Tag Archives: Eagles

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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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 12: Key divisional matchups on Thanksgiving highlight the week’s slate

The annual Thanksgiving tripleheader kicks off the Week 12 schedule, with Thursday’s two afternoon games featuring divisional battles that feature teams near the top of their divisions. In the first game, the Vikings head to Detroit to take on the Lions in a game that will determine which team takes over sole possession of the first place in the NFC North; both teams are currently 6-4. Then, the Cowboys host the Redskins, who are looking to overtake the Giants for second place in the NFC East behind the Cowboys, who are an NFL-best 9-1 on the year. The AFC West takes center stage on Sunday night, with the Broncos hosting the Chiefs. The Monday night contest features two teams that could be fighting for their playoff lives with the Packers visiting the Eagles. I went 9-5 last week, bringing my record to 74-85 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: none

Thanksgiving games

Vikings at Lions (-2.5) – The Vikings finally ended their four-game losing streak last season and their defense looked better after a month of mediocrity, but I’m not convinced they’re back just yet. I’ll take QB Matthew Stafford and the Lions in this one to remain in first place in the NFC North.
Redskins at Cowboys (-7.5) – QB Kirk Cousins and the Redskins will look to end the Cowboys’ nine-game win streak. The visitors are coming off a Sunday night game and have to travel to Arlington for the game, which puts them at a disadvantage. I think the Cowboys win the game, but the Redskins keep it close and stay within the spread.
Steelers at Colts (+7.5) – Colts QB Andrew Luck was put in the concussion protocol following Sunday’s game, which puts his status for Thanksgiving night into question with the short week. I’m assuming he will miss the game and backup QB Scott Tolzien will fill in under center, which should help the Steelers easily cover the spread behind QB Ben Roethlisberger and RB Le’Veon Bell.

Sunday 1PM games

Cardinals at Falcons (-4.5) – The Cardinals didn’t look good against the Vikings last week and now must face one of the league’s best offenses coming off their bye. Falcons QB Matt Ryan should be able to continue the strong season he’s been having and lead the Falcons to an easy win at home.
Jaguars at Bills (-6.5) – While the Jaguars aren’t good, the Bills don’t have a strong offense themselves. RB LeSean McCoy, who had surgery on his thumb after Sunday’s game, may not be able to take the field on Sunday, which would hurt the Bills offense. I expect the Bills to win the game but I think it’ll be relatively close, especially if McCoy misses the game, so I’ll take the points with the Jaguars.
Titans at Bears (+3.5) – Bears QB Jay Cutler suffered a shoulder injury in Sunday’s game that could be a season-ender, which means there’s no chance of him playing this week. That puts backup QB Matt Barkley in the starting lineup for the first time in his NFL career. That’s not going to be good for the Bears. Titans win easily.
Bengals at Ravens (-4.5) – The Bengals lost more than the game on Sunday, with WR A.J. Green and RB Giovani Bernard both suffering injuries that could be season-ending. Bernard’s torn ACL has ended his season, but Green’s hamstring injury may not keep him out for the year, but it will cause him to miss Week 12. With that in mind, the Ravens should not only win the game but cover the spread with the Bengals missing two key pieces of their offense.
Giants at Browns (+7.5) – Browns QB Cody Kessler suffered a concussion in Week 11, which means the revolving door of starting quarterbacks in Cleveland has revolved back to QB Josh McCown as the Browns hope this is the week they get their first win before getting their bye in Week 13. I don’t expect it to happen, though. The Giants offense has been doing well in recent weeks and I don’t think the Browns will be able to keep up with them. It’s kind of a big spread, but I think the Giants cover against the winless Browns.
Rams at Saints (-6.5) Rams QB Jared Goff wasn’t particularly good or bad in his debut last week, throwing neither a touchdown nor an interception, but he’ll likely have to throw multiple touchdowns if he wants to keep up with the Saints offense, which is typically at its best at the Superdome. Despite playing a Saints defense that isn’t great, I don’t expect Goff to be able to keep up with Saints QB Drew Brees, who should lead the Saints to an easy victory at home.
49ers at Dolphins (-7.5) – The 1-9 49ers have a tough task ahead of them to play an early game after traveling across the country to Miami. The offense has been better since QB Colin Kaepernick took over the starting job, but West Coast teams often don’t do well in 1pm Eastern games on the East Coast, so I’ll go with the Dolphins to cover, though I wouldn’t be surprised if it goes the other way.
Chargers at Texans (-1.5) – The Texans are coming off a tough Monday night loss to the Raiders in Mexico City and now return home to take on QB Philip Rivers and the Chargers. The Texans looked better in Week 11 than they have just about all season. Combine that with their strong defense, and I think the Texans get back to their winning ways at home, where they are 5-0 this season.

Sunday 4PM games

Seahawks at Buccaneers (+5.5) – The Seahawks are playing the best they’ve played all season in recent weeks, but the loss of RB C.J. Prosise means RB Thomas Rawls, who has been injured for most of the season, will take on featured-back duties. Despite that, the defense should be able to contain the Bucs enough to give the Seahawks the win as they continue their march toward the postseason
Panthers at Raiders (-3.5) – The Panthers defense will have to hold down QB Derek Carr and the Raiders offense, like the Texans defense did for the first three quarters on Monday night, if they want to have a chance to beat the AFC West leaders. I think QB Cam Newton and the Panthers should be able to put points up on the Raiders defense, so it’ll come down to how much the Raiders can score. I think the Panthers keep it close, and could win outright, so I’m taking the points.
Patriots at Jets (+7.5) – The Jets’ dismal season continues, with QB Ryan Fitzpatrick getting the start off of the team;s bye week. This game has blowout written all over it, with QB Tom Brady leading the Patriots, who haven’t scored fewer than 24 points in any game since Brady returned from his four-game Deflategate suspension in Week 5. Expect the Patriots to win big.

Sunday Night Football

Chiefs at Broncos (-3.5) – The Broncos offense hasn’t been impressive this season, but their defense is still among the best in the league and should be able to do well against a Chiefs team that lost to the Bucs last week. I expect a relatively low-scoring game with the Broncos ultimately winning and covering the spread.

Monday Night Football

Packers at Eagles (-3.5) – The Packers defense has looked really bad throughout the team’s current four-game losing streak, giving up at least 32 points in each game — including back-to-back games giving up 47 and 42 points, respectively. While QB Aaron Rodgers is still playing well, until the defense can show they have improved I’m going to have a hard time picking them. I’ll take the Eagles to win their second straight game.

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My NFL Picks Week 11: Rams’ Goff set to make debut, Texans and Raiders battle south of the border

The London games may be done for the season, but that doesn’t mean the NFL is out of international games for the year. Week 11’s Monday night game sees the Texans taking on the Raiders in Mexico City. Back in the States, 2016 No. 1 overall pick QB Jared Goff is scheduled to make his first career start for the Rams when they host the Dolphins. Notable games include the Saints visiting the Panthers in a Thursday night contest that could be a must-win for both teams if they want to stay in the playoff race in the NFC and the Eagles heading to Seattle to take on the Seahawks. I went 4-10 last week, bringing my record to 65-80 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: Falcons, Broncos, Jets, Chargers

Thursday Night Football

Saints at Panthers (-3.5) – Both teams lost crucial games late in the fourth quarter last week and are looking to bounce back this week. The Panthers are the better overall team when accounting for both offense and defense, but the Saints have the better offense. New Orleans doesn’t do as well on the road as at home, though, so I think the Panthers will win the game to keep alive any slim playoff hopes they have.

Sunday 1PM games

Bills at Bengals (-3.5) – Both teams have been inconsistent this season and are on the fringe of playoff contention in the AFC. Neither offense has been impressive this season. The Bills have a better defense so I’ll give them the edge here. They are also coming off their bye while the Bengals have a short week, coming off a Monday night loss to the Giants.
Bears at Giants (-7.5) – I think 7.5 points is a lot for the Giants to be giving pretty much any team, but the Bears will be without WR Alshon Jeffery, who will be serving the first game of his four-game PED suspension, and QB Jay Cutler hasn’t been good of late. I think the Giants win the game, but I don’t see them covering so I’ll take the Bears with the points.
Steelers at Browns (+9.5) – The Browns’ record has now reached 0-10 as they continue to look for their first win. I don’t think they’ll get it this week. Despite losing to the Cowboys last week, Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger looked like himself after a subpar performance the week before. With Roethlisberger, RB Le’Veon Bell and WR Antonio Brown, I think the Steelers have the offensive firepower needed to cover the 9.5-point spread against the Browns.
Ravens at Cowboys (-7.5) – QB Dak Prescott and RB Ezekiel Elliott have led the Cowboys to an NFL-best 8-1 record. The offense is among the best in the league. I don’t think the Ravens will be able to keep it a low-scoring game, and Ravens QB .Joe Flacco and the offense won’t be able to keep up with Prescott, Elliott and the rest of the Cowboys offense. Cowboys win and cover.
Jaguars at Lions (-6.5) – The Jaguars aren’t good. QB Blake Bortles hasn’t done much in most games this season until garbage time, when the game was already out of reach. QB Mathew Stafford and the NFC North-leading Lions should be able to win by a touchdown and cover.
Titans at Colts (-2.5) – I’m surprised that the Colts are favored in this game. The Titans just put up 47 points on the Packers last week and have the two best offensive players in the game with QB Marcus Mariota and RB DeMarco Murray. Don’t expect them to score 45 points again, but they should be able to put up numbers on a bad Colts defense. I expect the Titans to win the game outright so I’ll take the points.
Buccaneers at Chiefs (-7.5) – The Chiefs came back at the end of last week’s game to beat the Panthers and the Buccaneers looked good in easily beating the Bears. I think the Chiefs win the game, but I expect the Bucs to keep it close. I’ll take Tampa Bay and the points.
Cardinals at Vikings (-0.5) – The Vikings continued their downswing last week, losing their fourth straight after starting the year 5-0. The Cardinals have been the better team in recent weeks and, although QB Carson Palmer hasn’t been having a great season, I expect the Cardinals to win the game.

Sunday 4PM games

Dolphins at Rams (+0.5) – The Dolphins defense has been playing well of late, and this week the unit gets to go against Goff in his NFL debut. Goff is the No. 1 overall pick in this yer’s draft, but the fact that he’s been serving as the backup to QB Case Keenum for the team’s first nine games indicates that the Rams may not be thrilled with the way he’s been performing in practices. I don’t think Goff will have much success against the Dolphins in his first game in the league so Miami wins the games.
Patriots at 49ers (+13.5) – I got burned last week by picking the Patriots +7.5 against the Seahawks, who won the game. I don’t think the 49ers have a chance to win the game but I think they’ll keep it within two touchdowns to stay within the spread. Patriots QB Tom Brady usually performs well after a loss, but he may be without TE Rob Gronkowski, who reportedly suffered a punctured lung in Sunday night’s loss and may sit out this game. Patriots win but don’t cover the spread.
Eagles at Seahawks (-6.5) – The Seahawks beat the Patriots on the road last week and they should have an easier time of things at home against the Eagles this week. QB Russell Wilson seems to be as healthy as he’s been all season and RB Thomas Rawls looks like he’s on track to return this week and see his first game action since suffering an injury back in Week 2. Seahawks win the game and cover.

Sunday Night Football
Packers at Redskins (-2.5) – The Packers got blown out by the Titans last week, giving up 47 points, and I think this is going to be a statement game for QB Aaron Rodgers so he can prove to people that the team’s not done yet. Redskins QB Kirk Cousins has been playing well of late but he’s still not at the same level as Rodgers, who is playing fine despite the team’s struggles. I think the Packers win the game outright so give me the points.

Monday Night Football (Mexico City)

Texans at Raiders (-6.5) – The Raiders are nominally the home team in Mexico City for this battle of the Texans’ strong defense against the high-scoring Raiders offense. Texans QB Brock Osweiler has not played well all season while Raiders QB David Carr has, but I think the Texans D can at least keep the game close so I’ll take the Texans with the points, though I’m not convinced they win the game.

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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 9: Broncos and Raiders battle to stay atop the AFC West

The featured game of Week 9 is the Sunday night contest, which sees the Broncos head to Oakland to take on the Raiders for first place in the AFC West; both teams are currently 6-2 on the season. Other notable games include the Eagles visiting the Giants for second place in the NFC East and the Panthers hoping to prove last week’s impressive win over the Cardinals wasn’t a fluke when they go to Los Angeles to take on the Rams, who are coming off of their bye. I had my best week of the season last week, going 9-4 to bring my record to 56-64 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: Cardinals, Bears, Bengals, Texans, Patriots, Redskins

Thursday Night Football
Falcons at Buccaneers (+3.5) – The Falcons have been one of the better offenses in the NFL this season. Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston has been doing better lately, but I don’t think he can keep up with with Falcons QB Matt Ryan and WR Julio Jones. Bucs RB Jacquizz Rodgers injured his foot in Sunday’s game and it isn’t looking good for him to play on the short week, which will also limit the Bucs’ chances of challenging the Falcons. I’m surprised the spread isn’t bigger. I think the Falcons easily cover.

Sunday 1PM games
Cowboys at Browns (+7.5) – The Browns are still looking for their win, but they were able to stay competitive against the Jets last week with QB Josh McCown returning from his injury. He’s the best quarterback they have on their roster so he gives the team the best chance to win. But the Cowboys aren’t the Jets and QB Dak Prescott and RB Ezekiel Elliott should be able to continue the success they’ve had all season. Cowboys win the game, and I think they barely cover the spread.
Lions at Vikings (-6.5) – The Vikings didn’t play well in any part of the game in Monday’s loss to the Bears. Even the defense, which has been the unit on the team this season, played poorly. QB Sam Bradford‘s hot start is cooling off. Meanwhile, QB Matthew Stafford leads one of the league’s better defenses in Detroit. I think the Lions have a shot to win the game outright so I’ll take the points.
Jaguars at Chiefs (-8.5) – The Jaguars didn’t put up much of a fight against the Titans on Thursday night until garbage time when the game was already out of reach late. The Chiefs could be without a couple of key players on offense, though, as QB Alex Smith and RB Spencer Ware both left Sunday’s game and are going through the concussion protocol. Smith has already been ruled out for Sunday’s game, which means QB Nick Foles will make his first start since Week 13 of the 2015 season. The Chiefs don’t have an explosive offense normally so I don’t expect a blowout, particularly if Ware joins Smith in missing the game. If Ware can’t go, RB Charcandrick West is expected to be the team’s lead back. Chiefs win but I don’t think they cover.
Jets at Dolphins (-3.5) – This battle of three-win AFC East teams could go either way. The Dolphins will be rested coming off their bye. Neither quarterback has been particularly good this year — the Jets even benched QB Ryan Fitzpatrick at one point for Geno Smith — but the Dolphins could have the best offensive player on either team right now, with RB Jay Ajayi, who ran for more than 200 yards in each of his last two games. The Jets offensive woes include WR Brandon Marshall, who has been disappointing of late. I think this could be a sloppy game. I’ll go with the home team.
Eagles at Giants (-2.5) – The Eagles are 1-3 on the road this season and coming off a loss to the Cowboys. Both teams are 4-3 and the winner of this game will hold sole possession of second place in the NFC East. Giants QB Eli Manning has not been good this season. Even though Eagles QB Carson Wentz has regressed since the first couple weeks of the season, he’s still been better than Manning so far and I expect that to continue this week. I’m surprised the Eagles are the underdog and I think they’ll win the game outright.
Steelers at Ravens (-.5) – QB Ben Roethlisberger is a big question mark for the Steelers, which is likely why the Ravens are favored. Roethlisberger returned to practice on Monday after missing the team’s last game, but it’s not clear if he’ll be able to play this week. If he can’t go, QB Landry Jones will get a second straight start. Even if Jones is under center, I think they can beat the Ravens outright with RB Le’Veon Bell and WR Antonio Brown, who are among the best players at their positions. i’ll take the Steelers and the points.

Sunday 4PM games

Panthers at Rams (+3.5) – The Panthers are coming off perhaps their best game of the season, particularly with a nice defensive performance against the Cardinals. QB Cam Newton should be able to put up enough points to outscore the Rams. The Panthers are 0-3 on the road this season, but I expect them to get their first win this week and cover the spread in the process.  
Saints at 49ers (+3.5) – QB Drew Brees and the Saints don’t do nearly as well on the road as they do at home at the Superdome, but the 49ers aren’t a good team. The Saints beat the Seahawks last week and even a less-than-100% Russell Wilson is better than 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick so I think the Saints win this one relatively easily.
Colts at Packers (-6.5) – The Packers offense looked like it was back to what we’re used to seeing from it last week, with QB Aaron Rodgers throwing four touchdowns, and their offensive success should continue this week against a subpar Colts defense. The lack of a running game with RB Eddie Lacy on I shouldn’t have much of a negative effect. Packers roll the Colts at home.
Titans at Chargers (-5.5) – Despite a 19-point performance against a tough Broncos defense last week, the Chargers shouldn’t have much trouble with the Titans this week. Titans QB Marcus Mariota has done better in recent weeks, but he’s not as good as Chargers QB Philip Rivers. Titans RB DeMarco Murray got banged up in last Thursday’s game with the Jaguars so his availability for the game is up in the air. Chargers win the game but don’t cover.

Sunday Night Football
Broncos at Raiders (+.5) – This is a matchup of one of the league’s top offenses in the Raiders against one of the NFL’s best defenses in the Broncos. Both teams are 6-2, and whichever squad wins this game will be in first place in the AFC West by themselves. Even though the game is in Oakland, I think defense is going to win out in this one, with the Broncos getting the road victory over a young Raiders team that may not be ready for such a big game on national TV.

Monday Night Football
Bills at Seahawks (-7.5) – The Seahawks offense hasn’t looked good for much of this season and couldn’t even do much against a poor Saints defense on Sunday. The Seahawks will likely have to rely on their defense if they are to win this game. It’s  a long trip to the West Coast for the Bills. I think the Seahawks will find a way to win the game, but I expect it to be close so I’ll take the Bills with the points.

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My NFL Picks Week 8: The Patriots try to avenge their loss to the Bills and the Eagles and Cowboys battle for NFC East supremacy

There aren’t many compelling matchups in Week 8 with six teams on bye, but there are some games that stand out. One such contest pits the top two teams in the AFC East, when the Patriots visit the Bills, looking to get revenge for the Bills’ victory at Gillette Stadium earlier in the season, when QB Tom Brady was serving his Deflategate suspension. The Packers head to Atlanta to take on the Falcons in a battle of two of the best teams in the NFC. The same can be said for the Sunday night game, which features the Eagles visiting the Cowboys, in a battle for first place in the NFC East. I went 7-8 last week to bring my record to 47-60 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 is in red

Byes: Ravens, Rams, Dolphins, Giants, Steelers, 49ers

Thursday Night Football
Jaguars at Titans (-3.5) – It’s the seemingly annual Thursday night game between the Jaguars and Titans, the two worst teams in the mediocre AFC South. The Titans suffered a tough loss against the Colts last week, losing a chance to get a piece of the division lead. The Jaguars offense, led by QB Blake Bortles, has been underwhelming this year, while Titans QB Marcus Mariota has been showing signs of improvement in recent weeks. Neither team’s defense is great so I’ll go with the team with the better offense, the Titans.

Sunday morning London game
Redskins at Bengals (-2.5) – The Redskins could only put up 17 points against a below-average Lions defense last week. The Bengals’ offense is looking strong of late. The running game is going well, with RBs Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill both running well, and WR A.J. Green is coming off a 8-catch, 169-yard performance. I give the Bengals the advantage in this one.

Sunday 1PM games
Patriots at Bills (+6.5) – The Bills’ injury situation is not looking good. RB LeSean McCoy may have to sit out with his hamstring injury, while WR Marquise Goodwin is in the concussion protocol, leaving his status for Sunday up in the air. The receiving core is already depleted so if Goodwin can’t go, that doesn’t leave many players for QB Tyrod Taylor to pass to. The Patriots are going to continue putting up big numbers like they have since Brady returned from his suspension, and they should easily win the game.
Jets at Browns (+3.5) – The Browns are still looking for their first win of the season, and a home game against a 2-5 Jets team look like it would provide a good opportunity to get it, but I’m not sure it’ll happen. With QB Cody Kessler leaving Sunday’s game early with a possible concussion, rookie QB Kevin Hogan had to come into the game in relief. If Kessler can’t go this week, Hogan would likely get his first career start and I don’t think he’ll be able to do much against a Jets defense that looked decent last week. Even if Kessler plays, I don’t think they have enough weapons to beat the Jets. I think the Browns go 0-8, halfway to a winless season.
Lions at Texans (-2.5) – The Texans didn’t look good against the Broncos on Monday night, with QB Brock Osweiler unable to complete passes farther than 10 yards. The Lions’ defense isn’t nearly as good as Denver’s, but the Lions have a better offense than the Broncos. If the Texans want to win the game, they’ll likely have to be involved in a shootout and I don’t see that happening. I think the Lions win outright so I’ll take them and the points.
Chiefs at Colts (+2.5) – The Chiefs seem to be playing their best ball in recent weeks, while the Colts haven’t been impressive yet this season. Chiefs RB Spencer Ware is the best player on either offense and I think he’ll be able to run on the Colts. If WR Donte Moncrief is able to return from his shoulder injury and play this week, as it looks like he might, that would give the Colts a boost on offense, but I still don’t think it would be enough against a decent Chiefs offense. I pick the Chiefs on the road.
Raiders at Buccaneers (-0.5) – For the second straight week, the Raiders play a 1pm ET game in Florida and are 0.5-point underdogs. This time it’s against the Bucs and, like last week, I think the Raiders are clearly the better team and should be able to win the game outright despite the early start on the East Coast.
Seahawks at Saints (+3.5) – The Seahawks are coming off of a 6-6 tie against the Cardinals in a game that they couldn’t do much offensively. QB Russell Wilson doesn’t appear to be completely healthy. It’s a home game for the Saints, which is usually when they do better, so QB Drew Brees and the rest of the offens should be able to put points on the board. I think the Seahawks are the better team but I think the Saints can outscore them. Since I give the Saints a better-than-average chance to win the game, I’ll take New Orleans and the points.
Cardinals at Panthers (-2.5) – Two of the more disappointing teams in the NFC this season. The Cardinals are the other team in that tie game that didn’t get much done on offense. QB Carson Palmer hasn’t looked good this season and their receiving core is hurt. WR Jaron Brown suffered a season-ending ACL tear last week while WR John Brown sat out Sunday night’s game and his availability for this week is unknown. Given that, I think the Panthers have the offensive advantage behind QB Cam Newton. I expect a relatively low-scoring game but I think the Panthers will get their second win of the season, covering the 2.5-point spread in the process.

Sunday 4PM games

Chargers at Broncos (-5.5)QB Philip Rivers leads the Chargers into Denver to take on the defending Super Bowl champions looking for the season sweep after being them at home in Week 6. Broncos RB C.J. Anderson is out of at least a few weeks, and possibly for the season, with a knee injury, leaving rookie RB Devontae Booker to get his first career start. Booker has looked good with his limited workload thus far, and has been getting more carries in recent weeks. I think the Broncos defense will be able to keep the Chargers from getting a high score, and I expect the Broncos to score more than they did last time. Broncos win and cover.
Packers at Falcons (-2.5) – The Packers may not be doing as good as they usually do, but I still find it hard to bet against QB Aaron Rodgers when he’s getting points. The Falcons have been playing well — particularly WR Julio Jones — and the Packers are dealing with injuries, but I’m going to take the points with Rodgers.

Sunday Night Football
Eagles at Cowboys (-4.5) – It’s a battle of rookie quarterbacks with QB Carson Wentz leading the Eagles into AT&T Stadium against QB Dak Prescott and the Cowboys. The Cowboys are expected to get WR Dez Bryant back from his injury, which would be big for them as it gives Prescott and additional weapon to throw to. With QB Tony Romo beginning to throw, Prescott likely needs to continue to play the way he has been if he wants to keep the starting job. On the other side, Wentz has started to come back to Earth a bit after getting off to his strong start. This is a key game in the NFC East, and I give it to the Cowboys at home.

Monday Night Football
Vikings at Bears (+6.5) – The Vikings head to Chicago to take on the 1-6 Bears in the final game of Week 8. QB Jay Cutler returns to the field for the Bears after QB Brian Hoyer went down with an injury in last week’s game. He will likely be rusty after not playing for a few weeks, and that won’t be good when facing a defense the caliber of the Vikings. Minnesota might be without RB Jerick McKinnon, who hurt his ankle in Week 7, but it’s looking like he’ll be able to play. I don’t think the Bears will score many points in this game, so the Vikings win and cover.

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