Things we learned from week 15: The NFL absolutely has to do something about blatant hits to the head. Green Bay lost to Carolina for many reasons. They shouldn’t be afforded excuses. Aaron Rodgers cost his team points and helped put the Panthers on the scoreboard. Instagram wasn’t invented yet the last time he threw three interceptions in a game. Their defense is a punch line and Cam was happy to be in on the joke. However, it would be interesting to see how the game would’ve played out had Thomas Davis not headhunted Rodgers’ best receiver. Davante Adams doesn’t fumble that ball at the end of the game. If someone knocks an opposing player out in such a needless manner, they deserve to hit the showers as well. Send a message. The NFL “caring” about player safety can’t continue to be a front. Nick Foles can do enough to give the Eagles a fighting chance in the postseason. Bill Belicheck made a deal with the devil – New England pulls out wins in the most perplexing ways. The Seahawks might fall behind the Rams and the 49ers within a few seasons. Index cards apparently have functionality on the football field. The NFL might lose more fans over what constitutes a catch than from protests. The world deserves a Rams-Jaguars Super Bowl. That about covers it.

Bold Prediction: The Eagles win out with Nick Foles at quarterback to finish 14-2

Kownack Record: 151-85

Madden Record: 139-97

Week 16 Picks


Big Game Spotlight

  • Kownack: Bills 13, Patriots 30 / Madden: Bills 40, Patriots 27

Madden NFL 18_20171218145532

My Take – Buffalo comes into this game desperate for a win. The Bills currently hold the sixth seed with an 8-6 record. Unfortunately, Tom Brady doesn’t characteristically struggle against the Bills like he does against Miami. Buffalo just doesn’t possess the offensive weapons to keep up and will need to scoreboard watch for the next two weeks. The 8-6 Tennessee Titans should fall to the Rams, but the Ravens (8-6) and the Chargers (7-7) both have winnable games. Buffalo will lose and need to walk a tight rope to the playoffs against Miami in week 17.

Madden’s Take – Madden officially hates the Patriots. The Bills won on the back of a 23-0 fourth quarter. Tom Brady threw two picks to go with his two scores. Tyrod Taylor was the better quarterback. He threw for two touchdowns and added another on the ground as part of a 68-yard rushing day. Preston Brown recorded both interceptions for Buffalo. The Bills also sacked Brady five times. Jerry Hughes led the way with two. Expect an onslaught of hot takes on New England’s demise if the game plays out this way.

  • Kownack: Falcons 24, Saints 34 / Madden: Falcons 17, Saints 20

My Take – Football has always been a game of inches. The Falcons defeated New Orleans two weeks ago thanks to two key plays: the Saints’ illegal formation on a field goal to end the first half and Deion Jones blasting into orbit to intercept Drew Brees. The Saints have Alvin Kamara back and have the benefit of playing at home this time. Expect the ball to bounce their way. A win moves the Saints one step closer to capturing the NFC South for the first time since 2011. It would also potentially put the Falcons on life support.

Madden’s Take – Matt Ryan and Drew Brees both had remarkably similar games. Matt Ryan completed 63% of his passes for 259 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Drew Brees completed 67% of his passes for 255 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. The difference in the game was predictably running success. Neither team tallied a score on the ground, but the Saints’ duo combined for 176 yards compared to 84 by Freeman and Coleman. Atlanta scored all 17 of its points in the first half. New Orleans scored ten unanswered in the final two quarters and sealed the game on a Kenny Vaccaro pick.

  • Kownack: Rams 35, Titans 14 / Madden: Rams 31, Titans 38

Madden NFL 18_20171218152354

My Take – Two weeks ago, the thought occurred to me that Tennessee was likely the worst 8-4 football team I had ever seen. Hyperbole and recency bias aside, the Titans were kind enough to back me up by losing to the Cardinals and 49ers in back to back games. They have not looked good in a win since September and have looked astoundingly bad in most losses. Enter the Los Angeles Rams, a team that just took up permanent residence in Russell Wilson’s nightmares. The optimistic storyline here is that two potential playoff teams will be battling it out. The reality is that the Titans are about to get smoked.

Madden’s Take – Madden has far more respect for the Titans than I do. Los Angeles seemed well in control with a 31-13 lead at the end of the third quarter. Tennessee saw its once-vibrant playoff hopes fading and roared back with 25 unanswered in the fourth quarter. DeMarco Murray helped lead the final quarter charge by scoring on a two-yard run and again on a 25-yard pass. A 60-yard bomb from Marcus Mariota to Delanie Walker proved to be the game winner.

  • Kownack: Seahawks 20, Cowboys 27 / Madden: Seahawks 30, Cowboys 17

My Take – The Seahawks appear to have run out of gas. After five straight playoff appearances, Pete Carroll and his gum will likely join Green Bay (eight straight) at home come January. Russell Wilson is an otherworldly talent, but he’d actually get two more seconds of protection if his line just stayed on the bench and the opposing defense rushed on “Three Mississippi.” Ezekiel Elliott will return to action with fresh legs. Seattle’s defense could barely touch Todd Gurley. More of the same is on the Sunday forecast.

Madden’s Take – Seattle rebounded in video game world. Russell Wilson threw three touchdowns thanks to having a running game to take the pressure off – Mike Davis tallied 89 rushing yards. Dak Prescott threw for only 131 yards but managed two touchdowns. Ezekiel Elliot had the opposite kind of game. He never found the endzone but almost outdid his quarterback with 127 yards. Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett and Paul Richardson combined for Wilson’s touchdowns in a game that the Seahawks never trailed.

  • Kownack: Eagles 30, Raiders 16 / Madden: Eagles 14, Raiders 27

My Take – I originally included Packers-Vikings in the big game spotlight as a revenge game. Then, Rodgers returned to IR. That contest is now likely a massacre. The last game of the week doesn’t necessarily have huge playoff implications. The Raiders are already likely out. The Eagles need a win to remain a top seed, but they’re closing in on a bye regardless. The more important outcome of this game is assessing whether or not Nick Foles can continue looking like he did last Sunday. If he can, Philadelphia has reason to hesitantly hope in this team. I believe he can.

Madden’s Take – Madden believes he can’t. Nick Foles threw one touchdown and four interceptions against a defense that has only had four all year. Sean Smith followed up a two-interception game against Dallas with three in this contest. Marshawn Lynch rumbled for two scores. Derek Carr threw another to Michael Crabtree. The Raiders scored 27 unanswered after the Eagles scored 7 points on their first drive. Philadelphia didn’t add another score to the board until the game was coming to a close.

Pick a Lock

Kownack: Jaguars (at SF) – The Jimmy Garoppolo era has started off on the right foot. Jacksonville’s defense will stymie that momentum despite the future looking bright.

Madden: Bengals (vs. DET) – I doubted Madden two weeks ago after it simulated Miami as the biggest win over New England. The game is back at it again with a 41-14 Cincinnati victory.


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