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Class is in session in NFL Week 2

Jeff Fogle
VSiN.com

September 17, 2017 12:07 AM

Tennessee, New England and Denver all earned statement victories Sunday in the NFL (by a combined 115-53!), with Kansas City, Oakland, Pittsburgh and Atlanta also confirming their class. Your key stat recap starts now in VSiN City!

NFL: No upsets until the late games…and is it really an “upset” if the Rams or Chargers lose? 
Favorites won all the early games straight up in Week Two of the 2017 NFL season, getting the money in six of eight early kicks. Dogs bounced back in the late day session with Miami, Washington, and Denver scoring outright upsets (and San Francisco just missing). Let’s review the action in official Nevada Rotation order.

Tennessee (-1) 37, Jacksonville 16

  • Yards-per-Play: Tennessee 6.1 Jacksonville 5.1
  • Third Down Conversions: Tennessee 46% Jacksonville 46%
  • Turnovers: Tennessee 1 Jacksonville 3
  • Rushing Yards: Tennessee 179 Jacksonville 99
  • Passing Stats: Tennessee 15-27-1-211 Jacksonville 20-34-2-211
  • TD Drive Lengths: Tennessee 34-49-75-25 Jacksonville 75-77

It was only 6-3 Tennessee at halftime. Then, the game blew open thanks to cheap points off Jacksonville turnovers, plus a dominant running game from the Titans. Weird one to analyze because Tennessee wasn’t as good as the score made it sound. But they clearly dominated the right categories even if they had some cheap TD drives. Jacksonville’s TDs came when Tennessee’s defense softened in the fourth quarter with leads of 30-3 and 37-9. We gave you a formula last week that turns raw yardage into what a score “should” have been without turnover or special teams’ pollution. (2 times rushing…plus passing…times 0.67…divided by 15.) That shows 25-18 for the Titans. Solid road win for an NFL divisional game, and closer to the market total of 41. Best to conclude that Tennessee has established divisional dominance, and that Jacksonville’s offense is going to be coin-flipping in games like this depending on the mistake volume of Blake Bortles (or his replacement). 

Baltimore (-8) 24, Cleveland 10

  • Yards-per-Play: Cleveland 5.8, Baltimore 5.0
  • Third Down Conversions: Cleveland 17%, Baltimore 36%
  • Turnovers: Cleveland 5, Baltimore 2
  • Rushing Yards: Cleveland 93, Baltimore 136
  • Passing Stats: Cleveland 20-42-4-293, Baltimore 25-34-1-201
  • TD Drive Lengths: Cleveland 83, Baltimore 33-64-40

Another messy one because of that big turnover advantage for the host. No way Baltimore’s going to keep forcing five turnovers per game! Deshone Kizer threw three interceptions while dealing with a migraine for the Browns. Could be that Baltimore starting with Cincinnati and Cleveland is going to look like a gift in the rearview mirror. Lucky for Joe Flacco, who’s still trying to get up to speed. 

Carolina (-6.5) 9, Buffalo 3

  • Yards-per-Play: Buffalo 3.5, Carolina 3.9
  • Third Down Conversions: Buffalo 31%, Carolina 44%
  • Turnovers: Buffalo 0, Carolina 0
  • Rushing Yards: Buffalo 69, Carolina 77
  • Passing Stats: Buffalo 17-25-0-107, Carolina 20-32-0-178
  • TD Drive Lengths: Buffalo no TDs, Carolina no TDs

That’s right…neither offense could break four yards-per-play, nor score a touchdown. Carolina did a better job of driving the field for field goals thanks to that third down conversion rate and the additional passing yardage. That stuff will be a tie-breaker in a lot of games this year, particularly in those where turnovers cancel out. This and Tennessee/Jax were basically the same game at halftime. One saw 44 points in the last two quarters from high risk implosions. These guys played it safe and punted a lot. 

New England (-6) 36, New Orleans 20

  • Yards-per-Play: New England 7.7, New Orleans 6.8
  • Third Down Conversions: New England 50%, New Orleans 33% 
  • Turnovers: New England 0, New Orleans 0
  • Rushing Yards: New England 119, New Orleans 81
  • Passing Stats: New England 30-39-0-436, New Orleans 27-45-0-348
  • TD Drive Lengths: New England 75-75-67-75, New Orleans 80-75

Just run your finger down the left side of those categories. The New Orleans defense is still horrible, and Tom Brady knows how to abuse horrible defenses. It was 30-13 at halftime, so he emphasized running clock down the stretch. Still managed 7.7 yards-per-play. The problem with calling the NFC South the best division in football is that Carolina doesn’t have much offense and New Orleans doesn’t have any defense. 

Arizona (-6.5) 16, Indianapolis 13 (in overtime)

  • Yards-per-Play: Arizona 6.0, Indianapolis 3.8
  • Third Down Conversions: Arizona 40%, Indianapolis 44%
  • Turnovers: Arizona 1, Indianapolis 1
  • Rushing Yards: Arizona 83, Indianapolis 76
  • Passing Stats: Arizona 19-36-1-306, Indianapolis 20-37-1-190
  • TD Drive Lengths: Arizona 85, Indianapolis 53

Indianapolis scored an early TD, then did nothing the rest of the day. The Colts' turnover was an interception in OT that set up Arizona’s winning field goal. Jacoby Brissett was otherwise a lot less self-destructive than Scott Tolzien last week. Those 190 passing yards aren’t a lot for 37 pass attempts. Big news here was that Arizona struggled badly in a bounce back spot against a laughingstock opponent. The Cards were down 13-3 before scoring their only TD midway through the fourth quarter. Seattle’s not exactly setting the world on fire in the NFC West…so there’s time to get in gear. That should have happened by now after last season. 

Kansas City (-4.5) 27, Philadelphia 20

  • Yards-per-Play: Philadelphia 5.9, Kansas City 6.7
  • Third Down Conversions: Philadelphia 53%, Kansas City 42%
  • Turnovers: Philadelphia 2, Kansas City 0
  • Rushing Yards: Philadelphia 107, Kansas City 112
  • Passing Stats: Philadelphia 25-46-1-299, Kansas City 21-28-0-232
  • TD Drive Lengths: Philadelphia 81-75, Kansas City 83-31-56

Entertaining game that felt like it was being played by playoff caliber teams even when it was just 6-3 at the half. A level of sharpness here on both sides of the ball that you weren’t seeing in the other dead first halves. Kansas City popped 6.7 yards-per-play with no giveaways the week after 8.3 and one giveaway at New England. And, that’s a tough opening schedule. It was 13-all early in the third quarter. The Chiefs had four good quarters in them and Philly didn’t. 

Pittsburgh (-9) 26, Minnesota 9

  • Yards-per-Play: Minnesota 4.0, Pittsburgh 4.9
  • Third Down Conversions: Minnesota 33%, Pittsburgh 23%
  • Turnovers: Minnesota 1, Pittsburgh 0
  • Rushing Yards: Minnesota 91, Pittsburgh 102
  • Passing Stats: Minnesota 20-38-0-146, Pittsburgh 23-35-0-233
  • TD Drive Lengths: Minnesota no TDs, Pittsburgh 78-60-82

You probably know that Sam Bradford was a morning scratch, with Case Keenum getting the call. Only 146 passing yards on 38 attempts for the Vikes! Very safe…as they seemed content to hope for cheap points or otherwise get the game over with. Defense is still playoff caliber. Pittsburgh managed three long TD drives without moving the chains well.  

Tampa Bay (-7) 29, Chicago 7

  • Yards-per-Play: Chicago 5.0, Tampa Bay 4.6
  • Third Down Conversions: Chicago 50%, Tampa Bay 53%
  • Turnovers: Chicago 4, Tampa Bay 1
  • Rushing Yards: Chicago 20, Tampa Bay 117
  • Passing Stats: Chicago 31-45-2-290, Tampa Bay 18-31-0-194
  • TD Drive Lengths: Chicago 62, Tampa Bay 13-35

Tampa Bay wasn’t as sharp as the final score made it seem. The Bucs were up 26-0 at the half on cheap points from turnovers (including a pick six). You can see that their offensive TD drives were only 13 and 35 yards. Good timing since the starters hadn’t played in so long. Bears gave the ball away four times and only managed 20 rushing yards. There’s a kneejerk tendency after two weeks to think Chicago will be “dangerous at home” but “bad on the road.” Remember last week that the Bears were outgained 372-301 and 6.8 to 4.8 by Atlanta, but had 0 turnovers. They won’t avoid turnovers at home moving forward, and they won’t gift-wrap this many points for opponents in all of their road games. 

Miami (plus 4) 19, LA Chargers 17

  • Yards-per-Play: Miami 4.9 Chargers 6.8
  • Third Down Conversions: Miami 38%, Chargers 25%
  • Turnovers: Miami 0, Chargers 0
  • Rushing Yards: Miami 111, Chargers 44
  • Passing Stats: Miami 24-34-0-225, Chargers 31-39-0-323
  • TD Drive Lengths: Miami 75, Chargers 70-77

After failing to get to OT in Denver last Monday because of a shaky rookie field goal kicker, the LA Chargers decided to put the fate of this week’s game on the foot of the same kicker. He missed again (second miss of the day), and the Chargers can now add a heartbreaking loss in their new city to the list of all the heartbreaking losses in their old city. That YPP stat is a bit goofy because the Chargers moved in fits and starts (2 of 8 on third downs), then missed field goal tries anyway. Total yardage was just 367-336. Decent enough Dolphins debut for Jay Cutler, who played it very safe and stole the road win. There’s a lot of conservative play across the league because something near 5.0 YPP with no giveaways can still put you in position for a coin flip ending. 

Oakland (-13.5) 45, NY Jets 20

  • Yards-per-Play: Jets 5.0, Oakland 7.5
  • Third Down Conversions: Jets 58%, Oakland 67%
  • Turnovers: Jets 2, Oakland 0
  • Rushing Yards: Jets 126, Oakland 180
  • Passing Stats: Jets 17-25-0-145, Oakland 23-28-0-230
  • TD Drive Lengths: Jets 75-75, Oakland 81-85-4-84-79-18

Looks like Oakland’s defense was just playing prevent on third downs all day, and then on everything late (second Jets TD came at 42-13). Very efficient performance on offense for the Raiders, who turned "only" 410 total yards into four TD drives of 79 yards or more. The reason so many are so excited about Derek Carr is that he’s putting up solid volume numbers while not giving the ball away. Sure, this was against the Jets. Last week was a road game against the probably playoff-bound Titans. In two weeks, Oakland’s combined passing numbers are 45-60-0-480.

Washington (plus 2.5) 27, LA Rams 20 

  • Yards-per-Play: Washington 5.7, Rams 6.8
  • Third Down Conversions: Washington 38%, Rams 42%
  • Turnovers: Washington 0, Rams 2
  • Rushing Yards: Washington 229, Rams 92
  • Passing Stats: Washington 18-27-0-156, Rams 16-26-1-240
  • TD Drive Lengths: Washington 65-70-75, Rams 75-93

Weird week for yards-per-play…as some turnover-making teams picked up big plays while trying to come from behind. The Rams go on the list of teams this week who won yards-per-play, but lost the turnover department and the game. That list is: Cincinnati, Cleveland, almost Arizona (a scoreboard tie in regulation, then the TO category evened out to give them the win), Chicago, LA Chargers (if you consider the missed field goals as turnovers), with San Francisco coming soon. Yards-per-play is usually a better skill-set indicator than it’s showing today. Huge rushing day for Washington here…which lifted the burden from Kirk Cousins. Jared Goff is still capable of making big plays downfield. 

Denver (plus 2.5) 42, Dallas 17

  • Yards-per-Play: Dallas 4.1, Denver 5.2
  • Third Down Conversions: Dallas 21%, Denver 60%
  • Turnovers: Dallas 2, Denver 2
  • Rushing Yards: Dallas 40, Denver 178
  • Passing Stats: Dallas 30-50-2-228, Denver 22-32-1-202
  • TD Drive Lengths: Dallas 3-39, Denver 78-81-51-75-23

Both teams had very cheap TD’s, with Dallas scoring early on a 3-yard TD drive and Denver getting a pick-six in the final moments. Take those away and it’s 35-10. Can’t argue too much with that considering third down rate and Denver having three TD drives of 75 yards or more. Denver isn’t quite clean as a whistle yet. But they’re playing like a team that’s going to matter. Dallas never seemed into it, and the lightning delay didn’t electrify its effort. 

Seattle (-13.5) 12, San Francisco 9

  • Yards-per-Play: San Francisco 5.2, Seattle 3.9
  • Third Down Conversions: San Francisco 17%, Seattle 57%
  • Turnovers: San Francisco 1, Seattle 0
  • Rushing Yards: San Francisco 159, Seattle 131
  • Passing Stats: San Francisco 15-27-1-89, Seattle 23-39-0-181
  • TD Drive Lengths: San Francisco no TDs, Seattle 82

An NFL favorite that couldn’t score the spread! Much more common in the colleges (though Cincinnati and Carolina gave it a shot earlier in this week’s NFL slate). San Francisco was able to run the ball enough to sneak three field onto the board, carrying a 9-6 lead deep into the fourth quarter. Seattle finally put things together for that 82-yard drive that won the game (PAT was missed, fitting for such an ugly game). Obviously, Seattle’s offensive line issues continued. That game-winning TD was its first trip to paydirt all season after the 17-9 loss at Green Bay last week. Scary bad division with Seattle and Arizona both possibly being 2-3 points worse than season-entering Power Ratings. 

Atlanta (-3) 34, Green Bay 23

  • Yards-per-Play: Green Bay 5.4, Atlanta 6.3
  • Third Down Conversions: Green Bay 42%, Atlanta 45%
  • Turnovers: Green Bay 2, Atlanta 0
  • Rushing Yards: Green Bay 59, Atlanta 141
  • Passing Stats: Green Bay 33-50-1-308, Atlanta 19-28-0-223
  • TD Drive Lengths: Green Bay 75-75-85, Atlanta 86-87-36

Atlanta jumped ahead to a 31-7 third quarter edge, which had put them in our original lead of FOUR teams making statements with blowouts. Of course, it’s Atlanta…so the defense had to let the Packers rally in garbage time. That put them into the “confirming class” group. Another very clean performance for the Falcons on the heels of the win at Chicago. Even with garbage time points, Green Bay could only get to 5.4 YPP. The 17 incomplete passes with two picks from the Pack helped remind everyone why the Falcons were the superior team last season. A lot of struggling teams haven’t changed much from a year ago. Atlanta’s on the list of championship contenders who haven’t changed much either.     

Back Tuesday with a recap of Monday night’s Detroit/New York Giants game, plus some college football notes.

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