2019 NFL Draft Report Cards: NFC South Edition

Mandatory Minicamp has just concluded, and school is over for me.  So today, I’ll be resuming my NFL Draft Report Card series with the NFC South.  Teams in the NFC South either thrived in this draft or struggled mightily.  Which teams do I think benefitted the most?  Keep reading to see my Draft Report Card for each team, including a grade for each pick as well as my final grades.  As I post more articles, I will also include links to the rest of my draft grades.

Image result for nfl draft 2019 logo

NFL Draft Report Cards 2019

NFC East

NFC North

NFC South

NFC West

AFC East

AFC North

AFC South

AFC West

carolina-panthers-logo Carolina Panthers

Overall Grade: B+

Draft Report Card:

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Analysis:

Overall, this was a pretty solid draft for Carolina.  They found a high upside WR in Round 7 to replace Devin Funchess.  They filled their needs at tackle and edge early.  They even took a QB in case Cam Newton fails to stay healthy.  Will Grier is a big upgrade for Carolina at backup QB as opposed to Taylor Heinicke or Kyle Allen.

The Panthers did have a lot of needs going in, and with just 7 picks, it was hard to fill them all.  But they could’ve traded down at some point, and they could’ve taken a corner to play across from Donte Jackson as opposed to RB Jordan Scarlett.  Christian McCaffrey is a long term solution for Carolina at RB1, and they are set if he gets hurt thanks to Cameron Artis-Payne.  It’s somewhat smart to add depth there in case multiple injuries occur, but they needed a corner more, and McCaffrey has not been terribly injury prone.  Despite a couple mistakes in the later rounds, this was a pretty good draft, and it would’ve been hard for Carolina to do much better.

nosaints New Orleans Saints

Overall Grade: B

Draft Report Card:

img_4479

Analysis:

It was hard for the Saints to succeed with only 5 picks, 4 of which were on Day 3.  But unlike Philadelphia, who was also limited to 5 picks, the Saints found a way to fill a few needs early on and make the most of their draft situation.  They drafted Erik McCoy in Round 2 to fill their biggest need as he replaces the retired Max Unger at center.  They also snagged a top safety, Chauncey Gardner-Johnson with their 2nd pick.  They could have looked for a receiver later on, and some of their later picks were reaches, but the Saints got off to a strong start and should be able to look back and admire this draft class in a few years.

tampabaybuccaneers Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Overall Grade: C+

Analysis:

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Analysis:

The Buccaneers had some really strong picks, and some questionable ones.  The team will have flexibility on defense after drafting LB Devin White in Round 1 and edge rusher Anthony Nelson in the 4th.  But beyond that, the Bucs struggled in this draft.  They didn’t really fill many of their needs.  I would think they would draft a running back after the Year 1 struggles of Ronald Jones II, but maybe they need to give RoJo more of a chance before giving up on him, something other teams neglected to do for their rookie and second year busts.

The team also could’ve used more depth at WR beyond Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, but they chose not to draft anyone until Round 6, when they reached for Scott Miller of Bowling Green.  They did sign Breshad Perriman, but I don’t know if that will be enough.  Expect to see a lot of 2 TE schemes with O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate on the roster.    The team also reached for a kicker once again.  This team didn’t have that many huge needs, so I would’ve thought they would fill more of those as opposed to drafting three unnecessary defensive backs and reaching for some other players.

atlfalcons Atlanta Falcons

Overall Grade: C

Draft Report Card:

img_4481

Analysis:

The Falcons really needed some depth at linebacker with Vic Beasley playing defensive end, but they didn’t end up drafting one.  Who will be lining up on either side of Deion Jones come Week 1?  I can’t name anyone definitively right now.  They did get o-line help, but both o-linemen they drafted in Round 1 may have been found available in Round 2, or at least someone almost as good as them.  The team did draft some secondary depth and a couple RBs to backup for Devonta Freeman, but those picks were also reaches.  All of their picks were either a reach or an unnecessary pick.  I would’ve expected a couple spot on selections.


 

That’s all for this portion of my NFL Draft Report Cards.  In my next post, I’ll be reviewing the NFC West’s draft classes.  Which NFC West teams stood out the most in this year’s draft?  Stay tuned for my next post to find out.

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

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

Lock of the Week

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

Upset of the Week

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

The Other Games

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Check back closer to kickoff for a video preview!

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

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

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

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

 

2018 NFL Week 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.

 

2018 NFL Week 12 Picks & Previews: Contenders Arise

Welcome to my Week 12 NFL Picks and Previews.  On Thanksgiving Day, I went 3-0, putting my overall record at 88-74-2.  However, I am still only ahead of 1 expert from CBS Sports, and none from ESPN.  This week, I think we will see the biggest contenders besides the Rams and Chiefs (who both take a bye after last week’s shootout) will rise to the top with victories this week.  Meanwhile, teams that had snuck into the playoff picture despite an underwhelming season will fall. With the playoffs approaching, this week it will begin to become clear who’s really here to stay.

Lock of the Week

Look for the Panthers to shut down Seattle’s run game here.  This will put a lot on QB Russell Wilson and his receivers, and I don’t think they’ll put up enough for Seattle to make this close in Carolina.  They will fail to step it up in the place of the run game. Meanwhile, QB Cam Newton and his receivers will be all over the Seahawks’ young secondary as Carolina dominates in a blowout victory.

Upset of the Week

The return of QB Ryan Tannehill will give the Dolphins offense a big boost.  Expect Tannehill to throw multiple TDs and shock the Colts in Indy.  The Colts will make it close thanks to dominance by the combo of QB Andrew Luck and WR T.Y. Hilton.  But the Colts will fall short against Miami’s revamped offense, and the weak defensive game will not help matters.

The Other Games

Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Expect the Jets young, but underrated defense to limit the abilities of QB Tom Brady and his offense.  But the Patriots should find a way to score in New York. Meanwhile, Jets QB Josh McCown will struggle regressively against an improved New England defense.  This will lead to a Patriots blowout victory.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

The Jaguars D will get back on task in Buffalo, holding QB Josh Allen and the Bills to just 1 TD.  Meanwhile, QB Blake Bortles will improve against a mediocre Bills defense, throwing 2+ TD. This will lead to a Jaguars road win in a surprisingly easy game.  
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

QB Lamar Jackson will thrive again here, utilizing Baltimore’s strong run game and tossing multiple TD.  The Ravens will struggle to win the turnover battle against an Oakland D that has forced a surprising number of turnovers.  But the Ravens will come out on top after a very strong offensive game and another clutch defensive performance.  Expect the Ravens to hold the new-look Raiders offense under 20 in the victory.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Look for QB Andy Dalton and his receivers to find a way here without WR A.J. Green.  The Browns offense will look alright, but I don’t see it being enough against the stingy Bengals D.  This will allow Cincy to prevail despite an underwhelming offensive game.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Expect a big game from QB Carson Wentz as he throws 3 TD against a washed-up Giants D.  Giants QB Eli Manning should continue his multi-TD game streak here and look better than usual.  But it won’t be enough against the high-powered Philly offense. The Eagles’ hopes of winning the division will be restored in this divisional victory.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Look for the Bucs to catch a break at home against the Jimmy Garoppolo-less Niners.  The Tampa Bay run game could look surprisingly strong against San Francisco’s young defense.  If not, QB Jameis Winston will perform better than QB Ryan Fitzpatrick did. It won’t be perfection, but it would be enough for the Bucs victory.  QB Nick Mullens and his receivers will make this close against a struggling Bucs D, but it won’t be enough against the strong Buccaneers offense.
Sunday, 4:05 PM EST

Look for a surprisingly low scoring game here despite a battle of two strong offenses.  Both defenses will thrive in the red zone, as only 4 total TDs are scored in 10+ opportunities.  QB Josh Rosen and RB David Johnson will lead a strong Arizona offense, but expect them to fall short against QB Philip Rivers and the high-powered Chargers offense.
Sunday, 4:25 PM EST

The Denver offense may struggle after the Demaryius Thomas trade.  But the Broncos defense will make up for it, silencing Pittsburgh’s typically dominant offense by holding them TD-less in Denver.  The Steelers will continue to miss RB Le’Veon Bell after a tough loss in Denver.
Sunday, 8:20 PM EST

Against a strong Vikes secondary, QB Aaron Rodgers will struggle to find his receivers, especially with TE Jimmy Graham injured.  Expect a Vikings victory thanks to the strong defense as well as a strong, multi-TD game by QB Kirk Cousins. This will cause the Packers to begin worrying that their wrath in the NFC North is over.
Monday, 8:15 PM EST

Expect QB Deshaun Watson to utilize his newfound WR duo in a home victory.  The young Tennessee defense will do a good job imitating Houston’s shut down D, but they won’t quite get up to Houston’s level.  The Texans will come out victorious in primetime as they play complimentary football.

That’s all for my picks this week.  Stay tuned for more posts soon, including Part 2 of my MLB free agency predictions.

2018 NFL Midseason Report: Who’s Contending and Who’s Pretending

Welcome to my 2018 NFL Midseason Report.  Today, I will show you my Power Rankings for the first half of the 2018 season and show you my revised season predictions.  Comment below with your midseason Super Bowl prediction and keep reading to find out mine.

Part I: Updated NFL Power Rankings (Posted to Instagram Earlier this Week)

Note: Jaguars should say 3-5, not 5-3; otherwise records are as of 11/7.

Before the season, I was not that confident in the Chiefs, Saints, or Rams.  But all three have lost just one game in the first nine weeks, so I couldn’t disregard that fact.  They all rank Top 4 here, alongside the Patriots, who are riding a 5-game win streak and have dominated offensively week after week since WR Josh Gordon joined the team.  I base these Power Rankings not just on performance so far, but ability to continue to thrive, the Pats clearly have that ability.

The Chargers, Panthers, Texans, and Vikings have also been off to strong starts.  The Texans started the season 0-3, but have been able to overcome the slow start and win six straight.  The Vikings’ record isn’t looking as good as we expected, but their early-season schedule was very difficult.  Things should be smooth sailing from here.  The Vikes really only had one disappointing loss, and that was to the Bills in one crazy game.  The Vikings have not let one embarrassing loss derail them.

In the middle of the pack, you’ll see teams like the Steelers (started slow but have picked up the pace), Bengals, Bears, and Redskins (who surprised early), and teams like the Packers, Eagles, Titans, Falcons, and Jaguars.  They have been off to shaky starts, but I expect them to rebound, especially Philly, who does not have that difficult of a schedule remaining.  The Eagles and Vikings, last year’s NFC Championship opponents, have struggled early thanks to a tough schedule, but should rebound from it.  I could even see them pulling upsets to meet in the NFC Championship again.

The Ravens, Dolphins, Buccaneers, and Broncos are on a down-trend and fall just below this middle group.  The Seahawks, Lions, and Cowboys have rode easy schedules to early success, so don’t expect much more from them.  I see the down-trending teams as far better than this group.  At the bottom, we have the teams that are likely out of contention: the Cardinals, Browns, Colts, Bills, Raiders, Giants, and 49ers.  These teams have really struggled early and it will be hard for them to rebound.  The Colts may be 3-5, but their wins came against the Raiders, Bills, and Redskins.  That’s not a very impressive resume.

Part II: Updated Season Predictions

AFC East

  1. new_england_patriots New England Patriots (13-3, 1st Seed in AFC)
  2. Dolphins-logo Miami Dolphins (8-8)
  3. Jets-Logo New York Jets (5-11)
  4. Buffalo_Bills Buffalo Bills (3-13)

They may have started 1-2, but the Patriots have been dominant since Week 4’s match-up against Miami.  They should keep on rolling and finish with a 13-3 or 12-4 record, only losing 1-2 more games thanks to offensive dominance.  The Dolphins may have started strong, but they should level off now that QB Ryan Tannehill has been hurt for several weeks and their win streak is over.  This offense is good but they cannot compete with the top teams in the AFC.  QB Sam Darnold and the Jets should win a couple more games, but the injuries they’ve sustained will prevent them from making any kind of playoff run.  I don’t see the Bills improving much consdering the QB situation they are in.

AFC North

  1. pittsburgh-steelers Pittsburgh Steelers (9-6-1, 4th Seed in AFC)
  2. cincinnati-bengals Cincinnati Bengals (8-8)
  3. Baltimore_Ravens_Logo Baltimore Ravens (8-8)
  4. cleveland-browns-brown Cleveland Browns (3-12-1)

The Steelers should end up winning the division, but they won’t be the playoff powerhouse they usually are if RB Le’Veon Bell keeps holding out.  They may manage to make it this year, but could this be the beginning of the end of the Steelers?  The Bengals and Ravens have had decent seasons and are knocking on Pittsburgh’s door.  Meanwhile, the Browns are still not very good, but they’ve clearly improved from last season and could be on the rise in years to come.

AFC South

  1. hou-texans Houston Texans (12-4, 2nd Seed in AFC)
  2. jacksonvile-jaguars Jacksonville Jaguars (10-6, 6th Seed in AFC)
  3. tennessee-titans. Tennessee Titans (9-7)
  4. indianapolis-colts Indianapolis Colts (3-13)

The Texans may have started off slow, but they had a very tough early schedule, and the season only gets easier from here.  They should cruise into a Top 3 playoff spot.  The Jaguars struggled without RB Leonard Fournette, but I think Fournette’s return should make a difference as the Jags rebound and snag a Wild Card.  The Titans aren’t quite as good as they were in 2017, but should still compete for a playoff spot.  If I’m wrong about Jacksonville, the Titans may sneak in to the playoffs.  The Colts should not win many more games with one of the worst defenses in the league.  They’ve only beat one team above .500, and QB Andrew Luck may lead them to another victory or two, but no more than that.

AFC West

  1. kansas-city-chiefs-logo Kansas City Chiefs (12-4, 3rd Seed in AFC)
  2. San_Diego_Chargers Los Angeles Chargers (12-4, 5th Seed in AFC)
  3. denver-broncos-logo Denver Broncos (8-8)
  4. oakland-raiders Oakland Raiders (3-13)

The Chiefs have dominated offensively thanks to the breakout of QB Patrick Mahomes II.  Alex Smith left Mahomes with a strong offensive core surrounding him, so the Chiefs should keep rolling.  However, the Chiefs have been known for late season plummets and chokes after strong starts.  Something tells me their inconsistent defense is going to cost them late in the season.  The Chargers may catch up; they’ve only lost to Kansas City and the Rams so far, and it’s hard to beat the same team twice.  Denver has looked alright so far with Case Keenum at QB, and the improved offense and strong defense should lead them to a smooth sailing 2nd half.  However, I’ve lost hope in the Raiders at this point.  Jon Gruden is a good coach.  The Raiders just need some defensive talent and a better QB.  That won’t come before the end of 2018.

NFC East

  1. philadelphia-eagles-logo Philadelphia Eagles (10-6, 4th Seed in NFC)
  2. washingtonredskins2 Washington Redskins (6-10)
  3. dalcowboyslogonew Dallas Cowboys (6-10)
  4. new-york-giants-logo New York Giants (4-12)

Look for QB Carson Wentz and the Eagles to dominate the second half.  The Golden Tate trade was a good move, and that will help them jump right back into contention, especially considering their easier 2nd half schedule.  They may face the Saints and Rams, but don’t have any other tough match-ups.  The Redskins, on the other hand, don’t have it so easy.  They’ll face the Texans, Jaguars, and Titans down the road.  The Cowboys will improve after the Amari Cooper trade, but I don’t see it being enough.  The Giants should win a few more games, as I expect QB Eli Manning to improve slightly in the 2nd half.  But they aren’t going anywhere in the NFC East.

NFC North

  1. min-vikings-logo2 Minnesota Vikings (11-4-1, 3rd Seed in NFC)
  2. gbpackers2 Green Bay Packers (10-5-1, 5th Seed in NFC)
  3. chicago-bears-logo Chicago Bears (7-9)
  4. Related image Detroit Lions (5-11)

The Vikes had a tough schedule early on, but the Patriots are their only remaining opponent with a current record above .500.  Things should be smooth sailing from here, especially with RB Dalvin Cook back.  The Packers should also make the playoffs.  I cannot imagine a healthy Aaron Rodgers missing the playoffs, even with the lack of talent around him.  The Bears still face the Vikings twice and the Packers and Rams once each, so I could see them fall out of the playoff picture.  I don’t see the Lions winning many more games either after giving up WR Golden Tate.  They’re an okay team, but they need defensive help and they play in such a tough division.

NFC South

  1. nosaints New Orleans Saints (13-3, 1st Seed in NFC)
  2. carolina-panthers-logo Carolina Panthers (10-6, 6th Seed in NFC)
  3. tampabaybuccaneers Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-7)
  4. atlfalcons Atlanta Falcons (8-8)

The Saints have been off to a strong start.  They added Eli Apple on defense, and they may have a lack of offensive depth, but Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram, and Michael Thomas alone have led them to a strong season.  Carolina should put up a fight for the division as well.  Cam Newton and Christian McCaffrey have dominated, and the defense has definitely improved despite giving up 52 points to the Steelers.  The Bucs might be out of contention, but they do look better than before.  They have a deep offense and a young, rising defense that should help them turn it around in the 2nd half.  In this tough division, the Falcons will fall behind.  They are dominant offensively but the defense has been painfully inconsistent.

NFC West

  1. Related image Los Angeles Rams (13-3, 2nd Seed in NFC)
  2. seattle-seahawks Seattle Seahawks (6-10)
  3. az-cards Arizona Cardinals (5-11)
  4. sf-49ers San Francisco 49ers (5-11)

Until their loss in New Orleans, the Rams were undefeated.  So I’ll admit I was wrong about the Rams being overrated.  I was also vastly wrong about the Cardinals.  They clearly have potential, but QB Josh Rosen needs a couple years to develop.  Maybe he’ll have a second-year breakout like Jared Goff did.  The Seahawks have been alright so far, but they should also plummet due to a difficult upcoming schedule.  The Niners are likely also out of it now that QB Jimmy Garoppolo is done for the year.  But QB Nick Mullens should win them a few more games.

Playoff Predictions

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I could see a lot of upsets in these playoffs.  Look for the Eagles and Vikings to make runs despite rough starts.  In the AFC, I think the Pats will see the Chargers in the Championship game.  I think the Chiefs will be upset by Jacksonville in the first round.  I think it will be a Patriots-Vikings Super Bowl, with the Pats winning in the end.

That’s all for my NFL Midseason Report.  Stay tuned for more news soon.

 

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 9 Picks & Previews: Contenders Keep Going with Close Wins

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

Lock of the Week

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

Upset of the Week

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

The Other Games

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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