*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.
Things we learned from Week 10: Coaching can be the difference between creating a bust or a star. It makes sense that the game would slow down for Jared Goff in his second season at the helm, but there is something to be said for the unthinkable evolution he has undergone in the wake of Jeff Fisher’s departure. The New York Giants should consider parting ways with Eli Manning this offseason. Neither side benefits from his presence during a rebuild. The Chargers would be smart to start reading the writing on the wall with Philip Rivers as well. They need to find his successor sooner rather than later. The Bills, Jets, and Dolphins aren’t anywhere near being threats in the AFC East. The Titans-Jaguars week 17 matchup will mean something big for both teams.
Bold Proclamation: Martellus Bennett has more quit in him than Roberto Duran.
Kownack Record: 95-58
Madden Record: 85-68
Week 11 Picks
Big Game Spotlight
- Kownack: Titans 17, Steelers 19 / Madden: Titans 24, Steelers 21 (OT)
My Take – Marcus Mariota was still suiting up for Oregon the last time the Steelers and Titans met. His presence certainly changes things, but Pittsburgh has the inside track to a victory thanks to playing at home on a short week. Forget the fact that the Steelers looked horrendous against Indianapolis. They notoriously play to the level of their opponent. The Titans are a first place team. Therefore, the Steelers will inexplicably return to their full potential. Big Ben and crew are simply more experienced in slugfests with playoff implications at this point in time. If Tennessee does somehow eke out a win, both teams would hit the ten-game mark at 7-3, and the Titans would hold an all-important tiebreaker.
Madden’s Take – Ben Roethlisberger and Marcus Mariota had nearly identical games passing the ball. Roethlisberger went 18/28 for 240 yards and a touchdown. Mariota completed the same number of passes on 30 attempts for 232 yards and a touchdown. Neither defense forced a turnover, but Tennessee did hold Le’Veon Bell to 53 yards rushing. That effort came at the expense of allowing Antonio Brown to get back on track for six catches, 82 yards, and a score. Pittsburgh appeared in control before Tennessee scored 10 unanswered in the 4th quarter. The rapidly improving Titans team finished the job in overtime with a 36-yard Ryan Succop field goal.
- Kownack: Rams 27, Vikings 20 / Madden: Rams 23, Vikings 6
My Take – The Vikings have allowed the fewest points in the NFC. The Rams have scored the most points in the NFL. Minnesota’s defense has yet to allow 20 or more points at home this season. Los Angeles’ offense has yet to score less than 27 in an away game and has averaged 38.5. In other words, something’s gotta give. The Vikings quarterback situation could cause a distraction at some point regardless of how well their defense performs. Can Case Keenum continue to outperform expectations? Can Teddy Bridgewater even return to his previous level of play? Mike Zimmer will eventually waiver if Keenum commits one turnover too many. The Rams know the man they want taking snaps, and he’s good enough to beat either Vikings quarterback.
Madden’s Take – With Case Keenum under the helm, the Vikings fell to the Rams in convincing fashion. Jared Goff tapered off from last week’s performance. He only accrued 271 yards and one touchdown. The problem was that Keenum didn’t repeat his four-touchdown day either. He threw for 123 yards, no score, and one interception. Todd Gurley continued to be a stud after disappearing in 2016. He ran for 138 yards and a score. For the record, plugging Teddy Bridgewater into a simulation made no difference. He outplayed Keenum with two touchdowns to help Minnesota reach 24 points. Unfortunately, Los Angeles had another offensive explosion in that scenario and won 49-24.
- Kownack: Patriots 30, Raiders 20 / Madden: Patriots 35, Raiders 21
My Take – It was a toss up whether to include Redskins-Saints or Patriots-Raiders in the big game spotlight. The Raiders have a smaller gap in their division and made the playoffs last season, so they received the nod. To speak frankly, nothing adds up to an Oakland victory. The Raiders have rarely looked sharp in any facet of the game this season. The Patriots, meanwhile, appear primed for yet another late-season romp toward AFC supremacy. New England has won five in a row, embarrassing Atlanta and decimating Denver in the process. The neutral site in Mexico doesn’t do the Raiders any favors either.
Madden’s Take – The 14-point deficit doesn’t accurately reflect the ease with which the Patriots won this game. Marshawn Lynch punched in a last-minute touchdown in the fourth quarter to make the final look halfway respectable. Tom Brady completed 72% of his passes for 342 yards and three touchdowns. Dion Lewis and Rex Burkhead split the other two scores. Malcolm Butler intercepted Derek Carr, who was held to 194 yards passing. 113 of those went to Amari Cooper. New England’s 528 total yards of offense and 28 first downs dwarfed Oakland’s 323 yards and nine total first downs.
- Kownack: Eagles 27, Cowboys 17 / Madden: Eagles 31, Cowboys 21
My Take – The Atlanta Falcons beat up on Dallas last Sunday by dominating the Cowboys’ offensive line and making Dak Prescott’s life miserable without Ezekiel Elliott. Philadelphia has the defensive prowess to follow that exact formula to reach nine wins on the season. Elliott’s replacements should find even less room to run against the Eagles’ number one ranked rushing defense. Carson Wentz has a much easier task than his fellow 2nd year quarterback. He arguably outplayed Dak Prescott during their one head-to-head matchup in 2016 (Prescott sat out most of the second game). He will outplay him again this week. Philadelphia can essentially salt the division away by opening up a four game lead with six to play.
Madden’s Take – Madden sees the bye week slowing Carson Wentz down, but the Eagles found other ways to win. The MVP candidate has not thrown less than two touchdowns since October 1st. He broke that streak in the simulation with only one touchdown pass and 212 passing yards. Prescott outthrew him by exactly 100 yards, but tossed one pick instead of a score. The Cowboys once again exposed Prescott to an absurd amount of pressure as the Eagles sacked him seven times. Vinny Curry led the way with three.
- Kownack: Falcons 35, Seahawks 27 / Madden: Falcons 38, Seahaws 37
My Take – The Falcons are not the same team that destroyed the Seahawks in the playoffs last year. That might be okay. Seattle lost Richard Sherman, one of the more vocal Thursday Night Football detractors, to a Thursday Night Football injury. Their defense dropped off considerably following Earl Thomas’ injury last season. A similar fog should be expected now – at least for a week or two while the defense figures out life without their number one corner. Atlanta finally showed signs of dominance in their win over Dallas after going 1-4 in their previous five. They have the talent to build on that and leave chatter about Super Bowl hangovers in the rearview mirror.
Madden’s Take – If Monday night plays out anything like this, it might take the cake as the season’s best game. The Falcons jumped out to an early lead, scoring twice in sixty seconds thanks to a Mohamed Sanu touchdown catch and a Keanu Neal pick six. Seattle whittled away at a 21-6 deficit to enter halftime trailing 24-20. Russell Wilson tallied a 20-yard touchdown run and a 15-yard touchdown pass to Paul Richardson in the third quarter to strike the fear of comebacks past into Falcons fans: Seattle 34, Atlanta 24. Julio Jones got in on the action shortly after, followed by another Sanu score. Up 38-37, Atlanta pulled out the win after Blair Walsh missed a field goal in the game’s closing seconds.
Pick a Lock
* Madden’s selection based on biggest margin of victory. Result is worth two wins/losses.
Kownack: Chiefs (@ NYG) – The 49ers beat the Giants. That analysis goes deep enough.
Madden: Jaguars (@ CLE) – The Browns have done an admirable job of at least making games interesting recently, but Madden predicts for that to end this week. The Jaguars obliterated them 42-7. Bortles threw two touchdowns. Fournette and Ivory both added two more of their own.
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