*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 continue to strike the NFL’s premier position. Two more quarterbacks went down with injury in week seven. Carson Palmer suffered a broken arm across the pond. Jay Cutler learned the harsh downside of leaving the booth by cracking multiple ribs. While the Cardinals are essentially lost at sea without Palmer and David Johnson, Miami potentially improves by bringing Matt Moore onto the field. In other news across the NFL, the Falcons and Broncos continue their slide, Jacksonville’s defense is ruthless, and the Bears have the same number of wins as the Giants and Bucs combined.
Bold Prediction: Ezekiel Elliot’s suspension flip-flops seventeen more times before Halloween.
Kownack Record: 63-47
Madden Record: 61-49
Week 8 Picks
Big Game Spotlight
- Kownack: Panthers 24, Buccaneers 21 / Madden: Panthers 14, Buccaneers 9
My Take – Both teams have struggled of late. Carolina has lost two straight, and Cam Newton has looked out of sorts. Tampa Bay has lost three straight after being a trendy pick to surprise in 2017. Both organizations also dropped a game to the Buffalo Bills. There’s not much dividing them, but Carolina’s defense gives them the edge. It still depends on which Newton shows up, but the Panthers could knock Tampa Bay out of the NFC South equation.
Madden’s Take – The Carolina Panthers continued to struggle on offense, but Tampa Bay struggled just a little bit more. Cam Newton threw for only 143 yards and one touchdown. Although Jonathan Stewart led the team in carries and in yards with 116, rookie Christian McCaffrey scored Carolina’s other touchdown. The Panthers also recorded five total sacks. Tampa Bay should be pleased that Patrick Murray went 3 for 3. They should not be pleased that those field goals were their only points in the game.
- Kownack: Texans 15, Seahawks 23 / Madden: Texans 3, Seahawks 28
My Take – The result might be different if the Texans still had J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus. Seattle’s offense, always a threat to perform a disappearing act, benefits from not having to face either player. DeShaun Watson has been a magnificent story so far this year, but the bye week still won’t be enough to prepare for the Legion of Boom. Although Houston put up point against Kansas City’s defense several weeks ago, at least two fourth quarter scores were meaningless. The Texans should be slowed in a similar way, which will allow Seattle to keep pace with the Rams.
Madden’s Take – The Texans got thumped in Seattle. Lamar Miller fumbled twice, and Deshaun Watson failed to throw for more than 150 yards. Thomas Rawls and Eddie Lacy combined for 175 yards on 44 carries while Russell Wilson took care of the scoring with four touchdowns. Tyler Lockett hauled in two. Baldwin and Willson were recipients as well. That kind of ground output from Seattle is unfathomable at this point, as is a complete blowout. Hopefully real life Watson keeps the game close.
- Kownack: Cowboys 28, Redskins 17 / Madden: Cowboys 20, Redskins 18
My Take – This matchup should go a long way in determining the NFC East landscape with both teams chasing the Eagles at 3-3. There’s still plenty of season to go, but the winner of this matchup becomes the most immediate threat to Philadelphia’s first division title since 2013. Washington can’t afford to lose another divisional game thanks to their 0-2 record against the Eagles. Unfortunately, Ezekiel Elliot looks like he should be available. Dallas will be more than capable of overwhelming Washington’s defense by having their full arsenal of weapons in both the passing and rushing game.
Madden’s Take – The Cowboys stole an instant classic with no time left on the clock. The Redskins scored 15 4th quarter points and went up 18-17 on a two-yard Rob Kelley run. 48 seconds remained. Dak Prescott learned a thing or two from watching his lead slip away against Green Bay several weeks prior. He drove his team down to Washington’s side of the field. Newly signed kicker, Mike Nugent, proved every bit as clutch as Dan Bailey – at least for one week – with a 52-yard game winner.
- Kownack: Steelers 31, Lions 24 / Madden: Steelers 24, Lions 31
My Take – Pittsburgh appears to have returned to the playoff contender many labeled them as before the season began. They’ll lay a few eggs against lesser opponents, but they should recognize Detroit as a team worthy of their A game. The Lions have to hope Matthew Stafford gets over his injuries after a week off. At one point only an overturned play away from 4-0, the Lions have lost two straight by falling into insurmountable holes. The Steelers have the offensive weapons to follow that script for a third straight game. With that said, Big Ben needs to get all of his players involved before discontented rumblings overwhelm team accomplishments.
Madden’s Take – Matthew Stafford rebounded from his turnover-itis in the New Orleans game to outplay Ben Roethlisberger. He still threw an interception to Pittsburgh’s Mike Mitchell, but he also connected on touchdowns to Marvin Jones and the struggling Eric Ebron. The real anomaly from the simulation is that Ameer Abdullah exploded for 207 yards. That’s not just a knock on Abdullah. The Lions haven’t enjoyed a 100-yard rusher since 2013. It would be shocking if Pittsburgh surrendered twice that amount. Regardless, this is just the second overall game Madden disagrees with for week eight.
- Kownack: Broncos 7, Chiefs 27 / Madden: Broncos 17, Chiefs 24
My Take – The Chiefs have lost two straight after starting the season undefeated. The good news is that their AFC West opponent is in far worse shape. Denver has averaged 10.5 points per game over the last month and have dropped three of four. Their wide receivers are hurting, Trevor Siemian does not possess the skill to win games, and they don’t feed C.J. Anderson nearly enough. Helpful hint to the Broncos: In three victories, Anderson has recorded an average of 22 carries. He has averaged 9 in three defeats. That’s a huge discrepancy that even the dullest of coaches should pinpoint. Only Monday will tell, but Kansas City is likely to outscore Denver at home.
Madden’s Take – Denver raced out to a 17-3 halftime lead before the team collapsed in the second half. Kansas City came roaring back on two Kareem Hunt touchdowns in the 3rd quarter. Alex smith threw a go-ahead touchdown pass with 3:44 remaining in the game. The Broncos’ offense could not respond. Although Siemian managed to get points on the board, he also committed three turnovers (two interceptions and one fumble). CJ Anderson did not receive 20+ carries. Alex Smith stretched his interception-free streak to half a season.
Pick a Lock
* Madden’s selection based on biggest margin of victory. Result is worth two wins/losses.
Kownack: Eagles (vs. SF) – The 49ers had lost five games in a row by 3 or less points, giving them the right to claim they were better than their record. Then, San Francisco lost to Dallas by 30 in week seven. The Eagles are a more complete team than the Cowboys. Philadelphia should be in for a cake walk.
Madden: Saints (vs. CHI) – The Bears’ no-offense strategy finally came back to bite them. Drew Brees put up 238 yards and four touchdowns on a defensive unit that had been playing quite well to this point. Mitchell Trubisky completed less than 50% of his passes for 199 yards. Madden clearly doesn’t fear another surprise from Chicago here. 37-10 Saints.
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