Real Deal (Football) Report: Week 4 Recap

The doubles are now behind us, and the relentless plod of the season begins.  It feels like we just kicked off, but with 7 games spread across the first four weeks, the midway point of the season is just about upon us.  It’s been a surprising and fantastic start for some (Seattle, Jacksonville, Cincinnati), a forgettable disaster for others (Houston, Cleveland, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Chicago), and exactly the walk in the park joyride we expected for still others (Buffalo, Detroit, NY Giants).

So what happened in the last of the doubles?  And which teams fates are sealed as we hit football season flyover country?  Glad you asked.

Finish Reading: Real Deal (Football) Report: Week 4 Recap

Game of the Week:

Buffalo Bills 221, Atlanta Falcons 157: This season has had some fantastic fantasy football games.  Week 4 had none of them.  This is literally the best one I could find.  We didn’t have a single game this week where both teams broke 200, and only Buff vs. Atlanta and NYG over Tampa had two good teams with one scoring 200.  Ouch.  In any case, this one was the waxing we worried it might be.  Julio Jones, hampered by injury, scored only 7 points, but even had he added another zero to his point total (as he is wont to do), it wouldn’t have mattered.  The Bills picked up a cool 120 points on defense, led by Khalil Mack with 26, and Atlanta had only one player over 20 (the quarterback).  The Bills are now sitting pretty with a three game lead in the East, while the Falcons are in a tailspin after dropping three straight.

 

Teams Rising:

Seattle Seahawks: How about dem Hawks?  It’s pretty easy to dominate when you get 37 points from Bilal Powell, like the Seahawks did last week in a dual thumping of the Colts and Rams.  Ezekiel Elliott is back on track (30), Russell Wilson is putting up points like he’s supposed to (26), Travis Kelce is the star tight end the Seahawks envisioned (27) and the offense put up a 150 point game.  With the win over the Rams and a double loss by the Cardinals, the Seahawks are now 6-1 and have a two game lead in the AFC West, with the tiebreaker.  The turnaround is here.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Look who just won’t go away?  The Jaguars won the week with a 256 point total, which included, I kid you not, 164 points on defense.  Besides slackers Kareem Jackson (4.5) and Jalen Ramsey (9), every person on the Jags defense hit double figures in a week that netted 6 turnovers, 6 sacks, 6 passes defensed, 3 stuffs, and a cool 62 tackles.  After a pair of weeks under 200, the Jags are back in a big way, and in first place in the AFC South.

Kansas City Chiefs: Very quietly, the Chiefs are the other undefeated team in Real Deal.  7-0 and in first place in the West, the Chiefs have a top five offense, a top five defense, top 5 in total points, and the #2 QB in all of Real Deal, the Gunslingah himself, Alex Smith.  The Chiefs now have a 270 point and a 240 point week to their name.  Cue the inevitable thrashing this week at Houston.

Honorable Mention: Cincinnati Bengals, New York Giants

 

Teams Falling:

Cleveland Browns: Well, that came apart rather quickly.  Back to back weeks with 146 and 139 points yields four straight losses, a 1-5-1 record, and time to think about next work.  On the docket, getting Mike Evans some help – Cleveland scored only 48 points on Sunday – 20 came from Evans.  Jeremy Maclin, Marvin Jones, and Isaiah Crowell need to pick up the pace, or Cleveland is cruising towards a top 5 pick.

Atlanta Falcons: Speaking of coming apart quickly, the Falcons have got to be spinning around wondering what the hell just happened.  Two weeks ago they were 3-0, in first place in the hardest division in football, and looking like absolute worldbeaters.  After a 156 point dud where neither offense nor defense got over 75 points, the Falcons have dropped three straight games to fall to 4-3 and into their accustomed spot gazing up at the Panthers.  Schedule has something to do with it, as the Falcons have faced both Buffalo and Detroit in those three games.  Atlanta will be fine.  But it would have been nice to have that dud on a single week.

Arizona Cardinals: This was NOT how Arizona envisioned their season.  Not 3-4.  Not in third place.  Not three games behind a startlingly good Seahawks team, and CERTAINLY not putting a 132 point stinker in a double loss to San Francisco and Washington – they of the combined 0-12 record against everybody else.  47 points on offense, only four players on the team in double digits, and the dubious distinction of being the first team ever in RDFL history to lose to two teams with a 0 in the quarterback spot in the same week.  Ouch.  Week 4’s game against the Eagles is desperation city.

Honorable Mention: New England Patriots, Denver Broncos, Philadelphia Eagles

 

Games of the Week:

Arizona Cardinals vs. Philadelphia Eagles: Two teams with playoff aspirations.  Two teams with 3-4 records.  Two teams with a combined 1-7 record in the past two weeks. Two games with three game deficits in their divisions. And two teams with a desperate chip on their shoulder.  It’s go time.  The winner of this week’s deathmatch gets back to .500 and respectability.  The loser falls, in all probability, 4 games back in their division after 8 games and can essentially kiss the season goodbye.

Buffalo Bills vs. Cincinnati Bengals: Not so much a game as a scheduled whooping, this game nonetheless features a combined record of 12-2 and two distinct playoff hopefuls.  That’s where the similarities end.  Buffalo has scored more than 500 more points than Cincy, averaging ~75 more points per GAME.  Buffalo has a top 3 offense and a top 3 defense.  The Bengals are 15th and 16th respectively.  TY Hilton is still without luck.  I don’t know.  I’m not going to try.  It’s a game of the week in name, but I’m not sure I’d watch this one.

Detroit Lions vs. Carolina Panthers: This one?  This one I’d watch.  The 7-0 Super Bowl Champion Detroit Lions face the 6-1 Super Bowl Champion Carolina Panthers.  This one has history, rivalry, and outstanding play.  The stats say that the mighty Lions are the clear favorite.  But Detroit is streaky.  When they are good, they are 290 points invincible.  Last week?  Carolina would have won.  And Carolina, the little team that could, always seems to find a way to win – even if it takes a stat correction of 7 hurries from a Monday game to do it.  Detroit should win.  But Carolina is spooky.

Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Pittsburgh Steelers: An unexpected battle of division leaders, both teams are hotter than a bizarre combination of Zoolander and DeShaun Watson right now.  The Steelers have gone 5-1 the last three weeks to reclaim the AFC North.  Even better, Ben Roethlisberger and Le’Veon Bell are getting back to their old selves.  The Jaguars are using a ridiculous defense to go on the rampage.  A win for Pittsburgh and the AFC looks the same as it ever was, with the Steelers way out in front of the North and the South a clumsy muddle.  A win for Pittsburgh, and suddenly Jacksonville is legitimately scary.

Seattle Seahawks vs. Los Angeles Rams:  Seattle vs. Arizona goes the common wisdom.  The Cardinals will right the ship and it will go down to the last week in the season.  The Los Angeles Rams, however, are in second place, and sit between the two NFC West bird squadrons.  The Seahawks have been much better (1474 fantasy points to 1216) and have the much better offense (2nd in the league vs. 19th).  And if Marcus Mariota doesn’t play… well, let’s just say there’s a reason we all subscribe to common wisdom.  But that’s why they play the games.  A win for Seattle combined with an Arizona loss and the Seahawks have officially ran away and hid.  But a Rams win?  We’re one game apart with an LA tiebreaker.  I don’t think it happens.  But stranger things certainly have.

Good luck this week everyone!

2016 Real Deal (Football) Report – Week 4 Recap

I am a terrible person.  I have no excuse.  I failed you last week.  No recap!  And it was a double.  A double.  And I gave you no recap!

I deserve to have Chip Kelly as my coach!  I deserve to have Aaron Rodgers as a father looking down on me for every incompletion with that smirk of his!  I deserve to be sat on by Chris Christie dressed as a clown!

To none do I owe my heartfelt apologies than Ric Nowinsky and his New England Patriots, who threw down a beautiful 2-0 week 3 to move to 5-1.  You should have been my first team rising and I failed you.  I’m so sorry.

This week, it’s Saturday and it’s quick and dirty.  But ya know what, at least it’s something.

Finish Reading: 2016 Real Deal (Football) Report – Week 4 Recap

With no further ado!

Game of the week: Atlanta Falcons 281, Carolina Panthers 269

Was there ever any doubt?  This was one hell of a game!  Carolina had SIX players score more than 20 points in this one – the ageless Eddie Royal, the even more ageless Steve Smith Sr, the still aging Greg Olsen, Mark Ingram, Luke Kuechly (of course), and Kurt Coleman.  They scored 147 on offense, 116 on defense, and put in the #2 score of the week.  And lost by 12.  How?  Well, there’s the obvious answer – Julio Jones scored 73 points on THREE-HUNDRED YARDS receiving.  They literally forgot to cover that fool.  But that’s not the full answer.  The rest of Atlanta’s offense scored only 45 points, leaving the offensive output at 117 – 30 left than Carolina’s.  WITH JULIO.  So what gives?  Defense? Clinton McDonald got 29, Zach Brown got 34, and the kicker/punter combination of Hauschka and Ryan grabbed 24.  On the Carolina side?  5 special teams points combined.  Julio Jones is a boss.  But special teams was this game.  Carolina falls to a still invulnerable 6-1, while Atlanta bounces back from a brutal week 3 to stay in the chase at 5-2.

Teams Rising:

Pittsburgh Steelers:  When you are used to winning the division, it’s weird to start 2-4.  Well, the Steelers put a stop to that nonsense in week #5 with the third highest point total at 252 in a shellacking of Kansas City.  Huge offensive numbers, Le’Veon Bell back in the lineup, Ben Roethlisberger throwing for numbers again, and the defense is clicking for 120 point weeks.  Cleveland and Cincinnati jumped out to big leads in the North and just keep winning – but this week gave notice that the Steelers will not simply go quietly into the night.

Seattle Seahawks: This is still PURE illusion.  PURE illusion.  The Hawks have scored a TOTAL of 1151 points.  This would be good for 4th place in every other NFC division.  However, due to some nice luck and a stunningly easy schedule, Seattle is 6-1 and firmly in control of the NFC West.  This past week’s 151-117 win over the Jets said more about a struggling New York team than it did for the Seahawks.  But when you are 6-1, you have to get a mention!  Also, Zeke Elliott continues to look good and justify the #1 overall pick the Hawks spent on him.

New England Patriots: I owe this one to the Patriots.  Not for this week, which was a tough drop to the still undefeated Buffalo Bills, but for last week, a 2-0 performance with 211 points and wins over the Jets and Texans.  The Patriots remain in the thick of of the playoff race at 5-2, and unsung and unexpected heroes like Cameron Brate, Jamison Crowder, and even Frank Gore continue to keep the Patriots in the AFC Wild Card hunt.  I don’t expect this to be the last time New England is here.

Honorable Mention: Buffalo Bills, New York Giants, Tennessee Titans, Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions, Philadelphia Eagles, Arizona Cardinals

 

Teams Falling:

Dallas Cowboys: Welp, the wheels have officially fallen off in Big D.  A 1-6 start has resulted in a full-scale tear-down and rebuild for the Cowboys.  In are picks and young players who can help for the future.  Out are Aaron Rodgers, Thomas Davis, and Jeremy Maclin.  It’s going to be a long, long year in Dallas who has gone from divisional competitor to total tear down – but hopefully the infusion of youth and talent will lead to good things for a long time to come.

Houston Texans: It’s been a rough few weeks for the Texans, who hung steady early on before a disappointing pair of weeks has knocked them well back in divisional competition.  The latest heartbreak was a 4 point set back to the Tennessee Titans.  Instead of moving into the division lead, the Texans now find themselves two back, albeit with a winnable game against the Texans upcoming.  What makes it all the more painful is the Texans got only a half point combined from Chris Hogan and Vance McDonald – a decent game by either one and they are in first place.

Competition: The state of the league’s competitive balance is down, as are great games.  On the one hand, teams like Buffalo, Carolina, and New York are absolutely dominant.  On the other, there are five teams with 1-6 or 0-7 records, and most of them (Denver, Green Bay, Washington and Miami) have not even come close to winning a game.  While the league has had dominant teams over the past few years, it has lacked the “gimme games” we are seeing this year.  Here’s hoping that we can see some significant improvement in the drama level as the season moves forward.

Dishonorable Mention: Everybody mentioned above, NY Jets, LA Rams, Jacksonville Jaguars, LA Rams.

 

Games of the Week, Week 5: 

Cleveland Browns vs. New England Patriots: A battle of two 5-2 teams in contention for AFC playoff spots, this game is suddenly very, very relevant.  It doesn’t contain the same drama as the real life struggle of Tom Brady’s return, but it does feature a series of some of the most underrated and overperforming players in the league (Mike Wallace, Marvin Jones, Cameron Brate, Michael Crabtree, Frank Gore) – and come on, when else are you going to see a matchup between two playoff favorites featuring a QB battle between Geno Smith and Brock Osweiler?

Detroit Lions vs. Philadelphia Eagles: Philly has bounced back nicely from a brief slump to maintain strong contention for an NFC wildcard spot with a pair of recent wins.  The Lions continue to coast nicely through the NFC North.  In fact, there’s a very good chance these two squads could end up playing in a first round Wild Card game.  To my mind, this one is going to come down to the Defenses, and whether Detroit’s franchise players can make Carson Wentz look like more of a rookie.  Advantage goes to Detroit in this one, as Philadelphia has genuinely struggled to score points despite the gaudy record.

Kansas City Chiefs vs. Jacksonville Jaguars: It’s another matchup of potential playoff teams as KC takes on Jacksonville.  Both teams are missing key bye-week pieces (Travis Kelce for the Jags, Alex Smith and Derrick Johnson for the Chiefs), but this one should also come down to which defense can play best.  Both teams had disappointing week 4’s and are looking for major bouncebacks.

New Orleans Saints vs. Seattle Seahawks: This could be a “for real” game for the Seahawks, who have cruised through one of the league’s easiest schedules to 6-1.  After a brutal start to the season, the Saints have started to show some life in recent weeks, and could be Seattle’s most potent challenger to date.  A lot rides on this for both teams – if Seattle can win this, they could show that they are truly for real.  In the more likely case, New Orleans gets the “W” and positions itself to try and make a run at Atlanta and Carolina – who may already be too far ahead and too good to catch.

Real Deal (Football) Report – Week 4 Recap

At this point, it almost feels anticlimactic to play a single week.  After getting used to the first few weeks of the year, it seems like our record should change by more than one measly game!  But it is singles from here on out, so get used to watching the playoff chase unfold in what seems like agonizingly slow motion.

For some teams (St. Louis, Philly, and Buff leap to mind), that’s a good thing.  For other squads (New Orleans, Indy, and the Giants), it seems like a blatant abuse of justice to only get a single win out of a spectacular performance.  But there it is.

On to the recap!

Finish Reading: Real Deal (Football) Report – Week 4 Recap

Game of the Week: New Orleans Saints 240, Dallas Cowboys 234. 

How awesome is it that the Game of the Week was really the game of the week?  That’s something we’ve seen repeatedly this year – the Prime Time big deal games have lived up to their top billing – and this one was no exception, coming down to a trio of defensive players on Monday night to decide supremacy in the NFC.  Or, you could say that it came down to the Punter.  Dallas’ offense has been producing at a historic rate so far, with weeks of 95, 145, 139, and 149.  That’s disgustingly silly.  This week’s defensive effort was a respectable 75.  The Saints played a much more balanced game, producing 116 points on offense and 104 on defense.  Still, not counting special teams, the Cowboys had the Saints beaten 224-220.  Even after including the placekickers, Dallas still led 234-231.  So what happened?  The Cowboys got a big fat goose egg from Tim Masthay, while the Saints picked up nine points from Mike Scifres.

Yes.  That’s what I said.  The Cowboys were knocked from the ranks of the unbeaten by their rivals for best team in the NFC by a PUNTER.

Stock Rising:

New York Giants: Relatively quiet since an opening night showdown with Detroit, the Giants must have been feeling a little bit left out.  No longer, as a 261 point explosion gave them high score honors for the week and produced a 110 point divisional win.  Long-term, this was also a critical week for the Giants, because it demonstrated that their offense really could keep pace with the big boys.  If Eli Manning can transform from the weak link holding the Giants back to a franchise QB who can throw for 300 yards and four touchdowns regularly, the NFC East may not yet be out of reach.

New York Jets: I confess that in absolutely no scenario that my crazy brain concocted when previewing this season did I ever once have the Jets beating Detroit.  But not only did they beat the Lions, they scored an extremely respectable 175 points, and did it with only 22 points from the offense.  The Jets produced the single best defensive performance of the season to date, and possibly all time, with a 143 point defensive statement.  8/11 defenders scored in double digits, while racking up 64 tackles.  Even more encouraging, all four of the Jets franchise players finished with at least 14 points.  Gang Green needs to do something about that offense in a hurry, but this week served notice that the Jets are nobody’s pushover.

New Orleans Saints: Remember that time a few weeks ago when the Saints lost by 40 to Pittsburgh and avoided going 0-2 by the same amount of contact required to call defensive holding (In case you were wondering, barely anything).  Yeah, those days are gone.  The Saints are where we all expected them to be – chilling out atop their conference, already planning for the playoffs, and only looking at the upstart (and possibly soon to be QB-less) Falcons with mild consternation.  As expected, it’s been a balanced and consistent effort for the Saints who have scored between 180-240 each week, rank 6th in offense and 5th in defense, and just have the atmosphere of a team that is waiting for the playoffs to really try hard.

Honorable Mention: Indianapolis Colts, Green Bay Packers, San Francisco 49ers

Stock Falling:

Bye Week Performances: Denver 112 over St. Louis 85 and Cincinnati 124 over Seattle 99.  I mean, I know it’s bye weeks.  I know big, important, irreplaceable franchise guys aren’t playing.  But really?  197 and 223 TOTAL points?  Three teams outscored these games on their own!  A reminder to everyone – bye weeks are PAINFUL.  The week’s third and final bye game was not quite so low scoring, but it had its own storyline as the 4-3 Browns fell victim to Arizona’s first win to fall another game behind the Steelers, who seem hell-bent on running away with the division and hiding.

Philadelphia Eagles: More than a few contenders had difficult weeks this week, but we’ll highlight Philly for the simple reason that they have survived so well to this point, toughing out injuries and poor performances.  It caught up with them this week in a 124 point stinker, where LeSean McCoy managed only 2 points (and may, in fact, either be hiding in some guy’s basement).  The Eagles also got only a single point from DeSean Jackson, put up only 50 total on the offensive end and were barely competitive in a 58 point route by the 49ers.  With Dallas continuing to play well and the New York Giants serving notice that they are back, the Eagles need to find answers soon.

Buffalo Bills: There are plenty of deserving teams for this third slot.  The Lions can lay a strong claim after losing to the Jets.  The Browns dropped a game to Arizona.  The Seahawks scored under 100 points on the bye and fell to 4-4.  The Rams didn’t even manage that.  But Buffalo wins the honors here as they fell from the ranks of the unbeaten with a tentative 166-132 loss to Houston.  Don’t get me wrong – the Bills are going to be fine.  Nick Foles won’t be held to 3 points very often, AJ Green will be back in the fold next week, and the defense will continue to play well.  But it does mean that at the halfway point, we have no unbeaten teams.  It’s going to be a fun second half of the season!

Week 5 Games of the Week:

Atlanta Falcons vs. New York Giants.  In the “Battle of the Good Teams with Unreliable New York Quarterbacks” division, I present to you the Falcons and the Giants.  Both teams are chasing outstanding teams within their own division.  Both teams are coming off nice wins.  And both teams are gunning for what might be limited NFC wildcard spots. Both teams will be at full strength, too, with minimal bye-week interference to mess up a top flight game.  NFC Games of the Week have not disappointed – and I don’t think this one will either.

Buffalo Bills vs. Detroit Lions. While no longer undefeated, the Bills are still an outstanding team, and sitting pretty at 7-1 in the AFC.  Detroit, on the other hand, has scuffled to a 4-4 start, struggling through three weeks of surprising mediocrity.  Another loss to a tough Buffalo squad here could potentially leave the Lions 2 games back in both the Division and the Wild Card.  I still think they figure it out, particularly if Megatron can stay healthy – but they might be well advised to start this week.

Dallas Cowboys vs. Houston Texans. The battle of “Texas” features two teams that couldn’t be more opposite.  Dallas has been anything but quiet, rampaging to a 7-1 record and a 2 game lead in the NFC East behind an Offense that Achilles would envy.  The Texans have rather quietly ridden a series of solid yet unspectacular performances to a 4-3 record and a tie for the AFC North lead, and the swag points that come from knocking a 7-0 team from the ranks of the unbeaten.  On paper, this should be another Dallas cakewalk, but Houston has gotten up for big games and needs this game more than Dallas does.  Houston does, however, face a substantial disadvantage in that their QB, Derek Carr, is on bye this week.

Good luck this week everyone!