*Man vs. Machine is a weekly installment during the NFL season that pits a flawed human brain against the coding and algorithms of Madden 18.

Injuries are riddling the NFL and parity is baffling yours truly on a weekly basis. You’d think picks would become easier with more information six weeks in. Instead, it’s like setting up a haphazard “who is actually good” suspect board with red string failing to connect anywhere. Everything fell into place nicely at first. Madden and I combined to predict Thursday Night Football to a tee. Adrian Peterson also made good on the 100-yard prediction. Everything else unraveled. The Falcons blew a 17-point lead to the hapless Dolphins. The Steelers continued to stymie Kansas City. The Broncos crumbled under the pressure of being my lock pick. The Patriots won, but they needed a ridiculous call to do so. It’s been a strange start to the season. Here’s hoping week 7 goes smoother.

Bold Prediction: Brett Hundley throws for three touchdowns in his first career start and still loses by 21 points.

Kownack Record: 52-42

Madden Record: 50-44

Week 7 Picks


Big Game Spotlight

  • Kownack: Chiefs 24, Raiders 17 / Madden: Chiefs 20, Raiders 34

My Take – Just because Kansas City looked like the Chiefs of old for one game, it doesn’t mean they revert for good. It also helps that the Raiders aren’t exactly lighting the world on fire. This game initially looked like an intense battle for first place in the AFC West. Now, the Chiefs could provide a massive blow to Oakland’s postseason aspirations and certainly knock them out of contention for the division. A loss would send Oakland to 2-5. That’s exactly what will happen. The Raiders offense has hit a wall. Marshawn Lynch isn’t Beast Mode. He’s a 31-year-old who spent the previous season out of football. Amari Cooper has developed the wide receiver equivalent of the yips. These things won’t improve against Kansas City’s opportunistic defense. The Chiefs have the better team and the better coach heading into a short week.

Madden’s Take – This makes as much sense as anything else that has happened in the NFL this year. Home divisional games have a way of throwing things out of whack. Derek Carr used another week of recovery from his back injury to turn Oakland’s offense around. He threw for 361 yards, going 22 for 34 on the day. Jalen Richard outshined Marshawn Lynch by scoring both of the team’s rushing touchdowns. Alex Smith continued to cool down from his fabulous start to the season by throwing his first interception on the year. Kareem Hunt was also held to 64 rushing yards and 20 through the air. Kansas City didn’t score in the second half after holding a 20-10 lead at halftime.

  • Kownack: Ravens 10, Vikings 6 / Madden: Ravens 23, Vikings 29

Madden NFL 18_20171018142743

My Take – Last Sunday changed everything for the NFC North. If Aaron Rodgers had remained upright, you have to figure the Packers would have opened up a two-game cushion on both Detroit and Minnesota. That didn’t happen, and the division is suddenly up for grabs. Both organizations need a win here. Minnesota has to prove they won’t shoot themselves in the foot with the playoffs in reach. Baltimore, coming off a loss to Chicago, can’t keep dropping games they are supposed to win. Joe Flacco has done absolutely nothing of late to inspire confidence, but I’ll take him over Keenum in a defensive struggle.

Madden’s Take – The Ravens stormed back with 16 4th quarter points to force overtime before running out of gas. Baltimore lost to an NFC North opponent for the second straight week. Case Keenum continued to make Minnesota’s quarterback situation murky by scoring on a five-yard scamper with three minutes remaining in the overtime period. Other than that, Adam Thielen remained a PPR machine by hauling in eight receptions for 75 yards. Joe Flacco only threw for 159 yards and one touchdown. There’s mounting evidence to bench him in both reality and the virtual world.

  • Kownack: Broncos 21, Chargers 24 / Madden: Broncos 38, Chargers 23

My Take – Much like Cardinals at Rams and Bengals at Steelers, this is a crossroads, statement game for both teams. The Chargers have won two straight, and the Broncos are coming off a shocking loss to the Giants. If Denver doesn’t find a way to win this game, the Chiefs could run away with a division that was believed to be the best in football. Trevor Siemian’s improvements have since proven to be an early season mirage. It doesn’t help that players like C.J. Anderson only show up every other week. The Chargers are trending in the right direction after an 0-4 start. Their defense, although not the stonewall the Denver enjoys, is stingy. Melvin Gordon has become an unstoppable force in recent weeks and could keep that going against a rushing defense that suddenly looked penetrable against Orleans Darkwa. Los Angeles was a last-second field goal away from overtime in their week one matchup. They’ll convert this time.

Madden’s Take – The scoring outburst is overly optimistic, but the point is that Madden has Denver winning an easy one. C.J. Anderson continued his aforementioned habit of showing up on alternate weeks. He allowed Denver to limit Trevor Siemian’s participation to 18 attempts by rushing for 141 yards and two touchdowns. Melvin Gordon stayed true to form as well. He ran for 93 yards and two scores. Philip Rivers struggled with zero touchdowns and two interceptions despite 55 attempts for 354 yards. Aqib Talib and Darian Stewart were the turnover recipients.

  • Kownack: Falcons 31, Patriots 28 / Madden: Falcons 28, Patriots 35

My Take – The lead up to this game will be glorious for New England and traumatic for Atlanta. Fans and players will once again be forced to watch “28-3” Super Bowl recaps. This season is different for both teams, however. The Patriots still don’t look right. The Falcons could just as easily be 1-4 instead of 3-2. They aren’t clicking, and whispers of a Super Bowl hangover are gaining a few decibels. However, Atlanta matches up well with New England. They can steal a game in Foxboro for a few reasons. Their defense is undeniably better than New England’s and their offense has the weapons to keep up with whatever Brady throws at them. There’s also the pump up factor. Atlanta has only come out of the gates firing on one occasion this year – their home opener. A year’s worth of ridicule and mockery should provide more than enough adrenaline. This revenge game might not have any effect in the long term. Perhaps Atlanta will go back to playing uninspired football after conquering their foe, but you better believe they’ll give this one everything.

Madden’s Take – There was no epic comeback to see here. The teams traded touchdowns all game. Neither led by more than 7. The Patriots simply ended up having the ball last. Tom Brady could not have played better. He completed 83% of his passes for 364 yards and four touchdowns. He spread the ball around for a score each to Hogan, Cooks, Gronkowski, and White. Atlanta resorted to getting things done on the ground. Devonta Freeman ran for 127 and found the endzone three times. Matt Ryan continued to stray from the MVP performance he put together in 2016. He threw for 232 yards, one touchdown, and one interception.

  • Kownack: Redskins 20, Eagles 30 / Madden: Redskins 6, Eagles 41

Madden NFL 18_20171018153921

My Take – A friend of mine, a lifetime Redskins fan, believes Washington has a Super Bowl caliber team this year. He’s fully committed to a victorious Monday night over Philadelphia. He explained that the Eagles always create excitement before inevitably crushing fan’s dreams and spiraling back down to Earth. Even after two and a half decades of following Washington, he’s too blinded by fandom to realize he’s describing his own team – if they even make it to the “excitement” stage. Washington barely squeaked by a 49ers squad that benched their quarterback in the middle of the game. Philadelphia looked far more impressive in their win over Carolina, and they will make it a season sweep with a victory in Philly. Hop aboard the Wentz hype train.

Madden’s Take – Speaking of the Wentz train, Madden may as well be the conductor. Wentz threw for five touchdowns in the Monday night showdown. Although he threw two picks, those were only consolation prizes for a Washington team that got spanked on national TV. Alshon Jeffery re-introduced himself to the football world with three touchdown catches, and LeGarrette Blount rumbled through the Redskins’ defense for 131 yards. As far as video games are concerned, the Eagles are on their way to a stranglehold on the NFC East.

Pick a Lock

* Madden’s selection based on biggest margin of victory. Result is worth two wins/losses.

Kownack: Titans (@ CLE) – In a shocking turn of events, the Browns have no idea what to do about their quarterback situation. Tennessee’s success is directly tied to Marcus Mariota’s hamstring. It held up okay on Monday night.

Madden: Seahawks (@ NYG) – Seattle took care of business where Denver couldn’t. The final score was 36-0. Eli Manning struggled to get anything going, and Orleans Darkwa could not repeat his performance. He averaged 3.3 YPC for 64 yards.


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