NFL: Preseason Predictions and Week 1 Picks

Another year is upon us! The Denver Broncos are the reigning World Champions, and look to repeat with a brand new man under center with the retirement of Peyton Manning. Nope, not Brock Osweiler. And no it’s not Mark Sanchez either.  Another AFC powerhouse in the New England Patriots will also be without their future hall-of-fame quarterback as Tom Brady serves a four game suspension.  Absences and shakeups at the top means a lot can change from last season’s playoff picture.  My team to watch this season will be the Oakland Raiders.

For me, the NFC is where the powerhouses will be in the in the 2016-2017 season.  Carolina is fresh off a Superbowl loss, but were able to keep together their core.  Arizona and Seattle will be there once again in an absolutely loaded NFC West.  Green Bay gets back one of their biggest weapons in Jordy Nelson to go along with what the Packers hope is a reinvigorated Eddie Lacy at running back.  And not to be forgotten are Superbowl vets like Drew Brees and Eli Manning who are looking to regain control of their respective divisions.

NFC Playoff Teams              AFC Playoff Teams

Cardinals                                  Chiefs

Panthers                                   Bengals

Packers                                      Broncos

Giants                                        Colts

Seahawks                                  Jets

Saints                                         Raiders

NFC Championship

  • Cardinals @ Panthers: CAROLINA WINS

AFC Championship 

  • Bengals @ Chiefs: KANSAS CITY WINS

Superbowl XLI

  • Panthers vs Chiefs: CAROLINA WINS

Now that I’ve gotten ahead of myself, here are my week 1 predictions.

Thursday Night Football

  • Panthers @ Broncos: The season kicks off with a rematch of Superbowl XL. Denver will raise their banner, and get their first look at Trevor Siemian at QB.  Cam Newton and company will begin their quest to get back to the Superbowl. The Panthers have put the big loss behind them, and with their core still in tact, they are better prepared for a run than Denver is for their title defense.  The Broncos will still be good, especially if CJ Anderson can continue to grow in the run game.  But I like the Panthers to get the win this time around. CAROLINA WINS

Sunday 1PM Games

  • Buccaneers @ Falcons: The battle for the South gets going quickly with a Bucs team with ambitions of not finishing last in their division, and a Falcons team looking to get back to the playoffs. This is going to be a shoot out with two great offenses going head-to-head.  I simply have more trust in Atlanta during the regular season right now, so I’ll take their defense to make the big stop down the stretch over Tampa Bay. ATLANTA WINS
  • Bills @ Ravens: I see both of these teams being better than they were last season, but not by much.  Buffalo has a higher ceiling right now, especially if Tyrod Taylor can figure out his fumbling problem.  He makes pretty good decisions in the passing game, should get more out of LeSean McCoy this season and has a defense capable for being near the top of the league.  Joe Flacco won’t be without back Justin Forsett, who led the team in rushing the past two season, as previously thought since he has re-signed after being cut days ago. Beyond that, I’m not a fan of the Ravens offense past Mike Wallace and Steve Smith Sr.  I’m going with the AFC in this one. BUFFALO WINS
  • Bears @ Texans: Chicago finished last season in the cellar of the NFC North, while Houston won the AFC South.  I see little evidence to suggest the Bears can get back into relevancy this season, while I think the Texans will lose the division to the Colts once again.  The Bears let Matt Forte walk, as well as the franchise leader in scoring, kicker Robbie Gould. Houston is expected to have their defensive weapon in JJ Watt ready to go, so expect Jay Cutler to feel the pressure all day.  HOUSTON WINS
  • Browns @ Eagles: Both teams will have new starting quarterbacks this season.  Former rookie of the year Robert Griffin III gets a fresh start with Cleveland, while actual rookie Carson Wentz will become the first rookie to start week 1 in Eagles history (ELIAS). The Browns were bottom 10 in total defense and offense last season, resulting in a 3-13 record. Philly hopes their new QB and another year with DeMarco Murray will help get them over the .500 mark and challenge in the East.  Opening at home with these pieces means a week 1 win for the birds.  PHILADELPHIA WINS
  • Raiders @ Saints: Week 1 features a matchup of two teams I think will make the playoffs this season. The Saints defense wasn’t anything to write home about a season ago, allowing at least 20 points in every game but two (17 allowed in each of those).  But Drew Brees had another stellar year, leading the league in passing yards.  New Orleans parted ways with the team’s all-time leader in TD receptions, Marques Colston, but expect big things from Mark Ingram.  Oakland gets another year of Derek Carr and Amari Cooper doing big things in the pass attack.  A lot of moves on defense in the offseason has the Raiders poised for a big season.  That being said, I like the Saints in a tight one at home.  But I will not be surprised at all if Oakland steals one at the Superdome either. NEW ORLEANS WINS
  • Chargers @ Chiefs: Kansas City’s offense never really looks pretty on paper after Jamaal Charles, but they continue to make it work.  Their defense is one of the league’s best and that will carry them again this season.  The opposite can be said for San Diego.  Philip Rivers has a very good group of pass catchers that should give the Chargers a chance in every game.  Their consistency is always questionable on defense, and in a tough AFC West, they’ll need to figure that out.  I really like the Chiefs this season, they return a lot of key pieces off a second round playoff appearance last year. KANSAS CITY WINS
  • Bengals @ Jets: Here’s another game with two teams I think will see the postseason.  New York hopes their run game will be revitalized with the acquisition of Matt Forte, while getting even more out of Ryan Fitzpatrick than they did a year ago.  I’ve said it before, but it’s time for the Bengals to take the next step. There’s some concern that Cincinnati is lacking depth at defensive end, but they’ve been able to dominate defensively in the past, and I think they can figure it out. It won’t be easy, but I like the Bengals to get a road win off the jump. CINCINNATI WINS
  • Packers @ Jaguars: Aaron Rodgers has his favorite target in Jordy Nelson back.  If he can get 2013-14 Eddie Lacy back, look out for the Packers once again.  Jacksonville’s offense took a step in the right direction last year, and they were much better at home.  But while the Jaguars are still a few pieces away, the Packers are primed to make a deep run through the NFC once again. GREEN BAY WINS
  • Vikings @ Titans: Coming into the season, I thought this was going to be a very good game against two teams looking to prove themselves.  Minnesota is coming off a playoff year where they lost to Seattle in the Wildcard round… by one point at home.  Tennessee on the other hand are coming off a 3-13 season in which they won their first two games. Offense wasnt exactly their issue, with the 2nd ranked running game.  But losing Marcus Mariota didn’t help. I really like the Vikings, but losing Teddy Bridgewater before the start of the season is tough, and now they look to Sam Bradford to keep them afloat in an always competitve NFC North.  Give me the Titans on the ground with a healthy Mariota in week 1. TENNESSEE WINS

Sunday 4/425PM Games

  • Dolphins @ Seawhawks: Miami was one of the more disappointing teams a season ago.  They spent a lot of money on defense in the off-season leading up to last year, and it didn’t do much.  The Dolphins allowed the second most yards a game in the AFC.  Add a bottom 10 offense, and you can see why they finished below .500 and last in the East. Miami is a case of just hoping their talent will come together all at once (sound familiar with Miami teams?). Seattle had another good season in 2015, though they didn’t look great in the playoffs after two straight Superbowl appearances.  They lost Marshawn Lynch, but return most of their stars on offense and always have the Legion of Boom to fall back on.  This should be one of the easier wins of week 1 for the Hawks. SEATTLE WINS
  • Giants @ Cowboys: If ever there was a year for the New York Giants to run through the NFC East, it’s this one.  Even in their Superbowl seasons they couldn’t win the division.  But with Tony Romo out, and two rookies starting in Dallas and Philadelphia, the Skins are the only other team returning their starter from a year ago. Yes, Kirk Cousins got his team to the playoffs last season, but Eli Manning was the best QB in that division last season, and if his defense can at least be middle of the pack, and not dead last, this should be an easy return to the playoffs.  Dak Prescott was impressive for Dallas in the preseason, but Big Blue has never had problems playing in the lone star state, and I don’t see it being a problem this season either. NEW YORK WINS
  • Lions @ Colts:The worst defense in the AFC last season belonged to the Colts.  Not having a run game again meant they couldn’t sustain drives the way you’d want to mask that. The hope is veteran back Frank Gore can regain some of his old magic along with keeping Andrew Luck healthy.  As for Detroit, they are another case of talent never panning out for an entire season.  And with the retirement of Calvin Johnson, the Lions lose their most consistent and explosive weapon.  It could be another ugly season in Detroit, while I expect a bounce back from Indy. INDIANAPOLIS WINS

Sunday Night Football

  • Patriots @ Cardinals: New England starts the season without Tom Brady and defensive end Rob Ninkovich due to suspensions.  In an improved AFC East, those 4 games without them could be trouble, especially since im not a fan of their rushing attack. Add a hungry and dangerous Cardinals team, and you’ve got a recipe for a week 1 loss.  Arizona’s depth on offense is pretty impressive, and their defense should be really good again.  A home win to kick off the season is in the cards for the birds. ARIZONA WINS

Monday Night Football

  • Steelers @ Redskins: Washington got some help on defense in the off-season acquisition of Josh Norman, but I still don’t think it’s going to be enough.  The skins do get a break on defense since Pitt will be without top flight running back Le’Veon Bell who is suspended to start the season.  But the Steelers have more than enough big play threats and I don’t know if Kurt Cousins can replicate what he did last season. PITTSBURGH WINS
  • Rams @ 49ers: Blaine Gabbert gets the starting job in San Francisco as that organization looks to distance itself from off-the-field stories.  They open up against a Rams team ready to take the next step.  The newly name Los Angeles Rams biggest issue was inconsistency last season, beating the Cardinals and Seahawks, but losing to the Bears at home.  They’ve got a top flight running back and a better than average defense.  It’s going to be another long season for the Niners. LOS ANGELES WINS

Well that’s it.  Time to sit back, relax and wait for kickoff! Enjoy week 1 everyone.

NFL: Week 8 Thoughts

We’ve reached the mid-way point of the season, and 2 win-less teams, while just 1 undefeated squad remain.

This weeks bye teams: Baltimore, Houston, San Diego, Tennessee, Indianapolis, and Chicago.

I know it’s the NFL, and injuries are apart of the game, but this week seemed to contain a lot more season ending ones than normal.

NFC EAST (We Live in a World Where a 2-win Team is Just 2 Games Out)

  • Cowboys:  What looked like win number 5 ended in a heart-breaking last second loss.  When you force 4 turnovers, and don’t turn it over yourself, you should probably win.  Sean Lee’s two interceptions, and Dez Bryant’s 2 touchdowns mean little in a bad road loss. (4-4)
  • Eagles: Michael Vick left hurt again, and Matt Barkley turned the ball over a lot.  Make it 10-straight home losses, further extending a franchise record.  With another bad offense showing, they’ve gained just 479 yards the past two games. (3-5)
  • Redskins: They did something no other team had done against Denver, carry a lead into the 4th quarter.  The defense was great the first three quarters, turning two Manning turnovers into points to help build said lead.  But they just couldn’t stop the Broncos in the final period.  More troubling was the play of Robert Griffin III, who only completed 50% of his throws, couldn’t hold onto the ball, threw two picks, and was a non-factor in the run game.  (2-5)
  • Giants: This team will take ugly wins any day, and they got their second of the year Sunday.  Eli Manning and his offense didn’t hurt themselves with turnovers, though they did stop drives with drops and bad passes.  Btu they scored on 5 of their drives, thanks to Josh Brown’s career high 5-5 on field goal attempts.  The defense pitched a second straight shutout, with the only score coming on a special teams fumble recovery. (2-6)

NFC NORTH (These Teams Can Score With Anyone)

  • Packers: When you score on every possession until you take victory formation, you know you had a good day.  This team has lost a number of weapons, but Aaron Rodgers continues to find new weapons.  Rodgers completed 24 of 29 passes, with Jordy Nelson going for 123 yards receiving and 2 touchdowns. Micah Hyde added a second quarter 93 yard punt return touchdown, while Eddie Lacy rushed for 94 yards and a score.   (6-2)
  • Lions:  Matt Stafford and company turned the ball over 4 times, but when it mattered the offense got down the field mistake free for an 80-yard game winning touchdown drive to sink the Cowboys.  Their biggest weapon showed once again why his nickname is “Megatron.”  Calvin Johnson had himself a day for the ages, grabbing 14 balls for 329 yards, the 2nd best performance in NFL history.  The monster total trails only the 336 yards receiving Flipper Anderson had for the LA Rams  in an overtime game against New Orleans back in 1989.  The game winner was a fake snap keeper by Stafford, that perfectly capped off a strange game. It was a huge come-from-behind victory, that helps Detroit in a the race for a playoff spot. (5-3)
  • Bears:  Bye Week.  (4-3)
  • Vikings:  Rookie wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson set an NFL record with a 109-yard return on the opening kickoff to give Minnesota a quick lead.  But it wouldn’t last.  Adrian Peterson rushed for 60 yards and a touchdown while Christian Ponder’s return wasn’t anything to write home about.  The newly reinstated starting QB ran for a score, but managed just 145 yards passing.  The big problem was the defense had no answer for Green Bay, though they’re not alone there.  (1-6)

NFC SOUTH (The Panthers Are Looking to Pounce)

  • Saints: It was slow going early, but once it was all said and done, they came out with a big home win.  A big reason why they picked up win number 6: big contributions from guys returning from injury.  Jimmy Graham came back from an ankle to score 2 touchdowns, while Lance Moore added one of his own to the get the scoring started for New Orleans.  Add a big day from rookie Kenny Stills, 5 Drew Brees touchdown passes and a defense that rattled Thad Lewis all day, you’ve got why this team is sitting pretty atop the division. (6-1)
  • Panthers: They got the best of a division match-up to start off week 8, meaning that for the first time in Cam Newton’s career, he’s over .500 and on a three game win streak (which has seen them score 30+ point in each).  In another easy win on Thursday Night, Newton became the 1st player in NFL History to run for 25 and throw for 50 touchdowns in any three year span of a career.  Carolina’s mobile quarterback threw 2 scores, and ran for another in the win, while DeAngelo Williams added another score on the ground.  The defense did it’s job as well, picking up 3 sacks, while recovering a fumble.  (4-3)
  • Falcons: So much for putting together a second straight good game.  Matt Ryan threw four picks, after only throwing 3 in their first 6 games.  Harry Douglas had another good game as a featured wide-out, but it didn’t matter. They got absolutely nothing on the ground, while their defense couldn’t stop Arizona in the run game.  (2-5)
  • Buccaneers: Another day, another loss.  They couldn’t get anything going on offense, particularly in the run game.  Mike Glennon was forced to throw the ball 51 times. It’s the 7th time in franchise history that they’ve opened up losers for their 1st 7 games.   (0-7)

NFC WEST (So Many Wins)

  • Seahawks: Russell Wilson was on the ground, a lot.  But they found a way to win despite a big effort by the Rams defense.  In the end it was their defense that held, stopping the Rams on a last second goal-line stand where it was touchdown or bust for Seattle.  It wasn’t a crisp night on offense.  Wide-out Golden Tate caught both of the games only touchdowns.  It was rare rough night on the ground for both Wilson and Marshawn Lynch, who managed just 23 yards on the ground.  They’re the only team to force at least two turnovers in the first 8 games of the season(7-1)
  • 49ers: It was time and travel money well spent for San Fran, who knocked off the hapless Jags in London for their 5th straight win.  The defense did it’s job against Jacksonville, but the offense was the story.  Colin Kaepernick continues to wreak havoc not with his arm, but with his legs.  Two rushing touchdowns, one thrown for the Niners QB.  Not to mention another two on the ground from their actual running back Frank Gore.  (6-2)
  • Cardinals: Rookie rusher Andre Ellington is a huge reason why this team got to .500.  The youngster out of Clemson rushed for 154 yards on 15 carries, including an 80-yard touchdown run.  And how about Pro Bowler Larry Fitzgerald’s day.  Number 11 caught four passes for 48 yards and a touchdown, becoming the youngest player – at 30 years, 57 days – in NFL history to reach 800 career receptions. (4-4)
  • Rams: Robert Quinn had himself a Monday night.  The defensive end now has 10 sacks through 8 games, 3 of them against Seattle, which hasn’t happened by a Ram in 25 years.  In fact, the entire defense was crazy active all night, getting Russell Wilson to the ground.  In his first start for the injured Sam Bradford, Kellen Clemens didn’t help his teams cause, throwing 2 interceptions. Zac Stacy and Greg Zuerlein were the offense.  Stacy with 134 yards rushing, and Zuerlein went 3-4 on field goal attempts.  But when they needed it most, Stacy was shaken up and the team through 8 games still doesn’t have a rushing touchdown. (3-5)

AFC EAST (New England Continues to Find a Way)

  • Patriots: A big 2nd half comeback helped New England avoid losing back-to-back division games for the first time since 2006. 24 unanswered points by the Pats, including two touchdowns in the span of 7 plans in the 3rd quarter helped shake off an ugly first half.  But Tom Brady had another bad start, throwing for just 116 yards, and managing just 1 touchdown pass. But the defense held long enough for them to find a way, and it means putting some distance back between them and the rest of the division. (6-2)
  • Jets: Win, lose, win, lose.  This team is inconsistent to the point they haven’t been on any sort of win or losing streak this season.  A week after a big win over New England, the Jets looked lost against the Bengals.  To be fair Cincy is hot right now, but Geno Smith wasn’t good, and the defense had no answer for a relative no-name in wide-receiver Marvin Jones. It didn’t help when you starting back only gets you 11 yards on the ground  but again, that’s a product of the Bengals crazy good defense.  (4-4)
  • Dolphins: Remember when this team was 3-0?  Yeah me neither.  This week, they came out firing in the first half, carrying a 17-3 lead to the locker room.  What could’ve been a big road win, turned into their 4th straight defeat.  Ryan Tannehill threw for 2 touchdowns, but turned the ball over 3 times. (3-4)
  • Bills: They were in the game at half-time, but the Saints offense was just too much for Buffalo.  Thad Lewis had no chance with the pressure New Orleans put on him, sacking him 4 times, and forcing 3 fumbles, two the starting QB lost.  Fred Jackson found the end-zone, but didn’t have a great day on the ground. (3-5)

AFC NORTH (Cincy Isn’t All Defense These Days, But They Are All Alone at the Top)

  • Bengals: This team isn’t just about defense, and if Cincy figures out how to get more from their run game, the AFC should be very afraid.  Andy Dalton is on the best streak of his career, adding a high of 5-touchdown passes against New York.  Marvin Jones, and not AJ Green was the story on offense, catching a Bengals record 4 of Dalton’s five TD passes.  Green could’ve had a big day, but had some drops.  The defense didn’t let the Jets do anything on offense.  The weeks biggest blowout allowed the Bengals to rest their starters, including Dalton for the 4th quarter. This team is running away with this division. (6-2) 
  • Ravens: Bye Week.  (3-4)
  • Browns: They played a lot better with Jason Campbell under center, but KC’s defense is just too good.  They were in the game the entire time, thanks in large part from a good day by Josh Gordon, who went for 132 receiving yards and a touchdown. Campbell took over for the ineffective Brandon Weedon, and did a good job not turning the ball over, and avoiding big hits against a sack-happy Chiefs front 7. (3-5)
  • Steelers: Just when you thought maybe this team was turning it around, they lose Oakland. And it’s not so much that they lost, it’s how they lost.  They had absolutely no answer for the run game, letting both Terrelle Pryor and Darren McFadden combine for almost 200 yards and 3 touchdowns.  This defense used to be known or their ability to stop the run, but you wouldn’t know that looking at the box score of this one. And their own ground and pound was non-existent, meaning Ben Roethlisberger had to throw it 45 times. (2-5)

AFC South  (Nobody Gained or Lost Ground With Just the Jags Playing)

  • Colts: Bye Week. (5-2)
  • Titans: Bye Week. (3-4)
  • Texans: Bye week. (2-5)
  • Jaguars: The only South team in action, Jacksonville went all the way to London to just to lose their 8th game of the year, and 13th straight dating back to last season.  The offense wasn’t necessarily the problem, with Maurice Jones-Drew having one of his best day on the ground and in the pass game of the season.  Chad Henne was also okay, throwing for a touchdown and committing no turnovers.  But the 49ers on a level so far out of sight that there was really no chance.  The run defense was non-existent.  They really will be in a race for worst record with the likes of Tampa Bay and Minnesota all year(0-8)

AFC WEST (It’s A Two Team Race)

  • Chiefs:  They continue to find ways to make enough plays to win, and remain unbeaten halfway through the season. It wasn’t pretty, but Alex Smith continues to be smart with the football, throwing for 225 yards, two touchdowns and no turnovers.  Jamaal Charles had another good day on the ground.  The defense only managed one sack, a rare thing for them this season, but they held Cleveland scoreless in the 1st and 4th quarters. They’re the first team to win their first 8 games after losing 14 the previous season.  (8-0)
  • Broncos: It’s hard enough to score 31 points in a game, let alone a quarter, making Denver’s 38 in the 4th look even more impressive.  Peyton Manning had a bad day, something you don’t say often about a guy who throws for 354 yards and 4 touchdowns.  But the former MVP also threw 3 interceptions and lost a fumble.  But he led his team to victory in the end, and that’s all that really matters.  That and he showed no ill effects from a ankle issue that held him out of practice early in the week.  (7-1)
  • Chargers: Bye Week. (4-3)
  • Raiders: Terrelle Pryor and Darren McFadden had a huge day on the ground.  Pryor scored on a 93-yard run, the longest by a quarterback in NFL history, while McFadden found pay dirt twice.  They almost blew the lead late, but their defense did enough to pick up win number 3, which matches last seasons win total. (3-4)

So that’s it.  One half down, one to go.