What we learned about quarterbacks in Week 13: Alex Smith will not play for the Chiefs next year. He finally woke up again and connected on a handful of deep bombs, but this team is headed toward an early playoff exit – If they even make it that far. Kansas City will want to start anew with Patrick Mahomes. Geno Smith is not a better quarterback than Eli Manning. Okay, everyone other than Ben McAdoo already knew that, but that’s part of the reason the Giants needed to fire their head coach. It’s hilarious that McAdoo wanted to look at Geno Smith and Davis Webb to assess the future when he was clearly New York’s biggest problem all along. Brett Hundley is not a viable backup. Russell Wilson impossibly escaping rushers when his pocket collapses (every play) looks like a Madden glitch. Tom Brady can explode on a coach and be passionate, but if Dez Bryant does it he’s a prima donna.
Bold prediction: The Packers will either lose to the Browns or miraculously make the playoffs (assuming Rodgers can return week 15). Either one seems entirely possible.
Kownack Record: 130-72
Madden Record: 117-85
Week 14 Picks
Big Game Spotlight
- Kownack: Saints 30, Falcons 20 / Madden: Saints 28, Falcons 41
My Take – There’s something to be said for playing at home on a short week, but the Saints are simply the more complete team. Atlanta is just below average, 18th, at limiting opposing rushers. That’s enough cushion for Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara to continue their two-back stampede through NFL defenses. Even if Atlanta commits more to stopping the run, New Orleans still has a man named Drew Brees behind center. Picking against the streaking Falcons worked last week. They struggled against Minnesota’s mighty defense. The matchup for Matt Ryan on Thursday is admittedly easier, but he now has to keep up with a top three offense. The defending NFC champions will enter panic mode come Friday morning.
Madden’s Take – Playing for their playoff lives, the Falcons jumped out to a 14-0 first quarter lead. That gap did not shrink smaller than two touchdowns until very late in the fourth quarter when Mark Ingram added some meaningless points to the board. Matt Ryan threw two touchdowns, Drew Brees threw three touchdowns, and both tossed an interception. The key to Atlanta’s victory was holding Ingram and Kamara to 72 combined rushing yards and 34 combined receiving yards. Julio Jones made the most of his four receptions by gaining 103 yards and scoring a touchdown. Deion Jones led the team with 14 total tackles, and Desmond Trufant recorded Atlanta’s interception.
- Kownack: Raiders 23, Chiefs 24 / Madden: Raiders 28, Chiefs 17
My Take – It’s difficult to remember a team with such a massive Jekyll and Hyde in-season swing. Aside from the Eric Berry injury in week one, the Chiefs have not suffered an injury to a player that would suggest any danger of immediate collapse. The team has simply stopped playing winning football. The Raiders rematch looms large on the schedule. Oakland will hold a one game lead over the Chiefs and the division tiebreaker if Kansas City loses their fifth straight. It would essentially be a deathblow. A team this talented has to stop the bleeding at some point. Playing the Raiders at Arrowhead seems a good a time as any. The Raiders’ three most recent victories have come against Miami, Denver, and New York. Those teams boast a 10-26 combined record. Even if Oakland is winning, the team isn’t playing stellar football either. I’ll take Kansas City based on talent.
Madden’s Take – A 14-6 halftime lead turned into a 28-17 loss as Madden sees the Chiefs falling once again. Alex Smith returned to a more pedestrian stat line with 272 yards, one touchdown, and one interception on 44 throws. Derek Carr threw for 219 yards and a score as well, but he only completed 44% of his passes in the win. That seems unlikely given Kansas City’s weaknesses against the pass this year. Marshawn Lynch and DeAndre Washington both found the endzone. Michael Crabtree recovered emotionally from the loss of his chain to torch the Chiefs for 135 yards and a score.
- Kownack; Vikings 17, Panthers 7 / Madden: Vikings 14, Panthers 28
My Take – The Falcons did not manage to score a touchdown against Minnesota on Sunday. The Flacons, who previously had a 48.1% conversion rate on third down, went 1-for-10. Although Matt Ryan is not playing at his 2016 MVP level, he’s undoubtedly outperforming Cam Newton. Newton has the benefit of compensating for his inaccuracy by scrambling, but his recent mediocrity cannot be ignored. He has averaged 179 passing yards and completed 54.8% of his passes in the last five games. Clearly, Cam Newton remains inconsistent despite fixing his turnover woes from the season’s first half. Minnesota’s defense is about as consistent as it gets. They are going to eat his lunch.
Madden’s Take – Madden does not care that Minnesota is the hottest team in the NFC. Everything clicked for the Panthers at home. Cam Newton surpassed his five-game average in both yards and completion percentage, completing 62% of his passes for 212 yards and two scores. Jonathan Stewart and Christian McCaffrey combined for 193 rushing yards. Newton added 18 more of his own. Newton’s touchdown passes went to McCaffrey, who also amassed 82 receiving yards, and Greg Olsen, who returned from a foot scare for four catches and 49 yards. Carolina putting up 426 total yards against the Vikings is farfetched, but a Panthers victory is certainly not out of the question.
- Kownack: Eagles 31, Rams 27 / Madden: Eagles 38, Rams 21
My Take – Speaking of eating lunches, Seattle’s defense heard rumors about their premature demise and promptly bullied the Eagles on national television. The message was clear, but likely more about the Seahawks than the Eagles. Streaks end. Philadelphia has no longer won nine in a row. They will rebuild. The Philadelphia-Los Angeles game has potential for fireworks. The two teams are tied atop the NFL with 30.1 points per game. Neither team necessarily has the advantage on defense either. The Eagles have allowed the 7th least points and are better against the run, meaning they can slow Todd Gurley. The Rams have allowed the 8th least points and are better against the pass, meaning they can limit Carson Wentz. If the game comes down to the last five minutes, I’d rather put my trust in Wentz than Goff. Eagles by a hair.
Madden’s Take – The Rams struck first, but the Eagles struck often. Todd Gurley had himself a day. He accounted for all of Los Angeles’ scores while carrying the ball 25 times for 118 yards. Jared Goff did most things right. He completed 29 of 39 for 321 yards. Unfortunately, he sabotaged his running back’s efforts by committing three turnovers (two interceptions and a fumble). Carson Wentz, meanwhile, shrugged off a bad game by going 23 for 30 for 233 and two touchdowns. Jay Ajayi accounted for the team’s other two offensive scores. Malcolm Jenkins recorded one interception. Jalen Mills tallied the other pick and also returned a fumble recovery 72 yards for a touchdown. This result could potentially setup a winner-take-all game between the Rams and the Seahawks in week 15.
- Kownack: Seahawks 13, Jaguars 9 / Madden: Seahawks 30, Jaguars 24
My Take – The Seattle Seahawks are money once winter hits. Russell Wilson is 18-5 in December and plays his best football when the games matter most. All of them matter from here on out with a one game division deficit and several dangerous contenders nipping at Seattle’s heels in the wildcard race. Jacksonville, meanwhile, hasn’t played meaningful December football for a decade. Their loss to the Blaine Gabbert-led Cardinals hints at their lack of experience in postseason races. Seattle will do just enough to win a defensive showdown.
Madden’s Take – Madden foresees a far more offensive game with the same result. Despite the high scoring, neither quarterback threw a touchdown pass. Blake Bortles did score on the ground. Leonard Fournette added two more. Eddie Lacy scored all three of Seattle’s touchdowns. Fantasy players would go insane if this occurred considering Lacy has zero on the season. The difference in the game was three Blair Wash field goals versus one by Josh Lambo.
Pick a Lock
Kownack: Patriots (at MIA) – It almost feels like cheating to go with New England against a divisional opponent this late in the season. The Patriots will roll over the Dolphins. There will be no reason to watch Monday Night Football by the start of the third quarter.
Madden: Dolphins (vs. NE) – I wish I could save Madden from itself, but all I do is hit simulate and report the biggest blowout. This particular simulation somehow had Miami destroying New England 42-13. Miami’s defense shut down Brady by holding him scoreless for a second straight game and forcing two picks. Jay Cutler outperformed him with three touchdowns. Kenyan Drake joined Cutler’s show of force with three more. Sure.
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