2018 NFL Week 5 Pick’Em & Previews: Upsets Await in Week Full of Intriguing Match-Ups

Welcome to my Week 5 NFL picks and previews.  Last week I went 10-5, placing my overall record at 37-24-2 (38-24-2 including Week 5 TNF).  I’m ahead of 9 of ESPN’s 10 experts and 3 of CBS Sports’ 8 experts.

There are a lot of intriguing match-ups this week.  The Miami Dolphins and Cincinnati Bengals, two of the league’s biggest surprises thus far take each other on.  The Minnesota Vikings and Philadelphia Eagles meet in an NFC Championship rematch. The Kansas City Chiefs’ powerful offense may have met their match in the Jags defense.  Who will win in these close match-ups?  Whoever wins, I would expect a lot of surprises.  Keep reading to find out who I have winning this week.

Lock of the Week (TNF: Posted to Twitter Thursday Night; Actual Score: 38-24 Patriots)

The Colts will be without RB Marlon Mack, TE Jack Doyle, and most importantly, star WR T.Y. Hilton.  With the offense banged-up, expect QB Andrew Luck to struggle in finding open receivers.  Don’t expect a big game from the Colts running backs either.  Meanwhile, I think the Colts defense (which is also banged-up) will fail to contain QB Tom Brady and his receivers.  I could see the Pats blowing out and possibly even shutting out the injury-riddled Colts.

Upset of the Week

Coming out of the bye, the Panthers will still be without their top receiving target in TE Greg Olsen.  I think they will start to miss him this week as the Giants secondary keeps Carolina’s remaining receivers well covered.  Meanwhile, I don’t expect a huge game out of RB Christian McCaffrey against an above average Giants defensive front. The Giants will pull the upset thanks to a strong passing game and improved defense.

The Other Games

Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

These teams might be the two biggest pleasant surprises of the season so far. This week, we’ll likely see which is here to contend, and which is pretending.  I think the Bengals will look like legitimate contenders in this game.  The defense will see improvement with LB Vontaze Burfict back from his suspension.  Meanwhile, QB Andy Dalton will find plenty of open men, even without TE Tyler Eifert.  However, Miami will make it close as WR Kenny Stills and rookie TE Mike Gesicki step it up.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Look for QB Josh Allen to lead Buffalo’s offense to a close game against an inconsistent Titans D.  Allen has done well in these last couple games.  However, I think the Titans will run away with the victory as the offense finds a way, led by the duo of QB Marcus Mariota and WR Corey Davis.  
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

The Broncos defense has been among the NFL’s best for a long time, and the Jets young defense is emerging as well.  Look for both defenses to thrive in a low scoring game.  The Denver secondary will do an especially good job at containing QB Sam Darnold and his receivers.  I don’t expect the Broncos to look amazing on offense, but they should edge out a victory in New York.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

I think Pittsburgh will look alright on offense despite missing RB Le’Veon Bell.  But the Falcons WR trio will be too much for the Steelers secondary.  The Steelers have never been more than mediocre on defense, and it will cost them here.  Expect Atlanta’s RB duo to thrive with RB Devonta Freeman back and QB Matt Ryan to find open receivers for TDs.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Look for Cleveland’s defense to step it up, leading Cleveland to a home victory.  QB Baker Mayfield and the Browns offense shouldn’t do especially well against a strong Ravens secondary.  But, look for the Browns’ underrated, young defense to cause QB Joe Flacco and the Ravens receivers to struggle.  That will be enough for the Browns to pull out a win.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

I understand the Chiefs are undefeated and their offense looks unstoppable.  But they haven’t seen a defense like Jacksonville’s.  I also think the Jaguars will take advantage of the all offense, no defense Chiefs and put together a strong offensive game of their own.  The Chiefs have a very tough schedule ahead, and this could be the start of a stretch that bring the Chiefs from unbeatable to a borderline playoff contender. The Jags seem like the team to finally put an end to Kansas City’s offensive dominance and undefeated season.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

 

A lot of people see this as a lock in Green Bay’s favor, but this will not be easy.  We’ve seen what Detroit’s offense is capable of at its best, and Green Bay will be without WRs Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allison.  QB Aaron Rodgers is not at full health either.  Look for the Lions offense to get out to an early lead. But I think QB Aaron Rodgers will have another clutch game, and Rodgers alonMelg with the rising young talent surrounding him will lead the team to a comeback victory.
Sunday, 4:05 PM EST

Look for RBs Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler to make an impact against the Mack-less Raiders run defense.  I also expect QB Philip Rivers and his receivers to have a successful game.  I think this Chargers offense can be all-around dominant against Oakland’s subpar defense.  QB Derek Carr will make this close when he tosses 3 TD of his own, but it won’t be enough in this offensive shootout.
Sunday, 4:25 PM EST

These teams have two of the best defenses in the NFC, so don’t expect too much scoring.  The Vikings passing game will be somewhat successful in Philly, but you can’t count on the run game with RB Dalvin Cook battling a hamstring injury.  I think QB Carson Wentz will manage to find a way at home, even going up against the lights out Vikes defense.
Sunday, 4:25 PM EST

QB Josh Rosen led the Cardinals to their closest game thus far last week, and I truly think they can win this one over the Jimmy Garoppolo-less 49ers.  But I’m not calling a blowout for an 0-4 team.  I think the 49ers versatile offense will find a way to keep this close.  However, led by RB David Johnson, look for Arizona to edge out a victory.
Sunday, 4:25 PM EST

Expect QB Jared Goff and his offense to dominate in Seattle.  I think they can easily handle this rebuilding Seahawks defense.  Meanwhile, Seattle’s offense will struggle against a Rams D that has emerged as one of the NFC’s best.  I think QB Russell WIlson and the Seahawks run game will be especially overwhelmed by the Rams powerful front seven, and the shut down defense will secure an LA victory.
Sunday, 8:20 PM EST

I think QB Dak Prescott and the Cowboys offense will continue to struggle here, especially since they are facing one of the league’s top defenses.  Even star RB Ezekiel Elliott could struggle going up against J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, and the dominant Texans defensive front. Houston will secure the victory after a decent offensive performance.  
Monday, 8:15 PM EST

I think the Saints will get it done in primetime, boosted by the return of RB Mark Ingram from his four game suspension.  Look for the Redskins to make it close against a mediocre Saints D, but I don’t think Washington will be able to finish the job in New Orleans.

That’s all for today’s picks and previews.  Feel free to comment with your thoughts on any of the games.  

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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.

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.

Scouting Report: Los Angeles Rams

Football is back in LA!  The Rams moved to the city in the off season.  The NFL was desperate for an LA team, and this is a big move.  This LA team is intriguing, but will they surprise people and thrive in a tough division?  Todd Gurley, Jared Goff, Aaron Donald and many other key players on this team could be deciding factors.  Today, we go over what areas are doing well, which areas need work, and what to expect of the 2016 Rams.

3 Players to Watch

1. Michael Brockers, DT

The Rams front seven is already loaded.  Aaron Donald, Robert Quinn and Alec Ogletree headline the position and Mark Barron and Akeem Ayers are also major contributors.  But one guy who I think has lacked attention in the past and may draw people in this season is defensive tackle Michael Brockers.  The 2012 first round pick has quietly racked up 14.5 sacks in his 4 year career, but has never reached six in one season.  Brockers has started for most of his career, but never really has broken out.  He’s in a contract year, and if he wants an extension with the Rams badly enough, he’ll break through this season.  I could see him with 8 or 9 sacks at the end of the season, and he will make a fierce Rams pass rush even better.  They already picked up the fifth year option, so it looks like he has one more year to prove himself.

2. Jared Goff, QB

Jared Goff did not look ready to start at minicamp, but he still has training camp.  He will make or break this Rams team.  His success is what will decide this team’s fate.  I think if he can get comfortable with the Rams system, he will dominate and thrive.  Will Goff perform well this season?  It will be tough to thrive without any strong receiving weapons, but I think Jared Goff, the surprise No. 1 overall pick, is capable of doing so.

3. Tavon Austin, WR

Tavon Austin did finally break through last season, but somehow Kenny Britt is ahead of him on the depth chart?  Kenny Britt is not a legitimate receiver, fantasy-wise or in real life, but Austin is a sleeper to be a legitimate weapon.  Britt should not be the WR1.  You may think the Rams now have no receiving weapons, but they have several underrated weapons, Tavon Austin, Lance Kendricks, Pharoh Cooper, Tyler Higbee, I could go on all day.  But will they break through and do well enough for Jared Goff to start strong right off the bat?

 

3 Questions That Must Be Answered

1. Will a weakness at o-lineman affect the make or break offense?

The offensive line, especially the interior offensive line, is LA’s major weakness.  If they continue to have problems, it will make it tougher for Jared Goff to adjust, making it harder for the receivers who want to rack up some surprise yards.  That offensive line better step it up, or it could ruin the Rams’ entire offensive scheme, and make defenses bull through to pressure Goff, Gurley and the receivers more easily.  The offensive line is yet another unit with a make or break season ahead.

2. Will the secondary top off a powerful defense?

The front seven is already a consistent source. But the Rams have holes in the secondary, and if they can get it together, the defense will be among the top.  Trumaine Johnson has just one more year in LA, so they need to not just find more talent for this year, but extra for the future.  T.J. McDonald could be a source, but the 2013 3rd rounder has not yet broken through.  They have some names at corner, Coty Sensabaugh got 2 picks last year with Tennessee, E.J. Gaines also got two picks in 2014 after missing the entire 2015 season.   But the Rams still have a serious hole at free safety, and that could bring down their defense, especially when they’re still trying to find guys at corner and strong safety.  This entire secondary needs to get it together, and if it can, this defense will add to an already strong defensive division.

3. Which sleepers will break through, and which will be duds?

The Rams have a lot of sleepers on offense, and with the defense already doing its thing, and well, their performance could make or break the team.  Will Tavon Austin continue to get better?  I don’t know, I can’t really see him doing much more than he did for the team last year, but you never know.  I think Kenny Britt has already proved that he can’t be much of a help, but he must currently be WR1 for a reason.  He was a 1st rounder in 2009, and he does have 25 career TDs, but is the Rams the right fit for him?  He’s not puting up the same numbers he did, and he’s either a bad fit, or is getting old.  I can’t see Brian Quick doing much either.  He’s in a downward direction as well, but Pharoh Cooper has a lot of upside and was a good draft pick, along with Mike Thomas.  But I think the Rams have the most hidden potential at tight end.  Lance Kendricks could become a big name with experience and consistency.  Tyler Higbee may pay off after being drafted.  I see several tight ends making a splash in 2016, not just in LA, but all over the league.  There are more potential Gronks out there.  It’s a tough position to be in, but there are opportunities to shine.

 

3 Bold Predictions

1. Todd Gurley will be one of four RBs that surpass 1400 yards

This may come as a surprise to you.  Most of the older running backs are on a major decline or already retired.  But the younger generation of running backs is out to dominate.  Le’ Veon Bell could be on pace for some serious numbers if he stays healthy and out of trouble.  I also like Todd Gurley to dominate again.  Ezekiel Elliott and David Johnson could stack up some big numbers as well.  A couple older RBs are also still getting into greatness.  I think Adrian Peterson and LeSean McCoy will have big years too, Peterson is still unstoppable, and McCoy should probably adjust to the Bills system this year.  He was good last year, but got hurt and was a little less dominant than usual.  I think he’ll bounce back.  Eddie Lacy could even surpass 1400 yards this year.  I think Gurley, along with Peterson, McCoy and Le’ Veon Bell will top 1400 yards this year.  The NFL does have more strong wde receivers, but they do have some explosive RBs as well, even in a receiver friendly year.

2. The Rams will lead the NFC West in sacks

The Rams do already have a strong pass rush, but in a tough defensive division, they have competition.  Even the 49ers have a better defense than offense.  But I think that the Rams have a better pass rush than you might think, and this year, Aaron Donald, Robert Quinn, Alec Ogletree, Mark Barron, Michael Brockers and Akeem Ayers, will all band. together, with full power and strength, and hoard a ton of sacks.  More than the Seahawks or Cardinals put up, and they won’t just lead the division.  They’ll lead it by far, and maybe even take a spot in the NFC’s top 3.  That’s just my opinion.  But can the offense stay consistent, and make a dependable playoff contender of the Rams?

3. Lance Kendricks will score 10 TDs in the regular season

The Rams have plenty of big sleepers, but I have the most faith in tight end Lance Kendricks.  Kendricks has shown some pretty great things, but now in a starting role, he needs to show more consistency.  I think Kendricks is capable of scoring 10 TDs if he gets reps.  Whether or not this team functions or wins games, this guy will be a breakout candidate.  I think the offensive line will make it a lot harder for this offense to thrive, but I still see a lot of potential in Kendricks.

 

Schedule Breakdown

The LA Rams are in a good spot, but holes around the offense could cause them to fall apart of inconsistency, especially with a weak offensive line, which is never good and just makes things harder for them.  They open the season in San Francisco.  I think this defense will be one of many to overwhelm the Rams, and they will drop this game on the road.  I think the Seahawks defense will also do extremely well against the Rams.  The Rams will not top them, even at home.  The tough schedule just goes on after that.

A young Buccaneers team with a revamped defense should be too strong for the Rams in Tampa Bay, the Cardinals will present another, unbeatable, tough defense, especially on the road, and don’t sleep on the Bills.  Injuries and all, with the draft they had, a revamped defense of their own should edge out the Rams.  Even with bad defense, in Detroit, this underrated Lions team will beat a Rams team who’s offense just cannot find the missing puzzle piece.  Trust me, it will happen, but the start of the season will be a rough ride.  The Giants revamped front seven should top the Rams as well, even in London, a neutral location that the Rams have had a lot of games in.  Yes, at the bye, they will be win-less.

The Panthers defense should be another tough one that pressures Jared Goff and the o-line, another loss for them.  In New York, I don’t think they can catch the Jets, who have a strong defense as well.  But then comes a game at home against the Dolphins.  By this point, Jared Goff will have gotten way more comfortable and will be fed up with losing the first 9 games.  The Rams should edge an aging and weakening Dolphins defense, overwhelm the offense, and take the easy W.  The Saints offense should then take advantage of the Rams weak secondary, especially at home.  Bill Belichick and the Pats should find the next week easy.

But then they come home to host the Falcons.  The same Falcons who have their own inconsistency on offense and defense.  The Rams will again crush them, as they look like the kind of team who will dominate when they have the right formula.  Then, in the last three weeks, Seattle and Arizona are unbeatable, but they will top the 49ers on their home turf.  The Rams are actually better than San Francisco.

 

My Prediction

FullSizeRender (21)

The Rams are the kind of team that typically struggles, but when they do well, they dominate.  They have the pieces on offense and defense, they just need to put them together.  I see 3, 4 maybe even 5 wins if they’re lucky, but a tough schedule makes things 2 times harder.

 

 

NFL 2016 Preview: Crazy Season Is Ahead

 

It’s that time of year again.   Training camp’s here, and the draft is in the books.  It’s time for this year’s NFL predictions.  Get ready for some big shockers, this year will be very different from recent ones.  Some of the NFL’s once horrible teams will rise from the bottom, and some of its top teams will finally slide.  A crazy NFL season is about to begin.

AFC East

  1. New_England_Patriots.jpg New England Patriots 12-4 (1)
  2. buf.jpg Buffalo Bills 10-6 (6)
  3. Jets-Logo.png New York Jets 6-10
  4. Dolphins-logo.jpg Miami Dolphins 4-12

Patriots

After a 2015 disappointment when they lost in Denver twice, 2016 is looking good for the Pats.  The first few games could be tough if Brady is out, but I’m sure he’ll find a way out of this nonsense for good.  Even if he does remain suspended, they’ll sign a veteran QB, and when Brady returns, him and his new weapons in Martellus Bennett, Chris Hogan and Nate Washington plus his old targets like Gronk, Edelman and Amendola will bounce back and finish off well.  This team has an improved offensive line and front seven and if they can keep healthy, and Jimmy Garoppolo can lead a loaded receiving group to victory in the first four games, they will be dominant.

Bills

The Bills had a rough free agency season, but they didn’t need that much.  They knew they had many players on the rise that could work towards a rebuild.  It’s a lot more likely after the Bills just came out of their best draft in years in my opinion.  They have a dramatically improved pass rush, added to a blooming offense, and overall, improved. The Bills filled almost all their major holes.  After all that, this roster is outstanding on paper. As long as this young team meets its expectations, it will be good for real too, and the Bills could be headed for playoff town.

Jets

What a disappointment.  The one year they had a chance to return to playoff form, they blew it in Week 17.  Ryan Fitzpatrick did resign after a lot of melodrama, but the defense lost Antonio Cromartie and is a little out of shape. They have the right pieces, they just need to put them together, make up for the losses on defense, piece together a better offensive line, and they can thrive in the league.

Dolphins

What the heck is this team doing?!! They had an ugly draft, completely ignored their backfield woes, and have done nothing to bring themselves in an upward direction.  The offense is declining, the defense is declining, and keeping the team like this is not going to make it easy for a bounce back season.  Personally, I think the Dolphins will finish even lower this year.  This is getting pathetic.  Make some moves that actually will help your team next time.

 

AFC North

  1. pittsburgh-steelers.jpg Pittsburgh Steelers 10-6 (4)
  2. Baltimore_Ravens_Logo.jpg Baltimore Ravens 9-7
  3. cincinnati-bengals.jpg Cincinnati Bengals 9-7
  4. cleveland-browns-brown.jpg Cleveland Browns 3-13

 

Steelers

The Steelers have been called Super Bowl LI Winner by many.  I still think the Steelers have what it takes to win the division (just barely), but the Steelers are not winning the Super Bowl, especially without Martavis Bryant, and Le’ Veon Bell for the first four games!  The defense just isn’t there yet and they a don’t have enough receiver depth to help out Big Ben.  Did I mention injuries?  How do you know that won’t interfere?  They do have a lot of amazing, league-best stars, but the holes they have are too big to call them a Super Bowl threat or contender.  Looking for a contender in the AFC besides the Patriots?  Call up the Texans, they have a better idea of what they’re doing than the Steelers.

Ravens
The Ravens had an ugly 2015 campaign, caused by some injuries and some roster holes. But the Ravens really stocked up this off season, and they probably won’t have that many health issues two years in a row. Between the draft and free agency, they filled most of their major roster holes, and they look like a division competitor. However, after all that last season, some of it had to be roster holes, and the holes they didn’t fill could cause this team to lose some games, and will keep them out of the playoffs this year. Sure, Eric Weddle, Ronnie Stanley and Mike Wallace are game changers, but they can’t address all the Ravens’ issues. That’s management’s job, and right now is a little too late.
Bengals

The Bengals are still relevant now, but little by little, they are on the decline and nobody has noticed.  Andy Dalton is on the decline and Tyler Eifert was already at his best last season. The loss of Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu has also caused lack of wide receiver depth. They lost Reggie Nelson and have a hole at safety, and Vontaze Burfict´s 3 game suspension creates a hole at linebacker, despite signing Karlos Dansby. The Bengals are losing more and more pieces, and if they do not take action in the next few off-seasons, they could fall apart, they could eventually fall below the young Cleveland Browns even. They seem to have more and more holes every season, and it´s not leading them in the right direction.

Browns

The Bengals may be in a bad direction, but this team has already lost hope. If they make the playoffs, I will have no idea how. Unless they become the 2016 Orioles of football, you can rule out the Browns. They may have had a league best draft, but that will take a while to kick in. For now, they are an old washed up team that needs to keep going younger. The draft definitely helped, and Corey Coleman should definitely make a big impact, but is it enough to change a franchise completely, even with such an overpowered draft class?  Two words.  No.  way.   What they have done the past few off-seasons is not enough. They need to go full rebuild, or they are not going anywhere.

AFC South

  1. hou-texans Houston Texans 10-6 (3)
  2. jacksonvile-jaguars Jacksonville Jaguars 9-7
  3. tennessee-titans. Tennessee Titans 6-10
  4. indianapolis-colts Indianapolis Colts 5-11

 

 

Texans

 

In recent years, the Texans have had one of the best defenses in the league.  Last year and likely this year, the ferocious front seven combined with a quality secondary has led to league best defense.  But good offense helps good defense, and that’s the one thing the Texans had lacked, until this off-season.  After star receiver DeAndre Hopkins’ breakout a season ago, the Texans added elite RB Lamar Miller and rising QB Brock Osweiler, who is finally out of Peyton Manning’s shadow.  They drafted a WR2 and WR3 to add to it, and now their offense looks much better, despite lacking tight end depth.  Good offense plus good defense equals good team, and that’s what the Texans appear to be.

 

Jaguars

 

The Jaguars were showing signs of a breakout last year, but they just didn’t have the defense.  This off-season, they have boosted a young team with veterans to support the defense and offense, and push towards a full breakthrough.  I especially like the moves they made on defense.  They upgraded a once weak defense with quality starters in the front seven and secondary.  In addition to the big defensive upgrade, the offense has a ton of rising talent.  Blake Bortles, Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns all just keep getting better.  Julius Thomas should be better too.  He wants to win after all those years on such a good Broncos team and a better Jaguars team will help him.  The Jags are a changed team, and they will be able to contend in 2016.

Titans

The Titans have a lot of developing talent that could lead to a better 2016.  Marcus Mariota is feeling more comfortable at the NFL level, especially with better protection in front of him.  The Titans added RBs DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry to additionally support him.  He now has some good offensive depth and plenty of weapons to throw to after this off-season.   Although they may see some improvement, I don’t expect them to contend for one reason.  Their defense still has many issues of its own.  Despite a defense centered draft, the Titans still have big problems at linebacker and the front seven in general.  They boosted their secondary big time with Rashad Johnson, but the draft just won’t do enough to fix all of the front seven’s problems.  Expect a jump in 2016 but I don’t think the Titans will be anything near playoff material.  

Colts

What did the Colts do to lead to improvement?  Not very much.  They did ink Dwayne Allen to a new contract.  But they are leaning too much on luck.  Speaking of which, one of the main things they’re leaning on is the comeback of quarterback Andrew Luck.  They also are relying on Frank Gore to stay in shape, Donte Moncrief and Phillip Dorsett taking the next step and the defense to carry on without Jerrell Freeman and Greg Toler.  I just don’t see how the Colts are going to do all that, especially after an 8-8 season.  If they don’t act fast, they won’t do better, but they’ll slide even further in 2016.  They need to either try and trade for game changers, dig through the bottom of the barrel of free agency, or find another way to make all these questionable aspects of the team work out.  The Colts need a miracle to make that happen.  The next time you want to say the Colts are going to be back to business next year, think before you speak.

 

AFC West

  1. kansas-city-chiefs-logo.jpg Kansas City Chiefs 11-5 (2)
  2. oakland-raiders.jpg Oakland Raiders 10-6 (5)
  3. denver-broncos-logo.jpg Denver Broncos 8-8
  4. San_Diego_Chargers.jpg San Diego Chargers 6-10

 

Chiefs

Please don’t criticize me for this prediction.  This is just my opinion.  I know how much grief the Chiefs have gotten in many people’s predictions, but I think this team will rise in 2016.  Alex Smith looked great last year and I think he could put up a strong performance again this year.  The now healthy Jamaal Charles rejoins a young backfield in good condition, and wide receiver Jeremy Maclin plus star tight end Travis Kelce could bring in a lot of receptions.  The offensive line has two new tackles, and the Chiefs pass rush should be unstoppable, especially when Justin Houston comes back.  Despite a quiet off-season, the Chiefs even have rising young talent in corner Marcus Peters, linebacker Dee Ford, wide receiver Albert Wilson and running backs Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West.  I’m liking this new era of the Chiefs between unstoppable defense and better offensive depth.

 

Raiders

I love what the Raiders have done in their rebuild.  This off-season they added to young talent with some veterans to upgrade a defense that lost Justin Tuck and Charles Woodson to retirement.  Going for dirty players might be an issue, last off-season they signed Aldon Smith, who’s suspended yet again.  This off-season, they signed Bruce Irvin.  Yes, it’s Mr. I Started A Fight After The Game Was Practically Over In Super Bowl XLIX And Got Ejected himself.  They also signed deals with safer options to rebuild the secondary, Reggie Nelson and Sean Smith.  The offensive line is revamped as well.  The Raiders already had young stars  in Derek Carr, Amari Cooper and Latavius Murray.  Now, with a revamped defense and o-line to ad to it, they’re ready to break through this season.

 

Broncos

Four words.  What did Denver do?  They let Brock Osweiler, their five year development float in free agency after Peyton Manning retired.  Then they were down to their third string QB, and have since only put Paxton Lynch and Mark Sanchez ahead of him in the pecking order.  Due to free agency and other problems, they also had holes at third receiver, tight end and inside linebacker.  Their offensive line is highly questionable as well.  They did resign C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman and draft DeVontae Booker to fix the RB problem, but they only have Garrett Graham, Virgil Green and Jeff Heuerman at tight end and desperately need a third receiver.  All they have is two elite ones, not three!  Shane Ray can move to inside linebacker, and the defense is still strong, but major holes across the offense will bring this team down to .500, especially the issue at quarterback.

 

Chargers

Alright, I have to give the Chargers credit for some things.  They filled some of their holes on defense.  Brandon Mebane and Casey Hayward help make up for the lack of veterans Eric Weddle left behind.  They still won’t be playoff material, but they will make some improvements.  Melvin Gordon definitely has room to do better and carry the team.  Hunter Henry can make up for Antonio Gates’ decline, and a full season from Keenan Allen will help the receiving corps, along with depth behind him in Travis Benjamin, recently signed James Jones and Stevie Johnson (depending on Johnson’s health).  However, the offensive line still has holes, and across the team there are still risks of injuries and bust seasons.  Guys like Brandon Flowers and Melvin Gordon have make or break seasons ahead of them.  I don’t feel comfortable saying that the Chargers will definitely go back to their form from a few years ago.  I do see small improvement happening, but nothing major.

 

NFC East

  1. dalcowboyslogonew.png Dallas Cowboys 11-5 (4)
  2. new-york-giants-logo.jpg New York Giants 10-6
  3. washingtonredskins2.png Washington Redskins 7-9
  4. philadelphia-eagles-logo.jpg Philadelphia Eagles 4-12

 

Cowboys

Last season was just unlucky.  That won’t happen again.  Especially with big name rookie RB Ezekiel Elliott entering the backfield, a 4-12 season won’t happen again if the Cowboys can stay healthy.  When healthy, this offense is just plain out ferocious.  Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and Ezekiel Elliott stand behind a league best offensive line.  The offense has depth, plenty of stars, and is very well protected.  The defense may be some of an issue, but after the first four games, what’s the big issue?   All they’ll be missing is Rolando McClain, and Dwight Freeney is still available. I think the secondary is extremely underrated and the front seven isn’t that bad when you throw in McClain, Randy Gregory and DeMarcus Lawrence.  In such a weak, crazed division, an 11-5 or 10-6 season will make the cut for the playoffs, and I think that they are highly capable of that.

Giants

The Giants had a really strong off season, and it should pay off.  They made some major upgrades to the front seven, by hauling in Olivier Vernon and Damon Harrison and resigning JPP, who will play a full season this year.  They also signed big name corner Janoris Jenkins, and drafted Eli Apple.  The Giants also added to an already powerful offense, especially in the draft.  They selected running back Paul Perkins and wide receiver Sterling Shepard.  They also have Larry Donnell coming back healthy this season in addition to Will Tye at tight end, and they signed Bobby Rainey at RB.  The only thing preventing the Giants from playoff contention is a weak offensive line.  There’s no point in having a growing offense if they have no protection.  If they don’t have protection, their weak spot at starting running back could also factor in.  If they do, that issue might not show up.

Redskins

I feel like Kirk Cousins’ breakthrough season will end up being a fluke.  The kind of sudden rise Cousins went through is not a permanent breakthrough.  Kirk Cousins will be known as a one year wonder.  It doesn’t help when you have an empty backfield to add to it.  The Redskins won’t be able to lean on Matt Jones, Chris Thompson and Keith Marshall.  The defense may have made improvements, and the receiving corps may have grown stronger, but without a quarterback, running back and even a consistent offensive line to protect them, a season above .500 will not happen.  They did sign Josh Norman in the off season and upgraded the defense, but will it be enough?  I’m expecting the Redskins to fall a few wins this year.  They won’t be as bad as the 2013-14 version of themselves, but the Redskins won’t even come close to matching last year.

Eagles

The Eagles are looking so bad right now that they’ll miss Chip Kelly.  This team is rebuilding from a rebuild, there’s no way they’ll compete this year!  It’s bad enough what Kelly did.  What’s worse is how Howie Roseman attempted to fix it.  They were in a decent spot with Kelly; I could’ve seen them easily return to contention, but they’ve made the team look foolish.  Ryan Mathews is not an RB1 at this point in his career, and the Eagles are in desperate need of a wide receiver and are in such a bad situation with Sam Bradford that they traded up a total of 11 spots (between two trades) to draft Carson Wentz!  In the process, they gave up DeMarco Murray, Kiko Alonso and Byron Maxwell.  I don’t know what the heck the Eagles are doing, but whatever their plan is, it isn’t helping, especially for the current team.

 

NFC North

  1.  Green Bay Packers 12-4 (2)
  2.  Detroit Lions 10-6 (6)
  3.  Minnesota Vikings 10-6
  4.  Chicago Bears 4-12

 

Packers

This dominant team won’t lose the division two years straight.  Aaron Rodgers is arguably the best QB in the league, and he along with wide receiver Jordy Nelson, who missed all of last season, are ready to strike back.  This offense just looks a lot better.  Eddie Lacy slimmed up a bit, Jordy Nelson has returned to health, even Aaron Rodgers took part in some serious off-season workouts.  Jared Cook joins Richard Rodgers at tight end, and this offense is suddenly looking dominant again.  The defense may have lost B.J. Raji and Casey Hayward, but still have plenty of key players to run the team, including Julius Peppers, Damarious Randall, Morgan Burnett, Sam Shields, Sam Barrington, Mike Daniels, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Clay Matthews, who’s back to his natural position, outside linebacker.  He was actually a lot better as an OLB than he was in a couple years at middle linebacker.

Lions

You may think that the Lions are in some rough times without Calvin Johnson, but really, if they buff up on depth with guys like Anquan Boldin and Andre Roberts, who both worked out and signed with the Lions, they’ll be fine.  Golden Tate should breakthrough without Megatron limiting his targets.  Marvin Jones is a big sleeper ready to breakout.  Ameer Abdullah and Eric Ebron have plenty of room for improvement, and Matthew Stafford can still play at an average QB level.  You can’t discredit all that.  You may say the defense isn’t doing enough, but really, they’re not in too bad of shape.  The addition of A’Shawn Robinson should help.  They still have Haloti Ngata and Ezekiel Ansah too. I don’t think DeAndre Levy is too bad, and I don’t know why Stephen Tulloch was released.  The secondary has some breakout candidates too.  Darius Slay has been underrated all his career, and Glover Quin is still playing well.  I don’t see the problem with a few holes considering the stars they already have, especially if it’s just for a 6th seed.

Vikings

The Vikings 2015 season was no fluke, but it was a high point for them.  They’ll still be in contention, but they’re going down the mountain now.  They were going up until last year.  Why is that?  Well, for one, the Vikings don’t have depth behind Adrian Peterson!  Peterson is not at his peak anymore, and this may be his final elite season.  Laquon Treadwell may help, but the receiving game is still thin, with just him and Stefon Diggs worth throwing to frequently for wide receivers.  The Vikings may have fierce defense and some stars on offense, but they don’t have the depth at running back, wide receiver and offensive lineman to match last year’s performance.

Bears

I know a lot of people are predicting the Bears at higher records, I’m rating them a lot lower than I have in recent years.  The Bears may have some serious talent developing but they’re rebuilding, let them rebuild.  They aren’t ready to return to contention quite yet.  They don’t even have many other options besides the young guns.  In the past two off-seasons, they’ve let Brandon Marshall, Matt Forte and Martellus Bennett go.  Kevin White, Zach Miller, Jordan Howard and Jeremy Langford should build up the skill to replace them eventually, but for now, they can’t run the team by themselves!  Besides Alshon Jeffery and Eddie Royal at receiver and Ka’ Deem Carey at running back, the Bears have no impactful backups for these players.  Don’t even get me started on the defense.  The defensive line has practically no significant players.  They do have some decent veterans at LB and on the secondary, but they don’t have any stars, and despite an underrated secondary and linebacker corps, the defense is in pretty bad overall shape.

 

NFC South

  1. carolina-panthers-logo.jpg Carolina Panthers 13-3 (1)
  2. tampabaybuccaneers.png Tampa Bay Buccaneers 10-6
  3. nosaints.png New Orleans Saints 4-12
  4. atlfalcons.png Atlanta Falcons 3-13

 

Panthers

Especially with Kelvin Benjamin back, I think the Panthers can have another strong year, but it won’t be flawless.  The Panthers either just got lucky to be able to carry on with slim receiving depth in 2015, or Cam Newton was just an absolute monster.  Probably the Cam Newton thing.  There will be rough weeks for Cam Newton and the Panthers offense.  But still, the defense is monstrous, even though it lacks corner depth beyond Bene’ Benikwere.  The o-line has some weak spots, but is dominant in other ways, and the offensive players at the top of the depth chart are beastly, including Cam Newton, Jonathan Stewart, Kelvin Benjamin and Greg Olsen.  The Panthers will never match last year’s numbers, but they will be dominant, and they could come close.

Buccaneers

The Bucs have a lot of talent developing, and a defensive boost this off season helps.  One thing the Bucs never had before was a legitimate secondary.  They now have a pair of powerful corners in Brent Grimes and Vernon Hargreaves III.  They also added to an already fierce pass rush.  The signings of Daryl Smith and Robert Ayers along with the draft selection of Noah Spence put some of the pressure off just Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David.  They also have some serious stars developing, especially on offense.  Jameis Winston has the potential to be great, especially with rising receivers Mike Evans and Austin Seferian-Jenkins, possibly even Cameron Brate in his receiving scheme.  Although ASJ has looked lousy this off-season, he could be a TE2 for the Bucs, considering the fact that the Bucs only have two receivers worth noting (Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson).  They even have a developing star on defense, Kwon Alexander.  He was in the race for the DPOY award Marcus Peters won.  It looks like the Bucs’ rebuild could finally pay off this season.

Saints

The Saints’ offense may be in shape, but the defense is just too broken down for this team to function.  They have serious problems in their pass rush, and lack depth at corner.  Drew Brees isn’t even in full condition anymore.  He’s only going to get older and weaker, and that could additionally hurt the Saints.  He may have a good receiving staff to throw to, but if he can’t complete passes as often, he’ll have to rely on a weak and overrated running game.  It doesn’t help that the offensive line has holes and is inconsistent and overrated.  So, the offense is in declining in condition and the pass rush is just pathetic.  The only pass rusher that the Saints really have contributing is Cameron Jordan.  Really, what backup do the Saints have to support a good season?   Until they find that out, they’ll have no chance of bouncing back.

Falcons

Everyone thinks this team will be the closest to dethroning Carolina, but really, this team has some serious problems.  First of all, Julio Jones is a great player, but do they have any quality pass catchers besides him?  The next best option is MOHAMED SANU.  He’s more of a WR3 than a WR2, which the Falcons desperately need.  The Falcons are also counting too much on Devonta Freeman.  He had one good season, and just like that he’s considered a star?  Not in my book.  He needs to earn back his job, especially with Tevin Coleman developing.  Speaking of which, they need to give that guy a chance.  I also think the secondary is very slim besides Desmond Trufaunt.  They need more quality corners and safeties.  Really, even with some all stars leading the offense, this team has no offensive depth.  Depth is a problem all over this team, and they won’t do anything without some insurance for their best players.  Even a mediocre defense has depth problems.  The pass rush is revamped, but the secondary has nothing.  How does lack of depth affect a team?  The Falcons will find out this season from a rough ride.

NFC West

  1. seattle-seahawks Seattle Seahawks 12-4
  2. az-cards Arizona Cardinals 12-4
  3.  Los Angeles Rams 3-13
  4.  San Francisco 49ers 3-13

 

Seahawks

The Seahawks are back and better than ever.  The offense has gotten younger, as Thomas Rawls steps into Marshawn Lynch’s shoes.  Jimmy Graham should be back fresh, and Russell Wilson and Doug Baldwin also look to be in great shape for this season.  The offense may have lacked depth, but the last two drafts have helped.  They now have Trevone Boykin at QB, Luke Willson at tight end, C.J. Prosise, Christine Michael and Alex Collins at running back, and Tyler Lockett and Jermaine Kearse at receiver.  The defense is still powerful as well.  The secondary got boosted even further with the resigning of Brandon Browner, and the front seven may have some holes, but is still ferocious.  This team is ready to climb back to the top of the division and dominate, and a quiet but active off season has helped.

Cardinals

Alright, last year the Cardinals were at their absolute peak.  If they stay healthy, they can do well again, but they won’t match last year.  Last year, the Cardinals had a magical season.  Everything worked out.  The defense made a big jump, and the offense’s best players stayed healthy, and did well.  You can’t guarantee that things will work out again.  the defense is still very fierce, but it has some missing pieces, and if Carson Palmer, David Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald or Michael Floyd gets hurt, the Cards could be in big trouble.  Still, I don’t expect them to slide too significantly, they have one of the best coaches in the league, they have a Top 10 defense in the league, and the offense has reformed in to a dominant force.  There are problems that could hold them back, but they’re looking good overall.

Rams

Recent news about Jared Goff being nowhere near ready to start in Week 1 makes things even worse for this team.  If he can’t step in and produce, how will this team be any better, let alone as good as they were last year?  Todd Gurley could step up big time, but that’s not good enough.  The Rams need a dependable QB to thrive.  They may have some ferocious pass rushing, but without a QB, and even an elite pass catcher, this team is going nowhere.  The Rams have a tough schedule.  They can’t count on running the ball every game, especially against other teams with a powerful pass rush, who they will face plenty of this year, including the Dolphins, Giants, Bucs, Panthers, Cardinals and Seahawks.  Unless Jared Goff and his receivers can make the leap, the Rams won’t be going anywhere.

49ers

Don’t even get me started here.  Look, I’ll tell you broad and clear.  The 49ers are terrible!  Their QB job is a battle between Blaine Gabbert and Colin Kaepernick (remember him?), they have no backup if Carlos Hyde goes down again, and Torrey Smith and Quinton Patton (who’s he?) are their starting wide receivers.  The defense is in even worse shape!!  Their secondary depends on Kenneth Acker, Tramaine Brock and Antoine Bethea to perform, and the pass rush has some serious holes next to NaVorro Bowman, Arik Armstead, Glenn Dorsey and DeForest Buckner.  Look, this team won’t be a contender in a million years without some sort of unimaginable miracle!  They have nothing!!!!!!!!!

 

2016 NFL Playoffs

 

FullSizeRender (12).jpg

My playoff bracket may look crazy, and it’s full of upsets, surprises, blowouts and underdogs, but here I will breakdown every match up.

Wild Card Weekend

Bills @ Texans

Young, but powerful defense and a strong backfield despite a lack of weapons for Tyrod Taylor got the Bills into the playoffs, but against the Texans, it won’t pass for a even a chance at winning.  This team’s defense has been some of the best over the last few years, led by sack king and legendary edge rusher J.J. Watt.  With a healthy weapon in the backfield (Lamar Miller), and a better QB in Brock Osweiler, a much improved offense will be the deciding factor in the Texans winning this game.  I say the Texans offense may have some troubles with the Bills D, but they’ll edge them slightly, and the Texans pass rush will annihilate the Bills backfield full of depth.

Prediction: Texans win, 34-17

 

Raiders @ Steelers

The Steelers offensive force may be dominant and full of stars on the outside, but especially without Martavis Bryant, the Steelers don’t have too much depth.  The defense doesn’t seem to belong to a contender either, although it is mediocre.  The newly upgraded Raiders defense may be trampled, but young Derek Carr and his superior target Amari Cooper will be all over the defense, and the Raiders will shock the Steelers.  In a huge upset, Big Ben, Le’ Veon Bell and Antonio Brown get topped by a revamped Raiders team, simple as that.

Prediction: Raiders win, 24-16

 

Lions @ Seahawks

I said the Lions would make the playoffs, with some clear defensive holes and lack of a true star on offense.  They do have a lot of potential breakout players, especially on offense, but against the Seahawks and their mighty defense, do you expect this riddled team to win?  In the playoffs?!!  Not happening.  The Seahawks defense will win them this game, with a thin but powerful offense with plenty of star power edging out the Lions D.  I doubt the dark horse of the NFL will beat out the #1 defense in the league.  Barely anyone else expects the Lions to even be playoff contenders!  This one’s an easy pick.

Prediction: Seahawks win, 27-13

 

Cardinals @ Cowboys

Yes, at this point in the season (as long as Ezekiel Elliott isn’t suspended through the playoffs), the Cowboys should be at full strength.  But the Cardinals will be relentless and win hungry in this game.  This team’s offense is dominant with a strong QB/RB/WR combo, even with the lack of an offensive line and an true starter at tight end.  The defense also has plenty of talent scattered across the different positions.  There may be a slight lack of star power in the front seven especially, but this team has few defensive holes, and the ones they do have are small.  Even with a revamped pass rush and underrated secondary, I think the Cardinals offense will be all over the Cowboys, and Dallas’ superior offense won’t get a chance.  It will be a tough competition, but the Cards should win in the end.

Prediction: Cardinals win, 33-27

 

 

Divisional Round

 

Raiders @ Patriots

With Brady most likely back at full speed by this point, the Patriots will crush the Raiders.  Oakland does have revamped defense and rising offense, but this 10-6 wild card surprise will be no match for Bill Belichick’s Patriots.  Hey, the Pats had defensive upgrades too, and the offense is better than ever, with tight end Martellus Bennett playing across from Gronk.  The Patriots will rout the Raiders, I can guarantee you that.  Even against the Steelers they’d win.  At full power, the Patriots are by far the best AFC team.  The Steelers are overrated and dirty, and this game is only the start of the Patriots’ path to victory.

My Prediction: Patriots win, 37-23

 

Texans @ Chiefs

The Chiefs will go all this way, having an awesome regular season, Jamaal Charles completely bouncing back to revamp the offense, Justin Houston coming back better than ever, to lose to Houston.  Sounds like a terrible note to end on, but actually not.  Houston’s a strong team.  The Chiefs are pretty darn good, but in Houston, you have youth, new signings in Brock Osweiler and Lamar Miller, a star receiver, and the best defense in the league led by J.J. Watt, who should return from injury sometime around October.  The Chiefs don’t have anything close to a guy like Watt.  The Texans defense is even better than the mighty Chiefs D.  That plus the diverse, but strong offense will be the difference in this game as the Texans head to the AFC Championship Game, in hopes of dethroning the almighty Pats.

My Prediction: Texans win, 24-13

 

Cardinals @ Panthers

We saw this game in the NFC Championship last year, Carolina won.  We saw the same match-up in 2014’s Wild Card Weekend.  Carolina won both.  With the Seahawks winning the division, the Cardinals would fall to the 5th seed, making this a Divisional Round match-up.  I think the Panthers will take the cake again.  The Panthers may have lost a ton of key secondary guys, but the front seven is still going to be on to David Johnson.  They don’t have much to rely on besides Bene’ Benikwere and rookies James Bradberry, Daryl Worley and Zack Sanchez for receiver coverage.  However, Arizona’s stars are scattered.  I think things will be a little easier for the run game in Carolina.  That’s good for Cam Newton, who loves to run the football.  Personally, I think Carolina’s slightly better defense will make the difference in this game.  They have a superior defensive line, some star pass rushers behind them, and even some possible future big names at corner.  The Cardinals may have Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu in the secondary, but have some holes and weak spots in the front seven, and even some playing across from Peterson and Honey Badger.

My Prediction: Panthers win, 33-28

Seahawks @ Packers

Seattle will be good again this season, especially if everyone’s healthy.  They have the offense now, Jimmy Graham will be back, Thomas Rawls and Doug Baldwin should help.  But Green Bay’s offense could be unstoppable.  With Jordy Nelson back, the Packers have yet another weapon for Aaron Rodgers.  The only reason they lost to the Vikings in the NFC North is because of Nelson’s absence!  The Packers offense will be a challenge for Seattle’s Big D.  This should be a high scoring back and forth game, but in the end, the Packers have the better roster, I like Mike McCarthy as head coach, and they will edge the Seahawks.

My Prediction: Packers win, 34-20

 

 

AFC Championship

Texans @ Patriots

This is an awesome match-up.  The Brock Osweiler and Lamar Miller led Texans are extremely underrated, and a league best defense leads them to be a great team this year, even dark horse Super Bowl contenders, because if they make it there, they’re sure to win in their home stadium, but this is the New England Patriots we’re talking about.  Yes, the same New England Patriots with Tom Brady and Gronk who won 4 Super Bowls, their only Super Bowls since Brady joined the team.  Brady is easily the greatest to play the game, all time.  He truly has defined himself as the G.O.A.T.  If he gets a fifth ring, that would be true dominance.  Bill Belichick should be at his old tricks again and the powerful Patriots offense and underrated defense will work their way through the great wall of Houston, AKA: the Texans pass rush, and the defense should be able to hold the strong QB/RB/WR combo up while the offense does its thing.  This is a Patriots team hungry for revenge, and they will be motivated to rout the Texans, and they will go out there and do their job.

My Prediction: Patriots win, 34-27

 

NFC Championship

Packers @ Panthers

The Panthers will have another strong season.  At 13-3, they should earn the #1 seed.  But the Packers will have more challenges on the 2016 schedule, and they still will go 12-4 and get the 2nd seed.  The Packers are a dominant team, especially in these clutch playoff situations.  With Josh Norman, Charles Tillman and Roman Harper off the secondary’s depth charts, Carolina’s much less likely to reach the Super Bowl, especially in a tough, straight forward NFC.  Aaron Rodgers will take advantage of Carolina’s holes, and throw to underrated receivers Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb.  Eddie Lacy could also be successful against an aging defensive line, and the Packers offense will edge out Carolina’s D.  I think Cam Newton and Co. should be about evenly matched with the Packers defense, even lacking receiver depth, but the new holes in the secondary will be the sole deciding factor in the game.

My Prediction: Packers win, 37-31 in OT

 

Super Bowl 51

Patriots (AFC) vs. Packers (NFC)

This may be one of the toughest Super Bowl matches ever.  the 2016 Patriots and Packers are two of the most well crafted teams of their era.  Part of this will be based on the performance of the two star QBs, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers.  Both these offenses are also very strong.  The Packers may have more dependable wide receivers but Gronk and Bennett act like receivers, so the Pats have a lot of edge at tight end.  the defenses are very similar as well.  There are holes in each pass rush, but also stars.  Green Bay may have more big names, but this young Patriots group was led and mentored by veteran Jerod Mayo.  Mayo retired, but now in comes Terrance Knighton.  Malcolm Butler and crew should cover the Packers receivers better, where as the young, still developing Packers secondary may struggle to keep up with the best Pats receivers, especially Gronk.  Tom Brady and his bunch plus excellent coaching from Bill Belichick that I think is slightly better than Mike McCarthy’s should boost the Patriots to edge out the Packers.

My Prediction: Patriots win, 34-30

 

Awards:

MVP: Aaron Rodgers, QB, GB

Offensive Player of The Year: Le’Veon Bell, RB, PIT

Defensive Player of the Year: J.J. Watt, DE, HOU

Offensive Rookie of The Year: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, DAL

Defensive Rookie of the Year: Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, TB

Comeback Player Of The Year: Jordy Nelson, WR, GB

Super Bowl MVP: Tom Brady

 

Between the shocks, blowouts, amazing plays and more, the NFL 2016 season is going to be great, and I can’t wait for it to come back.  For now, I’m following training camp and you guys can look at my season previews by team.  I have a couple up and more are coming 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.