*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.
Recent sports history has taught us to ignore cultures of failure as an indicator of things to come. The Golden State Warriors were a longtime NBA laughingstock before they suddenly weren’t. From the 1994-95 season to 2011-12, they finished 16 of 18 seasons under .500. Eight of those included seasons of 50+ losses. The Royals, Cubs, and Astros – all doomed franchises – have combined to win the last three World Series. No one could see that coming when they were combining for 298 losses in 2012. This brings us to the Philadelphia Eagles and Los Angeles Rams. Philadelphia has never won a Super Bowl and seemed to be staring at a battle for third in the NFC East two months ago. The Rams haven’t reached the playoffs since Lost had its season premiere. Once again, that apparently no longer matters in 2017. It’s time to believe. You don’t have to look further than their demolitions of the Giants and Broncos on Sunday afternoon. On the flip side, New York has suffered a systematic collapse and Denver has swept the carpet out from under their stellar defense by botching the QB position. My selections last week sadly fell more in line with New York’s philosophy of total surrender. Let’s hope this week’s picks align with Philadelphia. Either way, everyone should appreciate the NFL’s new blood forging a path toward the postseason.
Bold Prediction: Is it still a bold prediction to just keep saying the 49ers will win until it happens?
Kownack Record: 83-55
Madden Record: 78-60
Week 10 Picks
Big Game Spotlight
- Kownack: Saints 30, Bills 20 / Madden: Saints 31, Bills 35
My Take – New Orleans has all the momentum heading into Buffalo. The Saints have rattled off six straight wins after starting the season 0-2. What’s even more impressive is that five of six have been by more than one possession. Their closest game during this stretch was an eight-pointer over Chicago, so it’s not like the outcomes have been coin tosses. Buffalo is undefeated at home and has several impressive wins on its resume, but the entire team looked downright awful Thursday night. The quality of NFL games on four days rest is another conversation entirely, but this doesn’t have the makings of a “get right” game.
Madden’s Take – The Bills won a wild won in the closing moments of the game thanks to a LeSean McCoy touchdown run. Both teams started out fast, trading touchdowns on the way to a 21-21 halftime score. Although Tyrod Taylor threw for an uncharacteristic 353 yards (his only 300-yard game this season), he also committed two interceptions. Shady picked up the slack with 83 yards and three touchdowns. The Bills defense only sacked Brees once and failed to force a turnover. If that lack of defensive production plays out on Sunday, Buffalo will be hard-pressed to match the final result.
- Kownack: Vikings 17, Redskins 20 / Madden: Vikings 20, Redskins 24
Kownack: Kirk Cousins pulled out an electric finish on Sunday and didn’t even scream at anyone to convince them they liked it. The win could go down as a pivotal turning point in Washington’s season, and week 10 provides another huge hurdle for the 4-4 team. Although Minnesota has the benefit of coming off a bye week, this still feels like the Redskins’ game. Minnesota and Seattle both have top five defenses, and the Vikings rank slightly behind the Seahawks on offense. The Redskins just beat Seattle in one of the toughest atmospheres in the NFL. It stands to reason they can follow the blueprint back in D.C. for a second straight victory.
Madden’s Take – Minnesota was up 20-3 at one point before Washington stormed back with 21 fourth quarter points. Kirk Cousins was responsible for all three of the scores, completing touchdown passes to Chris Thompson, Vernon Davis, and Josh Doctson. Jerick McKinnon and Latavius Murray combined for almost the entirety of Minnesota’s offense. Case Keenum’s magic ran out just as Teddy Bridgewater appears primed for a return from his horrific injury. He managed only 98 yards on 20 attempts.
- Kownack: Cowboys 24, Falcons 17 / Madden: Cowboys 14, Falcons 35
My Take – This showdown will place Atlanta in the “pretenders” category for good this season. Many games in the league come down to a few plays going one way or the other, but it has to be disconcerting that the Falcons are a Jordan Howard drop and an overturned Golden Tate touchdown away from sitting at 2-6. The Cowboys have the strength to send Atlanta to 4-5 with or without Ezekiel Elliott. Their offensive line has returned to a level that should open holes for whoever lines up behind it. Atlanta has to hope this prediction seems foolish come Monday morning. Five of their final seven games are against teams with winning records.
Madden’s Take – Madden doesn’t seem to be on the up and up regarding the current state of the 2016 NFC Champions. The simulation has them blowing the doors off the Cowboys by scoring more points in the first quarter (21) than Dallas put up the whole game. It’s certainly possible given Atlanta’s offensive explosiveness at home, but this game definitely shouldn’t be the biggest blowout of the week. Dak Prescott struggled for 169 yards, one touchdown, and one interception compared to Matt Ryan’s 273 yards and three touchdowns. Ezekiel Elliot was included in the simulation and made little difference. He ran for 69 yards and a short score.
- Kownack: Patriots 35, Broncos 17 / Madden: Patriots 41, Broncos 23
My Take – There aren’t exactly a slew of games to get your popcorn ready for, so Patriots-Broncos on Sunday night will have to do. The Denver team that propelled itself to 3-1 on October 1st now languishes at 3-5. If faced with choosing Siemian, Osweiler, or Lynch as the solution at quarterback, most would rush to circle “D) None of the above.” The front office has done a massive disservice to the defense the last season and a half by failing to provide them with a halfway capable quarterback on the other side of the ball. New England should roll.
Madden’s Take – This one went exactly how many expect. Tom Brady did what Tom Brady does and threw four touchdowns without an interception on the night. Brock Osweiler threw the ball 40 times, completed exactly half of those, and gifted two interceptions to Malcolm Butler. Dion Lewis paced New England on the ground by rushing for 53 yards. Rob Gronkowski hauled in two touchdowns. James White and Danny Amendola split Brady’s other two. Denver’s defense played better than last week during the first half before giving way to a 24-point second half.
- Kownack: Dolphins 13, Panthers 23 / Madden: Dolphins 23, Panthers 14
My Take – Carolina hasn’t solved all of its offensive woes. The team lost ugly to Chicago and won ugly against Tampa Bay and Atlanta in the last three weeks. Luckily, their next opponent sets up perfectly for another ugly win. Miami’s offense has fallen on its face more often than not this season. Although Damien Williams and Kenyan Drake filled Ajayi’s void admirably, they won’t find the same opportunity against the Panthers. Cam Newton will likely get another win while falling under 250 passing yards for the fifth consecutive game.
Madden’s Take – Trading Kelvin Benjamin continued to have an effect on Cam Newton’s efficiency. Although he managed 288 passing yards, he threw with three interceptions and only one touchdown. Kiko Alonso took one of his two picks back for six in the fourth quarter, which ultimately broke Carolina’s spirit. Jay Cutler did just enough for Miami to win, and just little enough to maintain the perception that he probably should have stayed in the booth. He totaled 158 passing yards and one touchdown to Kenny Stills. The MNF game marks Madden’s 9th pick the differs from mine. Madden could surge ahead or fall hopelessly behind depending on what goes down.
Pick a Lock
* Madden’s selection based on biggest margin of victory. Result is worth two wins/losses.
Kownack: Rams (vs. HOU) – Last week’s lock pick occurred before Deshaun Watson tore his ACL. It resulted in a double loss against me and, more importantly, a lost season for one of the game’s future stars. His unfortunate absence also renders his team a victim of this week’s lock game. Tom Savage still appears hapless. The Rams are on fire.
Madden: Steelers (@ IND) – Ben Roethlisberger led the way with four touchdowns in a 38-12 laugher. Pittsburgh’s defense continued to shut down opposing offenses. They gave Jacoby Brissett little room to breathe and sacked him five times.
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