Tag Archives: Super Bowl

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

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

Thursday Night Football

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

Sunday 1PM games

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday 4PM games

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

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

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

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

Sunday Night Football

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

Monday Night Football

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

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5th Annual 32 in 32ish NFL Previews: Playoff predictions and Super Bowl LIII 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

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: 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 England Patriots

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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5th Annual 32 in 32ish NFL Previews: 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 won the division last season.

The Saints won the division last season for the first time since 2011 with an 11-5 record, thanks in part to the emergence of rookie RB Alvin Kamara after taking a chance on veteran RB Adrian Peterson, who didn’t work out. This offseason, the team added depth to the offense with the signings of TE Ben Watson, RB Shane Vereen, and WRs Cameron Meredith, Michael Floyd and Brandon Tate. In the draft, they went with DE Marcus Davenport as their first-round pick. They’re hoping these additions will help them continue the success they had last year, when they had their first winning season in four years.

The offense was second in the NFL with 6,259 yards and fourth with 448 points scored in 2017. Despite the team’s high offensive ranks, QB Drew Brees had his fewest passing yards and touchdowns in more than a decade with 4,334 yards and 23 touchdowns. He did, however, throw just eight interceptions, which was the lowest total of his career in a season in which he played all 16 games. WR Michael Thomas had a team-best 104 receptions for 1,245 yards and five touchdowns. Kamara was the team’s second-best pass-catcher with 81 receptions for 826 yards and five touchdowns. WR Ted Ginn played in 15 games, including 10 starts, and caught 53 balls for 787 yards and four touchdowns. With the Ravens, Watson had 61 catches for 522 yards and four touchdowns, while Meredith had 66 receptions for 888 yards and four scores in 14 games — 10 starts — with the Bears. RB Mark Ingram was the team’s leading rusher, carrying the ball 230 times for 1,124 yards and 12 touchdowns, with 58 catches for an additional 416 yards. Kamara had 120 rushes for 728 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground. Defensively, the Saints ranked near the middle of the league in yards allowed and 10th in points allowed.

The Saints have two consecutive home games to open the season, the first against the Buccaneers — who will be without QB Jameis Winston — and the second against the Browns. They then hit the road for a Week 3 game at the Falcons and a Week 4 contest at the Giants. After returning home to face the Redskins in Week 5, the Saints have their bye in Week 6. Week 7 sees them traveling to Baltimore to take on the Ravens, followed by a visit to the Vikings. They host the Rams in Week 9 and the Super Bowl LII champion Eagles come to New Orleans to take on the Saints in Week 11. The Saints host the Falcons in Week 12 in the nightcap of the Thanksgiving tripleheader, and then they head out on a three-game road trip. It begins at the Cowboys in Week 13, followed by contests at the Bucs and Panthers. The Saints host the Steelers in Week 16 and end the regular season at home with another game against the Panthers.

The Saints’ window is likely closing with Brees now 39 years old and on the backend of his career, but having a top running back tandem like Ingram and Kamara — once the former returns from his four-game PED suspension — allows the offense to rack up yards and points without relying as much on the veteran quarterback as the team has in the past. The defense last year was one of the best the Saints have had in a while, and if that continues into 2018 the Saints will likely be able to make the postseason again, with another season of double-digit wins a distinct possibility. With the team owning just one Super Bowl title in its history, the Saints are hoping to get another championship before Brees eventually retires.

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

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5th 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 came in third place in the division last season .

A season after playing in Super Bowl LI the Falcons finished in third place in the NFC South, but their 10-6 record was good enough to earn one of the conference’s wild cards. The Falcons still have one of the top quarterback-receiver tandems in the league with QB Matt Ryan and WR Julio Jones, and they added to their offensive depth this offseason by taking WR Calvin Ridley with their first pick in the draft. They also signed TE Logan Paulsen to serve as the No. 2 at the position.

The offense ranked eighth in the NFL last season with 5,837 yards and they were 15th with 353 points. Ryan’s 2017 numbers were down significantly from 2016; he threw for 4,095 yards with 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Jones had 88 receptions for 1,444 yards — which was the second most in the league — but just three touchdowns. WR Mohamed Sanu caught 67 balls for 703 yards and five touchdowns in 15 games, and TE Austin Hooper added 49 catches for 526 yards and three touchdowns. RB Devonta Freeman was the team’s top rusher with 196 attempts for 865 yards and seven touchdowns in 14 games, adding 36 receptions for another 317 yards and a touchdown. RB Tevin Coleman played in 15 games, including three starts, and ran the ball 156 times for 628 yards and five touchdowns, with another three scores through the air. The Falcons were pretty good defensively, as well, ranking ninth in yards allowed and eighth in points allowed.

The Falcons’ season begins with the season opener as they visit the Super Bowl LII champion Eagles on the first Thursday night of the season. After that they have three straight home games, beginning with divisional rivals the Panthers and Saints, followed by the Bengals in Week 4. They then head to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers in Week 5 before hosting the Buccaneers in Week 6. The Falcons host the Giants in Week 7 before their Week 8 bye. Coming out of the off week, they have consecutive road games at the Redskins and Browns. A home date with the Cowboys is on the slate for Week 11, followed by a Week 12 game at the Saints. The Falcons head to Lambeau Field to take on the Packers in Week 14 and host the Cardinals in Week 15. They then end the regular season with back-to-back road games, at the Panthers and Buccaneers.

The NFC South is a tough division, with three of the four teams having made the playoffs a year ago. The Falcons may be the best all-around team in the division, with a strong offense and a defense that was in the top 10 in the league in 2017. If the defense can continue that success into this season, it will help the Falcons stay out of shootouts against teams like the Saints and Falcons. They have a relatively easy schedule on paper, including a game with the Browns. I think the Falcons should be able to get to double-digit wins again this year, with another postseason appearance likely for the team that hopes to return to the Super Bowl after a one-year hiatus.

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

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