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

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

Lock of the Week

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

Upset of the Week

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

The Other Games

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Check back closer to kickoff for a video preview!

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

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

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

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

 

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2018 NFL Week 1 Picks and Previews: Every Win Counts

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

Lock of the Week

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

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

Upset of the Week (MNF)

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

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

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

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

Sunday’s Games

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SNF

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

MNF

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

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

Texans @ Patriots Preview: Getting Creative

Below is my preview for the Patriots Week 1 game against the Houston Texans as well as the voice-over script used in the video.

The Patriots open their season today against the Houston Texans. With Deshaun Watson healthy, this is bound to be an exciting game between two of the league’s top quarterbacks. The Texans and Patriots are arguably two of the AFC’s best teams this year, but we’ll have to see how they do down the road, because it’s only Week 1, and anything can happen from here.

With Julian Edelman suspended, the Patriots are left with just 3-4 reliable receivers, if they even have that. Brady and the Pats are going to have to do something they’ve done very well at in the past: finding creative ways to score. Whether this means throwing to running backs or putting your 3rd string tight end in the starting lineup, the Pats will do what it takes.

Before Bill Belichick, it was common practice for teams to receive when winning the coin toss. When Belichick started deferring, people wondered why. But Belichick chooses what he thinks is best for the team and always sticks to that even if some think it may not appear as best. He sets the standards and players who don’t buy in are cut.

The Texans have a tough game ahead, especially with WR Will Fuller and RB D’Onta Foreman injured. However, they have star players in WR DeAndre Hopkins and RB Lamar Miller, so the Pats will have to keep them covered and prevent them from leading the Texans to victory with big plays. Defensively, the Texans will have to keep Tom Brady under pressure and TE Rob Gronkowski well covered. I think the Texans strong D is up to the challenge. However, New England will have a game plan to counter and it will come down to which team executes better.

For injuries, the Patriots have RB Sony Michel out and T Marcus Cannon and TE Jacob Hollister Questionable. The Texans have it off worse: WR Will Fuller, a key player on this offense, is out, and RB D’Onta Foreman is on the PUP list. In the end, I have the Patriots working around Houston’s shut down D and winning, 30-23, with Phillip Dorsett stepping it up and leading New England in receiving yards.