Tag Archives: Bengals

NFL Quarterly Report: Are the Cowboys and Raiders the best teams in the league?

All 32 NFL teams have now played 12 games, which means we’re three-quarters through the regular season. With just 25% of the season remaining, the playoff picture is becoming much clearer. It appears as if the Cowboys are continuing to coast to the top seed in the NFC as they are the first team to clinch a playoff spot, while the Patriots likely won’t be as dominant in the postseason as people thought they could be earlier on, and the Raiders could be heading toward the No. 1 seed in the AFC.

The Patriots took a hit a couple weeks ago when TE Rob Gronkowski suffered a back injury that required surgery and will sideline him for the rest of the season. While the Patriots are still the best team in the AFC East and will make the playoffs, their chances of making a deep postseason run are not as good as they would have been if they had Gronkowski, who is QB Tom Brady’s favorite target and best receiver. TE Martellus Bennett has not yet stepped up in Gronk’s absence. For the rest of the division, the Dolphins are currently in second place at 7-5 but coming off a bad loss to the Ravens to end their winning streak. At 6-6, the Bills are in third place but gave up 29 unanswered points on Sunday to lose at the Raiders. The Jets, meanwhile, are playing out the string for the final four games of what has been a disappointing season. Judging by how their defense played on Monday night, it could be a long four games for the Jets. The Patriots are likely going to be the only playoff team coming out of the division.

Things are going better for the first-place team in the NFC East as the Cowboys have won 11 in a row behind QB Dak Prescott after dropping their season opener. At 11-1, they have clinched a playoff spot, the only team to do so to this point, and are the front-runners to land home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. The Giants lost a tough game to the Steelers this weekend, with QB Eli Manning not playing well, to end their six-game win streak and put them at 8-4, good for second place. They will continue to try to hold off the 6-5-1 Redskins for second place in the division and a potential Wild Card berth. The Giants currently hold the No. 5 seed in the conference, while the Redskins have fallen out of the NFC’s second Wild Card but are still in the hunt. The Eagles continue their downward spiral into last place in the division at 5-7, having lost their last three games and five of their last six. QB Carson Wentz has regressed significantly from his hot start and the team is now likely out of playoff contention.

The Ravens and Steelers are tied at 7-5, though the Ravens lead the AFC North due to tiebreakers. Baltimore’s convincing Week 13 win over the Dolphins was the team’s second straight win, and the Steelers have won three in a row but are on the outside of the playoff race. The Bengals picked up their first win since October on Sunday, but it won’t do them much good at this point as they sit at 4-7-1. The only thing keeping them out of last place in the division is the Browns, who are still winless at 0-12. After their bye in Week 13, they host the Bengals this week as they look to finally get in the win column. It appears as though QB Robert Griffin III could get the start after missing much of the season with an injury. Will that be what the Browns need to win a game? If not, their final three games are at the Bills, hosting the Chargers and visiting the Steelers. I think San Diego is the best shot for the Browns to pick up a win but it’s obviously not a certainty.

The Lions are in control of the NFC North, with an 8-4 record and two-game lead over the Vikings and Packers, who are each 6-6. The Lions appear to have the advantage in the division, facing the lowly Bears this week while the Vikings battle the Jaguars, which should be a winnable game, and the Packers face a stiff test against the Seahawks. If the Packers can gain a game on the Lions in the next couple of weeks, Week 17 could feature a win-and-in game for the division title with the Lions hosting the Packers. Winning the division will be important because there will likely be just one playoff team coming out of the NFC North. And it won’t be the Bears, who are 3-9, with their most recent win coming at the expense of the 1-11 49ers.

The AFC South is up for grabs after the Texans dropped their third straight this week, losing a snowy contest at Lambeau Field, putting them in a dead heat with the Titans, who had their bye this week, and the Colts at 6-6; the Texans, who are a perfect 3-0 in the division, hold the tiebreakers and are technically in first pace. The Texans’ offseason signing of QB Brock Osweiler is looking worse every week as he has not shown much improvement as the season as progressed. Houston’s defense, still without DE J.J. Watt of course, will have to continue to play well enough to keep scoring low and the Texans offense in games if they want to have a chance to repeat as division champs. An 8-8 record could win this division with the way things are looking right now. And the Jaguars are on their way to a last-place finish as the breakout season that many predicted for QB Blake Bortles and the Jags offense has not materialized. The Texans play the Titans in Nashville in Week 17, which could be a winner-take-all battle for the division title.

The NFC South has turned into a good two-team race between the Falcons and Buccaneers as the former suffered a tough loss to the Chiefs in Week 13 and the latter continued their winning ways, winning their fourth straight game to tie the Falcons at 7-5. The Falcons currently hold the tiebreaker over Tampa and technically lead the division, but the Bucs have a hold on the NFC’s second Wild Card. The Saints, at 5-7, hold third place in the division, but the biggest surprise in the South is the 4-8 Panthers, who were blown out by the Seahawks on Sunday night. After making it to Super Bowl 50 last season, the Panthers have really dropped off this year with QB Cam Newton not able to live up to expectations that were set for him after his MVP campaign in 2015. Back at the top of the division, winning the division is obviously important to get a home playoff game, but it may not be the only way to get into the postseason as one of the Wild Cards could come out of the NFC South.

The Raiders’ successful season continues after coming back to beat the BIlls in Week 13 to improve their record to 10-2, putting them at the top of the AFC. With Gronkowski out for the Patriots, the Raiders may be able to make a deep playoff run, possibly even making it to Super Bowl LI in Houston. Oakland isn’t the only good team in the AFC West, though, with the Chiefs at 9-3 and the Broncos right behind them at 8-4. I believe both of the AFC’s Wild Card teams will come out of the West, meaning all three of those teams will make the playoffs. The division winner will likely get one of the top two seeds in the conference and the important first-round bye that comes along with that. The Raiders visit the Chiefs on Thursday night, which could be a key game in determining the division champion. The Chargers, who aren’t having a bad season but have given up leads late to lose some games, round out the division with a 5-7 record heading into the last quarter of the regular season.

The NFC West race is all but over, with the 8-3-1 Seahawks holding a three-game lead over the 5-6-1 Cardinals, who picked up a surprising win against the Redskins in Week 13. The Rams, who recently gave head coach Jeff Fisher a contract extension, sit at 4-8 and the 49ers are just 1-11 after losing to the Bears on Sunday. The Cardinals’ lack of success is sort of surprising but people weren’t expecting much out of the Rams or 49ers this season. The Seahawks are currently the No. 2 seed in the NFC so they could be on their way to a first-round bye in the playoffs as QB Russell Wilson appears to be as healthy as he has been all season at the best time for that to happen.

With four weeks left in the regular season, just one team has punched its ticket into the postseason, but others are well on their way to doing that and will clinch playoff berths in the next week or two. At the bottom of the league, the most interesting storyline is whether the Browns will win a game. They have only four more chances to avoid becoming the second team in NFL history to finish a season 0-16.

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My NFL Picks Week 10: Big-name teams collide with Cowboys-Steelers and Seahawks-Patriots

Week 10 is upon us, with a couple of big games on the slate for late Thursday afternoon and evening. QB Dak Prescott and the Cowboys head to Pittsburgh to take on a Steelers team reeling from last week’s loss. Then in the primetime game, the Seahawks head to Foxboro to take on QB Tom Brady and the Patriots. The week begins with a less-than-appealing game, with the Browns — still looking for their first win, traveling to Baltimore to take on the AFC North-leading Ravens Thursday night. The Monday night game isn’t bad as the Bengals visit the Giants, who are on a three-game win streak. I went 7-6 last week, bringing my record to 61-70 for the year. I’m using the lines from ESPN’s Pigskin Pick ‘Em game. My picks are in bold and my survivor pool pick is in red

Byes: Bills, Lions, Colts, Raiders

Thursday Night Football
Browns at Ravens (-10.5) – I realize the Browns are 0-9, but 10.5 points is a lot for a team like the Ravens, which relies on its defense more than its offense to win games, to be giving up. I expect a low-scoring game and while the Ravens should pick up the win, I don’t think they cover the points. The Browns have been competitive and kept things relatively close in most of their games this season, and that should continue this week.

Sunday 1PM games
Falcons at Eagles (-0.5) – The Falcons have had one of the best offenses in the league this season, with QB Matt Ryan frequently getting the ball to WR  Julio Jones. The Eagles, on the other hand, haven’t looked good in recent weeks with QB Carson Wentz significantly regressing from his performance early in the season. With that in mind, I am surprised that the Eagles are favored. I expect the Falcons to easily win the game outright, so I’m taking them with the points.
Bears at Buccaneers (+0.5) – This game is pretty much a toss-up for me. Neither team has had a great offense this season and Bears QB Jay Cutler is prone to throwing interceptions. The Bucs have several injuries to running backs, though, limiting their running game. I think it could come down to the defenses, and I think the Bears have the advantage there so I’ll take them to win the game by a slight margin.
Broncos at Saints (-1.5) – The Broncos haven’t had much offense lately with QB Trevor Siemian not putting up big numbers. They have been dependent on their defense to pick up wins this season, but the Broncos defense wasn’t able to stop the Raiders and QB Derek Carr on Sunday night. Now having to take on Saints QB Drew Brees in New Orleans will be another tough task. The Saints typically do well at home, and I think they’ll be able to put up just enough offense to pick up the win and cover the 1.5 points.
Packers at Titans (+2.5) – The Packers offense hasn’t lived up to expectations this season, but I still find it hard to doubt QB Aaron Rodgers and his ability to put points on the scoreboard against a Titans team that has given up 226 points in nine games. Titans QB Marcus Mariota will have to have a terrific game to lead his team to victory. I don’t think he’ll be able to do it. Rodgers should be able to outplay Mariota and get the Packers back in the win column after losing to the Colts in Week 9.
Chiefs at Panthers (-2.5) – The 3-5 Panthers are on the upswing, having one two in a row largely because of their defense. Against a ‘Chiefs team that will likely be without No. 1 WR Jeremy Maclin and QB Alex Smith, who isn’t known for his offensive prowess, the Panthers’ defensive success should continue this week. RB Spencer Ware is expected to return from his concussion for Kansas City this week, but I don’t think he’ll be able to do enough to help his team win. Panthers win and cover.
Rams at Jets (-1.5)It looks like QB Bryce Petty might be getting the start for the Jets. If that’s the case, the team will have to rely on RB Matt Forte to carry the load on offense for the Jets to have a chance. With the Rams insisting on continuing to start QB Case Keenum over top draft pick Jared Goff, I think the Jets will be able to score just enough to sneak a win and cover at home in a low-scoring game.
Vikings at Redskins (-2.5) – With the Vikings on the downturn, I think the Redskins are the better team. The Vikings defense, which they were riding to success for much of the season, has gotten worse in recent weeks. With a lack of offense over the last several games, especially at the running back position, the defense will need to step up and be able to stop QB Kirk Cousins and the Redskins offense if the Vikings want to stop their losing skid. I don’t think they’ll be able to do it. Redskins win.
Texans at Jaguars (+1.5) – The Jaguars are the worst team in the mediocre AFC South and don’t have much of an offense. The Texans offense hasn’t shown much consistency this season, but I think their defense will be able to stop the Jaguars enough to get the win on the road.

Sunday 4PM games

Dolphins at Chargers (-3.5)After a slow start to the season, the Chargers have won three of their last five games. The running backs are likely to lead their respective offenses in this games; Dolphins RB Jay Ajayi has had three straight games of more than 100 rushing yards (including two 200-yard games) while Chargers RB Melvin Gordon has eclipsed the century mark in his last two contests. Despite beating the Jets last week, I don’t think the Dolphins are very good. I’m going with the Chargers at home.
Cowboys at Steelers (-2.5) – Prescott and RB Ezekiel Elliott lead the Cowboys into one of the marquee games of the week, on the road against the Steelers. QB Ben Roethlisberger looked rusty last week when he returned from his leg injury. If he plays like that again this week, the Cowboys should easily get the win. Even if Big Ben does play better than he did last week, I think the Cowboys have a decent shot at winning with their strong offense. I’m going to take the Cowboys and the points.
49ers at Cardinals (-13.5) – The 49ers aren’t a very good team, as evidenced by their 1-7 record, but 13.5 points is a lot of points for any team to get, especially in a divisional game. Outside of RB David Johnson, the Cardinals offense hasn’t been great this season, with QB Carson Palmer not putting up his typical stats. Cardinals win the game, but give me the points. The 49ers aren’t losing by two touchdowns.

Sunday Night Football
Seahawks at Patriots (-7.5) – The week’s other marquee game sees QB Russell Wilson and the Seahawks ahead across the country to take on Brady and the Patriots. It’s a battle of the Seahawks’ strong defense against one of the league’s best offensive attacks, led by Brady and TE Rob Gronkowski. I don’t like to go against the Seahawks when they’re getting more than a touchdown, but the Patriots are probably the only team I would give 7.5 points with against Seattle. I’ll take the Patriots to cover the spread.

Monday Night Football
Bengals at Giants (-2.5) – The Giants host the Bengals in the week’s final game. The Giants have played themselves into the midst of the playoff picture in the NFC with their current three-game win streak. The Bengals, on the other hand, are on the verge of dropping out of the AFC race if they don’t start getting some wins. The Giants offense is on the upswing. I’ll take them to cover.

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NFL Quarterly Report: Romo-less Cowboys lead the NFC, Patriots continue to roll

With Week 9 in the books, we’re halfway through the 2016 NFL season and have a good idea of how good — or bad — teams are. We also have a better idea of which of the teams that got off to surprisingly good starts were for real and have kept it up — such as the Raiders — and which have come back to reality, perhaps most notably the Rams.

The Patriots made it through the first quarter of the season and QB Tom Brady’s Deflategate suspension with a 3-1 record. Since Brady returned to the team in Week 5, not only are the Patriots undefeated but Brady is playing on a pace that would make him a lead MVP candidate if he can keep it up through the second half. In four games, Brady has more than 1,300 yards, 12 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. At 7-1, the Patriots are running away with the AFC East; the Dolphins are behind them at 4-4, while the Bills — who handed the Patriots their only loss so far — and Jets are both under .500 and quickly falling out of the playoff race.

Over in the NFC East, when Cowboys QB Tony Romo injured his back in the preseason and expected to miss the first half of the season, things weren’t looking good for the team as rookie QB Dak Prescott would have to lead the team in Romo’s absence. In the team’s first eight games, all Prescott has done is lead the Cowboys to a 7-1 record and two-game lead in the division. Romo has returned to practice, but it doesn’t look like he’ll be returning to the starting lineup anytime soon. As long as the Cowboys keep winning and Prescott performs to the level he has been — he has 12 touchdowns and 2 interceptions in eight games — the team will likely stick with the rookie under center. Fellow rookie RB Ezekiel Elliott is also exceeding expectations, having run for 891 yards and 7 touchdowns through the first half of his first professional season. After starting the season 3-0, the Eagles have lost four of their last five to put their record at 4-4, last place in the division. Rookie QB Carson Wentz, who had 7 touchdowns in his first four games, has not thrown multiple touchdowns in a game since Week 5. The Giants are on the upswing, having won three in a row to go to 5-3, good for second place in the division. The Redskins are in third place at 4-3-1.

A Week 9 win over the Steelers put the Ravens in a tie with Pittsburgh atop the AFC North, each at 4-4. The loss to Baltimore gave the Steelers a three-game losing streak as QB Ben Roethlisberger returned after missing a few weeks with a leg injury. The Steelers — who have RB Le’Veon Bell and WR Antonio Brown, who are among the best in the league at their positions — are underperforming. As Roethlisberger recovers from his injury, the offense should return to form. With the Ravens defense playing well, the Steelers don’t have much room for error or a lot of time to wait, however. The Bengals’ streak of five straight playoff appearances is in jeopardy. At 3-4-1, they can’t fall too far behind the Ravens and Steelers if they want to have a chance at winning the division, which could be their best chance of a sixth straight postseason berth. And then there’s the Browns. At 0-9, they’re still looking for their first win. With the Ravens and Steelers on their schedule the next two weeks, it doesn’t look good for them to get the zero out of their win column anytime soon. They may not get their first win until Week 14 or 15, when they play the Bengals and Bills, respectively. A 0-16 finish isn’t out of the question for Cleveland, though they’ll likely win a game before the season ends.

When the Vikings lost QB Teddy Bridgewater for the season and traded for QB Sam Bradford just before the season started, people weren’t expecting much from the team this season. Which is why their 5-0 start surprised people. They have since lost three in a row to drop to 5-3 on the year, which is still good for first place in the NFC North. The Lions are right behind them, though, at 5-4 having beating Minnesota in overtime in Week 9. Lions QB Matthew Stafford is having one of the best seasons of his career, on pace for 32 touchdowns, which would tie the second-best touchdown total of his career. The Packers find themselves in unfamiliar territory, in third place in the division at 4-4. Green Bay’s offense has been inconsistent this season. QB Aaron Rodgers does have 20 touchdowns through eight games, but he has as many one-touchdown games as he does four-touchdown games, two each. The Bears are in last place at 2-6, but their two wins have come against the top two teams in the division, the Vikings and Lions.

At 5-3, the Texans lead the mediocre AFC South — no other team in the division is above .500 — but their offense has been inconsistent this season as QB Brock Osweiler hasn’t played well in his first full season as a starter. With DE J.J. Watt out for the season, the team has been all right but not what people were expecting coming into the season. The Jaguars were a trendy pick to possibly win the division this season, but at 2-6 it doesn’t look like they’ll factor into the playoff race. The 4-4 Titans look like they could present the biggest threat to the Texans repeating as division champs, but the Colts could still sneak in there at 4-5. If the Texans can just go .500 in the second half to finish 9-7, that should be a good-enough record to win the division for the second straight year.

After going 15-1 and making it to Super Bowl 50 last year, the Panthers were the favorites to win the NFC South, but they have not had a good first half of the season. They started the year 1-5 but have won two in a row to get to 3-5, which ties them with the Buccaneers for third place in the division. Panthers QB Cam Newton has been able to continue the success he had in his MVP run of a year ago; in six starts, he has 8 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. Falcons QB Matt Ryan, meanwhile, has led his team to a 6-3 record and the division lead. He is in the MVP discussion at the midway point, having thrown for 2,980 yards, 23 touchdowns and just 4 interceptions in nine games, putting him on pace for a career year if he can keep it up. The Saints got off to a 0-3 start but have had a bit of a resurgence to get to 4-4 and secure second place in the division.

The Raiders are living up to their preseason hype, now in first place in the AFC West by themselves after Sunday night’s win against the Broncos. QB Derek Carr is having a breakout season, with 17 touchdowns and 3 interceptions through nine games, putting him in the MVP discussion. The Chiefs are in second place at 6-2 despite not getting any production out of RB Jamaal Charles, who is on IR and out for the season, and not having a top-tier quarterback in Alex Smith. The Broncos, coming off their Super Bowl title are in third place with a 6-3 record. They have one of the top defenses in the league, but their offense is lacking, with QB Trevor Siemian throwing just 10 touchdowns with 5 interceptions in his eight starts this season. The Chargers, who had trouble holding fourth-quarter leads early in the season, are at the bottom of the division with a 4-5 record. With the Raiders, Chiefs and Broncos playing as well as they are, don’t be surprised to see three playoff teams come out of this division, including both of the AFC’s wild cards.

The Seahawks offense hasn’t been as prolific as we’ve come to expect in recent years, largely due to injuries that have been hampering QB Russell Wilson’s play, but they still sit atop the NFC West as the only team in the division with a winning record. The defense has played a significant role in the success the Seahawks have had so far this season. The Cardinals are in second place with a 3-4-1 record, followed by the Rams, who have dropped four straight after starting the season 3-1. The 49ers, who have gone back to QB Colin Kaepernick as their starter after QB Blaine Gabbert couldn’t get the job done, are 1-7. If the Seahawks offense doesn’t pick things up, they could be in danger of the Cardinals passing them for the division lead in the coming weeks.

Halfway through the season, some teams — including the Patriots and Cowboys — look like they’re virtually locks to make the playoffs. Others that many people picked to be playoff teams before the season started, like the Panthers, have some work to do if they want to live up to those expectations and play beyond Week 17.

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My NFL Picks Week 4: Four undefeated teams look to go 4-0 while the unbeaten Eagles get a rest

Week 4 brings with it the first byes of the season, with the surprising 3-0 Eagles and the Packers getting an early week off. Thursday features a battle of 1-2 teams when the Dolphins visit the Bengals, with both teams looking to get to .500 to avoid falling too far behind in the playoff race. There are four teams looking to go 4-0 on the season, including the Patriots, who have one more game to get through before QB Tom Brady makes his season debut in Week 5; they’ll play the Bills at home. Of the undefeated teams, the Vikings probably have the toughest game coming up this weekend; they host the Giants on Monday night. I went 8-8 last week to maintain my .500 record for the season, with a 24-24 mark. I’m using the lines from ESPN’s Pigskin Pick ‘Em game. My picks are in bold and my survivor pool pick is in red

Thursday Night Football
Dolphins at Bengals (-6.5)The Dolphins haven’t looked good this season, needing overtime to beat the Browns last week after letting them score a season-high 24 points. The Bengals have been a bit of a disappointment thus far, but their two losses have come against good teams in the Steelers and Broncos. Broncos should win the game, and I think they can do it by a touchdown to cover the spread.

Sunday morning London game
Colts at Jaguars (+2.5) – It looks like the people who thought the Jaguars could be a playoff team this year were wrong. Off to a 0-3 start, the team is struggling on both sides of the ball — ranking 26th in the league in both points scored and points allowed. At 1-2, the Colts aren’t living up to expectations either, but they’re a better team than the Jags and should get a win on the road.

Sunday 1PM games
Panthers at Falcons (+2.5) – The Panthers had a hard time with a tough Vikings defense as they suffered their first loss of the season in Week 3, but now they get a defense that allowed 32 points to a winless Saints team on Monday night. QB Cam Newton and the rest of the Panthers offense should have a much easier time against Atlanta than they had against the Vikings. A 2.5-point spread seems kind of low in this game. I expect the Panthers to win by at least a touchdown.
Bills at Patriots (-6.5)The Patriots have some question marks entering their final game without Brady, including who will start at quarterback. Even with uncertainty at that key position, the Patriots are facing a defense that has given up 55 points in the last two games. The Patriots will be able to put up points on the Bills. I expect them to win by a touchdown.
Lions at Bears (+2.5) – The Bears are 0-3 and desperate to start getting some wins. I don’t think it’ll happen this week, though. Lions QB Matthew Stafford has done a good job leading the offense so far this season. Lions easily cover the spread in this one.
Browns  at Redskins (-8.5) – The Browns aren’t good, but the Redskins haven’t been overly impressive in their first three games either. WR Terrelle Pryor had a breakout game for Cleveland in Week 3 and will look to make it two straight big games in a row. I don’t think it’ll be enough to win, though. Redskins win the game, but I don’t trust them to cover a 8.5-point spread.
Titans at Texans (-6.5) – It’s been a bad week for the Texans. Not only did they get shut out by the Patriots last Thursday but they had to place DE J.J. Watt on injured reserve Wednesday, which means he’ll miss at least eight weeks but is likely to miss the remainder of the season. That puts pressure on the rest of the defense, including LBs Whitney Mercilus and Jadeveon Clowney to excel. After a poor offensive performance in Week 3, it’s hard to trust the Texans’ offense. I think they’ll get the win, but I’m taking the Titans and the points.
Raiders at Ravens (-3.5)These two teams are pretty evenly matched. Not many people expected the Ravens to be 3-0 at this point but QB Joe Flacco has played well. I think this one will come down to the defense and the Ravens have the advantage there, so I’m going with the home team.
Seahawks at Jets (+3.5) – With the way Jets QB Ryan Fitzpatrick performed last week, throwing six interceptions, I think the Seahawks defense will be able to contain the Jets offense. The health of Seahawks QB Russell Wilson is a concern, though, as he had to leave last week’s game early. I think he’ll be able to play and perform pretty well so I still like Seattle to win — and cover.

Sunday 4PM games
Broncos at Buccaneers (+3.5) – This is a matchup of a good defense (the Broncos) against a bad defense (the Buccaneers). The Bucs have given up 40 and 37 points, respectively, in the last two weeks. I expect the Broncos to be able to score on Tampa and the defending Super Bowl champs could win by double digits.
Cowboys at 49ers (+2.5) – I’m surprised the spread is so small in this one. Rookie QB Dak Prescott and RB Ezekiel Elliott have shown that they are the real thing thus far. Although WR Dez Bryant is hobbled with a foot injury, he still has a chance to play, and even if he can’t go the Cowboys should easily handle the 49ers and cover the spread.
Rams at Cardinals (-8.5) – Before last week, I might have taken the Cardinals to cover the spread, but they didn’t look good last week, scoring just 18 points against a bad Bills defense. The Rams’ defense is better than the Bills’ so I think the Cardinals will win the game, I don’t think they’ll be able to cover the spread.
Saints at Chargers (-4.5) – The Saints’ defense could be the worst in the league, but their offense is able to put up points. This should be a blow out, and I trust Saints QB Drew Brees more than Chargers QB Philip Rivers, even though Brees plays better at home than he does at home. I think the Saints will at least keep the game close so I’m taking them with the points, even though I’m not convinced they’ll win the game.

Sunday Night Football
Chiefs at Steelers (-5.5)The Steelers get RB Le’Veon Bell back this week after he was suspended for the first three games of the season. That’ll provide a boost to an offense that already includes one of the best receivers in the league in WR Antonio Brown. Even though the Steelers disappointed last week against the Eagles, I’m not big on the Chiefs’ offense so I’ll take the Steelers to bounce back and not only win but cover the 5.5 points at home.

Monday Night Football
Giants at Vikings (-4.5)The Vikings are looking to go 4-0 when they host the Giants. While injuries have taken on a toll on the Vikings’ offense, their defense has been impressive so far in 2016. As Giants QB Eli Manning is apt to throw interceptions, I think the Vikings’ defense will be able to limit the Giants enough that the offense won’;t need to get into a shootout to win this one. QB Sam Bradford has looked fine filling in for injured QB Teddy Bridgewater, so I’m going with the Vikings in the last game of the week.

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3rd Annual 32 in 32ish NFL Previews: Playoff predictions and Super Bowl LI winner

Time to finish up the season preview posts with my predictions for the NFL playoffs, based on how they are seeded per the season records I came up with. Now I’ll predict each of the playoff games to ultimately get a winner in Super Bowl LI.

AFC Playoff Seeds
1-Chiefs
2-Bengals
3-Patriots
4-Texans
5-Steelers
6-Broncos

NFC Playoff Seeds
1-Panthers
2-Seahawks
3-Packers
4-Redskins
5-Cardinals
6-Lions

AFC Wild Card Round

Texans defeat Steelers
Patriots defeat Broncos

AFC Divisional Round

Texans defeat Bengals
Patriots defeat Chiefs

AFC Championship Game

Patriots defeat Texans

NFC Wild Card Round

Cardinals over Redskins
Packers over Lions

NFC Divisional Round

Seahawks defeat Cardinals
Packers defeat Panthers

NFC Championship Game

Packers defeat Seahawks

Super Bowl

large

defeat

new-england-patriots

I’m picking the Packers to beat the Seahawks in the NFC Championship for a second straight season, while Tom Brady and the Patriots would make it to another Super Bowl if this scenario pans out. They would, however, lose to the Packers to give Aaron Rodgers his second Super Bowl title.

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3rd Annual 32 in 32ish NFL Previews: Denver Broncos

The AFC West is the next division up in our preview of all 32 NFL teams, beginning with the Denver Broncos, the team that won the division — and Super Bowl 50 — last season.

The Broncos were in a weird position this offseason coming off a Super Bowl title. Their veteran QB Peyton Manning retired, while young QB Brock Osweiler was a free agent, eventually signing a big contract with the Texans, forcing the Broncos to enter the 2016 season without the two quarterbacks who played snaps for the team in 2015. The news was better when trying to keep their best defensive player, eventually inking LB Von Miller to a six-year extension that made him the highest paid defensive player in league history.

Manning and Osweiler split quarterback duties pretty evenly last season, putting up decent numbers — 4,216 yards, 19 touchdowns, 23 interceptions. WRs Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders put up good numbers; Thomas had 105 receptions for 1,304 yards and 6 touchdowns while Sanders grabbed 76 catches for 1,135 yards and 6 touchdowns. RB Ronnie Hillman had 863 yards and 7 touchdowns on 207 rushes, and RB C.J. Anderson carried the ball 152 times for 720 yards and 5 touchdowns. But it was the defense that really carried the team to its first Super Bowl title since 1998, allowing 296 points — the fourth-fewest in the league — with 14 interceptions.

It’s a good thing the Broncos signed Miller to the long-term extension because they’re likely going to have to rely on their defense again this year, with a quarterback corps that includes the likes of veteran Mark Sanchez, rookie Paxton Lynch — the team’s first-round pick in this year’s draft, and Trevor Siemian, who was the team’s seventh-round selection in the 2015 draft. Siemian, who started the team’s third preseason game, has been named the starter to begin the season. Sanchez — the only one of the three who has experience in the league, appears to be third on the depth chart. Whoever ends up getting the bulk of the work under center has Thomas and Sanders to throw to. In addition to Hillman and Anderson, RB Devontae Booker joins the team’s running game this season after being selected in the fourth round of this year’s draft.

The Broncos start their season with the Thursday night Opening Kickoff game that the Super Bowl champion traditionally gets, this time hosting the Panthers in a Super Bowl 50 rematch. After a home game with the Colts, the Broncos hit the road for the first time in Week 3 to take on the Bengals. Week 7 is likely circled on the Broncos’ calendar; that’s when they host the Texans — and Osweiler — on Monday night. That game is followed by divisional contests, hosting the Chargers in Week 8 and visiting the Raiders in Week 9. The Broncos’ bye comes in Week 11, leading into a home game with the division-rival Chiefs. Week 15 has the Patriots coming into Denver, followed by a visit to the Chiefs on Christmas night in Week 16. The Broncos then end their season at home against the Raiders. The Broncos won the AFC West and, eventually, the Super Bowl last season without a big statistical season out of the quarterback position because the defense was that good. With the trio they have at quarterback this season, they’ll likely have to get another big season out of Miller and his defensive mates to find success this season. I don’t think it’ll work out for them. I think they’ll take a step back this season, and I’m projecting a 8-8 record.

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

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3rd Annual 32 in 32ish NFL Previews: Washington Redskins

We conclude our NFC East previews, part of our previews of all 32 NFL teams, with the Washington Redskins, who won the division last season.

Coming off their first division title since 2012, the Redskins enter their third season under head coach Jay Gruden having made a couple key additions in free agency, particularly on the defensive side of the ball after signing CB Josh Norman away from the Super Bowl champion Panthers, inking him to a five-year deal worth $75 million, $50 million of which is guaranteed. The team is hoping he will shore up a defense that was below average last season. On offense, they signed veteran TE Vernon Davis to a one-year deal to serve as a No. 2 to TE Jordan Reed and, potentially, start some games if Reed misses time with injury, as he has done in each of his three seasons in the league.

In his first full season as a starter, QB Kirk Cousins threw for 4,166 yards and 29 touchdowns, with just 11 interceptions. Reed, who started nine games, was the team’s leading receiver with 87 catches for 952 yards and 11 touchdowns. WR Pierre Garcon had 72 receptions for 777 yards and 6 touchdowns was next in receiving totals. WR DeSean Jackson had a disappointing season, with 30 receptions for 528 yards and 4 touchdowns in nine starts. The team’s leading rusher from last season, RB Alfred Morris, is now with the Cowboys, leaving RB Matt Jones as the presumed starter. In 13 games last season — no starts — he had 144 carries for 490 yards and 3 touchdowns. RB Chris Thompson, who is expected to be the No. 2 this season, had 216 yards on 35 carries in limited playing time last season. With the Panthers last season, Norman had 4 touchdowns, which represents more than one-third of the 11 interceptions that the entire Redskins defense had.

With a full season under his belt, Cousins looks to put up similar numbers to last season, if not do better. If Jackson can stay healthy and improve upon his stats from last season, it would be a boon to the quarterback. The addition of Davis also should help out Cousins. The offense will likely rely on the passing game, with the lack of an experienced starter in the backfield, particularly with Jones dealing with a shoulder injury this preseason. And, of course, Norman should help lift the defense, taking some of the pressure off of the offense.

The Redskins kick off their schedule with a Monday night contest hosting the Steelers in Week 1, followed by a Week 2 home game with the Cowboys, who will likely be without QB Tony Romo. In Week 3, they have their first road game, against the Giants. They have a tough stretch in the middle of the season, facing the Bengals in London in Week 8 before a Week 9 bye, which leads into home games against the Vikings and Packers in Weeks 10 and 11, respectively. A road game at the Cowboys is on tap in Week 12, followed by a visit to the Cardinals for Week 13. Noman gets to face his former team when the Panthers come to FedEx Field for Week 15’s Monday night game. The Redskins end their season at home against the Giants in Week 17. Even before Romo’s injury, I projected the Redskins to win the division and with that setback for the Cowboys, I think it strengthens the Redskins’ chances of winning back-to-back division titles for the first time since the 1982-84 seasons, when they won three straight NFC East championships.

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

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