by Bryan Knowles and Andrew Potter
Bryan: Welcome back to Scramble for the Ball, where this week, we take a look at one of the most beautiful and pleasing plays in all of sports.
Andrew: We're doing a montage of touchdowns against the Cowboys? I didn't think Sunday night was quite exciting enough to inspire that, but I guess if you insist...
Bryan: As much as I'd like to relieve the pain of being a 49ers fan this year with a collection of highlights against the Cowboys, Raiders and Packers, no, that is not what I was getting at. We're talking about one of the most glorious sights in all of nature. The rumblin'. The bumblin'. The stumblin'.
The Big. Man. Touchdown.
Andrew: Ooh, you mean like Marcus Maye's slow-motion interception return (to quote Todd Bowles), only by guys who weigh enough to justify their lack of speed.
Bryan: Football is so often about prime athletic specimens, sleek and elegant, darting downfield. Or muscle-bound mammoths bowling over defenders. Look, I'm not saying that defensive linemen aren't in great shape or aren't great athletes; they clearly are. But there's something cathartic about watching all the little guys be outran and outperformed by the big uglies who never seem to get their due credit. And we had not one but two 300-pounders romp into the end zone this week, to open 2018's book of Big Man Touchdowns.
First, Chris Jones caught a nice little screen pass from Blake Bortles, juking him out of his shoes on the way to the end zone.
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) October 7, 2018
— NFL (@NFL) October 7, 2018
Andrew: Only twice since 1995 have we made it through a full season without at least two Big Man touchdowns. In 2009, the lone Big Man touchdown saw Ravens defensive end Dwan Edwards return a fumble for six in Baltimore's Week 4 defeat to the Patriots. In 2001, Browns backup guard Shaun O'Hara caught a touchdown from Tim Couch as an eligible receiver as Butch Davis' Browns hosted Marty Mornhinweg's Detroit Lions.
Bryan: That, of course, depends on your definition of the Big Man Touchdown. Generally speaking, I tend to think of that as being any score by a 300-pounder, but even the relatively twitchy 275-pound group can occasionally feel like it belongs. It depends on the type of score, the position, the play design, and all sorts of other factors. It's more of an art than a science; a 320-pound man falling on a fumble in the end zone feels less satisfying than 260-pound Mike Vrabel, Red Zone Weapon. But considering the average touchdown last season weighed in at just 218.5 pounds -- think Alshon Jeffery -- any large lumberer is worth celebrating.
(Depending on where you put this line, there was actually a third Big Man touchdown this week, but we'll get to that in Keep Choppin' Wood.)
Generally, when counting, we look at 300-pounders, because that's a round number (and often a round man), but your mileage may vary. It's a convenient cutoff, and it also means that the number of big-man scores has been going up in recent years, as the 300-pound lineman becomes more and more commonplace.
Andrew: To be fair, "recent years" may also be a touch subjective, as the phenomenon peaked in 2010 and 2011 when 17 touchdowns were scored by 300-pounders. All 17 touchdowns were scored by different players, too: this wasn't some stretch of Donald Penn touchdown catches (four in his career) or Kevin Williams' four defensive touchdowns in four seasons from 2004 to 2007 (including, incredibly, interception returns of 18 and 54! yards).
Bryan: The point I'm making is that for there to be a 300-pound touchdown, there need to be players who weigh 300 pounds, and that's a relatively modern invention. In 1970, just one player in the NFL tipped the scales at 300 pounds. In 1980, there were three. 1990 had 94, 2000 had 301, and 2010 had 532. You didn't have monsters of this size when people were expected to play both ways or play the full 60 minutes without rotation. Banning blocking below the waist meant that players could become more top-heavy. It's only as the game has become more and more specialized that the league can support players that large. Reducing roles means expanding waistlines.
Andrew: Though as the guy who compiles the injury roundup, I also feel obligated to note that expanding waistlines also means increased risk of injury and of health problems down the line, so perhaps that's a trend we should be looking to reverse. I wonder, with the increased focus on passing efficiency in the modern game, whether we've already seen the peak of that trend. The average (in this case, meaning median) team saw its players weigh in over a pound lighter in 2016 versus 2015, with a hat tip to Bleeding Green Nation for the data, but I haven't seen any more recent figures for that.
Bryan: We did actually see defensive ends begin to get a bit smaller in the 2000s and 2010s as it became more of a speed rush position, and the rate of increase has declined in recent years for other positions, as well. The big difference here is that, unlike football before the '70s, there are real different classes of football player, rather than everyone falling roughly into same height-weight box. Take a look at this amazing chart, put together by Alex Bresler (though not updated since 2013). Up until the 1960s, players at all positions were roughly the same size. Yes, your offensive tackles were going to be larger than your cornerbacks, but everyone was in about the same 100-pound bucket. Starting at about the merger, though, we see the weights of linemen rise until we get to the mid-'90s, where things began to level out and even come back down a little bit. We do seem to have hit a plateau, at the very least.
Andrew: Some of that is biomechanics. There is only SO big a human frame can get, and I'm not aware of any Nephilim lining up to play NFL tackle. Australian former rugby or AFL players may seem like a different species, but that's only because they're invariably crazy.
Bryan: Some of it is also about the increased offensive pace of the league, too. With offenses getting more and more explosive, you need faster players to keep up, and there's a tradeoff between size and weight. Average weight will continue to go down as teams use more nickel on defense!
Andrew: On the flip side, a lot of the increase in size and strength over the late 20th century can be accounted for by improved access to conditioning, diet and nutrition, and a much broader population pool going into the NFL. When roster makeup was more limited -- whether that be for demographic or, er, societal reasons -- fewer players had a large enough frame to actually shift 300 pounds at the speed required for a professional athlete, and the training regimens simply didn't allow for that much muscle gain.
As for diet, it was only in the 1970s that a lot of attention in academia finally shifted to studying exercise physiology and the link between carbohydrate, protein, and athletic performance. (Some of the carbohydrate groundwork had been laid as early as the 1930s, but our understanding of the link between protein and athletic performance is much more recent.) In soccer, top-level professionals still dined out on a diet of beer, cigarettes, and pub grub as recently as the 1990s. Arsene Wenger was one of the pioneers of proper sports nutrition in English football, and Wenger didn't arrive in England until 1996!
Bryan: We're also seeing more players realize the dangers of keeping a high weight both during and after their career. Take a look at Joe Thomas, who was a 310-pound tackle less than a year ago:
Happy to have honored Josh Herron from Brunswick, a two-time cancer survivor for @UHhospitals #CrucialCatch game this past weekend. Proud to have hosted him and all his friends with @Browns. Thanks also to @joethomas73 for making his day even more special! pic.twitter.com/BWp9rzr8NM
— Daniel Simon (@DanSimonMD) October 8, 2018
Alan Faneca runs marathons after losing more than 100 pounds post-retirement. Jeff Saturday clocks in at 238 pounds and is helping other former players learn about healthier lifestyles. Things are looking better for the long-term health of the Big NFL Player as a little bit of knowledge and some healthier options allow them to get back to more reasonable sizes for people who aren't burning thousands of calories a day.
And that's a good thing, because it means we don't feel quite as bad at highlighting the Big Man Touchdown. All this serious talk about weight and player size and health is very important, but we started this article intending for it to be goofy. We just figured we couldn't have an article talking about big touchdowns without at least acknowledging the underlying issues.
But enough of that. More of this:
— NFL Throwback (@nflthrowback) October 21, 2017
The first 300-pound touchdown in Pro Football Reference's database belongs to Joe Jacoby, who recovered a fumble in 1984. But the first intentional 300-pound touchdown came the next year, with William "The Refrigerator" Perry as a 335-pound rookie defensive end ... slash fullback. Younger viewers may think that Perry's rushing touchdowns were a celebratory gimmick, because the one you're most likely to see happened in Super Bowl XX, with the Bears up 37-3. A human victory cigar, as it were. But no, this was an actual goal-line strategy used in close games. Two of Perry's three regular season touchdowns gave the Bears the lead just before halftime; he was just too large for anyone on the defense to stop, and Mike Ditka and Ed Hughes took advantage of that. It was strategy!
Andrew: Very, very primitive strategy, but strategy nonetheless. Of course, the same applied when Perry was playing his "proper" position: it's a lot easier to stop a 335-pound defensive end from killing your quarterback if you have a 300-pound player blocking him, hence Joe Jacoby.
Bryan: The oddest thing about Perry to me is that he scored four touchdowns as a rookie, including the Super Bowl plunge ... and then, that was it. He never again got into the end zone. Two other 300-pounders have scored four times to tie the record, but no one managed to do it all in one year. Kevin Williams has two fumble recoveries and two interceptions, while Donald Penn has four touchdown receptions. Penn's still active, albeit on IR at the moment, so he has a real shot to break Perry's record. Come on, Jon Gruden, you know you want to.
Andrew: Knowing Gruden, the attempt will come on first-and-goal from the 1-yard line, be intercepted, and Marshawn Lynch will literally choke Gruden to death with a bag of Skittles.
Bryan: Heck, give Penn four more passes, and he has the all-time record for receptions by a 300-pounder, too. This is something to root for for the Raiders, because they're surely not going to do anything else positive this season.
Andrew: Well neither is Penn, unless they decide to use one of their designated return spots on him.
Bryan: Why wouldn't they? They need a red zone target.
Andrew: What I find interesting here, getting back to our earlier conversation, is that every single one of the fat guy touchdowns has been scored by either a defensive or offensive lineman. I had thought we'd have a 300-pound tight end somewhere; but unless you count somebody like Jason Peters, who started as a tight end before moving to tackle, those guys don't exist. Former Chargers, Patriots, and Saints blocking tight end Brandon Manumaleuna is probably the closest we get to that, at a listed weight of 288 pounds. Former Broncos tight end Dwayne Carswell is the other contender, at a reported 290 pounds.
Bryan: The lines are just where the 300-pounders are going to lie. Of course, if you scale that down just a tad for other positions, you can find other Big Men, for their roles. Mike Vrabel is, of course, the most prolific touchdown threat among linebackers, with 13 touchdowns over the course of his career. Twelve of them were passing scores, too, as Vrabel-as-tight end was one of Bill Belichick's favorite trick plays. Another "big man" among tight ends would be Eric Green, who had 36 touchdown receptions while regularly clocking in near 280 pounds.
In fact, between Green, Jerome Bettis, and Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers have made quite a habit of having Big Men (for their positions) score a lot of points. Roethlisberger might be the best Big Man quarterback of all time, unless you think his 240 pounds isn't enough compared to, say, Daunte Culpepper's 264. The largest quarterback to throw a passing score was of course, JaMarcus Russell (yes, he did manage to throw at least one touchdown pass), but that's not the heaviest touchdown pass ever performed. Oh my, no.
Andrew: That magnificent honor goes to one of my favorite players, and possibly my favorite play of recent seasons just for pure entertainment value. Remembering the "Bloated Tebow":
— Jesse Bickers (@jessebickers) December 26, 2016
Bryan: Poe's in Carolina now, where there are no active Big Men with touchdown receptions. But Julius Peppers has four interception returns for touchdowns, so he has decent hands for a big man. Poe-to-Peppers would be the greatest Big Man play in NFL history. We must have this now.
Bryan: Well, he might need to get coached up some. With Greg Olsen out (again), he's not too busy to give some tips, right?
Poe has three touchdowns in his career, including the passing one. He is officially the largest man to ever score an offensive touchdown, but he's just pipped at the scales for the overall record. Sam Adams has managed to catch touchdown passes from both Troy Aikman and Tom Brady. I believe he's the only player in NFL history to catch passes from both of those Hall of Famers, and he did it while never playing on either of their teams. A true legend.
— Bills TD A Day (@BillsTouchdown) June 25, 2017
Look at him high-stepping into the end zone! Sam "Deion Sanders" Adams there, weighing in at 360 pounds that year. Officially. And if you believe he was that slender, I have a bridge to sell you. A bridge that weighs less than Sam Adams.
Poe's passing touchdown was also special because it was unique; it's the only true big man touchdown pass of all time. There have been plenty of fumble recoveries, fullback plunges and 1-yard receptions in NFL history. That's another reason this week's crop of Big Man Touchdowns was so fun; both of them required quite a bit of ground to be covered. We don't usually see a 300-pounder run 60 yards on a play! We haven't seen a play that long in over a decade.
Andrew: I mentioned earlier my surprise that Kevin Williams had a 54-yard interception return in 2007, also for the Vikings, but that is a mere hop, skip, and a jump compared to former Cincinnati, Washington, Detroit, and Miami defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson, who returned a Shane Matthews pass 88 yards for a touchdown against the Bears during his Washington days. Even his Wikipedia page notes that he returned it "at a comfortable pace" for the score, escorted by Darrell Green.
Bryan: Darrell Green, the NFL's fastest man at the time, probably had time to run down to the end zone and back a couple times while Big Daddy Wilkinson cruised down the field, but it was nice of him to slow down to provide an escort.
Andrew: So we've covered the first, the first deliberate, the longest, the most recent (two), the most frequent, and the most unique. I think that about does it for fun with fat men. On the one hand, we hope to see plenty more of these plays, as there is no sight in football quite like a fat man at full sprint with the football.
Bryan: The last player to score two Big Man Scores in a year was Patrick Ricard last season. Someone needs to score two, three, four this year. It's been a year of offensive innovation; give me the first Big Man SHOVeLL!
Largest Touchdowns in NFL History:
- Passing TD: Donatri Poe, 346 pounds (12/25/16)
- Receiving TD (All-Time): Jonathan Ogden, 340 pounds (12/1/96 and 11/9/03)
- Receiving TD (Recent): Andrew Whitworth, 300 pounds (12/12/10)
- Rushing TD: Dontari Poe, 346 pounds (11/22/15 and 10/16/16)
- INT Return TD (All-Time): Sam Adams, "350" pounds (11/22/88 and 9/7/03)
- INT Return TD (Recent): Dan Williams, 330 pounds (9/8/13)
- Fumble Recovery TD: Haloti Ngata, 340 pounds (9/25/11)
- Punt Return TD (All-Time): Chris Warren, 228 pounds (9/29/91)
- Punt Return TD (Recent): Dez Bryant, 220 pounds (9/19/10 and 10/25/10)
- Kickoff Return TD (All-Time): Casey Fitzsimmons, 258 pounds (9/30/07)
- Kickoff Return TD (Recent): Tyjuan Hagler, 236 pounds (12/19/10)
Andrew: On the other hand, let's hope we don't see too many 300-pounders charging about. Jared Lorenzen was a remarkable sight, but also a cautionary tale. He does, at least, now have the chance to top the leaderboard in his own, much more positive Loser League.
Loser League Update
A quick overall Loser League update for you all: a problem in the submission form meant a few clever jackanapes were able to register ineligible teams -- teams with blank spots at certain positions. Very clever! Also, very illegal. Those teams have been removed from the rankings, which I suppose makes them the biggest losers of all.
Quarterback: Marcus Mariota was victimized by drops against Buffalo, but we can't place all the blame on his receivers. Regularly under pressure, Mariota's decision-making wasn't the finest we've ever seen, as he finished just 14-for-26 for 129 yards and an interception. He finished with 5 points on a day when no quarterback sustained ineptitude throughout an entire game.
Running Back: Jay Ajayi's season is over. His poor stat line may be explained by playing on a torn ACL for most of the second half, which is really going to limit your explosiveness. Ajayi just avoids the penalty by rushing eight times for 29 yards, with his fumble wiping away all his value and giving him a grand total of 0 points for the day. Get well soon, Jay.
Wide Receiver: A trio of Goose Eggers. I started Quincy Enunwa in my actual fantasy leagues, so I was very aware of his five-target, no-catch day. Michael Gallup and Cole Beasley earned the difficult task of double-goose egging for one team, as each caught passes for Dallas, but couldn't even rack up 10 yards.
Kicker: I mean, yes, it's Mason Crosby with the worst performance of the year to date. He kicked a field goal at the end of the game to dampen the blow, but four missed field goals and a missed extra point? That'll get you -10 in what was a nightmare that was either hilarious or painful to watch, depending on your level of Cheeseheadedness and empathy. The Packers are sticking with Crosby at kicker, though another day like that may force a change.
Check your team's score and the leaderboard here!
Keep Choppin' Wood: As our Monday Audibles thread detailed, Blake Bortles appeared to have this award sewn up for this week thanks to his performance against the Chiefs, in which he contrived both to throw an interception off his blocker's helmet, and to throw a pick-six to a defensive linemen (Chris Jones, as mentioned above). Step forward Ryan Tannehill, who managed to combine both of those feats into a single play as the Dolphins blew a 17-point halftime lead to lose 27-17 in Cincinnati. Cincinnati both took the lead and clinched the game on Tannehill turnover returns, but the first of those was especially spectacular: under pressure in the pocket, Tannehill appeared to attempt to throw the ball at the feet of blocking tight end Durham Smythe. Instead, he bounced the ball off the head of the 6-foot-5, 253-pound blocking specialist, straight into the arms of 280-pound Bengals edge rusher Michael Johnson, who took it back for six.
— NFL (@NFL) October 7, 2018
If you really must Bortles a game away, make sure you truly do Bortles the game away. Above and beyond the call of duty there, Ryan.
John Fox Award for Conservatism: On their first drive of overtime in the Lone Star State "local rivalry" -- that could scarcely be less of a rivalry if the teams were from different planets -- the Dallas Cowboys drove to the Houston side of the field, where they faced fourth-and-1 from the 42-yard line. No problem, right? The Cowboys invested a pile of resources in the offensive line and spent the 2016 fourth overall pick on Ezekiel Elliott for exactly this situation, and have converted on 18 of their 19 fourth-and-1 attempts (94.7 percent) since drafting Elliott and Dak Prescott. Not only is that the highest conversion rate in the league over that period, but it is marginally higher than the rate at which kickers have made extra points over the same period (94.0 percent). Even allowing for sample size, when you can massively improve your chances of winning with a play for which the conversion rate compares favorably to an extra point, you have to go for it, right?
Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett shockingly, shamefully, inexcusably punted, and is now the oddsmakers' favorite to be the first coach fired this season.
Herm Edwards Award for Playing to Win the Game: One of the oldest and least-contested analytical assertions concerning fourth-quarter strategy is this: a team that scores a touchdown and is still down by eight should almost always go for two instead of kicking the extra point. The math is simple, sound, and applies to almost every team in the league. Still, coaches almost never do this, and it has become something of a trope: the most obvious strategic move that is almost guaranteed to improve your game-winning chances, that nobody ever does. Well, somebody now does, and of course it would be Eagles head coach Doug Pederson. Pederson made the smart move to go for two in his team's come-from-behind bid against the Vikings, and converted to draw within six points. Unfortunately, the Vikings added a field goal later in the quarter and the Eagles ran out of time to score twice, but credit Pederson with potentially, hopefully cracking the dam on this most obvious of strategic enhancements.
Jeff Fisher Award for Confusing Coaching:: We may have to rename this award after Jon Gruden one day. One of the big talking points, even if it was made jokingly, when Marshawn Lynch joined the Raiders, was that the team wouldn't make the mistake of passing when they reached the goal line.
"There's no we'll be on the 1 yard line and I won't give it to Marshawn, I'll throw it." pic.twitter.com/0yhqrWEFWT
— Raiders on NBCS (@NBCSRaiders) June 23, 2017
Since the kickoff of that Super Bowl, teams have passed at the 1 with Lynch in the backfield four times, and are 0-for-4 passing with two interceptions, per ESPN Stats & Info. The latest came against the Chargers this week, as Derek Carr threw his second interception of the season in that exact situation. Now, this is not in and of itself the confusing bit; yes, it's odd that teams keep passing it there when the results have been both comically bad and comically karmic, but passing at the goal line can be very effective if done right. For the second time, however, Gruden buried his quarterback after one of those goal-line passes, this time saying that Carr "shouldn't have made that throw down there". Hey, Jon, I know a great way to make sure Carr doesn't make that throw at the goal line!
'No Game Ball For You' Fantasy Player of the Week: The Saints know how to celebrate a guy's first touchdown! When Tre'Quan Smith picked up his first NFL score, the team stopped the game, there was a video package, and the ball was sent straight to the Hall of Fame! Now, that's a way to make a third-round rookie feel special and wanted. I'm sure they do this for everybody's first touchdown, right? What a classy organization.
— Sports Notes (@Sports__Notes) October 9, 2018
Smith responded to this outpouring of love by picking up his second career touchdown later in the game, as he made the most out of a start for the injured Ted Ginn.
Blake Bortles Garbage-Time Performer of the Week: Emmanuel Sanders charged up the Garbage Time Leaderboards this week, with seven of his nine receptions coming well after the Broncos had been knocked out of the competition. Those seven garbage time receptions means he has the sixth-most receptions when down at least three scores in the NFL this year. He's trailing two Packers, as both Davante Adams and Jimmy Graham are top targets in what's becoming the biweekly Aaron Rodgers comeback attempt. He's trailing Chase Edmonds, who received a surprising number of snaps in the Cardinals' 0-4 start. He's trailing Zay Jones, as the Bills have had 31 more blowout snaps than any other team in the league. But still holding on to first place is Adam Thielen, who had 14 garbage time catches against Buffalo back in Week 3. We'll keep an eye on who can claim Jarvis Landry's 2017 throne as the top garbage time safety valve as the year goes on.
'Comfort in Sadness' Stat of the Week: Washington's defense was systematically dismantled by the New Orleans Saints to such an extent that star cornerback Josh Norman was benched, then very quickly thrown back into the game when his replacement was also torched. Drew Brees smashed the career passing yardage record with the aforementioned 62-yard touchdown pass to third-round rookie Tre'Quan Smith, and ended up surpassing his target by over 150 yards. Somehow, despite that mauling and the earlier home defeat against what is now a 1-4 Colts squad, Jay Gruden's men still sit atop the NFC East. Our playoff odds simulations dropped their odds from 56.0 percent to 44.4 percent overnight, but Washington currently has the highest chance of any team in our simulation to grab the No. 4 seed and a playoff berth.
Game-Changing Play of the Week: Talk about rewarding bad process. The Panthers' final drive of the game, trailing 31-30, was not good. Choosing to run an inside handoff on third-and-1 with 30 seconds left and no timeouts remaining is a bad idea; the wasted time essentially meant the Panthers were locked into having Graham Gano try a 63-yard field goal to win the game. To be clear, since 1960, teams were 5-for-56 from 63 yards or farther out. Remove Denver from the equation, and teams had been just 2-for-46. This isn't a thing that can happen, and so the Panthers lost -- wait, what?!
— Daren Stoltzfus (@DarenStoltzfus) October 7, 2018
The kick moved the Panthers to 3-1, keeping them in wild-card position; they would have tumbled from fifth to eighth in the NFC had that kick failed. It keeps them half a game back of New Orleans in what might well be the most exciting divisional race down the stretch. If the Panthers end up a 9-7-ish team, they could book a playoff berth on the back of the longest kick in NFL history outside of Denver. That's pretty much the definition of a season-changing moment.
Money-Back Guarantee Lock of the Week
Records to Date
Andrew: Kyle Juszczyk is close to becoming the Tsutomu Yamaguchi of NFL players. A survivor of the 2015 Ravens team that saw starters Joe Flacco, Steve Smith, Justin Forsett, Dennis Pitta (and Pitta's immediate backup, Crockett Gillmore), Eugene Monroe, and Jeremy Zuttah all end up on injured reserve, Juszczyk signed with San Francisco as a free agent after the 2016 season. Now in his second year in San Francisco, Juszczyk's 49ers just lost to Arizona at home in a game that they finished without their top quarterback, top two running backs, top three wide receivers, starting center, and with both of their offensive tackles hurt. Since the game, we have learned that tight end George Kittle played through a mild knee injury, though he is expected to play this week in Green Bay, and his direct backup, Garrett Celek, also left the Cardinals game with a quad strain. Green Bay has problems of its own, but those are nowhere near as severe and the Packers need a win to keep pace with the Bears at the top of the NFC North. Big lines are always risky, but I'm not sure the 49ers will finish the game with enough players to keep the score within 10 points, never mind enough starters to make it a contest. Give me Green Bay (-9.5) and the points.
Bryan: You just like reminding me of all that pain, don't you? Blurgh. I know injuries are part of the game, but I'm expecting Hawkeye Pierce and B.J. Hunnicutt to show up on the sidelines any week now in Santa Clara.
Vegas has jumped completely away from Miami, and it's not too hard to see why -- but DVOA still has them ranked quite highly. While they're not as good as DVOA gives them credit for, I think Vegas and the betting public are over-worrying over what has, admittedly, been two poor weeks of play. It hasn't even been two full bad games, though; Miami played a decent first half of football last week in their loss to Cincinnati. With all that in mind, I'll take Miami (+3) at home against Chicago.
Double Survival League
Bryan: This has begun to get quite pear-shaped for me, as last week's results give Andrew two permanent advantages. The Beathard 49ers didn't come through for me, while the Garoppolo 49ers pulled out a win for him. In addition, he also racked up a win with New Orleans this week, whereas I had them in Fitzmagic Disaster back in Week 1. There's still plenty of time left, but Andrew's going to have to start screwing up sooner rather than later if I'm to have any chance of recovering.
Andrew: This week, I'm going for two NFC North picks that should -- should! -- be safe. I already picked Green Bay as my Lock of the Week, so I'm resuming my tradition of doubling down on my lock picks this time around. My second pick is Minnesota, in what should be the easiest remaining game on their schedule. The Cardinals have improved since they promoted Josh Rosen into the starting lineup, but they still haven't made it all the way to decent, much less good. The Vikings did lose at home to the Bills in a maelstrom of offensive ineptitude, and Chandler Jones can certainly inspire a repeat, but it seems too much to expect that particular lightning to strike twice. The Packers and Vikings were our preseason picks to finish atop the NFC North; they should have more than enough to see off our in-season picks to finish at the bottom of the NFC West.
Bryan: I'm going to continue picking against the Bills on the road whenever and wherever possible, so I'll try to get Houston out of the way this week. Andrew lost on his Houston pick, back in Week 3 against the Giants, so it's critical that I steal a victory here in order to make up some ground. Andrew's picks of both Green Bay and Minnesota are good ones, but I've already used both teams. So, instead, I'll go with my next most-sure pick, taking Atlanta over Tampa Bay. The Falcons need to win this one if they're going to have any chance of turning their season around. At home, against a team that used up all their luck in the first few weeks of the season, I'll give it to them.
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