Tag Archives: AFC North

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: Tennessee Titans

As our previews of all 32 NFL teams continue, we conclude our look at the AFC South with the Tennessee Titans, who finished in second place in the division last season.

The Titans are coming off their first season above .500 since 2011, but a late-season injury to QB Marcus Mariota derailed their hopes for a playoff appearance. Mariota is recovered and ready for the season, and he’ll have new weapons to throw to with the offseason addition of WRs Corey Davis — the No. 5 overall draft pick out of Western Michigan — and Eric Decker, who the Titans signed after he was released by the Jets. They’ll join returning WR Rishard Matthews, who is coming off a career year.

In the 15 games he played last season, Mariota threw for 3,426 yards and 26 touchdowns, with 9 interceptions. Matthews had 65 receptions for 945 yards and 9 touchdowns. TE Delanie Walker wasn’t far behind Matthews; in 10 games, he also caught 65 passes for 800 yards and 7 touchdowns. Decker played in just three games with the Jets last year but averaged a respectable 21.6 yards per reception in the limited sample size. RB DeMarco Murray carried the ball 293 times for 1,287 yards and 9 touchdowns, adding 53 catches for an additional 377 yards and 3 touchdowns. RB Derrick Henry, No. 2 on the depth chart, had 110 carries for 490 yards and 5 touchdowns. In total, the offense ranked in the top half of the league in points scored, and the defense also ranked in the top half of the NFL in points allowed.

Adding the likes of Decker and Davis to an offense that already includes Matthews and Walker gives the Titans with an offense that has a chance to compete with just about any other team in the league. The defense was middle-of-the-pack or so last year so even a slight improvement on that side of the ball should give the team an even better chance to win games. In a division like the AFC South that doesn’t have a Patriots-esque team that’s expected to be significantly better than the others, the Titans have a legitimate shot at winning their first division title since 2008.

The Titans open the season at home to take on the Raiders. Their schedule then brings them to Jacksonville to do battle with the Jaguars in Week 2. The Seahawks come to Nashville in Week 3, and road games against the Texans and Dolphins follow in the next two weeks. The Titans’ first primetime game comes in Week 6, when they host the Colts on Monday night. A visit to the Browns is next, followed by a Week 8 bye. After the bye, the Titans have three straight games against AFC North foes, starting with a home game against the Ravens in Week 9. That’s followed with another home tilt against the Bengals, then a Thursday nighter at the Steelers in Week 11. The Titans stay on the road for Week 12, taking on the Colts, before hosting the Texans in Week 13. After another stretch of three games against teams from one division — this time the NFC West — the Titans finish the season at home against the Jaguars in Week 17. I’m thinking they’ll win nine or 10 games and again be in contention for a playoff spot in late December.

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

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4th Annual 32 in 32ish NFL Previews: Pittsburgh Steelers

Our continuing previews of the 32 NFL teams leading up to the start of the 2017 season resume as we conclude with the AFC North. Here, we preview the Pittsburgh Steelers, who are coming off a first-place finish in the division last season.

The Steelers were the class of the division last season, and that looks to continue in 2017. They were 11-5 last year, without having their full offense for much of the season, including star RB Le’Veon Bell missing a quarter of the season. One question mark entering the season is WR Martavis Bryant, who was suspended all of last season and is not yet fully reinstated for the coming year. He should be able to play starting in Week 1, but that’s not guaranteed if she slips up before then. Whatever Bryant’s status is, the team will have one of the league’s best receivers in WR Antonio Brown leading the receiving core as they try to make it back to the AFC Championship for a second straight season, and possibly even further. The team will be without some of the complementary offensive players from last year’s team, including TE Ladarius Green, WR Markus Wheaton and backup RB DeAngelo Williams, who performed well when filling in for Bell.

QB Ben Roethlisberger started 14 games last season, passing for 3,819 yards and 29 touchdowns with 13 interceptions. Brown had a typically strong season, recording 105 catches for 1,284 yards and 12 touchdowns. WR Eli Rogers added 48 receptions in limited playing time for 594 yards and 3 touchdowns. TE Jesse James had 39 receptions for 338 yards and 3 touchdowns. In his 12 games, Bell carried the ball 261 times for 1,268 yards and 7 touchdowns. He added an impressive 75 receptions for 616 yards and 2 receiving touchdowns. RB Fitzgerald Toussaint, who could be the No. 2 on the depth chart with Williams gone, only had 14 carries for 58 yards last season. Overall, the team was 10th with 399 points scored and while the defense allowed 327 points, 10th-best in the league, and ranked 12th in yards allowed.

Other than Williams, the Steelers didn’t lose any significant pieces of the offense and should get an extra four games out of Bell, who is one of the top players at his position. Roethlisberger is getting older and not as good as he was in his prime but still put up respectable numbers in 2016. Barring injury, you should expect him to put up similar stats as he did last season. If he does miss time, backup QB Landry Jones knows the system and should be able to put up serviceable numbers with guys like Bell and Brown around him. Bryant missed all of last season and hasn’t played more than 11 games in a season yet in his career, but he can put up numbers when he’s on the field — he has 14 touchdowns on 76 career receptions and averages 17.6 yards per reception. Assuming his reinstatement happens in time for the start of the regular season and his health allows him to play most, if not all, of the Steelers’ 16 games, he would be a tremendous No. 2 receiver behind Brown and give Roethlisberger another weapon to throw to in the passing game. Combine that with Bell’s ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, and it should add up to one of the best passing attacks in the NFL to go along with the impressive rushing stats that Bell should put up.

Looking at the Steelers’ schedule, they open up with what should be a winnable game at the Browns in Week 1, then host the Vikings for Week 2. They visit the Ravens for a divisional battle in Week 4 and face the Chiefs in Kansas City in Week 6. The Steelers get a Week 9 bye, sandwiched between road games against the Lions and Colts. The Steelers then have back-to-back primetime games at home — the first of four straight night games — against playoff contenders. The Titans come to town for a Thursday night game in Week 11, followed by a Sunday night contest against the Packers. In Week 13, they travel to the Bengals on Monday night, then have another Sunday nighter scheduled in Week 14 at home against the Ravens. Week 15 sees a rematch of last year’s AFC Championship when the Patriots come to Pittsburgh, and the Steelers travel to Houston on Christmas to take on the Texans in Week 16 before ending the season the same way it started — taking on the Browns, this time at home. The Steelers face a tough schedule, but they have good units on both sides of the ball so they should be able to overcome the challenging slate to come within a game or so in either direction of last year’s 11-win season.

Sources: http://www.steelers.com, http;//www.pro-football-reference.com

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4th Annual 32 in 32ish NFL Previews: Cleveland Browns

Up next in our continuing preview of all 32 NFL teams over the course of 32 days (or so) leading up to the start of the 2017 season is the Cleveland Browns, coming off a last-place finish in the AFC North last season.

Last year was the sixth straight season the Browns finished in last place in the division, and there’s really nowhere to go but up after finishing 2016 with a 1-15 record. The team made one of the more surprising moves of the offseason, trading for QB Brock Osweiler, who was a major disappointment for the Texans after they signed him to a big free-agent contract last offseason. Despite his $16 million salary this season, he’s going to have to compete for the starting job with QBs Cody Kessler and DeShone Kizer, the team’s second-round pick in this year’s draft. They went defense with the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, selecting DL Myles Garrett out of Texas A&M. Other additions of note include DB Calvin Pryor, who they acquired in a trade with the Jets, and WR Kenny Britt. The team lossed its two best pass-catchers from last season, with WR Terrelle Pryor and TE Gary Barnidge no longer on the roster.

Three different quarterbacks started games for the Browns last season, but Kessler is the only one left on the roster. He started eight games, and played in nine total, throwing for 1,380 yards and 6 touchdowns with 2 interceptions in 195 passes. With Houston, Osweiler started 14 games, going 301-for-510 for 2,957 yards and 15 touchdowns, but he threw 16 interceptions and was sacked 27 times. Of the holdovers from last year’s team, the two most successful pass-catchers were RBs Duke Johnson and Isaiah Crowell; they caught 53 and 40 passes, respectively, but neither scored a receiving touchdown. WR Corey Coleman had 33 receptions for 413 yards and 3 touchdowns, while Britt caught 68 passes for 1,002 yards and 5 touchdowns with the Rams last season. Crowell was the team’s leading rusher, tallying 952 yards and 7 touchdowns on the ground. As the No. 2, Johnson ran for 358 yards and 1 touchdown. Overall, the offense finished as the second-worst in the league with points scored and third-worst in yards. Defensively, the Browns gave up  the third-most points and second-most yards.

No matter who gets the nod at starting quarterback, and Kessler seems to be the favorite early in camp, will have a tough time finding success without many strong weapons in the passing game. Britt is a veteran but has only had a single 1,000-yard season in eight years in the league. Coleman put up decent numbers in his rookie campaign, but he is unproven in the No. 2 role. He could be a good complementary piece, but I’m not sure he’s ready to be a reliable option for 16 games. Johnson can provide a receiving option out of the backfield. And while Crowell probably isn’t one of the 10 best running backs in the game, he almost reached 1,000 rushing yards last season and could reach that mark in 2017. The offense might not be able to score enough to win many games if the defense doesn’t show improvement over last season. If Garrett can live up to the hype of being the top overall draft pick, that would be go a long way to getting the defense to be better than last season.

The Browns’ schedule begins with back-to-back divisional games, hosting the Steelers then visiting the Ravens. They stay on the road in Week 3 to take on the Colts in Indianapolis. Osweiler may get a chance to face his former team in Week 6 when the Browns head to Houston to take on the Texans. In Week 8, the Browns go overseas to take on the Vikings in London, followed by their bye. They visit the Lions in Week 11 coming off their bye. In Week 14, the Browns host the Packers. They end the season with consecutive road games, at the Bears in Week 16 and at the Steelers — bringing the schedule full circle — in Week 17. The Browns almost certainly have to win more games than last year, but with their schedule I’m having a hard time finding more than about three or four games that I think they can win, so they’ll likely finish in last place in the AFC North yet again.

Sources: http;//www.clevelandbrowns.com, http;//www.pro-football-reference.com

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4th Annual 32 in 32ish NFL Previews: Cincinnati Bengals

The second preview in our look at all 32 NFL teams over the course of 32 days (or so), followed by a season prediction post, leading up to the start of the 2017 season features the Cincinnati Bengals, who are coming off a third-place finish in the AFC North last season.

A year after going 12-4, the Bengals finished the 2016 season with a disappointing 6-9-1 record, the first time they finished under .500 since going 4-12 in 2010. That poor showing didn’t prevent head coach Marvin Lewis from retaining his job, as he enters his 15th season leading the team despite not having success in the postseason. Without any free-agent signings in the offseason, the roster he coaches this season will look similar to what it was last season. Probably the most notable — and controversial — addition the Bengals made was their second-round draft pick, Oklahoma RB Joe Mixon, who had some legal troubles in college led likely led to his dropping out of the first round. They also went with offense with their first-round pick, selecting Washington WR John Ross.

QB Andy Dalton took every snap at the position last season, throwing for 4,206 yards, which was the second-highest total of his career, but a career-low 18 touchdowns. He also threw 8 interceptions, which was well below his career average of 13.5. His leading receiver was WR A.J. Green, who played only 10 games but led the team with 66 receptions and 964 yards, to go along with 4 touchdowns. WR Brandon LaFell added 64 catches for 862 yards and 6 scores. TE Tyler Eifert saw limited playing time as he dealt with an ankle injury that kept him out until Week 8. He ended up playing in eight games, catching 29 balls for 394 yards and 5 touchdowns. The ground game was dominated by RB Jeremy Hill, who ran the ball 222 times for 839 yards and 9 rushing touchdowns in 15 games, 13 starts. RB Giovani Bernard ran for 337 yards and 2 touchdowns on 91 carries in 10 games, including two starts. He added 39 receptions, including a receiving touchdown. Overall, the team was in the bottom 10 in the league, scoring 325 points, more than 200 points fewer than the league-leading Falcons. The defense, led by DT Geno Atkins and DE Carlos Dunlap, finished the season eighth in the league, allowing opponents to score 315 points.

If the Bengals want to have success this season, Dalton will have to throw for more touchdowns. If Green and Eifert — who each missed significant time last season –can stay on the field this season and if Ross can be NFL-ready in his rookie season, Dalton should have more success in the passing game. The team shouldn’t have issues with the running game with Hill and Bernard being one of the best running-back duos in the league. Adding Mixon at the position could help, as well, as a third back because he had first-round talent that was hindered by his infamous off-the-field actions. The core of the defense remains, with Atkins and Dunlap, so you wouldn’t expect to see much of a drop-off on that side of the ball in 2017.

The Bengals start the season with a tough schedule, hosting the Ravens in Week 1 then having a short week before getting the Texans at home for a Thursday nighter in Week 2. Week 3 sees them head to Green Bay for an interconference game with the Packers. With that three-week stretch, it’s not inconceivable that the Bengals could start the year 0-3. They get an early bye in Week 6, then head to Pittsburgh for Week 7. The Bengals visit the Broncos in Week 11 and host the Steelers in Week 13’s Monday night game. They finish the season at the Vikings in Week 15, home against the Lions in Week 16 and heading to the Ravens to end the season in Week 17. It looks like it’s going to be a tough slate of games for the Bengals, who I see being around a .500 team, which would be an improvement from last season but likely not good enough to make the playoffs. If the team does miss the playoffs for a second straight season, it might finally lead to the end of Lewis’ run as the Bengals’ head coach.

Sources: http://www.bengals.comhttp://www.pro-football-reference.com

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