Tag Archives: Super Bowl LII

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

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

Sunday 1PM games
Bills at Ravens (-5.5)

Bengals at Colts (-3.5)

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

Titans at Dolphins (+1.5)

49ers at Vikings (-5.5)

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

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

Jaguars at Giants (+2.5)

Sunday 4PM games
Chiefs at Chargers (-3.5)

Cowboys at Panthers (-2.5)

Seahawks at Broncos (-2.5)

Redskins at Cardinals (-0.5)

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

Monday Night Football
Jets at Lions (-6.5)

Rams at Raiders (+2.5)

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Previewing NFL Kickoff 2018: Falcons at Eagles

This year’s season opener in the NFL pits the last two teams to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl against each other, with the Falcons visiting the Super Bowl LII champion Eagles. The champs won’t be at full strength, though, with QB Carson Wentz — who has been out of action since late last season — still not ready to return to the field. WR Alshon Jeffery has also been ruled out for the Eagles’ opener.

With Wentz ruled out, QB Nick Foles will get the start. He led the Eagles through the postseason to the Super Bowl title, but the numbers he has put up throughout his career aren’t overly impressive. Compare him to Falcons QB Matt Ryan, who was named the league MVP for the 2016 season, and the visitors have the advantage at the quarterback position, although Ryan threw for just 20 touchdowns last season.

The Falcons appear to have the advantage at the other offensive positions, as well, with WR Julio Jones one of the best in the game and WR Mohamed Sanu a strong No. 2 and rookie WR Calvin Ridley looking to make a name for himself early in his career. With Jeffery out, WR Nelson Agholor is the Eagles’ top receiver, but he has been dealing with injuries of his own. Expect a heavy dose of TE Zach Ertz in the Eagles’ passing game. On the ground, the Falcons’ running-back duo of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman also have the advantage over the champs’ RB squad, led by Jay Ajayi and veteran Darren Sproles, with second-year RB Corey Clement also in the mix.

Both teams had top-10 defenses last season, with a slight advantage to the Eagles, but it’ll be tough for them to stop the Ryan-led Falcons offense.

If Wentz was playing, I’d give the Eagles a better chance to get a win to begin their title defense, but I think the Falcons’ offense is too good for Foles to be able to keep up with it. The Falcons are getting 3.5 points, per ESPN’s Pigskin PIck’em. I expect the Falcons to win the game outright, so if they’re getting points I’m taking the points. Give me the Falcons to win, sending the Eagles to an 0-1 record as they look to successfully defend their Super Bowl title. The over/under on Vegas Insider is 44.5, and I’ll take the over on that.

Stay tuned later in the week for my season and playoff predictions, along with the rest of my Week 1 picks.

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5th 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 won the NFC West last season.

After going 4-12 in 2016, the Rams went 11-5 in 2017 — their first season under head coach Sean McVay — en route to winning the franchise’s first NFC West title since 2003 and their first playoff appearance since 2004. The near-tripling of the team’s win total was due to breakout seasons for third-year RB Todd Gurley, who was named the AP Offensive Player of the Year, and second-year QB Jared Goff. Even though the Rams had one of the league’s best offenses last season, that didn’t stop them from adding to it this year. They traded a couple of 2018 draft picks, including their first-rounder, to the Patriots in exchange for WR Brandin Cooks, who they later locked up with a five-year contract extension. Acquiring Cooks makes an already-good offense even better and deeper.

The offense was 10th in the NFL with 5,784 yards, but it led the league with 478 points, which was 20 points better than the second-place Patriots. Goff threw for 3,804 yards and 28 touchdowns, with just seven interceptions in 15 games. Gurley had 279 rushes for 1,305 yards and 13 touchdowns, to go along with a team-high 64 receptions for 788 yards and six touchdowns in 15 games. Rookie WR Cooper Kupp also played in 15 games — six starts — and caught 62 balls for 869 yards and five touchdowns. WR Robert Woods added 56 catches for 781 yards and five scores in 12 games. Cooks recorded 65 receptions for the Patriots, going for 1,082 yards and seven scores. The defense was in the middle third of the league in both yards and points allowed.

The Rams’ start their season in the final game of Week 1, visiting the Raiders in the second half of the Monday NIght Football doubleheader. They’re at home for their next three games, starting with the Cardinals coming to Los Angeles in Week 2. That’s followed by visits from the Chargers and Vikings. The Rams then have three straight on the road, starting with a Week 5 contest at the Seahawks. They visit the Broncos in Week 6 and the 49ers in Week 7, then return home to take on Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. The Rams play at the Saints in Week 9, and that is followed by a home game against the Seahawks in Week 10. The Rams are the designated home team in Week 11 when they play the Chiefs in a Monday night contest in Mexico City. That is followed by a Week 12 bye, then consecutive road games against the Lions and Bears. The Rams host the Super Bowl LII champion Eagles in Week 15’s Sunday nighter and visit the Cardinals in Week 16. They end the regular season at home against the 49ers in Week 17.

The Rams scored more points than any team in the league last season and they added to their offensive attack by trading for Cooks this offseason. After last season, it appears to be obvious that Goff and Gurley are both the real deal. It may be hard for Gurley to duplicate the numbers he put up last season, but he should be able to surpass 1,000 rushing yards while putting up numbers in the passing game as well. The defense, led by DT Aaron Donald, could be better but if the offense can continue putting points on the board like it did in 2017, the defense shouldn’t be too much of a drag on the team. The Rams have some tough teams on the schedule this season, including two games against an improved 49ers team, but with the talent they have they should be able to get to double-digit wins again, which will likely be good enough to reach the playoffs for a second straight season.

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

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5th Annual 32 in 32ish NFL Previews: Philadelphia Eagles

The next team up in our NFC East previews, part of our previews of all 32 NFL teams, is the Philadelphia Eagles, who won the division last season, going on to win Super Bowl LII.

Despite losing starting QB Carson Wentz late in the regular season last year, the Eagles managed to make it through the playoffs with QB Nick Foles and win the first Super Bowl title in franchise history, beating the Patriots in Super Bowl LII. They’ll look to defend their title with much of their championship team intact, along with the addition of WR Mike Wallace and TE Dallas Goedert, who the Eagles selected with their first-round pick in this year’s draft to essentially replace TE Brent Celek, who the Eagles released this offseason. They have also lost last year’s leading rusher, RB LeGarrette Blount.

The offense ranked seventh in the NFL with 5,852 yards and third with 457 points scored. Wentz started the team’s first 13 games in his second season in the league. He threw for 3,296 yards with 33 touchdowns and just seven interceptions before suffering ACL and LCL tears that ended his season early. Foles took over the starting job that point, appearing in seven games total in the regular season — including the three starts — and throwing for 537 yards and five touchdowns, with two interceptions. TE Zach Ertz hauled in 74 receptions in 14 games — 13 starts — to lead the team; those catches went for 824 yards and eight touchdowns. WR Nelson Agholor recording 62 catches for 768 yards and eight touchdowns, while WR Alshon Jeffery caught 57 passes for 789 yards and a team-high nine touchdowns. Wallace had 52 receptions for 748 yards and four scores in 15 games, including 14 starts, with the Ravens. After Blount, RB Corey Clement was the team’s second-leading rusher with 74 carries for 321 yards and four touchdowns. RB Jay Ajayi played in seven games for the Eagles after being traded there by the Dolphins. In those games, he totaled 70 rushes for 408 yards and a touchdown. The defense was fourth in the league in both yards and points allowed.

The Eagles’ title defense begins with the traditional Thursday night opener, with the Falcons coming to Philadelphia. After that, the Eagles visit the Buccaneers in Week 2 and return home to play the Colts in Week 3. A visit to the Titans follows in Week 4, and then the Eagles host the Vikings in a rematch of last season’s NFC Championship. The Eagles play their first divisional game in Week 6 when they go to New Jersey to face the Giants. They play the Panthers in Week 7, then head overseas to take on the Jaguars in London. After a Week 9 bye, the Eagles return stateside to host the Cowboys. In Week 11, they play at the Saints and then host the Giants in Week 12. Two more divisional games follow that, with the Redskins coming to Philadelphia in Week 13 and the Eagles visiting the Cowboys in Week 14. The Eagles head to Los Angeles to play the Rams in Week 15 before flying back across the country to host the Texans in Week 16. Their regular-season finale has them on the road to take on the Redskins in Week 17.

With less than two weeks to go before the Eagles play their first game of the regular season, there is still some question about whether Wentz will be ready to take the field in Week 1. If he’s not, Foles will continue to start until Wentz is able to come back and take over the starting job. But that’s not the only injury concern for the Eagles. Jeffery continues to recover from offseason rotator cuff surgery, which could cause him to miss the beginning of the season. It is possible he could start the season on the physically-unable-to-perform list, which would cause him to miss the first six weeks of the season. With those injury concerns and division rivals like the Giants and Cowboys expected to be better this season, I don’t think the Eagles will go 13-3 again this season. They’re still the best team in the division and should make the playoffs with 10 or 11 wins, but the Eagles will likely take a step backward from what they did during the regular season in 2017.

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

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

Continuing with the NFC East in our previews of all 32 NFL teams, it’s time for the New York Giants, who finished in last place in the division last season.

After going 11-5 in 2016, the Giants had a disappointing season in 2017 and won just three games, giving them their worst record since going 3-12-1 in 1983. One good thing about having that poor of a record was getting the No. 2 overall pick in this year’s draft. The Giants used that pick to get Penn State RB Saquon Barkley, who was considered by many to be the best running back in the draft. The Giants have struggled at that position in recent years, so getting Barkley should help the offense. They also signed veteran RB Jonathan Stewart to serve as the backup to Barkley. Other players they added this offseason include OT Nate Solder, WR Cody Latimer and CB William Gay. They did lose a couple of veterans, though, when they traded DE Jason Pierre-Paul to the Buccaneers and cut WR Brandon Marshall.

The offense ranked 21st in the NFL with 5,028 yards and their 246 points put them ahead of just the winless Browns among the league’s 32 teams. QB Eli Manning had one of the worst seasons of his career, throwing for 3,468 yards and 19 touchdowns, with 13 interceptions, in 15 games. Rookie TE Evan Engram led the team with 64 receptions for 722 yards and six touchdowns in 15 games. WR Sterling Shepard played in 11 games, catching 59 balls for 731 yards and two touchdowns. WR Odell Beckham missed most of the season with an ankle injury; he played in just four games, recording 25 catches for 302 yards and three touchdowns in his limited playing time. Latimer had 19 catches in 11 games with the Broncos, going for 287 yards and a touchdown. RB Wayne Gallman — who is now behind Barkley and Stewart on the depth chart — was the team’s second-leading rusher last year, carrying the ball 111 times for 476 yards in 13 games, but just one start; he also had 34 receptions for 193 yards and a touchdown. With the Panthers, Stewart carried the ball 198 times in 15 games, running for 680 yards and six touchdowns. The defense ranked near the bottom of the league in both yards and points allowed.

The Giants’ schedule begins at home against the Jaguars, then they hit the road to take on the Cowboys in Week 2’s Sunday night game. They play another game in Texas in Week 3, this time it’s at the Texans. The Giants host the Saints in Week 4, then play at the Panthers in Week 5, allowing Stewart to face his old team for the first time. They have their first of two games against the Super Bowl LII champion Eagles at home in Week 6 before visiting the Falcons in Week 7. A Week 8 home game against the Redskins is followed by the Giants’ bye in Week 9. After that, they head west to take on the 49ers in Week 10. They host the Buccaneers — and Pierre-Paul — in Week 11, then visit the Eagles in Week 12. The Giants host the Bears in Week 13, then have a Week 14 road game against the Redskins. The Giants face AFC South opponents after that, a home game with the Titans in Week 15, followed by a road game against the Colts in Week 16. The Giants wrap up their season at home against the Cowboys in Week 17.

The Giants only won three games last year, but they won’t be that bad this year. They’ll get Beckham back after he missed most of last season, and if Barkley can leave up to the hype that will give the team a star at a position where they have struggled to find a productive player in the last several players. There is still a question about how Manning will do this season as the 37-year-old quarterback is on the backside of his career. Manning and the subpar defense are why I think the Giants will have another losing record. They may win six or seven games, but I don’t think they’ll do much better than that in 2018.

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

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5th Annual 32 in 32ish NFL Previews: Dallas Cowboys

The NFC East is up next in our continuing previews of all 32 NFL teams, beginning with the Dallas Cowboys, who finished in second place in the division last season.

A year after QB Tony Romo retired, TE Jason Witten — one of his favorite targets — also called it a career to go into broadcasting. But Witten isn’t the only veteran pass-catcher to leave the Cowboys this offseason. The team released WR Dez Bryant, who has yet to sign with another team. The offseason wasn’t all about departures, though. The Cowboys signed DE Kony Ealy and WR Allen Hurns, in addition to trading a sixth-round draft pick to the Rams for WR Tavon Austin. In the draft, the Cowboys took LB Leighton Vander Esch in the first round and WR Michael Gallup in the third round, both of whom could have an impact on the team this season. Entering last season, much of the talk about the Cowboys was regarding the looming suspension for RB Ezekiel Elliott, but with that behind him Elliott can now focus on his performance for the upcoming season.

The Cowboys were around the middle of the NFL last season with 5,311 yards and 354 points. In his sophomore season, QB Dak Prescott had a big of a regression in his stats. He threw for 3,324 yards, 22 touchdowns and 13 interceptions; he also had six rushing touchdowns on 57 runs. Aside from Bryant and Witten, WR Terrance Williams was the team’s top receiver, hauling in 53 receptions for 568 yards but not finding the end zone at all. WR Cole Beasley caught 36 balls for 314 yards and four touchdowns. Hurns had 39 receptions for 484 yards and two touchdowns in 10 games — eight starts — with the Jaguars. Elliott was limited to 10 games due to his suspension, and he carried the ball 242 times for 983 yards and seven touchdowns and RB Rod Smith scored four times on 55 carries. The defense finished in the top 10 in yards allowed and top 15 in points allowed.

The schedule kicks off on the road with a Week 1 contest against the Panthers. The Giants come to AT&T Stadium for the Cowboys’ home opener in Week 2. The Cowboys continue to alternate home and road games, visiting the Seahawks in Week 3 and hosting the Lions in Week 4. After that, they get a Sunday nighter at the Texans followed by a home game with the Jaguars in Week 6. The Cowboys visit the Redskins in Week 7, which takes them into their Week 8 bye. Out of the bye, the Cowboys have a Monday night home game against the Titans, then they visit the Super Bowl LII champion Eagles in Week 10’s Sunday night game. They visit the Falcons in Week 11, which is followed by three straight home games. The homestand starts with the middle game of the Thanksgiving tripleheader, with the Redskins visiting the Cowboys in Week 12. The Saints come to town for the Thursday nighter in Week 13, and the Cowboys host the Eagles in Week 14. The Cowboys visit the Colts in Week 15 and host the Buccaneers in Week 16 before ending the regular season at the Giants in Week 17.

Losing Witten and Bryant is a blow to the Cowboys offense, but Hurns could be a worthy replacement if he can play all 16 games and return to the 1,000-yard receiver that he was in 2015. And having Elliott for the whole season should also be a boost for Prescott and the offense. There has been a recent setback for the offense, though, when C Travis Frederick was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare autoimmune disease that could cause him to miss the season. The Cowboys are the second best team in the division and should be in content to get a wild card in the NFC. They won nine games last year, and if the main players in their offense can stay healthy they may be able to get up to 10 or 11 wins this season, putting them in the midst of the playoff race.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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