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WEEK 8 CRYSTAL BALL -- WEEKEND
Slate is light on heavyweight battles, but one game begs for our attention
My friends, THE GURU looks at this week’s NFL slate and sees something unusual: just one game between two teams with winning records. And it’s not a matchup we would’ve expected to be a marquee game when the schedules were formed.
Indeed, this weekend’s big event features two of the league’s most surprising teams as the New York Giants (6-1) travel to face the Seattle Seahawks (4-3). The Jints’ next win will be their seventh of 2022, their most in a season since 2016, when head coach Ben McAdoo - remember him? - led to team to 11 victories and the Wild Card Round of the playoffs.
Ironically, McAdoo’s New York downfall is often tied to Geno Smith, the starting QB the Giants will face today in Seattle. Infamously, in one of McAdoo’s final acts with Big Blue in 2017, he started Smith at quarterback, ending Eli Manning’s streak of 210 consecutive starts. The coach was fired the next day and Smith, in his first year with the team, never played for the Giants again.
Fast forward five years and Smith is having the best season of his 10-year career, leading the NFL in completion percentage (73.5%) with a touchdown-to-turnover ratio of 12-to-4. Meanwhile, the man he replaced, Russell Wilson, is struggling mightily in Denver and Seattle’s brass looks positively visionary for trading their longtime QB and a fourth-round pick to the Broncos in exchange for one solid player (Shelby Harris), two promising youngsters (Noah Fant, Drew Lock) and five - yes, five - draft picks, including two first-rounders and two second-round choices. Brilliant.
History hasn’t been kind to McAdoo’s head-coaching stint, but it’s worth noting that he believed in Smith when many others did not, seeing the West Virginia University alum as New York’s potential quarterback of the future. In fact, he said as much when the Giants signed him in 2017.
"I find it very exciting. A guy that has his skill set is hard to find. You can't find guys out there that have that type of arm strength, talent, throwing motion and feet to go with it. And he's a competitor. It's exciting to bring a guy and work with a guy like that. And you see where you can take him."
It remains to be seen what Smith will accomplish in the Emerald City but, to this point, he’s certainly rewarded head coach Pete Carroll for giving the quarterback the opportunity.
A few things worth noting about some of the folks involved in today’s game:
Smith has made 41 starts in his NFL decade, including 10 during his four seasons in Seattle. He began his career with the Jets (2013-16) and Giants (2017) before moving westward to San Diego (2018) and Seattle (2019-present). His counterpart, Daniel Jones, has made 44 starts in four years for the Giants.
On the other sideline, New York head coach Brian Daboll worked for Bill Belichick (twice) and Nick Saban (twice) and was fired by Andy Reid (once). He was with the Pats from 2002-06 (wide receivers coach) and 2013-16 (tight ends) and worked under Saban at Michigan State in 1998-99 (graduate assistant) and Alabama in 2017 (offensive coordinator).
Daboll also ran Romeo Crennel’s offense in KC when the Chiefs were 2-14 in 2012, leading to the hiring of Reid, who did not retain the coach as OC.
Where will the rubber meet the road? Well, the Giants’ rushing offense is second in the NFL in yards per game and Seattle’s defense ranks 30th defending the run. This will be fun to watch.
I expect a fun, physical ballgame at 4:25 pm on Fox. Call it for the Seahawks, 19-16.
Looking at the rest of the slate, here is the complete schedule, including TV listings and broadcaster pairings, up-to-the-minute standings and team statistics. The Kansas City Chiefs (5-2) and the Los Angeles Chargers (4-3) on the bye.
Four things to watch this weekend:
Broncos-Jaguars at 9:30 am today from London. If you can find it, that is. The game is only available with an ESPN+ subscription.
The continued development of Bears QB Justin Fields. When I attended the Commanders-Bears game on October 13th, I came away very impressed with the young man. He makes plays with his legs, has decent pocket awareness and can really sling it. And, by any account, Fields looked good against the Patriots last
New England’s defense against the Jets offensive line. Pro Football Focus ranks the New York unit as 30th in the league, noting the group’s injuries while nine players - nine! - have played at least 40 snaps. The middle-of-the-pack Patriots defense had been pretty stingy until losing to the Bears. Something’s gotta give.
The mobility of Sam Ehlinger (Colts) and Taylor Heinicke (Washington). These two men are the best quarterbacking options for their respective teams for one big reason: they are nimble in the pocket and can make plays when things break down. Indianapolis and DC have had pass-protection issues all season and cannot afford to play QBs who are largely stationary in the pocket.
With those thoughts in mind, let’s make a few picks with the season record sitting at a high-water mark of 62-47 (.569). The creek, you can bet, will recede.
In the early, early game, I’ve got the Jaguars over the Broncos, a win that’ll leave the Jacksonville crew dancing in the aisles on the ride home.
At 1 pm, I like Minnesota over Arizona; Dallas over Chicago (barely); Atlanta against Carolina; the Saints against Vegas; the Jets, at home, against New England; Miami in Dee-troit; and the Eagles against visiting Pittsburgh. Mike Tomlin’s crew will show up and play hard.
In the late window, I’ll take Tennessee in Houston, the Niners at the Rams, and the Commanders over the Colts in a thriller. Buffalo handles Green Bay this evening and the Bengals win in Cleveland tomorrow night.
That’s it for this week, folks. Enjoy the games and God bless!