Ok so I want to get my predictions on record to prove I have somewhat NFL cache. My knowledge about football is good enough to sit at any sports bar and say something intelligent about most teams. I am a Patriots fan for the last decade and to brag a bit.. We have had the same quarterback for most of my conscious sports-fan life. But, I will not try to say the Pats are unstoppable, and I’ll return more on this when I do their prediction below. But as the Falcons v. Eagles is about to start in an hour, I want to get that prediction written up.
Falcons > Eagles: JRT Prediction 38-21
Pats>Titans: JRT Prediction 37 to 24
The Falcons are going to score huge. Mostly due to Sanu, and not Julio Jones. Sure Julio will put up 110 yards and a TD, but that will most likely be due to one big bomb play. I dont see him getting the small chunk yards over the middle the would risk his body to injury. He’s a burner, not an iron man. Julio knows how to toe tap.. So he’ll be working the sidelines mostly. This will give a healthy amount of looks to Sanu. I expect him to be the big story when all is said and done. I’m not sure how good their running game will be. If they get behind, they tend to be more like the pats and most other teams with a good QB with an arm is to pass first and ask questions later. But the Falcons are scarier when they mix the run in well. Then play action pass becomes more effective and they might for once be able to control the clock. Their motto is just to score. Yes, they have a more disciplined defense this year, but I don't think of their D is going to have a problem with Nick Foles. Foles has a 2:1 TD to INT ratio in his career. Thus, even if Foles passes for 3 TD and puts up 21 points, he’s still bound to give up a turnover.
The Eagles thrived under Wentz. He had zip and pizzaz. He made throws that previously only Aaron Rodgers was capable of. The side arm sling with accuracy out of the pocket. Wentz could extend the play much like Seahawks Russell Wilson. But Foles is not the same player. It’s also unlikely that LaGarrette Blount will carry this team to a W. He’s a 3-down back, not a Le'Veon Bell rusher with great vision. Blount is Blount. Not like Manny being Manny, but just that he’s a bruiser. He can break a tackle for an extra 3-4 yards, not 15+. Thus, I predict Blount to be 8 carries for 50 yards and a TD. The more likely savior is Ajayi, whose legs are 7 years younger and carry 25 lbs less weight.
Also, I used to think Torrey Smith was up there in the upper echelon of WR1s, with A.J. Green and Julio Jones. But he hasn’t been the same since he left the Ravens and he never really blossomed into the real threat I believed he was. Meanwhile, Julio Jones has basically received 1000+ yards every year he’s been in the league (about 6ish). Smith has only crossed 1K once and approached it… 3 other times if you generously round up. Alshon Jeffery is the more relevant piece, but he’s still no Julio Jones although he’s caught more TD’s then him this year (9:3). How Jones has only caught 3 TD’s all year is head scratching, but it’s a clean slate and he seems healthy. Finally, Zach Ertz is a good TE, but how many short throws to Ertz can a game have? 6? If Ertz is 6 for 60 with a TD is that good enough for the Eagles to win, no. He has to be better than that. And their running game needs to be effective. And their special teams needs to be great. And their defense needs a pick 6. I just don’t see the Eagles winning this one which is sad because with Wentz, I’d say they could beat anyone because they have enough tools to spread the ball around, rush effectively and score TDs in the red zone not just a field goal team like the Lions.
Moving on to the game I care about:
Pats>Titans: JRT Prediction 37 to 24
Pats Players with a TD:
Amendola: Very clutch playoff performer, will most certainly be a trusted Red Zone Option
Cooks: more likely to burn the Titans on a deep route, which should happen at least once...
Gronk: Gronk Smash.. need I say more? Who can cover him?
Lewis: basically a dual threat.. like most of our previous RBs. (Shane Vereen.. but with less grit)
Plus 3 Field Goals.
If Lewis can’t run the ball effectively then there is going to be more pressure on TB12 to connect with Gronk and Amendola over the middle. I wish we had Edelman because he was an amazing route runner and go to 3rd Down chain mover. How healthy and effective will Gronk be? I don’t think Hogan is going to light this game up. He’s missed a lot of time and I think its unlikely that he’ll have a crazy stat line of like.. 137 and 2 TDs. Just not going to happen. Its more likely that Lewis gets those options. Not sure if White is active for today. But their other 2 RBs are out. So, it’s a passing game today and all eyes are going to be on the 40 year old QB GOAT. I trust him, but we were foolish to trade Jimmy to the 49ers without adequate backup. Look for the Titans to blitz and blitz often. There are going to be a lot of Flags today and it might be hard to watch. I don't think the Pats are going to play sloppy. But they are going to get dinged for a lot holding calls because of just how they train and are coached. They won't get away with a lot of the “grey area” pushing off the line of scrimmage as they tend to be very physical. Also, I’m not sure if Belichick will trigger some of the unusual eligible v. ineligible camouflage. As with most games, lets see if the pats can score first. Then they will be in the driver seat that I dont think Mariota can overcome. But if the Titans get out in front first and can pressure Brady to throw and throw often, the Pats become a little too one-dimensional.
However, a one-dimensional Patriots is still better than most teams. If Brady can avoid INTs… If Brady can stay healthy.. (there were reports that he has been seen stretching his hand a lot…) If Brady can connect with Cooks and Gronk… I think we’ll have this game without too much stress. But the theme of this game is.. If Brady…. It used to be.. If gronk could stay healthy.. And he couldn't and we just didn’t have that secret weapon entering several playoffs. And sure… no Jules. But we have enough WRs. We have the Best TE. We have effective RBs albeit many are injured. This game isn’t even about the Patriots Defense. They bend but dont break. As long as the Pats don’t give up a special teams return for a TD or some other fluke turnover.. We should be good. That what I keep telling myself. If Brady is Brady.. We’ll win. BIG!