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My NFL Picks Week 3: Rams look to stay undefeated in a battle of L.A.

As is usually the case in the NFL, there are some surprising teams after the first two weeks of the season, including the Dolphins leading the AFC East at 2-0 and the Buccaneers, who are undefeated with QB Ryan Fitzpatrick filling in for suspended QB Jameis Winston, sitting atop the NFC South. Among the notable games this week are a NFC South battle between the Saints and Falcons in Atlanta, the Chargers facing the undefeated Rams in a battle of Los Angeles, and the Seahawks looking for their first win of 2018 when they host the Cowboys. The Monday nighter features the 0-1-1 Steelers looking to finally get in the win column as they head to Tampa looking to deal the Bucs their first loss. I went 6-10 last week, giving me an overall record of 15-17 for the season. As always, I’m using the lines from ESPN’s Pigskin Pick ‘Em game. My picks are in bold and my survivor pool pick (straight up, not ATS) is in red

Thursday Night Football

Jets at Browns (-3.5) – The Thursday night game isn’t the most compelling contest of the season, with two mediocre teams facing off in Cleveland. Rookie QB Sam Darnold looks to lead the Jets to their second win of the season against a Browns team that traded WR Josh Gordon to the Patriots earlier in the week. This game could go either way, so I’m going to take the Jets and the points but I think the Browns may pick up their first win since 2016.

Sunday 1PM games

Saints at Falcons (-3.5) – The Saints were barely able to hold off the Browns in Week 2 to get the win, QB Drew Brees had a strong performance. On the other side, the Falcons came back from a disappointing Week 1 defeat to beat the Panthers last week. Falcons QB Matt Ryan and WR Julio Jones will need a big game to hold off the Saints’ offense. And they’ll be doing it with RB Tevin Coleman filling in for Devonta Freeman for a second-straight week. I think the Saints have the better offense, so I’m taking the points on the road.

Bills at Vikings (-16.5) – Through their first two games, the Bills have looked like potentially the worst team in the league, and now they’re heading on the road to take on QB Kirk Cousins and the Vikings. The Vikings are almost certainly going to win the game, so this is a question of what the margin of victory will be. Winning by 17 is a lot to ask of any NFL team, so even though the Bills aren’t good I have to go with the road dog for the third straight game.

Bengals at Panthers (-2.5) – The Bengals are 2-0 and QB Andy Dalton has looked good so far this season, but RB Joe Mixon was injured in Week 2 and underwent a surgical procedure this week that will cause him to miss this week’s game, leaving RB Giovani Bernard to get the start in the backfield. That puts the Bengals at a disadvantage against a Panthers offense that is led by QB Cam Newton and RB Christian McCaffrey. I might pick differently if Mixon was healthy, but because he’s not I’ll give the points with the Panthers.

Broncos at Ravens (-4.5) – These are two teams who I think have overperformed so far through the first two weeks of the season. I think the Ravens are the better team, so I think QB Joe Flacco will lead them to a victory but I expect a close game so I’ll go with the Broncos getting 4.5 points.

Packers at Redskins (+2.5) – The Redskins looked good in Week 1, beating a bad Cardinals team, but they took a step backward in Week 2 when RB Adrian Peterson had a disappointing game after a stronger effort in Week 1. The Packers, meanwhile, are coming off of a tie against the Vikings. Though QB Aaron Rodgers still isn’t 100%, the Packers are the better team in this game and are getting RB Aaron Jones back from his two-game suspension, which should only help the offense. I’m going with the road team to win and cover.

Titans at Jaguars (-7.5) – The Titans beat the Texans last week despite starting backup QB Blaine Gabbert. QB Marcus Mariota was close to playing in Week 2, so he should get the nod on Sunday but he will be facing a Jaguars team that just beat the Patriots a week ago. RB Leonard Fournette missed that game for the Jaguars but, like, Mariota, there was some thought that he might be able to play so he may be in the lineup for Jacksonville this week. Regardless, the Jaguars are the better team and I think they’ll cover.

Colts at Eagles (-6.5) – The Eagles are expected to get starting QB Carson Wentz back from his knee injury this week when they host Andrew Luck and the Colts. That should give them a boost, but the news isn’t as good for RB Jay Ajayi, who suffered an injury in Week 2’s win that could cause him to miss this week’s game, which would force RB Corey Clement to carry the bulk of the workload in the running game. Luck has done better than many people expected in the early part of this season, but the Colts have a bad defense that should allow the Eagles to put points on the board on the way to winning the game, and I think they’ll cover the 6.5 points.

49ers at Chiefs (-6.5) – Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes has thrown 10 touchdown passes in the first two games of the season, helping them get out to a 2-0 start. He has some playmakers helping him on the offense, namely WR Tyreek Hill, TE Travis Kelce and RB Kareem Hunt. The 49ers’ offense isn’t nearly as good as the Chiefs have been through two weeks and it will be tough for them to keep up with the home team on the scoreboard, especially if WR Marquise Goodwin misses his second game in a row with a quad injury. I’ll go with the Chiefs and give the points.

Raiders at Dolphins (-3.5) – The Raiders are still looking for their first win under returning head coach Jon Gruden, and if they want to get it this week they’ll have to do it after a cross-country trip and against an undefeated Dolphins team. The Raiders only lost to Dolphins by a point in Week 2 and facing an overachieving Dolphins team could be what they need to pick up their first win of the season. I think the Raiders will win the game outright, so I’ll take the points on the road.

Giants at Texans (-5.5) – A couple of 0-2 teams are looking to avoid a three-game losing streak to start the season. Both teams’ offenses have been subpar in the first two weeks, with the Texans losing to Gabbert and the Titans. If the Texans have their offense performing well, they probably have the better unit with QB Deshaun Watson compared to Giants QB Eli Manning. As Watson continues to recover from his knee injury that cost him the second half of 2017, I think he’ll continue to improve, and I think he’ll have a good game along with WRs DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller. I’m hesitant to give this many points with the Texans, but I’m going to. The Giants will have to rely on rookie RB Saquon Barkley to lead the way offensively if they want to get their first victory of the year.

Sunday 4PM games

Chargers at Rams (-6.5) – The Rams have outscored their opponents 67-13 in their first two games and look like one of the best teams in the league, thanks to an offense led by QB Jared Goff, RB Todd Gurley and a wide-receiving corps headed up by Brandin Cooks. The Chargers have done well this season, too, but I don’t think they’re much of a match for the Rams at this point. I think the spread is a little higher than I’d like, but I’ll give the points.

Bears at Cardinals (+4.5) – The Cardinals look like they’re going to be in competition with the Bills to determine the worst team in the NFL this season. They don’t have much of an offense, so LB Khalil Mack and the Bears defense should make easy work of them. The Rams just shut the Cardinals out last week, and Arizona probably won’t do much better than that this week. Bears easily cover.

Cowboys at Seahawks (-2.5) – Even though the Seahawks are at home, I’m surprised they’re the favorites in this game because they haven’t looked good this season. With WR Doug Baldwin out, QB Russell Wilson doesn’t have anyone good to throw to, and the running game is virtually nonexistent. I think RB Ezekiel Elliott will lead the Cowboys to a road victory to improve to 2-1.

Sunday Night Football

Patriots at Lions (+6.5) – Under Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, the Patriots typically follow-up a loss with a good performance in their next game. So I expect the Patriots to have a strong performance after losing to the Jaguars last week. I’ll give the points.

Monday Night Football

Steelers at Buccaneers (+1.5) – This game pits the so-far-poor Steelers defense against the surprising play of Bucs backup QB Jameis Winston. With the Bucs playing as well as they have been and at home,m I think they could win the game outright, so I’ll take the 1.5 points.

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My NFL Picks Week 2: Patriots-Jags AFC Championship rematch on tap

Week 1 is always a tough one to pick games because you don’t know what to expect from teams coming out of the gate when many stars don’t play much during the preseason. Given that, I did respectably last week with a 9-7 record against the spread. This week has a couple of big games on tap, including the Vikings visiting the Packers — and a potentially-not-100% Aaron Rodgers — in a battle of teams that should compete for the NFC North title and an AFC Championship rematch with the Patriots heading to Jacksonville to take on the Jaguars, who will be likely without star RB Leonard Fournette. The Sunday night game features an NFC East rivalry as Odell Beckham and the Giants visit Ezekiel Elliott and the Cowboys. As always, I’m using the lines from ESPN’s Pigskin Pick ‘Em game. My picks are in bold and my survivor pool pick (straight up, not ATS) is in red

Thursday Night Football

Ravens at Bengals (+0.5) – The Ravens looked impressive in Week 1 with a 47-3 victory over the Bills, but QB Andy Dalton and the Bengals will pose a greater challenge, especially with home-field advantage in Cincinnati. Bengals RB Joe Mixon last week looked like he’s poised for a breakout season and if he can have a similar performance this week, it’ll make it that much harder for the Ravens to go 2-0. I’m still not necessarily buying into the Ravens. I’m going to take the Bengals at home on a short week.

Sunday 1PM games

Panthers at Falcons (-5.5) – The Falcons didn’t look good last week, losing to QB Nick Foles and the Eagles in the season opener. Falcons QB Matt Ryan couldn’t get the ball to star WR Julio Jones in the end zone, which was also an issue for the pair last season. The Panthers beat the Cowboys in Week 1 but struggled offensively, scoring just 16 points behind QB Cam Newton. The Panthers are without TE Greg Olsen, who suffered a foot injury in Week 1 that will keep him out of action for several weeks.  I think this will be a close game, so I’ll take the Panthers and the points but the Falcons could win the game.

Chargers at Bills (+7.5) – That’s a big number for a West Coast team to give on a cross-country trip to the northeast, but the Bills really didn’t look good last week. The Bills have announced that after one start from QB Nathan Peterman they have decided to go with rookie QB Josh Allen for his first NFL start in Week 2 as the Bills have decided to go in another direction under center. The Chargers are coming off a loss to the Chiefs, but the Bills appear to be one of the worst teams in the league and I don’t trust either of their quarterbacks, so I’ll give the 7.5 points.

Browns at Saints (-8.5) – The Browns may not have won last week, but they didn’t lose either, so their tie with the Steelers ended their losing streak but extended their winless streak. They’re still looking for their first win since 2016, but I don’t think they’ll get it this week. The Saints’ defense looked bad against the Buccaneers last week, but they still have a good offense led by QB Drew Brees and RB Alvin Kamara, which should be able to outscore the Browns to pick up New Orleans’ first win of the season. This is another big number that’s giving me pause, but i think the Saints will barely cover it, so I’ll go with the Saints at home.

Vikings at Packers (-0.5) – Rodgers is unlikely to be at full strength for this game after dealing with an injury in Week 1 against the Bears. That will hurt the Packers against a good Vikings defense. If I knew Rodgers was fully healthy, I’d probably go with the Packers, but I don’t think he is so I’m going to go with the road team at Lambeau.

Texans at Titans (+2.5) – The Titans were dealt a couple of injuries in Week 1, with TE Delanie Walker suffering a season-ending ankle injury and QB Marcus Mariota dealing with an elbow injury. Mariota’s status for this week’s game is unknown, which opens up uncertainty about how the Titans will perform if backup QB Blaine Gabbert draws the start. The Texans didn’t look great in their Week 1 loss to the Patriots, but QB Deshaun Watson is coming back from an injury of his own that caused him to miss the second half of the 2017 season. I think the Texans will win the game whether Mariota or Gabbert plays, but the chances of a Texans win goes up if Gabbert starts.

Colts at Redskins (-5.5) – The Redskins looked better than expected last week in beating the Cardinals 24-6. RB Adrian Peterson surprised by gaining nearly 100 yards on the ground, and QB Alex Smith had a good start in his team debut. The Colts had an early lead against the Bengals but ended up losing after being outscored 17-0 in the fourth quarter. It’s that subpar defense that gives the Redskins an advantage and leads me to think the Redskins will win the game and cover the 5.5 points.

Chiefs at Steelers (-5.5) – The Steelers were without RB Le’Veon Bell last week as he continues his holdout, but RB James Conner had a good showing in Bell’s absence. It wasn’t enough to beat the Browns, though, as the teams ended up tying. The Chiefs present a much bigger challenge for Pittsburgh, and I think the Chiefs could win the game outright so I’ll take them with the points.

Dolphins at Jets (-2.5) – The Jets put up 48 points against the Lions in Week 1, so they may be better than people gave them credit for entering the season, but they’re not that good. After throwing a pick-six with his first career pass, Jets QB Sam Darnold ended up throwing a couple touchdown passes to his teammates and RB Isaiah Crowell had a good showing on the ground, running for more than 100 yards and a couple touchdowns. After that showing last week, I think the Jets can beat Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins, covering the spread in the process.

Eagles at Buccaneers (+3.5) – Like the Jets the Buccaneers overperformed last week, but i’m buying it even less with the Bucs than I did the Jets because of QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, who has been a fairly pedestrian quarterback throughout his NFL career. While Foles, who also isn’t great, is expected to get another start for the Eagles I think the defending Super Bowl champions are the better overall team than the Bucs, so I’ll go with them to cover on the road.

Sunday 4PM games

Lions at 49ers (-5.5) – After giving up more than 40 points to the Jets at home in Week 1, the Lions are hitting the road to take on QB Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers. Last week’s results notwithstanding, the 49ers have a better offense than the Jets and should provide another tough challenge for the Lions defense. Lions QB Matthew Stafford needs to play better than he did last week to keep his team in it. I’ll give the points with the home team.

Cardinals at Rams (-12.5) – I’m all-in on the Rams this season — I even picked them to win Super Bowl LIII — and I fully expect them to win this game against a Cardinals team that struggled last week in their first game with QB Sam Bradford. But I always have a hard time giving a lot of points, like the 12.5-point spread in this game. So I’m going to go with the Cardinals and hope Jared Goff, Todd Gurley and the rest of the Rams offense don’t go off too much in a blowout.

Raiders at Broncos (-5.5) – Neither team looked very impressive last week and I don’t have high hopes for either team this season, so I think it’ll be a pretty close game. I don’t have a strong opinion either way, but I’ll take the points since I think it’ll be close.

Patriots at Jaguars (+2.5) – This AFC Championship rematch likely won’t be as competitive as it otherwise might have been if Fournette can’t play, which I don’t think he will. That means RB T.J. Yeldon will get the bulk of the work on the ground, which should be a big workload considering the team usually likes to limit the amount of passing plays for QB Blake Bortles. On the other side of the field, the Patriots defense looked good in Week 1, and combine that with QB Tom Brady, TE Rob Gronkowski and the rest of the offense, and I don’t think this game is going to be particularly competitive. I’ll give the points on the road.

Sunday Night Football

Giants at Cowboys (-2.5) – Neither offense looked good last week, so this could be a low-scoring game. While I don’t think Eli Manning is a good quarterback anymore, I think the Cowboys have two of the best offensive players in this game with Beckham and rookie RB Saquon Barkley. The Cowboys don’t have any good receivers after losing TE Jason Witten and WR Dez Bryant in the offseason. They’ll have to rely on Elliott if they want to have much success. I think the Giants will win the game outright, so I’ll take the points.

Monday Night Football

Seahawks at Bears (-3.5) – This is a matchup of teams that fell just short of winning last week, with the Bears losing a 20-0 lead in the second half of their game with the Packers. Since I don’t have much faith in either team, I’ll take the home team and hope QB Mitch Trubisky can get something going for the Bears.

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My NFL Picks Week 1: Can we expect any surprising results?

Thursday night saw the first of the 256 games that will be played this season in the NFL, with the Super Bowl LII champion Eagles — without QB Carson Wentz — beating the Falcons in a sloppily played, weather-delayed 18-12 contest. I thought the Falcons would be able to beat the champs without Wentz, so I’m 0-1, both straight-up and against the spread, to begin the season. But I have 15 more chances to get back on track with the rest of this weekend’s slate. Some of the highlights include the Texans — who are getting several key players, including QB Deshaun Watson and DE J.J. Watt, back from injury — visiting Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski and the Patriots, a Sunday nighter featuring Aaron Rodgers and the Packers hosting Khalil Mack and the Bears in one of the NFL’s longest-running rivalries, and Jon Gruden returning to coaching in the second half of the Monday night doubleheader when the Rams meet the Raiders in Oakland. As has been the case in years past, I’m using the lines from ESPN’s Pigskin Pick ‘Em game. My picks are in bold and my survivor pool pick (straight-up, non-ATS) is in red.

Sunday 1PM games
Bills at Ravens (-5.5)

Bengals at Colts (-3.5)

Steelers at Browns (+6.5) – I think the Steelers win the game but the Browns cover

Titans at Dolphins (+1.5)

49ers at Vikings (-5.5)

Texans at Patriots (-6.5) I think the Patriots win the game but the Texans cover

Buccaneers at Saints (-9.5) I think the Saints win the game but the Bucs cover

Jaguars at Giants (+2.5)

Sunday 4PM games
Chiefs at Chargers (-3.5)

Cowboys at Panthers (-2.5)

Seahawks at Broncos (-2.5)

Redskins at Cardinals (-0.5)

Sunday Night Football
Bears at Packers (-8.5) I think the Packers win the game but the Bears cover

Monday Night Football
Jets at Lions (-6.5)

Rams at Raiders (+2.5)

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5th Annual 32 in 32ish NFL Previews: Denver Broncos

The AFC West is the next division up in our preview of all 32 NFL teams, beginning with the Denver Broncos, who finished in last place in the division last season.

The Broncos went 5-11 last season, which isn’t good but it did allow them to get the fifth overall pick in this year’s draft, which they used to select DE Bradley Chubb, one of the best defensive players in this year’s class. The Broncos also selected RB Royce Freeman in the third round of the draft. Early in the offseason, the Broncos made probably their most significant personnel moves of the offseason when they signed QB Case Keenum and later traded QB Trevor Siemian. Keenum, who was the top quarterback for the Vikings last season, is expected to be the starter entering the regular season. The Broncos will be without RB C.J. Anderson, last year’s leading rusher, who is now with the Panthers.

The Broncos ranked 18th in the NFL last season with 5,185 yards and they were 27th with 289 points scored. Keenum played in 15 games — 14 starts — with the Vikings last season, throwing for 3,547 yards and 22 touchdowns with seven interceptions. QB Paxton Lynch, who is No. 3 on the depth chart started two games for the Broncos last season, completing 30 of his 45 passes for 295 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. WR Demaryius Thomas had 83 receptions last season for 949 yards and five touchdowns. WR Emmanuel Sanders had 47 catches for 555 yards and two touchdowns in 12 games, including 11 starts. RB Devontae Booker ran the ball 79 times for 299 yards and a touchdown; he also had 30 catches for 275 yards. The defense ranked third in the league in yards allowed but was in the bottom third in points allowed.

The Broncos’ schedule begins with two home games, against the Seahawks in Week 1 and the Raiders in Week 2. They visit the Ravens in Week 3, then host the Chiefs in Week 4. The Broncos hit the road to take on the Jets in Week 5, then they return home to battle the Rams in Week 6. They visit the Cardinals and Chiefs in Weeks 7 and 8, respectively, and then host the Texans. Following a Week 10 bye, the Broncos visit the Chargers in Week 11 and host the Steelers in Week 12. The Broncos have two road games after that, taking on the Bengals and the 49ers. The Broncos host the Browns in Week 15, then end the season with two divisional games; they visit the Raiders in Week 16 and host the Chargers in Week 17.

The Broncos’ poor performance last year was due in part to inconsistent quarterback play. Signing Keenum should help solve that problem, but the depth chart behind him is thin if he gets injured. The current No. 2 is Chad Kelly — the nephew of Hall of Fame QB Jim Kelly — who missed all of his rookie season with an injury and Lynch, who hasn’t had much success in his career, is behind him. The team also still lacks stars at key offensive positions. Booker is the starting running back, but he’s probably near the bottom of the league at the position. Freeman has a good chance to usurp Booker as the starter if he can perform well in his rookie season. Overall, the team should be better with Keenum under center, but the roster still isn’t great. The Broncos should see a slightly improved record this season and win six or seven games.

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

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5th Annual 32 in 32ish NFL Previews: New York Jets

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

The Jets were a better-than-expected 5-11 last season, their second straight season finishing with that mark. They entered training camp with a three-way battle at the quarterback spot between veteran Josh McCown, who started 13 games for the team last season, Teddy Bridgewater and rookie Sam Darnold, who the Jets took with the third-overall pick in this year’s draft. Among the offensive additions the team made this offseason include WR Terrelle Pryor and RBs Isaiah Crowell and Thomas Rawls. The Jets hope adding those players can help them rise up the ranks in a weak — outside of the Patriots — AFC East.

The Jets’ 4,884 yards were the fifth-fewest in the NFL last season and their 298 points put them in the bottom 10 in the league. McCown threw for 2,926 yards and 18 touchdowns, with nine interceptions, in his 13 starts last season. WR Jermaine Kearse led the team with 65 receptions, going for 810 yards and five touchdowns, while WR Robby Anderson had 63 catches and team highs with 941 yards and seven touchdowns. With the Redskins, Pryor had 240 yards and a touchdown on 20 receptions in nine games. RB Bilal Powell was the Jets’ top rusher last season, carrying the ball 178 times for 772 yards and five touchdowns in 15 games, including 10 starts. Crowell had 206 rushes for the Browns last year, running for 853 yards and two touchdowns, and Rawls had just 58 carries for 157 yards in 12 games with the Seahawks. On defense, the Jets ranked in the bottom half of the league in both yards and points allowed.

The Jets open the season on the road against the Lions in the first game of the Week 1 Monday night doubleheader. In Week 2, they have their home opener against the Dolphins, which is followed by road games against the Browns and Jaguars in Weeks 3 and 4, respectively. The Jets are at home for the next three weeks, playing the Broncos in Week 5, Colts in Week 6 and Vikings in Week 7. Another NFC North opponent follows when the Jets visit the Bears in Week 8. After visiting the Dolphins in Week 9, the Jets host the Bills in Week 10 and have a Week 11 bye. The Jets have their first game against the Patriots, at home, in Week 12, then visit the Titans and Bills in Weeks 13 and 14, respectively. The Jets host the Texans in Week 15, with the Packers coming to MetLife Stadium in Week 16. The Jets end their schedule at the Patriots in Week 17.

Darnold seems to have the edge on the quarterback competition in camp, and could be in line to get the Week 1 start. I’m not convinced that’s a good thing for the Jets, but he does have a servicable veteran in McCown to mentor him if he does get thrown into the fire right away. Crowell is a good signing for the ground game as he is probably better than the running backs the team had last year. If Darnold can manage to have a good rookie season — if he ends up being the starter — the Jets could have a better team than they did last year, but I don’t think it’ll results in a much better record than last year. They may win five or six games, but I don’t expect them to be much better than that, and I don’t they’re a .500 team. They probably won’t finish in last place again — that’ll probably be the Bills — but they’re also not at the point yet where they can compete for a playoff spot in the AFC.

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

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5th Annual 32 in 32ish NFL Previews: New England Patriots

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

Last season, the Patriots fell short of winning back-to-back Super Bowl titles when they lost to the Eagles in Super Bowl LII. They’re trying to make it to the big game for a third straight season, but in order to do that they will have to overcome a four-game suspension handed down to WR Julian Edelman for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. That takes away one of QB Tom Brady’s favorite weapons for the season’s first four games, but Edelman missed all of last season after tearing his ACL in the preseason so having him for any of this season will be a bonus. They did add some pass-catchers who he will be able to throw to, though, including WRs Cordarrelle Patterson and Eric Decker. This offseason also saw them trade for CB Jason McCourty, sign RB Jeremy Hill and select RB Sony Michel in the first round of the draft. Among players departing the Patriots since the end of last season are TE Martellus Bennett RB Dion Lewis and WRs Malcolm Mitchell, Danny Amendola and Brandin Cooks. Despite the personnel changes, as long as Brady stays healthy the Patriots should continue one of the best offenses in the league.

The Brady-led offense ranked first in the league with 6,307 yards and second with 458 points last season. Brady threw for 4,577 yards last season, with 32 touchdowns and just eight interceptions. TE Rob Gronkowski was the team’s best receiver, recording 69 receptions for 1,084 yards and eight touchdowns in 14 games. WR Chris Hogan had 34 catches for 439 yards and five touchdowns in nine games. Patterson had 31 receptions for 309 yards with the Raiders last season. RB Mike Gillislee carried the ball on the ground 104 times, gaining 383 yards with five touchdowns in nine games. RB Rex Burkhead had 64 carries in 10 games for 264 yards and five scores, with 30 receptions for an additional 254 yards and three touchdowns. RB James White only had 43 carries in his 14 games, but he caught 56 passes for 429 yards and three touchdowns. The defense ranked near the bottom of the league in points allowed but was fifth in points allowed.

The Patriots open at home in Week 1 against the Texans, then have an AFC Championship rematch in Week 2 when they play the Jaguars in Jacksonville. Another road game follows in Week 3, against the Lions. The Patriots have three straight home games in Weeks 4-6 when the Dolphins, Colts and Chiefs come to Foxborough. The Patriots visit the Bears in Week 7 and the Bills in Week 8, then face the Packers at home in Week 9.  A Week 10 road game against the Titans leads into the Patriots’ Week 11 bye. Coming out of the bye, the Patriots visit the Jets in the first of the teams’ two meetings. The Patriots host the Vikings in Week 13, and then they have road games against the Dolphins and Steelers in Weeks 14 and 15, respectively. The Patriots get two divisional games at home to end the regular season; the Patriots host the Bills in Week 16 and the Jets in Week 17.

As has been the case for much of the Patriots’ dynasty under Brady and Bill Belichick, the other three teams in the AFC East aren’t very good and the Patriots are clearly the best team in the division. Having said that, Brady is 41 and is likely to start regressing at some point, but he showed no signs of that last season. As long as he can stay healthy this year, the Patriots should get another division title with double-digit wins. Edelman missing the first four games gives other players a chance to get involved in the passing game, and Michel should get worked into the team’s game plan as the season progresses, although he has been dealing with a meniscus injury that could limit his playing time early in the season. At the end of the season, expect the Patriots to earn their 10th straight division title and get another playoff appearance.

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

 

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5th Annual 32 in 32ish NFL Previews: Miami Dolphins

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

The Dolphins were without QB Ryan Tannehill last season and called upon a coming-out-of-retirement Jay Cutler to lead the team on the field. The resulting 6-10 record was a four-game regression from 2016, when they made the playoffs for the first time since 2008. Tannehill is back now and ready to come  back from the season-ending knee injury he suffered last preseason. New to the team this year are veteran RB Frank Gore, WR Danny Amendola, DE Robert Quinn and backup quarterbacks Brock Osweiler and Bryce Petty. Among the team’s notable draftees are first-round pick S Minkah Fitzpatrick and RB Kalen Ballage, one of the team’s two fourth-round picks. Gone are WR Jarvis Landry, DT Ndamukong Suh and TE Julius Thomas.

With Cutler at the helm, the Dolphins finished 25th in the NFL with 4,923 yards and 28th with 281 points last season. When Tannehill last played in 2016, he threw for 2,995 yards, 19 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 13 games. Last season, WR Kenny Stills had 58 receptions for 847 yards and six touchdowns and WR DeVante Parker had 57 catches for 670 yards and one touchdown in 13 games. With the Patriots, Amendola caught 61 balls for 659 yards and two touchdowns in 15 games. RB Kenyan Drake took over as the team’s primary running back after the Dolphins traded Jay Ajayi to the Eagles, and in his 16 games — including six starts — Drake carried the ball 133 times for 644 yards and three touchdowns. Gore had 261 carries last season for the Colts, totaling 961 yards with three touchdowns. The Dolphins’ defense was in the middle of the league in yards allowed, but the defensive unit allowed the fourth-most points in the league.

The Dolphins’ schedule begins with a Week 1 home game against the Titans before they visit the Jets in Week 2. They return home to host the Raiders in Week 3. They play the Patriots in Foxborough in Week 4, then travel to Cincinnati for a meeting with the Bengals. After home games against the Bears and Lions, the Dolphins head to Houston to take on the Texans in Week 8. After that, they host the Jets and visit the Packers at Lambeau Field before getting a Week 11 bye. Coming out of the bye, the Dolphins visit the Colts and host the Bills and Patriots in Weeks 13 and 14, respectively. Week 15 sends the Dolphins to Minneapolis to take on the Vikings. They then host the Jaguars and visit the Bills to finish out the regular season in Week 17.

The offense should be better with Tannehill back than it was with a past-his-prime Cutler, who came out of retirement to play last season. But the Dolphins traded away one of the league’s best receivers in Landry. He had 112 receptions last season, which opens the door for other receivers like Stills and Parker to step up their games and become bigger pieces of the offense. Ajayi should get the majority of the rushing workload, with Gore taking over when he needs a breather, but don’t be surprised if Ballage gets worked into the team’s gameplan more as the season progresses and the rookie knows more of the team’s playbook and gains more experience. The Patriots should easily win the division again this season, but the Dolphins may finish in second place. With the AFC being more wide open than the NFC, they could compete for one of the conference’s two wild cards.

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

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