NFL Week 6 Picks: Contenders and Pretenders

Welcome to my NFL Week 6 Picks.  Last week I went 6-8, placing my overall record at 36-41.  How will I do in this week’s slate of games?  Read below and comment with your thoughts.  This week is when the contenders start to separate themselves from the pretenders.  Who will come out on top?

Teams on Bye: Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals, Dallas Cowboys, Seattle Seahawks

Note: In the images, the team on the top is the road team, and the team on the bottom is the home team.  

Lock of the Week

The Jets have been on a pretty good run but all will come to an end against the Patriots.  I think the Patriots defense will continue to see improvement in this game.  Their secondary will shut down the depleted Jets receiving corps, even without CBs Stephon Gilmore and Eric Rowe.  Expect the Pats defense to force lots of turnovers as well, giving the potent New England offense more scoring chances.  In addition, I think Pats TE Rob Gronkowski will have a strong return from a leg injury that held him out last week.  He will dominate against the Jets D in this game.  Pats win with ease.

Upset of the Week 

The Lions have had a surprisingly strong start to the season.  I expect that to continue against an aging Saints team.  Lions QB Matthew Stafford will have a huge game as the Saints defense struggles to put pressure on him, giving the strong Lions receivers more time to get open.

Expect the Saints offense to struggle to run the ball effectively against the Lions D, especially after trading away RB Adrian Peterson.  Peterson was not making the biggest impact in New Orleans, but he provided the Saints with options in the run game.  If Saints RB Mark Ingram starts to look off his game, who do they turn to?   Lions pull off the upset.

 

TNF (Posted to Twitter on Thursday before the game)

After last week’s big victory, the Eagles offense is beginning to gain some momentum.  Expect that to continue against the Panthers as they put up 30+ points.  I also think the Eagles receivers will have another huge day against a rebuilding Carolina secondary.  Even though Panthers QB Cam Newton has gotten back in the swing of things, I think Newton will be the next victim of the Eagles defense.  Newton will be hammered in this prime time match-up.

Sunday’s Games

The Falcons are well rested coming off their bye week and their dominant offense should shine in this match-up.  Falcons WR Julio Jones will not be stopped by CB Byron Maxwell and the rest of the Dolphins secondary.  On defense, LB Vic Beasley and the Atlanta pass rush will not allow Jay Cutler to get into a rhythm.  Jay Ajayi could also have another rough day against a tough Atlanta run defense.  Atlanta will win easily at home.

The Ravens will win but it won’t be easy.  After facing two tough defensive fronts in Weeks 4 & 5, Ravens QB Joe Flacco should have an easier time this week against a weak Bears secondary.  I also expect Ravens WR Mike Wallace to lead the Ravens to victory with another 100 yeard game like last week (133-yard).

However, the Bears will also look a little better offensively with rookie QB Mitch Trubisky under center.  In addition, WR Kendall Wright will be targetted more with injured receiver Kevin White out again.   But things won’t be easy against a tough Ravens defense.  It will be close but I have the Ravens holding on in a tight one.

The Texans front seven will be challenged this week after losing defensive stars DE J.J. Watt and LB Whitney Mercilus for the season.  Expect Browns RB Isaiah Crowell to have a strong game.

On offense, the Texans will continue to do well with rising star rookie QB Watson.  They’ve put up a total of 91 points over the last two weeks (45.5 PPG)!  The Browns had the chance to draft Watson and after this game may wish they did.  Texans offense will deliver again at home.

This will be a blowout because other than Niners WR Pierre Garcon, I don’t believe there’s anyone else that could step it up for San Francisco offensively.  Redskins QB Kirk Cousins and his receivers will thrive against the rebuilding Niners secondary.  They will lead the Redskins to an easy win.

Over the last three weeks, the Packers have averaged 32.3 PPG.  Expect their offensive success to continue, even against a tough Vikings defense.  The Vikings secondary will fail to hold back a stacked group of talented Packers receivers.  Packers receivers Nelson, Cobb, and Adams are all at full health this week so expect the Vikes D to have a rough day.  I think the Vikings run game could struggle without starting RB Dalvin Cook.  They’ll also be without WR Stefon Diggs.  Packers win as the Vikings struggle to get into an offensive rhythm.

The Rams have gained some momentum over the last few weeks but it’s never easy to win on the road.  The Jags have been off to a pretty strong start as well and their defense could put a stop to Ram’s run.  They will contain LA’s playmakers, making it tough for QB Jared Goff to play like he has for most of this season.

However, this win won’t be easy for the Jags.  Blake Bortles will be under pressure but I see him having enough success to lead the Jags to a win.  He will have to because I believe the Rams will slow down Jas star running back Leonard Fournette.  In the end, the Rams won’t produce enough offensively and they’ll fall short against the Jags.

As the Bucs defense finally starts to make its way back to full health, I think they’ll lead Tampa Bay to bounce back win after a tough Thursday night loss to the Pats at home.  I expect Cards QB Carson Palmer to take a lot of hits like Tom Brady did last week against an aggressive Bucs defensive front.  I don’t think Palmer has much left in the tank as he has struggled this season to help AZ put points on the board.  However, young Bucs QB Jameis Winston will thrive in this game, rebounding from a rough game last week against the Pats.  His receiving corps will create match-up problems against the strong Arizona secondary as Winston will buy his receivers more time with his elusiveness.  The Bucs will win the game with strong performances on both sides of the ball.

The Chiefs are the only remaining undefeated team and the Steelers have been inconsistent losing 2 of their last 3 games to teams they should have beaten, the Bears and the Jags.  Before I pick the Steelers to win again, they need to play more consistently.

Steelers QB Big Ben and RB Le’Veon Bell will struggle against the tough KC front seven that has shut down some top RBs and QBs during their 5-0 start.  The Steelers will also struggle defensively against speedster WR Tyreek Hill and one of the leagues best TE, Travis Kelce.  Big games from both Hill and Kelce will be just enough for KC to win by a Field Goal.

The Raiders offense should be back to full strength this week with star QB Derek Carr, WR Amari Cooper, and WR Michael Crabtree all healthy.  I think they’ll put up 30+ points against a weak Chargers defense.  The Chargers defense has cost LA many of their games as Chargers have averaged 19.8 PPG but are only 1-4.  The Chargers offensive success will bring them close but the Raiders offense will be too much in this shootout.

SNF

The Giants lost their top three receivers to serious injuries last week.  None of them will play in this game and the Giants will likely struggle offensively especially since RB Paul Perkins will also be out with an injury.  The Broncos arguably have the best defense in the league and will pressure Giants QB, Eli Manning all day.  Denver will pull away with the win even with their own offensive struggles.  The Broncos defense will carry them to a victory in a low scoring Sunday Night game at Mile High.    

MNF

This game will be a thrilling high scoring game that will be much more fun to watch than the Sunday Night defensive battle between the Broncos and Giants.  The Titans offense should score with ease against the struggling Colts defense, scoring 5+ TDs.  But this isn’t going to be a blowout.  Jacoby Brissett has led the Colts offense to win two of their last four games as they have scored over 22 points a game in the last 4.  Brissett will hit his star receiver T.Y. Hilton often as he will have a big game against the Titans secondary.  But in the end, the Titans’ offensive dominance will be too much for the Colts on the road and carry them to victory on Monday Night.  

That’s all for this week.  What do you think will happen this Sunday?  Feel free to comment with your thoughts.  This season has been full of surprises so you should expect more.

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2016 AFC Draft Grades: Determining The Winners and Losers

The NFL draft has concluded, and as usual, my mock draft sucked because of trades.  But now it’s time to reflect on the draft.  Below I have graded every pick made by each AFC team and given each team an overall draft grade.  Undrafted free agents will not affect these grades.

 

AFC East

Buffalo Bills

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Round   Pick        Name                          Pos.  College  Grade

1           19          Shaq Lawson              DE     Clemson    A

2            10         Reggie Ragland          OLB    Alabama   A-

3            17      Adolphus Washington   DT    Ohio St.    A-

4           41          Cardale Jones                QB     Ohio St.    B

5           18       Jonathan Williams          RB     Arkansas  B+

6           17         Kolby Listenbee              WR    TCU           A-

6          43          Kevon Seymour             CB      USC            A-

Overall Grade: A-

What They Did Right: This is one of the better teams in this draft.  As usual, Rex Ryan and Doug Whaley went straight for defense.  They could’ve mixed it up and went after offense early in this draft, but I think Whaley & Ryan  actually took the right approach this time.  They had a serious need for pass rushers after losing Kiko Alonso, Nigel Bradham, and Mario Williams the last two off-seasons.  Intriguing prospects like Shaq Lawson and Reggie Ragland going that late in the draft was a big steal for Buffalo.  Why did they draft a DT then?  Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus aren’t going to last forever, and the Bills already filled their urgent needs in rounds 1 and 2.  I also liked their late round selection of Kolby Listenbee.  He can develop behind Robert Woods and eventually be a companion to Sammy Watkins.  This draft just made an already scary defense better, but their offense may still need work, especially if Jonathan Williams isn’t ready for Week 1.

What They Did Wrong: After taking solid, safe, large school pass rushers in the first three rounds, their fourth and fifth round selections seemed off to me.  Since when is E.J. Manuel not an acceptable backup?  I guess they didn’t think of him when they took Cardale Jones.  Sure, Jones might not be ready to start, but I’m sure he was ready to at least be an NFL QB’s understudy.  Unless Manuel gets cut and ends up at rock bottom, Jones won’t see a game until Tyrod Taylor or Manuel is gone.  Yes, they needed a running back, but that was a pretty urgent need with Anthony Dixon gone.  Jonathan Williams, really?  He missed all of last season with a torn ACL.  There’s no telling when and if he’ll come back from that.  But guess what, Manuel might be released, and Williams might come back.  This draft has high upside, and with a safe group of picks chosen in days 1 and 2, the Bills look to be a team that will be highly impacted by this draft.  This class can win Rex Ryan games.  No more 8-8 seasons?  That is highly possible.

Miami Dolphins

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Round   Pick        Name                          Pos.  College  Grade

1           13            Laremy Tunsil           OT     Ole Miss    C

2           7              Xavien Howard         CB      Baylor        A-

3           10             Kenyan Drake           RB     Alabama    B+

3           23             Leonte Carroo           WR   Rutgers       A-

6           11              Jakeem Grant            WR   Texas           B

6          29              Jordan Lucas             SS       Penn St.    B+

7           2               Brandon Doughty   QB   West Kentucky   B+

7          10              Thomas Duarte        TE        UCLA        B

   Overall Grade: B-

What They Did Right: The Dolphins may have wasted some of their picks, but the important thing is they addressed all of their main urgent needs at some point during the draft.  Kenyan Drake is an efficient RB option that will split time with sophomore player Jay Ajayi, and Xavien Howard fills the need at cornerback across from Byron Maxwell.  They got Leonte Carroo and Jakeem Grant to mix into the current wide receiver group, and they got an acceptable backup for Ryan Tannehill that will play ahead of Matt Moore.  What they did wrong is they picked the wrong guys at the wrong time.  They took Howard when Top 5 corner Mackensie Alexander was still on the board, and he was expected to go in Round 1.  They took Drake without recognizing that DeVontae Booker and Kenneth Dixon were much better prospects left.

What They Did Wrong: Really, an offensive tackle in Round 1?  Really, picking Laremy Tunsil after his Twitter got hacked and a video of him taking marijuana got posted?!!  They could’ve let him slide a little further and gone after a corner, or Kevin Dodd, who ended up out of Round 1.  This means that Ja’Wuan James will have to either fill the smaller need at guard, start ahead of Tunsil or Branden Albert, or lose his starting job.  Tunsil has so many off the field issues, and it was not necessary to pick him, even if he was best available.  The late round picks had the opposite issue of the Day 2 ones, good players at inconvenient positions.  Jordan Lucas and Thomas Duarte are great guys. But the Dolphins are fine at tight end. They could have used that pick on a pass rusher or something like that, and unless Reshad Jones plays free safety this season or Jordan Lucas switches positions, they’re all set at strong safety.  The Dolphins had an efficient draft as they filled the holes, but may have taken the wrong players at the wrong times, and completely blew their first round pick.

 

New England Patriots

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Round   Pick        Name                          Pos.  College  Grade

2           29           Cyrus Jones                CB     Alabama    B-

3            15            Joe Thuney                OG     N.C. State   A-

3            29           Jacoby Brissett         QB      N.C. State   B

3            34            Vincent Valentine   DT     Nebraska      B

4            14             Malcolm Mitchell    WR    Georgia       A-

6            33             Kamu Grugier-Hill  OLB   East Illinois  B

6             39             Elandon Roberts        ILB      Houston     A-

6              46            Ted Karras                    OG         Illinois      B+

7                4             Devin Lucien               WR        Arizona St.  B-

Overall Grade: B

What They Did Right: Belichick and crew had another efficient draft.  They filled most of their major needs.  Joe Thuney is in to replace Ryan Wendell.  Malcolm Mitchell will join the deep wide receiver rotation.  I just don’t see why they A) Drafted multiple guys at one position and B) Passed on quality running backs and defensive ends early.  I also like how they drafted a possible Brady replacement in case Brady’s suspension is upheld or he declines.  TB12 won’t last forever, but Brissett when Dak Prescott, Connor Cook and RBs Kenneth Dixon and DeVontae Booker available?  Bad idea.  They also took a lot of long shots, for example, Vincent Valentine, but he took far down players for a reason.  Valentine’s the size of Vince Wilfork.

What They Did Wrong: Where’s the franchise RB?  Blount’s on the decline, and Dion Lewis is coming off a torn ACL.  They took a corner, they took two guards and two receivers, and no running back?  Come on Pats.  You’re better than that.  I also don’t like how after they had gotten up to 12 total picks, traded some big ones away.  They needed those picks if they wanted to win a title.  I like who the Patriots picked, but I think they may have used picks in an unnecessary way and left out certain areas of need in this draft, especially the need in the backfield.

 

New York Jets

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Round   Pick        Name                          Pos.  College  Grade

1            20          Darron Lee                 OLB   Ohio St.     A-

2            20         Christian Hackenberg  QB   Penn St.  A-

3            20         Jordan Jenkins           OLB     Georgia    A-

4            20        Juston Burris                 CB     N.C. State  B

5             21        Brandon Shell                OT    S. Carolina  A-

7              14        Lac Edwards                   P    Sam Houston St   A-

7             20         Charone Peake           WR     Clemson     B+

 

Overall Grade: B+

 

What They Did Right: This was a pretty strong draft for the Jets.  Almost all of their needs were filled, and their picks (most of them, at least) were under the radar.  They went with some of the safest guys at their needed positions on Days 1 and 2 including Darron Lee and Christian Hackenberg.  On days 1 and 2 they did a pretty amazing job, their only problems were taking two OLBs instead of an OLB and an ILB, and ignoring their need at OT.  They filled it later with Brandon Shell, and minor needs at WR, corner and punter were filled, also mostly with under the radar picks, they were at least considered that for how late they went.

What They Did Wrong: The Jets had a great draft, but their grade goes down significantly for one reason.  They still need an ILB!  Taiwan Jones is the best they’ve got at ILB, and unless also inconsistent Lorenzo Mauldin moves over, they have a serious issue.  A near perfect draft class has its flaws, this is the biggest one.  Next time, don’t draft Darron Lee and Jordan Jenkins unless you know an efficient linebacker that can move to the interior.

 

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens

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Round   Pick        Name                          Pos.  College  Grade

1             6          Ronnie Stanley          OT    Notre Dame   A+

2            11          Kamalei Correa        OLB    Boise St.        B+

3             7           Bronson Kaufusi       DE        BYU               A-

4             6           Tavon Young              CB        Temple       B-

4             9           Chris Moore                WR     Cincinnati    B-

4            32          Alex Lewis                   OT      Nebraska        A

4            34           Willie Henry              DT      Michigan        A-

4            36           Kenneth Dixon         RB      LA Tech          A-

5             7           Matt Judon                 DE     GV State           A-

6             7           Keenan Reynolds     RB     Navy                 A

6            34         Maurice Canady         CB     Virginia           A-

Overall Grade: A-

 

What They Did Right: The Ravens filled most of their major needs and got some real good players in the process.  They may have gone for many long shots, but they really upgraded their weakest spot, the line of scrimmage.  Ronnie Stanley and Alex Lewis will really help the offensive tackle depth chart.  Bronson Kaufusi, Willie Henry, and Matt Judon will bolster the defensive line and add to an already scary pass rush.  The Ravens also had some big steals.  They snagged Kenneth Dixon after falling to late Round 4.  They also got intriguing Navy RB Keenan Reynolds, and after drafting long-shot corner prospect Tavon Young, they snagged Maurice Canady soon before the conclusion of Round 6.  What a draft class!

What They Did Wrong: This was a great draft class full of steals and studs, but every near-perfect thing has its flaws.  For Baltimore, the biggest flaw is too many long-shots.  A long-shot pick could always be good if you know what you’re doing, but in great numbers, it gets out of hand.  They needed a wide receiver and drafted Chris Moore, but he’s not the future of this franchise for when Steve Smith and Mike Wallace get old.  Each long shot pick comes with risk, and you want to have a lot of safe selections.  You don’t want your whole draft class to become busts, even for a 4th or 5th rounder, where 3 of their 5 picks made are guys I would consider long-shots.  They additionally never filled their need at inside linebacker, and a few other long-term needs.  This team is good now, but what has happened to their future?  The Ravens will know what I mean when they are desperate for a starting wide receiver a couple of years from now.

 

Cincinnati Bengals

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Round   Pick        Name                          Pos.  College  Grade

1          24            William Jackson III    CB     Houston   B

2          24             Tyler Boyd                    WR    Pitt            A

3          24             Nick Vigil                      ILB    Utah St.   B+

4         24              Andrew Billings          DT     Baylor       A

5          24             Christian Westerman  OG    ASU          B+

6         24              Cody Core                        WR   Ole Miss  B

7         24              Clayton Fejedelem         SS       Illinois    A

Overall Grade: B+

 

What They Did Right: This is a good and deep draft class with very high potential.  This class had many late round steals.  Andrew Billings, expected to go in the first two rounds, fell to Cincy in Round 4.  Christian Westerman fell to them in Round 5 after being projected as a 3rd rounder.  They also filled their biggest needs by far, safety, and wide receiver.  William Jackson III, Dre Kirkpatrick, and Clayton Fejedelem will all battle for the left corner and strong safety spots.  Nick Vigil will be an understudy for Rey Maualuga, and Andrew Billings will split time with Domata Peko.  Tyler Boyd will be an efficient WR2 or WR3, and Cody Core will fill the depth beyond the top 3 receivers.

What They Did Wrong: They didn’t do too much wrong.  This was a pretty good draft, but let’s go over a few small things that affected certain picks in a different way than it did to the overall grade.  For example, drafting a corner in Round 1 over wide receiver Michael Thomas wasn’t a great pick.  They had a burning need at receiver, and a deep receiver class to fill it with.  The secondary was more of a Day 2 issue.  They did fill the receiver position later.  Then, they didn’t fill the need at safety in Round 3 but instead went for a non-urgent selection of an inside linebacker.  Just something to keep in mind, a little shuffle of positions taken each round would’ve helped this class majorly.

Cleveland Browns

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Round   Pick        Name                          Pos.  College  Grade

1            15           Corey Coleman          WR    Baylor        A

2              1           Emmanuel Ogbah       DE    Oklahoma St.   A

3              2           Carl Nassib                    DE      Penn St.     A

3             13         Shon Coleman                OT     Auburn      A

3             31         Cody Kessler                    QB       USC         A-

4                1         Joe Schobert                   OLB     Wisconsin    A+

4                16      Ricardo Louis                    WR     Auburn       A-

4               31        Derrick Kindred               S         TCU          A

4                40        Seth Devalve                  TE        Princeton   B+

5                 15         Jordan Payton                WR         UCLA        A

5                  31         Spencer Drango            OG        Baylor       A

5                  35           Rashard Higgins         WR    Colorado St.  A

5                  36           Trey Caldwell               DB     LA-Monroe     A-

7                 29            Scooby Wright III       ILB    Arizona          A+

Overall Grade: A

What They Did Right: Almost everything.  What a draft class.  I loved how the Cleveland Browns plotted their draft day.  First, a trade back to let the Titans snag an OT and drafting wide receiver Corey Coleman (great fit, by the way!).  Then they get DE Emmanuel Ogbah in Round 2 and steal DE Carl Nassib in Round 3.  That already makes their defensive line and receiving game a whole lot better.  In Round 3 they also snagged offensive tackle Shon Coleman and went for a QB late in the round.  They filled their hole at just about every position of need, with a quality pick and pulled the steal of the draft when they took Scooby Wright III (projected for Rounds 3-4) with the 29th pick of Round 7.

What They Did Wrong: I can’t stop complementing at this amazing draft class, but it does have a couple minor issues.  First of all, filling the need at receiver is great, but four receivers?  That can fill an entire depth chart.  I bet Ricardo Louis will be cut before Week 1, and Coleman, Brian Hartline, Higgins, Andrew Hawkins and Payton will fill the depth chart.  They probably should have spent a couple of those receiver picks on more defensive help, especially at linebacker and in the secondary.  They also drafted a couple too many long shots.  Cody Kessler won’t have a chance to compete with RG3, and that’s their biggest need.  I couldn’t even find Trey Caldwell or Seth Devalve in CBS Sports’ 2016 NFL Draft Prospect Rankings.  However, between all the good picks, all the huge steals, all the positions filled, this was an amazing draft class.

Pittsburgh Steelers

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Round   Pick        Name                          Pos.  College  Grade

1            25           Artie Burns                  CB      Miami      A-

2           27           Sean Davis                    CB      Maryland   B-

3          26            Javon Hargrave           DT          SC State   B

4          25          Jerald Hawkins             OT           LSU         A-

6            45          Travis Feeney               OLB      Washington  B

7              8            DeMarcus Ayers          WR           Houston    B-

7              25          Tyler Matakevich      ILB             Temple      B

Overall Grade: B

What They Did Right: The Steelers came into this draft with a few major needs.  They focused solely on those needs and drafting the perfect players to fill them.  They didn’t necessarily pick the biggest prospects, but they did an outstanding job filling most of their major needs.  They received two strong corners, an offensive tackle to replace Kelvin Beachum, and a pass rushing  defensive tackle.  They have good fits for a lot of the guys they drafted, and that led to an acceptable draft.

What They Did Wrong: They may have drafted perfect fits, but the prospects that were taken weren’t as appealing to most scouts.  Sean Davis was a risky pick, he just recently shot up draft boards, and another slightly safer guy like him, Artie Burns, was drafted ahead of him.  Still risky for their biggest need.  They also forgot about a safety in the process.  Travis Feeney and DeMarcus Ayers are also risky picks, and Ayers is a real long shot.  Although I did like their strategy, I just think they picked the wrong set of prospects.

AFC South

Houston Texans

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Round   Pick        Name                          Pos.  College  Grade

1            21           Will Fuller                   WR    Notre Dame   A

2            19          Nick Martin                  C      Notre Dame    B

3           22          Braxton Miller            WR   Ohio St.    B+

4           21          Tyler Ervin                    RB  San Jose St.    C+

5             22         K.J. Dillon                     SS     West Virginia   B+

5             29         D.J. Reader                   DT    Clemson      B

Overall Grade: B

 

What They Did Right: The Texans had a great draft, with lots of good picks.  However, they failed to fill their major needs precisely.  They got a lot of good prospects and did go after guys at positions of need.  This draft class has a ton of potential, but it needs to find a place to fit in.  There may be concerns unless D.J. Reader can shift to edge rusher, they can find some undrafted FAs to finish off the secondary, and Nick Martin can learn to play not just center but also guard at an NFL level.

What They Did Wrong: As I said before, they did not cover their main needs precisely!  Several examples are shown above.  Why’d the Texans take Tyler Ervin when they could’ve had their hands on Kenneth Dixon or DeVontae Booker?  Ervin likely won’t see a start, Booker or Dixon would’ve competed with Alfred Blue to be a handcuff to Lamar Miller.  They didn’t draft enough for the secondary and drafted two very good receivers when they had depth beyond the WR2 position, now filled by Will Fuller.  Braxton Miller was a bit of a waste after that selection in the first round.  Although they came close and drafted many high upside prospects, those prospects are also high risk, and some don’t fit into the Houston scheme.

Indianapolis Colts

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Round   Pick        Name                          Pos.  College  Grade

1              18          Ryan Kelly                    C     Alabama    A-

2              26          T.J. Green                    FS    Clemson     A

3              19          Le’Raven Clark          OT      Texas Tech  B

4                18        Hassan Ridgeway     DT      Texas          B-

4               27         Antonio Morrison    ILB     Florida       B-

5                17         Joe Haeg                       OG     NDSU          A

7                 18       Trevor Bates                 LB       Maine        B

7              27        Austin Blythe               C         Iowa         A

Overall Grade: B+

What They Did Right: The Colts’ draft was a roller-coaster ride.  One pick was amazing, the next pick, risky or off.  What I liked is that they went right for the biggest missing pieces first.  They started by rebuilding the offensive line.   Ryan Kelly and Joe Haeg will compete for starting jobs.  Le’Raven Clark has some time to develop at tackle, but may be able to get some starts at guard.  T.J. Green can fill the hole at safety and possibly even switch back to a receiver in the NFL, his old position.  Not bad for filling the top needs.  But the Colts really wasted their other picks.

What They Did Wrong: Okay, I understand if they wanted d-line insurance, but the Colts wasted two picks on linebackers!  That’s their strong position!  They have D’ Qwell Jackson, Robert Mathis and Nate Irving playing LB!  They don’t need any more help there.  I also think a tackle was unnecessary, their needs for the offensive line had no more to them than just the interior.  Not a bad draft in filling the needs with safe players, but the same draft class wasn’t great in overall efficiency and doesn’t fit with the team.

Jacksonville Jaguars

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Round   Pick        Name                          Pos.  College  Grade

1             5             Jalen Ramsey           CB/FS    Florida St.   B+

2            5              Myles Jack                OLB         UCLA            B

3             6              Yannick Ngakoue   DE        Maryland      A-

4           5               Sheldon Day              DT      Notre Dame   B

6         6                Tyrone Holmes       OLB       Montana     A-

6         26                Brandon Allen        QB        Arkansas    B+

7          5                 Jonathan Woodard    DE    Central AR     B-

Overall Grade: B

What They Did Right: The Jags may have had some issues with this draft, but overall, between free agency and the draft they really boosted their defense.  They added to what they already had in 2015 with DT Malik Jackson, DT, Sheldon Day, DEs Yannick Ngakoue and Jonathan Woodard and linebackers Myles Jack and Tyrone Holmes.  The biggest upgrade was in the secondary, which already had Jonathan Cyprien.  They added with two strong corners, Jalen Ramsey and Prince Amukamara and safety Tashaun Gipson.  The Jags defense is among the most improved units in the NFL.

What They Did Wrong: They went after the right positions, but they took the wrong guys at the wrong positions at the wrong times.  They also had some late round shockers that I didn’t like. I did like how they stole Myles Jack in Round 2, but he’s risky, and they only drafted Tyrone Holmes behind him at the position.  They should’ve taken a better DE like DeForest Buckner.  They additionally wasted some picks on extra positions like DT and QB instead of drafting a center or safer LB.

Tennessee Titans

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Round   Pick        Name                          Pos.  College  Grade

1            8            Jack Conklin             OT    Michigan St.   A-

2            2          Kevin Dodd                DE     Clemson        A+

2            12        Austin Johnson        DT       Penn St.       B+

2            14         Derrick Henry          RB      Alabama       C+

3              1          Kevin Byard              SS       Mid Tennessee  B

5             1           Tajae Sharpe           WR      UMass             B-

5             20        LeShaun Sims          CB        South Utah   B-

6             18         Sebastian Tretola    OG       Arkansas      B

7               1           Aaron Wallace          OLB        UCLA        A-

7             32           Kalan Reed                 CB       South Miss   B

Overall Grade: B+

What They Did Right: The Titans, at some point in the draft addressed most of their major needs.  They filled holes at OLB, defensive end, defensive tackle/nose tackle and offensive tackle.  What were their major needs going into the draft?  Offensive lineman and pass rusher. They got Sebastian Tretola as well to fill those needs, a sixth-round steal who can play guard and center.  They even planned for the future a little bit, taking another receiver in this draft, and drafting two mediocre corners late (even though Kalan Reed is technically considered Mr. Irrelevant).

What They Did Wrong: The Titans had the same issue as the Jags.  They were fine in the first couple rounds but after those rounds things got out of hand.  They drafted a running back, safety, and receiver before a guard or linebacker!   Oh, and the biggest problem with this draft?  DERRICK HENRY!!!  For crying out loud, this team just acquired DeMarco Murray!!!  Why did they set that plan on fire to draft Derrick Henry, and if Murray still is starting running back, why did the Titans draft the 2nd best running back, in Round 2, ahead of a linebacker just so he could be DeMarco Murray’s handcuff?!!!  They had a handcuff for him.  Remember Antonio Andrews, that guy who suddenly worked his way up to starting running back?  He’s still relevant, as a handcuff at least.  From what I’ve heard, Derrick Henry is a lot like DeMarco Murray.  That’s not good considering the fact that you could end up with two busts on one team.

AFC West

Denver Broncos

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Round   Pick        Name                          Pos.  College  Grade

1             26          Paxton Lynch             QB      Memphis    A-

2           32            Adam Gotsis             DT      Georgia Tech   B-

3           36            Justin Simmons       FS       Boston College   B

4           38            DeVontae Booker    RB            Utah         B

5            5             Connor McGovern   OG          Missouri    A

6           1                Andy Janovich        FB            Nebraska    B

6           44              Will Parks                S              Arizona     B-

7            7              Riley Dixon              P        Syracuse         C+

Overall Grade: B

What they Did Right: The Broncos filled some major holes in this draft, and they may have failed to fill all their needs, but they drafted some pretty convincing players when they were filling holes.  Paxton Lynch was a pretty good pick on Denver’s part, and they didn’t need to trade up, but it was worth it to secure such a good pick.  I also really liked their selections of running back DeVontae Booker and guard Connor McGovern.  They didn’t just fill those three holes, they made sure they had a relevant player there, a rookie who can be a Week 1 starter.  Paxton Lynch may need some time, but Mark Sanchez can be the placeholder.  DeVontae Booker will grow behind two strong running backs, and Connor McGovern should be able to work into the system right away, linemen typically develop faster from what I’ve seen.

What They Did Wrong: The Broncos may have locked up some of their needs, but they slipped up on a few of their other picks, they could’ve just filled their minor needs with those picks rather than trying to pull the shocker of the draft, or draft the biggest sleeper.  I just don’t understand why they went for positions like safety and punter.  Even their pick of DT Adam Gotsis was questionable.  Not a bad draft in terms of upside, but not a great draft in terms of making sure they don’t have any major holes.

Kansas City Chiefs

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Round   Pick        Name                          Pos.  College  Grade

2            6           Chris Jones                 DT     Missippi St.    B-

3           11             KeiVarae Russell      CB    Notre Dame   A-

4            7             Parker Ehinger         OG    Cincinnati      A-

4           8              Eric Murray                CB      Minnesota    B-

4          28             DeMarcus Robinson   WR     Florida     B

5          25             Kevin Hogan               QB       Stanford    B+

5             28          Tyreek Hill                   WR     West Alabama   C

6              3             D.J. White                CB       Georgia Tech   A-

6             28             Dadi Nicholas             DE     Virginia Tech    B+

Overall Grade: C+

What They Did Right: The Chiefs had a pretty efficient draft.  They have Marcus Peters’ new partner in crime.  They have a guard to fill in the hole.  They have a new backup QB, and they got defensive line help.  In terms of filling the holes, this draft was great for the Chiefs.  Most of their major needs were filled, some by very high upside players.  I like Chris Jones, I like Kevin Hogan, and although I was questioning some of the picks, I like a lot of the players in this draft class.

What They Did Right: Okay, they had some picks with high upside.  Some of the rest were long shots and busts.   Had you ever heard of Tyreek Hill or Eric Murray before reading this article?  Well, I would be shocked if you did, you would have to be either a college football fanatic or draft guru.  They did fill the holes, but some of their picks were big risks, might not fill them yet or won’t fill them very long.  Only a few picks were in the A-range on my grading scale.  Therefore, I have to give this team a pretty low grade compared to what I’ve given to everybody else.

Oakland Raiders

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Round   Pick        Name                          Pos.  College  Grade

1             14           Karl Joseph                 FS      West Virginia    B+

2            13             Jihad Ward                 DE     Illinois           B

3             14              Shilique Calhoun     DE   Michigan St.  B+

4             2               Connor Cook             QB    Michigan St.  B-

5           4               DeAndre Washington   RB  Texas Tech    B-

6         19             Cory James                         OLB     Colorado St.  C+

7         13              Vadal Alexander                 OG          LSU       B

Overall Grade: C+

What They Did Right: The Raiders definitely got some players at positions of need, even if they might not be the right guys.  They filled the hole at defensive end, outside linebacker (partially) and free safety.  They picked the right positions in the right rounds, the draft was supplemental and filled their major needs and they drafted somewhat intriguing picks, whether they were surprises, steals or expected picks.  What did the Raiders do wrong?  Just about everything else.

What They Did Wrong: The Raiders seriously wasted a good number of their picks.  DeAndre Washington is not an efficient RB.  Cory James?  Connor Cook?  Those picks also caught me off.  They took Karl Joseph and Jihad Ward too early, and that leaves the Raiders without any guaranteed rookie starters this season.  Why Karl Joseph when they had the chance to take Kevin Dodd?  Why Jihad Ward over A’Shawn Robinson?!!  Some aspects of this draft class are crazy, and the things that make sense could’ve been done better.

 

San Diego Chargers

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Round   Pick        Name                          Pos.  College  Grade

1            3            Joey Bosa                     DE     Ohio St.     B

2            4            Hunter Henry           TE      Arkansas    B

3           3              Max Tuerk                   C          USC          B

4            4           Joshua Perry              OLB       Ohio St.    B

5            38         Jatavis Brown            OLB       Akron       B

6             4        Drew Kaser                    P        Texas A&M   B+

6            23       Derek Watt                   FB       Wisconsin    B-

7               3       Donovan Clark             OG      Michigan St.  C+

Overall Grade: B

What They Did Right: I actually really liked this draft class.  I’m a huge fan of Joey Bosa and Hunter Henry and even like Max Tuerk.  All three could be Opening Day starters.  This draft class has a lot of depth, with a high-potential player picked almost every round.  The class also fills the Chargers needs pretty well.  There were no wasted picks, a reason behind each, and almost all of these guys could see significant playing time in 2016 and many years to come.

What They Did Wrong: What’s not to like about this class?  None of their picks went after the hottest players available giving the Chargers a potential steal, and they drafted some players at unnecessary positions.  Sure, guys like Derek Watt and Joshua Perry are good players, but they might not see significant playing time, a long-time veteran will likely be starting instead for this class’ first few years.  But overall, well done San Diego.  You got yourself the draft class I would love to have as an NFL GM.

Catch my NFC Draft Grades coming soon.  Who do you think aced the draft?  Comment below.

Brady vs. Manning: The End of an Era: AFC Championship (Patriots at Broncos) Preview

This is the 17th time Tom Brady and Peyton Manning will face off, possibly the last.  Between the Colts and the Broncos, Manning knows are team too well.  He knows Brady, he knows Belichick, so we have to play are game, but run a couple plays that we don’t normally do.  The New England Patriots take on the Denver Broncos at Mile High.  In November, we went to Denver and they came back to win 30-24, but it was Brock Osweiler under center last time, Manning was out with plantar fasciitis.

NFL Roundtable: The Best Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning Game
Tom Brady face off for the 17th time in the AFC Championship but this might be the last if Manning retires.

My Prediction: Patriots, 27, Broncos, 23

So, who has the advantage in this game?  You saw in Week 12, it will be a close game, tough match-up and very physical game.  So, lets break it down.  Injuries had way more of an impact in Week 12 than now, Edelman was out, DeMarcus Ware was out, Gronk left, Hightower, Collins and Amendola sat too.  Now, we have a team at decent health, so does Denver.

Denver has a dominant front seven: Sylvester Williams, Malik Jackson, Derek Wolfe, DeMarcus Ware, Von Miller, Brandon Marshall, Danny Trevathan and Shane Ray.  That’s EIGHT GUYS, you can only start 7!!  Their secondary also includes star corners Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr. plus T.J. Ward and Bradley Roby.  Steven Jackson, Brandon Bolden and James White better be ready to bull through the defense and find space between the stars, and I trust that they can.  I also think that the secondary isn’t strong enough to guard Gronk, Edelman, Amendola, Chandler, LaFell and Keshawn Martin.  I think 2 of these 8 will score: Jackson, Bolden, Edelman, LaFell, Amendola, Gronk, Chandler.  My original prediction was Gronk and Chandler but now I’m thinking maybe Jackson, Bolden or a receiver will score.

Now Denver’s offense.  The Broncos even without Peyton Manning would have an overpowered offense.  C.J. Anderson usually really shows up this time of year, while Ronnie Hillman continues to do his thing.  Plus the receiving game didn’t just use DeMaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders last time.  They used Vernon Davis, Owen Daniels, Cody Latimer and Andre Caldwell, who had a TD, too.  But the young Patriots secondary will have to try and stop Denver’s pass, they should be able to double cover Thomas, and contain Sanders and Daniels on one man coverage.  Vernon Davis, Virgil Green and those sleep receivers, may let loose.  They also need to do a better job containing the running game.  But in the end, despite facing to more overpowered defense, and being the road team, I think the Pats have the edge with their offense’s match-up and will win by a nose.

 

Keys To The Game

Patriots

  1. Even against a ferocious front seven, the Patriots run game needs to keep it up.  Tom Brady might not have the protection he needs, and he’ll have to depend on his backfield. They have the individual players to do it, the questions are: Do they work together enough to?,  Is the match-up against the defense in their favor?
  2. The Broncos run game is revamped too with CJ Anderson at his best.  The Patriots have struggled to stop the run all year.  This game, they need to excel at it.
  3. The young Patriots secondary needs to contain a large number of Broncos receivers that make up its offense’s core.  Last time, sleep receiver Andre Caldwell caught the TD that brought the game to overtime, where CJ Anderson had a long run for a touchdown.

Broncos

  1. The Patriots have just as good of receivers when healthy.  The Broncos secondary isn’t quite as good as their pass rush, and they might have trouble keeping the receivers from doing much.  Between Edelman, LaFell, Amendola, Keshawn Martin, Gronk and Chandler, there’s plenty of guys to cover.
  2. CJ Anderson needs to pick up the pace.  Between some big games, he’s still been somewhat consistent unlike late last year, even when Manning’s super bowl hopes got crushed in the Divisional Round last year Anderson made an impact.
  3. The Broncos need to use their receiving depth to their advantage.  Unleash all their sleep receivers and play like the Pats haven’t seen them play yet.

Injury Report

New England Patriots (13-4)

 

Out

​G Tre’ Jackson – Knee (LP)
OL LaAdrian Waddle – Shoulder (LP)

 

Doubtful

NONE

 

Questionable

WR Danny Amendola – Knee (LP)
TE Scott Chandler – Knee (LP)
LB Jamie Collins – Back (LP)
DB Nate Ebner – Hand (LP)
WR Julian Edelman – Foot (LP)
LB Darius Fleming – Back/Shin (LP)
LB Jonathan Freeny – Hand (LP)
TE Rob Gronkowski – Knee/Back (LP)
LB Dont’a Hightower – Knee (LP)
DE Chandler Jones – Abdomen/Toe (LP)
DE Rob Ninkovich – Shin (LP)
WR Matthew Slater – Shin (LP)
C Bryan Stork – Ankle (LP)
OT Sebastian Vollmer – Ankle (LP)

 

Probable

QB Tom Brady – Ankle (FP)
S Patrick Chung – Foot (FP)
OL Josh Kline – Shoulder (FP)
WR Brandon LaFell – Foot (FP)
S Devin McCourty – Ankle (FP)

 

Denver Broncos (13-4)

 

Out

NONE

 

Doubtful

NONE

 

Questionable 

NONE

 

Probable
S Josh Bush – Shoulder
TE Owen Daniels – Knees
ILB Todd Davis – Shoulder
G Max Garcia – Groin
CB Chris Harris Jr. – Shoulder
QB Peyton Manning – Foot
ILB Brandon Marshall – Ankle
QB Brock Osweiler – Knee
S Darian Steward – Hamstring
S T.J. Ward – Ankle
OLB DeMarcus Ware – Knee
CB Bradley Roby – Quadricep

Gronk and Edelman Rebound, Patriots Trump Chiefs

It has been a roller coaster ride, this week, this season, and this 2015 for the Patriots.  From DeflateGate, to the Super Bowl.  From the suspension to the banners revealing.  From a crazy week to an awesome win in the Divisional Round.  The Pats outscored the Chiefs 27-20.  The game broke many records.  Gronk now leads all tight ends in playoff touchdowns, and all Pats players in playoff receptions.  He has never been on a team that has not advanced to the AFC Championship.  It’s also Tom Brady’s 30th playoff game, the most by any NFL player in history!!  This is also only the 2nd time a team has gone to 5 straight conference championships, tying the record set by a 1970’s Pittsburgh Steelers squad.

 

Now let’s talk about the exciting ending first.  The Pats led 27-13 after 2 30-40 yard field goals by Stephen Gostkowski.  The Chiefs had difficulty managing the clock.  They blew about 5 minutes.  They were hesitating, taking their time on play after play.  They had blown it with 1 minute to goal on 3rd and goal when there was a flag.  Pass interference on the Pats.  It reset to 1st and goal.  On 2nd down, they scored.  It was now 27-20.  The Pats just needed one first down.  2nd and 12.  Brady threw.  The ball bounces of a defender’s hip.  Tamba Hali misses it and Edelman makes the first down catch!!!!  All TB12 had to do was take a knee 3 times and it was over!  Well, how did we get there.  It all started opening drive.

It was 3rd down.  Brady had struggled on 3rd down conversions ever since Edelman got hurt.  But he was back.  He proved it.  Brady threw to his favorite receiver, and Edelman, he caught it, for a first down!  Next play went to Edelman for 13 yards again!!!!  Then 16 yards to Amendola the very next play!!!   They were doing hurry-up offense, just pass after pass after pass to Brady’s best slot receivers.  Healthy and dominant as they could be.   Then he got to third down again, and got to Gronk for 32 yards!!!   He jumped over defenders and broke tackles, but he got there.  Two plays later, touchdown Gronk!!!  That was all on the 1st drive.  5 minutes, 11 plays, 80 yards and a touchdown!!!!

The following drive ate up 8 minutes of clock, and ended with a 34 yard field goal.  7-3 Pats.  It ended the 1st quarter at that score.  The 2nd quarter started with 3 short drives, ending in punts.  After a quick first down to Edelman, then a 5 yard penalty.  Brady threw an amazing pass, Edelman bobbled it, but lost it!!!  But Keshawn Martin was wide open right in front of him and he caught it!!!!  A 42 yard pass!!!  The offense was booming!!!  They slowly got through to the red zone from the 50, and it was first and goal.  Tom Brady ran it in for 10 yards and thought it was a touchdown but it was called out of bounds at the 1!!!  Belichick challenged, but lost as the call stood.  No worries, he had a QB sneak up the middle for a TD!!!  14-3. The following drive was a field goal again.  14-6 Pats.  The pattern was, touchdown Pats, and the next drive, the Chiefs would score a field goal.  “If they keep scoring touchdowns, and the Chiefs keep scoring field goals, you know who will win”, I said to my dad right then.

“I can live with that”, he said.  The half ended soon after.  The Chiefs got the ball, they had won the toss and deferred.  They were marching down the field, but on 2nd and 8, Knile Davis fumbled and Dont’ a  Hightower got it!!!  The offense did its thing.  Gronk for 18 yards.  Edelman runs for as many yards as his own jersey number!!!  14 yard pass to Edelman!  10 yards to James White.  Then Gronk scrambled for his second TD of the night, this time for 16 yards, double the yards of #1.  That’s when he broke the record.  He didn’t spike it, he was so happy, he just danced.  But next drive, things changed.

The Chiefs went to Jason Avant for 26 yards!!!  This is a former Eagles second-string who is now and old and washed up Chiefs sleep receiver.  He had 2 receptions for 69 yards.  Then 13 yards to Kelce.  They were slowly marching down the field, Alex Smith doing his usual thing of lots of short plays for big total yardage.  He went for it to Chris Conley, but was incomplete.  But after a 5 yard penalty on the Pats, they easily went to Albert Wilson for a touchdown.  They had broke the pattern.  It was now 21-13 Pats.  Next drive though, James White caught a 29 yard pass.  Then he went to Edelman for 14.

The quarter ended, and they lost their momentum but managed a 40 yard field goal, a solid one.  24-13.  After a quick Chandler Jones sack, the Pats got the ball back at like the 30.  On 4th down, Duron Harmon’s so-called interception was called back for an incomplete pass and turnover on downs, but thankfully it saved us 30 yards.  Keshawn Martin got a 15 yarder, but they had to settle for a 32 yard field goal.  27-13.  We led by two touchdowns.  Then the Chiefs scored their TD after horrible clock management, and Brady finished the game.

Tomorrow the Broncos and Steelers play.  The winner plays us.  What do you think.  Will we host a banged up Steelers team or go to Denver against the dominant Broncos, where we lost in Week 12?  Comment what you think.  Whoever we play, “We’re on to the AFC Championship.”

Star Of The Game: Rob Gronkowski

Gronkowski scoring his 2nd TD in a nice win over the Chiefs.

Of course Gronk earned this.  Two touchdowns, eight total in the playoffs any year, most by a tight end in playoff history.  Also, Gronk leads the Pats in playoff receptions ever.  Gronk had several deep passes, which he is not known for and despite back trouble and knee troubled, he also caused Chiefs trouble.  He also had some good blocks to help Edelman star in his return.  He led the Pats to revenge for an ugly game.

NFL Third Quarter Report: Playoff Scenarios For All 32

For the first quarter, I cleared up a wacky start.  For the second quarter, I predicted the remainder of the season from scratch.  By the third quarter, playoffs is where it’s at.  There are only 5 games left for every team.  Some of these games could decide key playoff scenarios.  Here are the current playoff pictures.

AFC

unknown_10

In The Hunt

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NFC

unknown_9

In The Hunt

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Done For

San Diego Chargers, 3-8
Chargers Remaining Schedule

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This schedule spells disaster.  Any win over Denver is doubtful.  Denver  likely will dominate up until January.

The Chiefs are practically on fire.  They should’ve beaten them when they had the chance.  They could’ve beat the Chiefs in San Diego, but on the road, it will be extremely difficult.  They’re even hotter now.

Unless the Raiders collapse before Week 16, the Chargers will lose that too.  They lost to them at home, they should lose to them on the road.  The only winnable game is hosting the AFC East’s Miami Dolphins.  Miami is placed last in the AFC East, and the Chargers play them in San Diego.  But one more win only gets them to
4-12.  You need AT LEAST, like 7 to go to the playoffs, and that rarely even happens, although it might to another team this year.

Tennessee Titans, 2-9

Titans Remaining Schedule

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This is actually a decent schedule, but it has a tough two weeks in the AFC East.  One at the Jets, another against the mighty, but injury plagued New England Patriots.  The Jaguars and Texans games are winnable, although the game at the Colts could also be tough.

But besides the Pats, unlike San Diego, there aren’t many dominant teams they face.  But what draws me away from this team is their performance so far.  When you’re 2-9, even three or four wins isn’t enough for playoff contention, and that’s even highly questionable.

Honorable Mentions

San Francisco 49ers, 3-8 – What do they have?

Cleveland Browns, 2-9 – Potential, but are practically mathematically out from previous performance

Baltimore Ravens, 4-7 – Too injury-filled to survive.

 

Watch Out

New Orleans Saints, 4-7

Saints Remaining Schedule

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This is a pretty easy schedule, but there are a couple of games that I wouldn’t quite say are locks.  The Panthers are 11-0, and even beating them in New Orleans will be tough.  The Bucs are getting better and are actually in the playoff hunt now, led by Jameis Winston.  They beat the Saints in New Orleans, Week 2.

The Lions and Jags aren’t as bad as we originally thought, and the Lions are red hot.  And against such a feast or famine team, the Falcons could easily win.  So, the Saints could win the rest (9-7) or even lose the rest (4-12).

Philadelphia Eagles, 4-7

Eagles Remaining Schedule

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The Eagles have a winnable schedule, but they only have a shot at the playoffs if they play really well and have some good luck.  I think the home games vs the Bills and Redskins could easily be wins.  They will likely lose this week, but if they win those two, plus crucial grudge matches vs the Cardinals and Giants, which will be tough if they keep playing how they’re playing, they won’t do, they’ll have a shot.  But to make the playoffs, you need to be Carroll and make sure to win at leat four of the remaining games, (hopefully the loss is to the Pats ☺️).

Honorable Mentions

Dallas Cowboys, 3-8 – Tony Romo keeps this team hanging, and he’s done

Detroit Lions, 4-8 – Heating up, but really need to take it to the next level

Miami Dolphins, 4-7 – Beginning to blow it, but still have a shot in best case scenario

Jacksonville Jaguars, 4-7 – Improving, but still will likely miss playoffs

 

Somewhat Shot

Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 5-6

Buccaneers Remaining Schedule

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The Buccaneers do definitely have potential, and that’s why they’re all the way up here.  But overall, this is a tough schedule.  St. Louis is still decent, Jay Cutler is looking young again, and Carolina is on an undefeated campaign that may never be stopped.  The best chance at wins are the next two weeks (vs ATL and NO).  Both of those teams are utterly struggling.  They could also beat the Bears in Tampa.  They won’t necessarily win all three of those.  They need to to even have a shot.

St. Louis Rams, 4-7

Rams Remaining Schedule

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The Rams do have a pretty respectable schedule.  The issue is,they have to win almost all of these to get a spot.  It’s a good schedule.  If they can upset Arizona this week, and win 3 of the 4 games after that.  They may have some tough trips, but it’s do-able.

Honorable Mentions

Chicago Bears, 5-6 – Jay Cutler and Forte are dominating, John Fox is a great coach, they have a chance

Oakland Raiders, 5-6 – They just need to revamp the offense

Buffalo Bills, 5-6 – Come on, keep on fighting!!!  You have a legitimate shot!

 

Fighting For A Spot

Atlanta Falcons, 6-5

Falcons Remaining Schedule

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This will be a tough schedule to overcome.  It includes two meetings with the 11-0 Panthers, an easier home game vs the Saints, and semi-tough games in Tampa Bay and Jacksonville.  They may be able to defeat the Panthers at home, but doing it in Carolina will be hard.  With the way this team is struggling, I get Tampa and the Jags will beat them, while they beat the Saints, and maybe Carolina if they’re lucky.

Indianapolis Colts, 6-5

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The Colts have a somewhat easy schedule, but they have to take it like the schedule says @NE 5 weeks in a row.  The Texans, Jaguars and Steelers are improving and could easily knock down Indy.  Normally, at this point in the season, the Colts would be top contenders, but they lost their groove somehow this year.  The Dolphins game could even be tough.  But winning 2 or 3, which they can easily do, can win them this weak AFC South.  So, don’t overlook this schedule, and still try hard.

New York Giants, 5-6

Giants Remaining Schedule

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The Giants were NFC East leaders a couple weeks ago, but a tough late season schedule has slowed them down, and the Redskins, hopefully temporarily, have stolen their throne.
Home games against the Eagles and Jets could be among THE EASIEST games to win for the Giants.  I also think they can bull over Carolina and prevent an undefeated season.  But if those are the easiest, what is the toughest?  Oh no.  Vikings in Minnesota, Dolphins in Miami.  Those could be dangerous games.  They could win anywhere between 1 and 4 games, and for a 5-6 team, they need to be on the higher side of that, even in such a weakling division.

 

Honorable Mentions

Seattle Seahawks, 6-5 – Beginning to get it together

Houston Texans, 6-5 – Brian Hoyer is back in good hands

Kansas City Chiefs, 6-5 – Red hot, who can stop them?

Pittsburgh Steelers, 6-5 – Despite some injuries, are still relevant with Baltimore done

New York Jets, 6-5 – If what happened in Week 12 continues, they can regain their groove

Washington Redskins, 6-5 – Suddenly just stole the NFC East

 

Near Clinching

For these teams, rather than looking over the schedule, we’ll break down clinching scenarios

New England Patriots, 10-1

The Pats can clinch the division by simply winning, and making sure the Giants beat the Jets.  As Pats fans, we yes, have to root for Tom Coughlin’s New York Giants.  To clinch a playoff berth, they need to win, and the Bills need to win.  Come on Giants, don’t blow it just because you’re doing us a favor.

 

Arizona Cardinals, 9-2

If the Cardinals beat the Rams, and Seattle loses to the Vikings, all Arizona needs to clinch a spot is the same thing next week or a win when they host Seattle in Week 17.  But beating the Rams today could be a challenge.  Remember, the Rams are also still in the playoff hunt, and when the Cardinals hosted them, they knocked down a 3-0 undefeated season to happen.  They’ve only lost one game since!!!  You think it’ll be easy in St. Louis, and despite the worse record, with Todd Gurley already discovered?!!!  That’s a real challenge for Arizona.  So they better try hard to do well these next couple weeks if they want to ink the division.

 

Denver Broncos, 9-2

I think that Denver will clinch the AFC West today.  I bet they’ll beat the Chargers up, and the Raiders get an easy win over Kansas City.  They have the tiebreaker over Oakland, so that’s not an issue either.  The playoffs are near for Denver and four other great teams.

 

Honorable Mentions

Carolina Panthers, 11-0 – Can clinch NFC South with win or Falcons loss

Cincinnati Bengals, 9-2 – Could easily clinch a playoff berth, in a lock match-up

Minnesota Vikings, 8-3 – Getting there, just need a couple more wins

Green Bay Packers, 8-4 – If they keep it up, they could be back in clinching mode in no time.

 

So, that’s how the playoff scenarios are looking.  What do you think will happen? Tell me in comments.

Broncos Thrill Pats In OT, Pats Unbeaten No More

It was 3rd and 1.  The Broncos were on their first drive in overtime.  The Pats had won the toss and tragically gone 3 and out.  Then Osweiler handed it to C.J. Anderson.  He swerved to the left and just kept going and going.  He had just scored the game winning touchdown.

C.J. Anderson as he heads to the end zone for the game winning TD in OT

The Broncos were the first to beat the once undefeated Patriots this season, with a 30-24 overtime win.  It was a very exciting, back and forth game, but it ended with the Broncos putting an end to the regular season portion of the Revenge Tour.  If they win a super bowl, then they still get vengeance on Roger Goodell.

The Broncos went 3 and out on their first drive.  A horrible punt got the Patriots started in Broncos territory.  This was turning into a field position game.  The Pats marched down the field, and Gronk scored a touchdown.  Gronk had already had a nice pass earlier in the drive, lasting 2:07, with 4 plays for a whopping 47 yards!!!!  They started at the opposing 47 and easily scored a TD.

The great defense continued.  The Broncos went 3 and out again, and even the Pats did it after starting around the 50.  Still a field position game.  On the next drive, the Broncos were on 4th down & inches, and Brock Osweiler ran a QB sneak for the first down. They didn’t challenge the spot, even though it was clearly 4th & 2.  On the next set of downs, Osweiler got sacked, knocking Denver out of field goal range.  When Brady got the ball back, they sacked him in return.

A good punt keeps Denver starting at their own 10.  The Pats were thinking safety, but as Osweiler progressed down the field, they had other plans.  Sheard knocked the ball from Osweiler, and Chandler Jones caught it in the air for and interception.  The Pats marched down the field and Chandler was wide open as Brady threw to him for the touchdown.  14-0 Pats.  It was now the 2nd quarter.

A couple of drives later, the Broncos progressed down the field, and Ronnie Hillman went beast mode and got a 19 yard TD, making it 14-7.  Th next couple minutes before the half were slow, as the Pats failed to score before getting the ball back in the 2nd half.  In the first drive after halftime, Gronk caught a 22 yard pass, but it wasn’t enough as the Pats punted it away.

The Broncos were near safety territory again on the next drive, but quickly marched down the field to escape.  But they didn’t get far away enough.  They were in field goal range, but Brandon McManus had to attempt a 47 yarder.  It was way off.  The field goal was no good, and it was still 14-7 Pats.  The remainder of the third quarter was a snooze-a-thon.  But things got exciting in the 4th quarter.  The Pats went into it with the ball.  They had just started a drive before the end of the 3rd.  On the first play of the quarter, they threw to Bolden.  He had no problem catching it, but the real thriller was what happened next.  He took off, and soon the defenders were nowhere to be found.  Brandon Bolden kept on running and running, until he got to the end zone.  He had just scored a 63 yard touchdown!!!!

It was now 21-7 Pats.  They had a two TD lead.  The Broncos went 3 and out, but on the punt, Chris Harper fumbled in the attempt to return the punt, and the Broncos recovered it.  That was his only noticeable play of the night.  He ended up with -2 fantasy points.  NEGATIVE TWO!!!  The Broncos got to start at around the opposing 40.  They marched down the field and Anderson scored a touchdown.  So technically, CHRIS HARPER is the reason the Pats lost.  Otherwise, we would’ve had a 24-17 win.  The Pats couldn’t do anything because of some stupid penalties.

Denver got the ball around the 50 and they marched down the field.  They slowed down in the red zone, and had to settle for a field goal.  It was now 21-17 Pats.  Our lead was not very secure.  On the next drive, we couldn’t do anything because Gronk was called for offensive pass interference!!!  It was a stupid call!!!  Just stupid!!!!  What were those refs doing?!!!  Are they just out to get us for “DEFLATE GATE”?!!!!  On our next drive, we threw a nice pass to Gronk, but it was followed by a heart-breaker. Brady threw to Gronk for an incomplete pass, but it was worse than that.  Gronk had tripped over someone, and fell on his right knee.  When the staff came over, to look at it, he was screeching in pain.  He was carted off the field, and they are fearing a torn right MCL.    On a late 4th quarter drive, DeMaryius Thomas caught a 36 yard pass, followed by an Emmanuel Sanders 39 yarder.  Osweiler through the much needed TD pass to Andre Caldwell, giving them a 24-21 lead.

The next drive was the last of the regulation playing time, and it was filled with some nice passes, but it wasn’t enough to score the game winning TD.  However, Stephen Gostkowski did attempt a 47 yard field goal, and it was good!!!  It was tied, 24 all.  This game was going to overtime.  Then, the next heart-breaker occurred.  The Pats won the toss, went 3 and out in a horrible drive.  They had no weapons, and Brady was too worried about his teammate to focus.  Then Anderson did his thing, and it was game over. However, the Pats can still earn home field advantage.  Denver plays Cincy in Week 16, so one of those teams will lose again.  If we can go 4-1 on the following schedule:

vs PHI

@HOU

vs TEN

@NYJ

@MIA

Then they can still do it.  For now, we’re on to Philadelphia.

 

Patriots-Broncos Preview

The New England Patriots take on the Denver Broncos in Denver tonight.  Typically, this would call for Brady vs. Manning, but tonight, it will be different.  Due to a Peyton Manning foot injury, Brock Osweiler will face Tom Brady at quarterback.  This is an eye-catching stop on the Patriots’ Revenge Tour, based on two things.  First, Denver is almost as good as the 10-0 Patriots.   Second, if the Patriots win this, they could be inches away from clinching their division, and will have a bigger lead to earn the home field advantage in the playoffs.

The Pats have a lot of injuries to overcome on offense, but their defense is growing into a premier D again.  This will likely be a low scoring game.

My Prediction: Patriots, 20, Broncos, 13

This is a clear game of defense.  I think there are so many good Broncos defensive players.

Defensive Eye-Catchers: Broncos

DE: Malik Jackson

LB: Von Miller

LB: DeMarcus Ware (OUT)

LB: Brandon Marshall

LB: Shane Ray

LB: Danny Trevathan

CB: Aqib Talib

CB: Bradley Roby

CB: Chris Harris Jr.

S: T.J. Ward

 

That’s a lot of defense!!!!  But sleepers will play a big role.  James White is one of those big names that could have a big game.  Also look for Keshawn Martin and Chris Harper.  But tight ends Rob Gronkowski, Scott Chandler, and Asante Cleveland (signed from practice squad this week), especially with Michael Williams out.  Our defense has plenty of eye catching names as well, and they are short on sleepers, especially with Jordan Norwood out.  Sleepers will play a big role, and the Pats have more, so I think they have the edge.  What makes me think that even more is that the Pats are 12-0 historically in the snow.  It is snowing in Denver right now.

3 Keys To A Win

  1. Despite the lack of corners, the Pats need to keep an eye on the receiver duo of DeMaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, along with tight ends Vernon Davis and Owen Daniels.
  2. The Pats need to use sleeper tight ends Scott Chandler and Asante Cleveland as a bigger part of their offense.
  3. Despite Peyton Manning being out, Brock Osweiler could be dangerous. Apply pressure on him.

Inactives

 

Broncos

Christian Ponder QB

Peyton Manning QB

DeMarcus Ware LB

Jordan Norwood WR

Lorenzo Doss CB

Richard Gordon TE

Sam Brenner C

 

Patriots

Danny Amendola WR

Trey Flowers DE

Jamie Collins LB

Justin Coleman CB

Michael Williams TE

Jordan Richards S

Julian Edelman WR