Tag Archives: Browns

Texans trade Osweiler on first day of NFL free agency

For the second straight season, the Texans made headlines on the first day of NFL free agency, but this time it was for getting rid of a player instead of signing one. Also making significant moves today were the Jaguars, Browns and Bears.

Last year, the Texans gave free-agent QB Brock Osweiler a four-year, $72 million contract, but his performance this season left a lot to be desired and led many people to consider that one of the worst free-agent signings in NFL history. Texans GM Rick Smith righted that wrong today, trading Osweiler —  and the $16 million guaranteed to him for the 2017 season — along with their sixth-round pick in this year’s draft and a second-rounder next year to the Browns in exchange for Cleveland’s fourth-round pick in this year’s draft and, more importantly, salary-cap relief. Getting Osweiler’s salary off the books for this season gives the Texans more flexibility to potentially sign a quarterback. Reports have been running wild of late that Cowboys QB Tony Romo is on their radar, and moving Osweiler makes it seem like they are closing in acquiring Romo, either by trade or signing him if the Cowboys cut him.

For the Browns, it’s not exactly clear what they want with Osweiler. There have been reports that teams have already contacted them about possibly trading for the Browns’ newly acquired quarterback. The possibility also exists that the Browns could simply cut Osweiler and take the cap hit. They have plenty of cap room so it wouldn’t have a significant negative effect on them. If the Browns don’t keep Osweiler, they can use the No. 1 overall draft pick to get a quarterback or sign a veteran quarterback to act as a bridge to QB Cody Kessler when he’s ready to take the reins as the starter.

That trade wasn’t the only move the Browns made today, They also tried to bolster their offensive line by re-signing OL Joel Bitonio and signing free-agent OLs JC Tretter and Kevin Zeitler to multi-year deals. They also signed WR Kenny Britt, who is coming off of a career year in 2016 with the Rams.

The Jaguars signed some free agents they hope to help their defense, signing CB A.J. Bouye, DE Calais Campbell, S Barry Church and LB Lerentee McCray, which should help them compete in the AFC South. The Bears made a quarterback swap today, releasing QB Jay Cutler and signing QB Mike Glennon to a three-year contract. They lost one of their key players on offense, though, as WR Alshon Jeffery signed with the Eagles.

Other notable players who changed teams today, either through free agency or trade, include:

WR DeSean JacksonBuccaneers
WR Torrey Smith — Eagles
RB Danny WoodheadRavens
CB Stephon GilmorePatriots
QB Brian Hoyer49ers
WR Pierre Garcon — 49ers
WR Brandon MarshallGiants
TE Julius ThomasDolphins
OT Branden Albert — Jaguars
OL Russell OkungChargers

In non-player news from today, the Redskins fired GM Scott McCloughan

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Will the Chargers start 2017 by ending their tenure in San Diego?

The Chargers have called San Diego home since 1961, when they were in the AFL before eventually moving to the NFL when the leagues merged, after playing in Los Angeles in their inaugural season of 1960. When they take the field against the Chiefs at Qualcomm Stadium on Sunday, it could be their final home game in San Diego. There is rampant speculation that they will be moving back to Los Angeles for the 2017 season, eventually playing in the Rams’ new stadium when that is finished, which is expected to be in time for the 2019 season.

When the NFL owners approved the Rams’ move to Los Angeles last January they also approved a move of the Chargers to the City of Angels, giving them an option that, if exercised, would allow them to move about 125 miles up the Southern California coast to Inglewood. The Chargers were given a year to exercise the option, which means they have just a few weeks left to pull the trigger if they choose to do so. With that in mind, when they host the Chiefs on Sunday in the final game of a sub-.500 season for the Chargers, their players, coaches and fans won’t know if it’ll be the last time they take the field in the city that the team has called home for more than five decades. It will be an emotional game, as it was last season when the possibility of it being the team’s final game in San Diego was already on people’s minds.

The issue leading to the possible relocation to Los Angeles is a new stadium. The team feels Qualcomm Stadium isn’t good enough anymore but the city isn’t willing to put up the money to pay for a new facility for the team. Talk of leaving San Diego picked up steam in November when a ballot measure that would have raised hotel taxes to help fund a new downtown stadium failed to achieve the two-thirds majority needed for approval. Had that passed, the team and the league would have contributed $650 million toward the project. In a seemingly last-ditch effort to save the team, city officials including Mayor Kevin Faulconer reportedly met with team owner Dean Spanos last week to try to reach an agreement. Earlier in the month, the city council offered to lease the land where Qualcomm Stadium sits to the Chargers for $1 a year over 99 years, allowing them to remain there while discussions about a new stadium continue into the future.

If this is it in San Diego for the Chargers, their run in the city will end with Week 16’s loss against a Browns team that was 0-14 entering the game and could be looking at another loss with a tough game against the division-rival Chiefs, who will be going all-out as they need a win — coupled with a Raiders loss — to have a chance at winning the division and earning a first-round bye in the playoffs.

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 6: The Cowboys travel to Lambeau Field

Week 6 is upon us, highlighted by a late Sunday afternoon matchup pitting rookie QB Dak Prescott and the Cowboys against QB Aaron Rodgers and the Packers at historic Lambeau Field. The week begins on Thursday night with the Broncos looking to bounce back from last week’s surprising loss to the Falcons when they head to San Diego to take on the Chargers. The Browns have a chance to get in the win column when they head to Tennessee to take on the Titans, while the Vikings, the only remaining undefeated team, are on their bye. I went just 5-9 last week to bring my record for the season to 37-40. 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: Vikings, Buccaneers

Thursday Night Football
Broncos at Chargers (+3.5) – I expect the Broncos to get back on track after the loss to the Falcons in Week 5. QB Trevor Siemian, who sat out last week’s game, is expected to be ready to start this one, and the defense should have an easier time of defending a Chargers offense that isn’t as good as the Falcons.

Sunday 1PM games
49ers at Bills (-7.5) – QB Colin Kaepernick will get his first start of the season for the 49ers after head coach Chip Kelly announced the benching of QB Blaine Gabbert. It’ll be Kaepernick’s first start since Nov. 1, 2015, and it’s unsure how he will perform. The Bills have looked good the last couple of weeks and I think they’ll win the game outright, I think the spread is too high and I’ll go with the 49ers to stay within 7.5 points.
Jaguars at Bears (-2.5) – The Jaguars are coming off their bye, as the Bears look to make it two in a row after picking up their first win of the season last week against the Colts. Both of these teams are evenly matched, but QB Brian Hoyer has been good when starting for the Bears the last couple weeks. I think he’ll outplay Jaguars QB Blake Bortles and win the game for the Bears.
Bengals at Patriots (-9.5) – QB Tom Brady didn’t miss a beat in his first game of the season last week coming off his four-game Deflategate suspension. But that was against the Browns, this week he has to face the Bengals, who — while not great — are better than last week’s opponent. I think the Bengals defense will be able to keep the Patriots offense in check better than Cleveland was able to. Patriots win the game but don’t cover.
Browns at Titans (-6.5) – Titans QB Marcus Mariota had his best game of the season last week, while the Browns lost another quarterback to injury. At this point we don’t know which quarterback will be able to make the start for Cleveland — it could be converted WR Terrelle Pryor. That uncertainty at the quarterback position makes me think the Titans can cover, particularly if RB DeMarco Murray can continue the production he has been putting up so far this season.
Rams at Lions (-3.5) – The Lions are coming off an upset of the previously undefeated Eagles, and now have the Rams coming to town. The Lions have the better offense of the two teams, led by QB Matthew Stafford, but the Rams have the better defense. The Lions can put up points, and I think they win and cover this one.
Steelers at Dolphins (+7.5) – This is one of the bigger mismatches of the week, with the high-powered Steelers offense taking on a Dolphins team that could be the worst in the league. QB Ben Roethlisberger should be able to continue his stellar season that he has been having to this point.
Panthers at Saints (+2.5) – At 1-4, the Panthers are probably the most disappointing team in the NFL this season. They are coming off a loss to the Buccaneers on Monday night, but QB Cam Newton didn’t play in the game. He has now returned to practice and is expected to play this week. RB Jonathan Stewart, who has missed the last couple of games also may be on track to take the field this week. The Panthers know they’re desperate and have to win this game if they want to have any hope of staying in the playoff hunt so I expect them to win this game against a Saints defense that isn’t very good.
Ravens at Giants (-2.5) – This game is a tough one to call. The Ravens have come back to Earth a little after their fast start, and the Giants offense hasn’t lived up to expectations at this point. QB Eli Manning is going to have to do better than he has been for the Giants to win this game. I view this as a toss-up so I’ll take the Ravens getting the points.
Eagles at Redskins (+1.5) – The Eagles suffered their first loss of the season last week, while the Redskins beat the Ravens. Both teams have three wins, one fewer than the NFC East-leading Cowboys, so this is an important game for the divisional race. I think the Eagles have a better team on both sides of the ball, so with just a 1.5-point spread, I expect them to win and cover on the road.

Sunday 4PM games

Chiefs at Raiders (-1.5)The Raiders look to improve upon their 4-1 record at home in this divisional game. The Raiders offense, led by QB David Carr, has looked good to this point of the season but their defense can give up points. I’m not sure, however, that Chiefs QB Alex Smith will be able to take advantage of that so I’ll go with the Raiders.
Falcons at Seahawks (-6.5) – Coming off the bye, Seahawks QB Russell Wilson has had an extra week to try to recover from the minor injuries he’s been dealing with. He played well in his last game before the bye so he should be able to continue that trend. With the way the Falcons are playing, though, I think a 6.5-point spread is too high. The Seahawks defense is one of the better ones that the Falcons have faced so far this season, but I still think QB Matt Ryan will be able to do his thing. Regardless of who wins this game, I don’t expect the differential to be within a touchdown so I’ll take the Falcons and the points.
Cowboys at Packers (-4.5) – This game should be a shootout as both teams rely on their offenses to win games. Packers RB Eddie Lacy injured his ankle in last week’s game and his status for Week 6 is uncertain. That could be a big deal in this game because Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott has been one of the top running backs in the league in his rookie season. At quarterback, the Packers clearly have the advantage with Rodgers. If Lacy can’t go, though, that would hurt the Packers. Even if he does play, he might not be at full strength, so I’ll go with the Cowboys  and the points.

Sunday Night Football
Colts at Texans (-3.5)The Texans offense didn’t look good against the Vikings last week, but the Colts defense isn’t nearly in the same class as the Vikings. I expect the Texans to right the ship at home. Even without DE J.J. Watt, the Texans defense is significantly better than the Colts’ so they should be able to cover the spread.

Monday Night Football
Jets at Cardinals (-7.5) – QB Carson Palmer should return for the Cardinals after missing last week’s game while going through the league’s concussion protocol. The Cardinals have the best offense player in this game with RB David Johnson and also have the better defense, but a 7.5-point spread is a lot for a 2-3 team. I think the Cardinals win the game but don’t cover.

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My NFL Picks Week 5: Brady returns to the Patriots

It’s Week 5, which means Patriots QB Tom Brady has finished serving his four-game Deflategate suspension and he’ll be under center on Sunday when the Patriots head to Cleveland to take on the 0-4 Browns. Other games of note this week include the Texans traveling to Minnesota to try to hand the Vikings their first loss, the Redskins visiting the Ravens in the Battle of the Beltway, and the Packers hosting the Giants in the Sunday night game. I went 8-7 last week to improve my record to 32-31. 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: Jaguars, Chiefs, Saints, Seahawks

Thursday Night Football
Cardinals at 49ers (+2.5) – Before the season began, I would have thought the Cardinals could easily cover a field goal spread against the 49ers, but the Cardinals have greatly underperformed thus far this season, going 1-3 through their first four games. Add to that the fact that QB Carson Palmer is currently in the concussion protocol and will not play, leaving QB Drew Stanton to get the start. Give me the 49ers and the points.

Sunday 1PM games
Bears at Colts (-4.5) – The Colts are coming off a loss to the Jaguars in London last week, now they have to play another game without the benefit of the usual bye week following a London game. At 1-3, both teams need to win this game to stay keep their hopes alive in their respective playoff races. Bears QB Brian Hoyer has played well so far filling in for Jay Cutler and the Colts have a poor defense so I think the Bears will be able to put up points. I don’t think Colts QB Andrew Luck is fully healthy, coming off a long trip back from Europe I think the Bears could win the game outright so I’m taking Chicago and the points.
Patriots at Browns (+10.5) – Brady is back. Since he hasn’t played in a meaningful game since January, he could be a little rusty. TE Rob Gronkowski hasn’t been a big part of the offense so far and he may not be entirely healthy. I think the Patriots win the game, but that’s a big spread given the circumstances so I’ll take the Browns with the 10.5 points.
Eagles at Lions (+2.5) – Coming off their bye, the Eagles look to remain undefeated under rookie QB Carson Wentz. TE Zach Ertz is expected to play for the first time since Week 1, when he suffered a rib injury, which should help an already-impressive Eagles offense. The Eagles defense is also pretty good so I’ll take them to win the game and cover.
Titans  at Dolphins (-3.5) – Neither of these teams is good. I think the Dolphins may be slightly better, but I’m not convinced they can cover the 3.5-point spread so I’ll take the Titans.
Texans at Vikings (-6.5) – Both teams have a good defense, although the Texans’ isn’t as good without DE J.J. Watt, but I think the Texans have a slight edge offensively, with standouts WRs DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller. I’m not convinced the Texans can win the game, but I think they’ll at least stay within a touchdown so I’ll take them and the points.
Jets at Steelers (-7.5)The Steelers dominated the Chiefs on Sunday night and the Jets aren’t as good as Kansas City, so I think the Steelers will have a relatively easy time of things in this game as well. With RB Le’Veon Bell returning from his suspension last week, their offense is getting better and the Jets’ defense didn’t look good against the Seahawks with a hobbled Russell Wilson last week.
Redskins at Ravens (-3.5) – These two teams are fairly evenly matched on offense, I think. The Ravens may finally have a running game after RB Terrance West put up good numbers last week, and rookie RB Kenneth Dixon is expected to make his debut this week, which could give the team a boost. I think the Ravens have a better defense than the Redskins so I’ll take them to cover at home.

Sunday 4PM games
Falcons at Broncos (-6.5) – This is a battle of a tough Broncos defense against a Falcons offense that has been flying high this season, having scored 93 points in the last two games. The Falcons probably won’t get out of the 20s on the scoreboard this week. It’s unknown if QB Trevor Siemian will be able to start for the Broncos; it’s looking like he’ll be able to play, but if he can’t QB Paxton Lynch will get his first career start. With that uncertainty, I’ll take the Falcons to stay within a touchdown of the Broncos.
Bills at Rams (-2.5) – The Rams may be 3-1 but I don’t think they’re that good — remember, they got shut out by the 1-3 49ers in Week 1. Defense is the best aspect of both teams’ games so I’m not expecting a high-scoring game. I think the Bills are the better team so I’ll pick them to win outright.
Bengals at Cowboys (+0.5) – The Cowboys have a better offense and the Bengals have a bette defense, in my opinion. The teams are fairly evenly matched, but I think the Bengals’ defense can win out and keep the Cowboys from scoring too many points, so I’ll go with the Bengals in this toss-up.
Chargers at Raiders (-4.5)The Chargers aren’t very good. Between injuries on offense and a defense that can’t hold a lead late in the game, they’re not having a good season. I’m still not sold on the Raiders being as good as they’ve looked to this point, but I think they’re better than the Chargers so I’ll go with the home team here.

Sunday Night Football
Giants at Packers (-7.5)The Packers are coming off of their bye and, before that, their best offensive performance of their first three games. They have a better team than the Giants, but 7.5 is a big spread. The Packers win the game but I think the Giants will keep it close so I’ll take them with the points.

Monday Night Football
Buccaneers at Panthers (-3.5)Playing the Buccaneers and their bad defense could be what the Panthers need to get their offense going in the right direction. The big concern for the defending NFC champions is the possible absence of QB Cam Newton, who is in the concussion protocol. If he can’t play, veteran QB Derek Anderson will get the start. He can be a decent fill-in so even if Anderson starts, I think he can lead the Panthers to a win of at least four points so I’ll take them to cover.

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