Tag Archives: NFC South

My NFL Picks Week 3: Giants, Saints among teams looking for first wins

We’re two weeks into the NFL season and there are, as usual, some surprising teams — both good and bad — in the league. Among those on the negative side are the Giants and Saints, who are 0-2, while the Broncos offense has looked surprisingly good en route to a 2-0 start. Some of the highlights of the Week 3 schedule include the Falcons visiting the Lions in a battle of 2-0 teams and the Titans hosting the Seahawks in a game of two teams who have hopes of making the postseason. I went 12-4 last week, giving me an overall record of 18-13 for the season. I’m using the lines from ESPN’s Pigskin Pick ‘Em game. My picks are in bold and my survivor pool pick (straight up, not ATS) is in red

Thursday Night Football

Rams at 49ers (+2.5) – Not the most exciting game to start the week as two NFC West teams play each other. The Rams are the better team and I expect them to win the game. I’m not usually comfortable picking a road favorite on a short week, but the 49ers aren’t a good team so I’ll take the Rams.

Sunday 9:30AM game (London)

Ravens at Jaguars (+4.5) – The Ravens look to remain unbeaten when they play the Jaguars in the first London game of 2017. I’m still not sold on QB Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense being good, but the defense has looked good in the first two weeks of the season. The defense should be able to hold down Jaguars QB Blake Bortles, so I think RB Leonard Fournette will have to have a big game for the Jaguars to have a chance to win it. Give me the Ravens.

Sunday 1PM games

Falcons at Lions (+2.5) – Barring a tie, one of these teams will be 3-0 after the game while the other will have suffered its first defeat of the season. Falcons QB Matt Ryan has led a success Falcons offense, which is coming off of a big win against the Packers last week, while the Lions aren’t as good and last beat the a not-so-impressive team in the Giants. Lions QB Matthew Stafford isn’t as good as Ryan and the visiting team’s running backs are clearly better than the Lions’ so I’ll take the points with the Falcons, who I expect to in by at least a field goal to cover the spread.

Broncos at Bills (+3.5) – The Broncos have one of the best defenses in the league, as expected before the season started. What wasn’t expected, though, was how well QB Trevor Siemian and the offense have been performing through their first two games of 2017. The BIlls offense isn’t that good and the team’s lone win came against the lowly Jets in Week 1. The Broncos should easily win the game and cover the spread on the road.

Steelers at Bears (+7.5) – Another game that appears to be a mismatch with the Steelers being better on both sides of the ball, although QB Ben Roethlisberger and RB Le’Veon Bell haven’t looked like themselves through the first two games. On the other side, QB MIke Glennon is leading an offense that has been ravaged by injuries, including RB Jordan Howard, who suffered a minor injury last week. After a strong Week 1 performance, RB Tarik Cohen came back to Earth a bit in Week 2. I fully expect the Steelers to win the game, it’s just a question of by how much. I’ll give the points.

Browns at Colts (+0.5)This matchup of 0-2 teams is a toss-up according to the 0.5-point spread. With QB Jacoby Brissett filling in for injured QB Andrew Luck, the Colts don’t have a good offense, but the Browns also don’t have much of an offense to speak of, and WR Corey Coleman broke his hand last week so he’ll miss a few weeks. Neither team is good so I’ll take the home team, which I think is slightly better.

Dolphins at Jets (+6.5) – The Dolphins went to the West Coast and beat the Chargers in their season opener last week, while the Jets got blown out by the Raiders. The Jets did score more points than the Dolphins, though. The Dolphins are clearly the better of the two teams, but they don’t exactly have an explosive offense behind QB Jay Cutler so I think the Jets will be able to keep it relatively close. The Dolphins win the game, but I’ll take the 6.5 points with the Jets.

Buccaneers at Vikings (-2.5) – I’m surprised the Vikings are favored because QB Sam Bradford was inactive last week and there’s a question about whether he can play this week. If he can’t and QB Case Keenum gets another start, I think the Bucs win the game easily. Even if Bradford plays, the Bucs have a good chance of winning. If I’m getting points with Tampa, I’ll take them and count on QB Jameis Winston and WR Mike Evans to take care of business in Minnesota.

Texans at Patriots (-13.5) – That is a big spread for the Patriots against a team that nearly beat them in the playoffs last season. The Patriots offense looked better in Week 2 after a disappointing opening game against the Chiefs. But TE Rob Gronkowski left the last game early with a groin injury, which could call into question his availability for this game. The Texans have a good defense, led by DE J.J. Watt, so I think they will keep the game within two touchdowns. Patriots win the game but I’ll take the points.

Saints at Panthers (-6.5) – The Saints are off to an 0-2 start after dropping their first two games to the Viking and Patriots with their defense giving up 29 and 36 points, respectively, in those games. The Panthers’ offense isn’t as formidable as those teams, which should give the Saints a chance to stay in the game, even with a subpar defense. With the lack of offense for Carolina behind QB Cam Newton — especially with TE Greg Olsen now on IR — I think the Saints have a chance to win the game outright so I’ll take the points.

Giants at Eagles (-5.5) – The Giants offense has not looked good in the team’s first two games, with the lack of a running game one of the team’s weaknesses. QB Carson Wentz has looked good for the Eagles in the early part of the season. With the Giants defense not living up to expectations so far this season, I don’t think this game will be all that close. I think the Eagles win, and I’ll give the points.

Sunday 4PM games

Seahawks at Titans (-2.5)The Seahawks have a bad offensive line that has limited the team’s offensive output early in the season. The Titans have also been underperforming compared to what I thought they would do, but with the way the teams are currently playing I think the Titans win the game.

Bengals at Packers (-9.5) – After playing two games, the Bengals are still waiting to score their first touchdown of the season. Normally, I would expect this to be a blowout, but the Packers are dealing with injuries that caused their offense to suffer last week. That will likely continue in Week 3 if WR Jordy Nelson can’t play. The Packers will still win the game, but I’m not sure they can cover the nearly double-digit spread if Nelson is out. I’ll take the points with the Bengals.

Chiefs at Chargers (+3.5) – The Chiefs are 2-0 while the Chargers have lost a couple of close games in the first two weeks of the season. RB Kareem Hunt and QB Alex Smith have been successful in leading the Chiefs’ offensive attack through Week 2. The Chargers can’t compete with the Chiefs on offense so I’ll take the visitors to remain undefeated and cover the 3.5 points.

Sunday Night Football

Raiders at Redskins (+3.5) – The Redskins offense has struggled a bit in their first two games, while QB Derek Carr has led the Raiders to a 2-0 start, thanks in part to a Raiders defense that so far has been improved over last season. Even though the Raiders are traveling to the East Coast, it’s a night game so it’s not an early start for the Raiders and they’re the better team so I’ll take them to win.

Monday Night Football

Cowboys at Cardinals (+3.5) – The Cowboys are coming off a blowout loss to the Broncos, while the Cardinals needed overtime to beat a bad Colts team without Luck. Regardless of how badly they lost last week, I still trust QB Dak Prescott, RB Ezekiel Elliott and the Cowboys offense more than the Cardinals, so I’ll go with Dallas here.

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My NFL Picks Week 2: Packers-Falcons open Mercedes-Benz Stadium

With one week in the books, I went just 6-9 last week, getting me off to rough start for the 2017 season. The highlight of the week is the Sunday night game, with the Falcons opening Mercedes-Benz Stadium, their new stadium, against the Packers as two of the NFC’s best teams meet. Other notable games include the Patriots visiting the Saints, as QBs Tom Brady and Drew Brees look to avenge their Week 1 losses, and the Steelers hosting the Vikings in an interconference battle of potential playoff teams. I’m using the lines from ESPN’s Pigskin Pick ‘Em game. My picks are in bold and my survivor pool pick (straight up, not ATS) is in red

Thursday Night Football

Texans at Bengals (-4.5) – These teams had two of the worst offensive performances of Week 1, with the Texans putting just seven points on the board against the Jaguars and the Bengals getting shut out by the Ravens. The Texans will likely start QB Deshaun Watson after benching starting QB Tom Savage and putting Watson in after halftime of their game in Week 1. Bengals QB Andy Dalton threw four interceptions last week. The Texans didn’t look good last week, but they at least scored. I find it hard to pick a team that didn’t score last week that’s favored by 4.5 points. I’ll take the underdogs on the road.

Sunday 1PM games

Bills at Panthers (-7.5) – The Panthers looked good against the 49ers last week, but I think the Bills have a better offense than them. Even if he doesn’t have a great game passing, Bills QB Tyrod Taylor can pick up yards running and I don’t think Panthers QB Cam Newton is 100% healthy yet. I’ll take the points in this one.

Bears at Buccaneers (-6.5) – The Bucs are coming off of a Hurricane Irma-induced bye so this will be our first look at them this season. The Bears did play last week and they lost another wide receiver for the season, with WR Kevin White suffering a season-ending collarbone injury just weeks after WR Cameron Meredith went out for the season during the preseason. Bears RB Tarik Cohen had a good showing in Week 1, but QB Mike Glennon is running out of receivers to throw the ball to. I don’t think this game will be close so I’ll give the points.

Browns at Ravens (-7.5) – Both of these teams played better than expected last week, with the Browns staying competitive against the Steelers until late in the game. While the Ravens beat the Bengals, RB Danny Woodhead suffered a hamstring injury that will likely keep him out of game action for at least several weeks. After the way the Browns stayed in the game last week with the Steelers, I think they can do the same this week. The Ravens should win the game but give me the points.

Titans at Jaguars (+1.5) – The Jaguars were one of Week 1’s most surprising teams — in a good way. RB Leonard Fournette had an impressive NFL debut, but QB Blake Bortles still isn’t good. And his top weapon, WR Allen Robinson, suffered a season-ending ACL injury that won’t help Bortles’ game. The Jaguars played well last week but I still think the Titans are better so I’ll take them.

Cardinals at Colts (+8.5) – The Colts have ruled QB Andrew Luck out for this game, and they are not a good team without him. QB Jacoby Brissett will likely get the start. He’s probably better than QB Scott Tolzien, who’s started in Week 1, but he’s still not good. The problem is Cardinals QB Carson Palmer performed poorly last week and Cardinals RB David Johnson — one of the best players in the league — is expected to miss two to three months after dislocating his wrist last week. Neither of these teams are at full strength and I think the Cardinals will win the game, but I’m not confident giving 8.5 points in this game so I’ll take the Colts and the points.

Eagles at Chiefs (-4.5)Chiefs QB Alex Smith had one of the best games of his career last week against the Patriots and RB Kareem Hunt had a great game in his debut as the Chiefs pulled off the upset. He’ll look to repeat that success against QB Carson Wentz and the Eagles. I think the Chiefs are the better team so I’ll give the 4.5 points.

Vikings at Steelers (-6.5) – The Vikings looked good on Monday night with QB Sam Bradford throwing three touchdowns, including two to WR Stefon Diggs while WR Adam Thielen had nearly 150 receiving yards. That was against a bad Saints defense, though. It won’t be as easy to move the ball against the Steelers D. And RB Le’Veon Bell likely wants to have a strong game for Pittsburgh after not doing much last week. I’m not confident in this pick, but I’ll go with the Steelers to cover.

Patriots at Saints (+5.5) – The Patriots’ offense was surprisingly subpar against the Chiefs last week and the best cure for an offense looking to bounce back from a poor outing could be playing the bad Saints defense. That’s what QB Tom Brady gets this week. I expect the Pats to have a good game this week. Patriots cover.

Sunday 4PM games

Jets at Raiders (-14.5)It’s a big number, but the Raiders are good on both offense and defense, and the Jets aren’t. I don’t normally like picking a team favored by that much, but I think the Raiders can do it in this case so I’ll give the 14.5 points.

Dolphins at Chargers (-3.5) – The Dolphins are the other team who ended up getting a Week 1 bye when Hurricane Irma postponed their scheduled home game. Between having to deal with the hurricane back home and having to travel across the country, combined with QB Jay Cutler having not played since last November, I think the Dolphins could struggle in their first game of the season. I’ll take the home team.

Cowboys at Broncos (+1.5) – The Broncos have a good defense but the Cowboys have a strong offense, especially with RB Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension postponed indefinitely. That’s why I think the Cowboys will present a bigger challenge for the Broncos than the Chargers did in Week 1. The Cowboys are favored by less than a field goal, and I think they can cover that.

Redskins at Rams (-3.5) – This is a tough one to pick. The Redskins are coming off a tough loss to the Eagles while the Rams put more than 40 points on the scoreboard last week against the Andrew Luck-less Colts. I can’t buy Rams QB Jared Goff being much improved over last season until I see it more than once. So I think Cousins will outplay Goff. Give me the points on the road.

49ers at Seahawks (-12.5) – The Seahawks are clearly a better team than the 49ers and will almost certainly win this game, but I think a 12.5-point spread is a little on the high side. The Seahawks only scored nine points against the Packers, who don’t have a top-tier defense, last week so I’m not going to give that many points the 49ers. I’ll take the underdogs. 

Sunday Night Football

Packers at Falcons (-2.5) – This is a rematch of last year’s NFC Championship and the two teams could meet in that game again this season. This time, though, they’re meeting in Week 2 as the Falcons play their first regular-season game at their new stadium, Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The question is whether they can open their new home with a win, or will the Packers avenge their loss from January? Both teams have good offenses but not-so-good defenses. I think Packers QB Aaron Rodgers is still better than Falcons QB Matt Ryan. I think the Packers have a chance to win the game outright, so if they’re getting points I”ll take them.

Monday Night Football

Lions at Giants (-4.5) – This line surprises me. The Giants only managed to score a field goal without WR Odell Beckham Jr. against the Cowboys on Sunday night. Even if he plays, I’m not sure the Giants’ offense is good enough to beat the Lions. I expect the Lions to win the game so I’ll take the points.

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My NFL Picks Week 1: Seahawks-Packers — NFC Championship preview?

The first of the 256 games that will be played in the NFL this season resulted in the Chiefs pulling the upset of the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots. Though I didn’t pick the Chiefs to win the game, I did take them to cover the spread so I’m off to a 1-0 record against the spread to start the season. There are 14 more games left to play this weekend — the BuccaneersDolphins game was postponed to Week 11 due to Hurricane Irma — with some big games on the schedule, including a potential NFC Championship preview in Green Bay between the Seahawks and Packers. Also on the Week 1 slate, the Giants visiting the Cowboys on Sunday Night Football and RB Adrian Peterson, now with the Saints, returning to Minnesota to take on his former team the Vikings in the first game of the Monday Night Football doubleheader. I’m using the lines from ESPN’s Pigskin Pick ‘Em game. My picks are in bold and my survivor pool pick (straight-up, non-ATS) is in red.

Sunday 1PM games
Falcons at Bears (+7.5) – This is the first meaningful game the Falcons are playing since blowing the 28-3 lead to the Patriots in Super Bowl LI back in February. There’s no doubt in my mind that the Falcons will win the game behind the offensive output of QB Matt Ryan and WR Julio Jones. The question is if they’ll cover the spread of more than a touchdown. The Bears are led by QB Mike Glennon and don’t have a proven No. 1 wide receiver after WR Cameron Meredith suffered a season-ending injury in the preseason. I think the Falcons are able to cover.

Jets at Bills (-6.5) – These teams should be two of the worst offenses in the league this year. I think the Bills win the game but I don’t think they’ll win by a touchdown so I’ll take the points with the Jets.

Ravens at Bengals (-2.5) Ravens QB Joe Flacco was dealing with an injury in training camp and preseason which didn’t allow him to get in much practice time. That concerns me in Week 1 as it’ll probably take him a couple games to rid of the rust so even though I’m not big on QB Andy Dalton and the Bengals, I’ll take them to win the game and cover.

Steelers at Browns (+9.5) – My thinking on this game is similar to the Falcons-Bears. It’s not a question of if the Steelers will win but rather how much they’ll win by. QB Ben Roethlisberger has one of the best running backs and wide receivers — Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown, respectively — in the league while the Browns will be starting rookie QB DeShone Kizer, who likely won’t have much success against a good Steelers defense. I think Pittsburgh can win by double digits so I’ll give the points.

Cardinals at Lions (-2.5) – Both teams have a good offense but I think the Cardinals’ defense is slightly better. I’m expecting a big season from QB Carson Palmer and the rest of the Arizona offense. They have a good running back in David Johnson and I’m skeptical about how much success the Lions’ backs will have in the game. That gives the Cardinals enough of an advantage that I’m picking them to win the game outright, so I’ll definitely take the points.

Raiders at Titans (+0.5)The line indicates that this game is a toss-up and I had a hard time picking it. Raiders QB Derek Carr and Titans QB Marcus Mariota are both ascending in their careers. I think the Titans have a slightly better team overall, though, particularly on defense. I’ll take the home team to win so I’ll take the half-point.

Eagles at Redskins (-2.5) – In the first of two NFC East battles on Sunday, I’m not confident that the Redskins offense will be at the top of its game. WR Jamison Crowder is questionable to play, leaving newly signed WR Terrelle Pryor Sr. as QB Kirk Cousins‘ top target behind TE Jordan Reed. They may not have good chemistry together in their first regular-season game as teammates. I’ll take the points with the visitors.

Jaguars at Texans (-4.5)I’m not expecting much from the Jaguars offense this season behind QB Blake Bortles, who almost lost the starting spot to journeyman QB Chad Henne. The Texans’ offense likely isn’t great, either, with QB Tom Savage beating out QB Deshaun Watson as the starter. Houston’s offense should be better than Jacksonville’s, and I think the Texans’ also have the defensive advantage behind DE J.J. Watt and LB Jadeveon Clowney. The Jaguars’ defense should be improved this season after signing free-agent CB A.J. Bouye away from the Texans, but I don’t think it’ll be enough this week. I’ll take the points.

Sunday 4PM games
Colts at Rams (+3.5)With Andrew Luck ruled out for at least Week 1, Scott Tolzien will begin the season as the Colts’ starting quarterback. Given that, I’m surprised the Colts are favored in this game. I think the Rams win the game outright so I’ll take the points.

Seahawks at Packers (-2.5)This was my projected NFC Championship game when I made my playoff predictions yesterday and the teams are starting the season against each other as well. These are two of the best offenses in the league behind QBs Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers. The Seahawks’ running game could be an issue without a true No. 1 running back. I think the Packers have the advantage there with WR-turned-RB Ty Montgomery, who performed well after being converted to the position in the second half of last season. I think that could be the difference in the game. Give me the home team.

Panthers at 49ers (+5.5)I’m going against the grain with this pick, but I think QB Cam Newton and the Panthers will struggle a bit on the road in Week 1 unless RB Christian McCaffrey has a big game in his NFL debut. The Panthers will win the game, but I think 49ers QB Brian Hoyer could keep it close so I’ll take the points with the 49ers.

Sunday Night Football
Giants at Cowboys (-4.5)For much of the preseason, it was thought that Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott would start serving his six-game suspension in Week 1 and miss this game. Now, though, not only will he play in the team’s opener but he could play for the whole season as his appeal works its way through the legal system. I’m worried about the Cowboys’ defense, but I think the Elliott and QB Dak Prescott can put enough points on the board to overcome any deficiencies on the other side of the ball. The Cowboys lost both games against their divisional rivals in 2016 and I don’t see the Giants winning three in a row. I’ll take the Cowboys and give the points.

Monday Night Football
Saints at Vikings (-3.5)Longtime Vikings running back Peterson goes against his old team in his first game with his new team. I don’t think it’ll be a good homecoming for him, though, as I expect the Vikings to win the game. The Saints ave one of the worst defenses in the league so QB Sam Bradford won’t have trouble moving the ball down the field and scoring. Vikings cover the spread.

Chargers at Broncos (-3.5)I think the Broncos’ defense will be able to keep the Chargers’ defense in check in the final game of Week 1. Their offense worries be, but Chargers QB Philip Rivers isn’t exactly the best quarterback in the league either so I’m banking on Denver’s defense controlling the game. I’ll take the home favorites.

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4th Annual 32 in 32ish NFL Previews: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

As we conclude our previews of NFC South teams with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who are coming off a second-place finish last year, we reach the halfway point of our previews of all  32 NFL teams

The Buccaneers are on the upswing, coming off a 9-7 season, behind the arm of QB Jameis Winston. They had their first above-.500 season since 2010 despite starting RB Doug Martin missing half of the season between injury and suspension. And they’ll be without him for the first three games of 2017 as he serves another league-issued suspension. The team’s biggest free-agent signing was WR DeSean Jackson. Add him to the team, along with first-round draft pick Alabama TE O.J. Howard and it should give Winston two more strong options in the passing game.

Winston threw for 4,090 yards and 28 touchdowns last season, with 18 interceptions on the negative side of his ledger. The biggest beneficiary of his performance was WR Mike Evans, who made 96 receptions for 1,321 yards and 12 touchdowns. There was a big gap between him and the second-best pass-catcher, TE Cameron Brate, who caught 57 passes from Winston for 660 yards and 8 touchdowns. WR Adam Humphries had 55 catches for 622 yards and 2 touchdowns. With the Redskins last year, Jackson had 56 receptions for 1,005 yards and 4 touchdowns. RB Jacquizz Rodgers was the most productive runner in the ground game, rushing for 560 yards and 2 touchdowns on 129 carries in 10 games. Despite playing in just eight games, Martin had the most rushing attempts with 144, but he totaled just 421 yards with 3 touchdowns. Overall, the offense was tied for the 18th-most points in the league, with the defense ranking near the middle of the league in points allowed.

Entering his third year in the league, you would expect Winston to continue to improve as he gains more experience in the league and enters the prime of his career. Drafting Howard should give him a tight end who can put up better offensive numbers than they got out of the position last year, although Brate’s 8 touchdowns could be hard to top. Evans is one of the top receivers in the league, and adding Jackson gives the Bucs a legit No. 2 in the receiving game to better a passing attack that is already the best part of the offense. The running game continues to be a question mark with Martin already suspended three games — and who knows if he’ll miss time with injuries? He doesn’t have the best track record of staying healthy. He’s only played 16 games twice in his five-year career, running for more than 1,400 yards each time. If he can play in all 13 games after his suspension and put up that type of production, the team should be able to compete. If not, they probably won’t have much success without much of a run game.

Their schedule begins with a Week 1 road game at the Dolphins, where they’ll face out-of-retirement QB Jay Cutler, and that is followed up with a home game against Cutler’s former team, the Bears, in Week 2. The Bucs visit the Vikings in Week 3 and host the Giants the following week. Week 5 gives the Bucs a Thursday night game at home against the Super Bowl LI champion Patriots. They then head to the desert to visit the Cardinals in Week 6, followed by a game at the Bills in Week 7. Two divisional games follow, with the Panthers coming to town in Week 8 then the Bucs heading to the Superdome to face the Saints. They have a Week 11 bye, which is followed by two tough road games. The first is a Week 13 contest at the Falcons, followed by a visit to Lambeau Field in Week 14 to take on the Packers. The final three games of the Bucs’ season are against divisional foes, with a Monday night home game with the Falcons the first of the three in Week 15. That is followed by a road game against the Panthers and a Week 17 battle with the Saints in Tampa. I think the Bucs will win eight or nine games, so no improvement from last year. If Martin can get a 1,000-yard rushing season, maybe they can get another win but that’s about it.

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

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4th Annual 32 in 32ish NFL Previews: New Orleans Saints

We continue in the NFC South as part of our previews of all 32 NFL teams, with the New Orleans Saints, who finished in third place in the division last season.

Saints QB Drew Brees gets a new offensive weapon to work with this season after the signing of longtime Vikings RB Adrian Peterson. He joins RB Mark Ingram as the top two players on the depth chart at the position. They also signed free-agent WR Ted Ginn. While they added Peterson and Ginn, they lost WR Brandin Cooks, sending him to the Patriots in a trade in which the Saints received draft picks, giving them two first-round picks, with which they chose Ohio State CB Marshon Lattimore and Wisconsin OT Ryan Ramczyk. The Saints are hoping the personnel changes will help them avoid a fourth-straight 7-9 season and get back above .500 as they seek their first playoff appearance since 2013, their longest postseason drought of the Brees era.

Brees had his best season since 2011 last year, completing 70% of his passes for a NFL-best 5,208 yards and 37 touchdowns, with 15 interceptions. WR Michael Thomas had 72 receptions for 1,137 yards and 9 touchdowns. WR Willie Snead added 72 catches for 895 yards and 4 touchdowns, with TE Coby Fleener grabbing 50 balls for 631 yards and 3 touchdowns. With the Panthers last year, Ginn had 54 receptions for 752 yards and 4 touchdowns. On the ground, Ingram carried the ball 205 times for 1,043 yards and 6 touchdowns, adding 46 receptions and 4 receiving touchdowns through the air. Peterson played in just three games with the Vikings last year, totaling 37 carries for 72 yards for a subpar 1.9 yards/rush average. The Saints offense scored the second-most points in the league last year, but the defense allowed the second-most points.

As noted, Brees is coming off one of his best seasons in a while, but at 38 it would not be surprising to see him start to go down the backside of his career. Losing Cooks, who had the most receiving yards on the team in 2016, is a big deal, and Ginn likely won’t be able to make up a lot of the production he had. Peterson is a wild card in the running game. He’s 32, so he’s getting a bit old for a running back, but he’s only played one full season in the last three due to suspensions and injuries, which could be a positive in helping him seem younger on the field than you would expect from a player of his age. Regardless, he will likely remain the No. 2 back behind Ingram, who is still seemingly in the prime of his career at 27 years old.

In a scheduling move that was likely intentional by the league, the Saints open the season on the road at Peterson’s former team, the Vikings, in the first game of the Week 1 Monday night doubleheader. Next up on their schedule is a Week 2 home game against the Super Bowl LI champion Patriots. The Saints then visit the Panthers and play the Dolphins in London in Weeks 3 and 4, respectively, before getting a Week 5 bye. Three straight games against NFC North foes are next, with the Lions coming to the Superdome in Week 6, the Packers hosting New Orleans at Lambeau Field in Week 7, and the Bears visiting the Saints in Week 8. The Buccaneers are on the slate in Week 9, followed by a game at the Bills in Week 10. The second game against the Panthers comes at home in Week 13. The Saints face the Falcons twice in a three-week span, with the first meeting coming in Atlanta in Week 14 for the Thursday night game and the return game in New Orleans in Week 16. The Saints finish out the regular season on the road in Week 17 against the Bucs. That’s not a good schedule for a team with a bad defense like the Saints have because there are a lot of good offenses there. I’m thinking the Saints are going to be around a .500 team this season.

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

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4th Annual 32 in 32ish NFL Previews: Carolina Panthers

As our previews of all 32 NFL teams continue, we move on to the next team in the NFC South, the Carolina Panthers, who finished in last place in the division last season.

A year after going 15-1, the Panthers finished 2016 with a disappointing 6-10 record behind a subpar season from QB Cam Newton, who failed to throw for 20 touchdowns a season after earning NFL MVP honors. They tried to improve their offense in the early part of the draft, taking Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey as the No. 8 overall pick and making Ohio St. WR Curtis Samuel their second-round pick. McCaffrey is expected to see a lot of action right away as the backup to veteran RB Jonathan Stewart and as an action in the passing game, catching passes out of the backfield. The team is also welcoming back a familiar face with the signing of free-agent DE Julius Peppers, who began his career with the Panthers, playing with them from 2002-2009.

In 15 games last season — 14 starts — Newton completed just 52.9% of his passes for 3,509 yards and 19 touchdowns with 14 interceptions. Newton also rushed for 359 yards and 5 touchdowns. TE Greg Olsen’s 80 receptions was a team high. He totaled 1,073 receiving yards with 3 touchdowns. WR Kelvin Benjamin faded a bit after a good start to the season, finishing with 63 catches for 941 yards and 7 touchdowns. Stewart led the rushing attack with 218 carries for 824 yards and 9 touchdowns. The offense was middle-of-the-pack, scoring the 15-most points in the league. The defense allowed the seventh-most points but was tied for the fourth-most interceptions with 17.

With his track record of success in the league, I don’t expect Newton to have another season with numbers similar to last year.He may not return to the level of his 2015 MVP campaign, but 20-25 passing touchdowns should be attainable for the quarterback. Olsen is one of the best tight ends in the league, but the Panthers don’t have much depth in the receiving game behind him and Benjamin. That is where McCaffrey could be a help, He had 99 receptions in three seasons at Stanford, giving Newton someone to throw to in the backfield when McCaffrey is not running the ball to give Stewart a breather. At 37, Peppers obviously isn’t as good as he was in his prime, but he still had 7.5 sacks last year with the Packers. He could provide some help for a defense that didn’t do great last year.

The 2017 Panthers schedule begins with what looks to be a relatively easy road game against the 49ers. The Panthers then go home to play the Bills in Week 2 and the Saints in Week 3. They hit the road again in Week 4, heading to Foxboro to take on the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots. After a Week 5 game at the Lions, the Panthers return home for a Thursday night game against the Eagles. The Panthers face the Falcons at home in Week 9 before a Monday night game against the Dolphins in Week 10. Week 11 is when the Panthers finally get their bye, which is followed by consecutive road games against the Jets and Saints. A couple NFC North opponents follow, with the Vikings in Week 14 and Packers in Week 15 — both at home. The Panthers host the Buccaneers in Week 16 before hitting the road to finish the season against the Falcons in Week 17. I think the Panthers will win eight or nine games this season, better than last year but not likely to get them in the playoffs.

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

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4th Annual 32 in 32ish NFL Previews: Atlanta Falcons

As our previews of all 32 NFL teams continue, we turn our attention to the NFC South, beginning the division with the Atlanta Falcons, who won the division last season and made the second Super Bowl appearance in franchise history.

The Falcons’ season ended on a bitter note in February, giving up a 28-3 lead to lose to the Patriots in Super Bowl LI by a score of 34-28. Leading up to that, though, the Falcons had a strong year in which they finished the regular season 11-5 to secure their first division title since 2012. The team didn’t have any notable additions in the offseason, so the front office must think the team the Falcons had last season is good enough to have similar success in 2017. The team made UCLA DE Takkarist McKinley its first-round draft pick.

QB Matt Ryan had the best season of his career in 2016, completing 69.9% of his passes for 4,944 yards and 38 touchdowns, with 7 interceptions — all career bests. The bulk of his production went to WR Julio Jones, who recorded 83 receptions for 1,409 yards but just 6 touchdowns in 14 games. WR Mohamed Sanu played 15 games, with 59 receptions for 653 yards and 4 touchdowns. RB Devonta Freeman ran the ball 227 times for 1,079 yards and 11 touchdowns;l he added 54 receptions for 462 yards and 2 touchdowns in the passing game. RB Tevin Coleman had 118 rushing yards in 13 games, totaling 520 yards and 8 touchdowns, in addition to 3 receiving touchdowns on 31 receptions. Not surprisingly with the numbers Ryan put up, the Falcons’ offense scored the most points in the NFL last season, and their 540 points was 71 points better than the No. 2 team. They needed to score a lot because the defense allowed opponents to score the sixth-most points in the league.

When a player has a career year, you expect him to slip back a bit the next season so don’t expect Ryan to get close to 5,000 yards this season, but 4,500 yards or better is likely given that he’s surpassed that number every season since 2012. He still has all of his offensive weapons entering the year, and I expect TE Austin Hooper to take a step forward in 2017 after a rookie season that saw his reps increase as the year went on. One thing to note is the team has a new offensive coordinator in Steve Sarkisian, who replaces Kyle Shanahan, who got the head coaching job in San Francisco this offseason. With the way the offense played last year, I wouldn’t expect Sarkisian to stay from the offensive game plan that obviously worked well in 2016.

The Falcons open their post-Super Bowl season on the road against the Bears in Week 1. They get a home game in Week 2 as they play their first regular-season game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, hosting the Packers on Sunday night. Up next on the schedule is a road game at the Lions, followed by a home game against the Bills in Week 4. That leads into an early bye in Week 5, followed by a home contest with the Dolphins. Week 7 has a Super Bowl rematch on tap as the Falcons head to Gillette Stadium to try to avenge their overtime loss to the Patriots. They host the Cowboys in Week 10 and then take a cross-country flight to Seattle to take on the Seahawks in Week 11’s Monday night contest. A divisional battle with the Buccaneers in Atlanta follows in Week 12. Another primetime game is slated for Week 14, with the Falcons hosting the Saints on Thursday night. The same teams meet two weeks later, this time at the Superdome in New Orleans in Week 16. The Falcons finish out their regular season schedule at home against the Panthers in Week 17. I think the Falcons are looking at a 10-12 win season this year, and I’m leaning more toward the higher end of the range.

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

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