post

Week 1 NFL Overreactions

One of my favorite new NFL traditions is the abundance of overreactions following Week 1 of the NFL Season. These topics dominate the radio waves, social media feeds, podcast discussions and barroom debates. Now, I am not at all suggesting I am above this practice. Therefore, I am compelled to share my observations (or overreactions) from Week 1. 

Bills and Cardinals will be forced to play their Josh’s sooner than later

Buffalo and Arizona look destined for very long seasons. What else do they common? They invested top-ten picks in quarterbacks (which also happen to be named Josh). Most teams prefer the scenario where the rookie QB doesn’t have to play right away. But if their performances in Week 1 are a sign of things to come, the Bills and Cardinals could be out of playoff contention by October. Assuming that will be the case, there won’t be any logical reason for the rookie QBs to maintain clipboard duties. These teams clearly invested these picks with the hopes of finding their next franchise quarterbacks, and I anticipate both will make their debuts very soon. Even if neither is “the guy”, the sooner they play, the sooner they will have an answer. 

Andrew Luck can’t carry the Colts

Indy is rejoicing with the return of Andrew Luck. Make no mistake about it; having a franchise QB is the most valuable asset in the NFL. And give Colts credit for having that. However, I can’t quite be jealous of a franchise that went from Manning to Luck seamlessly, but I digress. However, despite having the QB back and healthy, the rest of the roster is still a lot to be desired. There’s no doubt an elite quarterback can cover up for a team’s flaws. But based off Sunday’s loss to the Bengals, that task looks insurmountable for Luck. A 7-9 finish looks like the ceiling for the Colts. Hopefully, the 2019 offseason leads to a more concerted effort to build around their star QB. Don’t get me wrong, I like what the Colts did this past draft, with their high pick investments in the offensive line. But, I doubt that will be enough to get the Colts back into contention this season.

The Giants will be haunted by passing on Sam Darnold

For the record, I am a big fan of Saquon Barkley. I’d go as far to say he has superstar potential. But even if he reaches his full potential, I have a tough time believing that selecting Barkley with the #2 overall pick over Sam Darnold will end up being the correct, long-term decision. It would generous to say Eli Manning’s best years are behind him. He looks cooked and the Giants are kidding themselves if they think he can reclaim the Super Bowl magic. I have a hard enough time justifying the use of a draft pick that high on a running back when you consider the shelf-life of the position and overall impact on a team’s success these days. Maybe if the Giants were a locked and loaded Super Bowl contender with a franchise QB in his prime, I could get behind adding a player like Barkley as the “missing piece”. But the Giants are coming off a 3-13 season with a 37-year starting quarterback. Oh, and I haven’t mentioned how Darnold dazzled in his NFL debut on Monday Night Football, a broadcast that had to be a tough watch for every Giants fan.

The Ravens are a legit AFC contender

This might seem like a foolish suggestion, considering my very low opinion of the Bills, who they dismantled in Week 1. But that win aside, there is a lot to like about the Ravens. They have a dominant defense and vastly improved offensive line. Baltimore has also revamped their receiving core with guys like John Brown and Michael Crabtree. Everyone including Flacco himself knows that he has been a disappointment since signing that huge contract following the 2012 Super Bowl victory. But there are three reasons why I am optimistic that he will have a good 2018. First, he appears to be completely healthy, which wasn’t the case in 2017. Secondly, he is one of the best deep-ball throwers in the NFL, something that should pair well with the weapons in the passing game. Lastly, I’m a believer in the idea that a fire it can light under a QB after the team drafts a quarterback in the first round of the draft.

Winning isn’t a priority for the Raiders

As I wrote in my most recent post, I do not have very high expectations for Oakland in 2018, despite the Jon Gruden hype. They traded away their best player a week before the season in exchange for nothing that will help them in 2018. I get the sense that Jon Gruden isn’t a major Derek Carr fan, despite his time in the MNF booth leading us to believe he loved every player in the NFL. For Gruden, he has an easy out if the Raiders fail to make the playoffs: That he didn’t draft Carr. His contract is manageable in that they will be able to cut him after next season without a significant cap penalty. I can very easily foresee a scenario where the Raiders finish with 4-6 wins, thus are able to use a high pick on a QB in 2019 with the intention for that to be the lame-duck year for Carr. Then Gruden gets to draft his guy, and build the team the way he likes as they start fresh in Sin City.

Source Credit:

http://www.foxnews.com/sports/2018/04/26/cleveland-browns-draft-baker-mayfield-with-no-1-pick-in-nfl-draft.html

post

Season-Long NFL Picks & 5 Bold Predictions

A brand new NFL season kicks off this week, starting with the defending champion, Philadelphia Eagles hosting the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday Night. With that being the case, the time is as good as any to present my annual NFL predictions.

  1. The Washington Redskins will miss Kirk Cousins

I have never been a big Alex Smith fan, primarily due to the limitations of his arm. I’ve always considered him a QB who was good enough to keep your team competitive, but not one capable of leading one to a Super Bowl. On the flipside, Kirk Cousins may be one of the more underrated and underappreciated players in the NFL. You’re probably thinking I’m crazy to suggest a player who cashed in the largest fully guaranteed contract in NFL history is underappreciated. But, with how seemingly desperate the Redskins were to get rid of Cousins, you’d think he was Tim Tebow.

The Redskins were decimated with injuries last season and Cousins still threw for over 4,000 yards and 27 touchdowns. Despite his performance, Washington made it clear they were ready to move on from him. The Minnesota Vikings, the beneficiary of the Washington fallout, filled a major void on an already loaded roster. Sure, Case Keenum played very well in 2017. However, the Vikings knew they needed to upgrade at QB in order to have a realistic shot of winning the Super Bowl. And that is exactly what they did.

  1. Jon Gruden will be a massive failure in Oakland

For the past decade, the rumors of Gruden returning to coaching have become an annual tradition. As we know, the rumor finally became reality when he left the Monday Night Football booth to return to the Oakland Raiders for an unprecedented $100 million contract. Gruden has made waves this offseason with very questionable roster moves, but none had been as puzzling as jettisoning Khalil Mack to the Chicago Bears this past weekend.

It’s hard not to be concerned about a new coach who seemed to make such a little effort to get along with the team’s best player and determine a solution to keep him. One side may argue that the move will send “a message to the locker room”. But will that be the right message? My hunch says no. I can’t imagine what it feels like to be a player on a team that traded away the best player a week before the season in exchange for nothing that will help them in 2018. While the Raiders are yet to play a game, I cannot be too optimistic based off his first offseason.

  1. NFC North will be the best division

There is a clear hierarchy of divisions across the league. But, I genuinely believe the NFC North is the strongest from top to bottom. The Vikings are a legitimate Super Bowl contender. They have a truly elite defense devoid of weaknesses. On the offensive side of the ball, Kirk Cousins takes over as the new signal caller and joins a potent passing attack and promising running game. Shift to the Packers, who get Aaron Rodgers back healthy. Unlike most Green Bay teams of the recent past, they appear to finally have a stable running game and enough play-makers on defense to prevent that side of the ball from being a liability. Like Minnesota, they’re a legitimate Super Bowl contender.

By looking to the “bottom half” of the division, the Lions and Bears do not look to be your typical bottom dwellers. The Lions should have an improved offensive line, recent additions to hopefully stabilize their running game to compliment an already strong passing game, and a good enough defense to keep them in every game this season. Last we turn to the Bears, who fortified their defense after acquiring Khalil Mack. The offense will go as far as second-year QB, Mitch Trubisky can take them, but he has enough weapons to lead a very effective offense.

  1. The Philadelphia Eagles will (eventually) be better in 2018

The defending champs enter the regular season very banged up, and most notably without Carson Wentz. Wentz was on his way to winning the NFL MVP before tearing his ACL in Los Angeles last December. As expected, it has been a long recovery and he is yet to be cleared by the doctors. With his status in addition to a handful of other players slated to miss the beginning of the season, I anticipate a bumpy start, even with the first quarter arguably being the easiest part of the schedule.

But, the Eagles will get healthy and I anticipate them getting their stride between October and November. I am also very encouraged by the offseason additions as well as the returning players who missed the Super Bowl run. Once healthy, an argument can be made for this roster being even stronger than the one that hoisted the Lombardi Trophy last February. I truly believe that the team will be fueled by those players who missed out on the triumph and will be extremely motivated to experience it for themselves. I don’t anticipate a Super Bowl hangover.

  1. Dak Prescott will continue to regress

I was alone by thinking a lot of Prescott’s rookie season was a fluke. For most of the season, he was working with ideal conditions that typically leads to a high level of performance. The offensive line and running game were elite and he had several very good options in the passing game. But now as we are entering his third NFL season, the Cowboys’ line looks in disarray and with Dez Bryant and Jason Witten gone, it won’t get any easier.

A lot of pressure comes with being the QB of the Dallas Cowboys. Despite an impressive rookie campaign, I remain extremely skeptical about his long-term potential. He had a down year in 2017 and while a lot of Cowboys supporters assume it was an anomaly, I’m more likely to believe it’s a sign of things to come. Sorry Dallas fans, Dak is a lot closer to Quincy Carter than he is to Troy Aikman or even Tony Romo.

Final Standings

AFC East
New England 11-5
New York Jets 6-10
Miami 5-11
Buffalo 2-14

AFC North
Pittsburgh 10-6
Baltimore 10-6
Cincinnati 7-9
Cleveland 4-12

AFC South
Jacksonville 11-5
Houston 10-6
Tennessee 9-7
Indianapolis 7-9

AFC West
Los Angeles Chargers 10-6
Kansas City 8-8
Denver 6-10
Oakland 4-12

NFC East
Philadelphia Eagles 11-5
New York Giants 7-9
Washington 7-9
Dallas 6-10

NFC North
Minnesota 12-4
Green Bay 10-6
Detroit 8-8
Chicago 7-9

NFC South
Atlanta 11-5
New Orleans 10-6
Carolina 9-7
Tampa Bay 6-10

NFC West
Los Angeles Rams 11-5
Seattle 9-7
San Francisco 8-8
Arizona 4-12

AFC Championship
Los Angeles over Pittsburgh

NFC Championship
Atlanta over Minnesota

Super Bowl
Atlanta over Los Angeles

 

Source Credit: https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nfl/2018/09/05/nfl-power-rankings-week-1-eagles-patriots-khalil-mack/1197206002/