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

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

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

Lock of the Week

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

Upset of the Week

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

The Other Games

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Check back for a video preview closer to game time!

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

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

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

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2018 NFL Week 2 Picks & Previews: QB Carousel Leads to Surprise Winners

Welcome to my Week 2 NFL picks.  Last week, I went 9-6-1, putting me ahead of 4 of ESPN’s 10 pick’em experts, and 2 of CBS Sports’ 8 pick’em experts.  This off-season, many quarterbacks changed teams as usual. Patrick Mahomes II was named Kansas City’s starter as Alex Smith was traded from the Chiefs to the Redskins.  Kirk Cousins, formerly of the Redskins signed with the Vikings. Case Keenum, Minnesota’s 2017 starter, is now starting in Denver.

I thought that Keenum and Cousins would thrive with their new teams, while Smith struggles without his offensive weapons and the Chiefs offense struggles without Smith.  But all four of those teams succeeded thanks to strong offense in Week 1. Mahomes just made the Chiefs offense look better, and the Redskins just might be better off with Smith than they were with Cousins. Does this have to do with the QB carousel, or is it what surrounds these quarterbacks that leads them to thrive?  Either way, the Chiefs and Redskins could be two surprise teams to watch out for, and the Vikes and Broncos look to stay elite. Will all four win again this week? Read my picks below to find out what I think.

Lock of the Week (MNF)

I thought the Seahawks offense would struggle last week, but things actually turned out alright for them despite a loss.  However, they will be without WR Doug Baldwin this week, so don’t be surprised by a dud out of Seattle’s offense. Plus, the Bears defense looks much better with everyone healthy and Khalil Mack on board.  Expect a strong week by QB Mitch Trubisky as well as the Bears running backs. However, it will be Mack and the Bears D that holds Seattle under 10 and leads the Bears to victory.

Upset of the Week

I learned one major lesson about the Chiefs in Week 1: QB Patrick Mahomes is not a bust, and he is capable of becoming an elite NFL starter this year.  Expect him to lead a talented Chiefs offense to victory despite some iffy defense by Kansas City.  The Steelers offense will begin to miss RB Le’Veon Bell, and their mediocre defense won’t be enough to stop the Chiefs.

The Other Games

TNF (Posted on Twitter on Thursday Night; Actual Score: 34-23 Bengals)

I don’t expect more than 30 total points in this game.  Both these defenses are arguably Top 10 in the league.  They should be successful in pressuring each other’s quarterbacks and shutting down each other’s running backs.  But the Bengals will edge out the victory at home thanks to a strong game by WR A.J. Green.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

The Jets strong defense and a good day by rookie QB Sam Darnold led the Jets to victory in Detroit.  Expect more of the same in Miami, and watch for an especially strong game out of New York’s secondary.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

I think QB Josh Allen will lead the Bills to a closer game than they had last week.  But I see the Chargers having a better offensive day and winning this one.  They will rebound from their struggles against Kansas City last week.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Look for Saints QB Drew Brees to excel against a young Browns defense.  But you should expect the Browns to make this a close offensive shootout, even without WR Josh Gordon.  
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

With TE Delanie Walker on IR, I don’t expect a very strong game by the Titans offense, especially against the elite Houston D.  I think the Texans will be able to squeeze by despite a banged up wide receiver group.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

I do expect QB Andrew Luck to look good in his second game back.  However, expect the Colts weak defense to give up 30+ points again in a loss.  They will especially struggle at containing the Redskins receivers.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

This is a battle of two capable backup QBs and two strong defensive fronts.  With QB Carson Wentz and WR Alshon Jeffery hurt, I don’t think the Philly offense will be able to handle this strong Bucs D.  The strong defense will lead Tampa to victory.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST (OT)

Expect the Packers to pull off another last minute comeback here, this one extending into overtime.  It just shows how clutch QB Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay offense are.  I do expect strong games by the Vikings receivers that keep this close and give the Vikings an early lead.  
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Look for a strong game out of WR Julio Jones and the rest of Atlanta’s receivers against a young Carolina secondary.  This will help lead Atlanta to victory as the Panthers receivers struggle.  However, Carolina’s strong run game will lead the way and make this close.
Sunday, 4:05 PM EST (OT)

Expect both teams to rebound from offensive struggles last week.  The Lions have a veteran QB and strong receiver group that may very well be the highlight of this team.  But I think QB Jimmy Garoppolo and the young 49ers offense will look dominant against a below average Lions D.  The 49ers will edge out an overtime victory at home.
Sunday, 4:05 PM EST

I don’t expect the Rams to have a field day here.  The Cardinals defense is much improved from last season.  But the Rams will edge out a victory as their own defense holds QB Sam Bradford and his receivers below 20 points.  
Sunday, 4:25 PM EST

Stay tuned for a game preview before the game begins!

 

Expect a lot of passing, as this will be a close game and running backs on both sides are injured.  I think the Jaguars will struggle to find ways to score without RB Leonard Fournette, but the Jags defense will lead them to victory.  As a fan, I really want to see TE Rob Gronkowski prove CB Jalen Ramsey wrong and lead the Pats to victory, and I think he will prove Ramsey wrong.  But as an unbiased reporter, I see this as one of the toughest games on New England’s schedule, and I can’t see them winning with WR Julian Edelman suspended and multiple RBs banged up.
Sunday, 4:25 PM EST

Expect the Raiders to struggle at scoring against the stellar Broncos defense.  Strong offensive line play by Oakland will be key to protect QB Derek Carr, and I expect to see that at the very least.  But I think Denver’s offense will repeat what they had going last week to pull off another home victory.
Sunday, 8:30 PM EST

I think this is going to be an offensive shootout.  Cowboys QB Dak Prescott will find creative ways to score at home and RB Ezekiel Elliott will have a strong game. Meanwhile, I think the Giants will take an early lead against a young Cowboys D. But I see Dallas pulling away with a victory in the end thanks to a choke by the New York defense.

That’s all for this week’s NFL picks and previews.  Stay tuned for more NFL articles coming soon.

NFL Week 4 Picks

 

 

BYE: Eagles, Packers

My Record: 27-21 (28-21 w/TNF)

Week 1: 9-7

Week 2: 9-7

Week 3: 9-7

 

I may have not had the greatest start, but looking on the bright side, I’m 1-0 this week, better than Pete Prisco on the season, and my picks for Week 4 are here.  Who do you have winning?

 

Lock Of The Week

 

Cardinals, 26, Rams, 23

Image result for david johnson vs. rams

 

Look, the Rams are 2-1, but first of all, the Rams would be 1-2 if it wasn’t for the nasty storm that hit Tampa Bay, and Case Keenum should not be their starting QB.  The Rams only beat the Seahawks because their offense wasn’t doing anything against a tough Rams defense.  That was in LA, against an offense that sometimes has to be saved by the overpowered defense in order for the team to win games.  This is in Arizona, a great all-around team.  The offense will be tough on the Rams D, and the Rams offense will be under as much pressure as they were against Seattle.  But this time, the Cardinals offense will actually take advantage of that fact, and top a good, but not great Rams defense.

 

Upset Of The Week

 

Buccaneers, 25, Broncos, 23

Image result for broncos vs. bucs

I know, Trevor Siemian has maintained the Broncos good offensive status, and the Broncos defense may be unstoppable.  Especially for Jameis Winston and the young Bucs offense, who can get pressured easily.  But there’s one underrated force that you probably aren’t paying attention to.  The Bucs defense.  The Bucs defense could actually surprise the Broncos.  I think that Denver could come up short, if this Bucs D wakes up and strikes.  I know how good the Broncos have been, but at home, this is winnable for Tampa Bay, and it’s a big upset, but the Buccaneers are a big sleeper team, and I thought going into the season the Broncos were overrated and will lose some games most people don’t think they will.  Those predictions is probably wrong, but these teams will show signs of those potentials.

 

The Other Games

 

Jaguars, 24, Colts, 23

Image result for blake bortles vs. colts

With no true home team, this game is an interesting one.  I think there is a chance that the Jags eventually move to London, so they may have slight advantage because they don’t have as many fans when they play at home, but they won’t need it.  Even though the Jaguars are 0-3, they just barely lost to the Ravens, and the Chargers are just on fire, so they were though, and the Packers are a good team that beat them.  The Colts lost to the Lions, and even though they tried to come back, they were losing during the whole game.  They also lost to the Broncos, who are good, and somehow they beat the Chargers.  Doesn’t make sense.  The point is the Colts are unpredictable, but haven’t actually done that great even at a better record.  If they have a match-up that works for them, they win.  Otherwise, they lose.  The Jaguars are ready to strike, and they won’t let the Colts work their inconsistent, but strong magic.

 

Redskins, 31, Browns, 23

 

Look, even with Terrelle Pryor shining at WR/QB, the Browns aren’t going to win with a 3rd and 4th string quarterback.  Corey Coleman is also hurt and Josh Gordon may never be back.  The Redskins haven’t been great yet, but they’ve had very tough match-ups.  This week should be a lot easier, and Kirk Cousins and the Redskins offense will lash out and annihilate the Browns.  The defense has nothing to stop them, and the offense shouldn’t score enough to challenge them, even though the Redskins defense is only mediocre.  This should be a win for Washington, especially on their own turf.

 

Patriots, 35, Bills, 23

Image result for pats-bills garoppolo

I don’t know what the Patriots are doing at QB, but I know the Pats, they will not start Edelman at QB.  They will refuse to and avoid playing him at QB when possible.  I’m suspecting Jimmy Garoppolo gets the start since he’s had longer to recover, but you never know.  Assuming he starts, he means real business, and will make sure to put up plenty of points to prevent the Bills, who actually might’ve been a decent team if Watkins wasn’t hurt and the defense doesn’t get embarrassed by this, to challenge.  The Bills will score a good amount, but Garoppolo and the Pats will find a way to be better.  I really like them for that.

 

Seahawks, 27, Jets, 23

Image result for seahawks vs jets

The Seahawks were in some turmoil when the offense couldn’t get going, but they got some momentum last week, until Russell Wilson sprained his MCL.  Luckily, he’s healed quickly and will likely play, but will he be himself?  Doesn’t matter.  Especially against the Seahawks, who also have a very tough defense, I do not see the Jets coming back from last week in any sense.  Eric Decker is now out, and the Jets still don’t have a good tight end.  Their only good weapon, Brandon Marshall has Richard Sherman to deal with!  He won’t be going anywhere.  The Jets defense is all right, but look, the Seahawks defense is a lot better, and like I said, the Jets will not bounce back from last week in any sense.

 

Panthers, 37, Falcons, 30

Image result for Cam Newton vs. falcons

The Falcons have been good the last two weeks, especially offensively, and even with a big weak spot at corner that could fail to cover Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu, the rest of the Carolina defense is good.  The Falcons defense isn’t that good, actually, even if they look good, and they could give up a lot of points to Carolina.  This is going to be a high scoring game, and both teams will make an effort to win, but in the end, I just don’t see the Falcons scoring quite enough on the Panthers defense to top them.  Besides, I think Cam Newton and his offense will really excel in this game, so the Falcons will have tough competition.

 

Lions, 27, Bears, 26

Image result for matthew stafford vs. bears

The Bears have already struggled this season.  Now they’re without Jay Cutler and Jeremy Langford.  I never really thought the Bears would do that good anyways.  Even though they do now have Brian Hoyer and former Lions running back Joique Bell, who might actually be more developed than Langford, the Lions have a pretty good offense that will take advantage of the weak Bears defense.  This will be another offensive battle, and the Lions in this case have a better offense than the Bears.  They may be without Ameer Abdullah, but Matthew Stafford has a great connection with Marvin Jones, and also has strong weapons in Golden Tate, Anquan Boldin and Eric Ebron.  Even pass-catching running back Theo Riddick is getting some good receiving yards in. So I think the Lions are capable of beating the Bears on the road.  This game is slightly in their favor, and they have a good offense to prove themselves.

 

Texans, 34, Titans, 29

Image result for texans-titans

Even with J.J. Watt out for the season, I still think the Texans are the favorite to win the AFC South.  This match-up is crucial, and I still think the Texans can win it at home, even in a now tough AFC South that anyone could win.  This is another great game for Lamar Miller, like Week 1’s lock over the Bears was.  He will wreck the Titans defense.  The entire offense is in good hands against the undeveloped Titans defense.  The Texans defense may have its issues without J.J. Watt, but look, the Texans defense still isn’t bad.  They have Vince Wilfork, Jadeveon Clowney, Johnathan Joseph and maybe Brian Cushing.  They’re definitely better than the Titans defense.  The Titans offense is good, but will come up short against the Texans D.  It could be a close one though.

 

Ravens, 26, Raiders, 24

Image result for derek carr vs. ravens

When these two played last year it was in Oakland, and Seth Roberts just barely got the Raiders the win.  But things are different now.  The Raiders are getting good and the Ravens have improved from last season.  The Ravens are 3-0, but beat the Bills, Jaguars and Browns.  Not so tough competition.  The Raiders beat the Saints and Titans, and lost to the Falcons.  It was tough to beat the Saints and Falcons.  The Falcons offense lashed out in Week 2, and the Saints are just a high scoring team.  The Falcons won in an offensive shootout when they were featured against the Saints on Monday Night Football.  Back to this game though, the Ravens and Raiders are now at about equal level. The Ravens have slightly better offensive depth, while the Raiders have more defensive stars.  I think in a home match-up, the Ravens will score slightly more, and pick up the wins.  I used to always say, two even teams, home team wins, and pick home teams even more than I do now, but now I make some exceptions if injuries, momentum and pressure are involved.  This is no exception.

 

Cowboys, 38, 49ers, 23

 

The Cowboys are without Dez Bryant and Tony Romo, so this could actually be a tough match-up, but against the 49ers, a 4-12 team last year, Dak Prescott’s revised offense should be able to win it, even on the road.  Despite seeing the 49ers as a team who could produce offensively in the first two weeks, in Week 3, they looked like the same old, terrible Niners.  Which Niners will they be this week?  Honestly, I think they will produce something on offense against a below average Cowboys defense.  Now that you think about it, how the 49ers do on offense really depends on how good the defense is that they’re facing.  Maybe they just had some tough defensive match-ups last year and Blaine Gabbert, even Colin Kaepernick could lead the 49ers to a decent record.  Maybe 8-8.  But this week, the 49ers defense, even being mediocre, will be overwhelmed by Dak Prescott’s tricks.  So I see scoring for San Francisco, but not a win in the end.

 

Chargers, 33, Saints, 27 OT

Image result for chargers vs. saints

The Saints have a good, consistent offense, but the Chargers offense has really fired up this season.  Look at what Melvin Gordon has done after a bust season last year.  Even with Keenan Allen and Danny Woodhead leaving for the season with torn ACLs, this offense has produced week after week.  The defense lew an overtime game and a game with 2 minutes left against the Colts, but the Chargers haven’t failed to score and stay in it.  Philip Rivers, Travis Benjamin, Tyrell Williams have really stepped up for this offense, with Antonio Gates (for now), Allen and Woodhead out.  The Saints will score a lot, but it won’t be enough to match Chargers.  This game will be a close offensive shootout that could go to overtime.  Both defenses will be annihilated, and both offenses will thrive.  But in the end, the Chargers haven’t lost at home, and they won’t end that.  With home field advantage, the Chargers do have a slight advantage over the Saints.  They could have a pretty good season, but the problem is, so will everyone in their division.

 

Steelers, 40, Chiefs, 37

 

I just can’t see the Chiefs offense thriving in Pittsburgh, and I can’t see the Steelers being annihilated two weeks straight, especially at home this week.  The Chiefs defense did annihilate the Jets last week, but Le’Veon Bell is back, and this Steelers offense will start to get really good.  Even though the Steelers defense isn’t great, with a home field advantage, I think the Steelers can win this tough Sunday Night match-up.   In a neutral match-up, I think the Chiefs would win.  But the Steelers have home field advantage.  Their defensive weaknesses won’t show, and the Chiefs’ mild offensive depth problems will.  Home field advantage sure can mean a lot in a tough Sunday Night game.  

 

Vikings, 20, Giants, 16

Image result for vikings defense vs. giants

You’ve seen what the Vikings defense can do.  They’ve kept the Vikings undefeated with Teddy Bridgewater out.  The Giants don’t have Rashad Jennings or Shane Vereen.  The Vikings defense will ruin them.  The Giants offense isn’t prepared for what’s coming at them.  The Giants defense is good too, but they have weaknesses, The Vikings will take advantage of those.  Look, this will be a defensive game, a low scoring match-up that comes really close.  But in the end, especially with home field advantage, the Vikings will take advantage of what they can do, and take the win.  The Giants can’t do much about it.  I’m praying for this Vikings defense to do well, because they’re on my fantasy team.  But the Vikings can win this thing, I believe in them, and their defense.

 

Thursday Night’s Game

 

Bengals, 20, Dolphins, 19

 

I knew the Bengals could pull this one off and they did.  The defense was clutch as expected, and the offense thrived, even without Tyler Eifert or many receiving weapons at all.  They relied mainly on their rushing game, and annoyed the Dolphins pass rush, who was having trouble handling too much at once. A.J. Green had an awesome game too.  I knew this game would be a low scorer, somewhat close, where the Bengals defense was the main force in their win, and dominated.  I knew the offense wouldn’t score much but would do its job and not blow the game.  I knew the Dolphins offense wouldn’t do enough to prevent the Bengals from winning, and I had a feeling the defense wouldn’t be able to save them. I’m not surprised the Bengals got the win here.  

Scouting Report: Cleveland Browns

The Browns are still well, the Browns.  So you can’t expect very much from this team.  RG3 may help a little bit under center, but come on Hue Jackson?!  You expect him to pass as the starting QB when he hasn’t been good for 4 years?  They had a good draft, they have some more elite wide receivers after cutting Dwayne Bowe and Brian Hartline, and losing Travis Benjamin to the Chargers, who signed him as a free agent.  They got Corey Coleman and reinstated Josh Gordon, who is still suspended four games, and will return
against Tom Brady’s Patriots.  Brady will also be hungry for revenge after a suspension of his own.  They also got Demario Davis on defense, but otherwise, this is the same old team.  How many wins can the Browns even get with the talent they have?

 

3 Players to Watch

1. Carl Nassib, DE

With Desmond Bryant out for the season, the Browns now have a hole at defensive end.  They drafted both Carl Nassib and Emmanuel Ogbah at the position, but Ogbah is set to play outside linebacker for the Browns.  That leaves Nassib with the starting job.  He does have competition, Xavier Cooper is also strong at the position, but this third round pick was a very intriguing selection, a former walk-on at Penn State who broke out senior year with 15.5 sacks.  The NFL may take some time for him to get used to, and NFL.com was concerned he could be a one year wonder, but personally, I think this rookie could be a breakout candidate, and this year is his oppurtunity with Desmond Bryant missing the season.

2. Duke Johnson, RB

I think this sophomore running back has more talent than Isaiah Crowell, at least potential talent at full development.  The running back only had 104 carries for 379 yards in his rookie season, but this passing back also has put up 61 receptions for 534 yards and 2 TDs.  If he fully develops, he could be a multi-purpose back that scores rushing and receiving touchdowns.  I expect his TD numbers to go up in 2016, along with his total yardage.

3.  Scooby Wright III, ILB

“Hey, the Browns are so bad, they signed Scooby Doo!”

“No, I think you got the wrong Scooby.”  Yeah.  Wrong Scooby.  This is Scooby Wright III.  You probably haven’t heard of him.  He’s an inside linebacker who was originally projected to be selected in Round 3 of the NFL Draft, but went to the Browns in Round 7 instead.  Personally, I think this college stud should act like a third rounder on the Browns, possibly even fight for Christian Kirksey’s current starting job.  I know, what’s with the weird names?  In 2 seasons with the Browns, Kirksey, a third round pick in 2014, has only racked up 5.5 sacks.  Wright racked up 14 sacks in the 2014 college football season, that’s more than one per game, after none in freshman year.  The question is, can Wright put up the same numbers he did in his healthy years in college, and can he be consistent?  In the three games he did play last year, he got 2 sacks.  Can he put up the same numbers in all 16 games?

 

3 Questions That Must Be Answered

 

1. Can Robert Griffin III ever match
his 2012 stats again?

In his rookie season, RG3 led the
Redskins to a division win and strong playoff run, making for an amazing rookie year. But he got hurt in a playoff game. In 2013,
Griffin never fully recovered. He was sidelined for the last three games for Kirk Cousins.  Back then, Cousins wasn’t what he is now.  He wasn’t developed yet, and at the start of 2014, RG3 earned the job back.  Somehow, his terrible 2013 numbers passed for a starting job?  The Redskins had a serious QB problem that year.  RG3 got hurt again in week 2 and Cousins started for seven games.  RG3 came back in Week 9, but he still did nothing.  RG3 was still not quite back to what he was, and with Kirk Cousins shut down for the season with his own injury, the Redskins had to rely on Colt McCoy to start for the remainder of the season.  McCoy eventually got hurt and RG3 had to start the rest of the season.  In 2015, Griffin struggled regressively in the preseason, and lost his job to Kirk Cousins permanently, falling to third on the depth chart also behind Colt McCoy. Cousins broke out, leading the Redskins back to the playoffs in an easy division, and RG3 never saw action, and eventually was released.  The Redskins must have been sick of his tactics.  Then Cleveland signs him and names him starter?  Over Josh McCown?  After last year’s disgrace. Wow, Hue Jackson.  Just, wow.  Griffin looks promising in the preseason, but it’s not a guarantee he’ll get back to business, and stay healthy.  I personally think he’ll do alright, but he still won’t be what he was, and I can’t tell you he won’t get hurt.  Good move keeping Josh McCown, Cleveland.

2. Will Josh Gordon perform well, and stay out of trouble?

Most people believe Josh Gordon’s recent reinstatement will benefit the Browns.  Personally, I’m questioning whether Gordon is in football shape.  He’s battling a preseason injury for a reason.  After a long suspension, it’s not easy to go back to what you were before the ban.  Gordon will be able to play in preseason games, but will remain suspended for regular season games until Week 5.  I don’t think Gordon will go back to being the guy who was a league leader in receiving yards right away.  It will take time for Gordon to redevelop his skill, if he ever does.  I’m starting to wonder, did the drugs affect his performance?  It’s also not a guarantee that Gordon will stay out of trouble.  If he has issues later in the season, he could receive more discipline.  Gordon shouldn’t have even been reinstated in the first place!  I think Gordon should be grateful he was reinstated, and drop the drugs so he can just play football again, but will he?

3. Will strong drafts in 2015 and 2016 pay off?

In the last two years, the Browns have drafted many key players.  Danny Shelton, Nate Orchard, Cameron Erving, Duke Johnson, Corey Coleman, Emmanuel Ogbah, Carl Nassib, Rashard Higgins, Ricardo Louis, Jordan Payton, Shon Coleman and Spencer Drango have all came from the last two years’ drafts.  Most of these guys aren’t completely developed yet, but a lot of them have potential.  Danny Shelton is a major breakout candidate, after decent numbers last year.  He was a 12th overall pick, after all.  Nate Orchard has contributed to the pass rush, as well.  Cameron Erving could emerge into a starter, and Duke Johnson is blossoming into a work horse RB.  In this year’s draft came four receivers.  Corey Coleman should be an immediate force, while Rashard Higgins, Ricardo Louis and Jordan Payton could see receptions off the bench.  Personally, I think Higgins and Payton are two underrated receivers that could fight for WR4 and WR5 jobs.  I also think both o-linemen and pass rushers should see time on the field, Nassib could even start.  I like the duo of Nassib and Ogbah to rack up 6 or 7 sacks.  Personally, I think Drango is the best option at right guard.  All these guys should eventually fan out, and some will affect the season.

 

3 Bold Predictions

1. Duke Johnson will lead in not just rushing yards, but lead Browns non-QBs in total yards

Duke Johnson is no one-trick pony, even in football.  He doesn’t just scramble well, he makes catches.  Personally, between his rushing yards and receiving yards and TDs he purs up, he’s an intriguing pick to lead Browns non-QBs in total yards and TDs.  There is Gary Barnidge, who could go for more TDs, but although Barnidge should be starting material at tight end, he won’t match last year, or even come close.  Josh Gordon will be missing 4 games, so Johnson has time to get a head start on him, and the rest of the receiving group hasn’t quite panned out yet, even Corey Coleman and Andrew Hawkins.  What about Isaiah Crowell?  Honestly, I think Duke Johnson will be started over Crowell this year.  Crowell hasn’t proven to be a quality starter, and I would give the sophomore RB, part of a legendary rookie running back class a try at the starting job.  Duke J0hnson is a major sleeper, and he will breakout in 2016.

2. Only 2 players will reach 8 sacks on Browns, but who?

The Browns pass rush can be pathetic at times.  Without Desmond Bryant, it will be even harder.  Personally, I think that only 2 players will even rack up 8 sacks.  Some of you might even be wondering who could do that?  I like Paul Kruger personally.  The veteran has had plenty of sacks in his career, 8 should be easy for him, if he can get back on track after a rough 2015.  The other guy being Danny Shelton.  Like I said, this guy is a major sleeper.  I’d expect more from the former 1st round pick in 2016.  He’s yet to earn a sack in his career.  2016 is his year, especially if he wants to keep the starting job.

3. The Browns will lead the AFC North in rushing yards

 

Hue Jackson sure likes to run the ball.  He has two powerful running backs in his backfield, but why do they top backfields with guys like Le’ Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams?  Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard?  Well, Bell will be suspended for the first four games, so his rushing totals will be cut in to, and DeAngelo Williams is an aging back.  Jeremy Hill is good, but Gio Bernard also gets some of his yards in receptions.  Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson are two underrated backs that could breakout, and it wouldn’t be bold predictions without a shocker like this.

 

Schedule Breakdown

The Browns don;t have many opportunities for wins, so they must take advantage of the opportunities they do have.  They open the season in Philadelphia against Doug Pederson’s Eagles.  I think this game is winnable, as I am disgusted by the Eagles’ off season rebuild, but home field advantage should pay off for the Eagles, who should top the just as bad Cleveland Browns.  The rebuilt Ravens should be tough as well.

Then come matches against the Dolphins and Redskins.  The Dolphins aren’t great, but they do have some mediocrity around the team.  They just don’t compare to the rest of the league.  But they are better than the Browns, especially when at home.  The Redskins still have a strong receiving group, and the defense is getting better, definitely enough to top the Browns.

They have absolutely no chance against Brady in his first game back, and a revamped Titans offense should thrive at home.  Cincinnati may be on the decline, but they still have enough weapons to blowout the Browns.  This would put Cleveland at 0-7.  Then comes a mtch-up against the Jets, in Cleveland.  I see home field advantage kicking in, and even with Ryan Fitzpatrick leading a strong Jets offense now, the defense has lost steam since last season, and the Browns offense, Josh Gordon, RG3, Corey Coleman, Duke Johnson, Isaiah Crowell and Gary Barnidge, should be enough to edge out the defense and get their first win.

The Cowboys should be tough when nearly at full strength.  DeMarcus Lawrence, maybe even Randy Gregory will be back, and I think the defense is underrated.  In addition to a stellar offense, that should be enough to down the Browns in Cleveland, and if Cleveland loses to the Ravens at home, it won’t be any easier on the road, even with Josh Gordon in his sixth week.  The Steelers’ QB/RB/WR combo is tough for the Browns as well, but in a division match-up, I could see the Browns splitting, and pulling the upset trigger in this game.  Their underrated offense will take advantage of the Pittsburgh D, and the Steelers offense won’t do enough.  They will be dealt a loss in Pittsburgh, though. The Giants’ revamped defense will compliment the offense and give them the road win.  Going into the bye, the Browns would be just 2-10.  If you count the Steelers match-up after the bye I called a loss, I have them at 2-11 so far.

After the bye, they have two winnable match-ups.  The first one is hosting the Bengals, another division match-up, but especially after how well the Bengals have done against the Browns, I don’t see the Browns beating the Bengals and Steelers and not the Ravens.  So they lose that one.  In Buffalo, the strong draft plus the developing talent they already had should be too good for the Browns.  The second winnable match-up comes against the Chargers.  Although the Philip Rivers led offense is intriguing, Hue Jackson’s underrated Browns offense should be all over a weak defense.  Then they close up the season in Pittsburgh.  They can’t win this game under any circumstances, and at 3-12, they will have given up already.  I see a loss here.

 

My Prediction

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The Browns will never be that good without some moves, and I don’t see many winnable match-ups on the schedule.  But this underrated offense could pull an upset or two, and I can at least see the Browns beat the Chargers at home and maybe the Jets.  Two, three, maybe four wins sounds pretty reasonable, but they will likely place last in the conference.

Final Projected Record: 3-13