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.

 

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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 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.

NFL Week 1 Picks: America’s Game Will Return with a Bang

It’s that time of year again.  Opening Night is just a few days away.  Soon enough, Tom Brady will be throwing the season’s first TD.   It’s time to figure out who’s going to win the first slate of games.  Who will start the season strong?  Keep reading to find out what I think.

Lock Of The Week 

Note:  The top team listed is the road team for all games listed in my score predictions


The Browns should be a bit better this year but this Pittsburgh offense is just going to be too much for Cleveland.  When the Steelers offense is at full strength they’re nearly unstoppable.  The Ben-Bell-Brown combo is one of the best offensive trios in the league. Martavis Bryant and Vance McDonald also add a nice touch to this potent offense. Although the Steelers offense will go full out, I don’t see this as a shutout.

The Browns offense has gotten better.  Crowell will have a good year and Corey Coleman and David Njoku will help out rookie QB DeShone Kizer.  The secondary is Pittsburgh’s Achilles Heel and the Browns will take advantage of that.  But they won’t come close to topping the Steelers.

Upset of the Week


I wouldn’t consider this much of an upset after the Dolphins lost Ryan Tannehill for the season.  But I want to make sure that A) Everyone knows Jay Cutler will be horrible in Miami and B) Everyone who didn’t read my NFL 2017 Predictions knows that the Bucs are my #1 dark horse team this season.  I believe that the Buccaneers have the potential to shock us all.  They have a solid young defense and the receiver duo of Jackson and Evans alone makes the offense have a good one-two punch.

In addition to that Jameis Winston is primed for a complete break through. Doug Martin is back in football shape and while he’s suspended, Charles Sims is a reliable option.  I also believe that tight end O.J. Howard will have a huge rookie season.  Don’t expect every Bucs game to be a blowout though.  The Dolphins defense could be a challenge for Tampa Bay.  In the end, though, the Miami D is no better than Tampa’s defense and the Dolphins offense just isn’t the same without Tannehill.  I think this calls for a Bucs win.

The Other Games

TNF

The football season will open with this intriguing match-up.  Both of these teams lost key players for the season but I don’t think either team will fall significantly from it.  So this is still going to be close.  But I have to go with the defending champs here.  The Chiefs defense is still solid but their offense is wearing down.  They need breakout performances from Tyreek Hill and Kareem Hunt to be any more than a one and done wild card team.  The Chiefs are a playoff team right now but they just don’t match up to Brady’s Bunch.

The Pats have improved upon last year’s championship team.  They made some nice moves to keep the defense good and despite the losses of Martellus Bennett and LeGarrette Blount (free agency) as well as Julian Edelman (ACL injury), this offense is still the best in the league.  I see James White as the new starting back after his stellar Super Bowl showcase.  Dwayne Allen and Brandin Cooks will be top receiving targets for Brady and watch out for Chris Hogan.  He was great in Super Bowl LI and is ready to take his game to the next level.  I almost forgot to mention that Gronk was hurt when they won the Super Bowl.  They’ll be even better with Gronk at full speed.  There is no way the Chiefs will upset them on Opening Night.

Sunday’s Games

Meredith’s injury and Cruz’s release just makes these Bears even worse.  Although the Falcons won’t be as good as they were last year, this game will be a clinic.  The Falcons offense knows what they’re doing.  Matty Ice, Devonta Freeman, and Julio Jones are still one of the league’s best offensive trios.  The Bears have nothing on defense to stop them and although the Atlanta D isn’t great either, the Bears don’t have much left for an offense.

Unless Mitch Trubisky comes in and shocks the world, the Bears have no QB, barely any receiving weapons, and are left with just one quality offensive player, running back Jordan Howard.  I’m even a little worried about Howard’s potential to suffer a sophomore slump.  The Bears could be in some deep trouble going into this season and it will all start in this Week 1 game.

The Jets may be one of the worst NFL teams in history.  They have no reliable receivers, no QB, and Bilal Powell is the offense’s only bright spot.  Their other running back Matt Forte is on the trade block.  What are the Jets doing?  This isn’t a rebuild so I think this might be tanking for the #1 draft pick as they hope for a reliable QB to emerge.  The defense is this team’s only hope which is nothing more than mediocre after trading Sheldon Richardson.

The Bills aren’t much better, but at least they have a star running back in LeSean McCoy, a half decent QB, and a few good receivers.  The defense isn’t that bad either.  Expect a shutout that will completely embarrass the Jets to start the season.


This will be a close one for sure.  Neither of these teams is going to have a great season. But these teams are pretty much evenly matched talent-wise.  The Ravens have a good defense but don’t have anything going on offense.  The Bengals are very similar, except their offense isn’t quite as horrid.  The Bengals may have good depth but none of their players are eye-popping and the defense’s dirty plays will get old very quickly.

They are going to wear each other down so much that by the 4th quarter, the 12th man will be the difference.  This will be a long game and it could even go into overtime.  But in the end, I see Cincy winning with the fans giving them the extra push to squeeze out a win.


The Redskins won’t be as good as they’ve been in previous years and the Eagles have gotten better.  But in Washington, I can’t see Philly winning.  The Eagles have a decent all-around team, but the Redskins have a really strong receiving game and parts of their defense will neutralize Philly’s game plan.  Although the Eagles are the better team, the home field advantage will make things easier for Washington.  It will be close but I’ve got to go with Washington in this one.


This is going to be fun to watch.  Two quarterbacks coming off major injuries ready to come back strong and lead their teams deep into the playoffs.  Both of these teams have superstar offenses this year.  Mariota’s offense has continued to improve.  They now have multiple reliable receivers and a strong RB duo.  The Raiders are coming in with the same offense that may have led them to the AFC Championship last year if Carr wasn’t hurt.  The only differences are that Latavius Murray and Mychal Rivera have been replaced by Marshawn Lynch and Jared Cook.  Those moves just made the offense better.

This game could come down to how good the defenses are.  Home field advantage could also be a factor.  I think this game will be an offensive shootout, with both offenses going all out.  These teams are pretty equal, so I’m going to go with the home team here.  Titans win by a field goal.


Although the Jags looked good this preseason, I’m not going to buy into their interesting off-season moves again.  I made that mistake in 2016.  The Texans should win this game. Their defense will just be too much for the Jacksonville offense especially since J.J. Watt is back to full speed and motivated to uplift a city torn by Hurricane Harvey.  The Jags defense may not be anything special but neither is the Texans offense, so the Jags defense should be alright.  However, as long as the Texans are smart and start Deshaun Watson over Tom Savage in Week 1, I think they’ll have just enough to pull away with the win at home.

The last time these two faced off, the Lions got clobbered.  But that was 2 years ago and a lot has changed since.  The Lions offense has improved significantly and the Cardinals are not the same team that made the NFC Championship in 2015.  Their offense is lacking weapons and the defense just doesn’t have the same powerful core.  The 2015 Cardinals were a strong all-around team but now Arizona has some serious holes.

I like this Lions offense as Ameer Abdullah is very intriguing at RB.  Kenny Golladay could be yet another Lions breakout star at WR, and the Lions have plenty of other key playmakers on offense.  With the highest paid NFL QB, home field advantage, a much better offense, a slightly better defense, and a weaker Cardinals team, the Lions should win this game.

I know that some of you might think I’d pick the Rams in an upset here.  Since my 2017 NFL Predictions, my thoughts about the Rams have changed.  The Sammy Watkins trade was great for them while the Phillip Dorsett trade was not good for the Colts.  If Watkins stays healthy, the Rams have the upside to win as many as 9 games.  But even if Luck is out early on, I can see the Colts doing better than previous years.  They don’t have an established Week 1 QB, but as long as Scott Tolzien can do a decent job filling Luck’s role, the Colts can take advantage of the Rams’ weak secondary.  If Donte Moncrief has the huge season I think he will, the Colts should be able to pull away with the win here, even if it’s an ugly win.

This is starting to become a serious rivalry.  When these two teams play, it’s always a close game.  This game won’t be any different.  The Packers offense has improved since last season.  They added Top 10 tight end Martellus Bennett and drafted running backs Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones.  Jamaal Williams is a first-year breakout pick for me and I think he will greatly improve the Packers run game.  Both these defenses are good, but Seattle’s spotless defense has just gotten better while Green Bay’s stays strong.

I just don’t think the Seahawks have such a good offense this year.  They have a controversy at running back, are very thin at wide receiver, and have offensive line problems as well.  This offense is no match for the Green Bay Packers and although the Seahawks D will make it hard for the Packers, Green Bay will get the win in the end.  Not an easy win but a well-earned win at home.

I know Kyle Shanahan was a good offensive coordinator and he will be a better coach than Chip Kelly for the Niners.  But the 49ers need some more talent before Kyle Shanahan has the chance to succeed as a coach.  Brian Hoyer is a well seasoned veteran QB but he lacks good weapons.  Who else do the Niners have on offense worth noting other than Carlos Hyde and Pierre Garçon?  Nobody.  That’s why Carolina will win this game.  Their defense will have it easy and their offense should be good enough to overcome a decent San Francisco defense.

The Panthers have young talent on offense in Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel and established veterans in Greg Olsen, Jonathan Stewart, and Kelvin Benjamin.  Their offense will be strong this year or at least better than last year.  Enough to win them a game against the struggling 49ers.

SNF

This classic rivalry is set for Week 1 once again.  These teams are the two frontrunners for the NFC East and this game will be close.  The Giants are beginning to become an all around team.  They have a good running back in Paul Perkins and arguably have the best receiving trio in the league with OBJ, Marshall, and Shepard.  They lack a tight end and need some O-line help, but those are their only noticeable holes.  They are solid on defense as they have a great D-line and secondary.

The Cowboys will be a challenge for them though.  They may be missing Ezekiel Elliott but with the offensive line that Dallas has, any running back can be set up for success. Remember what Darren McFadden did with them in 2015?  It can happen again until Zeke comes back.  Their offense is as sharp as it was in 2016 except they’re without Zeke for 6 games.

The defense may be a problem though.  The secondary suffered some serious losses.   But the front seven is looking good going into the season, and they will be able to try and stop the New York run game.  It will be tough for the Cowboys secondary to stop these receivers.  However, despite the Giants making 4 TD catches, I think the Cowboys will be able to find the Giants’ weaknesses and pull away with the win with home field on their side.

MNF

The Vikings may not have the offense that the Saints have but the Vikings defense may be able to slow the Saints down.  The Saints offense isn’t as good as it was last year now that Brandin Cooks is in New England.  They will probably have trouble with this tough defense especially with Willie Snead suspended for the first 3 games.

The Vikings may not have the best offense especially without Peterson but I believe they can have success against a weak Saints defense.  Dalvin Cook and Kyle Rudolph will give the Saints tough match-ups.  Stefon Diggs should have a better year too.  So, if all goes well for Minnesota, they should be able to win this game.

The Broncos just aren’t the same anymore.  But although I think the Chargers will be better, they’re a mediocre team.  They’re not quite good enough yet to beat the Broncos in the thin air of Denver.  The Denver defense is going to slow down the Chargers revamped offense significantly.  The Chargers offense will only be good if they stay healthy.   Even at full health, they are not good enough to put up 30 points on the Broncos D.

The Broncos should do well offensively in this game because the Chargers defense doesn’t have too much to stop them.  The Chargers have a good front seven but Denver’s run game is not their strength and Denver will attack in the air against a weak Chargers secondary.

I see this one going to Denver in the end.  It will not be easy for the Broncos though, as they are far from the Super Bowl team led by Manning.  At least they’ll have Osweiler again if Siemian struggles, and Osweiler has already proved he can play in Denver.

This week will be full of surprises with close games, non-stop action, and a few blowouts. I expect to give the CBS reporters good competition like I did last year.  How do you think Week 1 will unfold?  Share your thoughts in the comments and stay tuned for more NFL and MLB articles soon.

 

Scouting Report: Cleveland Browns

The Browns are still well, the Browns.  So you can’t expect very much from this team.  RG3 may help a little bit under center, but come on Hue Jackson?!  You expect him to pass as the starting QB when he hasn’t been good for 4 years?  They had a good draft, they have some more elite wide receivers after cutting Dwayne Bowe and Brian Hartline, and losing Travis Benjamin to the Chargers, who signed him as a free agent.  They got Corey Coleman and reinstated Josh Gordon, who is still suspended four games, and will return
against Tom Brady’s Patriots.  Brady will also be hungry for revenge after a suspension of his own.  They also got Demario Davis on defense, but otherwise, this is the same old team.  How many wins can the Browns even get with the talent they have?

 

3 Players to Watch

1. Carl Nassib, DE

With Desmond Bryant out for the season, the Browns now have a hole at defensive end.  They drafted both Carl Nassib and Emmanuel Ogbah at the position, but Ogbah is set to play outside linebacker for the Browns.  That leaves Nassib with the starting job.  He does have competition, Xavier Cooper is also strong at the position, but this third round pick was a very intriguing selection, a former walk-on at Penn State who broke out senior year with 15.5 sacks.  The NFL may take some time for him to get used to, and NFL.com was concerned he could be a one year wonder, but personally, I think this rookie could be a breakout candidate, and this year is his oppurtunity with Desmond Bryant missing the season.

2. Duke Johnson, RB

I think this sophomore running back has more talent than Isaiah Crowell, at least potential talent at full development.  The running back only had 104 carries for 379 yards in his rookie season, but this passing back also has put up 61 receptions for 534 yards and 2 TDs.  If he fully develops, he could be a multi-purpose back that scores rushing and receiving touchdowns.  I expect his TD numbers to go up in 2016, along with his total yardage.

3.  Scooby Wright III, ILB

“Hey, the Browns are so bad, they signed Scooby Doo!”

“No, I think you got the wrong Scooby.”  Yeah.  Wrong Scooby.  This is Scooby Wright III.  You probably haven’t heard of him.  He’s an inside linebacker who was originally projected to be selected in Round 3 of the NFL Draft, but went to the Browns in Round 7 instead.  Personally, I think this college stud should act like a third rounder on the Browns, possibly even fight for Christian Kirksey’s current starting job.  I know, what’s with the weird names?  In 2 seasons with the Browns, Kirksey, a third round pick in 2014, has only racked up 5.5 sacks.  Wright racked up 14 sacks in the 2014 college football season, that’s more than one per game, after none in freshman year.  The question is, can Wright put up the same numbers he did in his healthy years in college, and can he be consistent?  In the three games he did play last year, he got 2 sacks.  Can he put up the same numbers in all 16 games?

 

3 Questions That Must Be Answered

 

1. Can Robert Griffin III ever match
his 2012 stats again?

In his rookie season, RG3 led the
Redskins to a division win and strong playoff run, making for an amazing rookie year. But he got hurt in a playoff game. In 2013,
Griffin never fully recovered. He was sidelined for the last three games for Kirk Cousins.  Back then, Cousins wasn’t what he is now.  He wasn’t developed yet, and at the start of 2014, RG3 earned the job back.  Somehow, his terrible 2013 numbers passed for a starting job?  The Redskins had a serious QB problem that year.  RG3 got hurt again in week 2 and Cousins started for seven games.  RG3 came back in Week 9, but he still did nothing.  RG3 was still not quite back to what he was, and with Kirk Cousins shut down for the season with his own injury, the Redskins had to rely on Colt McCoy to start for the remainder of the season.  McCoy eventually got hurt and RG3 had to start the rest of the season.  In 2015, Griffin struggled regressively in the preseason, and lost his job to Kirk Cousins permanently, falling to third on the depth chart also behind Colt McCoy. Cousins broke out, leading the Redskins back to the playoffs in an easy division, and RG3 never saw action, and eventually was released.  The Redskins must have been sick of his tactics.  Then Cleveland signs him and names him starter?  Over Josh McCown?  After last year’s disgrace. Wow, Hue Jackson.  Just, wow.  Griffin looks promising in the preseason, but it’s not a guarantee he’ll get back to business, and stay healthy.  I personally think he’ll do alright, but he still won’t be what he was, and I can’t tell you he won’t get hurt.  Good move keeping Josh McCown, Cleveland.

2. Will Josh Gordon perform well, and stay out of trouble?

Most people believe Josh Gordon’s recent reinstatement will benefit the Browns.  Personally, I’m questioning whether Gordon is in football shape.  He’s battling a preseason injury for a reason.  After a long suspension, it’s not easy to go back to what you were before the ban.  Gordon will be able to play in preseason games, but will remain suspended for regular season games until Week 5.  I don’t think Gordon will go back to being the guy who was a league leader in receiving yards right away.  It will take time for Gordon to redevelop his skill, if he ever does.  I’m starting to wonder, did the drugs affect his performance?  It’s also not a guarantee that Gordon will stay out of trouble.  If he has issues later in the season, he could receive more discipline.  Gordon shouldn’t have even been reinstated in the first place!  I think Gordon should be grateful he was reinstated, and drop the drugs so he can just play football again, but will he?

3. Will strong drafts in 2015 and 2016 pay off?

In the last two years, the Browns have drafted many key players.  Danny Shelton, Nate Orchard, Cameron Erving, Duke Johnson, Corey Coleman, Emmanuel Ogbah, Carl Nassib, Rashard Higgins, Ricardo Louis, Jordan Payton, Shon Coleman and Spencer Drango have all came from the last two years’ drafts.  Most of these guys aren’t completely developed yet, but a lot of them have potential.  Danny Shelton is a major breakout candidate, after decent numbers last year.  He was a 12th overall pick, after all.  Nate Orchard has contributed to the pass rush, as well.  Cameron Erving could emerge into a starter, and Duke Johnson is blossoming into a work horse RB.  In this year’s draft came four receivers.  Corey Coleman should be an immediate force, while Rashard Higgins, Ricardo Louis and Jordan Payton could see receptions off the bench.  Personally, I think Higgins and Payton are two underrated receivers that could fight for WR4 and WR5 jobs.  I also think both o-linemen and pass rushers should see time on the field, Nassib could even start.  I like the duo of Nassib and Ogbah to rack up 6 or 7 sacks.  Personally, I think Drango is the best option at right guard.  All these guys should eventually fan out, and some will affect the season.

 

3 Bold Predictions

1. Duke Johnson will lead in not just rushing yards, but lead Browns non-QBs in total yards

Duke Johnson is no one-trick pony, even in football.  He doesn’t just scramble well, he makes catches.  Personally, between his rushing yards and receiving yards and TDs he purs up, he’s an intriguing pick to lead Browns non-QBs in total yards and TDs.  There is Gary Barnidge, who could go for more TDs, but although Barnidge should be starting material at tight end, he won’t match last year, or even come close.  Josh Gordon will be missing 4 games, so Johnson has time to get a head start on him, and the rest of the receiving group hasn’t quite panned out yet, even Corey Coleman and Andrew Hawkins.  What about Isaiah Crowell?  Honestly, I think Duke Johnson will be started over Crowell this year.  Crowell hasn’t proven to be a quality starter, and I would give the sophomore RB, part of a legendary rookie running back class a try at the starting job.  Duke J0hnson is a major sleeper, and he will breakout in 2016.

2. Only 2 players will reach 8 sacks on Browns, but who?

The Browns pass rush can be pathetic at times.  Without Desmond Bryant, it will be even harder.  Personally, I think that only 2 players will even rack up 8 sacks.  Some of you might even be wondering who could do that?  I like Paul Kruger personally.  The veteran has had plenty of sacks in his career, 8 should be easy for him, if he can get back on track after a rough 2015.  The other guy being Danny Shelton.  Like I said, this guy is a major sleeper.  I’d expect more from the former 1st round pick in 2016.  He’s yet to earn a sack in his career.  2016 is his year, especially if he wants to keep the starting job.

3. The Browns will lead the AFC North in rushing yards

 

Hue Jackson sure likes to run the ball.  He has two powerful running backs in his backfield, but why do they top backfields with guys like Le’ Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams?  Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard?  Well, Bell will be suspended for the first four games, so his rushing totals will be cut in to, and DeAngelo Williams is an aging back.  Jeremy Hill is good, but Gio Bernard also gets some of his yards in receptions.  Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson are two underrated backs that could breakout, and it wouldn’t be bold predictions without a shocker like this.

 

Schedule Breakdown

The Browns don;t have many opportunities for wins, so they must take advantage of the opportunities they do have.  They open the season in Philadelphia against Doug Pederson’s Eagles.  I think this game is winnable, as I am disgusted by the Eagles’ off season rebuild, but home field advantage should pay off for the Eagles, who should top the just as bad Cleveland Browns.  The rebuilt Ravens should be tough as well.

Then come matches against the Dolphins and Redskins.  The Dolphins aren’t great, but they do have some mediocrity around the team.  They just don’t compare to the rest of the league.  But they are better than the Browns, especially when at home.  The Redskins still have a strong receiving group, and the defense is getting better, definitely enough to top the Browns.

They have absolutely no chance against Brady in his first game back, and a revamped Titans offense should thrive at home.  Cincinnati may be on the decline, but they still have enough weapons to blowout the Browns.  This would put Cleveland at 0-7.  Then comes a mtch-up against the Jets, in Cleveland.  I see home field advantage kicking in, and even with Ryan Fitzpatrick leading a strong Jets offense now, the defense has lost steam since last season, and the Browns offense, Josh Gordon, RG3, Corey Coleman, Duke Johnson, Isaiah Crowell and Gary Barnidge, should be enough to edge out the defense and get their first win.

The Cowboys should be tough when nearly at full strength.  DeMarcus Lawrence, maybe even Randy Gregory will be back, and I think the defense is underrated.  In addition to a stellar offense, that should be enough to down the Browns in Cleveland, and if Cleveland loses to the Ravens at home, it won’t be any easier on the road, even with Josh Gordon in his sixth week.  The Steelers’ QB/RB/WR combo is tough for the Browns as well, but in a division match-up, I could see the Browns splitting, and pulling the upset trigger in this game.  Their underrated offense will take advantage of the Pittsburgh D, and the Steelers offense won’t do enough.  They will be dealt a loss in Pittsburgh, though. The Giants’ revamped defense will compliment the offense and give them the road win.  Going into the bye, the Browns would be just 2-10.  If you count the Steelers match-up after the bye I called a loss, I have them at 2-11 so far.

After the bye, they have two winnable match-ups.  The first one is hosting the Bengals, another division match-up, but especially after how well the Bengals have done against the Browns, I don’t see the Browns beating the Bengals and Steelers and not the Ravens.  So they lose that one.  In Buffalo, the strong draft plus the developing talent they already had should be too good for the Browns.  The second winnable match-up comes against the Chargers.  Although the Philip Rivers led offense is intriguing, Hue Jackson’s underrated Browns offense should be all over a weak defense.  Then they close up the season in Pittsburgh.  They can’t win this game under any circumstances, and at 3-12, they will have given up already.  I see a loss here.

 

My Prediction

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The Browns will never be that good without some moves, and I don’t see many winnable match-ups on the schedule.  But this underrated offense could pull an upset or two, and I can at least see the Browns beat the Chargers at home and maybe the Jets.  Two, three, maybe four wins sounds pretty reasonable, but they will likely place last in the conference.

Final Projected Record: 3-13

 

NFL 2016 Mock Draft 1.0: Jets Find QB, Elliott Finds Perfect Home

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Welcome to my 2016 1st round mock draft.  With just one week left till the big day, I decided to make my first mock of the year.  My mock draft is new and improved with in depth analysis on each pick.  Some picks might surprise you, others may be obvious to you.  I would like to give credit to NFL.com for the format and logos of my mock.  Let’s get started.

 

  1. LOS ANGELES RAMS
    LA
    CARSON WENTZ
    QB
    NORTH DAKOTA STATE

    Wentz has quickly emerged into the top QB prospect in the draft.  He put on a show at the Combine, and would be a good fit for the Rams system.  Jared Goff has the small hand issue, and despite being from a small school, Wentz has the most future upside of any quarterback in this draft class.  

     

  2. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
    PHI
    DEFOREST BUCKNER
    DE
    OREGON

    The most likely outcome of this pick is that the Eagles, who recently traded up, take advantage of it and go with QB Jared Goff.  But what the Eagles don’t realize is that they should’ve shut their mouths and sat tight, they have plenty of talent at the position now that they re-signed Sam Bradford and signed Chase Daniel as backup.  What the Eagles really need is a flex defensive end/defensive tackle.  Joey Bosa is strictly an edge rusher.  Buckner can do both and is a much better fit in Philadelphia.

  3. SAN DIEGO CHARGERS
    SD
    JALEN RAMSEY
    FS
    FLORIDA STATE

    As one of the top prospects left at this point, Ramsey would be a good fit in the Chargers’ secondary.  Ramsey fits the needs of San Diego very well, and the Chargers do lack a defensive line, as Joey Bosa would still be available.  Laremy Tunsil would also be available, and he is the top prospect in the draft and is at a position the Chargers kind of need.  But Ramsey is a very strong prospect who can bring serious change of tone to the secondary.

     

  4. DALLAS COWBOYS
    DAL
    JOEY BOSA
    DE
    OHIO STATE

    Bosa has a ton of upside and has been atop the boards since the start of the season. He really fits the Cowboys system and knows how to fix a defensive line.  This would be a great pick for Dallas, and Bosa is my top prospect of this draft.    

  5. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS
    JAX
    LAREMY TUNSIL
    OT
    OLE MISS

    At first I thought this team wanted an OLB like Myles Jack with this pick but now I’m having second thoughts.  First, it has been rumored lately that Jack still has knee issues, and second the Jags need serious o-line help  Laremy Tunsil, possibly the best prospect in this draft is still on the board is available here.  Tunsil will fill in opposite Luke Joeckel and will play right tackle. Sorry Mr. Jack, you’re going to have to wait a bit longer.

  6. BALTIMORE RAVENS
    BAL
    RONNIE STANLEY
    OT
    NOTRE DAME
    The Ravens no longer have the temptation of DeForest Buckner hanging from a thread.  With Buckner going 2nd overall, the Ravens have to move on to assess their other need, o-line, offensive tackle in particular.  Laremy Tunsil was just taken, but there is a prospect left worth going top 10.  Ronnie Stanley.  Stanley has been atop draft boards since the first mocks were coming out around mid-season.  Stanley has nearly as much potential as Tunsil and is an amazing alternative.
  7. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
    SF
    JARED GOFF
    QB
    CALIFORNIA

     

    If Goff plummets this far, the 49ers need to take advantage of it.  The 49ers may have a need at pass rusher, offensive line, wide receiver, even running back, but their main need by far is QB.  Goff will be ready to start in Week 1, and he’s the best option when your starting QB spot is between Colin Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert before the draft.

  8. CLEVELAND BROWNS
    CLE
    MYLES JACK
    OLB
    UCLA

    The Browns have four main needs, quarterback, wide receive, linebacker and defensive end.  It’s a little early for LaQuon Treadwell to be selected, same with Paxton Lynch and Shaq Lawson.  Jared Goff and Carson Wentz are gone and Joey Bosa and DeForest Buckner are long gone.  Who’s left at the four positions?  Myles Jack. Jack, the top linebacker prospect passed up for Laremy Tunsil by the Jags, fits into the Browns scheme and is the best option remaining.

  9. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
    TB
    VERNON HARGREAVES III
    CB
    FLORIDA

    After signing Robert Ayers to help the D-line, the Bucs’ top need is to find a consistent top prospect for the secondary.  With Jalen Ramsey long gone, Hargreaves is by far the best fit in Tampa.  Hargreaves will play right corner, where they have their biggest hole of all, by far.  

  10. NEW YORK GIANTS
    NYG
    LAQUON TREADWELL
    WR
    OLE MISS

    Treadwell’s strong upside makes him an amazing counterpart to OBJ.  I could see this rookie wide receiver playing at Odell Beckham Jr.’s level by the end of the season.  Who do the Giants have behind OBJ at receiver that is at full health?  Victor Cruz could still be hurt and Dwayne Harris just isn’t ready to be WR2 for New York.  

  11. CHICAGO BEARS
    CHI
    SHAQ LAWSON
    DE
    CLEMSON

    NFL experts have this defensive end all over the place.  The Bears could use this strong pass rusher as a big upgrade at defensive end.  With Joey Bosa and DeForest Buckner gone, Lawson should have an easy way into Chicago.  

  12. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
    NO
    SHELDON RANKINS
    DT
    LOUISVILLE

    Rankins has shot up draft boards to become #1 DT in recent days, and he is the Saints best option after his breakout.  Robert Nkemdiche and others have gone down in stock.  Rankins remains the best option at DT, and New Orleans is the perfect fit for him.  

  13. MIAMI DOLPHINS
    MIA
    EZEKIEL ELLIOTT
    RB
    OHIO STATE

    After losing Lamar Miller to free agency, the Dolphins may have the biggest hole at running back in the entire NFL.  After the Eagles, Cowboys, Browns, Ravens, 49ers and Giants pass on the running back Elliott will be left for the Dolphins to snag as a steal.  

  14. OAKLAND RAIDERS
    OAK
    NOAH SPENCE
    DE
    EASTERN KENTUCKY

    After a change of schools, Spence quickly became a top prospect, but his stock has gone down most recently.  But with the big guys off the board, Spence has a decent shot of making it with the Raiders.  

  15. TENNESSEE TITANS
    TEN
    JACK CONKLIN
    OT
    MICHIGAN STATE

    Even if the Titans traded down, they might want a lower tier offensive tackle instead of Laremy Tunsil.  If Conklin isn’t taken by the Bears, he would be a strong fit in Tennessee.  Marcus Mariota is ready to breakout in his sophomore year, but he’s a sack target if he doesn’t get some o-line protection in currently weak spots like tackle.

  16. DETROIT LIONS
    DET
    TAYLOR DECKER
    OT
    OHIO STATE

    It’s the trade effect again, with Laremy Tunsil falling to Jacksonville and Ronnie Stanley heading to Baltimore, the Titans now take Jack Conklin.  That leaves Detroit with this tackle out of Ohio State.  I see a lot of potential for this guy, and personally, I would take Decker over Conklin, but I think Tennessee will go after Conklin over Decker.  

  17. ATLANTA FALCONS
    ATL
    DARRON LEE
    OLB
    OHIO STATE

    Wow, that’s the second straight OSU pick.  It’s a good school with a good 2016 class, what can I say.  This top linebacker fits what the Falcons are looking for.  The Falcons were somewhat active this off season, but have serious holes to fill.  Darron Lee could easily take care of that issue at outside linebacker.  Lee has amazing upside and is a good next prospect behind Myles Jack.  

  18. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
    IND
    CODY WHITEHAIR
    OG
    KANSAS STATE

    Whoa, there, Whitehair already?  That’s no error.  The Colts have some issues all over the offensive line, but their need for a guard is so urgent, that I say they go for one (Whitehair) rather than going for a top tackle (Germain Ifedi or Jason Spriggs).  Even if the guard and center positions are weak in this draft, like I said, Whitehair is good enough that the Colts will grab him in the first round to fill a big need.  

  19. BUFFALO BILLS
    BUF
    KEVIN DODD
    DE
    CLEMSON

    Dodd could go a lot earlier, and he has been a trending name lately on draft boards, but not as many teams need an early defensive end as you think, and if other teams with the need pick other guys or go with another top prospect at a position they need, Dodd could fall to the Bills, who are in desperate need for veteran DE Mario Williams, who was cut early this off season.  

  20. NEW YORK JETS
    NYJ
    PAXTON LYNCH
    QB
    MEMPHIS

    With the Rams trading up to snag Wentz or Goff,  the Eagles passing on the remaining guy, and the Niners stealing Goff, the Browns would be left with Lynch, and they would not want him that early in the draft.  So Lynch now falls to the Jets, who can’t seem to tie the knot with Ryan Fitzpatrick.  Just Geno Smith, one of the worst starting quarterbacks of 2014 (led the Jets to 4-12 season), and Bryce Petty (2015 rookie, may not be ready, hasn’t seen a start) are left to fill his gap.  It would be very helpful to get this top draft prospect if they can’t sign Fitzy or new free agent Brian Hoyer before Draft Day.  

  21. WASHINGTON REDSKINS
    WAS
    REGGIE RAGLAND
    ILB
    ALABAMA

    The Skins still need some pass rush help, but the defensive line appears to be all set, and the rumored signing of Josh Norman may rule out drafting a corner. The signing of Junior Gallette will fill the hole at outside linebacker.  That leaves a space at inside linebacker.  Ragland is a very strong prospect who could be a serious playmaker in Washington.  He won’t just fill the hole, he’ll make sure he has a strong rookie year in the process.  

  22. HOUSTON TEXANS
    HOU
    COREY COLEMAN
    WR
    BAYLOR

    The Texans need a partner in crime for top receiver DeAndre Hopkins.  Nate Washington left for New England.  Free agency is practically over.  They missed out on LaQuon Treadwell.  That leaves this Baylor playmaker.  Coleman plays an important role in making Brock Osweiler comfortable in his new home of Houston and makes sure he has enough weapons.  They do also need a tight end, but I don’t think Hunter Henry will be first round material.  

  23. MINNESOTA VIKINGS
    MIN
    VADAL ALEXANDER
    OG
    LSU

    Again with a long shot guard?  The Vikings may need a wide receiver in this draft, but they have Stefon Diggs and Charles Johnson, that can wait.  Maybe they’ll pick someone in the later rounds like Sterling Shepard who becomes the next Stefon Diggs.  For now they may need to focus on offensive line help.  They already picked up LG Alex Boone and RT Andre Smith, and already had LT Matt Kalil and C Joe Berger.  That leaves right guard.  Alexander is the next best guard behind Cody Whitehair (selected by Colts) and should at least be a placeholder in Minnesota, if not a long term option.  

  24. CINCINNATI BENGALS
    CIN
    WILL FULLER
    WR
    NOTRE DAME

    If you haven’t been following free agency, Cincinnati lost two of their top receivers behind A.J. Green, Marvin Jones (to Detroit) and Mohamed Sanu (to Atlanta).  They did sign Brandon LaFell, but he’s a risky WR2.  Who do they have behind him and Green?  Brandon Tate?  James Wright?  Half of you probably have never even heard of those guys.  If the Bengals go after this Notre Dame stud, he will probably be the WR2 over LaFell, who will fall to WR3.  Now that’s a little better.  I can accept Brandon Tate at WR4 and James Wright at WR5.  Most of all, I accept Fuller as WR2.  

  25. PITTSBURGH STEELERS
    PIT
    VONN BELL
    SS
    PITTSBURGH

    Besides flex defensive back Jalen Ramsey, this Pittsburgh prospect is the top safety of the draft.  The Steelers need some secondary help.  They could draft a corner, as Eli Apple would still be an option, but the need for a safety is stronger in Steel City.  Vonn Bell is ready to take on the NFL, and it would be even better to stay in Pittsburgh while in the pros.  I like Bell as a first round pick, and without the temptation of Taylor Decker (who would have been drafted here if my mock was released before the trade), and they can focus on the secondary with this pick.  

  26. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
    SEA
    RYAN KELLY
    C
    ALABAMA

    Alright, the Seahawks could upgrade their already all-powerful defense.  Or they could upgrade a free agency weakened offensive line.  Which sounds better?  We all know the o-line does.  Kelly will fill the hole at center.  They also have a hole at guard, but the need for center is greater, and my gut feeling leans on this.  

  27. GREEN BAY PACKERS
    GB
    LEONARD FLOYD
    OLB
    GEORGIA

    Alright, the Packers definitely need a linebacker.  They may need a potential replacement for Julius Peppers.  They may need an outside linebacker on the other side.  They may need an inside linebacker if Clay Matthews is going back to being an OLB.  I think it makes more sense to go for an OLB than to push Clay Matthews into a different position and draft an ILB!  Reggie Ragland isn’t even available anymore!  Could you really see Green Bay drafting Kentrell Brothers at ILB and moving Matthews when Matthews could stay at MLB and the still remaining Leonard Floyd is free to be picked by Green Bay?   I can’t.  

  28. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
    KC
    ELI APPLE
    CB
    OHIO STATE

    Although Marcus Peters already boosted the secondary last year, Sean Smith’s departure left yet another hole on the opposite side of Peters.  Now Peters needs a partner in crime, not veteran corner Smith.  Peters made such a splash in season one, that he’s playing at Smith’s level now.  Apple is in a similar position in this year’s draft to the situation Peters was in last year.  Not the very top prospect at the position, but worth some serious first round consideration.  They chose the right breakout corner in the first round of last year’s draft. Why can’t it happen again?

  29. ARIZONA CARDINALS
    ARI
    A’ SHAWN ROBINSON
    DT
    ALABAMA

    The Cards already got a defensive end.  This strong defensive tackle prospect, once the top defensive tackle just ahead of Alabama’s Robert Nkemdiche, could continue to reformation of a strong defensive line in Arizona.  Yes, the Cardinals already have a strong defense, but it has holes, and the offense appears to be all set now.  This is just a good football team.  Why not improve it further with this intriguing pick?  

     

    (Note: The New England Patriots lost their pick that would be in this spot because Roger Goodell had some stupid suspicions that Tom Brady and the Pats were responsible for the partially deflated footballs in the 2014-15 AFC Championship game, not science.)

  30. CAROLINA PANTHERS
    CAR
    MACKENSIE ALEXANDER
    CB
    CLEMSON

    Yes, the Panthers did sign Brandon Boykin to fill the position, but he’s no permanent option.  He doesn’t match up to Charles Tillman either.  Therecent loss of Josh Norman could also be a deciding factor if he doesn’t sign with the squad long term.  This top corner prospect in the draft doesn’t necessarily match up to Norman or Tillman yet, but has a long career ahead of him and could greatly improve.  Boykin isn’t a permanent option, but he can at least start some games over the next couple of years until Mackensie Alexander fully emerges.  Right now, the Panthers have an amazing team so this pick should be and will be spent on the future of the franchise.  

  31. DENVER BRONCOS
    DEN
    CONNOR COOK
    QB
    MICHIGAN STATE

    Look, the Broncos aren’t going to start Mark Sanchez come Opening Night.  Unless they get Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brian Hoyer or Colin Kaepernick (not much of an upgrade), they will go after a quarterback in the first couple rounds of this year’s draft.  If one of the top four QBs (Carson Wentz, Jared Goff, Paxton Lynch or Connor Cook) is still available on this pick, they’re going to take advantage of it.  John Elway may be content with Sanchez as starting QB, but it doesn’t mean he may be interested in upgrading.  It just means if they can’t find anyone better, he’ll start.  Connor Cook, the only top 4 QB that would be left on this pick, is a better option than the declining seven year veteran.  

That concludes my 2016 one-round mock draft.  How do you think the first round will play out?  Comment below or go to predictpick.nfl.com.  Once you get there, go to groups and join my group.  It is a public group called Boston SportsMania (no password required).  Also be on the lookout for my recap of free agency in the NFL.