Impressions from Week Five of the 2016 AFL Season

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The competition this week left a lot to be desired. Many of the match-ups ended up being one-sided, and aside from a surprise start from Cleveland, it was easy to see the difference in power between teams. This is a common complaint, but such is the state of the AFL.

ORL @ CLE

Orlando at Cleveland

  • Did not watch.

This was quite the game for the first three quarters. Cleveland and Orlando going back and forth with scores, with lead changes aplenty. However, the MVP of this game is Brandon Thompkins, receiver for the Predators, who accounted for seven touchdowns in the game. Five receiving, one rushing, and one return touchdown. With production like that, it’s not hard to imagine the Predators are 5-0.

Cleveland, as is tradition, it seems, in Cleveland, did well enough to keep up for so long before sputtering by game’s end. They just can’t seem to finish a game, no matter who’s starting for them at quarterback. Speaking of which, five weeks in and they’ve had three different quarterbacks start for them already. This week, it was Arvell Nelson, who did a decent enough job aside from two interceptions.

The defenses didn’t seem to make themselves known this game. With an overall total of 132 points and just two interceptions by Orlando, there wasn’t a single sack in the game and just one turnover through fumble. There’s not much here aside from Orlando being a good team and Cleveland being a potentially good team under construction.

PRT @ ARI

Portland at Arizona

  • Watched.

Remember the first game between these two a couple weeks ago? How the Rattlers destroyed them 28-80? The Steel had Danny Southwick starting for them at quarterback that game. This time, they had Kasey Peters.

It didn’t make much of a difference, as they again got thrashed 21-68.

JAX @ TB (AFL)

Jacksonville at Tampa Bay

  • Did not watch.

Tampa Bay has quite the streak going. After a bye week last week, they welcome the Sharks and still aren’t able to muster up at least 30 points in a game. That’s four weeks in a row, perfectly encapsulating the offensive insignificance the Storm possess. Jacksonville, on the other hand, didn’t fare much better. They won the game, but only put up 33 points in the process. Whether this was due to a strong Tampa Bay defense or a lackluster performance by the Sharks’ loaded offense, I don’t know, but that’s the way it played out.

I’ll say this, though: the Storm are just so pitiful right now. I’ve been watching the AFL for four years now and I’ve never seen a team so incapable of scoring as the 2016 Tampa Bay Storm. I may be able to find a team similar looking through the history books, but I’ve never seen something so noticeable. I suppose it’s the small number of teams this year that makes them stand out, but it’s really quite something nonetheless.

C’mon, Jacksonville. You’re better than this. Scoring only 33 points against Tampa Bay? You have so much offensive talent it’s almost unfair, but it seems they share the same water as the team up in Cleveland, because they can’t seem to use the vast amounts of good players on their roster. They tend to struggle on special teams, which may have something to do with it.

PHI @ LA (AFL)

Philadelphia at Los Angeles

  • Watched.

Ever since their Week Two loss against Jacksonville, the Philadelphia Soul have emerged the team everyone expected them to be. Dan Raudabaugh has thrown 22 touchdowns and one pick in the last three weeks. They’ve gone 3-0, and they’ve done it with ease. However, it may have to do with the competition they’ve had in that span: Portland, Cleveland, and now Los Angeles. None of these teams are exactly Arizona.

Something else I noticed while watching this game is that the KISS’s offense is a bit mechanical. By that, I mean they take their time going down the field, not much for going with the flashy trick plays or bombs down the field. If they do, it’s likely because a player was wide open. This, in turn, ended up costing them greatly in the later portions of the game, as they had little time to catch up with the Soul’s offense, which seemed to score with ease every time it came out. For as flashy as their uniforms are, the KISS aren’t exactly fire-starters offensively.

Nathan Stanley, after the results of this week, has thrown nine interceptions in five games, and isn’t even completing 60% of his passes. Those are not numbers you want to see out of the starting quarterback of your franchise. It’s almost amazing to me that they’re even 2-3 right now, but regardless of Stanley’s Jekyll and Hyde performances, the KISS are an alright team when need be. They just aren’t a good team, like the team that handed them a 56-33 loss in Week Five.

Impressions from Week Five of the 2015 NFL Season (And Quick Pick: Atlanta at New Orleans)

I don’t have a lot of time, so I’ll make this double entry quick. I’ll simply provide a one-liner for each team involved in Week Five, along with my pick ’em results and record and a semi-detailed account of tonight’s pick.

[Indianapolis @ Houston]

  • (Watched, correct)

Houston has a quarterback controversy.

Indianapolis plays well in its division.

[Buffalo @ Tennessee]

  • (Did not watch, correct)

Buffalo’s offense is inconsistent.

Tennessee still has a lot of potential.

[Cleveland @ Baltimore]

  • (Did not watch, incorrect)

Josh McCown may not be a bad choice at quarterback for Cleveland.

Baltimore’s secondary made Josh McCown look like a good choice at quarterback.

[Chicago @ Kansas City]

  • (Watched final minute, correct)

Chicago isn’t as bad a team as everyone thought.

Kansas City will likely lose many more games.

[Seattle @ Cincinnati]

  • (Watched final Cincinnati drive, correct)

Cincinnati deserves its 5-0 start.

Seattle deserves a 1-4 start.

[St. Louis @ Green Bay]

  • (Did not watch, correct)

Chris Mortensen thought St. Louis would win this game.

Everyone else knew Green Bay would destroy them, and Mortensen is stupid.

[Jacksonville @ Tampa Bay]

  • (Did not watch, incorrect)

Jacksonville is almost as inconsistent as St. Louis.

Tampa Bay is good against awful teams.

[New Orleans @ Philadelphia]

  • (Did not watch, correct)

New Orleans’ defense is atrocious.

Philadelphia’s offense is good against awful defenses.

[Washington @ Atlanta]

  • (Did not watch, correct)

Washington’s defense is underrated.

Atlanta’s defense is, too.

[Arizona @ Detroit]

  • (Did not watch, correct)

Arizona scored 42 points without even trying.

Detroit may be the worst team in the NFL.

[New England @ Dallas]

  • (Watched, correct)

New England is the best team in the NFL.

Dallas’s offense is nothing without Tony Romo.

[Denver @ Oakland]

  • (Did not watch, correct)

Denver’s offense is hard to watch sometimes.

Oakland’s offense isn’t mature enough to take on top 5 defenses.

[San Francisco @ New York (Giants)]

  • (Watched, correct)

Eli Manning is New York’s best quarterback.

San Francisco’s defense is awful on the road.

[Pittsburgh @ San Diego]

  • (Watched, incorrect)

Pittsburgh is scared to use Mike Vick.

San Diego’s defense is scared of pressure situations.

  • Week Five Pick ‘Em record: 11-3
  • Overall Pick ‘Em record: 50-27

New Orleans is better at home, but Atlanta has shown that they play hard on the road.

Drew Brees will likely struggle, as he has all season, with his offense. I expect Atlanta to take the lead quickly, forcing Drew to become one-dimensional and predictable. It will inevitably be a close match, as most Primetime games are, but Atlanta is the vastly superior team. I have little confidence in New Orleans winning this game. It’ll probably be a defensive struggle, because why not?

Winner: Atlanta

NFL Pick ‘Ems (Week Five; 2015)

I’ll try and keep this short and sweet.

[Buffalo @ Tennessee]

Buffalo had a bad day against New York last week. They shouldn’t against Tennessee, though I can’t help but wonder what Tennessee has up their sleeve. Not a guaranteed win, but a likely one.

Winner: Buffalo

[Cleveland @ Baltimore]

Baltimore got by on a putrid performance from the Pittsburgh sideline last week. They’re left without a decent amount of weapons on offense, but their defense is still sturdy enough. Cleveland still looks to be Cleveland: flirting with the concept of superiority against San Diego at home last week. It’ll be close and will also probably be ugly.

Winner: Baltimore

[Chicago @ Kansas City]

I was looking through “NFL Expert” picks to see that no one believes Chicago has a figment of a chance to beat Kansas City. I mean, I get it: Chicago’s a bad team, yeah. But they aren’t bottom of the barrel. These two teams have the same record, after all. I’m almost tempted to pick Chicago here, honestly. In fact, I think I will. Chicago is calling to me like Indianapolis called to me on Thursday. Clearly, that means I have a sixth sense and Chicago will win.

I will probably regret this.

Winner: Chicago

[Seattle @ Cincinnati]

Unless Andy Dalton decides to play around with Richard Sherman, I don’t really see how Seattle has a chance with their known decrease in quality on the road and their paper-thin offensive line. Russell Wilson is unpredictable, sure, but he’s not indestructible. I think Cincy will win this match easily.

Winner: Cincinnati

[St. Louis @ Green Bay]

I have no idea if St. Louis is good or not. I do know, however, that Green Bay is really, really good.

Winner: Green Bay

[Jacksonville @ Tampa Bay]

I honestly have no idea who to pick here. Both of these teams are really bad. Both quarterbacks have shown that they’re, uh, not Aaron Rodgers. Jacksonville’s only win came against Miami. Tampa Bay’s only win came against New Orleans. Jacksonville was at home. Tampa Bay was on the road. They both have sporadically good weapons. Both have sporadically good defenses. Picking this game is a lot like flipping a fuckin’ coin. Tampa Bay has home-field advantage. That’s a plus for them. Jacksonville’s offense put up 13 points against Indianapolis’s defense last week. Indianapolis. Mrmm.

I should choose Tampa Bay. But I’m going to choose Jacksonville. Hopefully I chose the right side of the coin.

Winner: Jacksonville

[New Orleans @ Philadelphia]

Another game that should probably be ugly. Philadelphia’s defense is good, but Drew Brees found his groove last week against Dallas. Although, New Orleans is on the road, and like Seattle, they shrivel outside of their home environment. It should be a close game, for sure. I’m going with Chip Kelly’s racist noggin in this game.

Winner: Philadelphia

[Washington @ Atlanta]

Well, Washington certainly isn’t Houston. However, I feel the results will be the same. Hopefully for Washington it won’t be 42-0 by the end of the third quarter.

I think Leonard Hankerson will have a big day against his former team.

Winner: Atlanta

[Arizona @ Detroit]

Arizona lost to St. Louis last week at home. While that’s certainly worrisome, I don’t think it should carry over to Detroit, even if they’re on the road this week. I’m most excited to see how Patrick Peterson will play against Calvin Johnson. Probably well, since Detroit’s offensive line won’t give Stafford enough time to throw it to him deep. That or Stafford will just be inaccurate deep, as he’s getting too used to dumping the ball off to Theo Riddick.

This type of offense is good for a quarterback like Drew Brees. Not Stafford.

Winner: Arizona

[New England @ Dallas]

I’d be willing to bet my house that New England will outscore Dallas by at least four touchdowns.

Winner: New England

[Denver @ Oakland]

A fascinating match-up. Oakland has already beaten Baltimore at home this year. Denver’s a little different of a story than Baltimore. Oakland’s offense struggled against Chicago on the road last week. Denver’s defense is about 120 times better than Chicago’s, so it’ll be fun to see what Oakland can do against the Orange Crush.

Peyton Manning shouldn’t have to worry much about Oakland’s defense.

Winner: Denver

[San Francisco @ New York (Giants)]

San Francisco’s defense put up an admirable fight against Green Bay last week. However, their defense has given up a combined 90 points in two road games this season against Arizona and Pittsburgh. While New York’s offense isn’t as savvy as the previous two teams’, I think Odell Beckham and Rueben Randle (Wow) should be enough to keep New York in the game. After all, San Francisco’s offense has put up a measly 10 points in the last 8 quarters of play against Green Bay and Arizona.

Since trampling Minnesota, San Francisco’s quality has been dulling considerably.

Winner: New York

[Pittsburgh @ San Diego]

Y’know, Pittsburgh’s defense is pretty decent. And last week against Baltimore, their offense, even with Mike Vick, played alright. What worries me is what they’ll try to do when facing a difficult decision. Mike Tomlin has shown to be a little brain-dead when following his gut. And as much as San Diego’s shown a slight decline in quality, I think Pittsburgh’s offense isn’t good enough to really make a splash in this game, especially on the road. I’m thinking defense will keep Pittsburgh in this game, but San Diego’s offense will seal the deal.

Winner: San Diego

Quick Pick: Indianapolis at Houston (Week Five; 2015)

I pushed writing this entry off intentionally, trying to collect as much information as to who would be starting for Indianapolis as possible before the game. However, thinking about it, it really shouldn’t matter. Houston is clearly the better team here. Better defense, better run game (or should be), better offensive line, etc. The only thing Indianapolis has better is at the quarterback position, and debatably a greater amount of weapons. But when taking it all in, isn’t the quarterback position the things that matters most? Perhaps.

Personally, I like to try to decide who should win a game based on two major factors: defense and offensive line, with injuries and what-not added in on the side. These are the starting points I use when deciding on who to choose for games. However, that’s not to say I always choose whoever has those two key advantages (see: Dallas @ New Orleans, Week Four). There are far too many variables to be completely comfortable choosing who will win the game. Picking is practically like adding up statistical data to conclude who has the better chance of winning. Very rarely do I go into a game absolutely certain that one team will beat the other. Those cases will often conclude with satirical entries accompanied with my pick (see: Jacksonville @ New England, Week Three).

This is one such case where it’s hard to really choose a winner, as both teams have their fair share of problems. Indianapolis is looking to start Matt Hasselbeck, who I adore, but he’s also two days removed from spending a night in the hospital due to a virus. He also didn’t provide much offense against Jacksonville’s defense. Houston’s defense is better than Jacksonville’s. And they’re playing in Houston. Point in favor of Houston. However, Houston is having a quarterback issue of its own, as head coach Bill O’Brien can’t seem to settle on either Brian Hoyer or Ryan Mallett, as both have performed lackluster when given the opportunity. Mallett is starting tonight and is the starter that gave Houston their only win of the season thus far against Tampa Bay. That’s a far cry, though, from him being the “solidified” starter. I can only imagine a scenario where Mallett can’t get anything going for two quarters, only for Hoyer to come in a perform better, but not enough to win.

While I like to look for offensive line and defensive advantages, the key factor in this game is quarterback. Do I go with the sick, old veteran in Hasselbeck to lead the offense to a sufficient amount of points? Or do I pick the shaky Ryan Mallett, a game removed from being benched for poor performance? This game may be settled on the part of the defense, in which J.J. Watt sticks out like a quarterback’s sore shoulder. It should be a close game, seeing as the starting quarterbacks are qualified back-up material, but a solid run game should be able to help boost either of these teams quickly into the endzone. An aging Frank Gore? Or Alfred Blue and a not-quite-healthy Arian Foster? Houston looks better in almost every category, including offensive line, but my heart is calling to me. Indianapolis! Matt Hasselbeck! Houston’s quarterback situation will be their demise!

Fuck it. I’m 0-4 in Thursday Night games anyway.

Winner: Indianapolis