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.

 

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.