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Pudge’s Picks – Week 7

October 19th, 2013 Comments off

Another week of picking games, and hopefully a better week of picking games. Apparently my success in picking games last year was a fluke because I just can’t get right this year.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-5) at Atlanta Falcons (1-4)
Sunday, October 20 at 1 pm ET on FOX

Line: Falcons (-7.5)

Obviously the line makers do not think highly of the Bucs. Understandably, because the Bucs offense has been nearly as bad as how good their defense has been this year. But this is not a great matchup for the Falcons, as their offense will probably also struggle to score against that Bucs defense. And thus the onus is on the Falcons defense to play well, which really hasn’t occurred  the past few weeks. I think the Falcons win at home,  but in a closer game than this line indicates it should be.

Spread Pick: Bucs
Straight Pick: Falcons

Chicago Bears (4-2) at Washington Redskins (1-4)
Sunday, October 20 at 1 pm ET on FOX

Line: Redskins (-1.5)

The key to slowing down the Redskins is stopping hte run, something Chicago didn’t do last week against the Giants. Brandon Jacobs had over 100 yards rushing against a diminished Bears front. Rookie Jon Bostic will be making his first career start at middle linebacker and thus that’s not a recipe for success for the Bears, although I think Bostic will be fine. The bigger question is going to be whether the Redskins defense can stop the Bears offense. Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery against one of the league’s weakest secondaries is not a recipe for success. The Redskins have played better in recent weeks, and that might be enough to get the win at home.

Spread Pick: Redskins
Straight Pick: Redskins

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How the Falcons Defense Matches Up Against the Bucs Offense

October 19th, 2013 Comments off
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Falcons must slow down Doug Martin

The Atlanta Falcons offense isn’t in a favorable matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense on this weekend’s Week 7 NFC South divisional matchup. Thus the Falcons may need their defense to step up and tip the scales in their favor.

The Falcons defense has struggled throughout this year, largely because their pass defense has given up a bunch of yards, big plays, and created very little turnovers. That will need to change this week, as the Falcons may need some turnovers to give their limited offense extra opportunities to score.

The Bucs top wideout is Vincent Jackson, and they will line him up all over their offense to create mismaches. He’s been effective in the slot, where he will draw the assignment of Robert McClain, who has struggled this year. If McClain is going to turn around his season and retain his spot in the lineup, he will need to bounce back this week.

The Falcons will also need Desmond Trufant and Asante Samuel to play well on the outside, and potentially create a couple of turnovers as well. Mike Williams is expected to work his way back into the lineup this week, and will likely get a lot of looks against Trufant, testing the rookie cornerback.

But the Bucs offense is heavily reliant on their rushing attack. The focus of the Falcons defense this week will be on stopping Doug Martin. They will get help in the form of guard Carl Nicks’ absence due to an infection in his foot. That will likely put Gabe Carimi or Ted Larsen as the starting left guard. Carimi is a good run blocker, but a questionable pass protector. Larsen is a more natural center, and lacks the strength to get push in the ground attack. The Falcons defensive tackles in Corey Peters and Jonathan Babineaux will try to exploit that weakness, regardless of who gets the start. Right guard Davin Joseph also hasn’t had the best season either, and thus the Falcons will need to control the line of scrimmage.

That will take pressure off the Falcons linebackers to have to make plays. The defense should get a boost from the return of middle linebacker Akeem Dent. While Dent has struggled in coverage this year, he’s been effective agains the run. That could make a difference, giving the Falcons the front necessary to slow down Martin.

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How the Falcons Offense Matches Up against the Bucs Defense

October 19th, 2013 Comments off
Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Harry Douglas Will Need a Big Week 7

The desperate Atlanta Falcons take on the winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a battle that will decide who resides in the basement of the NFC South division as the loser will reside in last place.

One of the bright spots for the Bucs this season has been their defense, which has played well despite their inability to win a game. The Falcons will be playing with a depleted offense this week, thanks to injuries to top wideouts in Julio Jones and Roddy White, as well as missing running back Steven Jackson for the fourth consecutive game. The Falcons are forced to dig deep in order to find a way to attack this Buccaneer defense.

How the Bucs decide to deploy their defense could really impact how the Falcons offense operates. The addition of cornerback Darrelle Revis has really enhanced a Bucs secondary that was among the worst in the league in 2012. The past two weeks Falcons opponents have opted to bracket and double Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez alongside Jones. Now with Jones out of the mix, it will mean Gonzalez will be the focus of the Falcons offense and opposing defense. The Bucs would be smart to try and have Revis shadow Gonzalez throughout the day whenever possible. But that will require the Bucs to ask to play Revis more inside. While Revis is capable, it will mean that the Bucs will have to make significant adjustments to their defense. If the Bucs choose to do that, a way the Falcons can attack him is by lining Gonzalez up as an inline tight end and trying to run directly at him. In the passing game, the Falcons can try to group their receivers in trips sets and try to create confusion in the Bucs secondary.

If not and the Bucs try a more traditional defense, it will feature a lot of using their safeties, Mark Barron and Dashon Goldson, against Gonzalez. The Bucs haven’t faced many top tight ends this year besides Jimmy Graham in Week 2. Graham proceeded to catch 10 passes for 179 yards and a touchdown, leading the Saints receivers. If that is the case, it’s clear that Gonzalez has the ability to exploit that matchup favorably for the Falcons offensive attack.

If Revis is shadowing Gonzalez, then it will leave the Falcons other receivers on islands against the Bucs lesser defensive backs. Starting cornerback Johnthan Banks has had his ups and downs this year as a rookie. But he could match up favorably against a receiver like Harry Douglas, who will be the de facto No. 1 receiver for the Falcons. Douglas isn’t very big, and Banks has good size to be an effective press corner. If the Bucs opt to employ Banks to try and press Douglas on the outside, then it will be hard for sixth-year wideout to get off the line of scrimmage and be effective. The Falcons could mitigate that some by putting Douglas mostly in the slot away from Banks, and against the smaller, less physical Leonard Johnson, the Bucs’ normal slot corner. If Revis is freed up from shadowing Gonzalez, then Douglas will be hard-pressed to get open against one of the league’s premier cornerbacks. The Falcons will try and find ways to feature Douglas with most of the defensive attention going towards Gonzalez. Douglas is at his best on shorter, quicker routes that are designed to get him in space and make us of his speed and explosiveness after the catch. The Falcons may try some screens with Douglas and shallow crossing patterns to try and feature this ability.

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Pudge’s Picks – Thursday Night Week 7

October 17th, 2013 Comments off

Another bad week against the spread, where I went 5-10 in Week 6 picking against the spread. Ten of the fifteen games last week were decided by two-score margins, and a few of them were complete surprises. Jacksonville covered the huge spread against Denver, and both St. Louis and Carolina obliterated Houston and Minnesota, respectively. And Brandon Weeden ultimately proved the downfall of my picks with his terrible play, allowing the Lions to get a 14-point road win.

I did better straight up, going 9-6, which is the first time I’ve finished above .500 since Week 4. That brings my season total there to 57-35, much better than my spread record, which is 43-49.

Seattle Seahawks (5-1) at Arizona Cardinals (3-3)
Thursday, October 17 at 8:25 pm ET on NFL Network

Line: Cardinals (+6.5)

This should be a solid defensive matchup between two of the better defenses in the league. That usually means that the game is going to be decided by one score or less. The problem for the Cardinals is that their offense is not very good and thus if they get behind early, they will struggle to make it close. But the positive for them is that they are playing at home on a short-week, and thus with their defense playing up to par, the Seahawks shouldn’t get off to a fast start.

The way the Cardinals can win this game is by controlling the line of scrimmage on defense, because we know their offensive line cannot do so on the opposite side of the ball. I have enough confidence in the Cardinals defense at home to keep this game relatively close and low-scoring.

Spread Pick: Cardinals
Straight Pick: Seahawks

Categories: Features Tags: ,

FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 43 “More Gangster than Gentleman”

October 17th, 2013 Comments off

Allen and I are joined by friend Rashad James to discuss the Falcons upcoming Week 7 matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, as well as discuss the many issues that plague the Falcons in 2013. In our preview of the Bucs game, I give my insights to what I saw from the Bucs in their Week 6 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles and how things could play out on both sides of the ball. We then discuss: 1) Which young receivers can step up in light of Julio Jones injury. 2) Whether the rest of the 2013 season rests on the shoulders of Matt Ryan 3) Whether Levine Toilolo is going to be a key asset for the Falcons offense moving forward 4) What is the Falcons identity? 5) Do the Falcons need to reshuffle their offensive line? 6) Should fans be throwing in the towel at this point? 7) A referendum on Thomas Dimitroff’s job so far as the team’s GM 8) Whether the Falcons need to make a trade for a wideout. We end things as usual recapping some of their observations from other teams around the league, including our joy over the New Orleans Saints’ devastating loss to the New England Patriots.

Ep. 43: More Gangster than Gentleman [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 14 minutes

Allen writes for TJRSports.com as well as the Pro Football Spot. His twitter handle is: @Allen_Strk.

Rashad can be found on twitter: @SaucedUp_Boss

If you have any questions and comments, you can hit us up on Twitter, post in the forums in the podcast thread, or drop an e-mail at: pudge@falcfans.com.

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, and be sure to rate us there! You can also subscribe directly to our feed at the following URL: http://feeds.feedburner.com/falcfans/LXSt

Pudge’s Picks – Week 6

October 13th, 2013 Comments off
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Will the Steelers get their first win in 2013 this week?

I was not at all surprised that the Giants managed to cover in the Thursday night game. I said as much in my pick, but given that thus far this season I was 0-3 when picking the Giants, I could not pick them a fourth time despite an unwieldy spread in favor of the Bears. So this week I start 0-1 against the spread, but 1-0 straight up.

No Falcons this weekend, and I’m thinking perhaps that maybe that will bring me luck to get this season back on track as far as my picks go. I don’t know if I can say the same for the Falcons season, but I’m optimistic for myself.

I think part of my problem has been that I’ve made too many “unilateral” picks this year. Meaning too often I’ve taken the same team to win the game as to cover. And generally speaking when the spread is under 3 points, it makes sense for that to happen. But when it’s larger than that, I should be much more willing to take the underdog.

Detroit Lions (3-2) at Cleveland Browns (3-2)
Sunday, October 13 at 1 pm ET on FOX

Line: Browns (+2.5)

Brandon Weeden is starting, so how can I pick the Browns? But the concern with the Lions is if Calvin Johnson is once again out, the Lions really have nothing offensively they can throw at that tough Browns defense. But I trust Suh, Fairley, and that Lions front to wreak havoc on a week Browns’ front line, but the Lions looked completely out of sorts without Johnson last week. But even if Johnson does play, I can’t imagine him to be that effective going up against Joe Haden at less than 100-percent.

Spread Pick: Browns
Straight Pick: Browns

Green Bay Packers (2-2) at Baltimore Ravens (3-2)
Sunday, October 13 at 1 pm ET on FOX

Line: Ravens (+3.5)

Baltimore had a dozen listed as questionable or worse on their injury report this week, but I suspect most of them will play. I believe that Torrey Smith should feast against a weak Packers pass defense that is made weaker by the absence of Clay Matthews. But it should be noted that the Packers are 4-2 in games that Matthews has missed over the years, so it’s not as if they haven’t been able to overcome his absence. I simply don’t trust Joe Flacco, and the Packers are looking for their first road win, as they blew fourth quarter leads to the 49ers and Bengals earlier this season.

Spread Pick: Packers
Straight Pick: Packers

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Categories: Features Tags: ,

Pudge’s Picks – Thursday Night Week 6

October 10th, 2013 Comments off

I managed to go a quasi-respectable 8-6 last week against the spread. That means that this week I won’t have to flip my picks since I promised that I would if I didn’t finish above .500. My season total against the spread now sits at an adequate 38-39, although that means a coin is better at picking games than me. But like the Falcons, I’m hoping I’m just off to a slow start and right about now I’ll start to hit my stride.

I finished 7-7 on straight picks last week. I don’t think I’ve ever done better vs. the spread than straight up. For the year, I’m 48-29.

New York Giant (0-5) at Chicago Bears (3-2)
Thursday, October 10 at 8:25 on NFL Network

Line: Bears (-7.5)

I’ve picked the Giants three times this year, and they’ve burned me each time. For that reason alone I’m picking the Bears. But I really don’t love the Bears in this one. Charles Tillman is a game-time decision and without him, I have a feeling that Cruz & Co. might go off. But the Giants line isn’t very good, so Eli should be under steady pressure. The Bears defense is good at creating turnovers and few teams in NFL history have been worse than this year’s Giants team at preventing them. David Wilson is also out and thus I have no clue who will be running the ball. But I also have this gnawing feeling that this is the week that JPP resumes being JPP and forces a bunch of Cutler turnovers. I’d feel better about picking the Bears if the line was 6.5 instead of 7.5. It’ll epitomize my entire year of picks if this is the week that the Giants finally look good.

Spread Pick: Bears
Straight Pick: Bears

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Pudge’s Picks – Week 5

October 5th, 2013 Comments off

It all seemed to be spiraling down the drain on Thursday night. After two weeks of picking against the Cleveland Browns, I decided to take them in their NFL Network matchup against the Buffalo Bills. But then Brian Hoyer went down with an injury, and the Bills were off to a quick 10-0 lead. And with Brandon Weeden coming into the game, it seemed doubtful that they would be able to mount the comeback to cover the 4.5-point spread. Well, thank goodness for the Browns special teams and defense. The Bills scored only one offensive touchdown under E.J. Manuel, thanks to a long run by C.J. Spiller. And then Manuel got bounced out of the game in the third quarter, and we discovered at least one quarterback that is worse than Brandon Weeden: Jeff Tuel.

So I’m off to a 1-0 start this week. But in truth picking Thursday games haven’t really been the problem this year, as I’m now 3-2 there. It’s been Sundays that have plagued me as I’ve wound up with losing records on each of the past three weeks thanks to abysmal weekend picks. And I’m not backing off on my promise I made Thursday. If I don’t go at least 7-6 on today’s picks, then next week I’m going to make the opposite picks. I will analyze the games as I normally would, and then pick the opposite of the team that my analysis would indicate.

New York Jets (2-2) at Atlanta Falcons (1-3)
Monday, October 7 at 8:30 pm ET on ESPN

Line: Falcons (-9.5)

There is no doubt in my mind that the Falcons are far and away the best 1-3 team in the league. It would be a toss-up between the Jets and Arizona Cardinals as to who is the worst 2-2 team. The positive thing for the Jets in this matchup is that they have a very good defense that could give fits for the inconsistent and struggling Falcons offense. But I’m also hopeful that this is the week the Falcons start to put it all together and get out of their rut, by being more balanced, scoring in the red zone, and generally just looking like the playoff team that most people envisioned we’d see in 2013. The Jets have struggled on the road to score points, mainly because they have a young quarterback. But a 10-point win is a fairly big margin which gives me pause considering Atlanta’s offensive inconsistencies. But I’m going to ride or die with my team and pick them to cover. Especially given the injuries the Jets have at wide receiver, which will cause them to struggle to generate offense and score enought points.

Spread Pick: Falcons
Straight Pick: Falcons

New Orleans Saints (4-0) at Chicago Bears (3-1)
Sunday, October 6 at 1 pm ET on FOX

Line: Bears (-0.5)

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Pudge’s Picks – Thursday Night Week 5

October 3rd, 2013 Comments off

It’s getting to a point that the only reason you should be reading this is to know who not to pick. Last week, I went 6-9 against the spread and 8-7 straight up. That brings my season totals to 30-33 against the spread and 41-22 straight up.

Had you simply looked at my picks the past three weeks and made the opposite picks against the spread, then you would have gone 28-19. If I can’t turn it around this week, then I’m going to just basically flip my picks. Whatever my gut tells me, I’ll choose the opposite. It can’t hurt at this point, right?

Buffalo Bills (2-2) at Cleveland Browns (2-2)
Thursday, October 3 at 8:25 pm ET on NFL Network

Line: Browns (-4.5)

For a moment consider how long it’s been since either of these two teams could have squared off in a relevant game. Not since 2002, have the Bills and Browns both finished a year .500 or above. And not since 1989, have both these two teams both been playoff teams. The Browns did beat the Bills in the playoffs that year, thanks to a then 26-year old Bernie Kosar.

Now Cleveland is helmed by a 27-year old Brian Hoyer, who alongside wideout Josh Gordon has energized a lackluster Browns offense over the past two weeks. Meanwhile tight end Jordan Cameron continues to kill it and is following in the footsteps of other former basketball players turned successful NFL tight ends.

The Browns defense is playing well and is ascending into a top unit. Arizona should have never gotten rid of Ray Horton! And while it’s surprising to say it, for the third week in a row the Browns have the head-to-head quarterback advantage as Hoyer is outplaying E.J. Manuel. Manuel started the season relatively strong, but has tailed off in recent weeks. Frankly, without getting a combined 203 rushing yards from their ground game and Joe Flacco throwing 5 picks (leading to 13 points), the Bills really had no business winning that game last week. Manuel turned it over three times himself, and if not for Stevie Johnson timely recovery on another fumble it should have been four turnovers. And if they are that sloppy at home, then how are they going to be on the road on a short week?

Especially when they may not be able to counter Manuel’s shoddy play with a ground game since C.J. Spiller will be a game-time decision due to an ankle injury. They are also still beat up in the secondary, as cornerback Stephon Gilmore will miss another week, and now fellow starter Leodis McKelvin may also be out of the lineup. The saving grace for the Bills might be their defensive front, as the Browns have gotten subpar production from their offensive line, particularly on the right side with Oniel Cousins and Mitchell Schwartz. If players like Kyle and Mario Williams can disrupt and prevent Hoyer from connecting with his playmakers in Gordon and Cameron, then the Browns offense really doesn’t have much to go on. Unless you think Willis McGahee has something in the tank. But I’ll still pick the Browns because they are playing at home, and that defense has been rock solid. But if it does become that sort of defensive battle, then that often boils down to a kicking duel between Dan Carpenter (Bills) and Billy Cundiff (Browns). Cundiff missed two kicks last week, so advantage Bills?

Spread Pick: Browns
Straight Pick: Browns

Categories: Features Tags: ,

FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 41 “Anonymous Osi”

October 3rd, 2013 Comments off

Allen and I are back with guest star Tom Melton to discuss the Falcons Week 4 loss to the New England Patriots. The questions we wish to answer this week are: 1) Are the Falcons approaching must-win territory in the coming weeks? 2) Will the Falcons youth movement in the wake of injuries is going to cost them this year? 3) Do the Falcons have enough balance on offense and can they turn things around in the red zone? 4) Just how awesome is Tony Gonzalez really? 5) How effective is the Falcons pass rush and whether the Osi Umenyiora signing is working out? 6) Was Mike Smith’s gutsy 4th down call the right move? 7) Did Mike Nolan’s scheme cost the Falcons the game? … We give our thoughts on the upcoming matchup against the New York Jets, as well as assess the play of the offensive line, receivers, young tight ends, and also look around the league at Josh Freeman’s situation in Tampa Bay.

Ep. 41: Anonymous Osi [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 6 minutes

Allen writes for TJRSports.com as well as the Bleacher Report. His twitter handle is: @Allen_Strk.

Tom Melton can be found on twitter: @TMeltonScouting, and also writes for his own draft blog and contributes to Draft Headquarters.

If you have any questions and comments, you can hit us up on Twitter, post in the forums in the podcast thread, or drop an e-mail at: pudge@falcfans.com.

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, and be sure to rate us there! You can also subscribe directly to our feed at the following URL: http://feeds.feedburner.com/falcfans/LXSt