2018 NFL Week 3 Picks & Previews: Lots of Upsets as Contenders Rise

Welcome to my NFL Week 3 picks and previews.  I had a great week last week, finishing 12-3-1,  That brings my overall record to 21-9-2, better than any ESPN or CBS Sports expert besides Pete Prisco.  If I told you who the current 2-0 teams were before the season started, most of you would be shocked. The Dolphins? The Bengals? The Chiefs?

According to NFL Network, 2-0 teams make the playoffs 64% of the time.  But those odds go up to 75% if they become 3-0. So as NFL Network put it, this is a big week for those 2-0 teams.  Which of them are contenders, and which are pretenders? We will likely get a glimpse at that this week.

Lock of the Week

I know a lot of you think the Vikings are going to blow out the Bills, but it’s hard to imagine any team blowing out another without their star running back (still see the Vikes winning though).  With RB Dalvin Cook out, this becomes the biggest lock in my eyes. The Chiefs defense isn’t anything special, but I think they’ll keep QB Jimmy Garoppolo’s young receivers covered, leaving Garoppolo scrambling to find an open man.  Meanwhile, I cannot see the 49ers defense stopping QB Patrick Mahomes II. Expect Mahomes to toss a few more touchdowns and lead the Chiefs offense to dominate. RB Kareem Hunt will also have a strong game.

Upset of the Week

The Ravens were topped easily by the Bengals last week, and I see Cincy as a pretender who’s just riding an easy schedule to a winning record.  So, I don’t think the Ravens will be able to do much against this shut down Denver D, even at home.  I think the No-Fly Zone will be back up to full speed this week against QB Joe Flacco’s mediocre receivers.  I think the Ravens defense will have a strong game as well, leaving QB Case Keenum with less open men and less TD opportunities than he had in the last two games. But I do think Keenum and the Broncos will find a way to pull off the upset in Baltimore.

The Other Games

TNF (Posted to Twitter on Thursday Night; Actual Score: 21-17 Browns)

The Browns might be without WR Josh Gordon, but they’ll find creative ways to score as their running backs lead the way. Expect the Jets defense to shut down Cleveland’s receivers for a good portion of the game.  But look for TE David Njoku to shine.  The Jets will make it close with strong offense of their own, but I don’t see it being enough as the Browns young offense finds a way.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

I’m a little worried about the Raider defense in this game, but I think QB Derek Carr will find open men, taking advantage of Miami’s weakness, their defense.  Look for QB Ryan Tannehill to have a strong game as well, but I don’t think the Dolphins are as good as advertised, and Carr will lead the Raiders to pull the upset.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

This Bills offense has not been able to get into a groove yet this year, and you can expect more of the same in Minnesota.  QB Kirk Cousins and his receivers will lead the way for Minnesota with the help of dominant defense.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

The Bengals defense will play a factor here, minimalizing what the Panthers offense can put up.  Carolina’s run game will struggle, and Cam Newton will be held to one TD as his receivers are well covered.  Meanwhile, I expect QB Andy Dalton and his receivers to have a pretty strong game.  But I see the Panthers defense completely shutting down the Joe Mixon-less Bengals run game and leading Carolina to victory.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Expect a stellar performance by Houston’s receivers against a banged up New York secondary and a dominant game by QB Deshaun Watson against a below average Giants defensive front.  I think the Giants will take the early lead, but the Texans dominant D will shut them down as Houston comes back.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Look for the Jaguars offense to be limited by a somewhat strong Titans D.  But this is Sacksonville, and QB Blaine Gabbert will be their next victim.  Expect the Jags D to dominate, holding Tennessee under 10.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

QB Carson Wentz is back, but with RB Jay Ajayi and WRs Alshon Jeffery and Mike Wallace hurt, he doesn’t have much left around him.  So I don’t expect an all out domination. Expect the Colts to have a decent offensive day against the young Eagles secondary.  But I think Wentz and the Eagles will be able to squeeze by.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Look for the Redskins to have a strong offensive day, but I think strong red zone D by Green Bay will hold them up here.  Meanwhile, expect the Packers to hold the lead for most of the game as Aaron Rodgers tosses multiple TDs and looks a little more mobile in recovery from his knee injury.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST (OT)

Look for the Saints to grab an early lead here, led by RB Alvin Kamara and WR Michael Thomas.  But I think they’ll slow down, and strong WR play by Atlanta plus sloppy defense by New Orleans will lead to a Falcons comeback in overtime.
Sunday, 4:05 PM EST

Look for a spot-on game by the Rams entire defense, as they will shut down a high-powered Chargers offense.  I don’t think QB Jared Goff and his offense will look all that great, but they’ll come out victorious thanks to the defense stepping it up.
Sunday, 4:25 PM EST

I think Seattle’s offense will look alright here, but they’ll begin to miss WR Doug Baldwin.  Meanwhile, their declining defense will blow it as QB Dak Prescott and his receivers dominate.
Sunday, 4:25 PM EST (OT)

The hollers for QB Josh Rosen to take over will just get louder this week as QB Sam Bradford blows it in overtime.  I honestly think the Cardinals would be so much better off right now if they had started Rosen.  Chicago’s defense, receivers, and backs will all show promise as Arizona looks better, but can’t pull off a victory at home.  
Sunday, 8:30 PM EST

Check back for a video preview closer to game time!

Expect an offensive shootout here, as both QB Tom Brady and QB Matthew Stafford toss multiple TD.  Meanwhile, the Lions defense will struggle regressively as the Pats score 5 TD. However, New England’s defense will be overwhelmed by Detroit’s offensive depth, and they won’t look much better despite a New England victory.
Monday, 8:30 PM EST

Look for the Bucs to have another strong offensive game and get creative in scoring situations as Pittsburgh’s D tries to limit them.  But I think the Steelers will fall short again without RB Le’Veon Bell, making WR Antonio Brown more fed up with this team.

That’s all for my picks for this week.  Comment with your thoughts, and stay tuned for more posts soon.

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NFL Draft Report Cards: AFC East Edition

Welcome to my first NFL Draft Report Card article of 2018.  I have given a grade to every pick of the 2018 NFL Draft and compiled the grades onto 32 report cards, one per team.  I averaged all the grades on each team to determine my final grade for each team’s NFL Draft.  To avoid overly long articles, I have split it into eight parts, one for each NFL division.  Let’s start with the AFC East, the home of the New England Patriots.

NFL Draft Report Cards

Image result for saquon barkley nfl draft photo

AFC East                                                              NFC East

AFC North                                                           NFC North

AFC South                                                           NFC South

AFC West                                                             NFC West

 

Miami Dolphins

Grade: B

What They Did Right: The Dolphins started off the draft on a strong note.  Rather than trading up for a QB of the future that they do not need quite yet, they took Minkah Fitzpatrick, a versatile defensive back who fits well into a Dolphins secondary that needs significant help.  This was a big steal by the Dolphins, and it’s not the first time they have done this.  They took T Laremy Tunsil, originally the projected No. 1 pick after he slid in the 2016 NFL Draft.  They also did a good job filling their needs early on, taking a strong pair of tight ends, a defensive back, a young RB, and a linebacker.

What They Did Wrong: They made some reaches in the later rounds, and they took a second linebacker, TE, and cornerback when they could have used some offensive line help.  But there are no fatal flaws here.  The Dolphins arguably had the best draft in the AFC East.

Buffalo Bills

Grade: B

What They Did Right: The Bills had a spectacular Day 1.  They took two grade-A prospects in Round 1, making smart trades to put themselves in position to get what they needed.  Josh Allen has very high potential, and he will definitely compete for the starting job.  Tremaine Edmunds brings much-needed help to the linebacking corps on the outside and on the inside.  They got a steal in Edmunds with the 16th pick. They also had two other quality steals. They took DT Harrison Phillips after he nearly fell to Round 3.  They do not really need a DT, but Phillips was a valuable pick for the Bills at this point in the draft.  They also scored a steal in G Wyatt Teller. Not only was Teller projected to be drafted much earlier, but he fills the hole that Richie Incognito left behind.  Teller has the chance to compete for a starting job and thrive in one across from fellow Bills linemen John Miller and Vladimir Ducasse. They topped off their strong draft with a couple of good wide receivers in the late rounds.

What They Did Wrong: The Bills already had what is emerging as one of the league’s premier secondaries.  Yet they drafted not just one, but two defensive backs. In the meantime, they failed to fill some of their more important needs like tackle and linebacker (they could have still used another prospect there after Edmunds). Despite many steals, they also took a couple guys too early, and they could’ve done a better job addressing their current needs.

New England Patriots

Grade: B-

What They Did Right: The Patriots addressed all of their major needs despite many trades down. They ended up with nine total draft picks and they used them wisely. They eventually selected a QB, RB, WR, TE, offensive lineman, corner, and a linebacker. They started things off strong with two good players out of Georgia to address major needs. They also picked up a major steal in WR Braxton Berrios.

What They Did Wrong: The Pats may have waited too long for a QB, but reports say that they would have traded up if Baker Mayfield is available, which would not be the right strategy either. They could have also taken a linebacker or a tight end earlier. They had four picks in the first two rounds, and they used them on one T, one RB, one CB, and a trade down. I didn’t really see RB and CB as needs that were urgent enough to spend a first or second rounder on, and they did not need to trade down. Their grade gets a boost for addressing all their major needs, something no other AFC East team did in my eyes. But they waited too long for certain needs I saw as urgent.

New York Jets

Grade: C+

What They Did Right: The Jets started off strong by taking an NFL ready QB with the 3rd pick. I also liked the players they picked in the 3rd and 4th rounds. These two players addressed needs and are on my list of draft sleepers. But the Jets draft began to plummet from there. Day 3 did not end up looking so good for them.

What They Did Wrong: The Jets could have had a good draft if they continued to address their needs or take top available prospects in the later rounds. But they took CB Parry Nickerson when they did not need a corner, and took a running back I had never heard of when they were totally fine at running back. They have Isaiah Crowell and Bilal Powell to handle the backfield. I doubt the RB they drafted will ever make an NFL roster, let alone an NFL start. They also took another DT in Round 6 when they had already done enough to address the defensive line.  If they were going to take two d-linemen, at least one of them should’ve been a defensive end, which is more of where the Jets need d-line help.

That’s all for Part 1 of my NFL Draft Report Cards. Stay tuned for more post-draft analysis soon.

NFL Week 7 Picks

Here are my NFL Week 7 Picks.  Last week I went 5-9, placing my overall record at 41-50.  How will I do in this week’s slate of games?  Read below and comment with your thoughts.

Teams on Bye: Detroit Lions, Houston Texans

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

Dolphins RB Jay Ajayi had another 100-yard game last week and he led Miami to victory.  Expect that to happen again against the Jets.  The Jets have allowed the 5th most rush yards per game this year (138.8), and Ajayi should be the next to dominate against them.  I also think Miami QB Jay Cutler will find an offensive rhythm against the young Jets D, as a good run game should set up the play action passing game.  The tough Dolphins front seven will pressure Jets QB Josh McCown and hold the Jets to field goals.  Dolphins win with ease.

 

Upset of the Week

Just because QB Aaron Rodgers is hurt, it doesn’t mean the Packers won’t win any games, especially at home.  I like Packers new QB Brett Hundley and he will get the chance to prove himself in this game.  The Saints will fail to pressure him and he’ll thrive in this game by spreading the ball around to top GB receivers Jordy Nelson and DaVante Adams.  Even without Rodgers, this will still be an offensive shootout as both teams have struggled defensively especially against strong passing offenses.  The Saints will fall short of the 52 they put up last week without the benefit of the home dome.  Packers pull the upset on the not yet frozen tundra.
TNF (Posted to Twitter on Thursday before the game)

I thought Kansas City would come into this game undefeated after winning their first 5 games but the Steelers had their number.  The Raiders will be able to do the same.  Oakland has struggled over the last couple weeks but at full health I expect them to rebound on Thursday Night.

Chiefs corner Marcus Peters will limit Oakland WR Amari Cooper but Raiders WR Michael Crabtree will have a huge game.  Raiders QB Derek Carr, Crabtree, and Raiders TE Jared Cook will dominate against a Chiefs secondary that lost playmaking safety, Eric Berry.  The Chiefs offense will make it close as QB Alex Smith finds a rhythm with his star tight end Travis Kelce but the rest of the offense will continue to look off their game against the tough Raiders D.  Raiders win in a close one.

 

Sunday’s Games


The Rams offense may have had an off week against Seattle last week, but I expect them to rebound this week and find ways to score against the tough Arizona secondary.  Defensively, the Rams will slow down RB Adrian Peterson after his big debut in Arizona.  However, Cardinals QB Carson Palmer and his receivers will find a rhythm and thrive.  But in the end, I have the Rams winning in a close one as London will feel like home for them after playing there many times before.

Bucs QB Jameis Winston was injured in last week’s game but he’s expected to return this week.  I see him returning strong with 2 TDs as Bucs WRs Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson will challenge the Bills secondary and keep breakout star S Micah Hyde without an interception in this game.  Hyde may lead the league in interceptions but he won’t have one this week.  The Bucs defense will shut down the Bills offense that’s without top TE Charles Clay.

The Vikings will find an offensive rhythm in this game even without WR Stefon Diggs.  WR Laquon Treadwell will continue to make an impact in Diggs’ absence and I also expect WR Adam Thielen to keep making plays for Minnesota.  However, they will struggle in the run game without RB Dalvin Cook, especially against the Ravens’ tough run defense.

Even with TE Kyle Rudolph matched up against Baltimore’s star safety Eric Weddle, the Vikings should be successful on offense.  Defensively, the Vikings will do a good job pressuring and shutting down Ravens QB Joe Flacco and give the Vikings offense plenty of opportunities.

The Titans offense will continue to look strong against a young Browns D that is still finding its way.  QB Marcus Mariota will play like he did on Monday Night against the Colts and should have another 300-yard game.  Defensively, I think the Titans will struggle to stop RB Isaiah Crowell and the Browns run game, but without a strong passing offense, the Browns won’t have enough to keep up with the Titans.  Cleveland QB Hogan will struggle and the Browns will fail to challenge the Titans in this game.

The Jaguars run game will dominate against the Colts this week.  The Colts weak defensive front will not be able to stop the Jaguars running game even with RB Leonard Fournette out with an injury.  Fournette was injured late in last week’s game and while his injury was not deemed serious, he has been ruled out for this game.  The Colts, however, will still be without star QB Andrew Luck.  Backup QB Jacoby Brissett will make some plays but the Jaguars versatile defense will limit him enough as Ivory carries the Jags to victory.

The Panthers will dominate offensively in this game as I expect RB Christian McCaffrey to make an impact in both as a runner and as a receiver.  In addition, QB Cam Newton will have a big day against a weak Bears defense.  Expect RBs Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen to struggle against a tough Carolina defensive front and force Bears QB Mitch Trubisky to carry the Bears offense.  It won’t be enough and the Panthers will win this one on the road.

The Cowboys will have a huge offensive day in San Francisco.  The run game will do especially well against the young 49ers defensive front.  The Cowboys’ dominant o-line will create running lanes for RB Ezekiel Elliott (still active thanks to winning another legal battle) as well as other Cowboys backs.  The 49ers may have some success offensively with rookie C.J. Beathard at QB facing a weak Cowboys secondary but they will be outscored by a large margin.

After seeing what the Steelers did to the Chiefs last week, I’m taking the Steelers.  They proved that they can win a big game against a tough AFC opponent.  Their defense will continue to step it up and they will shut down QB Andy Dalton and the Bengals offense.  I don’t see this being very high scoring as both defenses slow down their opponent.  In addition, neither Steelers star receiver Antonio Brown nor Bengals star receiver A.J. Green will have good games against these tough defenses.  I have the Steelers winning it at home by a touchdown.  

I think this week could be a turning point in the AFC West.  With this win for LA, the Chargers and Raiders will continue to gain on the Broncos and Chiefs.  By the end of the year, I still think the Raiders will take the division lead in the AFC West, as the Chiefs and Broncos falter down the stretch.  

In this game, the Broncos may limit RB Melvin Gordon but they won’t stop QB Rivers who will find enough time to connect with his receivers despite pressure from the Broncos front seven.  Siemian and the Broncos offense will continue to struggle as they did last week to become the only team to lose to the 1-5 Giants last week.  Even against a subpar Chargers defense, the Broncos will fail to find their offensive rhythm, especially without top WR Emmanuel Sanders.


Seattle has one of the top defenses and with the Giants top 2 WRs out for the season, I’m predicting my first shutout game this year.  The Seahawks defense will hold the depleted Giants offense scoreless.  QB Eli Manning will struggle without his star receivers especially because I see the Seahawks pressing him all day.  The Seattle offense will struggle as it has but will score enough to win in this defensive battle. 


Expect a Sunday Night thriller in this Super Bowl LI rematch.  I think Pats QB Tom Brady will thrive against the Falcons D like he did in the 2nd half of the Super Bowl, especially with star LB Vic Beasley banged up.  However, it won’t be easy for the Pats.  Falcons WR Julio Jones will dominate against a banged-up Pats secondary, and RBs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman will have good days against a struggling Pats defensive front.  But in the end, Brady and the Pats offense will find a way just as they did in the Super Bowl.

This one should be fun to watch.  I expect the Eagles offense to explode for 5 TDs as the Redskins defense looks off their game.  The Redskins offense will also thrive, continuing their momentum from last week.  Washington will come close but the Eagles will come out on top in this Monday Night Football division showdown.  

Please comment with your thoughts.

NFL Week 2 Match-Up Preview

Another week of exciting football is almost here!  But unless you’re a fantasy football fanatic like me, watching NFL RedZone from 1-8 each week, or are a diehard fan of one team that plays at an off time, the one thing you don’t know is which games to watch!  Even if you are a diehard fan or fantasy football fanatic, there will be extra time to watch another game during Football Sunday.  That is the purpose of this article.   Who’s ready to dig in?

Each week, I will go over five of my favorite matchups. I will provide detail about each matchup so you know which game is for you. It’s an extended preview beyond my NFL Picks for my five favorite games.

 Sunday, 9/17/2017, 1:00 PM, CBS

The Jaguars absolutely dominated the Texans last week and the Titans fell short at home against Oakland.  Week 1 showed the Titans aren’t necessarily up there with teams like Pittsburgh, Oakland, and Kansas City, and it also shows that the Jaguars are legit.  Will the Jaguars be a fluke as the Titans show what they can do, or will Jacksonville continue to thrive in the AFC South?

Keys to a Win

Titans

  1. The Titans can’t let the Jaguars defense control them.  They have a very good offense, led by QB Marcus Mariota and RB DeMarco Murray.  But they will continue to struggle if they let defenses contain them.
  2. They also need to take advantage of the fact that the Jags lack depth at receiver.  Allen Robinson is out for the season.  If nobody steps up in his place, the Jags will have an ugly season.

Jaguars

  1. The Jags need someone to step up at receiver.  They have no good tight ends, and right now Allen Hurns looks like their only viable option at receiver.  They need somebody to step up.  Maybe Marqise Lee will?  If he doesn’t, who will?  Dede Westbrook is on IR.
  2. They also need to stop the run.  Tennessee has a great run game.  But if the Jacksonville front seven can get in their heads, they will struggle.

3 Burning Questions

  1. With Dede Westbrook on IR, who will assist Allen Hurns at receiver for the Jaguars?
  2. What is the weak spot of Jacksonville’s D and will the Titans take advantage of it?
  3. The Titans have a lot of good players, but who will play like their superstar this week?

The Jags are running out of options here.  Could Max McCaffrey do big things?  If not, can Marqise Lee be their guy this season?  Hopefully, they can survive until Westbrook returns.  It’s hard to find a weak spot in this improving Jacksonville D, but the Titans should look to take advantage of the Jags d-line.  The Titans have plenty of budding stars on their team, but this week, I think veteran tight end Delanie Walker will be their go-to guy.

Key Injuries

Jaguars

  • Allen Robinson – WR (Knee) – IR
  • Calvin Pryor – SS (Ankle) – Out
  • Jalen Ramsey – CB (Ankle) – Questionable

Titans

  • Johnathan Cyprien – SS (Hamstring) – Out

Bold Prediction: With the receiving game lacking depth, the Jags score 2 rushing TDs as Fournette and Ivory will combine for 250 rushing yards

Leonard Fournette could be the Jags’ biggest weapon this week.  Chris Ivory will also continue to get touches.  I think both of them could be in for big games today.  It’s a pretty good match-up for them, the Titans lack a good front seven aside from defensive tackle Jurrell Casey.

The Pick

jacksonvile-jaguars

  Sunday, 9/17/2017, 1:00 PM EST, FOX

This could be a very good game.  The Eagles looked great after a blowout over the Redskins, and the Chiefs look like one of the best teams in the AFC after pulling an upset over the Pats.  Will Carson Wentz and his offense keep flying, or will the Chiefs bring them back down to earth?

Keys to a Win

Eagles

  1. Carson Wentz can’t let the Chiefs pressure him too much.  The Chiefs defense knows how to rush the passer.  If Wentz can’t overcome a pesky Chiefs defense, the whole Eagles offense could fall apart.
  2. The Eagles can’t allow any 75-yard TDs like the Pats did.  Kareem Hunt and Tyreek Hill can be very dangerous for defenses.  They are both very fast.  Fast enough that they can speed past the entire defense.

Chiefs

  1. Whatever Kareem Hunt and Tyreek Hill had going last week will need to continue this week.  The Chiefs may be lacking offensive depth, but they don’t need it as much if Hill and Hunt can supply them with all the offense they need.
  2. With Eric Berry hurt, the Chiefs need to find a new defensive leader.  Justin Houston is a sack machine, but will he thrive in a defensive leadership role?

3 Burning Questions

  1. Will the Chiefs miss Jeremy Maclin after this week?
  2. Who will emerge as Carson Wentz’ favorite target?
  3. Which defense will have the better game?

I think the Chiefs will miss Maclin pretty soon.  I don’t care if Hill and Hunt are superstars, they will burn out eventually.  I think new receiver Alshon Jeffery will have a big week and emerge as Wentz’ favorite target this season.  Lastly, I think the Eagles defense will have the better game.  The Chiefs defense need a new leader.  The Eagles have a dangerous front seven that could really make Kareem Hunt look like a fluke if they do well.

Key Injuries

Eagles

  • Ronald Darby – CB (Ankle) – Out
  • Corey Graham – FS (Hamstring) – Questionable

Chiefs

  • Eric Berry – FS (Achilles) – IR
  • Parker Ehringer – G (Knee) – Doubtful
  • Reggie Ragland – OLB (Knee) – Doubtful
  • Ron Parker – SS (Ankle) – Questionable
  • Kevin Pierre-Louis – OLB (Illness) – Questionable

Bold Prediction: Carson Wentz will throw for 350+ yards, 3 TDs

Wentz really looked like an elite QB last week, and I expect that to continue throughout the season.  I think he will really develop as a QB this season.

The Pick

UPSET ALERT

philadelphia-eagles-logo

  Sunday, 9/17/2017, 1:00 PM EST, CBS

This could actually be a close game.  Both these teams are coming off wins, but they were both against bad teams.  This game will really test if these teams are for real or not.  Who’s the contender in this match-up, or are both teams really pretenders?

Keys to a Win

Bills

  1. The Bills need to take advantage of the Panthers’ biggest weakness: their secondary, but do they have the receivers to do it?
  2. The Bills also need to keep Greg Olsen covered well.  His performance can really decide how the Panthers offense does.

Panthers

  1. The Panthers need to look out for LeSean McCoy.  They have a great front seven so it shouldn’t be too difficult.
  2. They also need Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel to be at their best.  The rookies on this offense could be the difference in who wins this game.

3 Burning Questions

  1. Who will lead the Panthers in receiving this week?  Will anyone have a 100-yard game?
  2. Will LeSean McCoy be able to score a TD against this Panthers defense?
  3. Will the Bills defense cost them the game if they can’t keep the Panthers offense under control?

Greg Olsen is going to have a big week for Carolina, I think he leads in receiving.  On the other hand, I don’t think LeSean McCoy will be able to score on Luke Kuechly and the Panthers front seven.  Lastly, I think there’s a chance the Buffalo offense will be able to save them in this case but it’s very unlikely.

Key Injuries

NONE

Bold Prediction: The Panthers will rush for 250+ yards 

Jonathan Stewart and Christian McCaffrey are both great running backs, but they’re not the only ones I see having big rushing games.  Curtis Samuel and Cam Newton can both run the ball so it won’t be as hard as it seems to rush for 250 yards.

The Pick

carolina-panthers-logo

 

 

 Sunday, 9/17/2017, 4:05 PM EST, CBS

The Dolphins will make their debut away from home as they visit the Chargers in LA.  With Tannehill out for the year, the Dolphins are not as sharp as they have been.  In the meantime, the Chargers could be in line to be better this season if they stay healthy.  In the end, these two things could combine to make this a very close game.  Who will come out on top?

Keys to a Win

Dolphins

  1. With Tannehill out, running back Jay Ajayi needs to step it up.  The Chargers defense isn’t that good so it might not be as hard as it usually is this week.
  2. The Dolphins need to rush the passer.  They have a great defense, and stopping Philip Rivers is the key to slowing down the LA offense.

Chargers

  1. The Chargers need to mix up who they throw it to.  They have so many good receivers and they can confuse the Dolphins secondary by doing this.
  2. They also need to contain Jay Ajayi.  Ajayi was a machine at times last season and he might be even more effective with Tannehill out.

3 Burning Questions

  1. Will Jay Cutler make a good connection with DeVante Parker like he did in the preseason?  If this happens, will Jarvis Landry struggle?
  2. Which third-year running back will have a better day, Jay Ajayi or Melvin Gordon?
  3. Do the Chargers have enough depth at receiver without Mike Williams?

I think Cutler will continue to connect with Parker, and Landry will not benefit from this.  In my opinion, Jay Ajayi will have the better day, but this is all about the match-up.  Melvin Gordon is facing one of the better run defenses in the league.  Lastly, between Antonio Gates, Hunter Henry, Keenan Allen, Travis Benjamin, and Tyrell Williams, I think the Chargers have plenty of receiving options.  Mike Williams will just add to that when he returns.

Key Injuries

Dolphins

  • Rey Maualuga – ILB (Hamstring) – Out
  • Jarvis Landry – WR (Knee) – Questionable

Chargers

  • Jason Verrett – CB (Knee) – Out
  • Mike Williams – WR (Back) – Out
  • Jeremiah Attaochu – DE (Hamstring) – Questionable
  • Dontrelle Inman – WR (Groin) – Questionable

Bold Prediction: Philip Rivers throws for 400 yards and 4 TDs

I think Rivers is set up for success if he takes advantage of the Dolphins’ weak secondary and his great group of receivers and tight ends.

The Pick

San_Diego_Chargers

  Sunday, 9/17/2017, 8:30 PM EST, NBC

Sunday Night Football tonight could very well be the game of the week.  This is a clash of two great offenses that just faced off in the 2016 NFC Championship.  Each of the last two times these teams clashed, the Falcons won.  Will the Falcons make it a streak, or will the Packers give them a rude awakening?

Keys to a Win

Packers

  1. The Packers need to find their run game and avoid being stopped by Vic Beasley and the Falcons front seven.  Hopefully, they’ll still be able to score rushing TDs without Eddie Lacy, James Starks, and Christine Michael.
  2. They also need to pressure Matt Ryan.  Matt Ryan isn’t the same elite QB when he’s pressured well.  With how inconsistent he is, it’s doubtful he’ll win MVP for the second straight year or even come close.

Falcons

  1. Whatever the Falcons had going on offense last year needs to continue.  Last year’s Falcons offense was one of the best in the league.  Will that continue into this season?
  2. The Falcons secondary needs to keep Jordy Nelson and Martellus Bennett covered.  Aaron Rodgers has some great receivers that could score multiple times if they aren’t covered well.

3 Burning Questions

  1. In their first real challenging match-up, will the Falcons offense look better, worse, or the same as they did last season?
  2. Which receiver will make a big impact for the Pack in this game?
  3. How will the Green Bay run game look?

I think the Falcons offense will be about as good as they were last season, not much better, not much worse.  They should be good enough to get them into the playoffs but not as far as they did last season.  I think both Nelson and Bennett will make a big impact for the Packers in this game, especially if the Falcons fail to cover them.  I don’t think the Green Bay run game will look that bad, and I’ll explain why in my bold prediction.

Key Injuries

Packers

  • Jason Spriggs – T (Hamstring) – Out
  • Ahmad Brooks – OLB (Concussion) – Doubtful
  • David Bahktiari – T (Hamstring) – Questionable
  • Kentrell Brice – SS (Quadricep) – Questionable
  • Bryan Bulaga – T (Ankle) – Questionable
  • Mike Daniels – DT (Hip) – Questionable

Falcons

NONE

 

Bold Prediction: Jamaal Williams will break out for 150 yards and a TD

He’s the reason why the Packers run game won’t be all that bad.  I think he’s a very intriguing rookie RB, one of many in the league.  By the end of this game, he will have stolen the starting job instead of Ty Montgomery.

The Pick

atlfalcons

 

 

That’s all for this week.  Comment what your favorite match-up of the week is.  Stay tuned for more NFL and Pats articles, including a recap of today’s Patriots game.

 

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

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

Lock Of The Week 

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


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

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

Upset of the Week


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

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

The Other Games

TNF

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

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

Sunday’s Games

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

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

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

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


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

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


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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SNF

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

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

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

MNF

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

     

  2. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
    PHI
    DEFOREST BUCKNER
    DE
    OREGON

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

  3. SAN DIEGO CHARGERS
    SD
    JALEN RAMSEY
    FS
    FLORIDA STATE

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

     

  4. DALLAS COWBOYS
    DAL
    JOEY BOSA
    DE
    OHIO STATE

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

  5. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS
    JAX
    LAREMY TUNSIL
    OT
    OLE MISS

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

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

     

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

  8. CLEVELAND BROWNS
    CLE
    MYLES JACK
    OLB
    UCLA

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

  9. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
    TB
    VERNON HARGREAVES III
    CB
    FLORIDA

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

  10. NEW YORK GIANTS
    NYG
    LAQUON TREADWELL
    WR
    OLE MISS

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

  11. CHICAGO BEARS
    CHI
    SHAQ LAWSON
    DE
    CLEMSON

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

  12. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
    NO
    SHELDON RANKINS
    DT
    LOUISVILLE

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

  13. MIAMI DOLPHINS
    MIA
    EZEKIEL ELLIOTT
    RB
    OHIO STATE

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

  14. OAKLAND RAIDERS
    OAK
    NOAH SPENCE
    DE
    EASTERN KENTUCKY

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

  15. TENNESSEE TITANS
    TEN
    JACK CONKLIN
    OT
    MICHIGAN STATE

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

  16. DETROIT LIONS
    DET
    TAYLOR DECKER
    OT
    OHIO STATE

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

  17. ATLANTA FALCONS
    ATL
    DARRON LEE
    OLB
    OHIO STATE

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

  18. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
    IND
    CODY WHITEHAIR
    OG
    KANSAS STATE

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

  19. BUFFALO BILLS
    BUF
    KEVIN DODD
    DE
    CLEMSON

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

  20. NEW YORK JETS
    NYJ
    PAXTON LYNCH
    QB
    MEMPHIS

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

  21. WASHINGTON REDSKINS
    WAS
    REGGIE RAGLAND
    ILB
    ALABAMA

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

  22. HOUSTON TEXANS
    HOU
    COREY COLEMAN
    WR
    BAYLOR

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

  23. MINNESOTA VIKINGS
    MIN
    VADAL ALEXANDER
    OG
    LSU

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

  24. CINCINNATI BENGALS
    CIN
    WILL FULLER
    WR
    NOTRE DAME

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

  25. PITTSBURGH STEELERS
    PIT
    VONN BELL
    SS
    PITTSBURGH

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

  26. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
    SEA
    RYAN KELLY
    C
    ALABAMA

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

  27. GREEN BAY PACKERS
    GB
    LEONARD FLOYD
    OLB
    GEORGIA

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

  28. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
    KC
    ELI APPLE
    CB
    OHIO STATE

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

  29. ARIZONA CARDINALS
    ARI
    A’ SHAWN ROBINSON
    DT
    ALABAMA

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

     

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

  30. CAROLINA PANTHERS
    CAR
    MACKENSIE ALEXANDER
    CB
    CLEMSON

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

  31. DENVER BRONCOS
    DEN
    CONNOR COOK
    QB
    MICHIGAN STATE

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

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

Week 14 Start ‘Em/Sit ‘Em: Dominate Your Fantasy Playoffs

Get your team to the next round of the playoffs in no time.  I’ve mentioned below the players I am most confident about starting or letting ride the pine.  My starts and sits are below.
QB
Start
Carson Palmer
Palmer should be able to beat up the Vikings on Thursday Night.  The Vikings rush defense is still figuring itself out, and I saw a blowout coming last Thursday Night.  I would start Palmer any week, he just really stands out this week.  Still a must-start quarterback.  Why would you sit Carson Palmer this season if you have the option?!!
Ryan Fitzpatrick
Fitzpatrick has a lock match-up over the Titans, and with the running game a little banged up, and with the Titans beginning to become a little more scary to face again, passing will be key to beat Tennessee.  The main reasons Ryan Fitzpatrick should be started is a) The Tennessee defense still needs lots of work and b) Fitzy might have a QB sneak or two himself to help the running game
Sit
Matt Ryan
The Falcons are just such an “early-season” team, but it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.  Matt Ryan has had what might be the worst second half of a season in his career. Well, maybe not.  This is how the Falcons typically are, even though last year was the opposite.  But I just can’t trust Matt Ryan anymore, especially when he’s trying to stop the undefeated Panthers on the road!!!  At home it might be different but this is a lock in Carolina’s favor.
Derek Carr
I just don’t trust him and the Raiders against a really good Broncos team.  This is a feast or famine team, a young, still developing quarterback, facing a tough, amazing, unstoppable Denver team.
RB
Start
Chris Ivory
Ivory is one of the only legitimate backs left on the Jets, and this lock match is time for him and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to shine, against a weakling, possibly worst in the league Titans defense.  Prove yourself as a star, Ivory.
Charcandrick West
West has been dealing with injuries, but expect him and backs Spencer Ware and Knile Davis to bounce back versus a practically empty Chargers front seven.  West has looked great in Jamaal Charles’ spot.
Isaiah Crowell
Crowell may not be on the best team but the Niners defense just plain out sucks, and expect Crowell to break free, even if NaVorro Bowman bothers him.  Crowell has emerged into a solid RB1 that could really help the Browns prevent too many struggles down the road, even if they’re long gone this season.
Sit
Latavius Murray
Murray has lived up to feast mode these past couple weeks, but it’s famine’s turn to work its magic on Murray, especially against the amazingly good Denver Broncos, who are very solid and consistent this season, and are also one of the healthiest football teams in the currently banged up NFL that’s missing many of its best superstars, and letting the less noticed guys like Murray get more.  But he’s really not. Guys like Marshawn Lynch, Jamaal Charles and Le’ Veon Bell are.
Danny Woodhead
Woodhead, the team’s passing back has surprisingly led the Chargers horrible running game.  But they’re up against a powerhouse Chiefs rush D that will put full force into stopping Woodhead and fellow teammate Melvin Gordon.
Tevin Coleman
Coleman never fully emerged this season, but showed himself when Devonta Freeman was hurt.  But against this tough Carolina front seven, only Freeman is a good enough Falcons running back to overcome it.  The rest, like Coleman and Terron Ward, likely won’t be able to.
WR
Start
Tavon Austin
Austin had never had a breakout season until lovely old, injury filled, 2015.  This week should be a dominant week for Austin, as he faces a struggling, banged up Lions secondary, who are missing Ezekiel Ansah and Glover Quin, and are left with just James Ihedigbo.  Ihedigbo may bother him, but him and fellow teammate Wes Welker should overcome it.
Willie Snead
Snead and Brandin Cooks have struggled these past couple weeks, but even though the defense will likely blow the game, I think the offense has a chance to make an impact and really show that this team may be done, but if they improve their defense, they could have some serious potential, even with Mark Ingram now on IR.
Anquan Boldin
I know this isn’t necessarily a win for the 49ers, but veteran receivers Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith will not be prevented from having big games against an easy Browns defense.
Sit
Amari Cooper
Cooper is very similar to Latavius Murray.  I would just leave everyone on the Raiders to ride the pine.  It’s famine’s turn to control not just these players, but the faith of the entire Oakland Raiders team.  Last week they fared well, just couldn’t beat the red hot Kansas City Chiefs.
Charles Johnson
Johnson isn’t the WR1 anymore, but he shouldn’t have slipped away from the Cardinals D as easily as Stefon Diggs should’ve.  All these Vikings receivers were not good options, and should be avoided if possible.
Kendall Wright
Wright really just has a bad match-up against one of the best secondaries in the league when it’s healthy, which it now pretty much is.  Wright, along with Delanie Walker, should not expect to have big games today.
TE
Start
Charles Clay
Even though I think the Eagles will hold on in this game, it doesn’t mean Sammy Watkins and Charles Clay can’t take advantage of a weak Eagles secondary.  Clay, the former Dolphin, has been a key weapon for Tyrod Taylor this season.  Clay should overcome a beaten up Eagles secondary that has Nolan Carroll hurt, and despite Byron Maxwell’s presence, him and Watkins can still have big days.
Jared Cook
Like Tavon Austin, Cook has potential to have a breakout day.  The difference is, Cook might do better as long as he’s left unguarded as expected.  Both could make a big impact on your fantasy team’s playoff status.
Sit
Kyle Rudolph
Rudolph has began to bounce back, but the Vikings are just facing such an overpowered defense.  Rudolph still hasn’t fully emerged, and he shouldn’t have a day every week at this stage of his development.  Rudolph still needs to work on his consistency, and that won’t call for a good day in fantasy this week.
Ladarius Green
Green and Antonio Gates are facing a premier defense in the league, and don’t expect them to do much.  The Chargers alone have very low likelihood of winning this game.  If Gates will struggle, Green won’t be any better.  He likely will even do worse than Gates does.
DST
Start
Dolphins
I think Monday Night‘s grudge match will be a game of defense, with the Dolphins having the edge.  Both defenses, the Dolphins and Giants, should keep up the good work, but Miami has the edge, so the Giants won’t score as much, earning Miami some extra points for holding them to a certain amount.
Sit
Steelers
I just think Cincy is too good and I don’t think the Steelers are at any edge in this game.  This game will be such a shootout, even the Bengals defense will be bench-able, let alone the Steelers defense.  I didn’t want to have too little faith in Cincy, or too much in Pittsburgh.
K
Start
Brandon McManus
I’ll tell you right now, Denver will win this game in a blowout, but the defense, at some points, will give Denver a challenge, even if their own defense dominates.  That’s the perfect recipe for a great day from the kicking position.  In Denver’s case, that’s Brandon McManus.  McManus has had a great bounce back season, after being held to just kick offs after losing his job to Connor Barth last season.  He was meaningless in fantasy.  Now he’s back on fantasy owners’ radars.
Sit
Steven Hauschka
In this upset I picked in my picks, the Seahawks are left to rot.  Kicker Steven Hauschka will be held to just one extra point and not do any better.  Horrible situation here for any kicker, even a star like Hauschka.  Kickers are really just based on the match-up.   You have to go week by week with them.