AFC Wildcard Round Forecast

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Oakland Raiders at Houston Texans: If you love great offensive football, you probably should not watch this game. The Oakland Raiders already lost starting QB Derek Carr for the postseason, and may be without backup QB Matt McGloin as he injured his shoulder in week 17. That means rookie 3rd string QB Conner Cook will start if McGloin cannot play, and that is just not a story with a great ending. The Texans, however, have QB issues of their own as QB Brock Osweiler was benched earlier this year for his poor performance, and backup Tom Savage did not impress so Osweiler is now the starter again. Brock Osweiler is a big QB with a strong arm but he struggles under pressure and is mistake prone. The only thing we like about this move is that he has the arm to stretch the ball downfield to star WR DeAndre Hopkins. The Raiders defense has improved throughout the year but they were helped out a lot by a very explosive offense that could score points with Carr under center. The Raiders offense will struggle and the Texans defense will create turnovers to allow their offense to have short fields and that will be the reason that the Texans win a low scoring, defensive battle at home.

Miami Dolphins at Pittsburgh Steelers: The Dolphins defeated the Steelers 30-15 in Miami earlier this year, but Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger was injured. This game has a very different feel to it, as all of the Steelers offensive weapons are healthy. Roethlisberger, RB Le’Veon Bell and star WR Antonio Brown will all be ready to play. The Dolphins will most likely start backup QB Matt Moore as Ryan Tannehill has not practiced this week. That is a huge advantage to the Steelers despite their defense being susceptible throughout most of the year. The Dolphins must run the football with Jay Ajayi and do their best to keep the Steelers offense off the field. We think the Dolphins can score and keep it close early, but their downfall will be Matt Moore’s inability to hit big plays when they matter most and the Steelers offense exposing the Dolphins defense that ranks 29th in total defense. The Steelers and their explosive offense will eventually run away with the game as the Dolphins will struggle to keep up offensively and their defense will not be able to stop Roethlisberger and company and the Steelers will get the win at home.    Enjoy!

[Analysis by NFL expert Preston Rowe]

Look for Wild Times in The NFC Wildcard Playoffs!

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With the regular season coming to an end a few of the top tier teams can lock in on bringing home the Lombardi Trophy. The NFC teams are going to clash to power their way to Super Bowl LI. Filled with power houses such as Detroit, Green Bay, Seattle, and New York playing in Wild Card matchups the outcomes are unpredictable.

Detroit was snubbed having no players on their roster elected to the Pro Bowl this year, but that didn’t slow them from finishing with a 9-6 record. An offense led by MVP candidate Matthew Stafford it doesn’t seem as if any other offensive weapons are needed. Aside from a QB there is really no great on the Lion’s offense just a lot of good that contributes to filling their schedule with wins. A sub par defense seems to be one of their only weaknesses led by cornerback Darius Slay. If Detroit’s defense can play as a team they will make a case to be true title contenders.

Division rival to Detroit, Green Bay is pretty straightforward. Plain and simple, when Aaron Rodgers is your QB you are gonna win football games. Especially when he is being protected by three of the best pass blocking linemen. Overcoming numerous injuries on their roster to win six straight to finish the season. Receiver turned running back Ty Montgomery has shown flashes that he can play at an explosive level in the NFL. The only thing holding them back is a beat up defense. With arguably the weakest secondary in the NFL it will something Green Bay’s offensive firepower will have to make up for. Green Bay’s front seven unlike its secondary is always bringing the heat. Despite the age of many key players their run stop and pass rush continues to improve.

A team that seemed to be the kryptonite to the Green Bay Packers is the Seattle Seahawks. On the other hand having arguably the best secondary in the NFL with the notorious Richard Sherman. Their defense also known as the “Legion of Boom” causes every opponent’s offense to throw a fit. Questions in the running back spot may hold the offense back, but Quarterback Russell Wilson’s mentality fuels that offense. To progress through the playoffs Seattle will nee complete play by their receivers after suffering a huge loss in Tyler Lockett. Seattle comes with a winning mentality considering their past which will play as a key advantage this time around.

One of the most talked about players around the league seems to be Odell Beckham Jr. His sure hands and quickness can make any quarterback shine. Although recently New York’s defense has been carrying the team. With a loaded young secondary and some bruisers in the front seven New York has been the reason teams are losing sleep at night. An aging and inconsistent Eli Manning has seemed to be the only question mark on the team. If Eli can get hot and use his numerous weapons to his advantage it will make New York a tough team to beat.

 

NFC Playoff Picture Still in Flux

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Usually, Week 17 of the NFL’s regular season is mostly meaningless. The teams with nothing left to play for usually play out this last game as nothing but a formality, while those teams in contention have usually solidified their spots in the postseason race.

However, heading into Week 17, while we do have a good idea of who’s most likely to be in this year’s NFC playoffs, there’s still plenty at stake for the participants to play for, and fans of those teams to watch for.

The Dallas Cowboys, Atlanta Falcons, Seattle Seahawks, and New York Giants have all clinched postseason berths. We know that the Cowboys have secured the top seed in the conference, meaning they’ll have home field advantage for any game leading up to the Super Bowl. We also know that the New York Giants have secured the fifth seed (the top Wild Card spot), meaning they’ll play against the division winner with lowest win-loss percentage in the playoffs.

But after that? It’s all up in the air.

With the Detroit Lions losing to Dallas on Monday evening, the two biggest “must watch” games for Week 17 are the Washington Redskins hosting the New York Giants, and the Green Bay Packers traveling to Detroit; the latter game was flexed into the Sunday Night prime time spot, due to the playoff implications of the game. If Washington wins, they’ll almost automatically clinch the last playoff spot (the #6 seed). The only scenario in which the Redskins win and still get left out of the playoffs is if the the Lions-Packers game ends in a tie; more on that in a second. But for all intents and purposes, Washington is pretty much in a “win and in” situation.

The interesting wrinkle to the Redskins-Giants affair will be whether the Giants decide to rest their starters in the game. New  York can do no better or no worse than the fifth seed in the playoffs regardless of the outcome of the game, so it bears watching as to whether they’ll still have their star players — like Odell Beckham Jr., among others — participate in this meaningless match up.

If Washington wins, the game between Detroit and Green Bay will not only bear the implications of the NFC North division winner, but will also be a “loser goes home” scenario. Midway through December, Detroit had a 9-4 record. But after losing their last two games, combined with the hard-charging Packers currently riding a five-game winning streak, the Lions grasp on the NFC North title is tenuous at best. But, in an interesting twist, the Lions and Packers can actually both make the playoffs if their game ends in a tie. If that happens, the Packers would win the NFC North, and the Lions would get the last playoff spot in the NFC, as they would have the same record as the Redskins but own the head-to-head tiebreaker.

The other two games that could potentially alter the NFC playoff landscape involve the Atlanta Falcons hosting the New Orleans Saints, and the Seattle Seahawks playing the San Francisco 49ers in the Bay area.  The Falcons presently hold the second seed in the NFC playoffs, meaning they’d get the highly valuable first-round bye and host the playoff semi-final game. However, if Atlanta loses to New Orleans and Seattle beats San Francisco, then Seattle would secure the second seed in the NFC playoffs. But, both the Falcons and Seahawks will be favorites entering the game, so it’s hard to see the current seeding of both teams changing.

With Green Bay entering the game as three point favorites over the Lions and Washington entering their game against New York as eight point favorites, if we assume that the Packers, Redskins, Falcons, and Seahawks all win in Week 17, we would have the Cowboys with the top seed in the NFC playoffs, the Falcons with the second seed, and the Redskins taking on the Seahawks as well as the Giants traveling to Green Bay to take on the Packers in the NFC playoffs.

[Analysis by NFL expert Rajan Nanavati]

Preview: Oakland versus Kansas City

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Coming off a win against Buffalo, the Oakland Raiders have continued their hot streak and look to catch up to New England for the number one seed in the playoffs. The Kansas City Chiefs on the other hand hold a wildcard spot and hope to hold on to it and make a good postseason run. This is a big game for both teams, and it could play a pivotal role in deciding each team’s playoff rankings.
Derek Carr’s injured finger didn’t seem to play a role in last week’s win against the Bills, as he was able to fight it off and have a great game. He moved the ball efficiently and the Oakland defense eventually got its act together to get him out onto the field as much as they could. However, Oakland overall still has a very poor defense, and Andy Reidâ’s West Coast scheme that he runs with the Chiefs is built to destroy the type of defense Oakland has. Oakland’s main weaknesses on defense are against the run and their linebackers, so not only will running the ball be effective, but short, quick passes will stop Raiders defensive ends Bruce Irvin and Khalil Mack from putting their pass rushing skills to good use. Khalil Mack had another big game against Buffalo, forcing the hit that led to Tyrod Taylor’s interception, and also the strip sack that sealed the game for the Raiders. He can be used all over the field, and coach Jack Del Rio will want to use his versatility in defending against the Kansas City Chiefs style of offense.
On defense the Chiefs have good players all around. An interesting player to watch will be Justin Houston, who has been a monster since he came back from injury. While the Raiders have given up the least sacks in the league, they have a noticeable weakness on the right side. The Chiefs may want to put Houston there to do the most damage, but they can switch it up due to teammate Tamba Hali being a very good pass rusher himself. An interesting matchup to watch will be Raiders wideout Amari Cooper against Chiefs corner Marcus Peters. Peters has a knack for being boom or bust at the corner position, and Amari Cooper is known to make great plays on deep routes. Do not be surprised if Peters gets an interception but also lets Cooper have a big game as well. It is also possible that Peters may protect one side and line up against Michael Crabtree on occasion, who is quite good as well. Just another story to watch this week, and it makes for a very exciting game.

On paper the Raiders have the better team, but the Chiefs are no pushovers. This should be a very competitive game, and both teams have their case for a win.

  • Analysis by NFL artificial  intelligence!

NFL 2016-7 Super Bowl Dark Horses

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Atlanta Falcons: The Falcons are 7-4, and just defeated the Arizona Cardinals 38-19 at home. The Falcons are ranked 4th in total offense, and 3rd in passing offense. QB Matt Ryan has looked much more comfortable with an improved offensive line and a steady, reliable run game in Devonte Freeman. The pass defense is ranked 30th but the run defense is ranked 9th, and they are +3 in turnover differential. The Falcons have always been a dominant team in the Georgia Dome, and if they continue to play at a high level they could secure a home playoff game. With the balance they have on offense and the improving defense, we could see this team making a run in the playoffs.
New York Giants: The Giants are 8-3 and are on a 6 game win streak. The Cowboys are the obvious pick to win the NFC East, but the Giants could still sneak in the wild card and make some noise. Eli Manning is an elite QB, and they have one of the best WR trios in football with Odell Beckham Jr., Victor Cruz and rookie Sterling Shepard. The Giants last two super bowl wins, they barely snuck into the playoffs then caught fire. This team has the potential to do that again, with Manning they are never out of a game. The defense has drastically improved from last year as well, ranking 16th in total defense and 5th against the run. The NFC East is always crazy, and we could definitely see the Giants spoiling the Cowboys super bowl run and make a deep run of their own.
Denver Broncos: This is an unconventional pick from the AFC West, most would pick the Kansas City Chiefs. We like the Broncos because of their suffocating defense, they won a Super Bowl with great defense last year and they could make a run again. QB Trevor Siemian has played well, throwing for 2,396 yards 15 TDs and only 7 INTs. The Broncos have proven they can win b y not beating themselves and letting the defense keep the scores close. They still have an opportunity to clinch a playoff berth with games at the Chiefs and a home finale with the Raiders. If they sneak in, they will be a tough out with that stout defense and can cause problems to the explosive offenses in the AFC.

[Analysis by NFL expert Preston Rowe]

Inquiry: Why are the Jets Sooooo Bad this Year?

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The New York Jets just lost their fourth game in a row to drop to 1-5 on the season. This is not what Jets fans expected after the team took a giant leap forward last year. Two years ago, the Jets finished 4-12 to put the final nail in the coffin of Rex Ryan. However, last year the Jets had a record of 10-6 and just missed out on the playoffs.
With not many changes made during the offseason, most Jets fans had no clue that their team would come out of the gate like a horse that ends up being carted off to the glue factory. There is a lot of blame to be passed around for the Jets’ horrendous start.

Injured Players Missed Training Camp
One of the key culprits that is affecting the Jets this year is that they had so many players injured during training camp. Players like Khiry Robinson, Devin Smith, Muhammad Wilkerson and Breno Giacomini started training camp on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list. With so many key players missing training camp, it is little wonder that New York has stumbled out of the blocks.

Aging Players
While the team did take a step forward last year, that success seems to be unsustainable thanks to the aging roster. Key players like Darrelle Revis, Ryan Clady and Giacomini are on the wrong side of 30 now, and the NFL is an unforgiving place for players who lose a step as they get old. With so many older players on their roster, it is likely that the Jets will have to overhaul the team in the offseason.

Ryan Fitzpatrick Has Been a Disaster
In the Jets’ most recent game against the Arizona Cardinals, Fitzpatrick completed just 16 of his 31 passes for 176 yards in a 28-3 loss. The sad thing is that was one of his better performances this year. Fitzpatrick leads the league with 11 interceptions compared to just five touchdowns, and Jets fans are right to complain about the $10 million salary he is pulling in this year.

No Speed on Defense
The secondary, which has long been a strength of the team, has played pathetically so far this year. They seem to be a step behind the receivers they are covering on nearly every play. There have been far too many wide open completions against the Jets defense. Fans that thought the D line would finally step up against the Cardinals last week were once again disappointed.

Wide Receivers Can’t Get Open
On the other side of the ball, the Jets receivers seem to be unable to find separation from their defenders. That is part of the reason why Fitzpatrick has been struggling so badly this year. It is much easier to throw interceptions when your receivers cannot give you any space to throw the ball.
It is hard to see the Jets coming back from such a brutal start to make the playoffs, which means that their fans are in for a long year. Even one more loss may kill their playoff hopes, and some fans are already starting to turn the page to look ahead to next year.

The Flight of the 2016 NFL Eagles

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The Philadelphia Eagles seemed like a mess after the Chip Kelly experiment crashed and burned, and new head coach Doug Pederson inherited a team that had lost offensive weapons DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, LeSean McCoy and DeMarco Murray because of Kelly’s incompetence.

The Eagles traded up in the 2016 NFL Draft to draft QB Carson Wentz from North Dakota State with the number two overall pick. Many questioned the move, especially for a new head coach to invest his future in a QB who was from an FCS school. Wentz has played exceptionally well through 3 games, leading them to a 3-0 record. His most impressive performance was last week’s 34 to 3 thumping of the Pittsburgh Steelers, when he thre for 301 yards and 2 TDs. The thing critics of Wentz did not take into account even though he played FCS college ball, is thatthe Bison ran a pro-style offense which has allowed for a much easier transition to the NFL with Doug Pederson’s west coast offense.

The Eagles have also emphasized running the ball to help the rookie QB, and they use a four headed monster led by RB Ryan Mathews. Darren Sproles, Kenjon Barner and Wendell Smallwood are change of pace, “scat” backs that allow Wentz to hit easy checkdowns that can go for big yards. WR Jordan Matthews has become his favorite target, with 15 catches for 204 yards and 2 TDs. Nelson Agholor has also stepped up with 11 catches for 120 yards. Someone to keep an eye on as the season progresses is WR Dorial Green -Beckham, who is 6″ 5′ and could become a monster in the redzone. The defense is in the top 8 in total, pass and rush defense. The run defense has been especially impressive as they are 2nd in the league, led by the best interior DL Fletcher Cox. Cox was just recently NFC defensive player of the month.

The offense has proven to not be too complex for Wentz, as he has shown a knack to take what the defense gives him and not force it into coverage. He will eventually make some rookie mistakes, but if he shows resolve to bounce back and continue to improve and get his playmakers the ball, he could prove to be the answer at QB the Eagles have needed since Donovan McNabb. If the defense continues to play well, the Eagles should earn a playoff spot because the NFC East is so inconsistent and up in the air. Every team has serious issues, the Eagles are  the most consistent team in the division as of right now. They are ranked #12 overall in our NFL computer power rankings.

Future Isn’t Looking Bright for the Bills and Browns

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After the first week of the NFL season, the Buffalo Bills and Cleveland Browns are trying to regroup after losing their first games of the year. While some might think it’s too early to panic, fans in both cities are starting to entertain the idea that this is going to be another long season without a playoff appearance for their beloved teams. Neither the Bills nor Browns covered the NFL predictions against the spread last week, and they probably won’t cover again this week.

Before the season began, fans in Buffalo had a little hope for their team after coming close to making the playoffs last year. The team resigned promising quarterback Tyrod Taylor and head coach Rex Ryan promised the team would be more disciplined and cut back on the penalties that hurt them last year, but things apparently haven’t changed because the Bills were very undisciplined on Sunday and didn’t provide a lot of protection for their quarterback.

In the first half of their game against the Baltimore Ravens, the Bills were outgained 114-2 at one point, which isn’t going to cut it if you’re trying to win games. The secondary, which was supposed to be one of their biggest strengths, looked bad and blew a lot of coverage’s during the game.

In the second half, the Bills tried to mount a comeback and got close, but the team eventually imploded, making a lot of bad choices and getting penalized for them. At one point in the second half, the Bills had cut the lead to 10-7, and had the Ravens backed up deep in their territory. Instead of forcing Baltimore to punt the ball, the Bills committed two personal fouls in three plays, and gave Baltimore great position at midfield, which they converted into a field goal.

The Cleveland Browns have known more misery than most NFL franchises, but fans still fill the Dawg Pound every season, hoping this is the year the team turns things around. However, after the overhaul the team went through in the offseason, fans knew the Browns aren’t a playoff team, but remained cautiously optimistic the Browns would have a good season.

Cleveland signed former Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III to compete for the quarterback position during the offseason. Since new head coach Hue Jackson has had a lot of success reviving the careers of quarterbacks, many felt it was a good fit.

During the first half of their game against the Philadelphia Eagles, the Browns offense didn’t look very good, but Griffin seemed like he was comfortable in the offense. As the game progressed, the Eagles figured out Cleveland’s offense and essentially shut them down.

The Browns receivers had a really rough go of it in Sunday because the ball was either being overthrown by Griffin, who struggled in the second half, or they were dropping passes thrown at them. The running game was slightly better but not by much, which made it an easy victory for the Eagles.

To make matters worse for the Browns, Griffin was hurt late in the game, and on Monday, the team placed him on IR, which means he won’t be back on the field before week 10. The good news for Cleveland Browns is that the loss of Griffin all but guarantees they will have the first pick in the draft next year, hopefully they finally find their quarterback of the future.