by Walter Football
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Here are Walt’s Buys and Sells (from Walter’s Overrated/Underrated)
Note: the dollar change is from Week 1 to Week 2.
If there’s anything that can make an NFL team overrated, it’s beating the Patriots at the beginning of the season. The Chiefs did this last year – they even won in Foxboro! – and we saw how that turned out. New England, a veteran team that likes to pace itself, doesn’t hit its stride until at least October, so we did not see the Patriots play their “A” game in Jacksonville. It probably wasn’t even their “C” game. The Patriots were incredibly sloppy offensively, making careless mistakes that allowed the Jaguars to blow them out. They’ll clean this up as the season progresses.
The Jaguars, as a result of this, are overrated. Blake Bortles had the game of his life, but we just saw him struggle against the Giants. And speaking of that game, let’s not forget that Jacksonville nearly fell to the Giants, a team that had trouble hanging with Dallas in Week 2. Bortles will regress and will ultimately be the downfall of this team.
Los Angeles Rams ($25.02 +$2.02)
“But Walt, the Rams just beat the Cardinals 34-0!” Yes, exactly. Clobbering crappy teams can easily make teams overrated by the public. The Rams, because of the win, jumped up to -6.5 or -7 versus the Chargers when they were -5.5 on the look-ahead line. All they did to move across six was demolish the hapless Cardinals, which the Redskins did as well in Week 1 – and we all saw what happened to Washington!
I don’t trust the Rams. Jared Goff has looked great thus far, but he’s battled two of the five worst defenses in the NFL thus far. The defense has some great players, but also has its flaws. We saw them when Jared Cook trampled their linebacking corps in the opener. Remember, the Raiders led that game until Derek Carr had a second-half meltdown. That game ended up being a 33-13 result, but Oakland was in control until Carr heaved an underthrown pass into the end zone that was intercepted.
My biggest issue with the Rams is that they’re not a team, but rather a collection of cast-offs. They’ve beaten two poor opponents thus far, but what will happen when there’s some adversity? The Rams don’t really have true leadership in the locker room, and there could be a meltdown of sorts.
Minnesota Vikings ($23.10 -$0.05)
The Vikings put together a tremendous comeback to tie the game in Lambeau. They would’ve won had Daniel Carlson made one of his two field goals in overtime, but it must be acknowledged that the Vikings were extremely lucky to even be there. They trailed throughout, as they were down by double digits entering the fourth quarter. Kirk Cousins had a thrilling drive to tie the game at the very end, but the Packers nearly intercepted him twice. One pick was actually caught, but was negated by a bogus roughing-the-passer penalty.
You could argue that winning (or rather, not losing) at Lambeau is a difficult thing to do as long as Rodgers is playing, and I would agree with that. Except, Rodgers wasn’t 100 percent. Not even close. The Vikings were favored at Green Bay, so they were expected to win. Instead, they trailed for most of the game.
My primary issue for the Vikings is that they can’t block. They lost guard Joe Berger to retirement, while center Pat Elflein is hurt. Yet, those things are nothing compared to the untimely passing of line coach Tony Sparano. Minnesota’s offensive line will be far worse without Sparano’s excellent coaching.
The Vikings won their first game against the 49ers by eight, but they were able to benefit from a large amount of luck. The 49ers dropped two touchdowns and lost a fumble at the goal line. Cousins also had what looked like a pick-six that was dropped by a safety. The game could’ve gone much differently, so the Vikings seem even more overrated now.
Pittsburgh Steelers ($19.42 -$1.35)
There are three teams with season win totals of 10.5 or greater at the Westgate as of mid-July: the Patriots, Eagles and Steelers. Two of those teams are great. One is mediocre.
People think of the Steelers as this dynamic, Super Bowl-contending team, and that was once the case. Pittsburgh still has terrific players like Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell (when he returns from his holdout) and Antonio Brown, as well as some other studs like Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt and JuJu Smith-Schuster. However, the Steelers suffered a major decline last year when they lost Ryan Shazier to his devastating injury. Shazier was arguably the top linebacker in the NFL, so it’s understandable why his absence would have such an impact.
How great of an impact? Prior to Shazier going down, the Steelers allowed 17.5 points per game. Following his injury, Pittsburgh surrendered 28 points per game. If your Windows calculator isn’t working, that’s a disparity of 10.5 points. And here’s the thing: Aside from Tom Brady, the list of quarterbacks the Steelers battled and couldn’t contain following the Shazier injury were Joe Flacco, T.J. Yates, DeShone Kizer and Blake Bortles. What’s going to happen when the Steelers go up against great offenses?
Furthermore, while the Steelers went 13-3 last year, they were very lucky in many of their wins. They had five victories decided by three points or fewer. If those games went against them, they would’ve gone 8-8, which is a realistic record for them in 2018, especially if the other three teams in the division have improved.
The Steelers tied the Browns in Week 1, which had to be alarming for them and their fans. Those worries were confirmed in a double-digit home loss to Kansas City (minus a late, garbage-time touchdown.) For everyone who has been paying attention to their struggles, it’s conformation that they’ll have severe problems reaching the playoffs this season.
Chicago Bears ($18.89 +$2.20)
The Bears are the NFL’s true dark-horse team. They went 5-11 last year, but were very competitive in many of their losses. They would’ve beaten the Falcons in Week 1 had Jordan Howard not dropped a touchdown at the very end of the game. They nearly vanquished the Vikings on Monday Night Football. They were the closest team to defeating Jimmy Garoppolo, losing by just a point thanks to a last-second Robbie Gould field goal. Meanwhile, they beat the Steelers and Panthers at home, and they won in Baltimore.
All of this occurred with a rookie quarterback, a lame-duck coach and a horrific receiving corps. Now, Mitchell Trubisky has experience and some talented wideouts to throw to. Also, Chicago’s offensive line is excellent, while its defense could be dominant this year if Roquan Smith is as good as advertised. Chicago’s stop unit was very good last year when star linebacker Danny Trevathan wasn’t hurt, and Smith and Khalil Mack can only help matters.
The Bears lost to the Packers amid an amazing Aaron Rodgers comeback, but don’t forget that they had a double-digit lead prior to Rodgers suffering an injury. The fact that they came up short will mean that the public will continue to underestimate how good they are.
San Francisco 49ers ($17.15 +$0.30)
I loved the 49ers heading into this season. They stumbled in Week 1, thanks to numerous self-inflicted wounds. Had they not committed these blunders, they may have won. Then, they only beat the Lions by three, so what gives?
Well, the score against the Lions was misleading, as San Francisco led 30-13 at one point, but the Lions came back with some garbage-time touchdowns. What I find important is that the 49ers haven’t had Reuben Foster on the field yet. Foster is a big-time difference-making linebacker, and he’ll return from suspension this week. Also, the 49ers have had some injuries at guard, so when those players return to the lineup, they’ll be able to improve their pass protection, which has been a problem thus far.
Washington Redskins ($14.29 -$1.81)
It’s easy to forget how competitive the Redskins were last year before they suffered so many injuries in the middle of the season. They nearly beat the Eagles in Week 1. They defeated the Rams in Los Angeles the following Sunday. They then clobbered the Raiders when Derek Carr was healthy. After that, they were a dropped Josh Doctson touchdown away from winning in Kansas City on Monday Night Football. Following a win over the 49ers, they were once again in a close battle against the Eagles before losing control in the third quarter.
The wheels came off after that, however, as the Redskins had countless injuries. There were several weeks where they struggled to field a complete offensive line. Poor Morgan Moses had to play on one leg. It was brutal, yet the Redskins still beat the Seahawks when everyone Seattle was healthy, and they took the Saints to overtime in New Orleans.
The Redskins lost Kirk Cousins in the offseason, but Alex Smith is just as good of a quarterback as Cousins. Smith is five years older, but for the next season or two, there won’t be much of a difference between the two. In fact, it could be argued that Smith gives the Redskins a better chance of reaching the playoffs, given that he’s actually been in the postseason very often, unlike Cousins. Smith got off to a great start versus Arizona, draining the life out of the Cardinals by controlling the clock so effectively. The Redskins lost in Week 2, but it was a tough scheduling spot for them. I expect them to be much more competitive in Week 3.
Read more at http://walterfootball.com/overratedunderrated.php