2018 NFL Week 13 Picks & Previews: Lots of Crucial Divisional Matchups Occur

Welcome to my NFL Week 13 picks and previews.  Last week, I went 11-4, putting my overall record at 96-78-2 (96-79-2 including Week 13 TNF).  I am still ahead of 1 CBS Sports expert. This week, a lot of divisional matchups occur, with many of them having playoff implications.  The Eagles and Redskins play for 2nd place in the NFC East, and the loser may be knocked out of contention. The Colts visit Jacksonville hoping to increase their chances at a wild card spot.  Who will win these divisional games? Keep reading to find out what I think, and feel free to comment with your thoughts.

Lock of the Week

Look for dominance from the Rams defense in the first shutout of the NFL season.  The revamped duo of Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters won’t give up anything to Detroit’s depleted WR corps, and DT Aaron Donald and company will shut down QB Matthew Stafford and the run game.  The Rams will not need more than a couple touchdowns for a Rams clinic victory thanks to the strong defense. Meanwhile, The Lions will begin to miss RB Kerryon Johnson and WRs Golden Tate and Marvin Jones in a shutout loss.  

Upset of the Week

The Panthers are coming off two frustrating last-minute losses, and the Buccaneers are coming off a much-needed victory.  Look for QB Jameis Winston to ride the momentum and put up his best performance yet against Carolina. The Bucs D will still give up plenty to QB Cam Newton and his versatile offensive core.  But a 3 or 4 TD game from Winston should be enough for the Buccaneers to pull the upset.

The Other Games

TNF (Posted to Twitter Thursday Night; Actual Score: 13-10 Cowboys)

QB Dak Prescott and the Cowboys offense will be slowed down significantly by the improving New Orleans defense.  Meanwhile, QB Drew Brees and WR Michael Thomas will lead the Saints to victory despite the Dallas defense’s shut down of the Saints RB duo.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Look for Miami to hold on for a home victory against a young Bills defense that is not great but can be pesky at times.  QB Ryan Tannehill will lead the Dolphins here, even without WR Danny Amendola. QB Josh Allen and his offense will perform better than they usually do, but expect them to just fall short in Miami against a mediocre, but not putrid Dolphins defense.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Look for the Atlanta defense to step it up against rookie QB Lamar Jackson and the Ravens, especially with RB Alex Collins on IR.  QB Matt Ryan won’t have an amazing game against this strong Baltimore D, but it will be enough thanks to the improving Falcons defense.  
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

The Broncos will ride the momentum to a third straight win as the defense dominates against a banged-up Cincinnati pass offense that will miss QB Andy Dalton, especially since WR A.J. Green is not 100%.  The Broncos will be alright offensively without TE Jeff Heuerman, as QB Case Keenum finally begins to rely on his receivers more in the Denver victory.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Expect QB Deshaun Watson to put up another strong game against the inexperienced Browns defense.  Meanwhile, the Texans D will do a respectable job in shutting down QB Baker Mayfield and this young Browns offensive core.  The Texans will win triumphantly as they play strong football all around.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Expect the Jaguars to win by a surprisingly large margin as they host the Colts.  They came close in Indy, so I expect a win in Jacksonville. QB Cody Kessler will also help the Jags improve as he outperforms QB Blake Bortles.  QB Andrew Luck and his receivers will struggle to handle the Jags strong D, but they’ll still manage to score a couple TDs.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

QB Eli Manning will have to dig into New York’s WR depth here to even score a TD against this improving Chicago defense.  The Giants’ experienced defense will limit the QB Chase Daniel-led Bears offense, but Daniel will still throw multiple TDs in the victory.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

The Packers should manage to win at home here, but as they nearly blow it, the “fire Mike McCarthy” campaign will just get louder.  QB Aaron Rodgers will rely on his younger receivers as they just barely get by the Cardinals. QB Josh Rosen will find his receivers more easily against a struggling Green Bay secondary, but it won’t quite be enough.
Sunday, 4:05 PM EST

QB Josh McCown should struggle regressively as his receivers are out done by a Titans secondary that is no more than average.  This will highlight the Jets’ flaws as the Titans win by multiple TD. A strong all-around offensive game as well as a clutch defensive performance will help Tennessee in the home win.
Sunday, 4:05 PM EST

The Chiefs won’t be at full strength after the release of RB Kareem Hunt.  But QB Patrick Mahomes II will still lead the Chiefs to victory though, with 3 TD and 0 INT.  The Raiders will come close though as QB Derek Carr relies on his younger receivers (since WR Jordy Nelson is struggling).
Sunday, 4:25 PM EST

Neither offense will be up to full speed here as both defenses thrive.  But QB Tom Brady will lead the Pats to get by at home as he uses his WR depth, something New England has at full health.  The Vikings will make this close, led by QB Kirk Cousins and his receivers.
Sunday, 4:25 PM EST

The Seahawks will be able to get by here, but the 49ers will come close to an upset and play the better all around game, as young QB Nick Mullens throws multiple TD against the young Seattle D.  The Seahawks, however, will find a way to win thanks to veteran QB Russell Wilson.
Sunday, 8:20 PM EST

The Steelers offense will look good here, as QB Ben Roethlisberger tosses multiple TD.  But even without RB Melvin Gordon, QB Philip Rivers and his deep WR corps will be too much for the Pittsburgh D to handle as they outperform the Steelers significantly.  The Chargers will be able to handle Pittsburgh’s offense a little easier, helping their case in a road primetime victory, handing the Steelers their second straight loss.
Sunday, 8:15 PM EST

Expect the Eagles to win in a shootout thanks to the strong game by QB Carson Wentz and his receivers.  QB Colt McCoy will outperform his expectations though, tossing multiple TD and making this close. But the Eagles will still get past McCoy’s Redskins as their run game thrives in addition to the pass offense.

That’s all for today’s picks.  Stay tuned for more posts soon, including Part 3 of my MLB free agent predictions.

 

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2018 NFL Week 10 Picks & Previews: Contenders Arise in Unsurprising Outcomes

Welcome to my Week 10 NFL picks and previews.  Last week I went 8-5, putting my overall record at 76-56-2 (76-57-2 including TNF Week 10).  I’m still ahead of 2 ESPN experts and a CBS Sports expert. Don’t expect too many upsets this week.  I see this as a week where contenders will begin to rise after underwhelming starts.  This week will mark the beginning of the end of the surprise runs by teams like the Lions, Redskins, and Dolphins.  Meanwhile, expected contenders that have been struggling so far like the Eagles, Jaguars, and Packers will begin to rise. There will be a couple upsets, but who will pull them? Comment with your thoughts below, and keep reading to see my upset picks.  

Lock of the Week (SNF)

Look for QB Carson Wentz to start off the 2nd half of the season strong with a 3+ TD game.  The Eagles don’t have that difficult of a schedule remaining, which could provide an opportunity for Wentz to make a run for MVP with a big 2nd half.  Dallas should look alright on offense here, but Philly’s front seven will limit RB Ezekiel Elliott and overwhelm QB Dak Prescott. Philly will come out on top thanks to Wentz’s big game, as he connects with 7+ different receivers.  

Upset of the Week

Look for the TE duo of Jack Doyle and Eric Ebron to help the Colts offensively.  Jacksonville’s D will improve from the last couple of weeks, but I don’t see them holding Indy TD-less.  The Jaguars offensive rebound will make up for it. With RB Leonard Fournette healthy, this run game will thrive.  They suddenly have a lot of depth between Fournette, Carlos Hyde, and T.J. Yeldon. Look for QB Blake Bortles to improve as well.  He should have minimal issues against a rebuilding Colts defense that’s regarded as one of the NFL’s worst.  Indy will give up 30+ points in a loss here.

The Other Games

TNF (Posted to Twitter Thursday Night; Actual Score: 52-21 Steelers)

Carolina should struggle to contain QB Ben Roethlisberger and his receivers.  But they will shut down a Le’Veon Bell-less Steelers run game. At this point, Bell will likely miss the whole season.  The Panthers should also be strong on offense again, as QB Cam Newton and his receivers lead Carolina to victory up against a mediocre Steelers defense.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

With TE Rob Gronkowski out, the Pats offense will not be up to full speed.  But expect a New England win anyway, as the Pats step it up on D against the young Titans offensive core.  QB Marcus Mariota will struggle to find open men as the Patriots defense keeps him and his receivers pressured.  The lack of WR depth will hurt the Titans in a loss.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

 

The Bills are down to their fourth string QB with Nathan Peterman struggling regressively and Derek Anderson and Josh Allen hurt.  However, the Jets are also without their starter, Sam Darnold.  Look for QB Josh McCown to succeed in filling in for Darnold, leading the Jets to a high scoring victory.  The defense will slip a little against QB Matt Barkley and the Bills, but Buffalo will not be able to put up enough points with Allen and TE Charles Clay injured.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

The Saints find themselves with a lack of WR depth with Dez Bryant, Cameron Meredith, and Ted Ginn Jr. all on IR now.  That being said, New Orleans will not be at their best offensively.  But the Bengals shouldn’t look much better without WR A.J. Green.  QB Drew Brees and his receivers should edge out a victory despite an underwhelming performance.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Look for QB Matt Ryan and his receivers to put up another big game in Cleveland.  The Browns will try to keep up, but their young core won’t quite do it. The Falcons D will continue to struggle and give up a good number of points to the Browns, but the offensive dominance will be enough for Atlanta.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

This will not be easy for Kansas City.  QB Josh Rosen, RB David Johnson, and the Arizona offense should have a day against a banged-up Chiefs D.  However, QB Patrick Mahomes II should keep up the good work and this offense should be enough for the Chiefs to keep rolling at home despite defensive struggles that may cost them when it matters.  I’m honestly surprised they didn’t seek defensive help at the deadline.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

QB Ryan Fitzpatrick should be able to take advantage of his deep core of receivers to lead Tampa to victory here.  Also expect the Bucs D to surprise many with as they get in the way of QB Alex Smith and the Redskins offense.  Smith will struggle to find his receivers with the Bucs pressuring him and WR Paul Richardson sidelined with an injury.  The Buccaneers will play complimentary football and win triumphantly here.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Detroit’s offense will continue to miss WR Golden Tate as they struggle in Chicago.  Look for another big game by the Bears defense here.  QB Mitch Trubisky and the Chicago offense won’t be on their best either, but the shut down defense should be enough for the Bears to hold on for a victory.
Sunday, 4:05 PM EST

The Chargers D should look better than usual against a deep but struggling Oakland offense.  Meanwhile, QB Philip Rivers and his receivers will put up another big game as Rivers throws multiple TD.  The combination of these two things will cause the Raiders to fall short again at home.
Sunday, 4:25 PM EST (OT)

Look for another overtime thriller out of QB Aaron Rodgers and his receivers.  Expect the Packers D to nearly cost them the game as they struggle more than they should against a Brock Osweiler-led Miami offense, but look for Rodgers to come up clutch and save the Packers once again.
Sunday, 4:25 PM EST

The dominance of the LA defense should continue with DE Dante Fowler Jr. on board.  Expect them to hold Seattle TD-less here.  The Rams offense won’t be at their best here, but QB Jared Goff and his WR trio will help lead the Rams to victory, supplemented by the shut-down D.  The Seahawks will continue to miss WR Brandon Marshall as the Rams keep Seattle’s other receivers well-covered for majority of the game.
Monday, 8:15 PM EST

 

Expect the struggles of QB Eli Manning to continue as he throws just 1 TD and multiple picks.  RB Saquon Barkley will keep this close with a big game despite Manning’s struggles. But the Giants will fall short as the defense limits, but cannot stop QB Nick Mullens and the young 49ers offensive core.  

That’s all for this week.  Stay tuned for my NFL midseason report later today, and stay tuned for my MLB off-season coverage throughout the rest of November.  

2018 NFL Week 6 Picks & Previews: Expect Lots of High Scoring Games

Welcome to my Week 6 NFL pick’em and previews.  Last week I went 8-7, placing my overall record at 45-31-2, ahead of 7 of ESPN’s 10 experts, and 3 of CBS Sports’ 8 experts.  Some of the offense-heavy teams in the league take each other on this week. The Chiefs face off with the Patriots. The Raiders take on the Seahawks in London.  The Chargers will head to Cleveland to play the Browns. The Bucs and Falcons will play each other in an intriguing divisional match-up. Who will win in these likely shootouts?  Read below to find out what I think.

Lock of the Week (MNF)

With WR Randall Cobb likely back, expect this Packers passing offense to perform a lot better than they did in Detroit, especially since they are home this week.  But it’s the run game that I see leading the Pack. These running backs haven’t really had the chance to truly shine in Green Bay’s pass-first offense, but I could see it happening against an inexperienced 49ers run defense.  Without QB Jimmy Garoppolo, it will be extremely difficult for the Niners to match Green Bay’s offensive performance. I see the Packers winning easily.

Upset of the Week

This Broncos defense will make it difficult for the Rams to score as much as they usually do, but I think they manage to score 20+ points on Denver, led by RB Todd Gurley.  However, I expect Denver’s receivers to have a strong day as well, despite the fact that they are facing a stacked Rams secondary.  They have two dependable veterans in Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, and a promising rookie, Courtland Sutton.  I think they can handle the Rams secondary, especially with ex-Bronco Aqib Talib on IR. Look for Denver to pull the upset in a game that’s surprisingly high scoring.

The Other Games

TNF (Posted on Twitter Thursday Night; Actual Score: 34-13 Eagles)

Expect the Eagles run game to struggle with RB Jay Ajayi on IR.  But I think QB Carson Wentz and his receivers will find a way to win it in New York.  The Giants offense will struggle once again without TE Evan Engram, but I think WRs Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard will have strong games to make this close.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Expect Houston’s elite defense to shut down QB Josh Allen and his receivers.  I think they will hold the Bills to 1 TD or less in this game. Meanwhile, QB Deshaun Watson and the Texans offense will have a decent enough despite the banged-up run game and lack of WR depth.  I see the trio of Watson, RB Lamar Miller and WR DeAndre Hopkins leading them to victory.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

The Colts offense should look better than they did in New England.  Expect RB Nyheim Hines to step it up with the receivers banged up. However, I see the Colts D, which has struggled all season falling apart against a promising Jets passing game.  Look for both QB Sam Darnold and RB Isaiah Crowell to have big games as the Jets score at least 4 TDs. New York should win easily with the Colts defense regressively struggling.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

UPDATE: Ryan Tannehill is OUT, Brock Osweiler will start

Look for the Dolphins young D to have success against QB Mitch Trubisky and his offense.  Their promising group of receivers will not be enough here as the run game struggles. I also think that with the home-field advantage, the Dolphins will manage to score 30+ points despite facing Khalil Mack and the Bears D.  With QB Ryan Tannehill out, QB Brock Osweiler will rely on his receivers as Mack and the Bears front seven shuts down the Dolphins run game.  In the end, I have the Dolphins pulling a surprising upset at home, thanks to an all-around elite performance.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Look for Cincy’s receivers to step it up against a struggling Steelers secondary. But the Steelers will make this a close shootout. QB Ben Roethlisberger and his receivers will thrive as well against a rebuilding Bengals secondary.  But without RB Le’Veon Bell, the Steelers run game will be easily shut down. The Bengals will manage to win thanks to the strong run defense and strong game by their receivers.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Look for QB Baker Mayfield and the Browns to make this close in Cleveland.  But this Chargers offense has dominated and led the team to victory against every below average defense they’ve played.  Look for QB Philip Rivers, RB Melvin Gordon, WR Keenan Allen and company to do the same in Cleveland as they take on an inexperienced Browns D.  This stellar offensive performance will lead LA to victory for the fourth time this season.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Expect a shootout in this London game.  Both these defenses have struggled regressively all season.  Look for Oakland’s offense to dominate against the young Seattle D, and expect QB Russell Wilson and his receivers to have a field day against the Khalil Mack-less Raiders defense.  I think the Raiders, who will have more success running the ball, will outscore the Seahawks to win it.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Expect the Panthers offense to be back at full speed with TE Greg Olsen back.  They will be able to take advantage of a below average Redskins secondary with QB Cam Newton’s favorite target healthy.  QB Alex Smith and his receivers will put up a fight with a 3 TD game of their own.  But look for the Panthers strong front seven to be successful in pressuring Smith and shutting down Washington’s RBs, allowing Carolina to hold on for a victory.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

I think Arizona’s D will step it up this weekend, allowing them to come close in Minnesota.  But the Vikings WR duo of Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs is just too much for this Cardinals secondary to handle, and their success will lead to an overtime Vikings win, despite the run game’s continuing struggles.  The Vikings defense will also have a nice game, holding the Cardinals to just 1 TD and overwhelming rookie QB Josh Rosen.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

With RB Devonta Freeman out, both defenses struggling, and both offenses dominating, expect a lot of passing in this game.  QB Matt Ryan and his receivers should have a field day against the weakening Bucs secondary, while Tampa’s underrated front seven shuts down RB Tevin Coleman.  Meanwhile, QB Jameis Winston and his receivers will prove that the Bucs can succeed on offense without QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. Expect them to pull the upset in a shootout, as Atlanta begins to lose hope after another embarrassingly bad defensive game.
Sunday, 4:25 PM EST

This Titans roster is filled with young talent on both sides of the ball.  Look for their younger players to step it up and lead Tennessee to victory at home.  The Ravens should continue their strong season by getting out to an early lead thanks to shut down defense.  But Tennessee’s young core will lead to a comeback as they outplay Baltimore.  After two straight losses, the Ravens will begin to regress. 
Sunday, 4:25 PM EST

Expect QB Dak Prescott and his receivers to be shut down by a top notch Jags defense.  Prescott looked pretty bad against the Texans D. I can’t see him doing any better against Sacksonville.  Meanwhile, the Jaguars will manage to get by on offense, bouncing back from last week’s putrid offensive performance.  The combination of these two things will lead to a Jaguars victory, despite run game struggles without RB Leonard Fournette.
Sunday, 8:20 PM EST

Check back closer to gametime for a video preview!

Look for QB Tom Brady and his receivers to thrive, overwhelming the Chiefs secondary without S Eric Berry.  Kansas City’s offense should make this close, but expect the Chiefs defense to blow it despite a 30-point, multi-TD game for QB Patrick Mahomes II and his offense.  

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

 

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.

 

Pats Stun Pittsburgh and Steal Win

With 8 minutes left in the game, the Pats were down by eight points, and I was losing hope.  I don’t know how they won.  They had a nice drive going, but Pats QB Tom Brady was sacked, and they were held to a field goal.  Then they took a 27-24 lead in a 2-minute drill by scoring a TD and a 2-point conversion.  But they left 1-minute for the Steelers.  They almost blew it.  On the first play with 52 seconds left, the Pats couldn’t get their hands on Steelers WR Juju Smith-Schuster on a short pass over the middle as he escaped tacklers and scurried down the field for 69 yards.  On the next play, TE Jesse James scored a TD on a pass up the middle diving into the end zone.  But video replay reversed the call.  2 plays later with no timeouts left and about 15 seconds left, Big Ben faked the spike and then tried to force a pass up the middle.  Eric Rowe deflected it right into the hands of Harmon, stunning the Steelers, and stealing the win

The Patriots won in comeback fashion in what was arguably the game of the year, as the Pats beat Pittsburgh 27-24.  You could argue that there was no tangible evidence to overturn the Steelers last-minute touchdown but the resilience the Pats showed leading up to the play, they deserved a call in their favor.  It all started on New England’s first drive.

QB Tom Brady and WR Brandin Cooks tried to set the tone early as Brady threw Cooks a 43-yard pass that brought the Patriots into the red zone within the first five minutes of the game.  RB Rex Burkhead ran in for the TD and the Pats took the early 7-0 lead.

Image result for brandin cooks 43 yard catch vs steelers

But the Steelers weren’t about to let New England win easy.  Using the Patriots’ defensive weaknesses to their advantage, they marched down the field and responded with an 18 yard TD of their own, tying the game at 7.

The Steelers didn’t stop there.  In the next drive, their defense thrived, sacking Tom Brady and forcing them to punt.  Led by a 39-yard Martavis Bryant reception, they had another big drive following that.  But after Bryant’s nice catch, the Pats were at least able to hold Pittsburgh to a field goal.  It was now 10-7 Steelers as Chris Boswell made a 51-yard field goal.  But Steelers superstar WR Antonio Brown had hurt his calf, and he was taken to the hospital.

Image result for antonio brown injury

The Pats countered with another big play drive, this time a 31-yard catch by Pats TE Rob Gronkowski and the Pats were able to tie it up again at 10.   This was just one of two catches Gronk made in the 1st half, but he made a huge impact in the 2nd half.  But before the half, the Steelers were able to score 1 more TD, while also preventing a Patriots double score opportunity as their drive burned most of the 2nd quarter clock.  The Steelers clock-eating drives were led by star RB Le’Veon Bell, who dominated against the depleted Pats front seven.  They did not slow down even with Brown out of the game.  The Pats would get the ball in the 2nd half but would have to do so without RB Rex Burkhead who was knocked out of the game with a knee injury.

Image result for leveon bell vs pats

The Pats began the 2nd half with a strong drive as Brandin Cooks scored a touchdown after Gronk began to make a bigger impact.  But they missed the extra point which put them down by one 17-16.  After they shut the Steelers down, the Pats were ready to score again.  But Tom Brady was intercepted early in the drive.  Le’Veon Bell led the Steelers into the end zone quickly, and the Pats were now down by eight, 24-16.

As the 4th quarter began, the Steelers had the ball, and they began to eat up a lot of time as they tried to hold off the Patriots.  They held onto the ball for the first 7 minutes of the 4th quarter, leaving the Pats down by eight with just 8 minutes to come back.  In their first drive of the 4th quarter, they started off strong.  Gronk almost caught a 23-yard pass and the Steelers were penalized for clear pass interference.  However, Brady got sacked on third down after a pair of incompletions, and they were held to a field goal.

It wasn’t over though.  The Pats shut down the Steelers on the next drive with the only 3 and out for either team and got the ball back with a little over two minutes to go.  If they could successfully complete this 2-minute drill for a TD, they could secure a victory.  They marched down the field, as Gronk caught three straight passes for a total of 69 yards.  You could argue that his final catch was almost as good as WR Julian Edelman’s catch in Super Bowl LI.  Gronk just barely saved the ball before it hit the ground.

Image result for rob gronkowski vs steelers 2017

RB Dion Lewis ran it in for the touchdown, but New England scored too fast going 77 yards in 1:10.  They needed to go for the 2-point conversion to take a 3-point lead and at the very least hold Pittsburgh to a field goal and head into overtime.  Brady tossed it to Gronk for the conversion.  Gronk finished the 2nd half with 7 receptions for 135 yards, making a huge impact.  The Steelers had a little under a minute to respond.

The Steelers were confident that they could still win it, and Big Ben completed one 69-yard pass to WR JuJu Smith-Schuster.  As the Pats couldn’t get their hands on Smith-Schuster, the Steelers were able to do what the Pats did in three passes in just one big play.  The Steelers then scored with what was ruled a touchdown by TE Jesse James.  But the call was reversed, giving hope to all the Patriots fans out there, including me.  Two plays later, Big Ben tried to throw a TD again, but this time, he was picked off by Duron Harmon!  The Pats had done it again!

Image result for juju smith schuster vs pats

A couple minutes earlier, I had thought the Pats were done, and I was hoping they could hold on to the 3rd seed.  But now they lead the AFC after a stunning comeback victory.

There were two huge plays that secured the Pats their current #1 seed edge showing #1 seed confidence under tough road pressure in Pittsburgh.  Without the 2-point conversion, Pittsburgh would’ve likely won on a field goal after Smith-Schuster’s catch and run play.  The Pats held on with a great goal-line interception by Harmon.  The Pats lead the league in goal-line stops and today’s play was arguably the most clutch of the year.

This game reminded me of Super Bowl XLIX.  The Pats won in a comeback, a lot of points were scored late in the game, and the Pats secured victory with an interception after the opposing team almost scored.  The one major difference was the time left on the clock.  Super Bowl XLIX ended with a bad coaching decision, but in this game, Big Ben made the mistake forcing a pass instead of throwing it away to give his team a shot in overtime with a short field goal.

With this win, the Pats clinch the division and take the AFC lead.  They control their own destiny and will secure the #1 seed with 2 division wins at home.  Can they do it?

 

 

NFL 2016 Preview: Crazy Season Is Ahead

 

It’s that time of year again.   Training camp’s here, and the draft is in the books.  It’s time for this year’s NFL predictions.  Get ready for some big shockers, this year will be very different from recent ones.  Some of the NFL’s once horrible teams will rise from the bottom, and some of its top teams will finally slide.  A crazy NFL season is about to begin.

AFC East

  1. New_England_Patriots.jpg New England Patriots 12-4 (1)
  2. buf.jpg Buffalo Bills 10-6 (6)
  3. Jets-Logo.png New York Jets 6-10
  4. Dolphins-logo.jpg Miami Dolphins 4-12

Patriots

After a 2015 disappointment when they lost in Denver twice, 2016 is looking good for the Pats.  The first few games could be tough if Brady is out, but I’m sure he’ll find a way out of this nonsense for good.  Even if he does remain suspended, they’ll sign a veteran QB, and when Brady returns, him and his new weapons in Martellus Bennett, Chris Hogan and Nate Washington plus his old targets like Gronk, Edelman and Amendola will bounce back and finish off well.  This team has an improved offensive line and front seven and if they can keep healthy, and Jimmy Garoppolo can lead a loaded receiving group to victory in the first four games, they will be dominant.

Bills

The Bills had a rough free agency season, but they didn’t need that much.  They knew they had many players on the rise that could work towards a rebuild.  It’s a lot more likely after the Bills just came out of their best draft in years in my opinion.  They have a dramatically improved pass rush, added to a blooming offense, and overall, improved. The Bills filled almost all their major holes.  After all that, this roster is outstanding on paper. As long as this young team meets its expectations, it will be good for real too, and the Bills could be headed for playoff town.

Jets

What a disappointment.  The one year they had a chance to return to playoff form, they blew it in Week 17.  Ryan Fitzpatrick did resign after a lot of melodrama, but the defense lost Antonio Cromartie and is a little out of shape. They have the right pieces, they just need to put them together, make up for the losses on defense, piece together a better offensive line, and they can thrive in the league.

Dolphins

What the heck is this team doing?!! They had an ugly draft, completely ignored their backfield woes, and have done nothing to bring themselves in an upward direction.  The offense is declining, the defense is declining, and keeping the team like this is not going to make it easy for a bounce back season.  Personally, I think the Dolphins will finish even lower this year.  This is getting pathetic.  Make some moves that actually will help your team next time.

 

AFC North

  1. pittsburgh-steelers.jpg Pittsburgh Steelers 10-6 (4)
  2. Baltimore_Ravens_Logo.jpg Baltimore Ravens 9-7
  3. cincinnati-bengals.jpg Cincinnati Bengals 9-7
  4. cleveland-browns-brown.jpg Cleveland Browns 3-13

 

Steelers

The Steelers have been called Super Bowl LI Winner by many.  I still think the Steelers have what it takes to win the division (just barely), but the Steelers are not winning the Super Bowl, especially without Martavis Bryant, and Le’ Veon Bell for the first four games!  The defense just isn’t there yet and they a don’t have enough receiver depth to help out Big Ben.  Did I mention injuries?  How do you know that won’t interfere?  They do have a lot of amazing, league-best stars, but the holes they have are too big to call them a Super Bowl threat or contender.  Looking for a contender in the AFC besides the Patriots?  Call up the Texans, they have a better idea of what they’re doing than the Steelers.

Ravens
The Ravens had an ugly 2015 campaign, caused by some injuries and some roster holes. But the Ravens really stocked up this off season, and they probably won’t have that many health issues two years in a row. Between the draft and free agency, they filled most of their major roster holes, and they look like a division competitor. However, after all that last season, some of it had to be roster holes, and the holes they didn’t fill could cause this team to lose some games, and will keep them out of the playoffs this year. Sure, Eric Weddle, Ronnie Stanley and Mike Wallace are game changers, but they can’t address all the Ravens’ issues. That’s management’s job, and right now is a little too late.
Bengals

The Bengals are still relevant now, but little by little, they are on the decline and nobody has noticed.  Andy Dalton is on the decline and Tyler Eifert was already at his best last season. The loss of Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu has also caused lack of wide receiver depth. They lost Reggie Nelson and have a hole at safety, and Vontaze Burfict´s 3 game suspension creates a hole at linebacker, despite signing Karlos Dansby. The Bengals are losing more and more pieces, and if they do not take action in the next few off-seasons, they could fall apart, they could eventually fall below the young Cleveland Browns even. They seem to have more and more holes every season, and it´s not leading them in the right direction.

Browns

The Bengals may be in a bad direction, but this team has already lost hope. If they make the playoffs, I will have no idea how. Unless they become the 2016 Orioles of football, you can rule out the Browns. They may have had a league best draft, but that will take a while to kick in. For now, they are an old washed up team that needs to keep going younger. The draft definitely helped, and Corey Coleman should definitely make a big impact, but is it enough to change a franchise completely, even with such an overpowered draft class?  Two words.  No.  way.   What they have done the past few off-seasons is not enough. They need to go full rebuild, or they are not going anywhere.

AFC South

  1. hou-texans Houston Texans 10-6 (3)
  2. jacksonvile-jaguars Jacksonville Jaguars 9-7
  3. tennessee-titans. Tennessee Titans 6-10
  4. indianapolis-colts Indianapolis Colts 5-11

 

 

Texans

 

In recent years, the Texans have had one of the best defenses in the league.  Last year and likely this year, the ferocious front seven combined with a quality secondary has led to league best defense.  But good offense helps good defense, and that’s the one thing the Texans had lacked, until this off-season.  After star receiver DeAndre Hopkins’ breakout a season ago, the Texans added elite RB Lamar Miller and rising QB Brock Osweiler, who is finally out of Peyton Manning’s shadow.  They drafted a WR2 and WR3 to add to it, and now their offense looks much better, despite lacking tight end depth.  Good offense plus good defense equals good team, and that’s what the Texans appear to be.

 

Jaguars

 

The Jaguars were showing signs of a breakout last year, but they just didn’t have the defense.  This off-season, they have boosted a young team with veterans to support the defense and offense, and push towards a full breakthrough.  I especially like the moves they made on defense.  They upgraded a once weak defense with quality starters in the front seven and secondary.  In addition to the big defensive upgrade, the offense has a ton of rising talent.  Blake Bortles, Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns all just keep getting better.  Julius Thomas should be better too.  He wants to win after all those years on such a good Broncos team and a better Jaguars team will help him.  The Jags are a changed team, and they will be able to contend in 2016.

Titans

The Titans have a lot of developing talent that could lead to a better 2016.  Marcus Mariota is feeling more comfortable at the NFL level, especially with better protection in front of him.  The Titans added RBs DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry to additionally support him.  He now has some good offensive depth and plenty of weapons to throw to after this off-season.   Although they may see some improvement, I don’t expect them to contend for one reason.  Their defense still has many issues of its own.  Despite a defense centered draft, the Titans still have big problems at linebacker and the front seven in general.  They boosted their secondary big time with Rashad Johnson, but the draft just won’t do enough to fix all of the front seven’s problems.  Expect a jump in 2016 but I don’t think the Titans will be anything near playoff material.  

Colts

What did the Colts do to lead to improvement?  Not very much.  They did ink Dwayne Allen to a new contract.  But they are leaning too much on luck.  Speaking of which, one of the main things they’re leaning on is the comeback of quarterback Andrew Luck.  They also are relying on Frank Gore to stay in shape, Donte Moncrief and Phillip Dorsett taking the next step and the defense to carry on without Jerrell Freeman and Greg Toler.  I just don’t see how the Colts are going to do all that, especially after an 8-8 season.  If they don’t act fast, they won’t do better, but they’ll slide even further in 2016.  They need to either try and trade for game changers, dig through the bottom of the barrel of free agency, or find another way to make all these questionable aspects of the team work out.  The Colts need a miracle to make that happen.  The next time you want to say the Colts are going to be back to business next year, think before you speak.

 

AFC West

  1. kansas-city-chiefs-logo.jpg Kansas City Chiefs 11-5 (2)
  2. oakland-raiders.jpg Oakland Raiders 10-6 (5)
  3. denver-broncos-logo.jpg Denver Broncos 8-8
  4. San_Diego_Chargers.jpg San Diego Chargers 6-10

 

Chiefs

Please don’t criticize me for this prediction.  This is just my opinion.  I know how much grief the Chiefs have gotten in many people’s predictions, but I think this team will rise in 2016.  Alex Smith looked great last year and I think he could put up a strong performance again this year.  The now healthy Jamaal Charles rejoins a young backfield in good condition, and wide receiver Jeremy Maclin plus star tight end Travis Kelce could bring in a lot of receptions.  The offensive line has two new tackles, and the Chiefs pass rush should be unstoppable, especially when Justin Houston comes back.  Despite a quiet off-season, the Chiefs even have rising young talent in corner Marcus Peters, linebacker Dee Ford, wide receiver Albert Wilson and running backs Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West.  I’m liking this new era of the Chiefs between unstoppable defense and better offensive depth.

 

Raiders

I love what the Raiders have done in their rebuild.  This off-season they added to young talent with some veterans to upgrade a defense that lost Justin Tuck and Charles Woodson to retirement.  Going for dirty players might be an issue, last off-season they signed Aldon Smith, who’s suspended yet again.  This off-season, they signed Bruce Irvin.  Yes, it’s Mr. I Started A Fight After The Game Was Practically Over In Super Bowl XLIX And Got Ejected himself.  They also signed deals with safer options to rebuild the secondary, Reggie Nelson and Sean Smith.  The offensive line is revamped as well.  The Raiders already had young stars  in Derek Carr, Amari Cooper and Latavius Murray.  Now, with a revamped defense and o-line to ad to it, they’re ready to break through this season.

 

Broncos

Four words.  What did Denver do?  They let Brock Osweiler, their five year development float in free agency after Peyton Manning retired.  Then they were down to their third string QB, and have since only put Paxton Lynch and Mark Sanchez ahead of him in the pecking order.  Due to free agency and other problems, they also had holes at third receiver, tight end and inside linebacker.  Their offensive line is highly questionable as well.  They did resign C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman and draft DeVontae Booker to fix the RB problem, but they only have Garrett Graham, Virgil Green and Jeff Heuerman at tight end and desperately need a third receiver.  All they have is two elite ones, not three!  Shane Ray can move to inside linebacker, and the defense is still strong, but major holes across the offense will bring this team down to .500, especially the issue at quarterback.

 

Chargers

Alright, I have to give the Chargers credit for some things.  They filled some of their holes on defense.  Brandon Mebane and Casey Hayward help make up for the lack of veterans Eric Weddle left behind.  They still won’t be playoff material, but they will make some improvements.  Melvin Gordon definitely has room to do better and carry the team.  Hunter Henry can make up for Antonio Gates’ decline, and a full season from Keenan Allen will help the receiving corps, along with depth behind him in Travis Benjamin, recently signed James Jones and Stevie Johnson (depending on Johnson’s health).  However, the offensive line still has holes, and across the team there are still risks of injuries and bust seasons.  Guys like Brandon Flowers and Melvin Gordon have make or break seasons ahead of them.  I don’t feel comfortable saying that the Chargers will definitely go back to their form from a few years ago.  I do see small improvement happening, but nothing major.

 

NFC East

  1. dalcowboyslogonew.png Dallas Cowboys 11-5 (4)
  2. new-york-giants-logo.jpg New York Giants 10-6
  3. washingtonredskins2.png Washington Redskins 7-9
  4. philadelphia-eagles-logo.jpg Philadelphia Eagles 4-12

 

Cowboys

Last season was just unlucky.  That won’t happen again.  Especially with big name rookie RB Ezekiel Elliott entering the backfield, a 4-12 season won’t happen again if the Cowboys can stay healthy.  When healthy, this offense is just plain out ferocious.  Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and Ezekiel Elliott stand behind a league best offensive line.  The offense has depth, plenty of stars, and is very well protected.  The defense may be some of an issue, but after the first four games, what’s the big issue?   All they’ll be missing is Rolando McClain, and Dwight Freeney is still available. I think the secondary is extremely underrated and the front seven isn’t that bad when you throw in McClain, Randy Gregory and DeMarcus Lawrence.  In such a weak, crazed division, an 11-5 or 10-6 season will make the cut for the playoffs, and I think that they are highly capable of that.

Giants

The Giants had a really strong off season, and it should pay off.  They made some major upgrades to the front seven, by hauling in Olivier Vernon and Damon Harrison and resigning JPP, who will play a full season this year.  They also signed big name corner Janoris Jenkins, and drafted Eli Apple.  The Giants also added to an already powerful offense, especially in the draft.  They selected running back Paul Perkins and wide receiver Sterling Shepard.  They also have Larry Donnell coming back healthy this season in addition to Will Tye at tight end, and they signed Bobby Rainey at RB.  The only thing preventing the Giants from playoff contention is a weak offensive line.  There’s no point in having a growing offense if they have no protection.  If they don’t have protection, their weak spot at starting running back could also factor in.  If they do, that issue might not show up.

Redskins

I feel like Kirk Cousins’ breakthrough season will end up being a fluke.  The kind of sudden rise Cousins went through is not a permanent breakthrough.  Kirk Cousins will be known as a one year wonder.  It doesn’t help when you have an empty backfield to add to it.  The Redskins won’t be able to lean on Matt Jones, Chris Thompson and Keith Marshall.  The defense may have made improvements, and the receiving corps may have grown stronger, but without a quarterback, running back and even a consistent offensive line to protect them, a season above .500 will not happen.  They did sign Josh Norman in the off season and upgraded the defense, but will it be enough?  I’m expecting the Redskins to fall a few wins this year.  They won’t be as bad as the 2013-14 version of themselves, but the Redskins won’t even come close to matching last year.

Eagles

The Eagles are looking so bad right now that they’ll miss Chip Kelly.  This team is rebuilding from a rebuild, there’s no way they’ll compete this year!  It’s bad enough what Kelly did.  What’s worse is how Howie Roseman attempted to fix it.  They were in a decent spot with Kelly; I could’ve seen them easily return to contention, but they’ve made the team look foolish.  Ryan Mathews is not an RB1 at this point in his career, and the Eagles are in desperate need of a wide receiver and are in such a bad situation with Sam Bradford that they traded up a total of 11 spots (between two trades) to draft Carson Wentz!  In the process, they gave up DeMarco Murray, Kiko Alonso and Byron Maxwell.  I don’t know what the heck the Eagles are doing, but whatever their plan is, it isn’t helping, especially for the current team.

 

NFC North

  1.  Green Bay Packers 12-4 (2)
  2.  Detroit Lions 10-6 (6)
  3.  Minnesota Vikings 10-6
  4.  Chicago Bears 4-12

 

Packers

This dominant team won’t lose the division two years straight.  Aaron Rodgers is arguably the best QB in the league, and he along with wide receiver Jordy Nelson, who missed all of last season, are ready to strike back.  This offense just looks a lot better.  Eddie Lacy slimmed up a bit, Jordy Nelson has returned to health, even Aaron Rodgers took part in some serious off-season workouts.  Jared Cook joins Richard Rodgers at tight end, and this offense is suddenly looking dominant again.  The defense may have lost B.J. Raji and Casey Hayward, but still have plenty of key players to run the team, including Julius Peppers, Damarious Randall, Morgan Burnett, Sam Shields, Sam Barrington, Mike Daniels, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Clay Matthews, who’s back to his natural position, outside linebacker.  He was actually a lot better as an OLB than he was in a couple years at middle linebacker.

Lions

You may think that the Lions are in some rough times without Calvin Johnson, but really, if they buff up on depth with guys like Anquan Boldin and Andre Roberts, who both worked out and signed with the Lions, they’ll be fine.  Golden Tate should breakthrough without Megatron limiting his targets.  Marvin Jones is a big sleeper ready to breakout.  Ameer Abdullah and Eric Ebron have plenty of room for improvement, and Matthew Stafford can still play at an average QB level.  You can’t discredit all that.  You may say the defense isn’t doing enough, but really, they’re not in too bad of shape.  The addition of A’Shawn Robinson should help.  They still have Haloti Ngata and Ezekiel Ansah too. I don’t think DeAndre Levy is too bad, and I don’t know why Stephen Tulloch was released.  The secondary has some breakout candidates too.  Darius Slay has been underrated all his career, and Glover Quin is still playing well.  I don’t see the problem with a few holes considering the stars they already have, especially if it’s just for a 6th seed.

Vikings

The Vikings 2015 season was no fluke, but it was a high point for them.  They’ll still be in contention, but they’re going down the mountain now.  They were going up until last year.  Why is that?  Well, for one, the Vikings don’t have depth behind Adrian Peterson!  Peterson is not at his peak anymore, and this may be his final elite season.  Laquon Treadwell may help, but the receiving game is still thin, with just him and Stefon Diggs worth throwing to frequently for wide receivers.  The Vikings may have fierce defense and some stars on offense, but they don’t have the depth at running back, wide receiver and offensive lineman to match last year’s performance.

Bears

I know a lot of people are predicting the Bears at higher records, I’m rating them a lot lower than I have in recent years.  The Bears may have some serious talent developing but they’re rebuilding, let them rebuild.  They aren’t ready to return to contention quite yet.  They don’t even have many other options besides the young guns.  In the past two off-seasons, they’ve let Brandon Marshall, Matt Forte and Martellus Bennett go.  Kevin White, Zach Miller, Jordan Howard and Jeremy Langford should build up the skill to replace them eventually, but for now, they can’t run the team by themselves!  Besides Alshon Jeffery and Eddie Royal at receiver and Ka’ Deem Carey at running back, the Bears have no impactful backups for these players.  Don’t even get me started on the defense.  The defensive line has practically no significant players.  They do have some decent veterans at LB and on the secondary, but they don’t have any stars, and despite an underrated secondary and linebacker corps, the defense is in pretty bad overall shape.

 

NFC South

  1. carolina-panthers-logo.jpg Carolina Panthers 13-3 (1)
  2. tampabaybuccaneers.png Tampa Bay Buccaneers 10-6
  3. nosaints.png New Orleans Saints 4-12
  4. atlfalcons.png Atlanta Falcons 3-13

 

Panthers

Especially with Kelvin Benjamin back, I think the Panthers can have another strong year, but it won’t be flawless.  The Panthers either just got lucky to be able to carry on with slim receiving depth in 2015, or Cam Newton was just an absolute monster.  Probably the Cam Newton thing.  There will be rough weeks for Cam Newton and the Panthers offense.  But still, the defense is monstrous, even though it lacks corner depth beyond Bene’ Benikwere.  The o-line has some weak spots, but is dominant in other ways, and the offensive players at the top of the depth chart are beastly, including Cam Newton, Jonathan Stewart, Kelvin Benjamin and Greg Olsen.  The Panthers will never match last year’s numbers, but they will be dominant, and they could come close.

Buccaneers

The Bucs have a lot of talent developing, and a defensive boost this off season helps.  One thing the Bucs never had before was a legitimate secondary.  They now have a pair of powerful corners in Brent Grimes and Vernon Hargreaves III.  They also added to an already fierce pass rush.  The signings of Daryl Smith and Robert Ayers along with the draft selection of Noah Spence put some of the pressure off just Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David.  They also have some serious stars developing, especially on offense.  Jameis Winston has the potential to be great, especially with rising receivers Mike Evans and Austin Seferian-Jenkins, possibly even Cameron Brate in his receiving scheme.  Although ASJ has looked lousy this off-season, he could be a TE2 for the Bucs, considering the fact that the Bucs only have two receivers worth noting (Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson).  They even have a developing star on defense, Kwon Alexander.  He was in the race for the DPOY award Marcus Peters won.  It looks like the Bucs’ rebuild could finally pay off this season.

Saints

The Saints’ offense may be in shape, but the defense is just too broken down for this team to function.  They have serious problems in their pass rush, and lack depth at corner.  Drew Brees isn’t even in full condition anymore.  He’s only going to get older and weaker, and that could additionally hurt the Saints.  He may have a good receiving staff to throw to, but if he can’t complete passes as often, he’ll have to rely on a weak and overrated running game.  It doesn’t help that the offensive line has holes and is inconsistent and overrated.  So, the offense is in declining in condition and the pass rush is just pathetic.  The only pass rusher that the Saints really have contributing is Cameron Jordan.  Really, what backup do the Saints have to support a good season?   Until they find that out, they’ll have no chance of bouncing back.

Falcons

Everyone thinks this team will be the closest to dethroning Carolina, but really, this team has some serious problems.  First of all, Julio Jones is a great player, but do they have any quality pass catchers besides him?  The next best option is MOHAMED SANU.  He’s more of a WR3 than a WR2, which the Falcons desperately need.  The Falcons are also counting too much on Devonta Freeman.  He had one good season, and just like that he’s considered a star?  Not in my book.  He needs to earn back his job, especially with Tevin Coleman developing.  Speaking of which, they need to give that guy a chance.  I also think the secondary is very slim besides Desmond Trufaunt.  They need more quality corners and safeties.  Really, even with some all stars leading the offense, this team has no offensive depth.  Depth is a problem all over this team, and they won’t do anything without some insurance for their best players.  Even a mediocre defense has depth problems.  The pass rush is revamped, but the secondary has nothing.  How does lack of depth affect a team?  The Falcons will find out this season from a rough ride.

NFC West

  1. seattle-seahawks Seattle Seahawks 12-4
  2. az-cards Arizona Cardinals 12-4
  3.  Los Angeles Rams 3-13
  4.  San Francisco 49ers 3-13

 

Seahawks

The Seahawks are back and better than ever.  The offense has gotten younger, as Thomas Rawls steps into Marshawn Lynch’s shoes.  Jimmy Graham should be back fresh, and Russell Wilson and Doug Baldwin also look to be in great shape for this season.  The offense may have lacked depth, but the last two drafts have helped.  They now have Trevone Boykin at QB, Luke Willson at tight end, C.J. Prosise, Christine Michael and Alex Collins at running back, and Tyler Lockett and Jermaine Kearse at receiver.  The defense is still powerful as well.  The secondary got boosted even further with the resigning of Brandon Browner, and the front seven may have some holes, but is still ferocious.  This team is ready to climb back to the top of the division and dominate, and a quiet but active off season has helped.

Cardinals

Alright, last year the Cardinals were at their absolute peak.  If they stay healthy, they can do well again, but they won’t match last year.  Last year, the Cardinals had a magical season.  Everything worked out.  The defense made a big jump, and the offense’s best players stayed healthy, and did well.  You can’t guarantee that things will work out again.  the defense is still very fierce, but it has some missing pieces, and if Carson Palmer, David Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald or Michael Floyd gets hurt, the Cards could be in big trouble.  Still, I don’t expect them to slide too significantly, they have one of the best coaches in the league, they have a Top 10 defense in the league, and the offense has reformed in to a dominant force.  There are problems that could hold them back, but they’re looking good overall.

Rams

Recent news about Jared Goff being nowhere near ready to start in Week 1 makes things even worse for this team.  If he can’t step in and produce, how will this team be any better, let alone as good as they were last year?  Todd Gurley could step up big time, but that’s not good enough.  The Rams need a dependable QB to thrive.  They may have some ferocious pass rushing, but without a QB, and even an elite pass catcher, this team is going nowhere.  The Rams have a tough schedule.  They can’t count on running the ball every game, especially against other teams with a powerful pass rush, who they will face plenty of this year, including the Dolphins, Giants, Bucs, Panthers, Cardinals and Seahawks.  Unless Jared Goff and his receivers can make the leap, the Rams won’t be going anywhere.

49ers

Don’t even get me started here.  Look, I’ll tell you broad and clear.  The 49ers are terrible!  Their QB job is a battle between Blaine Gabbert and Colin Kaepernick (remember him?), they have no backup if Carlos Hyde goes down again, and Torrey Smith and Quinton Patton (who’s he?) are their starting wide receivers.  The defense is in even worse shape!!  Their secondary depends on Kenneth Acker, Tramaine Brock and Antoine Bethea to perform, and the pass rush has some serious holes next to NaVorro Bowman, Arik Armstead, Glenn Dorsey and DeForest Buckner.  Look, this team won’t be a contender in a million years without some sort of unimaginable miracle!  They have nothing!!!!!!!!!

 

2016 NFL Playoffs

 

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My playoff bracket may look crazy, and it’s full of upsets, surprises, blowouts and underdogs, but here I will breakdown every match up.

Wild Card Weekend

Bills @ Texans

Young, but powerful defense and a strong backfield despite a lack of weapons for Tyrod Taylor got the Bills into the playoffs, but against the Texans, it won’t pass for a even a chance at winning.  This team’s defense has been some of the best over the last few years, led by sack king and legendary edge rusher J.J. Watt.  With a healthy weapon in the backfield (Lamar Miller), and a better QB in Brock Osweiler, a much improved offense will be the deciding factor in the Texans winning this game.  I say the Texans offense may have some troubles with the Bills D, but they’ll edge them slightly, and the Texans pass rush will annihilate the Bills backfield full of depth.

Prediction: Texans win, 34-17

 

Raiders @ Steelers

The Steelers offensive force may be dominant and full of stars on the outside, but especially without Martavis Bryant, the Steelers don’t have too much depth.  The defense doesn’t seem to belong to a contender either, although it is mediocre.  The newly upgraded Raiders defense may be trampled, but young Derek Carr and his superior target Amari Cooper will be all over the defense, and the Raiders will shock the Steelers.  In a huge upset, Big Ben, Le’ Veon Bell and Antonio Brown get topped by a revamped Raiders team, simple as that.

Prediction: Raiders win, 24-16

 

Lions @ Seahawks

I said the Lions would make the playoffs, with some clear defensive holes and lack of a true star on offense.  They do have a lot of potential breakout players, especially on offense, but against the Seahawks and their mighty defense, do you expect this riddled team to win?  In the playoffs?!!  Not happening.  The Seahawks defense will win them this game, with a thin but powerful offense with plenty of star power edging out the Lions D.  I doubt the dark horse of the NFL will beat out the #1 defense in the league.  Barely anyone else expects the Lions to even be playoff contenders!  This one’s an easy pick.

Prediction: Seahawks win, 27-13

 

Cardinals @ Cowboys

Yes, at this point in the season (as long as Ezekiel Elliott isn’t suspended through the playoffs), the Cowboys should be at full strength.  But the Cardinals will be relentless and win hungry in this game.  This team’s offense is dominant with a strong QB/RB/WR combo, even with the lack of an offensive line and an true starter at tight end.  The defense also has plenty of talent scattered across the different positions.  There may be a slight lack of star power in the front seven especially, but this team has few defensive holes, and the ones they do have are small.  Even with a revamped pass rush and underrated secondary, I think the Cardinals offense will be all over the Cowboys, and Dallas’ superior offense won’t get a chance.  It will be a tough competition, but the Cards should win in the end.

Prediction: Cardinals win, 33-27

 

 

Divisional Round

 

Raiders @ Patriots

With Brady most likely back at full speed by this point, the Patriots will crush the Raiders.  Oakland does have revamped defense and rising offense, but this 10-6 wild card surprise will be no match for Bill Belichick’s Patriots.  Hey, the Pats had defensive upgrades too, and the offense is better than ever, with tight end Martellus Bennett playing across from Gronk.  The Patriots will rout the Raiders, I can guarantee you that.  Even against the Steelers they’d win.  At full power, the Patriots are by far the best AFC team.  The Steelers are overrated and dirty, and this game is only the start of the Patriots’ path to victory.

My Prediction: Patriots win, 37-23

 

Texans @ Chiefs

The Chiefs will go all this way, having an awesome regular season, Jamaal Charles completely bouncing back to revamp the offense, Justin Houston coming back better than ever, to lose to Houston.  Sounds like a terrible note to end on, but actually not.  Houston’s a strong team.  The Chiefs are pretty darn good, but in Houston, you have youth, new signings in Brock Osweiler and Lamar Miller, a star receiver, and the best defense in the league led by J.J. Watt, who should return from injury sometime around October.  The Chiefs don’t have anything close to a guy like Watt.  The Texans defense is even better than the mighty Chiefs D.  That plus the diverse, but strong offense will be the difference in this game as the Texans head to the AFC Championship Game, in hopes of dethroning the almighty Pats.

My Prediction: Texans win, 24-13

 

Cardinals @ Panthers

We saw this game in the NFC Championship last year, Carolina won.  We saw the same match-up in 2014’s Wild Card Weekend.  Carolina won both.  With the Seahawks winning the division, the Cardinals would fall to the 5th seed, making this a Divisional Round match-up.  I think the Panthers will take the cake again.  The Panthers may have lost a ton of key secondary guys, but the front seven is still going to be on to David Johnson.  They don’t have much to rely on besides Bene’ Benikwere and rookies James Bradberry, Daryl Worley and Zack Sanchez for receiver coverage.  However, Arizona’s stars are scattered.  I think things will be a little easier for the run game in Carolina.  That’s good for Cam Newton, who loves to run the football.  Personally, I think Carolina’s slightly better defense will make the difference in this game.  They have a superior defensive line, some star pass rushers behind them, and even some possible future big names at corner.  The Cardinals may have Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu in the secondary, but have some holes and weak spots in the front seven, and even some playing across from Peterson and Honey Badger.

My Prediction: Panthers win, 33-28

Seahawks @ Packers

Seattle will be good again this season, especially if everyone’s healthy.  They have the offense now, Jimmy Graham will be back, Thomas Rawls and Doug Baldwin should help.  But Green Bay’s offense could be unstoppable.  With Jordy Nelson back, the Packers have yet another weapon for Aaron Rodgers.  The only reason they lost to the Vikings in the NFC North is because of Nelson’s absence!  The Packers offense will be a challenge for Seattle’s Big D.  This should be a high scoring back and forth game, but in the end, the Packers have the better roster, I like Mike McCarthy as head coach, and they will edge the Seahawks.

My Prediction: Packers win, 34-20

 

 

AFC Championship

Texans @ Patriots

This is an awesome match-up.  The Brock Osweiler and Lamar Miller led Texans are extremely underrated, and a league best defense leads them to be a great team this year, even dark horse Super Bowl contenders, because if they make it there, they’re sure to win in their home stadium, but this is the New England Patriots we’re talking about.  Yes, the same New England Patriots with Tom Brady and Gronk who won 4 Super Bowls, their only Super Bowls since Brady joined the team.  Brady is easily the greatest to play the game, all time.  He truly has defined himself as the G.O.A.T.  If he gets a fifth ring, that would be true dominance.  Bill Belichick should be at his old tricks again and the powerful Patriots offense and underrated defense will work their way through the great wall of Houston, AKA: the Texans pass rush, and the defense should be able to hold the strong QB/RB/WR combo up while the offense does its thing.  This is a Patriots team hungry for revenge, and they will be motivated to rout the Texans, and they will go out there and do their job.

My Prediction: Patriots win, 34-27

 

NFC Championship

Packers @ Panthers

The Panthers will have another strong season.  At 13-3, they should earn the #1 seed.  But the Packers will have more challenges on the 2016 schedule, and they still will go 12-4 and get the 2nd seed.  The Packers are a dominant team, especially in these clutch playoff situations.  With Josh Norman, Charles Tillman and Roman Harper off the secondary’s depth charts, Carolina’s much less likely to reach the Super Bowl, especially in a tough, straight forward NFC.  Aaron Rodgers will take advantage of Carolina’s holes, and throw to underrated receivers Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb.  Eddie Lacy could also be successful against an aging defensive line, and the Packers offense will edge out Carolina’s D.  I think Cam Newton and Co. should be about evenly matched with the Packers defense, even lacking receiver depth, but the new holes in the secondary will be the sole deciding factor in the game.

My Prediction: Packers win, 37-31 in OT

 

Super Bowl 51

Patriots (AFC) vs. Packers (NFC)

This may be one of the toughest Super Bowl matches ever.  the 2016 Patriots and Packers are two of the most well crafted teams of their era.  Part of this will be based on the performance of the two star QBs, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers.  Both these offenses are also very strong.  The Packers may have more dependable wide receivers but Gronk and Bennett act like receivers, so the Pats have a lot of edge at tight end.  the defenses are very similar as well.  There are holes in each pass rush, but also stars.  Green Bay may have more big names, but this young Patriots group was led and mentored by veteran Jerod Mayo.  Mayo retired, but now in comes Terrance Knighton.  Malcolm Butler and crew should cover the Packers receivers better, where as the young, still developing Packers secondary may struggle to keep up with the best Pats receivers, especially Gronk.  Tom Brady and his bunch plus excellent coaching from Bill Belichick that I think is slightly better than Mike McCarthy’s should boost the Patriots to edge out the Packers.

My Prediction: Patriots win, 34-30

 

Awards:

MVP: Aaron Rodgers, QB, GB

Offensive Player of The Year: Le’Veon Bell, RB, PIT

Defensive Player of the Year: J.J. Watt, DE, HOU

Offensive Rookie of The Year: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, DAL

Defensive Rookie of the Year: Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, TB

Comeback Player Of The Year: Jordy Nelson, WR, GB

Super Bowl MVP: Tom Brady

 

Between the shocks, blowouts, amazing plays and more, the NFL 2016 season is going to be great, and I can’t wait for it to come back.  For now, I’m following training camp and you guys can look at my season previews by team.  I have a couple up and more are coming soon.

 

NFL Playoff Picks: Wild Card Weekend

4 non division winners will challenge the teams the edged a division win.  First, which teams are more of super bowl threats?  Second, who will win?  Let’s start with a look at my straight up playoff bracket.

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I have the Seahawks knocking out the top 3 NFC seeds and losing in the Super Bowl, and the Steelers upsetting Cincy in the wild card round but losing to Denver.

Here are my picks:

Texans, 23, Chiefs, 20: Saturday, 4:35 PM EST

Both of these teams are on fire.  Kansas City has clearly shown themselves by winning 10 straight.  Houston struggled for a longer period of time, but have bounced back with 3 wins in a row.  This will come down to every last second.  The Texans have DeAndre Hopkins at his prime, who has broken out this year, and the Chiefs have Travis Kelce and Jeremy Maclin who will make an impact.  But one thing that will surely impact this game is defense.  In my opinion, both teams have a top 10 defense in the league.  They both have extremely powerful pass rush and good to decent secondaries.

I don’t think this will be very high scoring, and I think it will come down to a field goal.  Neither of these kickers, Nick Novak and Cairo Santos, are that good, but Santos has been streaky in good and bad ways.  Novak once was very solid.  I think Novak still has some of that consistency in him and that he can save the Texans’ butts in this game.

Steelers, 34, Bengals, 26: Saturday, 8:15 PM EST

I think that Pittsburgh’s run game will really miss DeAngelo Williams, not to mention Le’ Veon Bell.  But the powerful pass and a solid QB in Big Ben should make up for it as he throws four TDs in this 8 point upset win.  Ben Roethlisberger will go to his favorite trusty receivers, Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, Markus Wheaton and Heath Miller, maybe Darrius Heyward-Bey, Matt Spaeth and Jacoby Jones for a bit.  But the point is, Ben Roethlisberger and the pass will make a huge impact.

The Bengals on the other hand, have just mediocre receiver depth with a QB that’s a novice to the playoffs.  Their run game trumps Pittsburgh as it’s at full health, but passing and QBs, along with experience are very important in the playoffs.  Despite a much better defense than Pittsburgh, the Steelers’ offense will pay off.

 

Seahawks, 30, Vikings, 24: Sunday, 1:05 PM EST

Despite missing Marshawn Lynch this week, Seattle still has a shot to take down the Vikes on Sunday.  The Seahawks are starting to discover a decent pass game, and the defense has been awesome.  The pass rush should be good enough to limit AP, especially if he’s still a little banged up.  The secondary should help limit Teddy B’s new receivers as well.

The Vikings defense is still young and developing, and should be able to limit the Seahawks, but not as much as they limit Minnesota.  Seattle has edge in that way, and they should win, despite a weaker, more injured offense.  They have great sleepers that haven’t come out of their shell yet this season.

Packers, 34, Redskins, 27: Sunday, 4:40 PM EST

I think this is a game that will be surprisingly high scoring due to bad defense.  Aaron Rodgers is finally starting to throw the ball around a bit, and Eddie Lacy has begun to return to full form. James Starks has done well too.  This team has gone a little bit young, but is growing power once again, power that may be strong enough to take out a top seed team after this.  But Kirk Cousins will provide a challenge.

He has found his guys that he needs to win games and the Skins’ offense works very well together as a team.  They’re good too.  They’re o-line is much better, they have some reliable young receivers and the whole team is beginning to re-develop.  But in the end, the Washington secondary is just too empty to stop the Packers in their reign and they will win by a touchdown or so.

So those are my picks for the week.  Comment what you think will happen in the games.