Tag Archives: Steelers

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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4th Annual 32 in 32ish NFL Previews: Playoff predictions and Super Bowl LII winner

Time to finish up the season preview posts with my projected NFL playoff bracket for the coming season. I’ve determined what records I think every team will end up with this season and the subsequent playoff seedings. Here are my playoff predictions. Continue reading

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: 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: New England Patriots (Updated)

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 winning Super Bowl LI.

Despite QB Tom Brady being suspended for the first four games of the 2016 season, the Patriots ended up winning the division and eventually pulled off an epic comeback to beat the Falcons to win the first Super Bowl to go to overtime. Despite winning yet another championship, the Patriots weren’t content to stick with the roster they had last year. In the offseason, they acquired WR Brandin Cooks and TE Dwayne Allen in trades with the Saints and Colts, respectively. They also made a trade with the Panthers to get DL Kony Ealy. Other additions they’ve made since the season ended include the signings of CB Stephon Gilmore and RBs Rex Burkhead and Mike Gillislee. They added to both the offense and defense, and both units were already near the top of the league last season. Their main losses on the offense were RB LeGarrette Blount and TE Martellus Bennett

In the 12 games he played last season, Brady completed 67.4% of his passes for 3,554 yards and 28 touchdowns with just 2 interceptions for an impressive 14:1 TD:INT ratio. WR Julian Edelman had 98 receptions in 13 games for 1,106 yards and 3 touchdowns. With New Orleans, Cooks had 78 receptions for 1,173 yards and 8 touchdowns.  TE Rob Gronkowski was limited to eight games due to injuries. He had 25 catches for 540 yards and 3 touchdowns in the games he played. With the Colts, Allen had 35 receptions for 406 yards and 6 touchdowns in 14 games. Blount was the team’s leading rusher and no other running back had more than 64 carries, but RB James White was a significant part of the passing game, catching 60 balls for 551 yards and 5 touchdowns. The offense scored the third-most points in the league and the defense allowed the fewest points.

If Gronk can stay healthy this year, he will obviously be a much bigger part of the offense and Edelman should have his usual season of being in the range of 100 receptions. Cooks provides an upgrade at receiver over WR Chris Hogan, but he likely won’t get quite the numbers he had in New Orleans last season because he was the main focus of the receiving game for the Saints and the Patriots have more players to whom Brady can pass the ball. Allen should be a good No. 2 at the tight end position and could be a viable No. 1 if Gronk misses significant time again this year. Allen does have a history of injuries himself and hasn’t played a full 16-game season since his rookie year in 2012. White and RB Dion Lewis, who missed nine games last season due to injury, will likely split the bulk of the time at running back, with White getting more reps on passing downs so Lewis will likely have to step up with Blount gone. Burkhead and Gillislee will likely provide depth at the position.

The Patriots’ schedule begins with the traditional Thursday night game prior to the first Sunday of the season, giving the Super Bowl winners a season-opening showcase. This year, the Patriots host the Chiefs in that first game. They visit the Saints in Week 2, and the Texans come to town in Week 3 for a rematch of the AFC Divisional playoff game from January. The Panthers are up next for another home game in Week 4, then the Patriots visit the Buccaneers for a Thursday night contest in Week 5. The first divisional game comes in Week 6 at the Jets, followed by the anticipated Super Bowl LI rematch between the Patriots and Falcons in Week 7. That’s a Sunday night game in Atlanta. The Patriots get their bye in Week 9, then they head to Denver to take on the Broncos in Week 10’s Sunday nighter. The Patriots head south of the border in Week 11 when they take on the Raiders in Mexico City, then return to Foxboro to host the Dolphins in Week 12. The Patriots then have three straight road games, at the Bills in Week 13, a Monday night game at the Dolphins in Week 14 and an AFC Championship rematch at the Steelers in Week 15. The Patriots end the regular season with two home games, against the Bills in Week 16 and the Jets in Week 17. I think the Patriots can win 12 or 13 games this season and should easily win the AFC East for the ninth straight season. The real question for the Patriots is can they become the first team to win back-to-back Super Bowls since they did it in Super Bowls XXXVIII and XXXIX?

Update (8/26): In the Patriots’ third preseason game Friday night, Edelman suffered a torn ACL that will cause him to miss the entire 2017 season. That is a blow to the team’s offense and will require the likes of Hogan and WRs Malcolm Mitchell and Danny Amendola to step up their games as they advance up the receivers depth chart. Hogan had the best stats of that trio last year, with 38 catches for 680 yards and 4 touchdowns. None of those three is likely to match the production the Patriots would have gotten out of Edelman, but they can combine to make up some of the numbers the team is losing. Even with Edelman out for the year, I don’t think that changes the fact that the Patriots are the best team in the division and should still win it. The team also released Ealy, so the Patriots traded for him but he didn’t play in a single regular season game for them.

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

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4th Annual 32 in 32ish NFL Previews: Tennessee Titans

As our previews of all 32 NFL teams continue, we conclude our look at the AFC South with the Tennessee Titans, who finished in second place in the division last season.

The Titans are coming off their first season above .500 since 2011, but a late-season injury to QB Marcus Mariota derailed their hopes for a playoff appearance. Mariota is recovered and ready for the season, and he’ll have new weapons to throw to with the offseason addition of WRs Corey Davis — the No. 5 overall draft pick out of Western Michigan — and Eric Decker, who the Titans signed after he was released by the Jets. They’ll join returning WR Rishard Matthews, who is coming off a career year.

In the 15 games he played last season, Mariota threw for 3,426 yards and 26 touchdowns, with 9 interceptions. Matthews had 65 receptions for 945 yards and 9 touchdowns. TE Delanie Walker wasn’t far behind Matthews; in 10 games, he also caught 65 passes for 800 yards and 7 touchdowns. Decker played in just three games with the Jets last year but averaged a respectable 21.6 yards per reception in the limited sample size. RB DeMarco Murray carried the ball 293 times for 1,287 yards and 9 touchdowns, adding 53 catches for an additional 377 yards and 3 touchdowns. RB Derrick Henry, No. 2 on the depth chart, had 110 carries for 490 yards and 5 touchdowns. In total, the offense ranked in the top half of the league in points scored, and the defense also ranked in the top half of the NFL in points allowed.

Adding the likes of Decker and Davis to an offense that already includes Matthews and Walker gives the Titans with an offense that has a chance to compete with just about any other team in the league. The defense was middle-of-the-pack or so last year so even a slight improvement on that side of the ball should give the team an even better chance to win games. In a division like the AFC South that doesn’t have a Patriots-esque team that’s expected to be significantly better than the others, the Titans have a legitimate shot at winning their first division title since 2008.

The Titans open the season at home to take on the Raiders. Their schedule then brings them to Jacksonville to do battle with the Jaguars in Week 2. The Seahawks come to Nashville in Week 3, and road games against the Texans and Dolphins follow in the next two weeks. The Titans’ first primetime game comes in Week 6, when they host the Colts on Monday night. A visit to the Browns is next, followed by a Week 8 bye. After the bye, the Titans have three straight games against AFC North foes, starting with a home game against the Ravens in Week 9. That’s followed with another home tilt against the Bengals, then a Thursday nighter at the Steelers in Week 11. The Titans stay on the road for Week 12, taking on the Colts, before hosting the Texans in Week 13. After another stretch of three games against teams from one division — this time the NFC West — the Titans finish the season at home against the Jaguars in Week 17. I’m thinking they’ll win nine or 10 games and again be in contention for a playoff spot in late December.

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

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