All In The Cards: Week 7 Recap

Welcome to the Week 7 NFL recap of All In the Cards! I’m still feeling the aftereffects of those final five minutes during the Cardinals-Ravens game so this week’s recap will be a little shorter than usual. Look out for my week eight preview on Friday and the return of Hoosiers In The NBA every Monday!. I hope you enjoy and if you do make sure to follow me on Twitter @QTipsforsports or just search the hashtag #Allinthecards for in-game thoughts and analysis on the Arizona Cardinals. Without further ado, let’s see how I did with my week seven predictions:

How I did on my Week 7 Predictions:

  • Arizona 26, Baltimore 18: Looks like the Cardinals finally won a close game. Of course, the game never needed to be that close. Nevertheless, a good psychological win for the Cards. Through seven weeks I think we know who the Cards are: an explosive offense, an elite defense, and a very shaky special teams unit. Arizona has the offense and defense to make the Super Bowl and win it, but if they don’t it will most likely be the special teams fault. Also the Ravens may be the best 1-6 team in NFL history. (1-0)
  • Seattle20, San Francisco 3: The Seahawks took care of the 49ers easily and seem to be back on track. However, that still doesn’t change the fact that they are two games behind the Cards in the NFC west. Seattle has Dallas and then a bye before its first matchup with Arizona. That will be the game that tells us whether or not the Seahawks are still contenders. (1-1)
  • Jacksonville 34, Buffalo 31: I’d like to thank the Jaguars for always making me look silly when I pick their games. Other than the New England blowout, I think I have been wrong every time I have analyzed Jacksonville (I may not have gotten the pick wrong but it never goes how I thought the game would go). Huge win for an organization that is trying to use this season as a launch pad for a potential breakout 2016 season. On the other side, it seems the Bills have the same injury bug the Cardinals had last season. (1-2)
  • Atlanta 10, Tennessee 7: I’m still trying to figure out why this game was so close. It seems the Atlanta offense doesn’t play with urgency in the fourth quarter unless its trailing The Falcons outscore their opponents in the fourth quarter 55-19 when they come into period trailing. However, when they have the lead going into the final period the Falcons are outscored 28-6. This tells me that what the Falcons have been doing to other teams (fourth quarter comebacks) could happen against them if they continue this trend. (2-2)
  • St. Louis 24, Cleveland 6: Todd Gurley may become the best back in the NFL as soon as next season. He has given life to the Rams’ offense and by extension the Rams’ defense as they can put that front seven to good use against trailing opponents. This is the Rams team the organization has been hoping for, and the Rams team that the other NFC West teams have been dreading to see. (3-2)
  • Minnesota 28, Detroit 19: When I saw Stefon Diggs tear apart the IU defense last year as a Maryland Terrapin, I had a feeling he would make a good pro. I just never envisioned he would be this good and so quickly at that. His 19 catches for 324 yards through his first three games can only be topped by Anquan Boldin (23 catches for 378 yards in 2003 with the Cardinals) in the past 50 years. If Diggs really is going to be as good as Anquan Boldin, the Vikings could be Super Bowl contenders as quickly as next season. (4-2)
  • New Orleans 27, Indianapolis 21: So much for any momentum after a close loss to the Patriots. Just because you have the ability to come back from being down 27-0 doesn’t mean you should make that a regular occurrence. The Colts defense can only do so much, so when the offense turns the ball over three times in the first half (with 13 of the Saints’ points scored off those turnovers), you can’t expect to win games. Now they have undefeated Carolina next. Thank goodness the Colts play in the AFC South. (4-3)
  • Kansas City 23, Pittsburgh 13: Part of what made Landry Jones so effective against the Cardinals is that the defense Jones was facing had gameplaned completely for Michael Vick. Against a defense that has a gameplan for Jones, the Steelers were unable to get anything going as the Chiefs got a much needed win. Good news for Pittsburgh is that they get Ben Roethlisberger back. Bad news is they face the undefeated Bengals in what has become a must-win if the Steelers want to win the AFC North. (4-4)
  • Miami 44, Houston 26: U-G-L-Y! That is the only way you can describe that first half for the Texans. I mean give credit to the Dolphins (first team in 75 years to have four touchdowns of over 50 yards in a single half) but the Texans defense, the supposed strength of the team, looked downright pitiful. I’m a little worried that the Dolphins are riding too much of a high and that they will get a big wake-up call Thursday against New England. (5-4)
  • New England 30, New York Jets 23: This game definitely lived up to all the hype. Any Patriots’ fan dreaming of another 16-0 regular season should be very afraid of the week 16 rematch at MetLife Stadium. Even though they lost in the second half (when Todd Bowles usually shines as a coach), I still walk away from this game believing the Jets are a legit playoff team. (6-4)
  • Washington 31, Tampa Bay 30: The Redskins’ franchise-record 24-point comeback was very impressive but when looking at the state of the two teams the outcome was actually kind of predictable, at least a little bit. The Redskins have been an up-and-down team all season so it’s no surprise they got in a big whole and then proceeded to climb out of it. Meanwhile the Buccaneers looked like a young team that was not used to holding a lead and thus made the mistakes necessary for the Redskins to win. (7-4)
  • Oakland 37, San Diego 29: I called this game perfectly. Don’t let the score fool you: the Raiders annihilated the Chargers. If anything, the Chargers’ 23 points in the fourth quarter just further demonstrates how much pressure the Chargers put on Philip Rivers to win games. Rivers throws two interceptions in the first half and the Chargers trail 30-6 at the break. Sure Rivers made a couple of mistakes but Rivers didn’t give up 30 points in the first half. (8-4)
  • New York Giants 27, Dallas 20: First I need to give some credit to the Cowboys for finally showing some life in the midst of a four-game losing streak and after being obliterated by the Patriots in their last game. In fact they would have won this game had they not turned the ball over four times. The Giants meanwhile bounce back from their embarrassing performance against the Eagles. (9-4)
  • Carolina 27, Philadelphia 16: The Panthers kind of remind me of the last two Seahawks teams, matching a run-oriented offense led by a mobile quarterback with a ferocious defense that always makes teams pay I still think they will get their first loss sometime in the next two weeks (they face the Colts and Packers) but I think it is time we consider the Panthers as a legit contender. (9-5)

Week 7 Record: 9-5
Season Record: 69-36 (.657)
Perfect Score Predictions: 2

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All In The Cards: Opinionated Edition (Week 6 Recap)

Welcome to the week six NFL recap of All In The Cards! I thought about writing a whole article outlining the Cardinals current problems, but I was afraid it may end up turning into a 5,000-word rant and I know no one wants to read that so I’ll go straight to the short-recap format, which will still be highly opinionated but at least it won’t be focused all on the Cards. All future recaps will be written in this style since the NBA season is almost here (which means Hoosiers In The NBA is almost here!) and I want to continue posting these on Tuesday. I hope you enjoy and if you do make sure to follow me on Twitter @QTipsforsports or just search the hashtag #Allinthecards for in-game thoughts and analysis. Without further ado, let’s see how these two teams stack up against each other:

How I did on my NFL Week 6 Predictions:

  • Pittsburgh 25, Arizona 13: While it is true that the change from Michael Vick to Landry Jones messed with the Cards’ defensive gameplan, there are other reasons behind the loss. If you look at the game stats, you’ll notice two big differences between games the Cardinals win and lose: turnovers and redzone efficiency. The Cardinals like to take risks on offense, thus they have turned the ball over in five of their six games (the lone exception being against Detroit). That’s not a problem, as long as the Arizona defense also forces turnovers. The Cards defense has been able to make up for the offense’s 10 turnovers by forcing opponents into 13 turnovers through six games. Actually, it would be more accurate to say the Cardinals defense has forced 13 turnovers in their four wins. They forced zero turnovers against the Rams and Steelers. If the offense doesn’t get those extra possessions then each mistake becomes amplified. Just like with the turnovers, redzone efficiency also follows this pattern. The Cards have scored 16 touchdowns in 17 trips to the redzone during wins, while they have only scored two touchdowns in nine redzone trips during losses. Going forward, succeeding in these two categories will be important for the Cardinals to win. It will also be the key to stopping them. (0-1)
  • New Orleans 31, Atlanta 21: Here’s a trick for picking these supposedly “wacky” Thursday night games: Pick the team that benefits most from the shorter week. In this case, the Falcons were coming off their fourth second half comeback as the beat the Redskins 25-19 and were being praised for never giving up and always coming through in the clutch. On the other side, the Saints were coming off an embarrassing 39-17 loss to the Eagles and wanted to forget that game ever happened. So basically the Saints were focused on their next opponent right away while the Falcons were distracted by all the hype they were receiving. You can overcome those types of distractions during a normal week of preparation but not on a short one. (1-1)
  • Cincinnati 34, Buffalo 21: While I personally think Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers are more valuable to their teams, there is no doubt that Andy Dalton is the leading MVP candidate at this point in the season. The main reason is voter fatigue. For anyone who is unfamiliar with the term “voter fatigue”, the best way to understand it would be to look at the history of the NBA MVP. Both Michael Jordan and LeBron James have four MVPs, but both were obviously the most valuable player for more than just four seasons. Voters get tired of giving the award to the same person so they look for someone new to give it to when they can. Rodgers is the reigning MVP and Brady is the reigning Super Bowl MVP, so they’ve been celebrated recently, which means now the voters will feel that it’s Dalton’s turn if he keeps up this performance. (2-1)
  • Detroit 37, Chicago 34: A week removed from being obliterated by the Cardinals, the Lions were able to fend off a recently-improved Bears team and earn their first win of the season. This was a crucial win for an organization that started hearing whispers about possibly going 0-16 again after seemingly turning the franchise around. The Lions still won’t be good this season, but as long as they are not bad either, this season will just be a bump in road instead of a full-on dumpster fire. The Bears will be fine; they just need to score more touchdowns in the redzone. (2-2)
  • Denver 26, Cleveland 23: First off, I’d like to give a big shout out to ex-Cardinal great Karlos Dansby for the spectacular performance this week (seven tackles, two pass deflections, two interceptions and a touchdown).However, the main story is the Broncos continuing to win despite being terrible offensively. I brought up Peyton Manning’s projected stats last week so there is no need for me to rehash them again this week after another subpar performance. Instead let me talk about the Broncos offense as a whole. The offense has accounted for just 54 of the team’s 139 points. The rest of those points were scored by the Broncos kicker (Brandon McManus has made 16 field goals in addition to his 13 extra points) and the Broncos defense (two touchdowns by Aqib Talib and one touchdown each for Chris Harris Jr. and Bradley Roby). Even if you want to credit extra points after offensive touchdowns to the offense, 63 of 139 is still less than 50%. The offense needs to start pulling its own weight or else this great start may end in an epic collapse. (3-2)
  • Miami 38, Tennessee 10: It’s these types of occurrences that make sports management and fans think that firing a coach is an easy solution for turning a team around. I’m not claiming it doesn’t work, it obviously worked this week for the Dolphins, but the circumstances have to be right. You need to make sure that the reason the team is under-performing is because they are either disagreeing or ignoring their coach, and not that the team isn’t good enough to execute the coach’s gameplan. It was obvious that the Dolphins and Joe Philbin were not connecting anymore, and since they had a suitable replacement in Dan Campbell, the Dolphins were right to make the move. However, if a team isn’t 100% sure whether or not the coach is more to blame than the players and it doesn’t have a suitable replacement, it should never make a coaching change just for the sake of change. (3-3)
  • Minnesota 16, Kansas City 10: There’s not much to say about this game other than I feel really bad for Chiefs fans. The offense looks like a complete mess without Jamaal Charles and we’ve known for a long time that Alex Smith is a considerably worse quarterback when he doesn’t have a run game to help him. Meanwhile, the Vikings have to be ecstatic about Stefon Diggs’ performance Sunday as well as the possibility of him becoming the go-to receiver for Teddy Bridgewater in the years to come. (4-3)
  • New York Jets 34, Washington 20: With a coach who has a personality as strong as Todd Bowles, it wasn’t a matter of if the team would take on his personality, but rather how quickly will the team take on Bowles personality? By personality I am specifically talking about his uncanny ability to recognize a problem and, in the short 15 minutes each team gets at halftime, come up with a gameplan to counter those problems. Well it seems like the answer was week six. The defense was already playing like a Bowles defense, but against the Redskins the offense also took that step forward. The Jets, trailing 13-10 at half, scored 24 straight points to start the second half and ran away with the win. As long as this team believes in Bowles, I see a trip to the playoffs as a real possibility this season. (5-3)
  • Houston 31, Jacksonville 20: Here’s hoping Texans’ head coach Bill O’Brien has finally made his decision at quarterback. Brian Hoyer was great in the Texans comeback and finally showed what this offense is capable of when they have consistent quarterback play. It helps that DeAndre Hopkins is having a breakout season and that Arian Foster is back. As for the Jaguars, this is the second time in three weeks they have blown a fourth quarter lead, the other one being against the Colts. If they want to start seeing vast improvement they’ll need to learn how to hold on to those leads. (5-4)
  • Carolina 27, Seattle 23: Speaking of blowing fourth quarter leads, did you know that the Seahawks have had led in the fourth quarter of every game they have played this season? I can already tell you don’t believe me so let’s recap:
    • Week 1 (@ St. Louis): The Seahawks scored 18 straight points in the fourth quarter against the Rams to lead 31-24 with 4:39 left to go, only to allow a game-tying touchdown with 53 seconds left and lose in overtime.
    • Week 2 (@ Green Bay): After trailing 13-3 at half, the Seahawks scored two touchdowns in third and led 17-16 heading the fourth quarter. The Packers outscored Seattle 10-0 in the final period.
    • Week 3 (vs. Chicago): Seattle won 26-0 so obviously they led in the fourth quarter.
    • Week 4 (vs. Detroit): The Seahawks led 13-3 entering the fourth quarter and then proceeded to give up a fumble return for a touchdown and allowed the Lions to drive 90 yards before Seattle was saved by an officiating blunder.
    • Week 5 (@ Cincinnati): A Bobby Wagner fumble return has Seattle up 24-7 after three quarters, only to see Andy Dalton rip apart the Legion Of Boom in the fourth quarter as the Bengals score 17 points in the period and win in overtime.
    • Week 6 (vs. Carolina): At home, the Seahawks had a 23-14 lead halfway through the fourth quarter. Then in the final four minutes the Panthers score two touchdowns to win 27-23.

Now you can take this one of two ways: either you’re still positive because the Seahawks have played well all season but have just had some trouble in the fourth quarter, or you’re wondering if there is something psychologically wrong with the Seahawks for them to continuously fall apart in the fourth quarter. I’m starting to lean towards the latter statement. (5-5)

  • Green Bay 27, San Diego 20: This stat should show you just how much pressure the Chargers place on Philip Rivers to keep this team competitive: Rivers became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for over 500 yards in a game with no interceptions and still lose the game. I know that when a quarterback is throwing for a lot of yards it is usually because they are trailing, but that still doesn’t change the fact he’s the first to accomplish this and still lose. Talk about not getting any support from your team. Then again one could also consider it as a testament to how well the Packers are playing. (6-5)
  • San Francisco 25, Baltimore 20: Since getting destroyed in Arizona, the 49ers have quietly rebounded. They hung tough with the undefeated Packers for a half, came very close to upsetting the Giants at MetLife Stadium, and held on to beat a desperate Ravens team. They now get a reeling Seattle team on a short week, and as I stated, the team that benefits the most from a short week usually wins the Thursday night game. With as much turmoil as there is with the Seahawks, I’d say a short week benefits San Francisco more. Hard to believe but if the 49ers do pull off the win and then beat St. Louis the following week, they’ll find themselves back at .500 halfway through the season. (6-6)
  • New England 34, Indianapolis 27: Recall what I wrote about the Dolphins: “You should never make a coaching change if you are not 100% sure that the coach is more to blame than the players.” This fits the Chuck Pagano situation perfectly. Was the fake punt risky? Yes, it was extremely risky but it was worth the risk just to line up and see how the Patriots would respond. The center Griff Whalen should have snapped the ball only if the Patriots defense didn’t look prepared. As it turns out, they were prepared and the Colts should have taken the delay of game or called a timeout instead. If the Colts were leading the Patriots then I would switch positions, but the fact was that the Colts were down seven against a team that has owned them for a long time. It’s not as dumb of a decision as people might think. (7-6)
  • Philadelphia 27, New York Giants 7: This is why I didn’t want to say the Giants were in control of the NFC East last week because truthfully no one really has control in that division. That being said, the Eagles now find themselves as the division leaders and have a good chance to stay at the top if their defense continues to play like it did Monday night. The problem is I still don’t completely trust the offense and Sam Bradford in particular. However, the Eagles do have a great opportunity to prove me wrong when as they face the undefeated Panthers this week. (7-7)

Week 6 Record: 7-7
Season Record: 60-31
Perfect Score Predictions: 2

All In The Cards: Which Teams Have Hope And Which Do Not? (Week 5 Recap)

Welcome to the week five recap! With the Cardinals recent signing of Dwight Freeney I’ll be having a separate column tomorrow detailing how the Cards have been able to get the most out of players like Freeney who look old and washed-up before reviving their career in the desert. For now let’s take a look at the week 5 scores and determine which teams are having a slow start and which teams are probably doomed to agonizingly trek through the rest of this season. I hope you enjoy and if you do make sure to follow me on Twitter @QTipsforsports or just search the hashtag #Allinthecards for in-game thoughts and analysis:

How I did with NFL Week 5 Predictions:

  • Arizona 42, Detroit 17: I hate to say this because I have quite a few friends who are Detroit Lions fans and they are dedicated to this team, but the other fans who attended the game really contributed to the Lions collapse against the Cards. Home field advantage is more than just playing in a familiar place. Home field advantage is also knowing that you have a stadium’s worth of people cheering and supporting you and then feeding off that energy to go the extra mile. The Lions had none of that Sunday. Despite turning the ball over twice in the first ten minutes, the Lions held a 7-0 lead over the Cardinals and held them to their only scoreless quarter of the season. Yet the boos kept coming and when the Lions fed off that negative energy they imploded in the second quarter. Let me make this clear: I am not blaming the Lions fans in attendance for the loss. The Cards had a better matchup and would have most likely taken control of the game sometime around the end of the third quarter. However, I do believe the Lions gave up during the game because the fans gave up. I don’t care how many interceptions Matthew Stafford throws, subbing in Dan Orlovsky at quarterback is giving up. While I don’t blame the Lions fans for being frustrated, it is a fans job to support their team through the good times and the bad times. The Lions are going through some bad times right now, and they’ll need the support of my friends as well as other dedicated Lions fans to help get them through this season. (1-0)
  • Indianapolis 27, Houston 20: The Colts have won their last three games after starting the season with two straight losses. Does that mean they have bounced back? Well let’s look at those wins: all three games were against AFC South teams (who are a combined 3-8 this season when you remove the three games against Indianapolis), all three games were decided by one score, and two of those games saw the Colts trailing in the fourth quarter. I’ll give credit for winning the last two without Andrew Luck but Matt Hasselbeck is a lot better than your typical backup quarterback. Indy will probably lose to New England (which is okay because everyone else outside of Denver and maybe one of the two New York teams will lose to them as well) but it will be their next two games afterwards (home against the Saints and away at the Panthers) that will tell us if the Colts have rebounded or not. (2-0)
  • Atlanta 25, Washington 19: The Redskins continue to play very competitively and were almost able to hand the Falcons their first loss. With the way the NFC East has performed so far this season I wouldn’t discount the Redskins from the NFC East race, at least not yet. Meanwhile the Falcons are the physical manifestation of a gambler on a hot streak. Their blowout win over Houston showed that they can control a game from start to finish, which is a relief because that is what they’ll need to do when this hot streak in the fourth quarter inevitably dries up. (3-0)
  • Buffalo 14, Tennessee 13: I still believe the Bills are a good team but they have just been decimated by injuries on offense. With talk of Tyrod Taylor possibly missing time, it may just be one of those circumstances where a team won’t reach their potential due to outside forces. The Bills probably won’t beat the Bengals this week even if Taylor plays but he will be necessary for their next two games against the Jaguars and Dolphins. (4-0)
  • Chicago 18, Kansas City 17: Let’s all take a moment to appreciate Jay Cutler and finally give him his props. That is now two comeback victories in a row for a team that looked like it was vying for the first overall pick just two weeks ago. As for the Chiefs, the loss of Jamaal Charles makes it easier for me to say they are finished. Here’s hoping he is healthy and ready to go by next season and that he doesn’t try to risk playing again this year. (4-1)
  • Cincinnati 27, Seattle 24: During last week’s recap I wrote about how the no call for the Seahawks against the Lions would probably give them the momentum they needed to play like themselves again. At no time did that feel more apparent than when Bobby Wagner scored on a fumble return in the third quarter to put Seattle up 24-7. Then that momentum died. The unimpressive Seahawks team that somehow found their way to .500 appeared in the fourth quarter and the Bengals made them pay. These are the two-time defending NFC champions and I know no one wants to count them out, but at some point we need to look at the present instead of the past. The present does still show promise but it has yet to provide confidence. (5-1)
  • Cleveland 33, Baltimore 30: I was against it at first but it seems the Browns got it right when they decided to stay with Josh McCown at quarterback. Cleveland has had a very easy schedule up to this point so you can’t put too much stock in their record. However, if they can win three of their next five games (which include games against Denver, Arizona, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh with Ben Roethlisberger probably back) then we can talk. As painful as it is for me to say that a talented team like the Ravens are done, they just look too out of sorts to get things turned around in time. (5-2)
  • Philadelphia 39, New Orleans 17: Every team in the NFC East still has a shot at the division title but the Eagles have to feel a lot better about their chances after this performance. Granted it came against a Saints team that will probably get a top ten draft pick, but the important thing was that all of the offseason acquisitions contributed to this win. Whether or not this is a sign of the team finally getting comfortable with each other will be determined in the following weeks against the Giants and Panthers. (6-2)
  • Green Bay 24, St. Louis 10: Things we learned from this game: the Packers defense is a lot better than what I gave them credit for last week, Aaron Rodgers is not a robot and is capable of turning the ball over (though don’t expect it to happen that often), Todd Gurley really does have the potential to be the next great running back, and last but not least the Rams continue to play a lot worse when facing teams outside of the NFC West. (7-2)
  • Tampa Bay 38, Jacksonville 31: Both teams looked impressive and are giving their fans hope for the future. The best sign for the Jaguars is that Sophomore Blake Bortles looks nothing like rookie Blake Bortles. The best sign for the Buccaneers is that Doug Martin is showing life again, rushing for over 100 yards for the second game in a row. Last time Martin had back-to-back 100 rushing yard games was in 2012, his rookie season. (7-3)
  • New England 30, Dallas 6: There’s no denying that the Patriots are the favorites after a quarter of the season. However, for as good as this Patriots team is, their championship hopes are tied directly to Tom Brady’s health. I know that statement is true of many teams who have elite quarterbacks, but the reason I bring it up is that Brady took some terrible hits against Dallas including one where he was leveled on a touchdown pass to Julian Edelman. Because of his age (38), history with serious leg injuries, and the fact he plays for a coach in Bill Belichick who rarely takes him out even during blowouts, Brady and the Patriots are in a position similar to that of Carson Palmer and the Cardinals. Both teams need to be extra careful with their quarterbacks or else the championship dream will disappear. (8-3)
  • Denver 16, Oakland 10: After week five is when you can start looking at season projections as a more reliable way of forecasting a player’s performance. Let’s just say that the forecast looks gloomy for Peyton Manning. Manning is on pace for his first sub-4,000 yard season since 2005, his first 20+ interception season since 2001, and his first season ever with less than 20 passing touchdowns. Sure this could just be a slow start, but he’ll need to produce some big numbers soon as I don’t expect his play to get any better than this when it turns December in Denver. (9-3)
  • New York Giants 30, San Francisco 27: Like the Colts, the Giants started the season 0-2 and have rebounded with three straight wins. If I was to choose which of the two teams has more likely turned things around, I would go with the Giants. Despite the narrow win against a bad 49ers team, the Giants performance over the winning streak has been a little more convincing and against better opponents. However, I’m not ready to hand the NFC East to the Giants just yet. A lot rides on this week’s matchup with the Eagles. A win for the Giants would definitely make them the favorites. (10-3)
  • Pittsburgh 24, San Diego 20: With how the Steelers have been able to perform without Ben Roethlisberger, I’m convinced that the Steelers are one of the top threats to preventing New England from returning to the Super Bowl. Sure the last two games have been close and could have gone either way, but the goal right now is surviving until their quarterback returns, something Dallas hasn’t been able to do. What once seemed like a potential season-ending stretch is now two games at home against Arizona and Cincinnati and a trip to Kansas City against a Chiefs team that is dealing with the loss of their own star. (11-3)

Week 5 Record: 11-3
Season Record: 53-24
Perfect Score Predictions: 2
 

All In The Cards: Neither Passing Nor Failing The First Test (Week 4 Recap)

Welcome to the week four recap! I think that for now on I’ll stick to a straight rundown format for these as they are easier and quicker for me to write. That means I can possibly post these on Tuesdays and Hoosiers In The NBA on Mondays, but we’ll see if that holds true once the NBA season starts. However, let’s get back to the NFL and see how I did with my week four picks. I hope you enjoy and if you do make sure to follow me on Twitter @QTipsforsports or just search the hashtag #Allinthecards for in-game thoughts and analysis:

How I did with NFl Week 4 Predictions:

  • St. Louis 24, Arizona 22: The Cards faced their first test of the season and even though they lost I wouldn’t say they failed that test. Sure it wasn’t worthy of being placed on the kitchen fridge but it was still somewhere between a C- and a B-. Arizona’s offense could move the ball with ease and the defense basically shut down the Rams for most of the game on drives that didn’t follow turnovers. It was the intangibles that lost the Cards this game. Turnovers are always an uncontrollable variable, but the Cardinals performance in the redzone is what really cost them. The best way to explain how a team that scored 11 touchdowns in 12 prior redzone trips is that the first few stops affected the Cards psychologically and thus prevented them from succeeding the rest of the game. (30-19)
  • Baltimore 23, Pittsburgh 17: I wanted to give up on the Ravens but the matchup (Steelers on a short week and playing their first game without Ben Roethlisberger) was too good to pass up. I’ll give credit to Michael Vick, he did an adequate job filling in at quarterback. It’s hard for a quarterback who came in just a month ago to run an offense as intricate as Todd Haley’s scheme. However, there’s no doubt this game would have been too far out of reach for a Ravens comeback if Big Ben was on the field. (31-19)
  • New York Jets 27, Miami 14: For everyone who took my advice to start Chris Ivory in fantasy football (29 carries, 166 yards and 1 TD) you are welcome. With the Bills playing inconsistently, could it be the Jets who have moved into the spot of Patriots opposition for the AFC East? You know, the position we thought the Dolphins would be at the beginning of the season. (32-19)
  • Atlanta 48, Houston 21: I called this Atlanta’s first easy game of the season but I wasn’t thinking that the Falcons would be leading 42-0 after three quarters. The Falcons offense has really found a spark with Devonta Freeman in the backfield, which is bad news for Tevin Coleman when he finally returns from his rib injury. Coleman did win the job during the preseason so there is a chance they’ll just split carries, but I wonder if Freeman has already done enough during the last two weeks to take full control of the job. (33-19)
  • New York Giants 24, Buffalo 10: With the Eagles a mess, the Cowboys struggling since they lost Tony Romo, and the Redskins only being a decent team, I think the Giants proved they are in control of the NFC East after they took care of business in Buffalo against a pretty good Bills team. That’s right, I still think the Bills are good; they’re just inconsistent. (33-20)
  • Chicago 22, Oakland 20: This is one of the rare times where both teams come away from a game satisfied with their performance. The Raiders tenacity continues to impress me and the Bears resolve after the Jay Cutler fourth quarter interception shows real progress. Also I feel happy for Cutler being able to make up for his interception by leading the offense down the field for the game-winning field goal. (33-21)
  • Cincinnati 36, Kansas City 21: I still feel like no one really respects the Bengals as much as they should. What’s sad is the Bengals will probably have to beat the Seahawks this week to get that respect, which is unfair considering what they have accomplished so far this season. Also Gio Bernard and Jeremy Hill might be the best young running back duo in the NFL. (34-21)
  • Indianapolis 16, Jacksonville 13 (OT): I expected a blowout but given the fact the Colts were without Andrew Luck I’ll give them a pass. What I learned from this game is that the Colts are really lucky to have a backup of Matt Hasselbeck’s caliber and that having a reliable kicker is a lot more important to a team’s success than we give credit. (35-21)
  • Washington 23, Philadelphia 20*: What if I told you that I had a sports almanac from the future and used it to make this pick similar to how Biff made his fortune in Back To The Future 2? In all seriousness, I knew that this Redskins team was better than how they played against the Giants last week and that this Eagles team is a complete mess. However I did get really lucky with my second perfect score prediction of the season. (36-21)
  • Carolina 37, Tampa Bay 23: Jameis Winston set a lot of career-highs in this game: completions (26), pass attempts (43), passing yards (287) and tied a career-high in touchdown passes (2). He also threw a career-worst four interceptions. He’s made some improvements, but every scout who said Winston would be a turnover machine have been proven right so far. Meanwhile, it looks like Josh Norman is on his way to a career year and may be worthy of some defensive player of the year discussion if he keeps it up. (37-21)
  • San Diego 30, Cleveland 27: It is so unfortunate that this game had to end with the Browns jumping offside on a missed field goal because it overshadowed a really good game. Philip Rivers continues to put the Chargers on his back, this time to the tune of 358 passing yards and three touchdowns. (38-21)
  • Denver 23, Minnesota 20: The Broncos are continuing to prove they are a great overall TEAM. In previous years, if Peyton Manning only threw for 213 yards and had two interceptions that would spell defeat for Denver but now the Broncos defense can relieve some of the pressure off of Manning’s shoulders. Meanwhile Adrian Peterson leads the NFL in rushing with 372 yards, which means the leading rusher isn’t even averaging 100 yards a game. (39-21)
  • Green Bay 17, San Francisco 3: Surprised the Packers didn’t put up more points but the story is Colin Kaepernick. I know the 49ers meant well when they decided to narrow the offensive playbook down but you can tell that defenses are able read the plays so easily now, thus making Kaepernick ineffective. I don’t know the ramifications of complicating an offense in-season but they may have to do it as the offense is to predictable right now.(40-21)
  • New Orleans 26, Dallas 20: First off congrats too Drew Brees on his 400th career touchdown. To believe that 10 years ago we were wondering if his arm injury would cut his career short makes this even sweeter. As for the Cowboys, while it is true that they have been struggling without Tony Romo, don’t blame these two losses on Brandon Weeden. The Cowboys defense has performed considerably worse the last two games. (41-21)
  • Seattle 13, Detroit 10: Have you ever met that one person who always gets their way regardless of if they deserve it or not? Sure I’m bitter about the missed illegal batting call probably giving a ton of momentum to the Seahawks’ season but what’s really sad is that it came at the expense of basically ending the Lions season after just four weeks. (42-21)

Week 4 Record: 12-3
Season Record: 42-21
Perfect Score Predictions: 2

 

All In The Cards: The Roster Needed To Succeed (Week 1 Recap)

I’m trying.

I’m trying really hard this season to have a realistic view of my Arizona Cardinals. Ever since their appearance in Super Bowl XLIII, every year I somehow convince myself that this is the year the Cardinals will win the Super Bowl. My delusions have been so insane that at one time or another I convinced myself that Matt Leinart and Kevin Kolb were good quarterbacks capable of leading the Cards to a Lombardi Trophy. Look, I was young and naïve back then. I’m an adult now and I need to face reality: sometimes you just don’t have the roster to succeed.

I’m not 100% sure the Cardinals have the roster to succeed this season. They did last year but injuries crippled them to the point that the roster that was set to succeed was unrecognizable by season’s end. The Cardinals have a couple less standouts this season (no more Antonio Cromartie), but what they do have over last year’s team is depth. When an injured Andre Ellington had to finally bow out for the rest of the season, a run game on life support died. We are through only one week of this season and the Cards face the same situation: generating a run game without Ellington. This time they were prepared. They drafted David Johnson out of Northern Iowa in the third round of the NFL Draft. They took a flier on the once great Chris Johnson. When Ellington went out in the fourth quarter, Chris Johnson was called upon to help run out the clock. He ran the ball seven times in that final quarter for 30 yards, including a 12 yard run on his first rush attempt after Ellington left. Then David Johnson sealed the game with a huge 55 yard receiving touchdown in the final minute. Without both of them, the Cards wouldn’t have been able to burn time off the clock and guarantee the victory.

The Cards’ approach this past offseason was to add quality depth so that what happened last year wouldn’t happen again this season. I know that sounds like the rational thing to do but you’d be surprised how many sports franchises are too stubborn to admit their mistakes and thus end up making them again. To see the Cardinals acknowledge their mistakes and spend all offseason correcting them makes me feel proud to be fan.

However there is still one problem that hasn’t been solved: what happens to the offense if Carson Palmer goes down again. Palmer looked amazing against the Saints, throwing for 307 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. He was able to scramble in the pocket to buy some time for his receivers to get open. Less than a year removed from a major leg injury and with two starting linemen out, Palmer was not sacked one time. Granted the Saints pass rush is average at best, but he was never sacked and only hit a few times, which he took very well. Drew Stanton used to be an acceptable backup because because both going into last season had similar skills. That’s not the case anymore. Palmer‘s improved arm strength and pocket presence makes the 2015 Arizona Cardinals a roster that can succeed. Without him this team can’t succeed. I can guarantee that Palmer will not get a single MVP vote this season, but if the Cards succeed he’ll be their most valuable player.

I’m not going to delude myself into thinking Palmer will definitely lead the Cards to a Super Bowl win this season, but a healthy Palmer makes the possibility real.

Some Card Numbers:

  • Who says Larry Fitzgerald is washed up? Fitzgerald happily accepted having Carson Palmer back and hauled in six catches for 87 yards to lead the Cards in receiving. The 87 receiving yards is the most he’s had in a season opener since he had 133 yards on nine catches against the San Francisco 49ers all the way back in 2006. Also worth noting is that four of Fitzgerald’s six catches went for first downs.
  • One last Fitzgerald note and what will be a running counter on this article: Fitzgerald extended his consecutive games with a catch streak to 164, which is the longest active streak in the NFL.
  • While throwing for 307 yards, Carson Palmer passed Jim Kelly for 21st on the all-time passing yards list.
  • The Cardinals have now won their last four home openers. Speaking of home games, the Cards are now 14-3 at home under Bruce Arians.
  • Last year the Cardinals had one of the best fourth quarter differentials in the NFL. This year they are already off to a great start with a +8 differential.

How I Did With Week 1 Predictions:

  • Arizona 31, New Orleans 19: Without Jimmy Graham to occupy a safety’s attention, the Cardinals secondary was able to neutralize the Saints wide receivers for the most part. Saints Head Coach Sean Payton cleverly countered by calling a bunch of screen passes, which really bothered the Cardinals defense all day. With Matt Forte and the Chicago Bears coming up next week, the Cards defense better practice their screen coverage. (1-0)
  • New England 28, Pittsburgh 21: This game feels like it was an eternity ago but New England prevailed because Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are still on their A-game, Rob Gronkowski is unstoppable, and because Pittsburgh couldn’t communicate with each other (Just kidding on that last one). (Season Record: 2-0)
  • Buffalo 27, Indianapolis 14: I knew the Bills would be good (Rex Ryan teams always come to play) but the way they handled the Colts really surprised me. Even though the season just started the Colts need to turn things around quickly, especially with rumors of Coach Chuck Pagano being on the hot seat. (2-1)
  • Green Bay 31, Chicago 23: The Bears pleasantly surprised me with their performance against the Packers, coming very close to pulling off the win. Unfortunately the often-maligned Jay Cutler just became a little more maligned. Rodgers, 189 passing yards and three passing touchdowns, also showed why he’s the reigning MVP. (3-1)
  • New York Jets 31, Cleveland 10: What made Todd Bowles such a great defensive coordinator for the Cardinals was his ability to make perfect halftime adjustments. Fitting that he would get his first win as a head coach by having his Jets shutout out the Browns and force three turnovers in the second half. The Jets have some scary injuries but overall both this season and the future look bright. (4-1)
  • Kansas City 27, Houston 20: For most of the game I was wrong about the Texans, but then in the 4th quarter when Ryan Mallett took over I didn’t look as foolish. Also DeAndre Hopkins is a beast and should be considered as a cheaper alternative in fantasy leagues where you choose a new team on a weekly basis. I’m still taking a wait-and-see approach on Travis Kelce’s long-term fantasy impact. (4-2)
  • Louis 34, Seattle 31 (OT): I’m really kicking myself for not sticking to my gut and picking the Rams. The Rams always push NFC West teams to the limit and the Seahawks were vulnerable without Kam Chancellor. I worry about Seattle’s psyche going forward, especially after the botched onside kick and failed Marshawn Lynch fourth down run. (4-3)
  • Miami 17, Washington 10: This game was a lot closer than I thought which either means good news for the Redskins or bad news for the Dolphins. Also Jarvis Landry’s punt return touchdown was one of the best I have ever seen. Just the way he made it look so easy amazes me. (5-3)
  • Carolina 20, Jacksonville 9: I still stand by what I said about the Panthers offense needing some time but I’ll admit I didn’t give enough credit to their defense before making my pick. We’ll see if they can maintain this level if Luke Kuechly misses a lot of time due to his concussion. Also I may have overestimated the Jaguars’ progress. Still looks like there is a long way to go. (5-4)
  • San Diego 33, Detroit 28: Even though I called the Lions’ choke job, that doesn’t mean I’m proud of it. I was really hoping they would prove me wrong and start the season off on a high note, but instead they throw away a 21-3 first half lead. On the positive side, Keenan Allen started his third season off with a bang after he fell well short of expectations last season. If he can be a go-to receiver for Philip Rivers then the Chargers season suddenly looks more promising. (6-4)
  • Cincinnati 33, Oakland 13: The outcome was even bleaker for the Raiders than I predicted, barely avoiding a shutout with a couple of garbage time touchdowns. The Bengals made a huge statement in this game, telling everyone who picked Pittsburgh or Baltimore to win the division that they still hold the crown and they aren’t going away. (7-4)
  • Denver 19, Baltimore 13: I’m still trying to wrap my brain around the fact that not a single offensive touchdown was scored in this game. While both defenses played at an elite level you can’t help but wonder if this is a sign of things to come, especially for Peyton Manning who has now gone without a touchdown pass in three of his last five games. (8-4)
  • Tennessee 42, Tampa Bay 14: It seems former Cardinals and current Titans Head Coach Ken Whisenhunt finally has a quarterback that he can properly gameplan around. Since the retirement of Kurt Warner, Coach Whiz has had the worst luck with starting quarterbacks but Marcus Mariota looks to have a bright future ahead of him. I’m not about to bury Jameis Winston but the performance really showcased his flaws. (8-5)
  • Dallas 27, New York Giants 26: This game was pure craziness. I definitely feel that Tony Romo’s reputation for choking in the fourth quarter is overblown and that he’s actually one of the better late-game quarterbacks. Both teams should have good seasons so I can’t wait for the rematch. Hopefully it will be just as entertaining. (8-6)
  • Atlanta 26, Philadelphia 24: I knew that the Eagles running game would be overhyped but I never expected a combined 11 carries for 13 yards from DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews. Matt Ryan excelled under new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan just like I expected, and Julio Jones (nine receptions for 141 yards and two touchdowns) is earning every penny of that new contract. Also shout out to former Indiana Hoosier Tevin Coleman for gaining 80 yards off 20 carries in his first NFL game. (9-6)
  • San Francisco 20, Minnesota 3: I’ve watched the Cardinals defense go up against Carlos Hyde a couple of times and I never would have imagined he would have a game like he did last night. Hyde’s 168 rushing yards and two touchdowns should be a great comfort for the 49ers and their fanbase which has gone through a lot of turnover and turmoil over the past year. Also I am dumbfounded by how underwhelming the Vikings performed. (9-7)