Vince Lombardi

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QC's 5 Best Guesses: Week 3

Since 2012, the Packers, Seahawks, and Colts have made 11 playoff appearances (out of 12 possible appearances). But in 2016, they are 0-6 ATS. Still, all three are home favorites in Week 3. Has there been a power shift, particuarly in the NFC? Or will these teams bounce back to their typical form? If the bounce back does not occur, this probably will be the last week you can pick against these teams at bargain prices.

1. Lions +7.5 over Packers. Suddenly, Green Bay looks stale and old. Only the LA Rams' brutal Case Keenum has posted lower QCYPA than Aaron Rogers (5.843). And the pass defense has been just as bad (8.343 QCYPA) and has just a single takeaway. Coach Mike McCarthy's play design differential was No. 2 in the NFL in 2014, fell to No. 18 last year, and now ranks No. 30 through 2 games. That is evidence of a team in decline and a team in decline should not be laying 7.5 points, even in Lambeau Field. The Lions have questions on defense, particularly without Ziggy Ansah. But QB Matt Stafford and a deep corps of pass-catchers should be enough to reveal the Packers' true identity.

2. 49ers +9.5 over Seahawks. Seattle's defense is still a proud unit. But the offenses they have shut down, Miami and LA, featue little and no potency. Moreover, the Seahawks' D has yet to generate a takeaway. On offense, Tom Cable's O-line has been a disaster. And San Francisco has a front 7 to prolong the suffering. You know QC loves tall interior pass rushers. The 49ers have a pair of 6-7 trees that played for Chip Kelly at Oregon, Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner. SF QB Blaine Gabbert threw 2 picks last week, but only in Q4 after the 49ers fell behind and had to pass. Chip and Pete Carroll have met only once in the NFL. In that 2014 meeting, the Seahawks won by 10 (24-14) by dominating time of possession (41:56 to 18:04). But Seattle is no longer equipped to control the game on offense. These look like pretty evenly matched teams and as long as Gabbert and the Niners offense is not -2 TO or worse the point spread should provide more than enough cushion.

3. Chargers +3 over Colts. Backing Chargers QB Phil Rivers is not something QC usually would do even under perfect circumstances and San Diego will have to go without WR Keenan Allen and RB Danny Woohead who have been lost for the year to knee injuries. However, 2015 1RD RB Melvin Gordon has given Rivers a ground threat who can keep defenses in base on first down. Through the first two weeks of the season, San Diego is tied for third in rushes greater than 10 yards, second in rushing yards on 1st down, and first in rushing first downs. That balance is a big reason Rivers is second in the NFL in 1st half QB rating (126.8) and the Chargers have been able to build big first half leads in their first two games. The defense has been adequate statistically in most areas, except takeaways where it has been outstanding (4). The Colts' brought in Ted Monachino as DC this year, but so far both the pass rush (.111 sack yards lost per attempt) and the pass coverage (8.722) have been dreadful. If the coaching situation in Buffalo was not such a hot mess, HC Chuck Pagano would be the leading candidate to be the first coached fired this year.

4. Cardinals -4 over Bills. Speaking of Buffalo, HC Rex Ryan fired his OC Greg Roman this week and elevated loyal lieutenant/RB coach Anthony Lynn to OC. Despite that move, the sharp money loves the Bills this week. QC will jump in with the public without hesitation. Bruce Arians is the last play designer a struggling opponent wants to see coming to town because the man in the driving cap will go for the throat. The Cardinals covered 6 of 8 games on the road last year by scores of 48-23, 42-17, 34-20, 39-32, 27-3, and 40-17. Arizona is still smarting a bit from its WK1 loss to New England and Arians will make sure his players know that they cannot give another game away with all their division games still in front of them. Meanwhile, Ryan's pass coverage has been atrocious (9.044 QCYPA). QC speculates that Ryan threw Roman under the bus by blaming the terrible defense on Buffalo's inability to control the ball on offense. But Roman's designs turned Colin Kaepernick into a Super Bowl QB and got Tyrod Taylor a big contract. Reportedly, management canned Roman because of the Bills' failures on 3DN. But Ryan's teams always have run the ball way too much on 1DN to keep defenses honest, which frequently leads to OCs and QBs finding themselves in difficult-to-impossible 3DN situations. It will be surprising indeed if the 1DN run/pass ratio changes significantly with the change from Roman to Lynn. It will be almost as surprising if the public does not get over on the sharps as well.

5. Giants -4.5 over Redskins. New York is an impressive 2-0 straight up and has looked good on both sides of the ball. But the Giants are 0-2 ATS because a) they are -4 TO and b) their WK1 line moved from +3.5 to -1.5 after Dallas QB Tony Romo was injured in the preseason. The focus will be on the matchup between WR Odell Beckham Jr. and Washington DB Josh Norman, but Eli Mannig has a deep cast of pass catchers now that Victor Cruz is healthy and rookie Sterling Sheppard is emerging. Meanwhile, the Redskins pass coverage as been lousy (8.896 QCYPA) despite the additiona of Norman. It was not long ago that Washington was among the worst teams in the NFL and through the first two weeks of 2016 nobody has underachieved more than the Redskins who dropped 2 home games. Strange things happen in this rivalry. But the Giants pummelled Jay Gruden's team in the Meadowlands in 2015 (32-20) and QC does not see any reason why this improved version of the G-men who are do for a cover cannot do it again in 2016.

Last Week: 1-4
Season: 6-4

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