Tag Archives: AFC East

My NFL Picks Week 3: Giants, Saints among teams looking for first wins

We’re two weeks into the NFL season and there are, as usual, some surprising teams — both good and bad — in the league. Among those on the negative side are the Giants and Saints, who are 0-2, while the Broncos offense has looked surprisingly good en route to a 2-0 start. Some of the highlights of the Week 3 schedule include the Falcons visiting the Lions in a battle of 2-0 teams and the Titans hosting the Seahawks in a game of two teams who have hopes of making the postseason. I went 12-4 last week, giving me an overall record of 18-13 for the season. I’m using the lines from ESPN’s Pigskin Pick ‘Em game. My picks are in bold and my survivor pool pick (straight up, not ATS) is in red

Thursday Night Football

Rams at 49ers (+2.5) – Not the most exciting game to start the week as two NFC West teams play each other. The Rams are the better team and I expect them to win the game. I’m not usually comfortable picking a road favorite on a short week, but the 49ers aren’t a good team so I’ll take the Rams.

Sunday 9:30AM game (London)

Ravens at Jaguars (+4.5) – The Ravens look to remain unbeaten when they play the Jaguars in the first London game of 2017. I’m still not sold on QB Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense being good, but the defense has looked good in the first two weeks of the season. The defense should be able to hold down Jaguars QB Blake Bortles, so I think RB Leonard Fournette will have to have a big game for the Jaguars to have a chance to win it. Give me the Ravens.

Sunday 1PM games

Falcons at Lions (+2.5) – Barring a tie, one of these teams will be 3-0 after the game while the other will have suffered its first defeat of the season. Falcons QB Matt Ryan has led a success Falcons offense, which is coming off of a big win against the Packers last week, while the Lions aren’t as good and last beat the a not-so-impressive team in the Giants. Lions QB Matthew Stafford isn’t as good as Ryan and the visiting team’s running backs are clearly better than the Lions’ so I’ll take the points with the Falcons, who I expect to in by at least a field goal to cover the spread.

Broncos at Bills (+3.5) – The Broncos have one of the best defenses in the league, as expected before the season started. What wasn’t expected, though, was how well QB Trevor Siemian and the offense have been performing through their first two games of 2017. The BIlls offense isn’t that good and the team’s lone win came against the lowly Jets in Week 1. The Broncos should easily win the game and cover the spread on the road.

Steelers at Bears (+7.5) – Another game that appears to be a mismatch with the Steelers being better on both sides of the ball, although QB Ben Roethlisberger and RB Le’Veon Bell haven’t looked like themselves through the first two games. On the other side, QB MIke Glennon is leading an offense that has been ravaged by injuries, including RB Jordan Howard, who suffered a minor injury last week. After a strong Week 1 performance, RB Tarik Cohen came back to Earth a bit in Week 2. I fully expect the Steelers to win the game, it’s just a question of by how much. I’ll give the points.

Browns at Colts (+0.5)This matchup of 0-2 teams is a toss-up according to the 0.5-point spread. With QB Jacoby Brissett filling in for injured QB Andrew Luck, the Colts don’t have a good offense, but the Browns also don’t have much of an offense to speak of, and WR Corey Coleman broke his hand last week so he’ll miss a few weeks. Neither team is good so I’ll take the home team, which I think is slightly better.

Dolphins at Jets (+6.5) – The Dolphins went to the West Coast and beat the Chargers in their season opener last week, while the Jets got blown out by the Raiders. The Jets did score more points than the Dolphins, though. The Dolphins are clearly the better of the two teams, but they don’t exactly have an explosive offense behind QB Jay Cutler so I think the Jets will be able to keep it relatively close. The Dolphins win the game, but I’ll take the 6.5 points with the Jets.

Buccaneers at Vikings (-2.5) – I’m surprised the Vikings are favored because QB Sam Bradford was inactive last week and there’s a question about whether he can play this week. If he can’t and QB Case Keenum gets another start, I think the Bucs win the game easily. Even if Bradford plays, the Bucs have a good chance of winning. If I’m getting points with Tampa, I’ll take them and count on QB Jameis Winston and WR Mike Evans to take care of business in Minnesota.

Texans at Patriots (-13.5) – That is a big spread for the Patriots against a team that nearly beat them in the playoffs last season. The Patriots offense looked better in Week 2 after a disappointing opening game against the Chiefs. But TE Rob Gronkowski left the last game early with a groin injury, which could call into question his availability for this game. The Texans have a good defense, led by DE J.J. Watt, so I think they will keep the game within two touchdowns. Patriots win the game but I’ll take the points.

Saints at Panthers (-6.5) – The Saints are off to an 0-2 start after dropping their first two games to the Viking and Patriots with their defense giving up 29 and 36 points, respectively, in those games. The Panthers’ offense isn’t as formidable as those teams, which should give the Saints a chance to stay in the game, even with a subpar defense. With the lack of offense for Carolina behind QB Cam Newton — especially with TE Greg Olsen now on IR — I think the Saints have a chance to win the game outright so I’ll take the points.

Giants at Eagles (-5.5) – The Giants offense has not looked good in the team’s first two games, with the lack of a running game one of the team’s weaknesses. QB Carson Wentz has looked good for the Eagles in the early part of the season. With the Giants defense not living up to expectations so far this season, I don’t think this game will be all that close. I think the Eagles win, and I’ll give the points.

Sunday 4PM games

Seahawks at Titans (-2.5)The Seahawks have a bad offensive line that has limited the team’s offensive output early in the season. The Titans have also been underperforming compared to what I thought they would do, but with the way the teams are currently playing I think the Titans win the game.

Bengals at Packers (-9.5) – After playing two games, the Bengals are still waiting to score their first touchdown of the season. Normally, I would expect this to be a blowout, but the Packers are dealing with injuries that caused their offense to suffer last week. That will likely continue in Week 3 if WR Jordy Nelson can’t play. The Packers will still win the game, but I’m not sure they can cover the nearly double-digit spread if Nelson is out. I’ll take the points with the Bengals.

Chiefs at Chargers (+3.5) – The Chiefs are 2-0 while the Chargers have lost a couple of close games in the first two weeks of the season. RB Kareem Hunt and QB Alex Smith have been successful in leading the Chiefs’ offensive attack through Week 2. The Chargers can’t compete with the Chiefs on offense so I’ll take the visitors to remain undefeated and cover the 3.5 points.

Sunday Night Football

Raiders at Redskins (+3.5) – The Redskins offense has struggled a bit in their first two games, while QB Derek Carr has led the Raiders to a 2-0 start, thanks in part to a Raiders defense that so far has been improved over last season. Even though the Raiders are traveling to the East Coast, it’s a night game so it’s not an early start for the Raiders and they’re the better team so I’ll take them to win.

Monday Night Football

Cowboys at Cardinals (+3.5) – The Cowboys are coming off a blowout loss to the Broncos, while the Cardinals needed overtime to beat a bad Colts team without Luck. Regardless of how badly they lost last week, I still trust QB Dak Prescott, RB Ezekiel Elliott and the Cowboys offense more than the Cardinals, so I’ll go with Dallas here.

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My NFL Picks Week 2: Packers-Falcons open Mercedes-Benz Stadium

With one week in the books, I went just 6-9 last week, getting me off to rough start for the 2017 season. The highlight of the week is the Sunday night game, with the Falcons opening Mercedes-Benz Stadium, their new stadium, against the Packers as two of the NFC’s best teams meet. Other notable games include the Patriots visiting the Saints, as QBs Tom Brady and Drew Brees look to avenge their Week 1 losses, and the Steelers hosting the Vikings in an interconference battle of potential playoff teams. I’m using the lines from ESPN’s Pigskin Pick ‘Em game. My picks are in bold and my survivor pool pick (straight up, not ATS) is in red

Thursday Night Football

Texans at Bengals (-4.5) – These teams had two of the worst offensive performances of Week 1, with the Texans putting just seven points on the board against the Jaguars and the Bengals getting shut out by the Ravens. The Texans will likely start QB Deshaun Watson after benching starting QB Tom Savage and putting Watson in after halftime of their game in Week 1. Bengals QB Andy Dalton threw four interceptions last week. The Texans didn’t look good last week, but they at least scored. I find it hard to pick a team that didn’t score last week that’s favored by 4.5 points. I’ll take the underdogs on the road.

Sunday 1PM games

Bills at Panthers (-7.5) – The Panthers looked good against the 49ers last week, but I think the Bills have a better offense than them. Even if he doesn’t have a great game passing, Bills QB Tyrod Taylor can pick up yards running and I don’t think Panthers QB Cam Newton is 100% healthy yet. I’ll take the points in this one.

Bears at Buccaneers (-6.5) – The Bucs are coming off of a Hurricane Irma-induced bye so this will be our first look at them this season. The Bears did play last week and they lost another wide receiver for the season, with WR Kevin White suffering a season-ending collarbone injury just weeks after WR Cameron Meredith went out for the season during the preseason. Bears RB Tarik Cohen had a good showing in Week 1, but QB Mike Glennon is running out of receivers to throw the ball to. I don’t think this game will be close so I’ll give the points.

Browns at Ravens (-7.5) – Both of these teams played better than expected last week, with the Browns staying competitive against the Steelers until late in the game. While the Ravens beat the Bengals, RB Danny Woodhead suffered a hamstring injury that will likely keep him out of game action for at least several weeks. After the way the Browns stayed in the game last week with the Steelers, I think they can do the same this week. The Ravens should win the game but give me the points.

Titans at Jaguars (+1.5) – The Jaguars were one of Week 1’s most surprising teams — in a good way. RB Leonard Fournette had an impressive NFL debut, but QB Blake Bortles still isn’t good. And his top weapon, WR Allen Robinson, suffered a season-ending ACL injury that won’t help Bortles’ game. The Jaguars played well last week but I still think the Titans are better so I’ll take them.

Cardinals at Colts (+8.5) – The Colts have ruled QB Andrew Luck out for this game, and they are not a good team without him. QB Jacoby Brissett will likely get the start. He’s probably better than QB Scott Tolzien, who’s started in Week 1, but he’s still not good. The problem is Cardinals QB Carson Palmer performed poorly last week and Cardinals RB David Johnson — one of the best players in the league — is expected to miss two to three months after dislocating his wrist last week. Neither of these teams are at full strength and I think the Cardinals will win the game, but I’m not confident giving 8.5 points in this game so I’ll take the Colts and the points.

Eagles at Chiefs (-4.5)Chiefs QB Alex Smith had one of the best games of his career last week against the Patriots and RB Kareem Hunt had a great game in his debut as the Chiefs pulled off the upset. He’ll look to repeat that success against QB Carson Wentz and the Eagles. I think the Chiefs are the better team so I’ll give the 4.5 points.

Vikings at Steelers (-6.5) – The Vikings looked good on Monday night with QB Sam Bradford throwing three touchdowns, including two to WR Stefon Diggs while WR Adam Thielen had nearly 150 receiving yards. That was against a bad Saints defense, though. It won’t be as easy to move the ball against the Steelers D. And RB Le’Veon Bell likely wants to have a strong game for Pittsburgh after not doing much last week. I’m not confident in this pick, but I’ll go with the Steelers to cover.

Patriots at Saints (+5.5) – The Patriots’ offense was surprisingly subpar against the Chiefs last week and the best cure for an offense looking to bounce back from a poor outing could be playing the bad Saints defense. That’s what QB Tom Brady gets this week. I expect the Pats to have a good game this week. Patriots cover.

Sunday 4PM games

Jets at Raiders (-14.5)It’s a big number, but the Raiders are good on both offense and defense, and the Jets aren’t. I don’t normally like picking a team favored by that much, but I think the Raiders can do it in this case so I’ll give the 14.5 points.

Dolphins at Chargers (-3.5) – The Dolphins are the other team who ended up getting a Week 1 bye when Hurricane Irma postponed their scheduled home game. Between having to deal with the hurricane back home and having to travel across the country, combined with QB Jay Cutler having not played since last November, I think the Dolphins could struggle in their first game of the season. I’ll take the home team.

Cowboys at Broncos (+1.5) – The Broncos have a good defense but the Cowboys have a strong offense, especially with RB Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension postponed indefinitely. That’s why I think the Cowboys will present a bigger challenge for the Broncos than the Chargers did in Week 1. The Cowboys are favored by less than a field goal, and I think they can cover that.

Redskins at Rams (-3.5) – This is a tough one to pick. The Redskins are coming off a tough loss to the Eagles while the Rams put more than 40 points on the scoreboard last week against the Andrew Luck-less Colts. I can’t buy Rams QB Jared Goff being much improved over last season until I see it more than once. So I think Cousins will outplay Goff. Give me the points on the road.

49ers at Seahawks (-12.5) – The Seahawks are clearly a better team than the 49ers and will almost certainly win this game, but I think a 12.5-point spread is a little on the high side. The Seahawks only scored nine points against the Packers, who don’t have a top-tier defense, last week so I’m not going to give that many points the 49ers. I’ll take the underdogs. 

Sunday Night Football

Packers at Falcons (-2.5) – This is a rematch of last year’s NFC Championship and the two teams could meet in that game again this season. This time, though, they’re meeting in Week 2 as the Falcons play their first regular-season game at their new stadium, Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The question is whether they can open their new home with a win, or will the Packers avenge their loss from January? Both teams have good offenses but not-so-good defenses. I think Packers QB Aaron Rodgers is still better than Falcons QB Matt Ryan. I think the Packers have a chance to win the game outright, so if they’re getting points I”ll take them.

Monday Night Football

Lions at Giants (-4.5) – This line surprises me. The Giants only managed to score a field goal without WR Odell Beckham Jr. against the Cowboys on Sunday night. Even if he plays, I’m not sure the Giants’ offense is good enough to beat the Lions. I expect the Lions to win the game so I’ll take the points.

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My NFL Picks Week 1: Seahawks-Packers — NFC Championship preview?

The first of the 256 games that will be played in the NFL this season resulted in the Chiefs pulling the upset of the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots. Though I didn’t pick the Chiefs to win the game, I did take them to cover the spread so I’m off to a 1-0 record against the spread to start the season. There are 14 more games left to play this weekend — the BuccaneersDolphins game was postponed to Week 11 due to Hurricane Irma — with some big games on the schedule, including a potential NFC Championship preview in Green Bay between the Seahawks and Packers. Also on the Week 1 slate, the Giants visiting the Cowboys on Sunday Night Football and RB Adrian Peterson, now with the Saints, returning to Minnesota to take on his former team the Vikings in the first game of the Monday Night Football doubleheader. I’m using the lines from ESPN’s Pigskin Pick ‘Em game. My picks are in bold and my survivor pool pick (straight-up, non-ATS) is in red.

Sunday 1PM games
Falcons at Bears (+7.5) – This is the first meaningful game the Falcons are playing since blowing the 28-3 lead to the Patriots in Super Bowl LI back in February. There’s no doubt in my mind that the Falcons will win the game behind the offensive output of QB Matt Ryan and WR Julio Jones. The question is if they’ll cover the spread of more than a touchdown. The Bears are led by QB Mike Glennon and don’t have a proven No. 1 wide receiver after WR Cameron Meredith suffered a season-ending injury in the preseason. I think the Falcons are able to cover.

Jets at Bills (-6.5) – These teams should be two of the worst offenses in the league this year. I think the Bills win the game but I don’t think they’ll win by a touchdown so I’ll take the points with the Jets.

Ravens at Bengals (-2.5) Ravens QB Joe Flacco was dealing with an injury in training camp and preseason which didn’t allow him to get in much practice time. That concerns me in Week 1 as it’ll probably take him a couple games to rid of the rust so even though I’m not big on QB Andy Dalton and the Bengals, I’ll take them to win the game and cover.

Steelers at Browns (+9.5) – My thinking on this game is similar to the Falcons-Bears. It’s not a question of if the Steelers will win but rather how much they’ll win by. QB Ben Roethlisberger has one of the best running backs and wide receivers — Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown, respectively — in the league while the Browns will be starting rookie QB DeShone Kizer, who likely won’t have much success against a good Steelers defense. I think Pittsburgh can win by double digits so I’ll give the points.

Cardinals at Lions (-2.5) – Both teams have a good offense but I think the Cardinals’ defense is slightly better. I’m expecting a big season from QB Carson Palmer and the rest of the Arizona offense. They have a good running back in David Johnson and I’m skeptical about how much success the Lions’ backs will have in the game. That gives the Cardinals enough of an advantage that I’m picking them to win the game outright, so I’ll definitely take the points.

Raiders at Titans (+0.5)The line indicates that this game is a toss-up and I had a hard time picking it. Raiders QB Derek Carr and Titans QB Marcus Mariota are both ascending in their careers. I think the Titans have a slightly better team overall, though, particularly on defense. I’ll take the home team to win so I’ll take the half-point.

Eagles at Redskins (-2.5) – In the first of two NFC East battles on Sunday, I’m not confident that the Redskins offense will be at the top of its game. WR Jamison Crowder is questionable to play, leaving newly signed WR Terrelle Pryor Sr. as QB Kirk Cousins‘ top target behind TE Jordan Reed. They may not have good chemistry together in their first regular-season game as teammates. I’ll take the points with the visitors.

Jaguars at Texans (-4.5)I’m not expecting much from the Jaguars offense this season behind QB Blake Bortles, who almost lost the starting spot to journeyman QB Chad Henne. The Texans’ offense likely isn’t great, either, with QB Tom Savage beating out QB Deshaun Watson as the starter. Houston’s offense should be better than Jacksonville’s, and I think the Texans’ also have the defensive advantage behind DE J.J. Watt and LB Jadeveon Clowney. The Jaguars’ defense should be improved this season after signing free-agent CB A.J. Bouye away from the Texans, but I don’t think it’ll be enough this week. I’ll take the points.

Sunday 4PM games
Colts at Rams (+3.5)With Andrew Luck ruled out for at least Week 1, Scott Tolzien will begin the season as the Colts’ starting quarterback. Given that, I’m surprised the Colts are favored in this game. I think the Rams win the game outright so I’ll take the points.

Seahawks at Packers (-2.5)This was my projected NFC Championship game when I made my playoff predictions yesterday and the teams are starting the season against each other as well. These are two of the best offenses in the league behind QBs Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers. The Seahawks’ running game could be an issue without a true No. 1 running back. I think the Packers have the advantage there with WR-turned-RB Ty Montgomery, who performed well after being converted to the position in the second half of last season. I think that could be the difference in the game. Give me the home team.

Panthers at 49ers (+5.5)I’m going against the grain with this pick, but I think QB Cam Newton and the Panthers will struggle a bit on the road in Week 1 unless RB Christian McCaffrey has a big game in his NFL debut. The Panthers will win the game, but I think 49ers QB Brian Hoyer could keep it close so I’ll take the points with the 49ers.

Sunday Night Football
Giants at Cowboys (-4.5)For much of the preseason, it was thought that Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott would start serving his six-game suspension in Week 1 and miss this game. Now, though, not only will he play in the team’s opener but he could play for the whole season as his appeal works its way through the legal system. I’m worried about the Cowboys’ defense, but I think the Elliott and QB Dak Prescott can put enough points on the board to overcome any deficiencies on the other side of the ball. The Cowboys lost both games against their divisional rivals in 2016 and I don’t see the Giants winning three in a row. I’ll take the Cowboys and give the points.

Monday Night Football
Saints at Vikings (-3.5)Longtime Vikings running back Peterson goes against his old team in his first game with his new team. I don’t think it’ll be a good homecoming for him, though, as I expect the Vikings to win the game. The Saints ave one of the worst defenses in the league so QB Sam Bradford won’t have trouble moving the ball down the field and scoring. Vikings cover the spread.

Chargers at Broncos (-3.5)I think the Broncos’ defense will be able to keep the Chargers’ defense in check in the final game of Week 1. Their offense worries be, but Chargers QB Philip Rivers isn’t exactly the best quarterback in the league either so I’m banking on Denver’s defense controlling the game. I’ll take the home favorites.

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4th Annual 32 in 32ish NFL Previews: New York Jets

The New York Jets, who finished last in their division last season, are up next in our previews of all 32 NFL teams as we conclude our look at the AFC East teams

The Jets went 5-11 last season, and they’re almost certain to finish worse than that this season. They are currently in a rebuilding mode — with some people accusing them of tanking in an attempt to end up with the No. 1 draft pick in 2018 — and that’s easy to see by taking a look at their roster. They terminated the contracts of C Nick Mangold and WRs Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. Then they got unlucky when their expected No. 1 WR Quincy Enunwa suffered a neck injury earlier this month that is likely a season-ending injury. That leaves inexperienced WRs Robby Anderson and Jalin Marshall at the top of the depth chart, and Marshall is facing a four-game suspension for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. The team has yet to name a starting quarterback — that announcement is expected after this weekend’s third preseason game — and QBs Josh McCown, Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg are competing for that title.

Petty played in six games last year, including four starts, and completed less than 57% of his passes for 809 yards and 3 touchdowns, with 7 interceptions. McCown played in five games — three starts — with the Browns, going 90-for-165 for 1,100 yards and 6 touchdowns, with 6 interceptions. Anderson had 42 catches for 587 yards and 2 touchdowns, and Marshall had 14 catches for 162 yards and 2 touchdowns. RB Bilal Powell was a big part of the passing game, catching 58 balls for 388 yards and 2 touchdowns in addition to his 722 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns on 131 attempts. RB Matt Forte had 218 rushes for 813 yards and 7 touchdowns in 14 games; he also had 30 receptions. TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins only played in seven games and caught 10 passes for 110 yards, without a score. The offense scored the third-fewest points in the NFL last season, and the defense wasn’t much better in allowing opponents to score the fifth-most points in the league.

This Jets offense is going to be bad, starting with a messy quarterback situation. McCown is a veteran journeyman who has played in more than 10 games just twice since entering the league in 2002. Petty didn’t show many promising signs in his rookie season last year, and Hackenberg has yet to take a snap in a regular-season NFL game. As mentioned, one of the Jets’ starting wide receivers will miss four games with a suspension, and Seferian-Jenkins will be suspended for the first two games of the season. The running game is probably the best part of the offense, but Forte is getting up there in age and has a history of getting injured. Overall, the Jets will likely have one of the worst offenses in the league this year, if not the worst.

The Jets’ schedule begins with two home games, at the Bills in Week 1 and at the Raiders in Week 2. The home opener comes in Week 3, when the Dolphins come to town. The Jaguars follow in Week 4, then the Jets head to Cleveland to take on the Browns in Week 5. The Jets play the two Super Bowl LI teams in a three-week span; they host the Patriots in Week 6 and the Falcons in Week 8. The Bills visit MetLife Stadium on Thursday night in Week 9, then the Jets travel to Tampa to take on the Buccaneers in Week 10. The bye comes in Week 11, followed by a Week 12 home game with the Panthers. The Jets visit the Broncos and Saints in Weeks 14 and 15, respectively, and end the season on the road at the Patriots in Week 17. I don’t see how the Jets win more than about three games, possibly four if they can sneak an extra win against a mediocre team like the Chargers in Week 16.

Source: http://www.newyorkjets.com, http://www.pro-football-reference.com

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4th Annual 32 in 32ish NFL Previews: New England Patriots (Updated)

The New England Patriots are up next on our previews of all 32 NFL teams, continuing to make our way through the AFC East which the Patriots won last season en route to winning Super Bowl LI.

Despite QB Tom Brady being suspended for the first four games of the 2016 season, the Patriots ended up winning the division and eventually pulled off an epic comeback to beat the Falcons to win the first Super Bowl to go to overtime. Despite winning yet another championship, the Patriots weren’t content to stick with the roster they had last year. In the offseason, they acquired WR Brandin Cooks and TE Dwayne Allen in trades with the Saints and Colts, respectively. They also made a trade with the Panthers to get DL Kony Ealy. Other additions they’ve made since the season ended include the signings of CB Stephon Gilmore and RBs Rex Burkhead and Mike Gillislee. They added to both the offense and defense, and both units were already near the top of the league last season. Their main losses on the offense were RB LeGarrette Blount and TE Martellus Bennett

In the 12 games he played last season, Brady completed 67.4% of his passes for 3,554 yards and 28 touchdowns with just 2 interceptions for an impressive 14:1 TD:INT ratio. WR Julian Edelman had 98 receptions in 13 games for 1,106 yards and 3 touchdowns. With New Orleans, Cooks had 78 receptions for 1,173 yards and 8 touchdowns.  TE Rob Gronkowski was limited to eight games due to injuries. He had 25 catches for 540 yards and 3 touchdowns in the games he played. With the Colts, Allen had 35 receptions for 406 yards and 6 touchdowns in 14 games. Blount was the team’s leading rusher and no other running back had more than 64 carries, but RB James White was a significant part of the passing game, catching 60 balls for 551 yards and 5 touchdowns. The offense scored the third-most points in the league and the defense allowed the fewest points.

If Gronk can stay healthy this year, he will obviously be a much bigger part of the offense and Edelman should have his usual season of being in the range of 100 receptions. Cooks provides an upgrade at receiver over WR Chris Hogan, but he likely won’t get quite the numbers he had in New Orleans last season because he was the main focus of the receiving game for the Saints and the Patriots have more players to whom Brady can pass the ball. Allen should be a good No. 2 at the tight end position and could be a viable No. 1 if Gronk misses significant time again this year. Allen does have a history of injuries himself and hasn’t played a full 16-game season since his rookie year in 2012. White and RB Dion Lewis, who missed nine games last season due to injury, will likely split the bulk of the time at running back, with White getting more reps on passing downs so Lewis will likely have to step up with Blount gone. Burkhead and Gillislee will likely provide depth at the position.

The Patriots’ schedule begins with the traditional Thursday night game prior to the first Sunday of the season, giving the Super Bowl winners a season-opening showcase. This year, the Patriots host the Chiefs in that first game. They visit the Saints in Week 2, and the Texans come to town in Week 3 for a rematch of the AFC Divisional playoff game from January. The Panthers are up next for another home game in Week 4, then the Patriots visit the Buccaneers for a Thursday night contest in Week 5. The first divisional game comes in Week 6 at the Jets, followed by the anticipated Super Bowl LI rematch between the Patriots and Falcons in Week 7. That’s a Sunday night game in Atlanta. The Patriots get their bye in Week 9, then they head to Denver to take on the Broncos in Week 10’s Sunday nighter. The Patriots head south of the border in Week 11 when they take on the Raiders in Mexico City, then return to Foxboro to host the Dolphins in Week 12. The Patriots then have three straight road games, at the Bills in Week 13, a Monday night game at the Dolphins in Week 14 and an AFC Championship rematch at the Steelers in Week 15. The Patriots end the regular season with two home games, against the Bills in Week 16 and the Jets in Week 17. I think the Patriots can win 12 or 13 games this season and should easily win the AFC East for the ninth straight season. The real question for the Patriots is can they become the first team to win back-to-back Super Bowls since they did it in Super Bowls XXXVIII and XXXIX?

Update (8/26): In the Patriots’ third preseason game Friday night, Edelman suffered a torn ACL that will cause him to miss the entire 2017 season. That is a blow to the team’s offense and will require the likes of Hogan and WRs Malcolm Mitchell and Danny Amendola to step up their games as they advance up the receivers depth chart. Hogan had the best stats of that trio last year, with 38 catches for 680 yards and 4 touchdowns. None of those three is likely to match the production the Patriots would have gotten out of Edelman, but they can combine to make up some of the numbers the team is losing. Even with Edelman out for the year, I don’t think that changes the fact that the Patriots are the best team in the division and should still win it. The team also released Ealy, so the Patriots traded for him but he didn’t play in a single regular season game for them.

Source: http://www.patriots.com, http://www.pro-football-reference.com

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4th Annual 32 in 32ish NFL Previews: Miami Dolphins

Our previews of all 32 NFL teams continue as we move on to the next team in the AFC East, the Miami Dolphins, who finished in second place in the division last season.

The Dolphins have had an eventful offseason. A training-camp injury to QB Ryan Tannehill that ended up being a season-ending torn ACL forced the team to look elsewhere for a starting quarterback, apparently not trusting backup QB Matt Moore to take over as the starter. They eventually settled on signing former Broncos and Bears QB Jay Cutler, who earlier in the offseason had announced his retirement and intention to go into broadcasting as an analyst for FOX’s NFL coverage. One reason the Dolphins went after Cutler is likely because of second-year head coach Adam Gase, who was the Bears’ offensive coordinator during part of Cutler’s time with the team. Earlier in the offseason, the Dolphins acquired TE Julius Thomas from the Jaguars for a seventh-round pick in this year’s draft and, in a separate deal, traded LT Branden Albert for a seventh-round pick in the 2018 draft.

Cutler only played in five games with the Bears last season, completing less than 60% of his passes for 1,059 yards and 4 touchdowns with 5 interceptions. In his most recent full season — or close to it — Cutler threw for 3,659 yards and 21 touchdowns with 11 interceptions in 15 games in 2015. The Dolphins’ leading receiver last season was WR Jarvis Landry, who had 94 receptions for 1,136 yards but just 4 touchdowns. WR DeVante Parker had 56 catches for 744 yards and 4 touchdowns. WR Kenny Stills was the team’s scoring threat, finding the end zone 9 times on 42 receptions. RB Jay Ajayi had 260 carries for 1,272 yards and 8 touchdowns in his first season as the team’s lead back. With the Jags, Thomas had 30 catches for 281 yards and 4 touchdowns in nine games. Overall, the Dolphins ranked 17th in the league last season in points scored and the defense ranked 18th in points allowed.

You don’t know what to expect with the Dolphins this season with Cutler under center instead of Tannehill. Being familiar with Gase and his offense should help, but he is unfamiliar with working with the receivers other than the month or so he’s getting to work with them in training camp and the preseason games. Having a receiver of the caliber of Landry should help, but another question mark is Cutler’s health. He hasn’t played in all 16 games since 2009 and played in 11 or fewer games in three of his last six seasons. With him intending to go into TV, he likely didn’t spend as much time training in the offseason as he would have if he was planning on playing this year, which could also lead to him being more injury-prone than the team would like entering the season. I’m not convinced the running game will be good enough because I”m not sure Ajayi is good enough to be a lead back. He had more than 1,200 yards last season, but nearly half of those yards came in three games in which he had more than 200 yards. Other than those big games, he only rushed for more than 100 yards once and had six games of fewer than 50 yards.

The schedule for the Dolphins opens up with a Week 1 home game against the Buccaneers. The Dolphins will rack up the frequent-flyer miles after that with some long flights. They head to Los Angeles — yes, Los Angeles —  to take on the Chargers in Week 2, then fly back to the East Coast to take on the Jets at MetLife Stadium in Week 3. They then head across the Atlantic Ocean to take on the Saints in London in Week 4. While that’s designated as a Miami home game, they get their first true home game since Week 1 in Week 5 when they host the Titans. The Dolphins then head to Atlanta to take on the Falcons in Week 6. The Jets come to Miami in Week 7, then the Dolphins have a Thursday night game in Week 8 at the Ravens. Two more primetime games follow that, with a Sunday nighter at home against the Raiders in Week 9, then a Week 10 Monday night game at the Panthers. The Dolphins’ bye comes in Week 11, which leads into the first of two games against the Super Bowl LI champion Patriots; that’s a road game in Week 12. Week 13 sees the Broncos come to Miami, then the Patriots visit for Week 14’s Monday night contest. The Dolphins face the Bills in Weeks 15 and 17 — on the road and at home, respectively — with a road game at the Chiefs sandwiched between them. I think the Dolphins are about a seven-win team this year.

Source: http://www.miamidolphins.com, http://www.pro-football-reference.com

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4th Annual 32 in 32ish NFL Previews: Buffalo Bills

The AFC East is the next division in our previews of all 32 NFL teams, beginning with the Buffalo Bills, who finished in third place in the division last season.

It’s been 20 years since the Bills’ last postseason appearance back in 1999, and with some recent moves they’ve made to acquire draft picks they appear to be in a rebuilding mode so they probably won’t be in the playoffs anytime soon. Earlier this month, they made two essentially-simultaneous trades. In one, they sent WR Sammy Watkins to the Chargers for CB E.J. Gaines and a second-round pick in the 2018 draft. In the other, they acquired WR Jordan Matthews and a third-round draft pick next year from the Eagles in exchange for CB Ronald Darby. A few days before those trades, they signed veteran WR Anquan Boldin. That took an unexpected turn, though, last night when Boldin left the team and announced that he is retiring, leaving a hole in the Bills’ passing game. They also signed WR Andre Holmes and drafted East Carolina WR Zay Jones with their second-round pick, completely overhauling their receiving core.

QB Tyrod Taylor started 15 games last season, throwing for 3,023 yards and 17 touchdowns, with 6 interceptions. His leading pass-catcher was TE Charles Clay, who had 57 receptions for 552 yards and 4 touchdowns in 15 games. RB LeSean McCoy had 50 catches for 356 yards and 1 receiving touchdown, in addition to his 1,267 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns in 15 games. RB Jonathan Williams, who’s No. 2 on the depth chart, only had 27 carries last year, averaging 3.5 yards per attempt, with 1 touchdown. Among the newly acquired receivers, Matthews had 73 catches for 804 yards and 3 touchdowns in 14 games with Philadelphia. The offense was tied for the 10th-most points scored in the NFL last season while the defense was around the middle of the league in terms of points allowed.

With the new-look offense entering the regular season, it may take a little while for Taylor to get used to gain a rapport with his new receivers. Matthews is probably an upgrade over Watkins if only because of the latter’s inability to stay on the field, as he hasn’t played in all 16 games in a season since his rookie year. I thought Boldin was a good addition to provide a veteran who can help to mentor the team’s younger receivers. But his retirement will prevent that from happening. Holmes and Jones are wild cards on the team. Jones because you never know how long it’ll take a rookie to acclimate himself to the level of play in the NFL and Holmes because he hasn’t had much of a chance to be a primary part of a team’s offense, with his career high in targets being 99 in 2014; other than that season, he hasn’t had more than 52 targets in a year. McCoy has had five seasons in his career in which he has had more than 1,000 rushing yards so the Bills will likely rely on him to lead the offense again this year and not lean on Taylor to be the centerpiece of the offense.

The Bills begin their schedule at home in Week 1 against the Jets, who are widely thought to be the worst team in the league in 2017. A road game at the Panthers follows in Week 2, and then the Bills return home to host the Broncos in Week 3. Back-to-back road games are up next, at the Falcons in Week 4 and the Bengals in Week 5. The Bills have a Week 6 bye, then host the Buccaneers and Raiders in Weeks 7 and 8, respectively. The Bills get their lone primetime game in Week 9 when they visit the Jets on Thursday night. That gives them a few extra days of rest before they host the Saints in Week 10. After a couple road games against AFC West opponents, the Bills get their first of two games against the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots. It’s a home game in Week 13, followed by two more home games against the Colts and Dolphins in Weeks 14 and 15, respectively. The Bills face the Patriots again in Week 16, this time on the road, and they end their season on the road against the Dolphins in Week 17. I think the Bills are going to take a step back from their 7-9 season in 2016 and win five or six games this season.

Source: http://www.buffalobills.com, http://www.pro-football-reference.com

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