Andrew: Hallo und herzlich willkom… er, hello and welcome to a very strange edition of Scramble for the Ball, produced in quite unusual circumstances. Every other non-preseason week since we began writing this column, we’ve done so after all of the week’s games have been completed. Suddenly, thanks to a mix of a global pandemic and localized non-adherence to league protocols, the NFL is playing a game on a Tuesday evening, and our carefully crafted routine is ruined.
Bryan: The last time we had a game on Tuesday, our 2010 Scramblers were debating whether Terrell Owens or Brandon Lloyd was a more fitting Pro Bowl wideout, and talking about starting Kevin Boss over Rob Gronkowski for their fantasy teams. And the last Tuesday game before that, the 1940s equivalent of Football Outsiders (which, presumably, would have been a ham radio broadcast of some renown) would have been talking about the Boston Yanks’ series of unfortunate events forcing them to open their season on a Tuesday for the third consecutive year.
It has been a weird season, is what we’re saying.
Andrew: Yet for all that weirdness, the minor issue of a game on a Tuesday is nothing compared to the rest of the bizarreness that we’ve encountered in this voraciously awaited season. Just last week we compared a group of coaches on the hotseat to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. This week, we’ve been inundated with portents of the End of Days.
Bryan: The 2020 NFL season is a clear portent that we have entered some sort of nega-dimension, or are approaching an upcoming apocalypse, or something. There’s just no other rational explanation. It’s a good thing there are no other signs of disaster outside the NFL, or I’d be getting mighty concerned at this point in time!
Andrew: Eh, we still have another couple of months to go in this wretched year. There’s plenty of time for a group of archaeologists to do something monumentally stupid like crack the seal on a millennia-old sarcophagus and set free a perfectly preserved mummy. Maybe it could even get a game at quarterback for the Broncos.
Bryan: That depends: is said mummy at least 6-foot-4? Because then John Elway would hire him in a heartbeat. Heck, I’m a little surprised that the memetic 12-Foot-Tall Home Depot Skeleton isn’t penciled in for the Broncos-Patriots game, whenever that ends up actually taking place. Might still have more arm strength than Brett Rypien.
Andrew: The cascade effect of that Patriots-Broncos rescheduling reads like the casting list for an epic series, involving Dolphins and Jaguars, Broncos and Chargers, Chiefs and Bills, Patriots and Titans … Jets too, but for some reason, there’s two scores between the Jets and the rest of the cast list.
Bryan: Only two? Wow, they’ve gotten better since last I looked.
Of course, that massive scheduling kerfuffle could have been at least somewhat mitigated by simply adding an extra week or two of buffer time between the end of the regular season and the playoffs, but bringing things to a satisfying conclusion isn’t quite in the wheelhouse of epic series these days. Sometimes, doing what makes the most logical sense is boring … or something. Perhaps the NFL shouldn’t be taking scheduling tips from Benioff and Weiss, but, well, here we are.
Andrew: No way. That would mean somebody way out of left field assuming absolute power at the end of all the political maneuvering and intrigue, and it’s outlandish to believe that could ever happen in the modern NFL. Besides, you’d never catch a football franchise abandoning its birthright for the sake of a quick buck or a little bit of extra influence.
Bryan: Looking back at what we thought the 2020 season would be like, it’s pretty clear that, well, we know nothing. But can you blame us? This season has been bonkers. There’s always a team or two that surprises you, for good or for ill, but this year, nearly a quarter of the league is off to historically good or bad starts, at least by the standards of their own franchise history.
How could we not call it a Sign of the Apocalypse when the Cleveland Browns are sitting at 4-1? The Factory of Sadness is either out of commission or setting up for a whopper of a disappointment when winter comes.
Andrew: And winter is definitely coming. It would be just like the Browns to finally be decent in a season that ends up being cancelled halfway through due to a pandemic.
Bryan: The Browns used to get off to hot starts all the time, in the era of Paul Brown and Blanton Collier. But the last time they started 4-1 or better was 1994, with Vinny Testaverde under center and some scrub named Bill Belichick calling the plays. And that, of course, wasn’t even the same franchise as the current Browns. Talk about archeology; you’ll need some experienced history-diggers to find any throughline between those Browns and their modern equivalents.
It has to be the uniforms. Going back to their classic look has brought back some of their classic success.
Andrew: Success that has a realistic path to the postseason, too. I doubt they’ll win the division, but they have a lot of winnable-looking games between now and January. They’ve started well enough that 8-8 is an absolute floor for them unless either they utterly collapse or the world ends. (Or, like the 49ers, their entire roster is obliterated in their December doubleheader at the Meadowlands.)
It’s not just the Browns though. The Dolphins scored 40 points this past weekend. FORTY points!
Bryan: Did they? I don’t recall that. That doesn’t sound right to me.
Andrew: It doesn’t sound right to anybody, but I can assure you that it did happen. The 49ers could not cope with the devastating offensive display from … er, Ryan Fitzpatrick, DeVante Parker, Preston Williams, and Mike Gesicki.
Bryan: See, I still don’t believe you. That sounds like the kind of thing that would be super-depressing to watch. I think I’d remember a little thing like a cornerback getting his first ever defensive snaps being roasted and toasted to a crisp, or a quarterback rushing back from injury only to see his already limited arm strength sapped. That’s the kind of thing that would keep me up at night. So, nah, I’m pretty sure you’re misremembering.
Andrew: I’ll fetch you a box score if you like, complete with highlights, and I’ll even order you some popcorn as a thanks for the box of torches and pitchforks from last week.
Seriously though. The Dolphins. 40 points. That’s only happened one other time since 2003. Worse, if they beat the ridiculously awful Jets this weekend, they reach .500. The Dolphins and Bills, both at or above .500. Can you imagine?
Bryan: And it seems quite likely, too, due to the putrid state of New York football — sorry, New Jersey football; I know some Bills fans get very upset about that and I do not want to be put through a table.
This is the first time that the Giants and Jets have both started a season at 0-5, and they’re in the running for worst two-team city in NFL history (that’s an article we should do, some time, if they continue to stink). For the Giants, this is a fairly normal state of affairs in recent years; they started 0-5 in both 2013 and 2017. Not ideal, of course, but they’ve gotten somewhat used to terrible starts. For the Jets, however, this is a ridiculous collapse — just the third time they’ve ever started 0-5, joining 1980 and 1996. That 1996 team was coached by Rich Kotite, the commonly accepted answer for worst coach in Jets history. Well, here comes a new challenger and all that.
Andrew: Ah, but did Kotite ever have a season with more disgruntled running backs than rushing touchdowns? Word today is that the team is trying to trade Le’Veon Bell, the back that Gase infamously didn’t want when the team signed him as a big-ticket free agent. Meanwhile, La’Mical Perine is apparently liking tweets that criticize his lack of usage through the first five games. All perfectly normal for an Adam Gase organization, it must be said. Such a shame to hear about Chris Herndon, too.
(Editor’s Note: Between writing and publication, the Jets released Le’Veon Bell. Your explanation as to how Adam Gase wins these battles every time is as good as ours.)
Bryan: It boggles the mind that Frank Gore may well last longer with the Jets than Gase will, as Gore is roughly a zillion years old at this point.
Andrew: Gore is so old, he took that aforementioned mummy’s first career handoff.
Bryan: The record for rushing yards by someone age 37 or older is 505, by Marcus Allen in 1997. Gore’s already up to 204 on the season, and if Bell somehow does get traded — we offer a bag of potato chips for Bell, and hope to get an additional draft pick in the bargain — Gore should be a shoe-in for that record, despite averaging a miserable 3.2 yards per carry. But he’s not even this year’s rushing leader for someone of his age — Ryan Fitzpatrick is up to 243 yards after some kind of game that happened last week that I still don’t believe actually occurred. Sign of the apocalypse with two 37-year-old runners breaking 100 yards in a season; that last happened in 1997 with Allen and John Elway, which loops us around quite nicely to our starting point about the Broncos and their desire for a mummy quarterback. See, this is all carefully woven together.
Andrew: On the subject of record-breaking seasons, however, there is one franchise that is currently sitting pretty on a record it has never before achieved. No, it’s not the Bills, not even if they win on Tuesday night after we’re done writing this1: remember, they were quite good in the early 1990s, and they last hit 5-0 in 1991. It’s the other 5-0 team, the one finally letting its quarterback pursue the culinary arts.
1 (Editor’s Note: They didn’t.)
Bryan: There is no greater sign of the apocalypse than Brian Schottenheimer running an offense that analytics not only tolerates, but loves. The Seattle Seahawks rank fourth in passing DVOA in large part because they’ve let Russell Wilson, their best player, throw the ball as something other than a last resort. Seattle is passing the ball 63% of the time on first downs in the first half, second-most in the league. Last season, that number was just 48% as they frequently and willingly slammed running backs into loaded boxes and just let Wilson loose in fourth quarters. And that was up from 40% in 2018! Well, the entire game is a Seahawks fourth quarter now, and that’s terrifying.
Andrew: Sure, for you it is. For the rest of us, it might at least help make the end of the world worth watching. Or rather, missing because we’d rather watch Seahawks football. How long is it since any of us could say THAT? (Put your hand down, Vince.)
We skipped over the Bills a moment ago, but another frightening portent of impending doom is related to them and the Dolphins. The Patriots are currently two games back in the AFC East, a division they haven’t lost since 2008. Which, coincidentally I’m sure, is also the last time Tom Brady didn’t start the majority of the season at quarterback. If the Bills win that division, the end is definitely nigh. At least the Patriots have a chance to beat the Broncos before the Dolphins play the Jets; if they were behind both the Bills and Dolphins, it would be time to listen for trumpets and voices from heaven.
Bryan: Alright, let’s sort in our scattered brains here for just one moment, and do a little bit of recapping.
There are a pair of teams who have had their worst start in at least a decade. And there are four teams who have had their best start in at least a decade, though we don’t know which four those will be by the time you’re reading this!
The aforementioned Jets are joined by the 0-5 Atlanta Falcons, who have put up their worst start since 1997. The awesome foursome include the aforementioned Browns and Seahawks, plus the Steelers on their first 4-0 start since their 1979 Super Bowl season. The fourth team will either be the 5-0 Buffalo Bills, undefeated for the first time since 1991, or the 4-0 Tennessee Titans, undefeated for the first time since 2008. Check your local sports section for the fourth member of that grouping, as that game happens after press time.
Of course, a terrible start doesn’t necessarily mean a terrible finish. Those 1997 Falcons ended the year 7-9 in Dan Reeves’ first year in charge, and they went to the Super Bowl the next season.
Andrew: Ah, I remember the years when we had confidence that there would be a next season. Those were simpler times. I’m still not sure that this year’s Falcons won’t recover to some degree of respectability. They won’t be good, for sure, but…
Bryan: You mean, they could start the season, oh, 1-7-ish, and yet finish in the vicinity of a 7-9 record? Why, that could never happen. That kind of false hope could get a coach and general manager fired five games into the subsequent season!
Andrew: Well, in normal circumstances, sure, but we’re not in normal circumstances. Plus, I wasn’t looking at the Falcons schedule when I started that comment. I am now, and … uh, turns out I’m hoping Trevor Lawrence has half an eye on the Georgia real estate market, just in case that New York thing falls through. Cos yeah, this team already lost at home to the Panthers, and the road game against those same Panthers is probably the easiest game they have left. Maybe the home game against the Broncos, depending who Denver has left on the field at that point.
Bryan: And assuming that game happens. If the NFL does keep dragging games around the schedule, one option would be to let some of the less meaningful games slide. If the Falcons and Broncos are both out of the postseason or some point, it might be easier to scrap that game to allow for makeups elsewhere. I would not be at all surprised if some of the lesser teams in the league end up not playing 16 games, which will throw all sorts of wrenches into the Trevor Lawrence sweepstakes.
Andrew: That’s why I doubt any games get cancelled. I see the league allowing some fixtures between eliminated teams to bleed over into postseason Thursday nights or something, as long as they didn’t have tiebreaker ramifications, but cancelling games altogether would be the last of all last resorts.
Bryan: As if the first playoff weekend with six wild-card games wouldn’t be wild enough, a post-season Trevor Lawrence bowl between the bottom two teams in the league fighting to finish their schedules would be something else. Talk about perverse incentives!
Andrew: That would be amazing. I’d watch that, if I was awake for it, which I unfortunately wouldn’t be. The league might find they’re onto a good thing, and start having a postseason bracket for the No. 1 pick. Think about it! Bottom team in each division, winner takes all. I. Would. Watch. That.
Bryan: I’m already disgruntled about too many game windows this week now that Tuesday’s open grounds. Having to watch a Giants-Jets game in January when there’s already six playoff games to cover? I think I’d have my second mental breakdown of the year.
I’d almost hope they didn’t make it winner-take-all, and still have the loser get the lower draft pick, just to see what kind of play calling would be dialed up in such a situation. There is an infamous soccer game from the 1994 Carribean Cup where a stupid extra time rule meant that Barbados’ best chance of advancing was to score an own goal, defend both goals simultaneously for three minutes, and then score the golden goal in extra time. That’s the kind of tomfoolery I would need in order to watch the Toilet Bowl, as I’m sure it would inevitably be called.
Andrew: It won’t happen either way, but maybe it should. Or maybe, we just give the No. 1 pick to whoever somehow finishes bottom of the NFC East, since the Jets having Adam Gase is an unfair advantage in that particular race. We’ve chatted before about the possibility of the NFC West bottom team having a better record than the NFC East winner. Well, that’s a reality right now, and with the best quarterback in the division done for the year, and the second-best on the bench behind Kyle Allen (controversial!), it doesn’t look like improving much anytime soon.
Bryan: For the record, I still hold out hope that the NFC West loser will have more wins than the NFC East winner, if only because it might well be a 7-9 49ers team hanging out over a 6-10 Dallas squad. That game that I’m not acknowledging this week was very depressing, mind you.
But, I think we can at least find one incredible, unexpected, and at one point unthinkable result from last week to help get us through — maybe a sign that we’re not all doomed, after all. Is there a better story in recent NFL history than Alex Smith returning to the field? Yes, he was terrible, but that’s entirely besides the point. There was a point where Smith’s life was in question; there were points where amputation seemed likely. And there he was on Sunday in prime Alex Smith form, throwing passes that were contractually prohibited from passing the line of scrimmage. Brings a tear to your eye — a welcome taste of normality in a crazy year.
Andrew: That’s a great point to raise. In a year this completely detached from any previous reality we ever knew, those little crumbs of normality bring a blessed reminder. No matter how many crazy things happen, and how diverse the array, this is not the end of the world as we know it; and even if just for those few brief moments, we feel pretty darn fine.
Keep Choppin’ Wood
Normally, we like to reserve this spot for silly events such as halfback passes, veterans throwing awful pick-sixes (or near-pick sixes), and legends of the game forgetting that it was fourth down. Dumb off-field events, such as a star receiver being deactivated for punching a teammate in practice, feature heavily too — after all the segment is named for a locker-room motivational tactic gone wrong. It is rare that we feel obligated to feature an event so monumentally stupid that it threatens the health of a squad of players and their potential opponents, forces games to be rescheduled, and jeopardizes a team’s entire season. That’s where we are this week, however. As you probably know by now, the Tennessee Titans facility has been shut down for most of the past fortnight following a COVID-19 outbreak that reportedly began with practice squad signee Greg Mabin testing positive in late September. When the NFL ordered the facility closed, the instructions given expressly prohibited players meeting for any in-person activities whether at the facility or elsewhere. Despite this clear instruction, a group of Titans players met at a local high school and practiced together the very next day. Not only did this leave the team reportedly facing “historic” league discipline, it further endangered their own health and the health of those around them. We aren’t yet certain whether the league, team, coaches, or individual players are more at fault for this, but regardless of blame it was certainly the craziest storyline so far in a crazy season, in a crazy, crazy year.
Herm Edwards Award for Playing to Win the Game
When the Texans fired Bill O’Brien and replaced him with septuagenarian Romeo Crennel, more rational observers seemed willing to cut the interim head coach plenty of slack for the rest of the season. As our own Rivers McCown points out, Crennel was a conservative head coach by 2012 standards, which makes him prehistoric by the standards of 2020. Imagine, then, our delight to see Crennel’s team call this, on fourth-and-4, in the red zone, already leading 23-14 with five minutes to go:
Deshaun Watson hits Brandin Cooks on 4th down for a TD to extend the Texans (-6.5) lead to 30-14#BarstoolSportsbook
— Bet The Pigskin (@betthepigskin) October 11, 2020
Whereas a field goal would have given the Jaguars hope, that touchdown all but finished them off. Even head coaches a lot younger and more au fait with modern game theory would have baulked at making that call, so we tip our hats to Houston’s jovial veteran interim.
John Fox Award for Conservatism
In contrast to Crennel’s decision, the Buccaneers reached an even more favorable fourth-and-1 at Chicago’s 7-yard-line, trailing 17-16 with just under five minutes left on Thursday night. The fact that they were trailing modifies the numbers somewhat, but the distance was only 1 yard — a distance Tom Brady has proven that he can consistently gain on quarterback sneaks. Even a failed play, assuming nothing disastrous like an end zone interception, keeps the figures in Tampa Bay’s favor, as they would still be considered more likely to score next even if Chicago had first-and-10 at their own 7. Instead, Bruce Arians decided to have his team kick the field goal, meaning Chicago needed only three points of their own to win, and they had plenty of time to get it. They duly obliged, and the Buccaneers fell to 3-2.
Jeff Fisher Award for Confusing Coaching
We’re going to split this award between Ron Rivera and Kyle Shanahan for their handling of their injured quarterbacks, with both coaches making some questionable decisions regarding playing or not playing hurt starters. Shanahan brought Jimmy Garoppolo back just two weeks removed from his high ankle sprain, and Garoppolo responded with arguably the worst half of football any quarterback has played to date this season. He clearly wasn’t right, unable to step up on throws or get any mobility in the pocket, and Shanahan pulled Garoppolo after halftime for C.J. Beathard to save Jimmy G from taking more punishment. In hindsight, it sure feels like Shanahan rushed Garoppolo back due to Nick Mullens’ poor performance against the Eagles two weeks ago, but if Garoppolo wasn’t ready, why not roll the dice with Beathard? Now the 49ers have a quarterback controversy that won’t go away until — unless? — Garoppolo gets healthy and plays up to his 2019 standards. This is a controversy at least in part of Shanahan’s own making.
As for the Football Team, as great as the feel-good story of Alex Smith returning to action is, the way we got there was a bit confusing. Smith started as the backup to Kyle Allen and entered the game after Allen took a shot to the head. So far, so good — but when Allen was cleared to return to action, Smith stayed in the game “out of an abundance of caution,” per Rivera’s post-game presser. Smith, of course, is returning from a near-fatal knee injury, so having him play a full half of football without a full week of preparation when your preferred quarterback is ready to re-enter play is … an interesting definition of caution, to say the least. Rivera said after the game that Allen will be the starter next week “if healthy” which, considering how he was cleared to return this week, was an intriguing, apparently unnecessary qualifier.
‘Keystone’ Fantasy Player of the Week
This week forces us to make a very difficult decision between a pair of Pennsylvania wideouts, as Chase Claypool and Travis Fulgham finished one-two in most leagues’ scoring systems. Claypool scored four touchdowns and led the Steelers to victory; Fulgham only found the end zone once but out-touched and out-gained Claypool. Fulgham was also responsible for 45% of the Eagles’ offensive production, as opposed to just under 32% for Claypool — there were significant portions of the game where it seemed that the entire Philadelphia offense was Fulgham, with his better-known and higher-paid teammates reduced to spectators. In the end, while both days are worthy of celebration, Claypool was a second-round pick who was expected to produce eventually; Fulgham was cut by both the Lions and Packers this offseason. That’ll tip the scales to Fulgham, though either receiver would have been a worthy selection.
Have a DAY, @TravisFulgham!
— NFL (@NFL) October 11, 2020
Garbage-Time Performer of the Week
By choosing to kick a field goal down 27-0 with less than a minute to go in the game, the Bengals locked themselves into having someone win the Garbage-Time award this week. The unfortunate winner this week is Joe Mixon. With Joe Burrow having no time in the pocket, Zac Taylor decided to call predictable Mixon plunge after predictable Mixon plunge — 48 of his 59 rushing yards came with the Bengals down at least three scores, as did all six of his receptions. That’s a double-digit fantasy day, but even Mixon’s fictional football fans weren’t entirely thrilled by his performance. Mixon had an over/under of 59.5 yards on the day, and he was sitting on 60 before his last carry of the game. All he had to do was just not touch the ball…
— Ralph Wiggum (@RalphWStats) October 11, 2020
Yeah, that about sums up the Bengals’ day.
Comfort in Sadness Stat of the Week
This week, in sentences I never thought I’d type, the biggest losers of the week were the San Francisco 49ers, who were blown out at home by the Miami Dolphins. I’m not sure any result thus far has been more surprising. The beauty of a surprise result like that, however, is that Comfort in Sadness is a little easier to find. George Kittle is back healthy, and though his performance against Miami was fairly run-of-the-mill (eight targets, four catches, 44 yards), he is yet again on pace for over 850 yards and half a dozen touchdowns as one of the very best receiving tight ends in the league.
Game-Changing Play of the Week
The Seahawks have never played a normal game in franchise history, and you can’t convince me otherwise. This week’s contractually mandated craziness required Seattle to drive 95 yards for a game-winning score, which means it became DK Metcalf season. We could have focused on Metcalf’s 39-yard reception on fourth-and-10 to keep the game alive, or his 15-yard reception to set up a goal-line situation, but those would have come to naught if Seattle hadn’t managed to punch the ball into the end zone. It is no surprise that three of Russell Wilson’s four attempts to score headed Metcalf’s way; Metcalf continues to be the leader of the Seattle’ receiving bunch and Wilson knows him well. Sure, maybe he can’t cut on a dime, but who needs a three-cone drill when you can make clutch catches like this?
4TH AND GOAL. RUSS TO DK. GO-AHEAD TD. #Seahawks
— NFL (@NFL) October 12, 2020
Fail to make that catch, and the Seahawks would have ceded the top of the NFC West to the Rams and fallen behind the surprising Bears to sit in the sixth seed. Instead, they’re 5-0 for the first time in franchise history and sit atop the entire NFC, no matter how you interpret the tiebreakers. Not a bad way to coast into your bye week, at which time Seahawks fans around the country might finally be able to catch their collective breaths.
Bryan: So, uh, we have our first COVID-related lock fail. Andrew had Broncos +11, but the problem is … that game was against the Patriots, originally scheduled for Sunday, and then punted to Monday night. But then that game got postponed because of more positive tests for New England, and the game was moved to next week. So, uh… that’s an issue which threatens the very integrity of the Money-Back Guarantee Lock of the Week.
After consulting with the Council of Scramblers, we have decided that Andrew’s pick will roll over to next week, because we’re all making this up as we’re going along. And if the game gets postponed further, we will continue to roll it over. Lock of the “Week,” my right foot.
Money-Back Guarantee Lock of the Week
Records to Date:
Andrew: I’m not a believer in the Buccaneers. In fact, I’m much more of a believer in the Packers than the Buccaneers as currently constructed. However, this game opened with the Buccaneers as home favorites and now has the Packers as 2.5-point favorites on the road, and I think that’s an overcorrection. Tampa Bay has been better than I expected to this point and hopes to have Chris Godwin back alongside Mike Evans in the starting lineup. Green Bay is good enough that I think they’d win this comfortably at home, and I’d probably favor them on a neutral field, but in Tampa Bay I’d edge it for the Buccaneers. Tampa Bay (+2.5) vs. Green Bay.
Bryan: Because we’re on such a short week, I’m going to agree with you here and take Tampa Bay (+2.5). That is my official lock pick, for basically the reasons you stated. However, for the sake of variety, I will note that I strongly considered Jacksonville (+3.5) at home against Detroit; Pittsburgh (-3.5) hosting Cleveland; and, yes, San Francisco (+3.5) on Sunday Night Football against the Rams. Sanity, however, will win out, and I’ll side with Tom Terrific.
Double Survival League
Andrew: ARI, BAL. BUF, IND, LAR, NE,
PHI, SEA, TB, TEN
Bryan: BAL, BUF,
CHI, CIN, CLE, DAL, JAX, NE, PHI, TEN
Andrew: When this season started, I really thought it was more likely that I’d pick more games against the Dolphins than against the Jets. Yet here we are, five weeks in, the Jets have lost all five, and their closest defeat has been nine points. Even that came at home against a Broncos team that was starting a quarterback they had only elevated from the practice squad that week, and it was a shortened week. They’ve lost every other game by double figures. That is an incredible level of ineptitude, and not one I expect them to fix against the Dolphins despite the long week of practice. Miami, by contrast, smelted the 49ers into latinum on the road in Week 5 and somehow has a chance to get to .500 here. This is the most favorable game on their schedule, so it’s time to get the Miami Dolphins.
I utterly hate my other pick, but this currently looks like the only viable week to pick a New York Giants team that finally found some offense against what passes for a Cowboys defense nowadays. Washington finally got Alex Smith back onto the field in their defeat against the Rams, but they’re planning to stick with Kyle Allen for Week 6, perhaps accepting that they’re generally a bad team in need of a lot of work. So are the Giants, admittedly, but at least they’re at home; I fully expect I’ll pick the other way in the reverse fixture in three weeks’ time.
Bryan: Pressed for time as we are this week, thanks to the Tuesday Night matchup, I’ll keep things short and simple and join you in taking both the Dolphins and Giants. This is the closest thing left to a clear win on the Giants schedule — blast that Dalton-led Cowboys game in New York falling in Week 17! I think you can make the same argument for Miami, though I suppose hosting Cincinnati in Week 13 at least offers a palatable alternative. Just counting this week, though, I’ve already used New England (hosting Denver) and Tennessee (hosting Houston), so it’s not like there a lot of gimme options available to us. If I did have to flip one, I think I’d go with Indianapolis over Cincinnati, but I worry about the possibility of a Burrow bounce-back game after they went so low against Baltimore. So, despite the fact it doesn’t help me catch up, I’ll go with the flow this time.