Tag Archives: NFL

4th Annual 32 in 32ish NFL Previews: San Francisco 49ers

Next up for the NFC West in our previews of all 32 NFL teams is the San Francisco 49ers, who in last place in the division last season.

Kyle Shanahan is the new head coach in San Francisco as he replaces Chip Kelly, who lasted just one season at the helm of the 49ers, the team’s second straight head coach who was one-and-done. Kelly’s departure could have something to do with the team’s 2-14 record, which matched a franchise-worst mark that last happened in 2004. The new regime in San Francisco had a busy offseason, signing QB Brian Hoyer, WRs Pierre Garcon and Marquise Goodwin, RBs Tim Hightower and Kyle Juszczyk, and LB Elvis Dumervil, among other lesser players. Hoyer is expected to be the starter under center, with Garcon and Goodwin expected to lay big roles in the receiving game. Early in the offseason, the team waived WR Torrey Smith and recently traded TE Vance McDonald to the Steelers for a draft pick, making rookie TE George Kittle — the team’s fifth-round draft pick — the likely starter at the position.

Neither of last year’s quarterbacks — Colin Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert — are on the roster this year. Hoyer played in six games with the Bears last season, throwing for 1,445 yards and 6 touchdowns, with no interceptions. QB Matt Barkley, who will serve as Hoyer’s backup, was also with the Bears in 2016 and played in seven games, totaling 1,611 passing yards and 8 touchdowns, with 14 interceptions. WR Jeremy Kerley was the team’s leading pass-catcher with 64 receptions for 667 yards and 3 touchdowns. With the Redskins last year, Garcon had 79 receptions for 1,041 yards and 3 touchdowns, while Goodwin caught 29 passes for 431 yards and 3 touchdowns in 15 games in Buffalo. RB Carlos Hyde led the 49ers with 217 carries for 988 yards and 6 touchdowns in 13 games. With the Saints, Hightower ran the ball 133 times for 548 yards and 4 touchdowns. In all, the 49ers offense scored the sixth-fewest points in the league last season and the defense allowed opponents to score the most points in the NFL.

The offense should be improved this season. Hoyer isn’t going to get a team to a Super Bowl, but he’s a veteran who can put up decent stats and doesn’t throw many interceptions. The team gave him some nice offensive weapons in the offseason with Garcon and Goodwin, who should have significantly better numbers in this offense than he did with the Bills a year ago. When healthy Hyde is a good running back, but he’s never played a full season and is just two years removed from a 2015 season in which he played in just seven games. Given his history, he’s likely to miss at least a game or two, with Hightower having to carry the bulk of the rushing work in those games. Of course the defense is a major issue. Even though the 49ers offense should be better than last year, it won’t necessarily be good and it won’t be able to keep up in shootouts that are caused by the defense allowing teams 40-plus points, as they allowed four times last season.

The 49ers open the season with a home game against the Panthers, then head up the coast to take on the Seahawks in Seattle. Next on the schedule is a Thursday night home game with the Rams. Three road games follow that, beginning in Week 4 against the Cardinals and continuing with visits to the Colts and Redskins. In Week 7, the 49ers host the Cowboys, then take on the Eagles in Philadelphia. Weeks 9 and 10 have the 49ers taking on the Cardinals and Giants, respectively, both at home. Their bye comes in Week 11, and after that is a home game with the Seahawks. The 49ers visit the Bears in Week 13, then take on the Texans in Houston. Weeks 15 and 16 bring two more AFC South games as the Titans and Jaguars come to San Francisco. The 49ers finish their campaign in Los Angeles in Week 17 to take on the Rams. I expect the 49ers to win three or four games this season.

Source: http://www.49ers.com, http://www.pro-football-reference.com

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4th Annual 32 in 32ish NFL Previews: Los Angeles Rams

Up next in our previews of all 32 NFL teams is the Los Angeles Rams, who finished in third place in the NFC West last season.

In their first year back in Los Angeles, the Rams went 4-12 and fired longtime head coach Jeff Fisher. This season, they’ve replaced him with former Redskins offensive coordinator Sean McVay in his first head-coaching job. The Rams added a couple of former Bills receivers to their roster this offseason, signing free-agent Robert Woods and trading DB E.J. Gaines for Sammy Watkins. They also signed OT Andrew Whitworth and LB Connor Barwin. In the draft, they spent a third-round pick on Eastern Washington WR Cooper Kupp, who is expected to see quite a bit of action in his rookie season.

QB Case Keenum, who is now with the Vikings, got most of the reps at quarterback last season before rookie QB Jared Goff took over in Week 10. Goff completed just 54.6% of his passes for 1,089 yards and 5 touchdowns, with 7 interceptions in his seven games. WR Tavon Austin had 58 receptions for 509 yards and 3 touchdowns, which was second on the team behind now-departed WR Kenny Britt. With Buffalo last year, Watkins had 28 receptions for 430 yards and 2 touchdowns in eight games, and Woods caught 51 passes for 613 yards and 1 touchdown in 13 games. On the ground, RB Todd Gurley ran the ball 278 times for 885 yards and 6 touchdowns. The offense scored the fewest points in the NFL last season — thanks, in part, to five games in which they scored fewer than 10 points — and the defense ranked in the bottom third of the league in points allowed.

It goes without saying but the Rams need an improved offense to have any chance of winning many games this season, and I don’t think they’ll get it. Goff didn’t show many promising signs in the time he was on the field last season and they don’t have a clear-cut top receiver. Austin’s 58 receptions last season was a career high for him, Watkins tends to miss time with injuries and has only played a full 16 games in his rookie season, and Woods has never caught more than 65 passes in a season. If he comes out of the gate strong in his rookie year, Kupp could end the season as the team’s best receiver. And Gurley had a sharp decline in production from his rookie season in 2015 to last year, when he had fewer yards and touchdowns despite carrying the ball 49 times more than the previous year.

Looking at the Rams’ schedule, they start the season with home games against the Colts and Redskins. In Week 3, they head out on the road to take on the 49ers on Thursday night, then they take on the Cowboys in Arlington in Week 4. They host the Seahawks in Week 5 and visit the Jaguars in Week 6. After that, a home game with the Cardinals leads into a Week 8 bye. Coming off the bye, the Rams travel to take on the Giants before coming home to battle the Texans in Week 10. A road game with the Vikings is on tap in Week 11, then the Rams return home to take on the Saints. The Rams visit the Cardinals in Week 13 and host the Eagles in Week 14. The Rams have road games in Weeks 15 and 16 against the Seahawks and Titans, respectively, before finishing the season at home with the 49ers. With the poor offense the Rams have, I can’t see them winning more than about two or three games this year.

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

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4th Annual 32 in 32ish NFL Previews: Arizona Cardinals

The NFC West is the final division in our previews of all 32 NFL teams, and the first team we’re previewing in the division is the Arizona Cardinals, who finished in second place in the division last season.

The Cardinals had a disappointing 7-8-1 record last season after winning a franchise-record 13 games in 2015. They didn’t have any significant injuries but QB Carson Palmer regressed a bit from his 2015 performance. The team didn’t make many moves of note this offseason, with the main signing being QB Blaine Gabbert, who sits at third on the depth chart behind Palmer and QB Drew Stanton. The team selected Temple LB Haason Reddick with its first-round draft pick, hoping he can help a defense that wasn’t overly impressive last season.

The veteran Palmer played in 15 games last season, throwing for 4,266 yards and 26 touchdowns, with 14 interceptions. WR Larry Fitzgerald had 107 receptions for 1,023 yards and 6 touchdowns. RB David Johnson was the next best player in the receiving game, making 80 catches for 879 yards and 4 touchdowns. WR John Brown caught 39 balls for 517 yards and 2 touchdowns, with TE Jermaine Gresham adding 37 receptions for 391 yards and 2 touchdowns. WR JJ Nelson caught 34 passes for 568 yards and 6 touchdowns. In addition to his receiving work, Johnson ran the ball 293 times for 1,239 yards and 16 touchdowns, giving him one of the best performances among all players last season. The offense scored the sixth-most points in the NFL last season, but the defense was more middle-of-the-pack, giving up the 14th-most points in the league.

With all the key pieces of the offense returning this year, the Cardinals shouldn’t have a problem scoring points. The offensive unit may even get better if the likes of Brown and Nelson step up their game and are able to catch more passes from Palmer. One issue is age, with Palmer being 37 and Fitzgerald having just turned 34. As they get older, the likelihood of regression increases. The team can’t really rely on Johnson more than last year since he already carried the ball nearly 300 times in 2016 and put up more than 2,000 total yards between running and receiving. With that in mind, the defense needs to be better this year to give the team a better chance of winning games. Last year the Cardinals lost a game 48-41, which shouldn’t happen to a team that has playoff hopes, like they did last season.

The Cardinals are on the road for the first two weeks of the season, with games at the Lions and Colts. The Cowboys come to Arizona in Week 3 for the Cardinals’ home opener on that Monday night, with the 49ers coming to Glendale in Week 4. The schedule sends the Cardinals on the road again in Week 5, visiting the Eagles. A Week 6 home game with the Buccaneers leads into a game in Los Angeles against the Rams. The Cardinals have their bye in Week 8, then visit the 49ers in Week 9. Next up is a home Thursday night game against the Seahawks, then a road tilt at the Texans in Week 11. The Cardinals host the Jaguars in Week 12, followed by more home games with the Rams and Titans. The Cardinals visit the Redskins in Week 15, host the Giants in week 16 and end the regular season in Seattle for a final battle with the Seahawks. I think the Cardinals could win 10 or 11 games this season, putting them in the hunt for a playoff spot.

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

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4th Annual 32 in 32ish NFL Previews: Oakland Raiders

We’re up to the third team in the AFC West as we continue our previews of all 32 NFL teams, continuing with the Oakland Raiders, who finished in second place in the division last season.

The Raiders made the playoffs last year for the first time since the 2002 season, but a late-season injury to QB Derek Carr ended any realistic shot they had of making it out of the first round. The biggest addition the Raiders made this season was acquiring RB Marshawn Lynch from the Seahawks as he comes out of his one-year “retirement” to play for his hometown team. Other additions this offseason including signing WR Cordarrelle Patterson, TE Jared Cook and QB EJ Manuel to serve as Carr’s backup. RB Latavius Murray left the Raiders and signed with the Vikings.

In the 15 games he played before his injury, Carr completed just under 64% of his passes for 3,937 yards and 28 touchdowns, with just 6 interceptions. WR Michael Crabtree had 89 receptions for 1,003 yards and 8 touchdowns, and WR Amari Cooper had 83 catches for 1,153 yards and 5 touchdowns. With the Packers last season, Cook had 30 catches for 377 yards and 1 touchdown, and Patterson had 52 receptions for 453 yards and 2 touchdowns with the Vikings. Murray was the team’s leading rusher last year, but backup RBs DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard had decent numbers in limited work. Washington had 87 carries for 467 yards and 2 touchdowns, and Richard had 83 rushes for 491 yards and 1 touchdown. In his last season with the Seahawks in 2015, Lynch had 111 carries for 417 yards and 3 touchdowns in seven games. The Raiders’ offense scored the seventh-most points in the league last season, but the defense was 20th in the NFL in points allowed.

The passing attack should be the best part of the offense with a good quarterback in Carr and some solid receiving options. Cook should help give the team more production at tight end, as the Raiders didn’t get much out of the position last year. The running game, on the other hand, isn’t as clear-cut as the passing game. Lynch took last season off and played less than half of the season in 2015. Will he play up to the standards people are used to from him after the long layoff? If given the opportunity to play, I actually think one of Washington or Richard could play better than Lynch, who is likely to be given the bulk of the running workload as long as he stays healthy.

The Raiders open the season on the road at the Titans in Week 1 before coming home to play the Jets in Week 2. Next, the schedule takes them on two road games, visiting the Redskins for the Sunday night game in Week 3 and then playing at the Broncos in Week 4. The Raiders host the Ravens and Chargers in Weeks 5 and 6, respectively, then host the Chiefs on Thursday night in Week 7. The Raiders visit the Bills in Week 8, then take their talents to South Beach when they play the Dolphins in Week 9’s Sunday nighter. After a Week 10 bye, the Raiders are the designated home team when they play the Patriots in Mexico City, the second straight year the Raiders are playing there. Upon returning to the States in Week 12, the Raiders host the Broncos, then they host the Giants in Week 13. A game at the Chiefs follows, then the Raiders play the Cowboys at home on Sunday night in Week 15. A Christmas night game at the Eagles follows that, and a visit to Los Angeles to take on the Chargers in Week 17 ends the Raiders’ regular season. I think the Raiders could win 11 or 12 games this year, potentially matching last season’s 12-win total. Whether they win the division or not, the Raiders should make a return trip to the postseason.

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

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4th Annual 32 in 32ish NFL Previews: Los Angeles Chargers

The Los Angeles Chargers, who finished in last place in the division last season, are the final AFC West team to preview as we near the end of our previews of all 32 NFL teams.

For the second straight season, an NFL team is moving to Los Angeles. This time, it’s the Chargers, who are making the short trip north from San Diego. Until the new stadium they’ll be sharing with the Rams is complete, they’ll be playing their home games at the 27,000-seat StubHub Center in nearby Carson, Calif. Although the team’s city is changing, on the field will look familiar without any major changes to the roster this offseason, other than the departure of RB Danny Woodhead, who barely played last year as an injury limited him to two games. In the draft, the team used the seventh overall pick on Clemson WR Mike Williams and selected Western Kentucky OG Forrest Lamp in the second round. The coaching staff, on the other hand, is changing with Anthony Lynn taking over head-coaching duties and Gus Bradley now the defensive coordinator; offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt returns from last season.

QB Philip Rivers threw for 4,386 yards and 33 touchdowns, with 21 interceptions — representing the second-highest touchdown total of his career and the most interceptions. His leading receiver was WR Tyrell Williams, who nabbed 69 receptions for 1,059 yards and 7 touchdowns. WR Dontrelle Inman caught 58 balls for 810 yards and 4 touchdowns, and TE Antonio Gates had 53 catches for 548 yards and 7 touchdowns in 14 games. Rookie TE Hunter Henry added 36 catches for 478 yards and 8 touchdowns in 15 games. The leading rusher was RB Melvin Gordon, who ran for 997 yards and 10 touchdowns on 254 carries in 13 games, adding 41 catches for another 419 yards and 2 touchdowns. The offense scored the ninth-most points in the NFL last season, and the defense was fourth-worst in the league in points allowed by tied for the league with 18 interceptions.

Rivers needs to cut down on the interceptions, but even being in his mid-30s put up yardage and touchdown totals that were among the best in the league among quarterbacks last season.  One reason for that is he has some strong options in the receiving core, including one of the best tight ends in league history with Gates and a young tight end who showed promising signs as a rookie and looks to be even better as he should start to get more work in his second year in the league. Rivers also gets back WR Keenan Allen, who suffered a season-ending injury in Week 1 last year. While he’s a good receiver when healthy, he’s only played a total of nine games over the last two seasons. If he can stay on the field, though, he is a solid addition to an already-good receiving core. There are more question marks in the running game, with Gordon — who has yet to play a full 16-game season in his career — leading the way and RB Branden Oliver, who hasn’t played since 2015, his backup.

The Chargers’ schedule begins in the final game of Week 1, visiting the Broncos in the second game of the Monday Night Football doubleheader. They play their first regular-season games at StubHub Center over the next three weeks, taking on the Dolphins in Week 2, followed by the Chiefs and Eagles. Week 5 takes the Chargers to New Jersey to take on the Giants, and they follow that with a Week 6 road game against the Raiders. They host the Broncos in Week 7, then face the Patriots on the road. A Week 9 bye leads into a Week 10 contest at the Jaguars. After hosting the Bills in Week 11, the Chargers visit the Cowboys in Week 12. They host the Browns and Redskins in Weeks 13 and 14, respectively, then visit the Chiefs for the Thursday night game in Week 15. After visiting the Jets in Week 16 for their second visit to MetLife Stadium, the Chargers end the season against the Raiders at home. I think the Chargers could be within a game of being a .500 team, which would be an improvement over last year.

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

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4th Annual 32 in 32ish NFL Previews: Kansas City Chiefs

The AFC West previews continue as we are nearing the end of our looks at all 32 NFL teams, continuing with the Kansas City Chiefs, who won the division last season.

The Chiefs’ main offensive additions this offseason came through the draft, selecting Texas Tech QB Patrick Mahomes II with the 10th overall pick and taking Toledo RB Kareem Hunt in the third round. That latter pick, in particular, could prove to be helpful to the team after RB Spencer Ware, who was expected to be the starter, tore his PCL in the team’s third preseason game and will require season-ending surgery, leaving the rookie Hunt as the likely starter to begin the regular season. Mahomes, on the other hand, will sit behind QB Alex Smith on the depth chart. The team signed NT Bennie Logan to join the likes of LBs Derrick Johnson and Justin Houston on the defense. One player the team will be without is WR Jeremy Maclin, who signed with the Ravens.

Smith played in 15 games last season, putting up his usual serviceable but not impressive numbers. He completed 67.1% of his passes for 3,502 yards and 15 touchdowns, with 8 interceptions. TE Travis Kelce was the team’s leading receiver, with 85 receptions for 1,125 yards and 4 touchdowns. WR Tyreek Hill caught 61 passes for 593 yards and 6 touchdowns. WR Chris Conley had 44 catches for 530 yards. Ware carried the ball 214 times in 14 games last season, running for 921 yards and 3 touchdowns, to go along with 33 receptions for 447 yards and 2 touchdowns. Backup RB Charcandrick West ran the ball 88 times for 293 yards and 1 touchdown. The offense scored the 13th-most points in the league last season, and the defense was seventh-best in the NFL in terms of points allowed and was tied for the lead with 18 interceptions.

With Ware out for the year, Hunt is likely to see the majority of the action at the running back position, with West also getting in some work. Depending on how Hunt performs, he could keep the starting gig for the entire season. With Hunt being a rookie, though, you never know how he’ll perform with a heavy workload and West could usurp him during the year. Veteran RB C.J. Spiller is also on the team and should get into the mix in the running game. Mahomes probably won’t see much action under center in his rookie season, but he doesn’t have one of the league’s top quarterbacks ahead of him, so if the Chiefs fall out of the playoff race they may turn to Mahomes late in the year to see find out what they have in him. Hill and Kelce are strong receiving options for Smith, but losing Maclin hurts the passing game. Conley, who is expected to be the starter opposite Hill, and WR Albert Wilson will have to take their games to the next level to make up for the production lost with Maclin’s departure. On the defense, Houston is coming off an injury that caused him to miss all but five games last season, so if he plays the full season that’ll give the defense a boost.

The Chiefs open their season on a big stage, taking on the Super Bowl LI champion Patriots in the season-opening game next Thursday. Ten days later, the schedule gives them their first home game when they take on the Eagles. They face the Chargers on the road in Week 3, then head home to take on the Redskins in the Monday night game in Week 4. A Sunday nighter follows in Week 5 when they visit the Texans. The Steelers come to Kansas City in Week 6, then the Chiefs head to Oakland to take on the Raiders, who are probably their biggest competition to win the division, on Thursday night. The Chiefs get extra time to prepare before their Week 8 game against the Broncos, which is a Monday night contest at home. They visit the Cowboys in Week 9, then get their bye before visiting the Giants in Week 11. After a home game with the Bills, the Chiefs take on the Jets on the road in Week 13. The Chiefs’ final three home games are up next, as they take on the Raiders, Chargers and Dolphins in Weeks 14, 15 and 16, respectively. They finish the regular season on the road, taking on the Broncos. I think the Chiefs regress from last year’s 12-win season and are probably in the range of nine or 10 wins in 2017.

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

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4th 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 third place in the division last season.

The Broncos are learning that it’s not easy to replace a Hall of Fame quarterback like Peyton Manning. When the Broncos drafted QB Paxton Lynch in the first round of last year’s draft, they probably expected him to have taken over the starting job by now, but he wasn’t impressive in the three games he played last year, including two starts, and there was a quarterback competition in the preseason, with 2015 seventh-round pick Trevor Siemian winning it to be named the team’s starter for Week 1. The team has a new coaching staff, with Vance Joseph taking over head-coaching duties from Gary Kubiak, Mike McCoy replacing Rick Dennison as offensive coordinator, and new defensive coordinator Joe Woods taking over for Wade Phillips. While the coaches are different, the majority of the players are the same without any major changes to the offense this offseason other than the signing of veteran RB Jamaal Charles, who has been limited to playing in a total of eight games over the last two seasons due to knee injuries.

Siemian made 14 starts last season, completing just 59.5% of his passes for 3,401 yards and 18 touchdowns, with 10 interceptions. Lynch, by comparison, completed 59% of his throws for 497 yards and 2 touchdowns, with 1 interception. WR Demaryius Thomas caught 90 of their passes fr 1,083 yards and 5 touchdowns, and WR Emmanuel Sanders had 79 receptions for 1,032 yards and 5 touchdowns. There was a big drop-off after them, with RB Devontae Booker claiming the team’s third-best receiving numbers, with 31 catches for 265 yards and 1 touchdown. TE Virgil Green 22 catches for 237 yards and 1 touchdown in 12 games. Booker led the running game with 174 rushes for 612 yards and 4 touchdowns. That was partially because RB C.J. Anderson missed time with injury, playing in only seven games. When he was on the field, Anderson had 110 carries for 437 yards and 4 touchdowns. Overall, the offense was ranked 22nd in the NFL in points scored, but the defense did better in giving up the fourth-fewest points in the league.

Siemian will get the first chance at starting games over center, but neither he nor Lynch showed many promising signs last season so Lynch could get a chance to take over the job if Siemian doesn’t impress and the team gets off to a slow start in terms of wins and losses. The team could also use better production in the receiving game from guys other than Thomas and Sanders. When healthy, Anderson is the team’s No. 1 running back and Booker is dealing with injury issues that could cause him to miss the first couple weeks of the regular season. Charles is someone to look out for to take over the No. 2 role behind Anderson. He has played well in the preseason and with Booker not expected to be ready for the regular season, Charles could overtake him on the depth chart with good performances in the first couple weeks of the season. Before his injuries the last two seasons, Charles had three straight seasons in which he rushed for more than 1,000 yards — including a 1,500-yard season in 2012. If the defense continues to shine as it did last year, the team will be able to stay in games, but the offense needs to do better to improve upon the Broncos’ 9-7 record from last season, which caused them to miss the playoffs just a season after winning Super Bowl 50.

They’ll begin their season in the last game of Week 1, hosting the Chargers in the second game of the Monday night doubleheader. They stay at home in Week 2, with the Cowboys in Denver. The schedule then puts the Broncos on the road for Week 3 when they take on the Bills. Week 4 is a tough battle with the Raiders at home. The Broncos’ bye week follows in Week 5, then they return to action with a Sunday night game against the Giants at home. They have three straight road games after that, starting with the Chargers in Week 7, then a Monday night game at the defending division champion Chiefs in Week 8 and a visit to Philadelphia in Week 9 to do battle with the Eagles. Week 10 gives us a battle of the last two Super Bowl winners when the Broncos host the Super Bowl LI champion Patriots in the Sunday nighter. The Broncos visit the Raiders in Week 12, then head to Miami to play the Dolphins in Week 13. After a home game with the Jets, the Broncos visit the Colts in Week 15’s Thursday night contest, followed by a Week 16 visit to the Redskins. The Broncos finish their regular season at home against the Chiefs. The Broncos won nine games last year and I think they’ll be around that number again this season, likely missing the playoffs again.

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

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