2018-19 NFL Playoff Predictions: Pats Win it All Thanks to Favorable Schedule

Welcome to my 2018-19 NFL Playoff Predictions.  Today, I will show you my playoff bracket alongside score predictions and analysis for each game.  Next week, I will update you with Divisional Round predictions unless all of this week’s games are predicted correctly.  Below is my official playoff bracket:
I have the Patriots winning it all, though I don’t see them as the most talented team here.  I think a favorable schedule, including home field advantage in the AFC Championship after Kansas City’s elimination will help them to a Super Bowl victory.  The Super Bowl itself will be an epic battle of two aging superstar QBs, Tom Brady and Drew Brees.  It will be close, but I have the Patriots coming out on top.  Check out my score predictions and in-depth analysis for all 11 games below.

Wild Card Weekend

Offensively, these two teams are pretty evenly matched.  The Colts have given the Texans a hard time in the past.  But on Wild Card Weekend, I expect Houston’s defense to step it up and secure the Texans a victory.  While Indy struggles to get into the red zone against a strong Texans D, Houston will score on an inexperienced Colts defense with ease as WR DeAndre Hopkins puts up another huge game.
This will be a high scoring game, and it could potentially end up being a complete shootout.  Both these defenses lack the experience to thrive in the playoffs.  This will allow QB Dak Prescott to find his receivers and lead the Cowboys to victory.  However, QB Russell Wilson and his versatile offense will make it close and come within one possession of the victory.
With TE Hunter Henry back, this Chargers offense will only get better from here.  I think they’ll be able to handle the rising Ravens D this time around.  You know what they say: it’s hard to beat the same team twice.  This time around, the Chargers D will figure out how to shut down QB Lamar Jackson, RB Gus Edwards, and a talented Ravens offense.  It won’t be easy, but I see the Chargers as the only road team to win on Wild Card Weekend.
This will be closer than most people expect. QB Nick Foles has unlocked the full potential of the Eagles offense, and it will not be easy for even a dominant Bears D to contain them.  But I see QB Mitch Trubisky and his receivers stepping it up and leading a late comeback effort.  They will take advantage of the banged-up Eagles secondary and eventually secure the victory in overtime.

Divisional Round

This will not be an exciting one to watch.  The banged-up Houston offense will struggle to put up points, even against a mediocre New England D.  Don’t expect Brady the Pats to score much either against Houston’s strong defense.  But I see the Pats getting by, as Brady and his receivers take advantage of Houston’s defensive weakness: their secondary.  On the other hand, the Patriots’ well-rounded defense will stand strong.
No matter who wins in this divisional rubber match, it will be a complete shootout.  The Chiefs have next to no defense, which will not serve them well against any playoff team.  But will QB Patrick Mahomes II and company put up enough points to get by anyway?  In the playoffs?  I don’t think so.  Mahomes will put up a multi-TD effort.  But the Chargers’ revamped offense will dominate a weak Kansas City defense and outplay Mahomes and his squad.  Even with Mahomes replacing QB Alex Smith, the Chiefs will choke in the playoffs, again, as the Chargers move on to face New England in the AFC Championship.
This will be another close one.  But I don’t see this being as high-Scoring as Chicago’s Wild Card Weekend match-up with the Eagles.  The Rams have one of the most star-studded defenses in the league.  They will severely limit the abilities of a young Bears offense.  But Chicago’s D is up there with LA’s.  QB Jared Goff has had a good season in general, but he has put up a few duds here and there.  After putting up a dud the last time these two teams played, I could see him doing it again.  RB Todd Gurley is not at full health and WR Cooper Kupp is done for the year.  Goff will find himself short of weapons and will fall short in OT, going one and done for the second year in a row.
Dallas will be able to get by in the first round, but wait till they see an elite contender.  The Saints should be able to top the Cowboys with ease, even after their defeat in Dallas.  This game will take place in New Orleans, and it will be easier on the Saints now that they have an idea of what they’re up against.   Brees and his receivers will put up a decent game, but it’s the Saints defense that I could see stepping it up here against Prescott and his young offense.

Conference Championships

AFC Championship
In order for TB12 and the Patriots to take down this dominant Chargers offense, they’ll need to get their own act together offensively.  But at Gillette Stadium, I have confidence in them.  As long as the Chargers or somebody else dethrones the Chiefs before New England has to play them, the Pats will get the opportunity to play the AFC Championship at home, where they are undefeated on the season.  Against a decent Chargers D, Brady will have to use a variety of receivers, and the Pats will have to run the ball occasionally.  But I have confidence that they are capable, especially on home turf, though this will not be easy.  If this was played anywhere but Gillette, the Patriots would likely fall short to LA’s overpowered offense.
NFC Championship
Against a tough Bears D, you cannot expect a huge game out of Brees and company.  But the Saints have made defensive improvements of their own throughout the season, and I could see them holding the Bears to just 1 TD of their own.  The Saints will get by in the end, making the Super Bowl for the first time since 2009.
Fun fact: In 2009, the Saints went 13-3, losing to the same opponents as they did this year.  They went on to win the Super Bowl that year.

Super Bowl LIII

In a battle of two star QBs in Brady and Brees, I have the Pats winning it all. But it won’t be Brady who drives the victory.  The Saints have succeeded in stopping the run for most of the season, but the at times dominant Pats RB trio might overwhelm them.  Meanwhile, Brees will have a strong game here, but I think the Pats’ star-studded secondary will stand strong, holding Brees and his receivers to just 2 TDs.  These two things along with a vintage game by TE Rob Gronkowski will lead New England to a 6th Super Bowl victory.  I think RBs James White and Sony Michel will shine in this game, and I see the future of this team depending on their success.
That’s all for today’s predictions.  Stay tuned for more NFL Playoffs coverage and updates soon.
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2018 NFL Week 16 Picks & Previews: No(t Many) Surprises Here

Welcome to my Week 16 NFL picks and previews.  Last week, I went 11-5, putting my overall record at 126-97-2 (127-98-2 including Week 16 Saturday games).  For the most part, there are very few upsets in the final few weeks of the season. I don’t think there will be many upsets this week, either.  But that doesn’t mean there won’t be any surprises. There’s bound to be a couple surprise victories. But who will be the team to surprise us this week?  Keep reading to find out what I think, and feel free to comment with your thoughts.

Lock of the Week

Expect Detroit’s offensive struggles to continue against the strong Vikings defense.  The Vikings won’t be at their best offensively either in this game, but they should still score multiple TDs.  The combination of these two factors will help the Vikings win with ease in Detroit.

Upset of the Week (SNF)

I think QB Patrick Mahomes II could have a dominant game against the inexperienced Seahawks defense, tossing 3+ TDs.  But I expect Seattle’s versatile, consistent offense to put together more quality drives and find a way to win at home, especially against one of the worst defenses in the league.  The Chiefs will be without not only RB Kareem Hunt, but also WR Sammy Watkins. I see them just barely coming up short at CenturyLink Field.

The Other Games

Saturday, 4:30 PM EST (Posted to Twitter on Saturday; Actual Score: 25-16 Titans)

Look for QB Marcus Mariota and the young Titans offense to get it done against an unmotivated Redskins defense.  QB Josh Johnson and his offense will not help matters for the Redskins as they fail to score a TD. This will partially be due to Washington’s QB struggles without Alex Smith, but also partially due to a dominant defensive game by Tennessee that secures them a victory.
Saturday, 8:20 PM EST (Posted to Twitter on Saturday; Actual Score: 22-10 Ravens)

Despite an ugly game, expect QB Philip Rivers and the Chargers to prevail here.  RB Melvin Gordon and WR Keenan Allen will boost the Chargers in their return, but the entire offense including Gordon and Allen will be limited by the overwhelming Baltimore defense.  QB Lamar Jackson and his offense will make this close, but they even after the strong defensive performance, the Ravens will fail to keep up with Rivers, Gordon, and Co.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Look for the Pats to rebound from two straight losses in their return to Gillette.  Even without WR Josh Gordon (who was suspended earlier this week), I think QB Tom Brady will turn it around for 3+ TDs.  Even the Pats defense will improve here as they hold Buffalo to just 1 TD.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Expect the Dolphins to win here, but it will not be easy.  First of all, I’m expecting a low scoring, ugly game. In addition, I see the Jags forcing overtime as their defense gets back on track here.  However, Jacksonville will fall short as their offense struggles to produce without a quality starting QB.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Look for Green Bay to get by due to a consistent offense led by QB Aaron Rodgers.  Expect New York’s offense to look good at times as the Packers struggle at times to contain the Jets’ receivers.  But the Packers defense will still prevent them from getting into a real rhythm.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Cleveland has struggled in overtime throughout the season.  For all we know, they could be leading the division if it weren’t for their OT struggles.  But in this game, I see the Browns winning in overtime thanks to a clutch performance by QB Baker Mayfield and his young offense.  Cincy will make it close thanks to the emergence of WRs Tyler Boyd and John Ross agains the inexperienced Browns D. But I still expect them to fall just short.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Look for Philly to pull the upset after a strong offensive game supported by QB Nick Foles.  Their case will be helped by Houston’s offensive struggles without RB Lamar Miller. The Texans D will limit Foles and the Eagles, but it will not be enough.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Look for QB Andrew Luck and his offense to find a way against a weakened Giants D.  The Giants should be alright without WR Odell Beckham Jr. against an inexperienced Colts defense.  But Luck and the Colts will be able to lead Indy to victory regardless.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

 

Expect QB Dak Prescott to lead the Cowboys to victory in a relatively high scoring game.  QB Jameis Winston will toss 2-3 TDs of his own against a young Dallas defense, but the Bucs D will struggle regressively as usual, allowing the Cowboys to outplay Tampa’s offense and win easily.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

QB Taylor Heinicke will not be able to compete with QB Matt Ryan like QB Cam Newton would.  Look for Ryan and the Falcons offense to dominate against a weak Carolina secondary as Atlanta wins in a blowout.
Sunday, 4:05 PM EST

Look for the Bears to get by in a defense-first game.  Chicago’s D will hold QB Nick Mullens and the Niners to just 10 points.  Don’t expect a field day for the Chicago offense, but they should put up enough points for a road victory.
Sunday, 4:05 PM EST

Look for the Rams strong D to shut down the Cardinals’ young offense.  The Rams won’t be great offensively, but they’ll put up enough to get by despite an ugly overall game.
Sunday, 4:25 PM EST

The Saints won’t be up to full speed offensively, as WR Michael Thomas is the only trustworthy receiver QB Drew Brees has right now.  But the Steelers’ offense won’t be at full capacity either with RB James Conner out. QB Ben Roethlisberger will toss multiple TD, but it won’t be enough as the run game is practically non-existent.  This will allow the Saints to get by at home.
Monday, 8:15 PM EST

Look for the Broncos’ to win in primetime thanks to a strong game by not only RB Phillip Lindsay but the entire Denver run game.  The Raiders’ offense will struggle to produce against a strong Denver defense, even in Oakland.

That’s all for today’s picks.  Stay tuned for more NFL coverage soon.

2018 NFL Week 15 Picks & Previews: Locking Up a Playoff Spot

Welcome to my Week 15 NFL Picks and Previews.  Last week was a rough week, as I went 6-10, putting my overall record at 115-92-2 (117-93-2 including TNF and Saturday).  I am still only ahead of 1 expert (Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports). This week, many teams have a chance to lock up playoff spots, but will all of the current contenders keep rolling this week, or will some fall behind as other teams rise?  The Patriots take on the Steelers, and the Saints play the Panthers in Carolina, so there’s bound to be a couple teams knocked out of contention.  Pittsburgh, who’s already just 7-5-1, faces not only New England but also the Saints on their remaining schedule.  This could open the door for the Ravens and Browns in the AFC North.  Keep reading to find out what I think, and feel free to comment with your thoughts.

Lock of the Week

The Redskins won’t be able to do much offensively with Mark Sanchez and Josh Johnson as their QBs.  The Jags may have struggled this season, but their defense is still easily top 10 in the NFL. This will open the door for young QB Cody Kessler and the Jaguars to put up a strong offensive game in a blowout win.  The Redskins defense will lack motivation considering how badly the offense is doing, allowing Kessler to toss multiple TD and the Jacksonville run game to dominate.

Upset of the Week

Seattle has been strong at home this season with a 5-2 record.  But on the road, they are a measly 3-3. We’ve seen what Niners QB Nick Mullens is capable of.  Against an inexperienced Seahawks defense, I could see Mullens having a big game and leading San Francisco to pull off an upset.  The Niners run game will struggle though, since RB Matt Breida is not 100%.  Seattle should have a decent game offensively, but they won’t be able to compete with Mullens’ dominance, and QB Russell Wilson will struggle to connect with any WR who isn’t named Tyler Lockett.  Mullens will prove that although he’s not the future of the Niners, he is a capable QB who can handle the weaker defenses in the league with ease.

The Other Games

TNF (Posted to Twitter Thursday Night; Actual Score: 29-28 Chargers)

Look for QB Philip Rivers and his receivers to lead the Chargers past the weak Kansas City defense in a close, overtime game.  The Chiefs should also look very strong on offense, but they won’t be up to full speed without RB Kareem Hunt and WR Sammy Watkins.  This and the defensive struggles will cost the Chiefs late in the game.
Saturday, 4:30 PM EST (Posted to Twitter Saturday; Actual Score: 29-22 Texans)

Expect QB Sam Darnold and the Jets to put up a relatively strong game, even against the tough Houston defense.  But QB Deshaun Watson and the Texans will get by as the Jets are still held under 20. The return of RB Dont’a Foreman will boost the Texans’ offensive performance in the road victory.
Saturday, 8:20 PM EST (Posted to Twitter Saturday; Actual Score: 17-16 Browns)

Look for the Broncos to win at home in a low scoring game.  The Browns will struggle against a tough Broncos defense in Denver despite a stronger offensive season.  The strong defense as well as a big game from the Broncos RBs will lead the Broncos in their victory.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Led by the WR duo of Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, expect the Vikings to secure a victory at home after losing 2 in a row.  The Vikes defense will help their case as well, but the Dolphins will make this closer than you think.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Look for QB Josh Allen to lead the Bills to a home victory, taking advantage of his running abilities with RB LeSean McCoy out and RB Chris Ivory banged-up.  The Lions will look better offensively than they have been lately, but the Bills defense will prevent Detroit from providing a serious challenge.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

QB Lamar Jackson will prove himself as Baltimore’s starting QB here, leading the Ravens to victory at home.  The Ravens D will also have a strong game, holding Tampa under 15. The Bucs offense will lack the energy it usually has in the loss, making the Ravens D’s job easier.  
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Look for QB Jeff Driskel and his offense to outperform their expectations against the young Oakland defense.  Cincy’s run game will help, as Joe Mixon has 100+ yards rushing. But Driskel will still throw multiple TDs in the victory.  Meanwhile, Oakland will be held to just 1 TD, as QB Derek Carr has a hard time relying on his WRs, instead relying on TE Jared Cook.  
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

QB Marcus Mariota should be able to find his receivers despite lacking WR depth, as the Giants defense struggles to contain Mariota’s receivers without S Landon Collins (injured) and CB Eli Apple (traded).  The Giants will fall short as the defense struggles and QB Eli Manning throws throws more picks than he throws TDs.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

The Colts offense should be alright against the young Dallas D.  However, QB Dak Prescott and the Cowboys will continue to dominate against the weak Colts defense.  Strong games by WR Amari Cooper and RB Ezekiel Elliott will lead them to victory.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Look for DE Khalil Mack and the Bears defense to dominate against a Packers team that lacks talent outside of QB Aaron Rodgers.  This will allow QB Mitch Trubisky and the Bears to thrive, winning easily with the help of a strong game by their RB duo.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Look for QB Matt Ryan and his receivers to dominate against the struggling Arizona defense.  The Cardinals will also put up an underwhelming performance on offense, as QB Josh Rosen struggles to find his receivers without WR Christian Kirk, even against the weak Falcons D.  The Cardinals will fall short after Atlanta’s much better offensive game.
Sunday, 4:25 PM EST

Check back closer to kickoff for a video preview!

The Pats will get by in Pittsburgh, but QB Tom Brady will still struggle to connect with his receivers on the road.  The Steelers offense will struggle as well and their run game won’t be able to do much of anything without RB James Conner.  
Sunday, 8:20 PM EST

QB Jared Goff and the Rams will look good against the depleted Eagles defense, even if they aren’t at their best.  But it’s LA’s defense that will lead the Rams to victory. The Rams defense will shut down a Philly offense that can be explosive at times.
Monday, 8:15 PM EST

The Saints should be able to get by on the road, even against Carolina.  New Orleans will not be at full strength in their third straight road game, especially after losing their momentum in an all out embarrassing loss to Dallas.  The Panthers defense will hold them back, but QB Drew Brees and WR Michael Thomas will lead the Saints to victory. QB Cam Newton and his offense will make it close in primetime, but it will not be enough.

That’s all for this week.  Stay tuned for more posts soon.

 

2018 NFL Week 9 Picks & Previews: Contenders Keep Going with Close Wins

Welcome to my Week 9 NFL Picks & Previews.  Last week I went 7-7, putting my overall record at 68-51-2 (69-51-2 including Week 9 TNF).  I am ahead of 3 ESPN experts and 1 CBS Sports expert.  Look for a lot of the borderline contenders to prove themselves this week with important wins.  I think the Ravens will shut down the Steelers for the 2nd time this year, the Vikings will silence the Lions, and the Chargers will dominate the 4-3 Seahawks coming off the bye week.  The Chargers had put a 4-game win streak together prior to the bye.  Although some of these contenders will win, some will be upset. Who will fall in a shocking upset?  Who will remain elite?  Keep reading to find out what I think.

Lock of the Week

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Expect LA’s explosive offense to embarrass the young Seattle D in a blowout.  With WR Brandon Marshall a free agent, QB Russell Wilson will also struggle to find reliable open men.  Meanwhile, QB Philip Rivers will lead the Chargers to a blowout victory with 4+ TD.  

Upset of the Week

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I don’t think WR Amari Cooper will make much of a difference for QB Dak Prescott and the troubled Dallas pass offense.  Their big week against Jacksonville is a sign of big things to come, but it won’t happen this week as Tennessee’s secondary steps it up.  The Titans will bounce back from a rough October with a triumphant Monday Night victory coming off the bye as they shock the Cowboys in their first home loss of the season.  

The Other Games

TNF (Posted to Twitter on Thursday Night; Actual Score: 34-3 49ers)

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Even with their third-string QB starting, I think this young 49ers offense can put together a big game considering how bad the Oakland D has been without DE Khalil Mack.  Oakland’s season will begin to fall apart despite looking okay on offense.  I don’t think they will win many more games with RB Marshawn Lynch out and WR Amari Cooper gone.  
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

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QB Brock Osweiler somehow led for the Dolphins to victory in Week 7.  But I don’t see him winning against the Jets elite secondary.  Expect multiple interceptions here, even on Osweiler’s home turf.  QB Sam Darnold will step it up to secure a Jets victory on the road.  QB Ryan Tannehill spoiled New York’s home opener.  Darnold will look for revenge with Tannehill injured for the third straight game.  
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

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Look for Chicago’s defense to lead them to victory against another banged-up AFC East team in the Bills.  Buffalo will have to settle for Nathan Peterman at QB, although they did add another weapon in Terrelle Pryor Jr. for him.  I think Peterman will look better than usual and make this close, but there’s no way he leads the Bills to victory against this Bears defense.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

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Pittsburgh was starting to look alright without RB Le’Veon Bell.  But there’s no way they get past this versatile Ravens run defense without their star running back.  This will make it hard for Pittsburgh to outscore Baltimore.  I don’t see the Steelers defense performing any better than usual against this deep Ravens receiving corps.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

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Against a rebuilding Browns defense, QB Patrick Mahomes II should be dominant as usual.  I could even see him throwing 4 TD in this game. The Chiefs defense will slip a little against QB Baker Mayfield and an improved Cleveland offense, but Mahomes’ field day will be enough for them here.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

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Look for the Redskins to play complimentary football here in an all-around strong game.  They will utilize their versatile roster as they win at home. Atlanta’s washed-up defense will also struggle to contain QB Alex Smith’s deep receiving corps.  
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

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Look for serious regression from Detroit’s offense as they face one of the league’s best defenses without WR Golden Tate.  I have the Vikes holding them under 10 here. QB Kirk Cousins and his receivers won’t look much better, but they should manage to get by.  Don’t expect many more losses by the Vikes either. With RB Dalvin Cook healthy, things should be smooth sailing.  They’ve really only had one concerning loss this whole season.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

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QB Cam Newton and the Panthers offense should ride the momentum they gathered in Week 8 to beat the Bucs in Carolina.  They should not be concerned about facing a Buccaneers D that has struggled all season. QB Ryan Fitzpatrick will not be enough to lead Tampa to victory here as Carolina shuts down Tampa’s run game.  That puts a lot of pressure on Fitzpatrick, which could cause him to struggle.
Sunday, 4:05 PM EST

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Houston will struggle offensively, as WR Demaryius Thomas doesn’t provide much of an upgrade over WR Will Fuller.  Plus, Denver’s secondary knows Thomas very well and will be able to shut him down. The Broncos will edge out a victory in a low scoring game as WR Courtland Sutton steps it up with Thomas flipping sides.  Don’t expect much scoring though. This is a battle of two of the AFC’s best defenses.
Sunday, 4:25 PM EST

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The Rams will stay undefeated with a road win over New Orleans.  Their elite defense will come ready to shut down QB Drew Brees, RB Alvin Kamara and the Saints offense.  Even with WR Cooper Kupp back, the Rams won’t be at full speed on offense. But they should get past the Saints thanks to elite defense and a last minute, victory-securing TD.  
Sunday, 8:20 PM EST

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If RB Sony Michel and TE Rob Gronkowski are healthy, this will be a blowout.  Otherwise, it could be close.  QB Aaron Rodgers will struggle to find open men here, as the Patriots secondary will keep Rodgers’ small number of dependable receivers well covered.  The Pats offense will be back to dominance if they have Gronk and Michel.  But after New England’s hiccup without them last week, I don’t think the offense would be the same without them.  I think they will be able to play, but I’m not an injury expert. Either way, New England should win and remain undefeated at home.

That’s all for this week. Stay tuned for more NFL posts soon, including my mid-season report (I usually post it after Week 8, but have delayed it until after Week 9 to the chaotic playoff picture we have right now).  Hopefully, Week 9 will settle some things.

2018 NFL Week 4 Picks & Previews: Which Surprise Teams Come Back Down to Earth?

Welcome to my Week 4 NFL picks and previews.  It was a rough week for me last week, as I finished 6-10.  But luckily, I’m still 27-19-2 (28-19-2 including TNF Week 4) due to my strong week in Week 2.  I’m still ahead of 9 of ESPN’s 10 experts, and half of CBS Sports’ 8 experts. There have been a lot of surprises in the NFL so far this year.  Unexpected contenders have emerged, and what were perceived as some of the NFL’s best teams are struggling to keep up.  I definitely think this week will set some things straight.  Some of the expected contenders will start to surpass the surprise teams.  The question is, which surprise teams come down to earth first?  Keep reading to find out what I think.

Lock of the Week

QB Sam Darnold and the Jets offense looked good in the first couple weeks.  But this offense is still very young and has things to learn. I expect this dominant Jaguars defense to tear apart New York’s offensive game plan.  The pressure of Sacksonville will get to Darnold, which will mess up the entire offensive scheme for the Jets. The Jaguars offense doesn’t have to have a field day to win a game, and they’ve made that very clear.  RB Leonard Fournette will likely return this week.  They had been fine without him, at home against the Patriots!  Given that, this home game against the Jets with Fournette back should be a clinic in Jacksonville’s favor.  

Upset of the Week

QB Sam Bradford had clearly declined, and after two weeks, all Cardinals fans knew Bradford wasn’t the answer.  But Steve Wilks has finally put QB Josh Rosen in as the starter!  Rosen was my favorite QB of this year’s draft, and I expect him to completely turn around the Cardinals offense this week.  I don’t expect this kind of consistency throughout the year in 2018.  But this will give us a glimpse at what the Cardinals invested in down the road, kind of like what the Jets received from QB Sam Darnold in his first game.  I think Rosen can handle the rebuilding Seattle defense on his home turf. Look for Arizona’s tight ends to have an especially strong game as well.  Meanwhile, the Seattle defense will struggle to contain Rosen and RB David Johnson.  Their offense will see slight improvement with WR Doug Baldwin likely to return, but nothing significant as Arizona pulls off the upset at home.

The Other Games

TNF (Posted on Twitter Thursday Night, Actual Score: 38-31 Rams)

Don’t expect an especially strong game from WRs Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs.  This Rams secondary is one of the league’s best.  However, the ground game will lead the way for the Vikes and make this close.  Look for QB Jared Goff and RB Todd Gurley to lead the Rams to victory with the help of strong defense.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Look for Miami’s receivers to thrive against a New England secondary that lacks a #2 corner.  #1 CB Stephon Gilmore will shut down WR DeVante Parker though.  However, this Dolphins run game is not the greatest, and if the Pats can shut them down, there is hope for the New England D.  I don’t think the Pats suck. Their last two Super Bowl-winning seasons started with 2 wins and 2 losses. Plus, they lost to a coach who knows them really well and their toughest opponent.  I think QB Tom Brady will find open men to lead New England to victory here.  This victory that will begin a long winning streak for the Pats.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

The Packers are a pass-first offense, and I don’t think the Bills will be able to keep them under control without CB Vontae Davis.  I don’t see this as a blowout though.  QB Josh Allen and the Bills offense will make it close.  But Green Bay will win at home by a comfortable margin, led by a dominant passing game.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Look for QB Matt Ryan and his newfound WR duo to overwhelm the Bengals secondary and score multiple TDs.  I don’t think the Bengals will be as strong on offense here without RB Joe Mixon. They will lose this one thanks to surprisingly strong defense by Atlanta.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

I think the Texans will do alright against the weak Colts defense in an effort for their first win.  But depth has been a problem for this team from the start, and that will hinder their success.  The Colts will give the Texans a scare.  This will be thanks to a pretty good week by QB Andrew Luck and his offense, even against the fierce Houston D.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

WR Rishard Matthews was released by the Titans this week.  Now, the Titans lack a healthy QB and lack WR depth.  That will cause the offense regressive struggles.  The Eagles defense will also do their job in shutting down Tennessee’s RB duo.  QB Carson Wentz and the Eagles offense will cruise to victory, especially if WR Alshon Jeffery plays.  
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Expect an offensive shootout here. Both these defenses are some of the league’s worst, and I think both these offenses are underrated.  The Cowboys pass defense will struggle excessively against the LIons strong WR corps.  However, I think QB Dak Prescott will finally turn it around against the struggling Detroit D.  This will lead them to a home win.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

 

I think the Bucs will start QB Ryan Fitzpatrick in this game.  Look for the Fitzmagic to continue, but will it be enough for the Bucs in Chicago?  I’m concerned that Tampa’s secondary will blow it for them against QB Mitch Trubisky and the Bears underrated WR corps.  I also feel that the Bucs young run game will struggle against Khalil Mack and the Bears run defense. These two things will lead Chicago to victory at home.
Sunday, 4:05 PM EST

QB Baker Mayfield will lead the Browns to another strong offensive game here against a declining Raiders D.  But you cannot sleep on these Raiders receivers. Against a young Cleveland defense, expect QB Derek Carr and the Raiders deep WR corps to dominate.  I also expect a strong game from Oakland’s running backs that assist Carr in an offensive shootout victory.
Sunday, 4:25 PM EST

The 49ers will miss QB Jimmy Garoppolo here.  QB C.J. Beathard will do alright in LA, but he will be nowhere near Garoppolo’s level.  I don’t see him finishing the job for the Niners. Meanwhile, the Chargers offense will have a strong day against the 49ers young D.  QB Philip Rivers, RB Melvin Gordon, and the strong offense will lead LA to victory.
Sunday, 4:25 PM EST

QB Eli Manning and his receivers should do alright against a Saints defense that has significantly declined since last year.  But they will miss TE Evan Engram. Meanwhile, RB Alvin Kamara and WR Michael Thomas will have dominant games that lead the Saints to victory despite an underwhelming game by QB Drew Brees.
SNF (Sunday, 8:20 PM EST)

The Steelers may be declining without RB Le’Veon Bell, but they are still an average team that can win some games without him.  I think the Steelers defense will be able to shut down the Ravens attack. Plus, QB Ben Roethlisberger will find plenty of weapons to lead Pittsburgh to victory, even without Bell.
MNF (Monday, 8:15 PM EST) (OT)

This will be a very close game.  QB Patrick Mahomes II will lead a strong Chiefs offense to a big game.  But the Chiefs are all offense, no defense, and they will struggle to contain Denver’s receivers.  I could see this going to overtime, but I don’t see the Chiefs winning with their run game struggling against the unstoppable Denver front seven.

That’s all for my Week 4 picks and previews.  Feel free to comment with your thoughts.

 

2018 NFL Week 3 Picks & Previews: Lots of Upsets as Contenders Rise

Welcome to my NFL Week 3 picks and previews.  I had a great week last week, finishing 12-3-1,  That brings my overall record to 21-9-2, better than any ESPN or CBS Sports expert besides Pete Prisco.  If I told you who the current 2-0 teams were before the season started, most of you would be shocked. The Dolphins? The Bengals? The Chiefs?

According to NFL Network, 2-0 teams make the playoffs 64% of the time.  But those odds go up to 75% if they become 3-0. So as NFL Network put it, this is a big week for those 2-0 teams.  Which of them are contenders, and which are pretenders? We will likely get a glimpse at that this week.

Lock of the Week

I know a lot of you think the Vikings are going to blow out the Bills, but it’s hard to imagine any team blowing out another without their star running back (still see the Vikes winning though).  With RB Dalvin Cook out, this becomes the biggest lock in my eyes. The Chiefs defense isn’t anything special, but I think they’ll keep QB Jimmy Garoppolo’s young receivers covered, leaving Garoppolo scrambling to find an open man.  Meanwhile, I cannot see the 49ers defense stopping QB Patrick Mahomes II. Expect Mahomes to toss a few more touchdowns and lead the Chiefs offense to dominate. RB Kareem Hunt will also have a strong game.

Upset of the Week

The Ravens were topped easily by the Bengals last week, and I see Cincy as a pretender who’s just riding an easy schedule to a winning record.  So, I don’t think the Ravens will be able to do much against this shut down Denver D, even at home.  I think the No-Fly Zone will be back up to full speed this week against QB Joe Flacco’s mediocre receivers.  I think the Ravens defense will have a strong game as well, leaving QB Case Keenum with less open men and less TD opportunities than he had in the last two games. But I do think Keenum and the Broncos will find a way to pull off the upset in Baltimore.

The Other Games

TNF (Posted to Twitter on Thursday Night; Actual Score: 21-17 Browns)

The Browns might be without WR Josh Gordon, but they’ll find creative ways to score as their running backs lead the way. Expect the Jets defense to shut down Cleveland’s receivers for a good portion of the game.  But look for TE David Njoku to shine.  The Jets will make it close with strong offense of their own, but I don’t see it being enough as the Browns young offense finds a way.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

I’m a little worried about the Raider defense in this game, but I think QB Derek Carr will find open men, taking advantage of Miami’s weakness, their defense.  Look for QB Ryan Tannehill to have a strong game as well, but I don’t think the Dolphins are as good as advertised, and Carr will lead the Raiders to pull the upset.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

This Bills offense has not been able to get into a groove yet this year, and you can expect more of the same in Minnesota.  QB Kirk Cousins and his receivers will lead the way for Minnesota with the help of dominant defense.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

The Bengals defense will play a factor here, minimalizing what the Panthers offense can put up.  Carolina’s run game will struggle, and Cam Newton will be held to one TD as his receivers are well covered.  Meanwhile, I expect QB Andy Dalton and his receivers to have a pretty strong game.  But I see the Panthers defense completely shutting down the Joe Mixon-less Bengals run game and leading Carolina to victory.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Expect a stellar performance by Houston’s receivers against a banged up New York secondary and a dominant game by QB Deshaun Watson against a below average Giants defensive front.  I think the Giants will take the early lead, but the Texans dominant D will shut them down as Houston comes back.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Look for the Jaguars offense to be limited by a somewhat strong Titans D.  But this is Sacksonville, and QB Blaine Gabbert will be their next victim.  Expect the Jags D to dominate, holding Tennessee under 10.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

QB Carson Wentz is back, but with RB Jay Ajayi and WRs Alshon Jeffery and Mike Wallace hurt, he doesn’t have much left around him.  So I don’t expect an all out domination. Expect the Colts to have a decent offensive day against the young Eagles secondary.  But I think Wentz and the Eagles will be able to squeeze by.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Look for the Redskins to have a strong offensive day, but I think strong red zone D by Green Bay will hold them up here.  Meanwhile, expect the Packers to hold the lead for most of the game as Aaron Rodgers tosses multiple TDs and looks a little more mobile in recovery from his knee injury.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST (OT)

Look for the Saints to grab an early lead here, led by RB Alvin Kamara and WR Michael Thomas.  But I think they’ll slow down, and strong WR play by Atlanta plus sloppy defense by New Orleans will lead to a Falcons comeback in overtime.
Sunday, 4:05 PM EST

Look for a spot-on game by the Rams entire defense, as they will shut down a high-powered Chargers offense.  I don’t think QB Jared Goff and his offense will look all that great, but they’ll come out victorious thanks to the defense stepping it up.
Sunday, 4:25 PM EST

I think Seattle’s offense will look alright here, but they’ll begin to miss WR Doug Baldwin.  Meanwhile, their declining defense will blow it as QB Dak Prescott and his receivers dominate.
Sunday, 4:25 PM EST (OT)

The hollers for QB Josh Rosen to take over will just get louder this week as QB Sam Bradford blows it in overtime.  I honestly think the Cardinals would be so much better off right now if they had started Rosen.  Chicago’s defense, receivers, and backs will all show promise as Arizona looks better, but can’t pull off a victory at home.  
Sunday, 8:30 PM EST

Check back for a video preview closer to game time!

Expect an offensive shootout here, as both QB Tom Brady and QB Matthew Stafford toss multiple TD.  Meanwhile, the Lions defense will struggle regressively as the Pats score 5 TD. However, New England’s defense will be overwhelmed by Detroit’s offensive depth, and they won’t look much better despite a New England victory.
Monday, 8:30 PM EST

Look for the Bucs to have another strong offensive game and get creative in scoring situations as Pittsburgh’s D tries to limit them.  But I think the Steelers will fall short again without RB Le’Veon Bell, making WR Antonio Brown more fed up with this team.

That’s all for my picks for this week.  Comment with your thoughts, and stay tuned for more posts soon.

2016 AFC Draft Grades: Determining The Winners and Losers

The NFL draft has concluded, and as usual, my mock draft sucked because of trades.  But now it’s time to reflect on the draft.  Below I have graded every pick made by each AFC team and given each team an overall draft grade.  Undrafted free agents will not affect these grades.

 

AFC East

Buffalo Bills

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Round   Pick        Name                          Pos.  College  Grade

1           19          Shaq Lawson              DE     Clemson    A

2            10         Reggie Ragland          OLB    Alabama   A-

3            17      Adolphus Washington   DT    Ohio St.    A-

4           41          Cardale Jones                QB     Ohio St.    B

5           18       Jonathan Williams          RB     Arkansas  B+

6           17         Kolby Listenbee              WR    TCU           A-

6          43          Kevon Seymour             CB      USC            A-

Overall Grade: A-

What They Did Right: This is one of the better teams in this draft.  As usual, Rex Ryan and Doug Whaley went straight for defense.  They could’ve mixed it up and went after offense early in this draft, but I think Whaley & Ryan  actually took the right approach this time.  They had a serious need for pass rushers after losing Kiko Alonso, Nigel Bradham, and Mario Williams the last two off-seasons.  Intriguing prospects like Shaq Lawson and Reggie Ragland going that late in the draft was a big steal for Buffalo.  Why did they draft a DT then?  Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus aren’t going to last forever, and the Bills already filled their urgent needs in rounds 1 and 2.  I also liked their late round selection of Kolby Listenbee.  He can develop behind Robert Woods and eventually be a companion to Sammy Watkins.  This draft just made an already scary defense better, but their offense may still need work, especially if Jonathan Williams isn’t ready for Week 1.

What They Did Wrong: After taking solid, safe, large school pass rushers in the first three rounds, their fourth and fifth round selections seemed off to me.  Since when is E.J. Manuel not an acceptable backup?  I guess they didn’t think of him when they took Cardale Jones.  Sure, Jones might not be ready to start, but I’m sure he was ready to at least be an NFL QB’s understudy.  Unless Manuel gets cut and ends up at rock bottom, Jones won’t see a game until Tyrod Taylor or Manuel is gone.  Yes, they needed a running back, but that was a pretty urgent need with Anthony Dixon gone.  Jonathan Williams, really?  He missed all of last season with a torn ACL.  There’s no telling when and if he’ll come back from that.  But guess what, Manuel might be released, and Williams might come back.  This draft has high upside, and with a safe group of picks chosen in days 1 and 2, the Bills look to be a team that will be highly impacted by this draft.  This class can win Rex Ryan games.  No more 8-8 seasons?  That is highly possible.

Miami Dolphins

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Round   Pick        Name                          Pos.  College  Grade

1           13            Laremy Tunsil           OT     Ole Miss    C

2           7              Xavien Howard         CB      Baylor        A-

3           10             Kenyan Drake           RB     Alabama    B+

3           23             Leonte Carroo           WR   Rutgers       A-

6           11              Jakeem Grant            WR   Texas           B

6          29              Jordan Lucas             SS       Penn St.    B+

7           2               Brandon Doughty   QB   West Kentucky   B+

7          10              Thomas Duarte        TE        UCLA        B

   Overall Grade: B-

What They Did Right: The Dolphins may have wasted some of their picks, but the important thing is they addressed all of their main urgent needs at some point during the draft.  Kenyan Drake is an efficient RB option that will split time with sophomore player Jay Ajayi, and Xavien Howard fills the need at cornerback across from Byron Maxwell.  They got Leonte Carroo and Jakeem Grant to mix into the current wide receiver group, and they got an acceptable backup for Ryan Tannehill that will play ahead of Matt Moore.  What they did wrong is they picked the wrong guys at the wrong time.  They took Howard when Top 5 corner Mackensie Alexander was still on the board, and he was expected to go in Round 1.  They took Drake without recognizing that DeVontae Booker and Kenneth Dixon were much better prospects left.

What They Did Wrong: Really, an offensive tackle in Round 1?  Really, picking Laremy Tunsil after his Twitter got hacked and a video of him taking marijuana got posted?!!  They could’ve let him slide a little further and gone after a corner, or Kevin Dodd, who ended up out of Round 1.  This means that Ja’Wuan James will have to either fill the smaller need at guard, start ahead of Tunsil or Branden Albert, or lose his starting job.  Tunsil has so many off the field issues, and it was not necessary to pick him, even if he was best available.  The late round picks had the opposite issue of the Day 2 ones, good players at inconvenient positions.  Jordan Lucas and Thomas Duarte are great guys. But the Dolphins are fine at tight end. They could have used that pick on a pass rusher or something like that, and unless Reshad Jones plays free safety this season or Jordan Lucas switches positions, they’re all set at strong safety.  The Dolphins had an efficient draft as they filled the holes, but may have taken the wrong players at the wrong times, and completely blew their first round pick.

 

New England Patriots

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Round   Pick        Name                          Pos.  College  Grade

2           29           Cyrus Jones                CB     Alabama    B-

3            15            Joe Thuney                OG     N.C. State   A-

3            29           Jacoby Brissett         QB      N.C. State   B

3            34            Vincent Valentine   DT     Nebraska      B

4            14             Malcolm Mitchell    WR    Georgia       A-

6            33             Kamu Grugier-Hill  OLB   East Illinois  B

6             39             Elandon Roberts        ILB      Houston     A-

6              46            Ted Karras                    OG         Illinois      B+

7                4             Devin Lucien               WR        Arizona St.  B-

Overall Grade: B

What They Did Right: Belichick and crew had another efficient draft.  They filled most of their major needs.  Joe Thuney is in to replace Ryan Wendell.  Malcolm Mitchell will join the deep wide receiver rotation.  I just don’t see why they A) Drafted multiple guys at one position and B) Passed on quality running backs and defensive ends early.  I also like how they drafted a possible Brady replacement in case Brady’s suspension is upheld or he declines.  TB12 won’t last forever, but Brissett when Dak Prescott, Connor Cook and RBs Kenneth Dixon and DeVontae Booker available?  Bad idea.  They also took a lot of long shots, for example, Vincent Valentine, but he took far down players for a reason.  Valentine’s the size of Vince Wilfork.

What They Did Wrong: Where’s the franchise RB?  Blount’s on the decline, and Dion Lewis is coming off a torn ACL.  They took a corner, they took two guards and two receivers, and no running back?  Come on Pats.  You’re better than that.  I also don’t like how after they had gotten up to 12 total picks, traded some big ones away.  They needed those picks if they wanted to win a title.  I like who the Patriots picked, but I think they may have used picks in an unnecessary way and left out certain areas of need in this draft, especially the need in the backfield.

 

New York Jets

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Round   Pick        Name                          Pos.  College  Grade

1            20          Darron Lee                 OLB   Ohio St.     A-

2            20         Christian Hackenberg  QB   Penn St.  A-

3            20         Jordan Jenkins           OLB     Georgia    A-

4            20        Juston Burris                 CB     N.C. State  B

5             21        Brandon Shell                OT    S. Carolina  A-

7              14        Lac Edwards                   P    Sam Houston St   A-

7             20         Charone Peake           WR     Clemson     B+

 

Overall Grade: B+

 

What They Did Right: This was a pretty strong draft for the Jets.  Almost all of their needs were filled, and their picks (most of them, at least) were under the radar.  They went with some of the safest guys at their needed positions on Days 1 and 2 including Darron Lee and Christian Hackenberg.  On days 1 and 2 they did a pretty amazing job, their only problems were taking two OLBs instead of an OLB and an ILB, and ignoring their need at OT.  They filled it later with Brandon Shell, and minor needs at WR, corner and punter were filled, also mostly with under the radar picks, they were at least considered that for how late they went.

What They Did Wrong: The Jets had a great draft, but their grade goes down significantly for one reason.  They still need an ILB!  Taiwan Jones is the best they’ve got at ILB, and unless also inconsistent Lorenzo Mauldin moves over, they have a serious issue.  A near perfect draft class has its flaws, this is the biggest one.  Next time, don’t draft Darron Lee and Jordan Jenkins unless you know an efficient linebacker that can move to the interior.

 

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens

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Round   Pick        Name                          Pos.  College  Grade

1             6          Ronnie Stanley          OT    Notre Dame   A+

2            11          Kamalei Correa        OLB    Boise St.        B+

3             7           Bronson Kaufusi       DE        BYU               A-

4             6           Tavon Young              CB        Temple       B-

4             9           Chris Moore                WR     Cincinnati    B-

4            32          Alex Lewis                   OT      Nebraska        A

4            34           Willie Henry              DT      Michigan        A-

4            36           Kenneth Dixon         RB      LA Tech          A-

5             7           Matt Judon                 DE     GV State           A-

6             7           Keenan Reynolds     RB     Navy                 A

6            34         Maurice Canady         CB     Virginia           A-

Overall Grade: A-

 

What They Did Right: The Ravens filled most of their major needs and got some real good players in the process.  They may have gone for many long shots, but they really upgraded their weakest spot, the line of scrimmage.  Ronnie Stanley and Alex Lewis will really help the offensive tackle depth chart.  Bronson Kaufusi, Willie Henry, and Matt Judon will bolster the defensive line and add to an already scary pass rush.  The Ravens also had some big steals.  They snagged Kenneth Dixon after falling to late Round 4.  They also got intriguing Navy RB Keenan Reynolds, and after drafting long-shot corner prospect Tavon Young, they snagged Maurice Canady soon before the conclusion of Round 6.  What a draft class!

What They Did Wrong: This was a great draft class full of steals and studs, but every near-perfect thing has its flaws.  For Baltimore, the biggest flaw is too many long-shots.  A long-shot pick could always be good if you know what you’re doing, but in great numbers, it gets out of hand.  They needed a wide receiver and drafted Chris Moore, but he’s not the future of this franchise for when Steve Smith and Mike Wallace get old.  Each long shot pick comes with risk, and you want to have a lot of safe selections.  You don’t want your whole draft class to become busts, even for a 4th or 5th rounder, where 3 of their 5 picks made are guys I would consider long-shots.  They additionally never filled their need at inside linebacker, and a few other long-term needs.  This team is good now, but what has happened to their future?  The Ravens will know what I mean when they are desperate for a starting wide receiver a couple of years from now.

 

Cincinnati Bengals

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Round   Pick        Name                          Pos.  College  Grade

1          24            William Jackson III    CB     Houston   B

2          24             Tyler Boyd                    WR    Pitt            A

3          24             Nick Vigil                      ILB    Utah St.   B+

4         24              Andrew Billings          DT     Baylor       A

5          24             Christian Westerman  OG    ASU          B+

6         24              Cody Core                        WR   Ole Miss  B

7         24              Clayton Fejedelem         SS       Illinois    A

Overall Grade: B+

 

What They Did Right: This is a good and deep draft class with very high potential.  This class had many late round steals.  Andrew Billings, expected to go in the first two rounds, fell to Cincy in Round 4.  Christian Westerman fell to them in Round 5 after being projected as a 3rd rounder.  They also filled their biggest needs by far, safety, and wide receiver.  William Jackson III, Dre Kirkpatrick, and Clayton Fejedelem will all battle for the left corner and strong safety spots.  Nick Vigil will be an understudy for Rey Maualuga, and Andrew Billings will split time with Domata Peko.  Tyler Boyd will be an efficient WR2 or WR3, and Cody Core will fill the depth beyond the top 3 receivers.

What They Did Wrong: They didn’t do too much wrong.  This was a pretty good draft, but let’s go over a few small things that affected certain picks in a different way than it did to the overall grade.  For example, drafting a corner in Round 1 over wide receiver Michael Thomas wasn’t a great pick.  They had a burning need at receiver, and a deep receiver class to fill it with.  The secondary was more of a Day 2 issue.  They did fill the receiver position later.  Then, they didn’t fill the need at safety in Round 3 but instead went for a non-urgent selection of an inside linebacker.  Just something to keep in mind, a little shuffle of positions taken each round would’ve helped this class majorly.

Cleveland Browns

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Round   Pick        Name                          Pos.  College  Grade

1            15           Corey Coleman          WR    Baylor        A

2              1           Emmanuel Ogbah       DE    Oklahoma St.   A

3              2           Carl Nassib                    DE      Penn St.     A

3             13         Shon Coleman                OT     Auburn      A

3             31         Cody Kessler                    QB       USC         A-

4                1         Joe Schobert                   OLB     Wisconsin    A+

4                16      Ricardo Louis                    WR     Auburn       A-

4               31        Derrick Kindred               S         TCU          A

4                40        Seth Devalve                  TE        Princeton   B+

5                 15         Jordan Payton                WR         UCLA        A

5                  31         Spencer Drango            OG        Baylor       A

5                  35           Rashard Higgins         WR    Colorado St.  A

5                  36           Trey Caldwell               DB     LA-Monroe     A-

7                 29            Scooby Wright III       ILB    Arizona          A+

Overall Grade: A

What They Did Right: Almost everything.  What a draft class.  I loved how the Cleveland Browns plotted their draft day.  First, a trade back to let the Titans snag an OT and drafting wide receiver Corey Coleman (great fit, by the way!).  Then they get DE Emmanuel Ogbah in Round 2 and steal DE Carl Nassib in Round 3.  That already makes their defensive line and receiving game a whole lot better.  In Round 3 they also snagged offensive tackle Shon Coleman and went for a QB late in the round.  They filled their hole at just about every position of need, with a quality pick and pulled the steal of the draft when they took Scooby Wright III (projected for Rounds 3-4) with the 29th pick of Round 7.

What They Did Wrong: I can’t stop complementing at this amazing draft class, but it does have a couple minor issues.  First of all, filling the need at receiver is great, but four receivers?  That can fill an entire depth chart.  I bet Ricardo Louis will be cut before Week 1, and Coleman, Brian Hartline, Higgins, Andrew Hawkins and Payton will fill the depth chart.  They probably should have spent a couple of those receiver picks on more defensive help, especially at linebacker and in the secondary.  They also drafted a couple too many long shots.  Cody Kessler won’t have a chance to compete with RG3, and that’s their biggest need.  I couldn’t even find Trey Caldwell or Seth Devalve in CBS Sports’ 2016 NFL Draft Prospect Rankings.  However, between all the good picks, all the huge steals, all the positions filled, this was an amazing draft class.

Pittsburgh Steelers

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Round   Pick        Name                          Pos.  College  Grade

1            25           Artie Burns                  CB      Miami      A-

2           27           Sean Davis                    CB      Maryland   B-

3          26            Javon Hargrave           DT          SC State   B

4          25          Jerald Hawkins             OT           LSU         A-

6            45          Travis Feeney               OLB      Washington  B

7              8            DeMarcus Ayers          WR           Houston    B-

7              25          Tyler Matakevich      ILB             Temple      B

Overall Grade: B

What They Did Right: The Steelers came into this draft with a few major needs.  They focused solely on those needs and drafting the perfect players to fill them.  They didn’t necessarily pick the biggest prospects, but they did an outstanding job filling most of their major needs.  They received two strong corners, an offensive tackle to replace Kelvin Beachum, and a pass rushing  defensive tackle.  They have good fits for a lot of the guys they drafted, and that led to an acceptable draft.

What They Did Wrong: They may have drafted perfect fits, but the prospects that were taken weren’t as appealing to most scouts.  Sean Davis was a risky pick, he just recently shot up draft boards, and another slightly safer guy like him, Artie Burns, was drafted ahead of him.  Still risky for their biggest need.  They also forgot about a safety in the process.  Travis Feeney and DeMarcus Ayers are also risky picks, and Ayers is a real long shot.  Although I did like their strategy, I just think they picked the wrong set of prospects.

AFC South

Houston Texans

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Round   Pick        Name                          Pos.  College  Grade

1            21           Will Fuller                   WR    Notre Dame   A

2            19          Nick Martin                  C      Notre Dame    B

3           22          Braxton Miller            WR   Ohio St.    B+

4           21          Tyler Ervin                    RB  San Jose St.    C+

5             22         K.J. Dillon                     SS     West Virginia   B+

5             29         D.J. Reader                   DT    Clemson      B

Overall Grade: B

 

What They Did Right: The Texans had a great draft, with lots of good picks.  However, they failed to fill their major needs precisely.  They got a lot of good prospects and did go after guys at positions of need.  This draft class has a ton of potential, but it needs to find a place to fit in.  There may be concerns unless D.J. Reader can shift to edge rusher, they can find some undrafted FAs to finish off the secondary, and Nick Martin can learn to play not just center but also guard at an NFL level.

What They Did Wrong: As I said before, they did not cover their main needs precisely!  Several examples are shown above.  Why’d the Texans take Tyler Ervin when they could’ve had their hands on Kenneth Dixon or DeVontae Booker?  Ervin likely won’t see a start, Booker or Dixon would’ve competed with Alfred Blue to be a handcuff to Lamar Miller.  They didn’t draft enough for the secondary and drafted two very good receivers when they had depth beyond the WR2 position, now filled by Will Fuller.  Braxton Miller was a bit of a waste after that selection in the first round.  Although they came close and drafted many high upside prospects, those prospects are also high risk, and some don’t fit into the Houston scheme.

Indianapolis Colts

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Round   Pick        Name                          Pos.  College  Grade

1              18          Ryan Kelly                    C     Alabama    A-

2              26          T.J. Green                    FS    Clemson     A

3              19          Le’Raven Clark          OT      Texas Tech  B

4                18        Hassan Ridgeway     DT      Texas          B-

4               27         Antonio Morrison    ILB     Florida       B-

5                17         Joe Haeg                       OG     NDSU          A

7                 18       Trevor Bates                 LB       Maine        B

7              27        Austin Blythe               C         Iowa         A

Overall Grade: B+

What They Did Right: The Colts’ draft was a roller-coaster ride.  One pick was amazing, the next pick, risky or off.  What I liked is that they went right for the biggest missing pieces first.  They started by rebuilding the offensive line.   Ryan Kelly and Joe Haeg will compete for starting jobs.  Le’Raven Clark has some time to develop at tackle, but may be able to get some starts at guard.  T.J. Green can fill the hole at safety and possibly even switch back to a receiver in the NFL, his old position.  Not bad for filling the top needs.  But the Colts really wasted their other picks.

What They Did Wrong: Okay, I understand if they wanted d-line insurance, but the Colts wasted two picks on linebackers!  That’s their strong position!  They have D’ Qwell Jackson, Robert Mathis and Nate Irving playing LB!  They don’t need any more help there.  I also think a tackle was unnecessary, their needs for the offensive line had no more to them than just the interior.  Not a bad draft in filling the needs with safe players, but the same draft class wasn’t great in overall efficiency and doesn’t fit with the team.

Jacksonville Jaguars

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Round   Pick        Name                          Pos.  College  Grade

1             5             Jalen Ramsey           CB/FS    Florida St.   B+

2            5              Myles Jack                OLB         UCLA            B

3             6              Yannick Ngakoue   DE        Maryland      A-

4           5               Sheldon Day              DT      Notre Dame   B

6         6                Tyrone Holmes       OLB       Montana     A-

6         26                Brandon Allen        QB        Arkansas    B+

7          5                 Jonathan Woodard    DE    Central AR     B-

Overall Grade: B

What They Did Right: The Jags may have had some issues with this draft, but overall, between free agency and the draft they really boosted their defense.  They added to what they already had in 2015 with DT Malik Jackson, DT, Sheldon Day, DEs Yannick Ngakoue and Jonathan Woodard and linebackers Myles Jack and Tyrone Holmes.  The biggest upgrade was in the secondary, which already had Jonathan Cyprien.  They added with two strong corners, Jalen Ramsey and Prince Amukamara and safety Tashaun Gipson.  The Jags defense is among the most improved units in the NFL.

What They Did Wrong: They went after the right positions, but they took the wrong guys at the wrong positions at the wrong times.  They also had some late round shockers that I didn’t like. I did like how they stole Myles Jack in Round 2, but he’s risky, and they only drafted Tyrone Holmes behind him at the position.  They should’ve taken a better DE like DeForest Buckner.  They additionally wasted some picks on extra positions like DT and QB instead of drafting a center or safer LB.

Tennessee Titans

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Round   Pick        Name                          Pos.  College  Grade

1            8            Jack Conklin             OT    Michigan St.   A-

2            2          Kevin Dodd                DE     Clemson        A+

2            12        Austin Johnson        DT       Penn St.       B+

2            14         Derrick Henry          RB      Alabama       C+

3              1          Kevin Byard              SS       Mid Tennessee  B

5             1           Tajae Sharpe           WR      UMass             B-

5             20        LeShaun Sims          CB        South Utah   B-

6             18         Sebastian Tretola    OG       Arkansas      B

7               1           Aaron Wallace          OLB        UCLA        A-

7             32           Kalan Reed                 CB       South Miss   B

Overall Grade: B+

What They Did Right: The Titans, at some point in the draft addressed most of their major needs.  They filled holes at OLB, defensive end, defensive tackle/nose tackle and offensive tackle.  What were their major needs going into the draft?  Offensive lineman and pass rusher. They got Sebastian Tretola as well to fill those needs, a sixth-round steal who can play guard and center.  They even planned for the future a little bit, taking another receiver in this draft, and drafting two mediocre corners late (even though Kalan Reed is technically considered Mr. Irrelevant).

What They Did Wrong: The Titans had the same issue as the Jags.  They were fine in the first couple rounds but after those rounds things got out of hand.  They drafted a running back, safety, and receiver before a guard or linebacker!   Oh, and the biggest problem with this draft?  DERRICK HENRY!!!  For crying out loud, this team just acquired DeMarco Murray!!!  Why did they set that plan on fire to draft Derrick Henry, and if Murray still is starting running back, why did the Titans draft the 2nd best running back, in Round 2, ahead of a linebacker just so he could be DeMarco Murray’s handcuff?!!!  They had a handcuff for him.  Remember Antonio Andrews, that guy who suddenly worked his way up to starting running back?  He’s still relevant, as a handcuff at least.  From what I’ve heard, Derrick Henry is a lot like DeMarco Murray.  That’s not good considering the fact that you could end up with two busts on one team.

AFC West

Denver Broncos

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Round   Pick        Name                          Pos.  College  Grade

1             26          Paxton Lynch             QB      Memphis    A-

2           32            Adam Gotsis             DT      Georgia Tech   B-

3           36            Justin Simmons       FS       Boston College   B

4           38            DeVontae Booker    RB            Utah         B

5            5             Connor McGovern   OG          Missouri    A

6           1                Andy Janovich        FB            Nebraska    B

6           44              Will Parks                S              Arizona     B-

7            7              Riley Dixon              P        Syracuse         C+

Overall Grade: B

What they Did Right: The Broncos filled some major holes in this draft, and they may have failed to fill all their needs, but they drafted some pretty convincing players when they were filling holes.  Paxton Lynch was a pretty good pick on Denver’s part, and they didn’t need to trade up, but it was worth it to secure such a good pick.  I also really liked their selections of running back DeVontae Booker and guard Connor McGovern.  They didn’t just fill those three holes, they made sure they had a relevant player there, a rookie who can be a Week 1 starter.  Paxton Lynch may need some time, but Mark Sanchez can be the placeholder.  DeVontae Booker will grow behind two strong running backs, and Connor McGovern should be able to work into the system right away, linemen typically develop faster from what I’ve seen.

What They Did Wrong: The Broncos may have locked up some of their needs, but they slipped up on a few of their other picks, they could’ve just filled their minor needs with those picks rather than trying to pull the shocker of the draft, or draft the biggest sleeper.  I just don’t understand why they went for positions like safety and punter.  Even their pick of DT Adam Gotsis was questionable.  Not a bad draft in terms of upside, but not a great draft in terms of making sure they don’t have any major holes.

Kansas City Chiefs

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Round   Pick        Name                          Pos.  College  Grade

2            6           Chris Jones                 DT     Missippi St.    B-

3           11             KeiVarae Russell      CB    Notre Dame   A-

4            7             Parker Ehinger         OG    Cincinnati      A-

4           8              Eric Murray                CB      Minnesota    B-

4          28             DeMarcus Robinson   WR     Florida     B

5          25             Kevin Hogan               QB       Stanford    B+

5             28          Tyreek Hill                   WR     West Alabama   C

6              3             D.J. White                CB       Georgia Tech   A-

6             28             Dadi Nicholas             DE     Virginia Tech    B+

Overall Grade: C+

What They Did Right: The Chiefs had a pretty efficient draft.  They have Marcus Peters’ new partner in crime.  They have a guard to fill in the hole.  They have a new backup QB, and they got defensive line help.  In terms of filling the holes, this draft was great for the Chiefs.  Most of their major needs were filled, some by very high upside players.  I like Chris Jones, I like Kevin Hogan, and although I was questioning some of the picks, I like a lot of the players in this draft class.

What They Did Right: Okay, they had some picks with high upside.  Some of the rest were long shots and busts.   Had you ever heard of Tyreek Hill or Eric Murray before reading this article?  Well, I would be shocked if you did, you would have to be either a college football fanatic or draft guru.  They did fill the holes, but some of their picks were big risks, might not fill them yet or won’t fill them very long.  Only a few picks were in the A-range on my grading scale.  Therefore, I have to give this team a pretty low grade compared to what I’ve given to everybody else.

Oakland Raiders

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Round   Pick        Name                          Pos.  College  Grade

1             14           Karl Joseph                 FS      West Virginia    B+

2            13             Jihad Ward                 DE     Illinois           B

3             14              Shilique Calhoun     DE   Michigan St.  B+

4             2               Connor Cook             QB    Michigan St.  B-

5           4               DeAndre Washington   RB  Texas Tech    B-

6         19             Cory James                         OLB     Colorado St.  C+

7         13              Vadal Alexander                 OG          LSU       B

Overall Grade: C+

What They Did Right: The Raiders definitely got some players at positions of need, even if they might not be the right guys.  They filled the hole at defensive end, outside linebacker (partially) and free safety.  They picked the right positions in the right rounds, the draft was supplemental and filled their major needs and they drafted somewhat intriguing picks, whether they were surprises, steals or expected picks.  What did the Raiders do wrong?  Just about everything else.

What They Did Wrong: The Raiders seriously wasted a good number of their picks.  DeAndre Washington is not an efficient RB.  Cory James?  Connor Cook?  Those picks also caught me off.  They took Karl Joseph and Jihad Ward too early, and that leaves the Raiders without any guaranteed rookie starters this season.  Why Karl Joseph when they had the chance to take Kevin Dodd?  Why Jihad Ward over A’Shawn Robinson?!!  Some aspects of this draft class are crazy, and the things that make sense could’ve been done better.

 

San Diego Chargers

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Round   Pick        Name                          Pos.  College  Grade

1            3            Joey Bosa                     DE     Ohio St.     B

2            4            Hunter Henry           TE      Arkansas    B

3           3              Max Tuerk                   C          USC          B

4            4           Joshua Perry              OLB       Ohio St.    B

5            38         Jatavis Brown            OLB       Akron       B

6             4        Drew Kaser                    P        Texas A&M   B+

6            23       Derek Watt                   FB       Wisconsin    B-

7               3       Donovan Clark             OG      Michigan St.  C+

Overall Grade: B

What They Did Right: I actually really liked this draft class.  I’m a huge fan of Joey Bosa and Hunter Henry and even like Max Tuerk.  All three could be Opening Day starters.  This draft class has a lot of depth, with a high-potential player picked almost every round.  The class also fills the Chargers needs pretty well.  There were no wasted picks, a reason behind each, and almost all of these guys could see significant playing time in 2016 and many years to come.

What They Did Wrong: What’s not to like about this class?  None of their picks went after the hottest players available giving the Chargers a potential steal, and they drafted some players at unnecessary positions.  Sure, guys like Derek Watt and Joshua Perry are good players, but they might not see significant playing time, a long-time veteran will likely be starting instead for this class’ first few years.  But overall, well done San Diego.  You got yourself the draft class I would love to have as an NFL GM.

Catch my NFC Draft Grades coming soon.  Who do you think aced the draft?  Comment below.