Top 5 ‘Football Fast Facts’ That Could be Significant in Super Bowl LIII

Welcome to my 4th of several Super Bowl LIII Preview posts.  Over the last two days, I went over keys to the game for each team.  Today, I will be looking back at previous stat nuggets that could be significant to the game.  What stats could be telling about the results of the game?  What previous happenings will motivate or burden each team? Keep reading to find out what I think.  You can also check out my entire Super Bowl LIII preview schedule below.  I will be posting preview articles throughout the week as festivities in Atlanta take place.

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Super Bowl LIII: Official Boston Sports Mania Preview Schedule

January 28: Super Bowl LIII: How They Got Here

January 29: The Case for the Patriots: How They Can Win, Keys to the Game

January 30: The Case for the Rams: How They Can Win, Keys to the Game

February 1: Super Bowl LIII Fast Facts and Their Significance

February 1: Super Bowl LIII: Final Prediction, Projected Stats & MVP

February 2: Super Bowl LIII Video Preview

February 3: The Final Countdown: Final Injury Report, Outlook Before the Game (Including iMovie Trailer)

February 3: Enjoy the game and stay tuned for my recap after the game!

1. Per NFL.com, Tom Brady is the least sacked QB to start 12+ games in 2018 (21, including playoffs)

You have to give some credit to the Patriots offensive line. Four of the five New England offensive lineman are above their positional average in pass block win rate, and the Pats lead the league in this stat. But you also have to give some credit to Brady himself for playing smart football. He judges the defense well and gets the ball out quickly if he needs to. This should help them maintain a rhythm throughout the game, something a sack could significantly interrupt. But it will also help them win the turnover battle, a key piece to victory. Teams who win the turnover battle tend to win about 4 of every 5 games.

2. The Rams offense is averaging 1.5 more points and 3 more yards per game than the 2001 “Greatest Show on Turf” offense.

From a Pats fan’s perspective, it’s scary to see that the Rams offense is not only matching but outdoing their “Greatest Show on Turf” era offensive numbers. Back then, the Rams were the experienced dynasty and the Pats were a team on the rise. Though the opposite is true now, if Brady outplayed an offense like this in 2001, I have confidence he can do it again 17 years later. You do have to consider that the Pats allowed just 334.5 YPG in 2001 compared to 353.9 YPG in 2018. But that’s not a huge difference. Everyone says that the 2001 Patriots had a pretty good defense, while this year’s defense is not great. But in reality, this year’s defense is around average, and they weren’t that much better in 2001 defensively.

3. QBs Tom Brady and Jared Goff are both Top 10 in interceptions thrown this season.

Something tells me this game will have a good number of turnovers.  In addition to the above stat, both these teams have elite secondaries that are 3rd (Rams) and 4th (Patriots) respectively in interceptions. The question is, who will win the turnover battle? As I said, most NFL teams who win the turnover battle go on to win the game. In terms of who wins it, I think it all comes down to the WR-DB match-ups. Compared to New England, the Rams are fairly weak at tight end, and I could see the Pats secondary dominating those match-ups. The Rams have been terrible against tight ends this year, though TE Rob Gronkowski is his own animal. That itself will give the Pats an advantage. Plus, it’s unlikely the Rams are able to contain both Gronk and WR Julian Edelman. If they double up on Gronk, that will allow Edelman to shine.

4. Right now, RB Sony Michel is behind just Terrell Davis and Arian Foster in rush yards/playoff game. Though 2 games is a small sample, what does this say about Michel?

Though Davis is a three time All-Pro first team member, Foster never really established himself as a hall of fame caliber running back and ended up retiring after 8 seasons thanks to an injury-riddled career. But he did have a nice run as an elite RB from 2010-2014. Due to the small sample size, it’s hard to tell how much this means for Sony Michel right now in this game. It’s hard to guarantee a big game for him against a star-studded Rams d-line. But I do believe he has a future as an elite running back and a leader on the Pats, even if injuries or something else limits his career. He did put up an impressive rookie season in the games he played.

5. In 2 regular season games with the Rams, C.J. Anderson rushed for 299 yards. It took Todd Gurley until Week 4 to reach 300 yards on the season.

Anderson was in the right place at the right time. Anderson played the 49ers and Cardinals in the final two regular season games. Sure, Gurley played the Raiders and Cardinals in his first two games, but you also have to consider that Anderson came in late in the season. All the Rams had to do to be in good position for the playoffs was beat their weaker division rivals, but these games mattered more to the Rams than the first two. Gurley did do well against the Raiders, and despite just 42 rushing yards against Arizona, he scored 3 TD. Though it took him longer to approach 300 rushing yards, you could argue that Gurley was as good a running back in LA’s first two games, both easy wins, as Anderson was in the last two, also easy wins. The reason Anderson did so well was because he took advantage of a big opportunity. With Gurley at full health, expect Gurley to lead the backfield, with Anderson playing a significant supporting role. This will make things difficult for the Pats.

At least couple of these stats are a good sign for each team. But in the end, what matters is how these two teams match-up. Who will win Super Bowl LIII? Will it be a nail-biter? A blowout? Something in between? What players will have the biggest impact on the game? Find out what I think in my next article, when I share my score prediction and projected stats for the game.

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2018 NFL Week 16 Picks & Previews: No(t Many) Surprises Here

Welcome to my Week 16 NFL picks and previews.  Last week, I went 11-5, putting my overall record at 126-97-2 (127-98-2 including Week 16 Saturday games).  For the most part, there are very few upsets in the final few weeks of the season. I don’t think there will be many upsets this week, either.  But that doesn’t mean there won’t be any surprises. There’s bound to be a couple surprise victories. But who will be the team to surprise us this week?  Keep reading to find out what I think, and feel free to comment with your thoughts.

Lock of the Week

Expect Detroit’s offensive struggles to continue against the strong Vikings defense.  The Vikings won’t be at their best offensively either in this game, but they should still score multiple TDs.  The combination of these two factors will help the Vikings win with ease in Detroit.

Upset of the Week (SNF)

I think QB Patrick Mahomes II could have a dominant game against the inexperienced Seahawks defense, tossing 3+ TDs.  But I expect Seattle’s versatile, consistent offense to put together more quality drives and find a way to win at home, especially against one of the worst defenses in the league.  The Chiefs will be without not only RB Kareem Hunt, but also WR Sammy Watkins. I see them just barely coming up short at CenturyLink Field.

The Other Games

Saturday, 4:30 PM EST (Posted to Twitter on Saturday; Actual Score: 25-16 Titans)

Look for QB Marcus Mariota and the young Titans offense to get it done against an unmotivated Redskins defense.  QB Josh Johnson and his offense will not help matters for the Redskins as they fail to score a TD. This will partially be due to Washington’s QB struggles without Alex Smith, but also partially due to a dominant defensive game by Tennessee that secures them a victory.
Saturday, 8:20 PM EST (Posted to Twitter on Saturday; Actual Score: 22-10 Ravens)

Despite an ugly game, expect QB Philip Rivers and the Chargers to prevail here.  RB Melvin Gordon and WR Keenan Allen will boost the Chargers in their return, but the entire offense including Gordon and Allen will be limited by the overwhelming Baltimore defense.  QB Lamar Jackson and his offense will make this close, but they even after the strong defensive performance, the Ravens will fail to keep up with Rivers, Gordon, and Co.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Look for the Pats to rebound from two straight losses in their return to Gillette.  Even without WR Josh Gordon (who was suspended earlier this week), I think QB Tom Brady will turn it around for 3+ TDs.  Even the Pats defense will improve here as they hold Buffalo to just 1 TD.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Expect the Dolphins to win here, but it will not be easy.  First of all, I’m expecting a low scoring, ugly game. In addition, I see the Jags forcing overtime as their defense gets back on track here.  However, Jacksonville will fall short as their offense struggles to produce without a quality starting QB.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Look for Green Bay to get by due to a consistent offense led by QB Aaron Rodgers.  Expect New York’s offense to look good at times as the Packers struggle at times to contain the Jets’ receivers.  But the Packers defense will still prevent them from getting into a real rhythm.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Cleveland has struggled in overtime throughout the season.  For all we know, they could be leading the division if it weren’t for their OT struggles.  But in this game, I see the Browns winning in overtime thanks to a clutch performance by QB Baker Mayfield and his young offense.  Cincy will make it close thanks to the emergence of WRs Tyler Boyd and John Ross agains the inexperienced Browns D. But I still expect them to fall just short.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Look for Philly to pull the upset after a strong offensive game supported by QB Nick Foles.  Their case will be helped by Houston’s offensive struggles without RB Lamar Miller. The Texans D will limit Foles and the Eagles, but it will not be enough.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Look for QB Andrew Luck and his offense to find a way against a weakened Giants D.  The Giants should be alright without WR Odell Beckham Jr. against an inexperienced Colts defense.  But Luck and the Colts will be able to lead Indy to victory regardless.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

 

Expect QB Dak Prescott to lead the Cowboys to victory in a relatively high scoring game.  QB Jameis Winston will toss 2-3 TDs of his own against a young Dallas defense, but the Bucs D will struggle regressively as usual, allowing the Cowboys to outplay Tampa’s offense and win easily.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

QB Taylor Heinicke will not be able to compete with QB Matt Ryan like QB Cam Newton would.  Look for Ryan and the Falcons offense to dominate against a weak Carolina secondary as Atlanta wins in a blowout.
Sunday, 4:05 PM EST

Look for the Bears to get by in a defense-first game.  Chicago’s D will hold QB Nick Mullens and the Niners to just 10 points.  Don’t expect a field day for the Chicago offense, but they should put up enough points for a road victory.
Sunday, 4:05 PM EST

Look for the Rams strong D to shut down the Cardinals’ young offense.  The Rams won’t be great offensively, but they’ll put up enough to get by despite an ugly overall game.
Sunday, 4:25 PM EST

The Saints won’t be up to full speed offensively, as WR Michael Thomas is the only trustworthy receiver QB Drew Brees has right now.  But the Steelers’ offense won’t be at full capacity either with RB James Conner out. QB Ben Roethlisberger will toss multiple TD, but it won’t be enough as the run game is practically non-existent.  This will allow the Saints to get by at home.
Monday, 8:15 PM EST

Look for the Broncos’ to win in primetime thanks to a strong game by not only RB Phillip Lindsay but the entire Denver run game.  The Raiders’ offense will struggle to produce against a strong Denver defense, even in Oakland.

That’s all for today’s picks.  Stay tuned for more NFL coverage soon.

2018 NFL Week 9 Picks & Previews: Contenders Keep Going with Close Wins

Welcome to my Week 9 NFL Picks & Previews.  Last week I went 7-7, putting my overall record at 68-51-2 (69-51-2 including Week 9 TNF).  I am ahead of 3 ESPN experts and 1 CBS Sports expert.  Look for a lot of the borderline contenders to prove themselves this week with important wins.  I think the Ravens will shut down the Steelers for the 2nd time this year, the Vikings will silence the Lions, and the Chargers will dominate the 4-3 Seahawks coming off the bye week.  The Chargers had put a 4-game win streak together prior to the bye.  Although some of these contenders will win, some will be upset. Who will fall in a shocking upset?  Who will remain elite?  Keep reading to find out what I think.

Lock of the Week

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Expect LA’s explosive offense to embarrass the young Seattle D in a blowout.  With WR Brandon Marshall a free agent, QB Russell Wilson will also struggle to find reliable open men.  Meanwhile, QB Philip Rivers will lead the Chargers to a blowout victory with 4+ TD.  

Upset of the Week

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I don’t think WR Amari Cooper will make much of a difference for QB Dak Prescott and the troubled Dallas pass offense.  Their big week against Jacksonville is a sign of big things to come, but it won’t happen this week as Tennessee’s secondary steps it up.  The Titans will bounce back from a rough October with a triumphant Monday Night victory coming off the bye as they shock the Cowboys in their first home loss of the season.  

The Other Games

TNF (Posted to Twitter on Thursday Night; Actual Score: 34-3 49ers)

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Even with their third-string QB starting, I think this young 49ers offense can put together a big game considering how bad the Oakland D has been without DE Khalil Mack.  Oakland’s season will begin to fall apart despite looking okay on offense.  I don’t think they will win many more games with RB Marshawn Lynch out and WR Amari Cooper gone.  
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

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QB Brock Osweiler somehow led for the Dolphins to victory in Week 7.  But I don’t see him winning against the Jets elite secondary.  Expect multiple interceptions here, even on Osweiler’s home turf.  QB Sam Darnold will step it up to secure a Jets victory on the road.  QB Ryan Tannehill spoiled New York’s home opener.  Darnold will look for revenge with Tannehill injured for the third straight game.  
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

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Look for Chicago’s defense to lead them to victory against another banged-up AFC East team in the Bills.  Buffalo will have to settle for Nathan Peterman at QB, although they did add another weapon in Terrelle Pryor Jr. for him.  I think Peterman will look better than usual and make this close, but there’s no way he leads the Bills to victory against this Bears defense.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

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Pittsburgh was starting to look alright without RB Le’Veon Bell.  But there’s no way they get past this versatile Ravens run defense without their star running back.  This will make it hard for Pittsburgh to outscore Baltimore.  I don’t see the Steelers defense performing any better than usual against this deep Ravens receiving corps.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

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Against a rebuilding Browns defense, QB Patrick Mahomes II should be dominant as usual.  I could even see him throwing 4 TD in this game. The Chiefs defense will slip a little against QB Baker Mayfield and an improved Cleveland offense, but Mahomes’ field day will be enough for them here.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

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Look for the Redskins to play complimentary football here in an all-around strong game.  They will utilize their versatile roster as they win at home. Atlanta’s washed-up defense will also struggle to contain QB Alex Smith’s deep receiving corps.  
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

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Look for serious regression from Detroit’s offense as they face one of the league’s best defenses without WR Golden Tate.  I have the Vikes holding them under 10 here. QB Kirk Cousins and his receivers won’t look much better, but they should manage to get by.  Don’t expect many more losses by the Vikes either. With RB Dalvin Cook healthy, things should be smooth sailing.  They’ve really only had one concerning loss this whole season.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

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QB Cam Newton and the Panthers offense should ride the momentum they gathered in Week 8 to beat the Bucs in Carolina.  They should not be concerned about facing a Buccaneers D that has struggled all season. QB Ryan Fitzpatrick will not be enough to lead Tampa to victory here as Carolina shuts down Tampa’s run game.  That puts a lot of pressure on Fitzpatrick, which could cause him to struggle.
Sunday, 4:05 PM EST

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Houston will struggle offensively, as WR Demaryius Thomas doesn’t provide much of an upgrade over WR Will Fuller.  Plus, Denver’s secondary knows Thomas very well and will be able to shut him down. The Broncos will edge out a victory in a low scoring game as WR Courtland Sutton steps it up with Thomas flipping sides.  Don’t expect much scoring though. This is a battle of two of the AFC’s best defenses.
Sunday, 4:25 PM EST

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The Rams will stay undefeated with a road win over New Orleans.  Their elite defense will come ready to shut down QB Drew Brees, RB Alvin Kamara and the Saints offense.  Even with WR Cooper Kupp back, the Rams won’t be at full speed on offense. But they should get past the Saints thanks to elite defense and a last minute, victory-securing TD.  
Sunday, 8:20 PM EST

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If RB Sony Michel and TE Rob Gronkowski are healthy, this will be a blowout.  Otherwise, it could be close.  QB Aaron Rodgers will struggle to find open men here, as the Patriots secondary will keep Rodgers’ small number of dependable receivers well covered.  The Pats offense will be back to dominance if they have Gronk and Michel.  But after New England’s hiccup without them last week, I don’t think the offense would be the same without them.  I think they will be able to play, but I’m not an injury expert. Either way, New England should win and remain undefeated at home.

That’s all for this week. Stay tuned for more NFL posts soon, including my mid-season report (I usually post it after Week 8, but have delayed it until after Week 9 to the chaotic playoff picture we have right now).  Hopefully, Week 9 will settle some things.

2018 NFL Week 6 Picks & Previews: Expect Lots of High Scoring Games

Welcome to my Week 6 NFL pick’em and previews.  Last week I went 8-7, placing my overall record at 45-31-2, ahead of 7 of ESPN’s 10 experts, and 3 of CBS Sports’ 8 experts.  Some of the offense-heavy teams in the league take each other on this week. The Chiefs face off with the Patriots. The Raiders take on the Seahawks in London.  The Chargers will head to Cleveland to play the Browns. The Bucs and Falcons will play each other in an intriguing divisional match-up. Who will win in these likely shootouts?  Read below to find out what I think.

Lock of the Week (MNF)

With WR Randall Cobb likely back, expect this Packers passing offense to perform a lot better than they did in Detroit, especially since they are home this week.  But it’s the run game that I see leading the Pack. These running backs haven’t really had the chance to truly shine in Green Bay’s pass-first offense, but I could see it happening against an inexperienced 49ers run defense.  Without QB Jimmy Garoppolo, it will be extremely difficult for the Niners to match Green Bay’s offensive performance. I see the Packers winning easily.

Upset of the Week

This Broncos defense will make it difficult for the Rams to score as much as they usually do, but I think they manage to score 20+ points on Denver, led by RB Todd Gurley.  However, I expect Denver’s receivers to have a strong day as well, despite the fact that they are facing a stacked Rams secondary.  They have two dependable veterans in Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, and a promising rookie, Courtland Sutton.  I think they can handle the Rams secondary, especially with ex-Bronco Aqib Talib on IR. Look for Denver to pull the upset in a game that’s surprisingly high scoring.

The Other Games

TNF (Posted on Twitter Thursday Night; Actual Score: 34-13 Eagles)

Expect the Eagles run game to struggle with RB Jay Ajayi on IR.  But I think QB Carson Wentz and his receivers will find a way to win it in New York.  The Giants offense will struggle once again without TE Evan Engram, but I think WRs Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard will have strong games to make this close.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Expect Houston’s elite defense to shut down QB Josh Allen and his receivers.  I think they will hold the Bills to 1 TD or less in this game. Meanwhile, QB Deshaun Watson and the Texans offense will have a decent enough despite the banged-up run game and lack of WR depth.  I see the trio of Watson, RB Lamar Miller and WR DeAndre Hopkins leading them to victory.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

The Colts offense should look better than they did in New England.  Expect RB Nyheim Hines to step it up with the receivers banged up. However, I see the Colts D, which has struggled all season falling apart against a promising Jets passing game.  Look for both QB Sam Darnold and RB Isaiah Crowell to have big games as the Jets score at least 4 TDs. New York should win easily with the Colts defense regressively struggling.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

UPDATE: Ryan Tannehill is OUT, Brock Osweiler will start

Look for the Dolphins young D to have success against QB Mitch Trubisky and his offense.  Their promising group of receivers will not be enough here as the run game struggles. I also think that with the home-field advantage, the Dolphins will manage to score 30+ points despite facing Khalil Mack and the Bears D.  With QB Ryan Tannehill out, QB Brock Osweiler will rely on his receivers as Mack and the Bears front seven shuts down the Dolphins run game.  In the end, I have the Dolphins pulling a surprising upset at home, thanks to an all-around elite performance.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Look for Cincy’s receivers to step it up against a struggling Steelers secondary. But the Steelers will make this a close shootout. QB Ben Roethlisberger and his receivers will thrive as well against a rebuilding Bengals secondary.  But without RB Le’Veon Bell, the Steelers run game will be easily shut down. The Bengals will manage to win thanks to the strong run defense and strong game by their receivers.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Look for QB Baker Mayfield and the Browns to make this close in Cleveland.  But this Chargers offense has dominated and led the team to victory against every below average defense they’ve played.  Look for QB Philip Rivers, RB Melvin Gordon, WR Keenan Allen and company to do the same in Cleveland as they take on an inexperienced Browns D.  This stellar offensive performance will lead LA to victory for the fourth time this season.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Expect a shootout in this London game.  Both these defenses have struggled regressively all season.  Look for Oakland’s offense to dominate against the young Seattle D, and expect QB Russell Wilson and his receivers to have a field day against the Khalil Mack-less Raiders defense.  I think the Raiders, who will have more success running the ball, will outscore the Seahawks to win it.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Expect the Panthers offense to be back at full speed with TE Greg Olsen back.  They will be able to take advantage of a below average Redskins secondary with QB Cam Newton’s favorite target healthy.  QB Alex Smith and his receivers will put up a fight with a 3 TD game of their own.  But look for the Panthers strong front seven to be successful in pressuring Smith and shutting down Washington’s RBs, allowing Carolina to hold on for a victory.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

I think Arizona’s D will step it up this weekend, allowing them to come close in Minnesota.  But the Vikings WR duo of Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs is just too much for this Cardinals secondary to handle, and their success will lead to an overtime Vikings win, despite the run game’s continuing struggles.  The Vikings defense will also have a nice game, holding the Cardinals to just 1 TD and overwhelming rookie QB Josh Rosen.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

With RB Devonta Freeman out, both defenses struggling, and both offenses dominating, expect a lot of passing in this game.  QB Matt Ryan and his receivers should have a field day against the weakening Bucs secondary, while Tampa’s underrated front seven shuts down RB Tevin Coleman.  Meanwhile, QB Jameis Winston and his receivers will prove that the Bucs can succeed on offense without QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. Expect them to pull the upset in a shootout, as Atlanta begins to lose hope after another embarrassingly bad defensive game.
Sunday, 4:25 PM EST

This Titans roster is filled with young talent on both sides of the ball.  Look for their younger players to step it up and lead Tennessee to victory at home.  The Ravens should continue their strong season by getting out to an early lead thanks to shut down defense.  But Tennessee’s young core will lead to a comeback as they outplay Baltimore.  After two straight losses, the Ravens will begin to regress. 
Sunday, 4:25 PM EST

Expect QB Dak Prescott and his receivers to be shut down by a top notch Jags defense.  Prescott looked pretty bad against the Texans D. I can’t see him doing any better against Sacksonville.  Meanwhile, the Jaguars will manage to get by on offense, bouncing back from last week’s putrid offensive performance.  The combination of these two things will lead to a Jaguars victory, despite run game struggles without RB Leonard Fournette.
Sunday, 8:20 PM EST

Check back closer to gametime for a video preview!

Look for QB Tom Brady and his receivers to thrive, overwhelming the Chiefs secondary without S Eric Berry.  Kansas City’s offense should make this close, but expect the Chiefs defense to blow it despite a 30-point, multi-TD game for QB Patrick Mahomes II and his offense.  

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

 

NFL Week 7 Picks

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

Teams on Bye: Detroit Lions, Houston Texans

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

Lock of the Week

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

 

Upset of the Week

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

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

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

 

Sunday’s Games


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

Please comment with your thoughts.

NFL Week 2 Picks: Another Crazy Week Ahead

We are one week into the season, and it has already been crazy.  The Jags are legit.  The Patriots lost!  The Bears and Browns nearly won!  However, in the end, I came out with a 9-6 record, better than Pete Prisco of CBS Sports.  Today we will be looking at my picks for week 2.

Note: The teams on the top in the images are the road teams, and the teams on the bottom are the home teams.  

Lock Of The Week

If I told you in 2015 that in a couple years, the Raiders would cream the Jets, you wouldn’t believe me.  The Raiders were terrible a few years back, and the Jets were turning it around with Todd Bowles taking over.  Now, the Jets offense is a complete mess and the Raiders offense is as good as ever.  What Oakland did last week shows that they’ve only gotten better.

The Jets don’t have a chance this week.  In my opinion, this will be one of the multiple blowouts this week.  The Raiders have a powerful offense and a pesky defense. The Jets entire team is falling apart as they have no QB, no receiving weapons, and no secondary.

Upset of the Week


Although the Chiefs looked good last week after schooling the Pats, I think it could be ugly this week.  They’re the kind of team that could suffer from inconsistency week to week.  The Eagles offense has definitely gotten tougher, so they should be a challenge for the Kansas City D that lost standout S Eric Berry.

In addition, Kansas City has even more of a depth problem on offense than they did last year, and that won’t help against a good Eagles defense.  The Chiefs look like the favorites at home but I believe the Eagles will surprise people this year starting with an upset against the Chiefs.
The Other Games

TNF

Both of these teams were equally bad last week.  Tom Savage looked lost and was ultimately replaced by Watson after being sacked 6 times.  The Bengals offense has not scored a point.  But this week I see Cincy winning the battle of two sub-par offenses. Without Brian Cushing and with JJ Watt a little banged up, the Houston D isn’t at full health right now.  While the Bengals defense hung in there only giving up 20 despite being on the field for 34 minutes.

The Texans offense lacks a true NFL starter so I expect Bengals D to confuse the rookie QB in his first NFL start.  Add the Bengals home crowd noise factor in prime time and I give the Bengals a slight edge.  Even though they fell flat against Baltimore, the Ravens are better than I originally predicted but the Texans might actually be worse than I originally predicted as they have already given up on “Tom’s our starter.”

Sunday’s Games

If you’re a Pats fan like me, last week was devastating to watch, especially the 21-0 4th quarter.  However, as many have noted, the Pats needed that embarrassment and better now than later in the season.  The game was a wake-up call and silenced all the talk about a 19-0 season.  As Super Bowl champs, they should expect everyone’s best and that wins will not come easy.  Pats fans take note that the team has won 3 Super Bowls in season’s in which they lost in Week 1 and have not been 0-2 since 2001.

I think this offense will be motivated to prove Pats haters wrong this week and Brady rarely has two bad performances in a row.  Brandin Cooks will also be motivated to show his former team they should not have traded him.  I don’t believe the Pats will lose 2 weeks in a row.  Although they’ve been hit hard by injuries, I think their active players are going into this game both physically and mentally prepared to play like defending champs.


The Panthers held on for a nice win last week and I think it will happen again.  The Bills do have a strong offense this season but the defense is a serious problem that the Panthers will take advantage of.

As for the Panthers D, the front seven is amazing and I don’t think LeSean McCoy will score a single TD.  However, the Panthers still need work on their secondary so the Bills will get some TDs through the air.  In the end, these two teams even out pretty closely.  I think the Panthers will win in OT.


The Browns didn’t win last week but they came close against the Steelers in Cleveland. They are definitely better this year and the Ravens aren’t as good as Pittsburgh.  But I don’t see the Browns winning a road game this season.  The Ravens looked good all-around last week and they should be able to beat Cleveland especially at home.

The Browns offense may be pesky but it’s not a problem at all for the Ravens’ strong defense.  The defense in Cleveland has many holes and lacks depth so I don’t see them having much success against the Ravens.  However, I don’t expect the Browns to go 0-16 but rather be more competitive and possibly win more than last year.  The only real candidate to go 0-16 this year is the Jets and few would argue with me on that, even Jets fans.


The Vikings have a great defense once again this year and their offense is really intriguing despite a lack of depth.  But they are no match for the Pittsburgh Steelers at home.  The Steelers have the Dream Team offense and a defense that at home can wear down almost any team.

The Steelers young secondary has begun to improve and their front seven has been great.  So I don’t expect the Minnesota Vikings to beat the Steelers, especially in Pittsburgh.  Steelers cruise to a win.


The Jags are legit.  I know they lost Allen Robinson but they have a great defense and they have depth on offense.  Look out for sleepers like Dede Westbrook to have a big game.  The Titans looked overmatched losing at home against Oakland last week.

I don’t see the Titans beating this Jaguars team in Jacksonville.   I wouldn’t be surprised if they crushed the Titans just as they did to the Texans.

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Andrew Luck has been ruled out again for Week 2 but I think any QB will be better than Scott Tolzien, even inexperienced Jacoby Brissett.  The Cots have some great receivers but they need a good or at least half decent QB in order to win games for the Colts.  They will have to find someone to fill in while Luck is out.  They need a QB who can utilize the great receivers the Colts have and Jacoby will get the chance this Sunday.

The Cardinals played well last week but the offense looks washed up and losing David Johnson won’t help.  I think the Colts defense should have it easier than last week and with anyone but Scott Tolzien as the starter, the Colts should be able to win this game at home.


Expect this game to be a blowout.  The Buccaneers will open their season in Tampa and they’ll be motivated to play well for their city that was impacted by Hurricane Irma.  The Bears are simply no match for them.

The Bears are thin at WR with the loss of Kevin White last week.  The Bears defense is still a work in progress and it may be viewed that way all season.  The Bucs meanwhile are well-built all around and I expect them to do well this season.  It will all start with an easy win at home.


The Dolphins will be almost as motivated as the Bucs opening their season but they are not playing the Bears.  Although LA might not feel like home for the Chargers, the Dolphins will be far from home and I expect a loud crowd for the Chargers first home game at LA.

The Dolphins will miss Ryan Tannehill and even if the Chargers D isn’t so great.  The Miami defense is pretty good but the Chargers have a great offense this year.  If they stay healthy, they could make things tough for their AFC West division foes. What happened each of the last two years for the Chargers will not be repeated.  Chargers win their first at home in a close one.

This Broncos team just is not as good as the recent Super Bowl winner.  Some might say the Cowboys have dropped off a bit too.  But Dallas still has a strong offense in the post-Tony Romo era as Dak Prescott has been just as good if not better than Romo.  Even though Denver was able to get Brock Osweiler back, their offense has continued to struggle after the retirement of Peyton Manning.

The Broncos defense is almost as good as they were back in 2015 but the Cowboys offense is stacked.  In the end, the Cowboys will grab the win.  I don’t think the Broncos will be able to stop Dak Prescott, Zeke Elliott, and the rest of the Cowboys offense.  Dak has so many weapons and will have the time to find them to lead his team to the win.

The Rams clobbered the Colts last week so they come into this game with some momentum.  On the other hand, the Redskins experienced a rude awakening last week as they lost to Philadelphia.  Washington just doesn’t have the same kind of all-around team they had last year.  I believe their offense and defense has dropped off versus last year’s team.  Meanwhile, the Rams definitely improved on offense and their defense is just as good as last year.

One year ago I would have easily picked the Redskins in this match-up.  But the Rams have gotten significantly better and the Redskins are going in the opposite direction.  So I think this year, the Rams are definitely the team to beat in this game.  In the end, LA will come out on top led by great games by Goff, Gurley, and Watkins.

This game is expected to be a blowout like the two others I predicted this week!  This Seahawks defense is just too good for the 49ers struggling offense.  I think the Niners lack the talent on offense and don’t have a single receiver that I would consider Top 50 in the NFL.

The Niners defense isn’t that great either but they’ll at least hold a mediocre Seahawks offense to under 30 points.  The Seahawks have good pieces on their offense but they just need a couple key additions to make the offense as strong as they’ve been in recent years.  However, I still see the Seahawks winning in the end despite some offensive holes.

SNF


This is going to be a great game.  Both these teams are still top tier after facing off in the NFC Championship.  The Falcons have the same great offense and the Packers still have a strong team all-around.  I think this will come down to the final seconds.

In the end, I have the Falcons winning.  The Packers will be under a lot of pressure on Sunday Night in Atlanta.  To add to it, this is Atlanta’s first game in a new stadium.  The Falcons offense will dominate in this game and it will just be too much for Green Bay to keep up with.  This monster offense could be a dangerous weapon for the Falcons and it will carry their less than stellar defense that blew a 25 point lead in the Super Bowl.

MNF


The Giants may have gotten crushed last week but I think they have the offense and the defense to beat the Lions.  The Lions put up 35 points offensively last week but the Giants defense has emerged as one of the better defenses in the league and should be able to hold them below 20 points.

Even without OBJ (who might not play this week), the Giants receivers are still dangerous.  Brandon Marshall and Sterling Shepard should be able to play well as the top 2 receivers until OBJ comes back.  The Lions lack a strong secondary so even though Marshall struggled last week, he and Shepard should both thrive this week.  The Giants will win because they play even better complementary football than the Lions do, and it took some good complementary football for the Lions to win last week.
So that’s all for my picks this week.  Stay tuned for more football articles coming soon. Feel free to comment with your thoughts on this week’s games.  It’s going to be a crazy week so get ready for it.

2016 AFC Draft Grades: Determining The Winners and Losers

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

 

AFC East

Buffalo Bills

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Round   Pick        Name                          Pos.  College  Grade

1           19          Shaq Lawson              DE     Clemson    A

2            10         Reggie Ragland          OLB    Alabama   A-

3            17      Adolphus Washington   DT    Ohio St.    A-

4           41          Cardale Jones                QB     Ohio St.    B

5           18       Jonathan Williams          RB     Arkansas  B+

6           17         Kolby Listenbee              WR    TCU           A-

6          43          Kevon Seymour             CB      USC            A-

Overall Grade: A-

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

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

Miami Dolphins

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Round   Pick        Name                          Pos.  College  Grade

1           13            Laremy Tunsil           OT     Ole Miss    C

2           7              Xavien Howard         CB      Baylor        A-

3           10             Kenyan Drake           RB     Alabama    B+

3           23             Leonte Carroo           WR   Rutgers       A-

6           11              Jakeem Grant            WR   Texas           B

6          29              Jordan Lucas             SS       Penn St.    B+

7           2               Brandon Doughty   QB   West Kentucky   B+

7          10              Thomas Duarte        TE        UCLA        B

   Overall Grade: B-

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

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

 

New England Patriots

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Round   Pick        Name                          Pos.  College  Grade

2           29           Cyrus Jones                CB     Alabama    B-

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

3            29           Jacoby Brissett         QB      N.C. State   B

3            34            Vincent Valentine   DT     Nebraska      B

4            14             Malcolm Mitchell    WR    Georgia       A-

6            33             Kamu Grugier-Hill  OLB   East Illinois  B

6             39             Elandon Roberts        ILB      Houston     A-

6              46            Ted Karras                    OG         Illinois      B+

7                4             Devin Lucien               WR        Arizona St.  B-

Overall Grade: B

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

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

 

New York Jets

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Round   Pick        Name                          Pos.  College  Grade

1            20          Darron Lee                 OLB   Ohio St.     A-

2            20         Christian Hackenberg  QB   Penn St.  A-

3            20         Jordan Jenkins           OLB     Georgia    A-

4            20        Juston Burris                 CB     N.C. State  B

5             21        Brandon Shell                OT    S. Carolina  A-

7              14        Lac Edwards                   P    Sam Houston St   A-

7             20         Charone Peake           WR     Clemson     B+

 

Overall Grade: B+

 

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

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

 

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens

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Round   Pick        Name                          Pos.  College  Grade

1             6          Ronnie Stanley          OT    Notre Dame   A+

2            11          Kamalei Correa        OLB    Boise St.        B+

3             7           Bronson Kaufusi       DE        BYU               A-

4             6           Tavon Young              CB        Temple       B-

4             9           Chris Moore                WR     Cincinnati    B-

4            32          Alex Lewis                   OT      Nebraska        A

4            34           Willie Henry              DT      Michigan        A-

4            36           Kenneth Dixon         RB      LA Tech          A-

5             7           Matt Judon                 DE     GV State           A-

6             7           Keenan Reynolds     RB     Navy                 A

6            34         Maurice Canady         CB     Virginia           A-

Overall Grade: A-

 

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

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

 

Cincinnati Bengals

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Round   Pick        Name                          Pos.  College  Grade

1          24            William Jackson III    CB     Houston   B

2          24             Tyler Boyd                    WR    Pitt            A

3          24             Nick Vigil                      ILB    Utah St.   B+

4         24              Andrew Billings          DT     Baylor       A

5          24             Christian Westerman  OG    ASU          B+

6         24              Cody Core                        WR   Ole Miss  B

7         24              Clayton Fejedelem         SS       Illinois    A

Overall Grade: B+

 

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

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

Cleveland Browns

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Round   Pick        Name                          Pos.  College  Grade

1            15           Corey Coleman          WR    Baylor        A

2              1           Emmanuel Ogbah       DE    Oklahoma St.   A

3              2           Carl Nassib                    DE      Penn St.     A

3             13         Shon Coleman                OT     Auburn      A

3             31         Cody Kessler                    QB       USC         A-

4                1         Joe Schobert                   OLB     Wisconsin    A+

4                16      Ricardo Louis                    WR     Auburn       A-

4               31        Derrick Kindred               S         TCU          A

4                40        Seth Devalve                  TE        Princeton   B+

5                 15         Jordan Payton                WR         UCLA        A

5                  31         Spencer Drango            OG        Baylor       A

5                  35           Rashard Higgins         WR    Colorado St.  A

5                  36           Trey Caldwell               DB     LA-Monroe     A-

7                 29            Scooby Wright III       ILB    Arizona          A+

Overall Grade: A

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

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

Pittsburgh Steelers

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Round   Pick        Name                          Pos.  College  Grade

1            25           Artie Burns                  CB      Miami      A-

2           27           Sean Davis                    CB      Maryland   B-

3          26            Javon Hargrave           DT          SC State   B

4          25          Jerald Hawkins             OT           LSU         A-

6            45          Travis Feeney               OLB      Washington  B

7              8            DeMarcus Ayers          WR           Houston    B-

7              25          Tyler Matakevich      ILB             Temple      B

Overall Grade: B

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

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

AFC South

Houston Texans

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Round   Pick        Name                          Pos.  College  Grade

1            21           Will Fuller                   WR    Notre Dame   A

2            19          Nick Martin                  C      Notre Dame    B

3           22          Braxton Miller            WR   Ohio St.    B+

4           21          Tyler Ervin                    RB  San Jose St.    C+

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

5             29         D.J. Reader                   DT    Clemson      B

Overall Grade: B

 

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

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

Indianapolis Colts

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Round   Pick        Name                          Pos.  College  Grade

1              18          Ryan Kelly                    C     Alabama    A-

2              26          T.J. Green                    FS    Clemson     A

3              19          Le’Raven Clark          OT      Texas Tech  B

4                18        Hassan Ridgeway     DT      Texas          B-

4               27         Antonio Morrison    ILB     Florida       B-

5                17         Joe Haeg                       OG     NDSU          A

7                 18       Trevor Bates                 LB       Maine        B

7              27        Austin Blythe               C         Iowa         A

Overall Grade: B+

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

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

Jacksonville Jaguars

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Round   Pick        Name                          Pos.  College  Grade

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

2            5              Myles Jack                OLB         UCLA            B

3             6              Yannick Ngakoue   DE        Maryland      A-

4           5               Sheldon Day              DT      Notre Dame   B

6         6                Tyrone Holmes       OLB       Montana     A-

6         26                Brandon Allen        QB        Arkansas    B+

7          5                 Jonathan Woodard    DE    Central AR     B-

Overall Grade: B

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

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

Tennessee Titans

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Round   Pick        Name                          Pos.  College  Grade

1            8            Jack Conklin             OT    Michigan St.   A-

2            2          Kevin Dodd                DE     Clemson        A+

2            12        Austin Johnson        DT       Penn St.       B+

2            14         Derrick Henry          RB      Alabama       C+

3              1          Kevin Byard              SS       Mid Tennessee  B

5             1           Tajae Sharpe           WR      UMass             B-

5             20        LeShaun Sims          CB        South Utah   B-

6             18         Sebastian Tretola    OG       Arkansas      B

7               1           Aaron Wallace          OLB        UCLA        A-

7             32           Kalan Reed                 CB       South Miss   B

Overall Grade: B+

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

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

AFC West

Denver Broncos

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Round   Pick        Name                          Pos.  College  Grade

1             26          Paxton Lynch             QB      Memphis    A-

2           32            Adam Gotsis             DT      Georgia Tech   B-

3           36            Justin Simmons       FS       Boston College   B

4           38            DeVontae Booker    RB            Utah         B

5            5             Connor McGovern   OG          Missouri    A

6           1                Andy Janovich        FB            Nebraska    B

6           44              Will Parks                S              Arizona     B-

7            7              Riley Dixon              P        Syracuse         C+

Overall Grade: B

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

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

Kansas City Chiefs

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Round   Pick        Name                          Pos.  College  Grade

2            6           Chris Jones                 DT     Missippi St.    B-

3           11             KeiVarae Russell      CB    Notre Dame   A-

4            7             Parker Ehinger         OG    Cincinnati      A-

4           8              Eric Murray                CB      Minnesota    B-

4          28             DeMarcus Robinson   WR     Florida     B

5          25             Kevin Hogan               QB       Stanford    B+

5             28          Tyreek Hill                   WR     West Alabama   C

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

6             28             Dadi Nicholas             DE     Virginia Tech    B+

Overall Grade: C+

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

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

Oakland Raiders

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Round   Pick        Name                          Pos.  College  Grade

1             14           Karl Joseph                 FS      West Virginia    B+

2            13             Jihad Ward                 DE     Illinois           B

3             14              Shilique Calhoun     DE   Michigan St.  B+

4             2               Connor Cook             QB    Michigan St.  B-

5           4               DeAndre Washington   RB  Texas Tech    B-

6         19             Cory James                         OLB     Colorado St.  C+

7         13              Vadal Alexander                 OG          LSU       B

Overall Grade: C+

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

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

 

San Diego Chargers

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Round   Pick        Name                          Pos.  College  Grade

1            3            Joey Bosa                     DE     Ohio St.     B

2            4            Hunter Henry           TE      Arkansas    B

3           3              Max Tuerk                   C          USC          B

4            4           Joshua Perry              OLB       Ohio St.    B

5            38         Jatavis Brown            OLB       Akron       B

6             4        Drew Kaser                    P        Texas A&M   B+

6            23       Derek Watt                   FB       Wisconsin    B-

7               3       Donovan Clark             OG      Michigan St.  C+

Overall Grade: B

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

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

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