud after early season hype was brought on by wins over the lowly Dolphins and Cardinals. Since then they have been rolled by the Chiefs and Browns and had to eek out a win against a Steeler team down to its third quarterback in overtime. The Ravens are just a middle of the pack team that will continue to find success against the dregs of the league and be beaten by the higher end teams. Pass rush against the Ravens is quite important, as quarterback Lamar Jackson is quite dangerous as a passer if he gets an uber clean pocket to watch routes develop. When there is a pass rush he becomes a dangerous runner but it is also when the very real accuracy issues emerge. The lowly Bengals have just six sacks on the season and are going to get scored on in this game. Their defense does not have a strong suit and their offense is unable to play from ahead in most games. The Bengals feature the worst offensive line in the league and are now without top playmaker John Ross. The ability left at the skill positions is down to Joe Mixon and Tyler Boyd and the lack of weapons will bring some very tough weeks. This very well could be one of them and if you feel a need to play a side in this game, it’s certainly the Ravens but stopping short of calling them a play.
Seattle Seahawks at Cleveland Browns
- Opening Line: Browns -2.5 and 46
- Current Line: Seahawks -1 and 46.5
These two teams are similar in the regard that they have been poorly coached to this point. The difference between them is that Browns coach Freddie Kitchens *might* have room for improvement and that Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield certainly has all the room in the world for improvement on his play to this point in 2019. Conversely for the Seahawks, stubborn old man Pete Carroll and his minion Brian Schottenheimer will be stuck in their ways till the end of time and continue to win just enough games to remain employed. “How can they be so bad and still win games” you might ask, and it’s a completely fair question. The answer is very simple, and it is that they have fully elite quarterback Russell Wilson to bail them out of situations in which they don’t deserve to be. The game this past Thursday night is a prime case in point. Now they only won because the Rams missed a field goal inside of 20 seconds remaining, but the game should not have been close. The stubborn coaching staff called 33 runs versus WIlson throwing just 23 passes. Despite this handicap, Russ threw for 268 and four touchdowns to essentially earn his team the win with one hand tied behind his back. This poor style of coaching will lead to the Seahawks playing close games nearly every week. Four of five games this season have been decided by six points or fewer and three of those were two points or fewer. This projects to be another close game but the Browns have been wildly unpredictable in the first third of the season. The range of outcomes in this one is full spectrum and completely a game to avoid.
Houston Texans at Kansas City Chiefs
- Opening Line: Chiefs -8.5 and 54
- Current Line: Chiefs -4.5 and 55
As mentioned in the play of the week section, the Chiefs are in a very nice bounce back spot. The last time coach Andy Reid lost consecutive home games was in 2013, his first year at the helm. Last week was simply an off week for the offense, and these things happen, even to the most elite of units. The return of elite wide receiver Tyreek Hill appears to be in the cards and will be additional fuel to the bounce back fire against a quite exploitable Texans secondary. The Texans have already allowed a trio of games this season in which the opposing quarterback topped 300 passing yards with multiple touchdowns. Mahomes will be the fourth and the Texans hope in this one is to keep pace, not to stop the Chiefs. The Texans do have a potent passing offense and could very well keep a scoring pace to bring the over home, but the superior play is the Chiefs.
- Chiefs -4.5 at -104
New Orleans Saints at Jacksonville Jaguars
- Opening Line: Jaguars -1.5 and 43.5
- Current Line: Jaguars -1 and 44.5
The Saints got a pleasant surprise last week as stop gap quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was able to exploit a fully exploitable matchup with the Bucs en route to an easy win. The Saints are now 3-0 with Bridgewater as a starter as the defense has stepped up in a big way in recent weeks. The defense scored a pair of touchdowns in week 3 to get a win in Seattle and held the Dallas offense to just 10 points in week 4 to eek out a two point win. They now travel to Jacksonville to face the toughest defense they have faced in this stretch, and are rightfully underdogs in this game. I fully expect Bridgewater to come back to Earth in this matchup and to ultimately fall short of keeping the winning streak alive. The defensive front of the Jaguars came alive in their last home game, registering nine sacks and this is likely a spot where the pressure acts as a constant drive killer. The Saints defense is still quite exploitable on the back end and Jaguars rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew has likely entrenched himself as the long term starter for the team. He has an undeniable chemistry with emerging second year wide receiver DJ Chark, Additionally slot receiver Dede Westbrook has a quite favorable individual matchup and the Jaguars should cruise to a lead in this one and never look back. Take the Jags for the home win.
- Jaguars -1.5 at -105
Philadelphia Eagles at Minnesota Vikings
- Opening Line: Vikings -3 and 44
- Current Line: Vikings -3 and 44.5
This matchup features a strength vs strength situation with Vikings rushing offense against the Eagles rushing defense. The Eagles front is extremely stout against the run and they are one of the league’s true pass funnel defenses. The Vikings are a team that are stubborn with the run to a fault, despite often finding success. They call runs at the second highest clip in the league behind San Francisco and as a home team call runs at by far the highest rate in the league. If and when they deploy this approach, it is playing right into the Eagles hands and will create a situation where the Vikings are trailing and unable to catch up. On offense, the Eagles have some newfound balance with the run game to compliment their passing game lead by elite Carson Wentz. The Vikings defense is balanced and not a unit that will get starched often, but it isn’t a fully dominant one that Wentz and company will have an inability to score against. If wide receiver Desean Jackson returns for the Eagles this week, it just reinforces the strength of play on the Eagles side, but he is not necessary for the Eagles to get the win in Minnesota as an underdog.
- Eagles +2.5 at +102
Washington Redskins at Miami Dolphins
- Opening Line: Redskins -6.5 and 41
- Current Line: Redskins -3.5 and 41
It was a busy week in Washington. After last week’s blowout loss to the Patriots, the team decided to scapegoat head coach Jay Gruden and part ways. What is truly puzzling is why the 0-5 Redskins are still trying to win games. They, simply put, aren’t going to be participating in the postseason and the team that gets the 1st overall pick in the 2020 draft will have either a franchise quarterback or a massive trade chip in Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Now they have a road spot against the league’s worst and winless Dolphins, and in true Redskins fashion, they’re going to screw it up with a win. Last week we saw Colt McCoy under center for the Redskins, but the early week thought is the switch will be made back to Case Keenum this week. Whether it’s McCoy or Keenum, even a team with the limitations of the Redskins as just a small favorite against the Dolphins is extremely attractive. The Dolphins had their bye week last week so just a reminder, they remain a team happy to be tanking and have not yet scored a point in the second half of a game this season. In four games they’ve been outscored by 137 points and their tightest contest was a 20 point loss. When a win for the Redskins is bad for the franchise, it’s an extremely sound bet that win will come.
- Redskins -3 at -127
San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Rams
- Opening Line: Rams -5 and 48.5
- Current Line: Rams -3 and 50.5
Much is made of the 49ers 4-0 start, and they deserve recognition doing what they’re supposed to do. What they were supposed to do is play the teams on the schedule, and when the combined record of the teams they’ve played is 5-15, all they can do is beat them. It’s not their fault their schedule opened as such but the 4-0 record is deceiving. The public is very much on the 49ers and it has created quite a value spot for the Rams at home sweet home. Since the start of 2018 the Rams are 8-2 at home and average 33.3 points in those games. Jared Goff has certainly had his share of struggles this season, but he is a markedly different player at home. The Rams defense will be able to slow the 49ers run heavy attack and the 49ers are a team completely built to play from ahead. If the Rams are playing from behind, they have the passing game firepower to get back into it. The same cannot be said for the other side. The Rams will take a lead they won’t relinquish in this one.
- Rams -3 at -125
Atlanta Falcons at Arizona Cardinals
- Opening Line: Falcons -2.5 and 47
- Current Line: Falcons -2.5 and 51.5
The public acutely jumped on the over in this game, and pounded it up 4.5 points. Even with the less favorable line for the over, there is still very much value in it. This matchup features two of the league’s better passing attacks and two of the league’s worst defenses. In a combined 10 games for these two teams, the smallest point total allowed was 20. The Falcons are allowing 30.4 per game and the Cardinals are allowing 27.6 per game. Now the Cardinal offense is very much a work in progress and it’s clear at times there is a real level of green to both the head coach and quarterback, but there is ability there and this is a spot they will face little resistance. The Falcons passing game remains high powered as Matt Ryan has thrown for at least 300 yards in all five games this season, and he will make it six on Sunday. More involved for the Falcons this season is fourth year tight end Austin Hooper, who has produced a line of 34/363/3 through five games. This is quite notable because the Cardinals have been mercilessly scorched by the tight end position this season. It is the best positional matchup for an offense in all of football. This will be the difference in a high scoring affair as the Falcons delat the firing of head coach Dan Quinn for at least one more week.
- Falcons -2.5 at -121
- Over 53 at +110
Dallas Cowboys at New York Jets
4:25 PM EST
- Opening Line: Cowboys -7 and 43
- Current Line: Cowboys -7 and 43
I am still dumbfounded at the level of incompetence displayed by Cowboys offensive coordinator and play caller Kellen Moore last week. Quarterback Dak Prescott also would not receive a glowing review from me, or anyone for last week’s performance. The Cowboys, who we really can’t be sure whether they are actually a strong team or not, travel east to visit the Jets. We truly have no idea what the Jets are bringing to the table as quarterback Sam Darnold is making just his second start of the season after coming down with mono. We don’t know if this will affect his play, nor do we have an established bar to compare his play to. This game is completely one to avoid as the range of outcomes is full spectrum and there’s no need for dice rolling here.
Tennessee Titans at Denver Broncos
4:25 PM EST
- Opening Line: Pickem and 40
- Current Line: Broncos -2.5 and 39
As you can tell by the total, don’t expect many fireworks or excitement in this one. These are two teams that have below average quarterbacks, below average pass catchers and boast the strength of their respective teams on the defensive side of the ball. The Broncos got a shocking win last week at the Chargers but should certainly be taken with a grain of salt. Chargers (awful) head coach Anthony Lynn lamented the team’s utter lack of motivation in the loss. The Titans are coming off a home loss to the Bills, and I believe they are the better team, but they just aren’t a team to be comfortable with in coin flip scenarios. The Broncos are even less so from that perspective and this is also a game to sit out of. I have a lean to the Titans but not listing them as a play.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Los Angeles Chargers
8:20 PM EST
- Opening Line: Chargers -5 and 43.5
- Current Line: Chargers -7 and 41
As mentioned in the previous game’s section, the Chargers were flat and wholly uninspired in their home loss to Denver last week. Their defense has fallen well short of preseason expectations and have been beatable at all levels. Despite having legitimate playmakers in place on offense, they have not been consistent with moving the football, and any time they are a full touchdown favorite against anyone but the Dolphins, the only potential play is the other side until further notice. The Steelers, after losing franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for the season, saw backup Mason Rudolph go down with a concussion on a nasty play where he was knocked out stiff. They will turn to third string Devlin Hodges to get the start. Now I don’t believe this is at all a Luke Falk situation where the Jets had no chance at all while he played. Hodges was sound in the preseason and the Steelers remain flush with playmakers, including the emergence of rookie wide receiver Diontae Johnson and should not at all be viewed as helpless in this game. I do lean Steelers and over in this game, but not to the point of listing as plays.
Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers
8:15PM EST Monday Night
- Opening Line: Packers -5 and 46.5
- Current Line: Packers -4.5 and 47
The Lions are quietly a sound team with legitimate playoff chances, but one that is far from elite and not remotely Super Bowl contenders. They are a team that has exclusively played close games, having all their games decided by four points or fewer and including an actual tie. They are much like the Seahawks in the sense that they have a commitment to the run, which breeds close outcomes in today’s NFL. The great thing about this for this week’s matchup is the Packers are helpless to stop an effective rushing attack and are a prime spot for running backs to feast. Additionally aiding the Lions is having two weeks to prepare coming off their bye week and the uncertainty of Packers top wide receiver Davante Adams availability. I do expect a close game as these divisional matchups can often go, but I give the stylistic edge to the Lions in this matchup. They also can be pressed on the money line.
- Lions +5.5 at -125