2018 NFL Week 1 Picks and Previews: Every Win Counts

It’s that time of year again.  Football is finally back!  Today, I will share my predictions for each of the Week 1 games, and I have included a video preview for the Patriots game.   In the future, I may include 2-3 other game previews in addition to a Patriots preview.  I think the NFL is going to be especially competitive this year, so every win counts, even if it’s against a below average team.  Comment with your thoughts and I hope you’re all as excited as I am to watch some regular season football.

Lock of the Week

The Broncos are coming off a really strong draft that helped revamp their offense alongside the signing of QB Case Keenum.  I think the Broncos young pair of running backs will flourish against a declining Seahawks defense.  I don’t think Case Keenum will ever repeat his spectacular 2017, but I do see him having a strong game and taking advantage of the newfound WR depth in Denver.  In the 2017 draft, Denver finally found a third receiver to play alongside Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, Courtland Sutton, and I see him playing a significant role right off the bat.

This Broncos defense is also nearly as strong as it was last year.  Considering Seattle’s 2017 offensive struggles, I think Denver could easily hold the Seahawks under 20 points.  This will allow Denver to blow Seattle out and get revenge on Seattle for routing the Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII.

Upset of the Week (MNF)

I think this will be a close call, but I can’t see this stacked Raiders offense losing to the Rams in Oakland.  They have a trio of talented receivers, a good mix of long-time veterans and younger guys in the backfield, and a decent QB and tight end group.  They also have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL.  The Rams are one of my two overrated teams of the year.  Sure, they made some exciting moves this off-season, but they lost a lot to free agency in the process.

The Raiders defense may not be looking so good after losing DE Khalil Mack, but their secondary isn’t as bad as it seems.  I see the secondary keeping QB Jared Goff’s receivers well covered, leaving Goff struggling to find open men.  Meanwhile, I don’t see the Raiders offense putting up 30+ points against a relatively strong Rams defense.  But I do see them getting by with just enough to pull off the upset in this one.

TNF (Posted on Twitter on Thursday – Actual Score: 18-12 Eagles)

QB Carson Wentz may be out, but backup QB Nick Foles can still lead teams to victory when it matters.  I don’t see Foles playing quite at Super Bowl level in this one, but competition motivates him.  I think Foles will throw for 2 touchdowns despite being slowed down by the Falcons front seven.  Look out for a big game out of WR Mike Wallace as well.  With WR Alshon Jeffery injured, coverage will be drawn towards TE Zach Ertz and WR Nelson Agholor, Philly’s next two best pass-catchers.  For the Falcons, I think veteran WR Julio Jones and rookie WR Calvin Ridley will have a strong week.  But it won’t be enough for a victory with QB Matt Ryan and Atlanta’s RB duo struggling against the Eagles defensive front.

Sunday’s Games

It’s sure to be an intense game with two of the NFL’s best quarterbacks facing off.  I think both QBs, Tom Brady and Deshaun Watson, will have strong games.  But they will be held back by their lack of wide receiver depth, especially Houston, who will be without WR Will Fuller (hamstring).  However, this opens up an opportunity for a strong game by WR DeAndre Hopkins.  I also see RB Lamar Miller having a strong game with sophomore RB D’Onta Foreman injured.  Meanwhile, as the Patriots typically do, expect Tom Brady to find creative ways to score despite the lack of WR depth with Julian Edelman suspended, and that will lead them to a Week 1 victory.

The Ravens have one of the stronger defensive fronts in the league, and I can’t see QB Nathan Peterman having a strong game against Baltimore after his regular season struggles in 2017.  I don’t see Joe Flacco doing much better, but I think veteran WR Michael Crabtree will find a way to produce against the strong Buffalo secondary, and I think WR John Brown will begin to look like his old self, leading the Ravens in receiving while Crabtree is facing heavier coverage.  I don’t think the Bills stellar run game will be enough to outdo the Ravens, but I do think they will force overtime.  From there Baltimore will secure the victory with strong defense and a well-crafted winning drive.

This will be an interesting game.  We have a match-up between two younger quarterbacks looking to take it to the next level.  I think both Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill and Titans QB Marcus Mariota will have promising showings in a close one.  Even without WR DeVante Parker, I think the Dolphins wide receivers will step it up in this game to make it close.  But I think the Titans receivers are ready to tear apart Miami’s secondary.  Expect a big game from veteran TE Delanie Walker, even against S Reshad Jones.  You also could see a very strong game out of WR Corey Davis.  This is only the beginning of what I think will be Corey Davis’ breakout year.  Walker and Davis will lead the Titans past Miami in a close one.

I think the Steelers will manage a victory here.  But the Browns will make it closer than we’ve seen in a game between these two teams in a long time, with a strong offensive showing.  I don’t think QB Tyrod Taylor will look that good against the Steelers D.  But I think he’ll manage to find open receivers such as WR Jarvis Landry and TE David Njoku for portions of the game.  With RB Le’Veon Bell likely out, expect RB James Conner and RB Stevan Ridley to step it up against the Browns D in Bell’s place.  I think the Steelers offense will just be too much for Cleveland’s rebuilding D, especially with a strong game from WR Antonio Brown and a strong debut from rookie WR James Washington.

Andrew Luck is finally back.  I think he’ll look like his old self, but I see him struggling to find reliable receivers.  Besides T.Y. Hilton, Luck doesn’t have many of them.  Meanwhile, I think the Bengals offense, led by WR A.J. Green will dominate a Colts defense that isn’t looking great.  I think Cincy’s defensive front will look good and shut down the Colts’ young run game.  But I don’t think the Bengals secondary will look much better than Indy’s without S George Iloka.  That will at least allow T.Y. Hilton to have a strong game and make this a little closer.

I don’t think Jaguars QB Blake Bortles will be especially strong against the Giants D, but he’ll find enough open receivers to edge out a victory.  Meanwhile, the Jaguars stellar defense will help secure Jacksonville’s lead by holding the Giants under 20 points and 2 touchdowns.  However, I see WR Odell Beckham Jr. outplaying Jaguars CB Jalen Ramsey and scoring New York’s only TD in an epic WR-CB match-up.  But I think rookie RB Saquon Barkley and the Giants run game will be shut down by the strong Jacksonville front seven.

I think QB Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers receivers will have a decent game here.  But the Vikings defense will limit them significantly, allowing the Vikes to blowout the Niners with Minnesota’s offense outplaying a mediocre 49ers D.  I think QB Kirk Cousins will find plenty of open men to throw to in the end zone, and I expect a strong game out of the Vikings RB duo (Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray) with Cook healthy.  I think the one Vikings receiver that will struggle is Adam Thielen, who will likely be matched up against star corner Richard Sherman.  But Vikings WR Laquon Treadwell will show promise after a slow start to his NFL career and play a role in Minnesota’s victory.

This Buccaneers front seven is extremely underrated, and I don’t see the Saints run game thriving against them with RB Mark Ingram suspended.  But with Bucs QB Jameis Winston also suspended, I don’t think Tampa Bay will put up enough points to outdo the Saints in New Orleans.  The Saints are the other team I see as overrated, but I still cannot see them losing to a Winston-less Bucs offense at home.  I think the Saints defense will play well enough.  Offensively, Drew Brees and Michael Thomas will work together to secure the Saints a victory.

With QB Patrick Mahomes II starting for the Chiefs, I don’t think the offense will look as good as it did last year.  But I do think RB Kareem Hunt, WR Tyreek Hill, and TE Travis Kelce will help Mahomes and the Chiefs keep this game close.  However, I see the Chargers offense looking pretty good in this game.  WR Mike Williams will look strong at full health, and QB Philip Rivers and RB Melvin Gordon will also put up strong performances, leading the Chargers to victory despite sloppy defense by both teams.

The Panthers had a very strong pre-season, and I think they can carry the momentum into the regular season against the Cowboys.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see Panthers QB Cam Newton throw 3-4 touchdowns in this one.  Cowboys QB Dak Prescott will keep this interesting as I expect him to throw at least 2 touchdowns.  However, I think RB Ezekiel Elliott will have a tough time against a really strong Panthers front seven.

I don’t think Cardinals QB Sam Bradford will quite look like his old self.  But I see him staying healthy and tossing a couple touchdowns in his first start since early last season.  I expect QB Alex Smith and RB Adrian Peterson to have strong days as well, making this close.  But I think the Cardinals win in the end, led by a dominant day for RB David Johnson in his return, and a strong performance by CB Patrick Peterson in man-to-man coverage against Redskins WR Jamison Crowder.

SNF

With QB Aaron Rodgers back at full speed, expect a strong game by the Packers offense.  I see Rodgers tossing at least 2 touchdowns, and TE Jimmy Graham having an especially strong day.  Graham was a great signing, and Rodgers and Graham will make for an amazing QB-TE combo.  Rodgers hasn’t had that for a long time.  The Bears offense will look strong in this game as well.  But I cannot see them putting up as many points as Green Bay does with Rodgers at full health, making the Pack victorious in Rodgers’ return.

MNF

I expect QB Matthew Stafford to look sharp in prime time against a mediocre Jets D.  His receivers should have a strong showing as well, with WR Kenny Golladay showing flashes of dominance, and veteran WR Golden Tate looking better than he was last year.  I also think RB Ameer Abdullah will step up his game this season, starting with this prime time match-up.  Meanwhile, the Jets offense will look revamped with WR Quincy Enunwa healthy and RB Isaiah Crowell and WR Terrelle Pryor Jr. on board.  But I still don’t think it is going to be enough.

That’s all for my NFL Week 1 picks and previews.  Be sure to comment with your thoughts, and enjoy the first Football Sunday of 2018.

NFL 2018 Final Mock Draft: Who Will Go #1?

The 2018 NFL Draft is almost here.  Normally, by this point, the top three picks would be pretty much locked in.  But this year, the draft appears to be so unpredictable that we do not even know for sure who will go #1.  Today, I will play out Round 1, including trades, and I will even look at later picks for the Patriots.  However, prepare to be surprised, because my mock draft is not here to be a carbon copy of everyone else’s.

1. CLE With the 1st overall pick, the Cleveland Browns select
Sam Darnold
QB
USC
Josh Allen has high potential, and he looked great at the Combine.  But I see Darnold as the most NFL ready QB.  He has consistently put up good numbers as a starter at USC, and he has the size.  He fits well with the Browns, and the rest of their offense is ready to contend, so an NFL ready QB is a priority with this pick.  Tyrod Taylor is by no means the future in Cleveland.
2. NYG With the 2nd overall pick, the New York Giants select
Saquon Barkley
RB
Penn State
Barkley is the best of both worlds in terms of draft prospects.  He has future Pro Bowl potential, and he is ready to provide the Giants with the young workhorse RB they need right now.  In my opinion, he is one of the best running backs to enter the draft in recent years.  He has posted 3 consecutive 1000 yard seasons at Penn State, and of all RBs at this year’s combine, only Nyheim Hines had a faster 40-yard dash.
3. NYJ With the 3rd overall pick, the New York Jets select
Josh Rosen
QB
UCLA
Rosen may have attitude issues, and he may have struggled at times during his college career. But he has the potential to become a reliable QB for the Jets, and maybe even a future Pro-Bowler. Just look at what he did freshman year at UCLA. He just has to mature a little bit.
4.  With the 4th overall pick, the Cleveland Browns select
Minkah Fitzpatrick
CB
Alabama
Minkah is a versatile defensive back who can give a much-needed upgrade to the Browns secondary. Whether he starts at CB or S, I think he’s ready to be an NFL playmaker. He had 9 interceptions and 171 tackles in his college career.
5.  With the 5th overall pick, the Denver Broncos select
Quenton Nelson
G
Notre Dame
The Broncos have announced that the #5 pick is for sale, but signing Case Keenum does not solve all their offensive problems. They need to surround him with talent, including protection. They cannot pass up on Nelson if he is available. Nelson is arguably the best interior offensive lineman in the draft in the last 5 years.
6.  With the 6th overall pick, the Indianapolis Colts select
Bradley Chubb
DE
North Carolina State
The Colts need front seven help, and they will significantly benefit from Chubb, the best edge rusher in this draft. Roquan Smith is also an intriguing choice, but they will not pass on Chubb if he is available. He has tallied 10 sacks in two consecutive seasons at N.C. State.
7.  TRADE ALERT (See Details In TRADE Section)

With the 7th overall pick, the Buffalo Bills select

Josh Allen

QB

Wyoming

Allen has very high potential although he may not be NFL ready. He was very good, but also inconsistent at Wyoming. Young A.J. McCarron is the perfect bridge, giving them the ability to roll the dice and draft Allen.

8.  With the 8th overall pick, the Chicago Bears select

Roquan Smith

ILB

Georgia

Smith is not a perfect fit in Chicago, as he may be better in a 4-3 scheme. But he will give the Bears defense an instant boost. He is one of the fastest linebackers in the draft, and he is a strong defender who dominated in his junior year with 6.5 sacks and 137 tackles. He will contribute right away.

9.  With the 9th overall pick, the San Francisco 49ers select

Denzel Ward

CB

Ohio State

Ward is a versatile defensive back who despite his small stature has great ball skills and speed. He ran a 4.32 40-yard dash at the combine, tied for the best this year among defensive backs. He will help fill the hole in the 49ers secondary that Eric Reid left. Ward and Richard Sherman could potentially make a great CB duo.

10.  With the 10th overall pick, the Oakland Raiders select

Tremaine Edmunds

OLB

Virginia Tech

Edmunds can help the Raiders front seven right away. He has two older brothers in the NFL already, and not only do I expect him to follow in their footsteps, but I expect him to be a better NFL defender than them. He will be able to make an impact against the run and against the pass. He fits well into Oakland’s defensive scheme.

11.  With the 11th overall pick, the Miami Dolphins select

Maurice Hurst

DT

Michigan

Hurst is arguably the strongest interior defensive lineman in this draft. He can really get on the opposing QB’s nerves. He will help fill the hole that Ndamukong Suh’s release left the Dolphins with.

12.  Pick acquired from Bills

With the 12th overall pick, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers select

Derrius Guice

RB

LSU

Guice is not quite Saquon Barkley, who the Bucs will definitely opt to draft rather than trading down if he is available at #7. But Guice is also very quick and powerful. He tallied 2638 yards in his final two years of college.

13.  With the 13th overall pick, the Washington Redskins select

Derwin James

S

Florida State

The Redskins are set at corner, but James will help fill a hole at safety that DeAngelo Hall left the Redskins with. James is a versatile defensive back who can really get in the way of the receivers he covers. He will help continue to revamp the Redskins secondary with talent.

14.  With the 14th overall pick, the Green Bay Packers select

Calvin Ridley

WR

Alabama

Ridley is a fast, explosive receiver who is ready to make an impact now. With Jordy Nelson gone, the Packers need a slot receiver. According to NFL.com, Ridley thrives both in the slot and outside, and after tallying 750+ yards and 5+ touchdowns in each of his three seasons of Alabama, he will thrive across from Davante Adams and give an immediate post to the Packers receiving game.

15.  With the 15th overall pick, the Arizona Cardinals select

Courtland Sutton

WR

SMU

With Ridley off the board, the Cardinals will take Sutton, a great fit in Arizona. This is a very deep WR class. With Larry Fitzgerald retiring eventually and John Brown in Baltimore, this is a huge need for the Cardinals. Sutton gives them the physical outside receiver they need. He has dominated in his final two seasons at SMU, tallying 1000+ yards and 10+ TDs in both junior and senior year. He has very high potential and gives the Cardinals the WR boost they need. But is he NFL ready right now?

16.  With the 16th overall pick, the Baltimore Ravens select

Da’Ron Payne

DT

Alabama

Payne will help the Ravens stop the run, filling in where Timmy Jernigan once played. He is an up-the-middle run stopper who tallied 102 tackles in his college career. He can be a pest to opposing offenses, getting in their way.

17.  TRADE ALERT (See Details in TRADE Section)

With the 17th overall pick, the Carolina Panthers select

Christian Kirk

WR

Texas A&M

The Panthers will need a receiver across from Devin Funchess, who is not a proven #1 receiver yet. Kirk is not Calvin Ridley, and if the Panthers have the chance to draft Ridley, they have the potential for an explosive, young offense that keeps the Panthers in contention. But he is a sturdy receiver who can play in several different schemes. In 234 college receptions, he scored 10 TDs and tallied 2856 receiving yards.

18.  With the 18th overall pick, the Seattle Seahawks select

Jaire Alexander

CB

Louisville

Seattle has rebuilt their secondary, but they need to supply the secondary with young talent now. Alexander fits in the Seahawks scheme, he is very fast and versatile, and he had 7 interceptions in his college career. He is a good fit and can make an impact right away.

19.  With the 19th overall pick, the Dallas Cowboys select

Connor Williams

T

Texas

Williams will keep the Cowboys offensive line strong after Doug Free’s retirement. With this pick, the Cowboys would arguably still have the best o-line in the NFL. The Cowboys are a good, local fit for him

20.  With the 20th overall pick, the Detroit Lions select

Harold Landry

OLB

Boston College

Landry supplies the Lions with the edge rusher they need. He has the potential to become a pest to the QB and a Pro Bowl level sack machine. He had 16.5 sacks junior year when he played 12 games. He had 5 sacks in 8 games senior year, which is still a good amount. Landry has very high potential and he can make an impact right now.

21.  With the 21st overall pick, the Cincinnati Bengals select

Billy Price

C

Ohio State

After losing some of their o-lineman to free agency, it’s time for Cincinnati to revamp their offensive line with young talent. They are especially weak in the interior. Price supplies them with a powerful blocker that they need, and I expect the Bengals to use their 1st rounder on either Price or Isaiah Wynn.

22.  Pick acquired from Bills

With the 22nd overall pick, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers select

Isaiah Wynn

G

Georgia

Now that the Bucs took Guice, it’s time to address the O-line. Wynn may be small, but he is a versatile offensive lineman who can help the Buccaneers protect young Jameis Winston whether it is at tackle or at guard.

23.  With the 23rd overall pick, the New England Patriots select

Mike McGlinchey

T

Notre Dame

McGlinchey has good size and has played at both LT and RT. If the Patriots draft him, expect to see him protecting Brady’s blind side. He should adjust rather quickly with the help of Dante Scarnecchia, although he cannot be playing at the level of Nate Solder right away, which could put Brady in a tough situation. But no offensive lineman available could do much better.

24.  Pick acquired from Panthers

With the 24th overall pick, the Los Angeles Chargers select

Leighton Vander Esch

ILB

Boise State

Vander Esch provides the Chargers with a fast, powerful inside linebacker who can get to the ball quickly. He had 4 sacks and 2 picks in 2017 at Boise State. He is one of this year’s best small school prospects, and it may take time for him to make an impact, but he will help the Bolts defense in the long term.

25.  With the 25th overall pick, the Tennessee Titans select

Vita Vea

DT

Washington

The Titans desperately need a powerful DT. Vea is just that. He can stop the run and get to the QB. He has Pro Bowl potential, and may not be all out dominant in Year 1, but he will fill a serious need for Tennessee.

26.  With the 26th overall pick, the Atlanta Falcons select

Marcus Davenport

DE

UTSA

Davenport will help restore Atlanta’s defensive line with young talent, and provide them with another edge rusher alongside Vic Beasley. He is powerful and explosive. He can really rush the passer, tallying 21.5 sacks in his college career, 8.5 of those in 2017.

27.  With the 27th overall pick, the New Orleans Saints select

Taven Bryan

DT

Florida

Bryan is an athletic and powerful DT who can help the Saints d-line across from Sheldon Rankins. Bryan had 5.5 sacks and 62 tackles in 3 years at Florida. He will take time to develop but has potential to become one of the league’s premier defensive lineman

28.  With the 28th overall pick, the Pittsburgh Steelers select

Rashaan Evans

ILB

Alabama

Evans is a powerful interior linebacker who specializes in rushing the passer. He racked up 6 sacks in senior year at Alabama, and he had 74 tackles. Evans and Ryan Shazier will make for a great pass rushing LB duo.

29.  TRADE ALERT (See details in TRADE section)

With the 29th overall pick, the New York Giants select

Baker Mayfield

QB

Oklahoma

My bold prediction in this mock is that only 4 QBs will go in Round 1, and I even had Mayfield slipping into Round 2 originally. But the Giants would be willing to trade up to secure the QB they want. Mayfield has not had off the field problems like Josh Rosen and Josh Allen, and he is one of the most NFL ready prospects of this draft. He nearly passed for 5000 yards in his senior year, tossing 43 TDs.

30.  With the 30th overall pick, the Minnesota Vikings select

Will Hernandez

G

UTEP

Hernandez will round out the Vikings o-line with Joe Berger retired.  He will serve as a physical, powerful run blocker for the Vikings, helping protect new QB, Kirk Cousins.  He will be a pest for defensive linemen to face.

31.  With the 31st overall pick, the New England Patriots select

Malik Jefferson

OLB

Texas

Jefferson fits well in New England’s 4-3 scheme.  The Pats could use a tough, physical OLB like him.  He is a powerful run stopper who collected 110 tackles in his junior year at Texas.

32. PHI With the 32nd overall pick, the Philadelphia Eagles select

Sony Michel

RB

Georgia

The Eagles need to add RB depth.  Michel thrived while fighting for time with Nick Chubb at Georgia, tallying 1227 yards in his senior year.  He can make an immediate impact, doing the same in the Eagles’ deep backfield.

Trades

TB acquires DT Adolphus Washington, R1 P12, R1 P22, R2 P24, R4 P21, 2019 R3
BUF acquires R1 P7

———————-

LAC acquires R1 P24, R2 P23, R3 P24, 2019 R1
CAR acquires R1 P17
———————
NYG acquires R1 P29
JAX acquires R2 P2, R3 P5
Patriots Mock Draft: Rounds 2-7
Check back tomorrow!
That’s all for today.  Enjoy the draft, and stay tuned for my NFL Draft Grades after it ends.