A Season with the Heat Boys: Week 7
So the Heat Boys are rollingggggggg!!! The Titans handled their business (I’m sorry, but NO I was not scared when the Browns were down 9 after missing an extra point with two minutes left, and I STILL wasn’t scared when they recovered their onside kick, and I STILL wasn’t scared when they cut the lead to 2 with under 30 seconds to play, and I was FULLY (erect/) vindicated when the Titans won the game (if you don’t believe any of that, look at the how ESPN’s Win Probability reacted to any of those occurrences on the left side of this page — it didn’t), and the Cardinals blew out the lowly ( :[ ) Jets on Monday night. The Heat Boys are rolling!!!!!!
For Week 7, it made sense to bring the article to you a bit earlier than usual as the Thursday night game is fully in play. Let’s take a quick look at the great work done by our dear friends* (note: we are not friends) at Survivor Grid before we jump right into some matchup discussion:
NE -7.5 @ PIT
Ben Roethlisberger has had surgery to prepare his meniscus following the Steelers’ loss to the I-guess-not-as-abysmal-as-I-thought Dolphins. Landry Jones seems like a nice guy and all, but this is a devastating blow for the Steelers as they push to lockup a playoff berth and some amount of homefield advantage. The Patriots rose to the occasion against a somewhat chippy Bengals squad, finishing the contest with a 35–17 final score that honestly felt like it should have been more. The Patriots are rolling, the Steelers’ defense looks extremely suspect (Jay Ajayi ripping huge runs against you?), and the lack of Ben may render the fun aspects of the Pittsburgh offense (Le’Veon the receiver and Antonio the uncoverable) irrelevant.
There are, however, two things that give me pause. The first is Le’Veon Bell. He is among three or four backs in the league that can truly change a game single-handedly, and if he is given 30 touches and gets things going on the ground, I could see Landry finding the one or two deep play-action completions he needs to allow this game to be decided by a late field goal. The other is that the Patriots are on the road and now have reason to overlook their opponent. They are well-coached, of course, but after marking this contest on the calendar as the game that will decide homefield in the playoffs, they now have to be expecting to win, and that may have them inadvertently looking ahead to the Bills contest (they lost to the Bills earlier this year) ahead of their much-deserved bye.
The Patriots are also a Top 3 team that you’d hate to burn if you don’t have to given that they have a “win any week” quality to them no matter who they are playing. Let’s see if we can’t do better.
DEN -7.5 vs. HOU
You probably won’t see Von Miller and the Broncos’ defense more motivated to crush an opponent at any other time during the regular season. Let’s count the reasons. You have lost two straight against beatable teams (one in your division!). You are facing the quarterback that left you for more money (who you’ve promised to kill?). And, especially for the linebacking core, you have been exploited as a squad that can neither stop the run nor cover running backs in your two latest losses.
On the offensive side, you have Siemian with another whole week back from the injury that allowed Paxton Lynch to start against the Falcons, and you also have had a full ten days to add scheme and get healthy for this must-win contest. When you factor in how bad the Texans are (Brock has looked awful, bails out of plays when he feels phantom pressure, and the defense is not good to begin with), this one seems obvious. If you think Denver is somewhere around the tenth best team in the league, you probably can burn them and move on.
However, I think the Broncos are a Top 5 squad despite their recent struggles. That gives me reason enough to hope to save them (despite the fact that they have few obvious/easy opponents on their schedule as you look ahead) if I can find another option I feel comfortable with.
KC -6.5 vs. NO
Positives: The Saints have a very bad defense. Justin Houston is returning to the Chiefs’ lineup this week. Charles is getting healthier and should be close to 100%. The motivation is there for KC to be thinking about winning their division (given the Broncos’ struggles and the head-to-head win they got against the Raiders last week).
Negatives: Drew Brees. The rest of the Saints offense. The Saints were able to beat the Panthers last week. The stakes might be too high for the Chiefs. The Chiefs still host the Titans and Jaguars later in the season.
I think the negatives outweigh the positives for me on this one. Drew Brees has been prolific this year despite his age, and all the symphony that is his offense is simply humming. Even if the Saints fall behind, they have the weapons to get back into the game in a hurry. And if this turns into a shootout, I would be straight up shtting my pants all afternoon. I’d rather not do that. Let’s stay away.
ATL -6.5 vs. SD
I am not convinced that the Falcons are good. I’m sorry. They are the Saints. Their defense is just as bad as the Saints. Vic Beasley won’t keep up what we saw against the toothless Broncos. Trufant is a great player, fine, but the rest is garbo. The Falcons’ offense is very good, granted, but how long will the deep cross to the backup tight end work? How long will teams insist on covering Coleman with linebackers in man coverage? How long will that not-great offense line be opening holes? How long before Matt Ryan reverts to Matt Ryan? What happens if Julio has a tiny injury to his foot?
You know who else is like the Saints (if more injured)? The Chargers. They did the same thing as the Falcons and went and beat a depressed Broncos team last week. They are dangerous on offense and will not be out of it. If they get ahead, they might just have a shot in this one.
Maybe I’m crazy for not jumping on the Falcons’ bandwagon and calling them a Top 5 team in the league, but I just am not comfortable doing so at this time. Don’t trust the Dirty Birds.
CIN -10 vs. CLE
The Bengals have an opening, here. The injury to Ben gives them a chance to make up some games on the Steelers. The Ravens aren’t that good. The Bengals had a tough schedule to start, but now they have a lull for the next two weeks (vs. Browns, vs. Redskins) that they desperately need to convert into the W column if they want to make the playoffs. If they can get to .500 ahead of their bye week, and if the Steelers lose to the Patriots this week, they will be at most one game back (plus a tiebreaker with Pittsburgh, but they get another chance against their division rivals later on).
It won’t be hard for Marvin Lewis to motivate his team this week, and that is bad news for the Browns. Who are not good. Who are, let’s just say it, terrible. If it’s Kessler or Whitehurst, there is simply no threat of a deep ball, and that means that Crowell can be taken out of the game. And on defense, they can stop neither the pass nor the run.
I am going to get a little more worried about the Brownies when McCown comes back and has Terrelle Pryor AND Corey Coleman to throw deep to. When this team is sick of losing and wants to shock the world. But as much as they may feel that right now, they simply are too injured to implement their will. Even WITH the bounces that have gone their way in some of the games they’ve played this season (onside kicks, whatever the Ravens were doing, whatever Miami was doing), they STILL have not been able to get a win. If you think those bounces continue, that the Bengals are due for a letdown (or are just bad), and that the Browns are ready to shock the world, that’s very nice for you. But I wholeheartedly disagree. The Browns will get beaten once again this week.
As for future value of the Bengals, I don’t think they will live up to the esteem with which I held them earlier in the season. They can convince themselves that they must have this game against the Browns, that the same is true next week against the Redskins, and they may even win both and be back in the playoff hunt. But having no legitimate WR2 on the roster (even when Eifert comes back) is not going to disappear. Having a somewhat suspect secondary is not going to disappear. And besides, after they ball out for the win this week, they don’t have very many easy games going forward. And a loss to the Redskins would end their season.
I am very open to burning the Bengals in some capacity this week, though we should remember that ShowHeat3 already took them.
GB -7.5 vs. CHI
Finally for this week, we have the Packers at home on a Thursday night against the Bears. The 1–5 Bears whose only win came against the Lions a few weeks ago. The Bears who have put up 14–14–17–17–23(!)-17 points in their games so far this season. The Bears who do not have any compelling names on or signature results for their defense this year. The Bears who are starting f’ing Brian Hoyer at QB.
Are the Packers ready? Sure, something has been bugging me about Rodgers this season, but we’ve seen this before. R-E-L-A-X, he famously told us. Despite his frustrating performance on the season so far, he is one of the most talented players in the entire league. He has Jordy Nelson. Randall Cobb is fine. Ty Montgomery impressed me a few times last week. And this defense is very solid even if they didn’t look the part against the strongest running game the league has seen in the last five years. A prideful Packers defense will come out and look to pulverize a depleted Bears squad this week, and I think they will succeed. Couple that with Jordy Nelson going up against this:
That could leave the Bears with Bryce Callahan, Jacoby Glenn (called for two penalties against Jacksonville), Bausby and Cre’Von LeBlanc to defend against Aaron Rodgers. Without a pass rush — the Bears haven’t had one yet — that could be just what the struggling Packers offense needs to get well.
I am very confident that the Packers will right the ship and get back on track for a playoff berth. I am very confident that the Packers will not lose two in a row at home. I am very confident that A(A)rROgaNt Rodgers will bounce back and have a career day against the unlucky Bears this week. You can mark this as a W now — Packers beat the Bears.
Should you use them, though? The NFC North pairs with the AFC South this year, and that will allow the Packers to host both Indianapolis and Houston over the next few weeks. Those are appealing matchups as long as the Packers do, in fact, right the ship. Save them if you can, but take them before you spend a pick on New England.
It turns out there are a few teams I trust in Week 7. Given the combination of their high likelihood to win, their at-best-moderate future value, and the high opportunity cost of selecting the next-most-likely teams (Denver and New England), I am more than comfortable with selecting either of the Bengals or the Packers despite their popularity.
I’ll take my thoughts to the squad and let you know what The Piper and Dad come back with. I would guess that we are going to go with two-and-one of the Packers and Bengals one way or the other. But I will finalize ahead of tomorrow night! Best of luck, especially if you’re rolling with…
THE HEAT BOYS!!!!!!!