Chargers at Dolphins, Sunday, 4:05 p.m.
November, 2020, somewhere on AM radio...
FIRST DUDE: Welcome back to Two Dudes Talkin' QBs, the show where two dudes provide unscripted commentary about quarterbacks, which is content you just cannot get anywhere else. How are you doing, Second Dude?
SECOND DUDE: I'm great. It was a big NFL Sunday, right? I mean, c'mon.
FIRST: Right? Our first topic for today is Tua Tagovailoa, Is he legit?
SECOND: He is totally legit. The real deal. That's something I know for certain, based upon his 52 NFL pass attempts.
FIRST: I agree. I watched his highlights against the Cardinals and, I mean, c'mon. The Dolphins finally have a quarterback of the future. No doubt about it. And Justin Herbert looks pretty legit, too.
SECOND: Absolutely. Every time I see a Herbert highlight on NFL RedZone, it's obvious that all his doubters coming out of college were 100% wrong.
FIRST: His stats really pop off the page, too. 17 touchdowns and just five interceptions! We'll be witnessing the start of a quarterback duel for the ages when these two future elite franchise quarterbacks square off on Sunday, amiright?
SECOND: I mean, c'mon!
November, 2021, on your third-favorite podcast platform...
FIRST DUDE: Welcome back to Two Dudes Talkin' QBs. Hey Second Dude, it sure was a rough day for quarterbacks, right?
SECOND DUDE: Absolutely. And let me tell you: I am DONE with Tua Tagovailoa. He has only thrown four touchdown passes in his last five games!
FIRST: I mean, c'mon. But in fairness, the Dolphins aren't surrounding him with any weapons. They should have drafted Ja'Marr Chase. Look at what Justin Herbert is doing with Chase and Keenan Allen.
SECOND: I just cannot say enough about Herbert. I have him and Chase in my fantasy lineup every week and cha-ching! (both dudes laugh for an uncomfortably long time). He would be getting more MVP attention if the Chargers were winning.
FIRST: Yep, he's gonna get snubbed for MVP so they can just give it to Russell Wilson again. By the way, don't forget to subscribe to our Patreon, where you get an additional episode of Two Dudes Talkin' QBs per week, plus our other podcast, Two Dudes Talkin' About the Same 10 NBA Players Over and Over Again!
November 2022, on DangerouslyBattyConspiracyTube, which has become the world's largest platform for infotainment and enterpinions...
FIRST DUDE: Welcome back to Two Dudes Talkin' QBs, sponsored by WeedDash, your 24-hour 100% legal cannabis home delivery app. Second Dude, have you taken advantage of the pre-Thanksgiving Munchie Discount?
SECOND DUDE: I mean ... … … c'mon.
FIRST DUDE: While you guzzle an energy drink to perk up, I'll start with what a foolish decision it was to give Justin Herbert that $186-million extension in the offseason. The Chargers just cannot contend for the Super Bowl with an ordinary quarterback like Herbert eating up so much cap space.
SECOND: Agreed. I don't know what they were thinking, spending all of that money. Herbert has a career losing record: that should have clued them in.
FIRST: I see no reason whatsoever why they shouldn't tank the rest of the season and Get Parched for Arch. Meanwhile, the Dolphins are undefeated, which means Tua is about to get paid.
SECOND: Yep, they beat the Patriots 37-3 on Sunday, and Tua had four 1-yard touchdown passes after Dak Prescott got knocked out of the game and backup Jarrett Stidham started throwing interceptions. There's no question at all that Tua deserves to get paid. What are the Dolphins waiting for? Pay the man!
FIRST: Cha-ching! (more uncomfortably forced laugher).
November 2026, direct braincast...
FIRST DUDE: Welcome back to Two Dudes Talkin' QBs, and it just occurred to me that we have been doing this for a long time despite very little success, Second Dude.
SECOND DUDE: Heck, I am not even sure whether or not we are the original First and Second Dude anymore.
FIRST: We are pretty interchangeable. Anyway, how sick are you of watching the Dolphins lose games with Tua Tagovailoa at quarterback?
SECOND: I wish they'd trade him. They got fooled by that Super Bowl run in 2022, lost to Justin Fields and the Washington Pfizers, and now they're barely 6-3.
FIRST: There's just so much bad quarterback play around the league right now. Do you know that nine teams have quarterbacks with completion rates under 70%?
SECOND: Other than Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert, are there any decent quarterbacks out there?
FIRST: You forgot Jimmy Garoppolo.
SECOND: You're right. He's been so special for so many years after overcoming those early injuries that I almost forgot a sure-fire Hall of Famer. But otherwise, c'mon.
November 2030, at a taproom somewhere in America…
FIRST DUDE: Great to see you, Second Dude! I ordered us two craft beers and some sativa wings before kickoff.
SECOND DUDE: Perfect. This is just like when we used to do that radio show together!
FIRST: Ha! Remember how much time we invested in that?
SECOND: I did. It was a labor of love. But sometimes I wish we did a little more than just piggy-back on all the knee-jerk narratives. You know: everyone's either overpaid or underpaid, MVP or bust, changing opinions with the winds, box-score scouting, ripping veterans and fawning over every rookie and draft prospect. The market was just super-saturated with dudes doing the exact same thing.
FIRST: Yeah, maybe we should have done some more analytics, or tape-grinding, or some interviews or reporting. Or even just watched games more closely instead of riffing on what we saw over beers on Sunday. But you know what? People love jumping on rookie bandwagons and hearing bold proclamations. No one really listens to NFL analysts who temper their opinions, equivocate or say things like "I need to see more."
SECOND: No one listened to us, either. So who is playing?
FIRST: Dolphins-Vikings. A battle of mediocre teams with mediocre veteran quarterbacks earning $50 million per year each.
SECOND: Ugh. Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert. What did anyone ever see in either of them?
FIRST: No idea. I mean…
SECOND: I know what you mean.
Prediction Chargers 31, Dolphins 21
Seahawks at Rams, Sunday, 4:25 p.m.
Jared Goff averages 9.1 yards per attempt with a 76.7% completion rate when not pressured, per Sports Info Solutions. The Rams rank third in the NFL in both completion rate and yards per attempt when not pressured. (I switched from player to team rankings because there were a lot of small-sample guys such as Jake Luton, Brett Rypien, and Nick Mullens cluttering up the player rankings and I didn't want to set an arbitrary minimum.)
Rams receivers have the seventh-lowest total of air yards in the NFL with 973. They have the seventh-highest YAC total at 1,168 yards (both stats per Sports Info Solutions). Their offensive line ranks second in the league in adjusted line yards and first in adjusted sack rate.
The metrics paint a picture of the Rams offense which matches our perception of them: solid line play, an offense designed to control the ball and set up catch-and-run opportunities, a quarterback who can look like an All-Pro from a clean pocket (and a turnover dispensary when pressured).
The Seahawks defense cannot apply any pass pressure without blitzing and is vulnerable to screens and catch-and-run plays when they do blitz. The Rams are a terrible matchup for them.
The Seahawks could still win this game the way they try to win all too many games: with Russell Wilson heroics. That hasn't worked in four of the last five meetings. Don't count on it working this week.
Prediction Rams 37, Seahawks 31
Colts at Titans, Thursday, 8:20 p.m.
The AFC South has had a mid-major mentality since Peyton Manning left the Colts. AFC South teams don't build to win the Super Bowl. They build to win the AFC South.
When the Titans spent tens of millions of dollars to preserve their Ryan Tannehill/Derrick Henry nucleus this offseason, skeptics pointed to the fact that they were a perennial 9-7 team (literally finishing with that exact record each of the last four years) that needed to get better, not just hold serve. Despite the team's 5-0 start, that criticism appears fair: Tannehill and Henry are playing as well as could be hoped for, but the defense is porous, the kicking game is a mess, and their portfolio is full of narrow victories over middling competition.
When the Colts spent $25 million to rent Philip Rivers instead of pursuing a long-term quarterback solution, critics pointed to Rivers' 20 interceptions last season, noted that he was a modest-at-best upgrade over Jacoby Brissett, and questioned how far the Colts thought they would get with a patchy, still-developing roster. Rivers' interception rate remains high, his ability to pull off the wily ol' knuckleballer routine against better defenses is suspect, and the Colts remain at least an impact edge rusher and a truly dangerous offensive playmaker away from being real contenders.
The Colts and Titans, in other words, are designed to defeat weaklings (tripping over the Jaguars or Bengals now and then) and hold their own against fellow middleweights such as the Bears, but just don't have what it takes to beat the likes of the Ravens and Steelers unless a lot of things go their way. That's a tried and true formula for going 10-6 or so in the AFC South, where two opponents are typically having down years and the third is executing a similar strategy. Look back over a decade of AFC South football -- the years Andrew Luck waited for the cavalry to come, the Texans' four-superstars-and-silliness business model, multiple Titans variations on exotic smashmouth (including this one), that brief Jaguars freakout -- and you'll see an entire division of teams operating as if a victory in the wild-card round would be a crowning achievement.
Residual Patriots baggage is part of the reason: AFC South teams max out as wild-card fodder for the same reason AFC East teams kept swapping coaches and executives and acting as if .500 was all they could hope for. The Ravens and Steelers produced true Super Bowl contenders now and then by grinding against each other, and Andy Reid maintained a minimum quality standard for the Chiefs, but the AFC South teams were run by men such as Bill O'Brien, David Caldwell and Chuck Pagano/Ryan Grigson. The ease with which an AFC South team could suddenly go 10-6 also lead to lots of organizational blunders: Grigson's spending sprees, O'Brien and Caldwell's long tenures, the past 9-7 seasons that lulled the Titans into sticking with Mike Munchak, Mike Mularkey, and Marcus Mariota.
That's a long, long way of getting around to the fact that the Titans and Colts play twice in the next three weeks, with the Packers (Colts) and Ravens (Titans) sandwiched in between, and that both teams are likely to be 1-2 at the end of that span. Both teams will probably make the playoffs this season, and that's dandy. But it's hard to get excited about these teams and this division until someone tries to build a truly great team instead of merely a good-enough team.
Prediction Colts 27, Titans 22
Buccaneers at Panthers, Sunday, 1 p.m.
Tom Brady Excuse-o-Matic, turn-turn-turn. Tell us the teammate (or coach!) whom we must burn.
The Bucs defense sacked Drew Brees just once and recorded just three hurries in Sunday night's Theater of Shame loss to the Saints, and defensive coordinator Todd Bowles' zone-heavy game plan was the primary culprit for the lack of pressure. "The game plan was to try to play more zone and get our front four home," Bruce Arians said, per Rick Stroud in the Tampa Bay Times.
Stroud goes on to note that the Buccaneers did blitz several times in the game, later quoting Arians clarifying that "we blitzed more than I even thought we did on the field." So the game plan was bad, unless it wasn't, and Bowles did not adjust until he adjusted.
In summary, when the offense goes three-and-out on its first four possessions, gives the opponent the field position to set up scoring drives of 27, 25, 44, and 50 yards, and the quarterback rage-quits and throws the game controller down the dormitory staircase because things aren't going his way, scrutinizing the coverage calls to find reasons for the defeat is kinda missing the point.
Prediction Buccaneers 37, Panthers 22
Eagles at Giants, Sunday, 1 p.m.
How this game will go …
- Daniel Jones interception.
- Carson Wentz fumble.
- Daniel Jones fumble.
- Carson Wentz interception.
- Evan Engram dropped touchdown pass.
- Jalen Hurts Wildcat fourth-down stuff.
- Daniel Jones attempts to throw an interception, but Fletcher Cox bats the pass directly back to Jones, who then scrambles into the clear and appears to nearly score a touchdown until he punches the football from his hands with his own knee, sending it floating into the air for Marcus Epps to recover.
- Wentz attempts to throw an interception on first down from the Giants 20-yard line by needlessly extending a hopeless play, hanging in the pocket too long, rolling right, and heaving the ball into a crowd of Giants defenders, but Travis Fulgham outleaps everyone for the game-winning touchdown.
Eagles fans celebrate their 2.5-game lead in the NFC East by complaining about how bad Penn State looks this year.
Prediction Eagles 22, Giants 12
Bills at Cardinals, Sunday, 4:05 p.m.
The Cardinals are the funhouse-mirror Bills. Or perhaps it's the other way around. Kyler Murray and Josh Allen are both scramblers with explosive capability but erratic accuracy and decision-making. Both defenses have some playmakers but are squishy in the middle: the Bills rank 31st in allowing second-level rushing yards and 31st in DVOA when stopping passes over the middle; the Cardinals rank 26th and 23rd in those same categories. The Cardinals offense is designed to get lots of mileage out of screen passes. The Bills offense looks conventional but also gets a lot of production from screen passes. The Cardinals are held back by their tendency to trip over beatable opponents. The Bills are held back by their habit of falling flat against quality opponents. Both teams recently knocked off the Seahawks.
Tre'Davious White is currently day-to-day with what initially appeared to be a serious ankle injury. These teams are evenly enough matched -- and unfamiliar enough to each other, despite their similarities -- that the presence or absence of an All-Pro cornerback to help neutralize DeAndre Hopkins will make a big difference.
Prediction Bills 28, Cardinals 24 (with White); Cardinals 27, Bills 24 (without White)
49ers at Saints, Sunday, 4:25 p.m.
Drew Brees is totally washed. Taysom Hill is an absolute joke. Michael Thomas has entered the wide receiver bananapants portal. Alvin Kamara doesn't matter. Sean Payton whines too much about calls. The Saints were totally exposed by the Raiders in Week 2.
Oops! It turns out the Saints now rank first in DVOA and are in complete control of the NFC South.
Think of the Saints as the 2017-19 Patriots. Their Hall of Fame quarterback really is fading, and they lack the offensive weapons of their heyday. But they can leverage a sturdy defensive and offensive line, coaching, experience, and special teams into an awful lot of wins. The NFC South is not nearly as obedient as the AFC East was, but the Saints are entering a soft patch of schedule (49ers scout team, Falcons, Broncos, Falcons, Eagles) that should leave them around 10-3 and in position for the first-round playoff bye when they face the Chiefs in Week 15.
Maybe we should be giving a team that goes 13-3 every year a little more benefit of the doubt.
Prediction Saints 31, 49ers 17
Ravens at Patriots, Sunday, 8:20 p.m.
The Ravens, in their current state, are the team the Patriots hoped they could be when they signed Cam Newton: outstanding defense, strong option-based running game, enough of a passing game to get by.
The Patriots, in their current state, are the team the guy on your Facebook timeline who shares articles about dead Michigan voters from TriggeredSovereigntyNews thinks that the Ravens are.
This game will be approximately 17% as entertaining and competitive as it looked like it would be after the season opener.
Prediction Ravens 27, Patriots 16
Broncos at Raiders, Sunday, 4:05 p.m.
The Raiders rose to 6-4 at one point last season thanks to a balanced offense and lots of wins against second-tier competition. Lots of folks (including me) wrote articles at that point suggesting that Jon Gruden's team had turned the corner. The Raiders went 1-5 the rest of the way, with losses against both tough competition (Chiefs) and weaklings (Jets, Jaguars), because their defense stunk and their offense lacked top-tier talent.
The Broncos held a 3-6 record in mid-November last season, overcoming an early-season losing streak with a stingy defense and just enough offense to manufacture occasional wins. Drew Lock mixed lots of sloppy play with scattered moments of brilliance down the stretch, and it was just enough to beat some of the bantamweights on their schedule and finish the season 7-9.
Look for both team's 2019 storylines to continue to play out in 2020 this week.
Prediction Broncos 23, Raiders 20
Texans at Browns, Sunday, 1 p.m.
There was a sequence at the end of the Texans' win over the Jaguars that made me downright angry when I reviewed it, even though I have no rooting interest in either team.
The Texans drove to the Jaguars 42-yard line while leading 27-19 with 3:18 to play. They ran the ball twice to force the Jaguars to burn their final two timeouts. So far, so good. But the Texans lined up with an empty backfield on third-and-6, and Deshaun Watson launched a low-percentage deep shot over Brandin Cooks' head. The Texans took a delay of game penalty on purpose to move the ball back to the 43-yard line, but Bryan Anger's punt had a low trajectory, bounced inside the numbers at about the 2-yard line, and skittered through the end zone long before a gunner could try to down it. The Jaguars got the ball back at the 20-yard line with 2:57 to play, scored a touchdown with 1:30 to play, and would have tied the game with a successful two-point conversion. It was a failure of play calling and clock and field-position management.
The problem with firing Bill O'Brien is that it leaves behind all the people O'Brien found non-threatening enough, from a professional standpoint, to trust as his subordinates.
Prediction: Browns 35, Texans 24
Washington at Lions, Sunday, 1 p.m.
Despite Alex Smith's three-interception performance in relief of Kyle Allen against one of the NFL's worst defenses last week, Dwayne Haskins remains the Washington backup quarterback. Haskins' stats and tape are terrible, albeit in smallish samples for an awful team. He does appear to be fully recovered from the flu-like illness which coincided precisely with his benching a month ago, which is encouraging.
Ron Rivera barely minced his words when explaining his choice of Alex Smith over Haskins on Monday. "A lot of times, guys will rely on their great talent," Rivera said. "That talent will get you by for a while, but there's a point in everybody's career where everything catches up to talent. The only thing that separates it are the guys that work the hardest." While implicit bias cannot be discounted when reading a statement full of buzzwords about talent and work habits, Rivera is a person of color who coached Cam Newton for a decade.
I hope Haskins gets another chance. But I'm not going to act like there is some sort of mystery if he does not.
Prediction: Lions 22, Washington 14
Jaguars at Packers, Sunday, 1 p.m.
Jake Luton took a strip-sack last week. He also threw one interception and three or four near-interceptions (depending on how you grade), and he was off-target by several yards on many of his downfield throws. The Jaguars scored 25 points and nearly pulled off an upset because of a few successful deep connections and because they were able both run the ball and have some play-action success from constricted formations against a defense that doesn't put very much oomph into disengaging from blocks or tackling.
The Jaguars will probably score 25 points this week, too.
Prediction: Packers 34, Jaguars 25
Bengals at Steelers, Sunday, 4:25 p.m.
As I write this (midday Wednesday), Ben Roethlisberger is dealing with a pair of knee injuries which knocked him briefly out of the Cowboys game and is also in COVID isolation after a high-risk contact with a teammate (tight end Vance McDonald) who tested positive, yet the game is on the board at sportsbooks, and the Steelers are 7.5-point favorites.
It's a testament to Roethlisberger's reputation for playing through injuries that many of us (including the sportsbooks) are assuming that he will hobble onto the field on crutches and still lead the Steelers to a win. It's a testament to where we are as a nation in November of 2020 that we learn a superstar athlete has had a high-risk exposure to a potentially lethal contagion and just assume that he and his team will still take the field on Sunday.
It's a testament to how much work the Bengals have to do before they are relevant that their rookie quarterback is playing very well, yet the only real question about this game is how far the line should move if Mason Rudolph gets the start.
Prediction Steelers 33, Bengals 17 (with Roethlisberger); Steelers 24, Bengals 20 (without Roethlisberger)
Vikings at Bears, Monday, 8:15 p.m.
How this game will go ...
- First Vikings drive: Dalvin Cook up the middle for 4. Cook off tackle for 4. Kirk Cousins incomplete on a shallow cross to Kyle Rudolph. Punt.
- First Bears drive: Nick Foles shallow sideline comeback to Allen Robinson for 4. Receiver screen to Anthony Miller for 4. Fake inside handoff to J.P. Holtz with a pitch to Cordarelle Patterson for no gain. Punt.
- Next three Vikings and Bears drives: Cut 'n' paste.
- Late second quarter: Vikings touchdown drive on a 25-yard Cook run, a roughing the passer penalty, and the Cousins-to-Adam Theilen play-action bomb the Vikings have been setting up all afternoon, and really for the last two seasons.
- Halftime: Foles leads the Bears with 6 rushing yards because Patterson and Ryan Nall are the only available running backs, and one of them is a wide receiver. Bears general manager Ryan Pace calls the Vikings and offers next year's third-round pick for Alexander Mattison, so long as he switches teams for the third quarter. The Bears dodge a bullet when the trade is nullified because it violates COVID protocols.
- Third quarter: Akiem Hicks strip-sacks Cousins. Khalil Mack returns the fumble for a touchdown. Approximately 12,000 people on your Twitter timeline remind you how underrated Akiem Hicks is.
- Early fourth quarter: Ifeadi Odenigbo deflects a Foles pass into Harrison Smith's arms. The 12,000 people on your Twitter timeline are evenly split between explaining how Odenigbo is due for a breakout and reminding you how much they loved Bears new third-stringer Kyle Sloter coming out of Northern Colorado. (Assuming you follow me on Twitter, I'm in the latter camp)
- Late fourth quarter: The moment arrives when the Bears defense tries way too hard to create a big play, allowing Cousins to throw a screen to Ameer Abdullah which turns into a 60-yard touchdown (roughing the passer, declined). Pace tries to offer the Vikings a second-round pick for Abdullah before he even crosses the goal line.
- Later fourth quarter: Robinson teleports through three defenders to catch an errant Foles pass for a touchdown. The 12,000 people on your Twitter feed dust off the "imagine if Robinson EVER played with a decent quarterback" take; fortunately you are already in bed.
After the game: Cousins and Foles shake hands and congratulate each other for squeezing in a misleading fourth-quarter touchdown at the end of the game, and also for becoming incredibly rich.
Prediction: Vikings 21, Bears 14