Quarterback rankings for the 2017 fantasy football season: 10-1

Here’s the list you’ve all been waiting for… Quarterback Rankings for the 2017 fantasy football season: 10-1. This is the group of quarterbacks that most of you will have on your teams, especially if you’re in a 10-team league or an 8-team league. Many people have their own opinions concerning the top 3 quarterbacks that are on this list, but believe me if you can snag one of hose guys, don’t hesitate.
10. Jameis Winston (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)- Jameis is only going to get better. New targets such as OJ Howard, and Desean Jackson will team up with Mike Evans for the new look Tampa Bay offense this year. You might have to take him early, but Jameis is worth it.

(Photo: Don Juan Moore/Getty Images)

9. Russell Wilson (Seattle Seahawks)- Russell Wilson may be the most talented quarterback in the NFL. He just doesn’t have the wide receivers or offensive line to crack the top 5. Looking to run the ball more this season, the Seahawks brought in Eddie Lacy but didn’t do too much to address the problem at wideout. Other than Jimmy Graham and Doug Baldwin, Wilson is lacking targets. He’s never a risky pick so if you want to go safe go with Wilson.

8. Matthew Stafford (Detroit Lions)- Did Matt Stafford hit his peak last year? I sure think so. He’s a great player don’t get me wrong, and having Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick at full health will help, but I don’t see Stafford doing much better than last year. If you want to grab a elite level QB for the price of a second tier guy, Stafford is your man.

7. Drew Brees (New Orleans Saints)- I know what everyone is thinking, “Drew Brees deserves to be in the top 5!” Not this year. I can’t say anything bad about Brees except that he might hurt from the loss of Brandin Cooks. Michael Thomas will be great once again but it won’t be enough. I love Brees this year, I just believe that the other 6 quarterbacks will outplay him.

(http://sacrificefly.blogspot.com)

6. Matt Ryan (Atlanta Falcons)- Matt Ryan is an elite QB in the NFL. Mark my words because he will not be as good as he was last year. The dreaded super bowl hangover will haunt him and it will be hard to regain MVP status without Kyle Shanahan as his play caller. There’s nothing wrong with taking Matt Ryan this year, just don’t expect him to be a carbon copy of last year.

5. Cam Newton (Carolina Panthers)- Here is a prime example of a Super Bowl hangover. The combination of the big loss and the fact that he had to deal with a torn rotator cuff for the majority of the season, caused Cam to have the worst season of his career. Expect a bounce back year however. With new additions of Christian McCaffery and Curtis Samuel, the Panthers have the ability to have the most explosive offense in the NFL. The most important thing is if his offensive line can hold up.

4. Derek Carr (Oakland Raiders)- My way too early pick for MVP this year is Derek Carr. He’s young and hungry and looking for revenge from his early exit last year. Pair that with the receiving corps of Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree and the addition of Marshawn Lynch, Carr is in for a huge year.

3. Andrew Luck (Indianapolis Colts)- Another player who could easily be number one on this list if he could stay healthy. Andrew Luck has the size, arm strength, and arm accuracy to be successful in the NFL. He just needs more targets. Get him those targets and he is my number one quarterback.

(Foxboro, MA, 01/18/15) New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady throws in the second quarter of the AFC Championship Game against the Indianapolis Colts at Gillette Stadium on Sunday, January 18, 2015. Staff Photo by Matt Stone

2. Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay Packers)- This was by far the toughest decision I had to make. If you told me that Aaron Rodgers is the number one fantasy quarterback I’d have no problem with that, I just believe Brady is better. Rodgers has all the targets and a consistent offensive line, give him a legitimate running back and he’s my number one quarterback.

1. Tom Brady (New England Patriots)- Isn’t life just great for Tom Brady? Coming off his fifth super bowl win, he gets Brandin Cooks, Dwayne Allen and Rex Burkhead, all of whom will help out Brady immensely. Give the already best quarterback in the league a great offensive line and an influx of great receivers and running backs, he’s only going to get better.

 

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Draftmas Colts

Indianapolis Colts 2017 NFL Draft Profile

Day 14 of TGH’s Draftmas takes us to the Indianapolis Colts. What will the Colts do in the 2017 NFL Draft?

Summary

After posting another 8-8 season, frustrations in Indianapolis are beginning to boil. With a legitimate franchise quarterback in place, the Colts still couldn’t make the leap with Andrew Luck in 2016. Plagued by inconsistency, the Colts could never get things going in 2016, winning back to back games only once.

But fans have hope for 2017 with the firing of General Manager Ryan Grigson. He will be replaced by former Kansas City Director of Football Operations Chris Ballard. After seeing the success of the Chiefs, fans are hopeful Jim Irsay made the right hire. And Chris Ballard has certainly given Colts fans hope.

Ballard has signed 10 free agents since he became the GM of the Colts. That is the most in team history, and certainly shows he’s willing to do whatever necessary to return the Colts to contention. But with most of the signings being more about depth and less about immediate impact, Ballard will have to make some savvy moves come draft day.

Colts Picks and Needs

The Colts have seven picks in April’s draft. With the opportunity to find some solid players throughout the draft, Indianapolis will need to make good use of each of the following picks.

1st Round: 15th Overall

2nd Round: 46th Overall

3rd Round: 80th Overall

4th Round: 122th Overall

4th Round: 137th Overall

4th Round: 144th Overall

5th Round: 158th Overall

The Colts have a solid offense, finishing 10th in the NFL in yards per game in 2016. But the offensive line is one of the glaring weaknesses of the Colts offense. After the offensive line gave up 40 sacks in the first 13 games of the 2016 season, they could use an influx of talent. But after finishing 30th in the NFL in yards per game allowed, the defense definitely needs some attention in the 2017 NFL Draft. Here are the needs for both offense and defense.

Offense

Right Guard

Right Tackle

Running Back

Defense

Defensive End

Defensive Tackle

Inside Linebacker

 

Cornerback

Colts Targets and Thoughts

As with the previous Draftmas profiles, we will examine the first three rounds and there will be no trades.

Draftmas Colts

We will be seeing a lot of this from Derek Barnett in the NFL (Larry McCormack/The Tennessean).

First Round:

15th pick: Derek Barnett DE, Tennessee

After starting three years at Tennessee, Derek Barnett would be an excellent pick for the Colts at 14th overall. He would give Head Coach Chuck Pagano a legitimate pass rusher on the outside, one that could put his hand in the dirt and also play standing up. Pro Football Focus had Barnett pressuring the quarterback on 20% of his rushes in 2016, so he is a more than able pass rusher. Barnett was also a solid run stopper in his time at Tennessee, giving him an edge over other outside pass rushers. If Barnett lasts to the 14th pick, the Colts would be wise to grab him.

Second Round:

46th pick: Dan Feeney G, Indiana

While Dan Feeney isn’t the top rated guard in the 2017 draft class, he would be a good pick up for Chris Ballard. Feeney had an up and down 2016 at Indiana, missing some games due to injury. But when he has been on the field, Feeney has been a wall in pass protection. Over 1,239 pass block attempts in the past three seasons, Feeney has only allowed two sacks and four hits on Indiana quarterbacks. He has also logged some time at right tackle, giving him the ability to play at right tackle if need be. But with his innate pass blocking skills on the inside of the offensive line, Feeney could help put Andrew Luck’s mind at ease.

Third Round:

80th pick: Sidney Jones CB, Washington

After tearing his Achilles at Washington’s Pro Day, Sidney Jones has seen his draft stock plummet. Once a first round talent, many are predicting him outside the first three rounds. But if Chris Ballard and Chuck Pagano are willing to wait to let Jones heal, he could be a major steal in the third round. Jones didn’t allow a single touchdown in 2016, and Pro Football Focus gave him an impressive 86.1 coverage grade. He would be an excellent addition to a depleted secondary, and would play well across the field from Vontae Davis. The Colts could get a potential top flight corner back in the third round, but Ballard and Pagano will have to be comfortable with using an early round pick on a player who might not play in 2017.

Conclusion

The Colts have some major holes to fill on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. If they can land some solid players in the early rounds, don’t sleep on the Colts to make some noise in 2017. And with a franchise quarterback already in place, all the Colts need are the pieces to help carry Andrew Luck and the Colts back to the playoffs.

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Week 17 NFL Picks Against the Spread

How in the world is week 17 already upon us? It is always a tough week to pick games. No one really knows how motivated many teams are. While I understand that, winning is a hell of a lot better than losing. Thus, I firmly believe there is no such thing as a “meaningless” game. After posting a .500 mark against the spread last week, I now sit at 118-125-7 on the year. Not great, but not terrible. All spreads are from rtsports.com, my picks are bolded, and outright upsets have an asterisk. Here is to finishing the regular season strong.

*Ravens at Bengals (-2.5) – The Ravens (my preseason Super Bowl pick) tumbled out of the playoff picture last week. The Bengals were eliminated long ago. Despite calls for sweeping changes, I expect Cincinnati to resist the temptation, and rightly so. However, I struggle to see them doing much on offense. It is not sexy, but Baltimore’s edge in the kicking game will be the difference. Bal 16 Cin 13

Bills (-3.5) at Jets- Both teams are a dysfunctional mess. For reasons that depend on who you ask, EJ Manuel will get the start for Buffalo in the first game of the post Rex Ryan era. Nothing would surprise me in this game, but Buffalo’s ground game should be enough. Buf 21 NYJ 17

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

*Panthers at Bucs (-4) – Last week, the young Bucs fought for their playoff lives against a losing team loaded with talent and it didn’t go so well. This week, the situation is very similar. There is no reason to think it will go any differently. Another year of seasoning and Tampa Bay could be really special. Last week showed they are not quite ready. Car 27 TB 24

*Bears at Vikings (-6) – Many times season finales simply come down to who is playing harder. This matchup could be a classic case of that. The Vikings have more talent, but the Bears have been playing much harder for the last month or so. Chi 19 Min 16

Browns at Steelers (-5.5) – The Browns will not go winless, and they deserve credit for that as well as playing hard all year long. With Pittsburgh locked into playoff position and playing it coy about resting starters, the line is not as big as one might expect. Unfortunately for Cleveland, the Steelers backups are better than the Browns starters. After this game, the Browns will officially be on the clock. Pit 30 Cle 21

*Cowboys at Eagles (-4.5) – This line is a stunner. Dallas is making no secret of its plans to limit reps of starters, particularly quarterback Dak Prescott. Even so a 13-2 team getting points against a 6-9 team is eye popping and too good to pass up. Dallas has a surplus of solid running backs and Mark Sanchez and Tony Romo are not nearly as bad as the mainstream media would like you to believe. Dal 24 Phi 20

*Texans at Titans (-3)- Just like we all thought a few weeks ago, this game will feature a Tom Savage vs Matt Cassel quarterback duel and Houston, not Tennessee is locked into the playoffs. No telling what could happen here. When in doubt, go with the best unit. That would be the Texans defense. Hou 20 Ten 13

Jaguars at Colts (-4.5) – Jacksonville did a nice job of playing spoiler last week, but that does not change the fact that both of these teams had high expectations that ended in disaster this year. Something tells me Andrew Luck is too much of a pros pro not to finish the season really strong. Ind 28 Jac 17

Patriots (-9.5) at Dolphins – The Patriots need this game to lock down home field advantage in the playoffs. If last year taught them anything, it should be the importance of having home field. Miami has always been a tough place to play for Brady’s Bunch. The Dolphins will look to get backup quarterback Matt Moore as sharp as possible for the playoffs while Ryan Tannehill races to get healthy. This will not be a blowout. NE 27 Mia 21

Cardinals (-6.5) at Rams- The Rams are plain awful and the Cardinals are merely average. David Johnson is the only reason to watch this game. The coaching search in LA will be fascinating. Ari 27 LA 13

Chiefs (-4.5) at Chargers- Sadly, what is likely the Chargers final game in San Diego will end with a division rival celebrating a straightforward win. It quite possibly could be a division title along with a first round bye. KC 27 SD 13

Saints at Falcons (-7) – These two teams always play wacky games. Atlanta locks up a first round bye with a win. Even with Matt Ryan playing at an MVP level, the team as a whole should not scare anyone. There is something to be said for finding ways to win. Atlanta should continue that trend here, but do not expect Drew Brees and company to roll over and play dead. Atl 31 NO 28

Giants at Redskins (-7.5) – Playoff scenarios make my head hurt. According to everything I have read, the only way Washington wins this game and misses the playoffs is if the night game ends in a tie. Much like the Steelers, no one seems to know how the playoff bound Giants will approach this one. As dangerous as the Redskins could be in the playoffs, it is hard to see the Giants letting them coast. Was 30 NYG 24

Raiders at Broncos (-1.5) – The reigning champs have really struggled down the stretch and will not be going back to the playoffs. However, keeping a fierce rival like Oakland from the division title and the chance to finish with a winning record is plenty of incentive. Denver will take one last good look at both of its young quarterbacks. The Raiders fairytale season took a sad turn last week with the injury to MVP candidate Derek Carr. The Broncos defense is not an ideal one for backup Matt McGloin to face as he tries to rally the troops for a playoff run. Den 24 Oak 19

Seahawks (-9.5) at 49ers- The state of the Seahawks is worrisome. Getting pushed around for the majority of the game by Arizona just should not happen to this team. Thankfully for them, a first round bye could still happen and the 49ers are not much of a threat. Sea 30 SF 13

Packers (-3) at *Lions– The importance of this game may shift a bit depending on earlier results. Regardless, the winner of this Sunday Night showdown will take the division title and the loser may be headed home to watch the playoffs. Both offenses are rolling behind two very hot quarterbacks. There will not be many defensive stops on either side. It is more of a gut feeling than anything else, but Detroit’s defense uses the home crowd to get one more stop in the closing moments. Det 38 GB 34

Photo courtesy of zambio.com

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Hagan’s Haus NFL Picks (Week 17)

(Peter Diana/Post-Gazette)

(Peter Diana/Post-Gazette)

The final week of the NFL season is already here. Hopefully everyone had a great Christmas and is ready to welcome in the new year. It seems like the season just started yesterday but after this week the 12 teams participating in the playoffs will become official.

Currently, the AFC teams are all clinched and the only thing that remains is the seeding. In the AFC, the division winners are the Patriots, Steelers, and Texans. The Dolphins are one of the wildcard teams. The two remaining teams that have clinched a playoff spot are the Raiders and Chiefs, but depending on how week 17 goes one will win the division and the other will be a wildcard team.

The NFC is much more complicated than the AFC. In the NFC, three teams have already won their division: The Cowboys, Seahawks, and Falcons. The Giants have clinched one of the two wildcard spots. The NFC North title is on the line when the Lions and Packers face off. The Redskins and Buccaneers are not in the playoffs at the moment but depending on how the week plays out they are two teams that still have a shot at getting a wildcard spot.

Last week was rough and there were a lot of games that surprised the NFL world. All of the week 17 games are on Sunday for the only time of the season. It is important to end the season with a good week and without further ado, here are Hagan’s Haus week 17 NFL picks.

Last Week: 7-9

Season: 139-97-2

Sunday Morning

(http://thevikingage.com/2016/12/21/adam-thielen-minnesota-vikings-packers-week-16/)

(http://thevikingage.com/2016/12/21/adam-thielen-minnesota-vikings-packers-week-16/)

Chicago (3-12) 24 @ Minnesota (7-8) 31: Both teams are eliminated from the playoffs so this game is about pride. Earlier this season the Bears beat the Vikings on Halloween on Monday Night Football. The Vikings wish they had that game back and they might have made the playoffs. This game is in Minnesota and their offense is playing much better than it was during their last meeting. The Vikings’ season was littered with injuries and was a disappointment, but they will end it on a positive note.

Baltimore (8-7) 23 @ Cincinnati (5-9-1) 20: This is another meaningless divisional matchup with pride being the only thing on the line. The Ravens were a much better team than I had anticipated this season. Although they can’t make the playoffs, they should win this game.

Houston (9-6) 20 @ Tennessee (8-7) 14: Tennessee suffered a heartbreaking blow last week when Marcus Mariota broke his leg, but there is promise for the future. They have an upcoming defense that has enjoyed some success so far. Their two-headed monster in the backfield is one of the best in the NFL. If they can continue to grow next season, they will be in the playoffs. Houston will be using this game as a tune-up for the playoffs and should win this game on the road.

(Photo: Don Juan Moore/Getty Images)

(Photo: Don Juan Moore/Getty Images)

Carolina (6-9) 17 @ Tampa Bay (8-7) 20: This game is meaningful for the Bucs who still have a shot at making the playoffs. Having this game at home will help their chances and they already beat the Panthers 17 to 14 earlier this season, which should make them confident. The Panthers had an extremely disappointing season after a Super Bowl appearance last year. Carolina would love to go out with a win on the year along with ruining the chances of a divisional rival. The Bucs will get the win and hope for help in making the playoffs.

Jacksonville (3-12) 24 @ Indianapolis (7-8) 27: Andrew Luck worked wonders this season to keep the Colts around .500. If this team wants to become a playoff contender, they need to build their offensive line and defense. Jacksonville got an upset win against the Titans after they fired their head coach. The Jags have a lot of talent on their roster and with the right coach they can make major leaps next season. Only one team can end the season on a high note and Luck will be the difference.

(http://www.baltimoresun.com/sports/ravens/ravens-insider/bal-tom-brady-and-the-patriots-wont-cheat-for-a-while-20150903-story.html)

(http://www.baltimoresun.com/sports/ravens/ravens-insider/bal-tom-brady-and-the-patriots-wont-cheat-for-a-while-20150903-story.html)

New England (13-2) 27 @ Miami (10-5) 17: This game features two teams who are guaranteed a spot in the playoffs. New England is looking to solidify home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. They have something to play for. The Dolphins really don’t benefit from a win and they may rest their players to stay healthy for a playoff run. Pats will win this game in Miami.

Buffalo (7-8) 31 @ New York (J) (4-11) 29: The Bills thought this would be the year they ended their playoff drought but it did not come to an end. The Jets had a bad year as well and seem to have no direction. The Jets run defense has given up 100 yards per game over the season and the Bills are on of the best rushing teams. Bills should win to finish the season 8-8.

Dallas (13-2) 24 @ Philadelphia (6-9) 23: This is the game that the Cowboys will create whispers in. The Cowboys do not want their players to get hurt and thus they should rest them. This means Tony Romo may get a chance to start. If Romo starts and plays well, Jerry Jones won’t know what to do with himself. The Cowboys will still win this game and it may be because of Tony Romo.

Sunday Afternoon

(http://www.si.com/extra-mustard/2016/09/27/falcons-saints-matt-ryan-block-video)

(http://www.si.com/extra-mustard/2016/09/27/falcons-saints-matt-ryan-block-video)

New Orleans (7-8) 31 @ Atlanta (10-5) 30: The Falcons have wrapped up the NFC South but are still looking to earn a first-round bye. A win and they will clinch that bye. The Saints are a divisional opponent who will be looking to spoil their rival in any way possible. The Saints defense has played much better than earlier in the season and there is an opportunity to pull off an upset.

New York (G) (10-5) 21 @ Washington (8-6-1) 23: The Giants are locked into a wildcard spot and there isn’t much room for movement in terms of seeding. The Redskins need a win and some help to get the final wildcard spot in the NFC but it is possible. The Giants may want to rest some of their stars to make sure they are ready for the playoffs and that will be the reason the Redskins win.

Arizona (6-8-1) 24 @ Los Angeles (4-11) 20: The Rams got swept by the 49ers and that in itself tells you how bad this team is. They finally fired Jeff Fisher and need a new head coach to set the team in the right direction. Arizona was not as good as most expected but their defense is still one of the best in the NFL. They will shut down the middle school offense that is the Rams to secure a win.

(http://www.espn.com/nfl/player/_/id/16593/matt-mcgloin)

(http://www.espn.com/nfl/player/_/id/16593/matt-mcgloin)

Oakland (12-3) 17 @ Denver (8-7) 20: Oakland is the most unfortunate team to be guaranteed a playoff spot. The loss of Derek Carr is monumental and they will not be able to recover from it. The Raiders will lose this game and in all likelihood will be one in done in the playoffs. The Broncos would rather be in the playoffs but they will settle for ending the season on a high note.

Kansas City (11-4) 31 @ San Diego (5-10) 10: The Chiefs can still win the division and get a first-round bye with a win and a Raiders loss. With the injury to Derek Carr, the Chiefs have found some luck. They play great defense and do not turnover the football. Explosive rookie Tyreek Hill has been a great addition to the offensive and he provides big plays. The Chiefs will win this game, and get help from the Raiders to win the AFC West.

Seattle (9-5-1) 34 @ San Fransisco (2-13) 14: The 49ers are having an abysmal year and unless it is against the Rams they can’t get a win. Seattle is preparing for yet another run at a Lombardi Trophy. Even with this game on the road, the Seahawks can control this game.

usa-today-8928097-0

(http://packersguru.com/2016/09/25/packers-vs-lions-the-good-bad-and-ok-from-week-3/

Sunday Night

Green Bay (9-6) 31 @ Detroit (9-6) 28: The biggest game of the week is between these two teams. The division title is on the line and the winner will be guaranteed a spot in the playoffs. Since Aaron Rodgers said the Packers could run the table they have gone 5-0. One more win will make him a prophet. The Lions are in the midst of a losing streak and it won’t end this week. The Packers have a legend behind center and he will lead them to the playoffs.

 

 

 

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Week 14 NFL Picks Against the Spread

Well, my hot streak only lasted a week. I fell back to a very mediocre 7-8 against the spread last week. The Lions made me look smart, the Jets not so much. With the Chiefs win Thursday night, I am a game to the good for this week as we head in to Sunday. My season record now sits at 95-100-6. It is nice to still have so many meaningful games this late in the season. Outright upsets have an asterisk. Spreads are from rtsports.com at the time of my writing. Let’s roll.

Cardinals (-2) at*Dolphins- Miami got whitewashed last week, but that happens. They are the better team here. The Dolphins big weakness is stopping the run. David Johnson of Arizona is a true workhorse back, a rarity in today’s NFL. Miami’s Jay Ajayi is no slouch though. He, along with the rest of Miami’s offense should be able to keep Johnson on the sidelines just enough. Arizona’s lack of consistency and depth on offense has hurt them all year and will continue to do so here. Mia 21 Ari 20

Bears at Lions (-7) – Matthew Stafford is a legit MVP candidate and the Lions are going to make the playoffs. However, there is something about this matchup. Despite being atrocious, the Bears play well in their division, notching two of their three wins on the season in such games. This includes knocking off the Lions. That will not happen again. The Lions have too much to play for, but I refuse to believe they can blowout consecutive opponents. Also, Chicago is playing its best football of the season (relatively speaking) behind third string quarterback Matt Barkley. Det 30 Chi 27

Bengals (-5) at Browns- This is one of a precious few games that have absolutely no playoff implications this week, but it is not lacking a story. Robert Griffin III is now healthy. He will get a chance to resurrect his career down the stretch and save the Browns from going winless beginning with this game. Cincinnati’s season has been a total bust when you consider preseason expectations. Strangely, the Browns have much more to play for here. Thus, an upset would not shock me. However, the gap in roster talent is just too large for me to call it. Cin 24 Cle 16

photo from ooyuz.com

photo from ooyuz.com

*Broncos at Titans (-1) – This could wind up being an elimination game in terms of the playoffs. As presently constructed, these teams are pretty much even. Tennessee has an edge just about everywhere on offense, but the same can be said for Denver on defense. When it is this close in terms of personnel, track record comes into play. Denver has spent the last half decade playing games like this, and usually winning. This is uncharted territory for the Titans. Denver finds a way to get it done and stay very relevant in the hotly contested AFC West race. Den 17 Ten 13

Texans at Colts (-6.5) – Credit Houston for being in the race in December despite horrendous quarterback play, but it has finally caught up with them. The better quarterbacks win games and divisions more often than not. Andrew Luck > Brock Osweiler. Ind 31 Hou 17

Vikings (-3) at Jaguars- Here you have two offenses that have not been able to do much all year. The Vikings remain alive in the playoff race thanks to their defense and special teams. Jacksonville is not so fortunate. Minnesota seemed to find something in a losing effort last week against Dallas. They are a little bit better than Jacksonville across the board. Quite frankly, the pregame legends of wrestling event may be more entertaining than the actual game. I wish I lived in Jacksonville so I could see some of my childhood heroes like Ric Flair in action. Oh well, the Vikings are a strong bet here. Min 20 Jac 12

Steelers (-2) at *Bills – The Steelers secondary is prone to giving up the big play. Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor can extend plays with is legs. Both teams are scraping to reach the playoffs. As a whole, the Steelers are probably a tick better. However, the big play potential is enough for me to take a flyer on the upset. Buf 27 Pit 21

Chargers at Panthers (-1.5) – These are possibly the two most talented teams with bad records I have ever seen. Everything that could go wrong for these teams has. To me there is nothing that says Carolina will win, especially with all the drama that has gone on this week. However, I have been burned enough by that thought process this year. I will go the other way. Car 24 SD 21

Redskins (-2) at Eagles- It took a while, but the Eagles are finally starting to look as bad as we all thought they would before the season started. Meanwhile, the Redskins are desperate to keep their hopes for a wild-card playoff spot alive. With that offense, they are still very dangerous. If they do somehow sneak in to the playoffs, they will not be a comfortable matchup for anyone. Was 31 Phi 20

*Jets at 49ers (-2.5) – No doubt this is a terrible game between two awful teams, but I will add some spice to it. This is my favorite NFL pick of the year. I do not care that the Jets decided not to show up last week and are now starting Bryce Petty at quarterback. The 49ers should not be a favorite over anybody. NYJ 14 SF 10

Rams at Falcons (-6.5) – Watching the Rams play offense is just painful. They are averaging 12 points a game and have not reached the playoffs since their glory days in St. Louis. Yet, everyone in leadership positions just got new contracts. By no means am I crazy about the Falcons, but they will probably win their division by default and I have zero faith in the Rams. Atl 21 LA 9

*Saints at Bucs (-2.5) – The young Bucs continue to impress, but I continue to expect a letdown at some point. The Saints remain dangerous as long as Drew Brees is taking snaps. The Bucs hot streak has really come from nowhere. This is a whole new ballgame for most of their key guys. It is reasonable to speculate that they will eventually be overwhelmed by the occasion of big-time December football. NO 28 TB 27

Seahawks (-3) at Packers- Depending on other results, the Seahawks could lock up a division title here. Last week, they did what they always do, follow up the occasional clunker that they are somewhat known for with a dominant performance. If running back Thomas Rawls can finally stay healthy and give them the ground game they thought he would at the start of the year, this team becomes all the more dangerous, if that is possible. Even with Aaron Rodgers suddenly doing a much better job of carrying the Packers franchise again, a great football team always beats a great quarterback surrounded by 52 other random dudes. Sea 27 GB 17

photo from profootballfocus.com

photo from profootballfocus.com

Cowboys (-3.5) at Giants – The half-point makes me nervous here. This game is always close. The Giants remain the lone blemish on the season for the Cowboys. I am nowhere near as down on Eli Manning as the rest of the world after his shaky performance last week in Pittsburgh, but there is not a single thing the Giants do better than Dallas on a consistent basis. The only chance they have is Manning playing at his very best. This is always possible, but not likely. Dal 27 NYG 23

MNF: *Ravens at Patriots (-7) – The Ravens have had more success than anybody in New England over the years. Additionally, I would suggest Baltimore is at least equal to the Patriots at every position apart from quarterback right now. The gap at that position is not wide enough to prevent me from calling for the upset. Bal 28 NE 27

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Week Eleven NFL Picks Against the Spread

Week 11 in the NFL started with a familiar script, special teams dooming the Saints and me being on the wrong side of a Thursday night spread, even though it was by just a half point. I posted a 7-7 mark last week. Highlights were calling the Broncos’ and Seahawks’ upset wins. 71-77-6 is where I start the week. My picks are bolded, upsets have an asterisk and all spreads are from rtsports.com at the time of my writing. Let’s go.

*Cardinals at Vikings (-2.5) – I have no feel for this game at all. Despite their four game losing streak, the Vikings defense is still giving up just 17 points a game. Again, they are on a four game losing streak. So, what that really means is the offense cannot move the ball against anyone at the moment, including the hot and cold Cardinals… I think. Ari 17 Min 12

*Ravens at Cowboys (-7.5) – This is one of two games I feel very strongly about this week. Folks, I have been saying it all year as well as before the season. The Ravens are a really dangerous team that will be around in January. The offense has come alive after two divisional wins. With Joe Flacco and those receivers, it was just a matter of time. On the other side of the ball, gone are names like Ray Lewis, Chris McAllister and Ed Reed, but they have finally been suitably replaced by names like CJ Mosley, Brandon Williams and Timmy Jernigan. This is easily the best defense the Cowboys have seen all year. They are top-ranked against the rush.

 

As a general rule, great defense stops great offense. As good as Dak Prescott has been, Ezekiel Elliott will be at least somewhat neutralized here. I do not think Prescott can do it all on his own. The Cowboys are a good football team, but other good football teams should be able to exploit their flaws. They finally run into one of those here. Bal 31 Dal 20

Bills at Bengals (-2.5) – I am excited to be going to this game. It is a coin flip. These teams are similar. Both are loaded with firepower, particularly on offense, but they find themselves fading in the AFC playoff race. This is an elimination game. Buffalo’s back may already be broken. They really outplayed Seattle last time out, but have nothing to show for it. Given preseason expectations, the Bengals should be more desperate and play well. As a native Cincinnatian (who is by no means a fan), that is terrible logic to use when evaluating the Bengals, but it is all I have got. Cin 27 Buf 23

Bears at Giants (-7.5) – We are getting late enough into the season that it is not a bad idea to start looking at trends. There is one that made me change my pick here. This season, all but one of New York’s games have been decided by seven points or fewer. The Bears are awful and after getting annihilated last week in Tampa Bay, the resurgence of Jay Cutler appears to have only lasted one week, but a trend like that should never be ignored. NYG 23 Chi 17

Jaguars at Lions (-6.5) – With division rivals Green Bay and Minnesota limping along at the moment, this may be Detroit’s year to make a real run at the big time. Quarterback Matthew Stafford is playing at an MVP level. I have seen nothing from Jacksonville this year that makes me think this will be close. Det 40 Jac 21

Steelers (-7.5) at BrownsFor the first time in my almost 24 years of life, the Steelers are flat out bad on defense. Giving up 380+ yards per game including well over 100 yards per game on the ground will not get you in the playoffs. It does not matter how good the offense is. There are major issues that need correcting in Steelers country. Fortunately for them, the Browns are all that is on tap this week. The Steelers are still plenty good enough to handle that task. Pit 34 Cle 24

Bucs at Chiefs (-7.5)- Boy, there are certainly easier places to go than Arrowhead Stadium if you are trying to build off a win last week the way the Bucs are. Kansas City continues to win games by playing mistake free football, having an opportunistic defense, and doing just enough on offense. As always, that style may have a ceiling on it come playoff time, but it will do the trick for now. KC 20 TB 10

Titans at Colts (-3)- It has been a very long time since I whiffed on a football game as bad as I did be Tennessee/Green Bay game last week. The Titans are a legitimate contender in that division and a lot better than I thought. Also, it is so nice to see running back DeMarco Murray back in a system that suits his skill set. However, much like the Titans, the Colts may have really found something their last time out, which was also against Green Bay. In what could be a shootout between two young and hot quarterbacks, I trust Andrew Luck a bit more than Marcus Mariota. Ind 30 Ten 24

Dolphins (-1) at Rams- This is the other game I feel very strongly about. In my house, we call this a “Nova game.” A game my dad and I would bet our beloved dog, Nova on. Thankfully, this is only hypothetical. We would have lost her many times by now. In all seriousness, Miami is rolling behind Jay Ajayi. Conversely, while his debut does add a layer of intrigue here, one can only assume that there is a good reason why Jeff Fisher and the Rams had to be dragged, kicking, and screaming to start top draft pick Jared Goff at quarterback. Mia 35 LA 17

photo from oddshark.com

photo from oddshark.com

Patriots (-13) at 49ers- As good as the Patriots are, the 49ers are that bad. However, the match-up is not terrible for them here. Without Rob Gronkowski, none of New England’s pass catchers are to be feared. The extra attention defenses must pay to Gronk creates more favorable match-ups for everyone else. Chip Kelly’s Eagles gave Bill Belichick’s Pats fits last year. These two things are enough to make this much closer than most people think. NE 35 SF 30

Eagles at Seahawks (-6.5) – The NFL’s surprise of the year is the way the Eagles have played. With a rookie head coach and quarterback, they are right there in the playoff race, but this is a tall order for Carson Wentz and company. With Russell Wilson finally healthy and the defense playing up to their capabilities, Seattle gets my vote for the best team in football right now. I am not sure how much the opponent matters to the Seahawks at the moment. It certainly doesn’t hurt that they get a rookie quarterback in their building. This week will be the start of Seattle catching Dallas for the number one seed in the NFC. Sea 31 Phi 17.

*Packers at Redskins (-3) – I am giving the Packers one more week before I bail on them. The good news is Aaron Rodgers and the offense were not the problem last week. If you give up 47 points, you are not going to win. The Redskins always put up huge yardage numbers, but really struggle in the red zone. They will lose by kicking one too many field goals Sunday night. GB 35 Was 32

MNF from Mexico City: Texans at Raiders (-5.5) – If the NFL is insistent on playing games outside our borders, this is how it should be done, in Mexico featuring two teams from cities with significant Mexican populations. As for the game itself, I struggle to buy into both these first place clubs long term. The Raiders are still committing way too many penalties. Meanwhile, Brock Osweiler is the weak link in Houston. You can’t hide the quarterback forever in this league. Houston’ defense is carrying them and the Raiders offense is doing the same in Oakland. This will be really close. The team with the MVP candidate at quarterback will do just enough to get over the finish line, but taking the points is smart here. Oak 24 Hou 21

photofromamericanfootballinternational.com

photofromamericanfootballinternational.com

 

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Week Nine NFL Picks Against the Spread

It is time for another week of NFL picks against the spread. I was just 5-8 last week, but did call the Bears upset of the Vikings. This week, I whiffed on the Thursday night game again and will start from behind the eight ball. 58-63-4 is my record for the year. My picks are bolded. Outright upsets have an asterisk. Read ‘em and weep.

Cowboys (-7) at Browns- With everyone continuing to sing the praises of Dak Prescott and the Cowboys, the gritty Browns are tempting here, but I just cannot do it. They are bringing a plastic knife to a gun fight each week. I expect Dallas to scrape by, but we could view the quarterback situation very differently come Monday morning. Dal 19 Cle 9

Lions at Vikings (-6) – Toughest pick of the week. After a hot start, the Vikings are slowly revealing their true selves. With zero production in the run game and an offensive line that has struggled to block a barstool the last two weeks, there are many nervous people in Minnesota. Offensive coordinator Norv Turner’s sudden resignation won’t help things in the short term. However, the defense will carry them to a win here. The Lions had a really bad performance on offense last week in Houston. A trip to Minnesota will not fix those issues. The Vikings are better equipped to win an ugly game. Min 17 Det 15

Jaguars at Chiefs (-7.5) – Jacksonville’s young talent on offense just has not come around, it seems to be time for yet another round of major changes there. Unlike the Raiders, the Chiefs play smart, disciplined, and complete football to win their games. Nick Foles is a more than capable replacement for dinged up quarterback Alex Smith.   This is the week the Chiefs emerge as the only real threat to Denver in the AFC West. KC 26 Jac 14

Jets at Dolphins (-3.5) – When was the last time a single player changed a team’s fortunes the way Jay Ajayi has for the Dolphins? He was not even active for the season opener. All he has done since getting a shot, is post back to back 200 yard rushing games. Most important, he has taken some heat off quarterback Ryan Tannehill who is not good enough to carry an offense. Miami has gone from dead in the water to a team that may get on a real roll. The Jets beat the Browns last week, yay. They still stink. Mia 27 NYJ 17

photo from espn.com

photo from espn.com

 

Eagles at Giants (-2.5) – Both these rivals are unpredictable and they tend to produce nutty games against each other. When in doubt look at the quarterbacks. Eli Manning > Carson Wentz. NYG 28 Phi 24.

Steelers at Ravens (-1) – These division foes always play fantastic games, no matter their records. This will be no different. Despite the Steelers having much better team results in recent years, the Ravens have won four out of the last five head to head matchups. If Ben Roethlisberger does play, how could he possibly be 100% about three weeks removed from knee surgery? The AFC North turns into a mess at the top with a Ravens win. Bal 24 Pit 21

Panthers (-3) at Rams – The Panthers may have finally gotten their mojo back last week. It may be too little too late for the playoffs, but the offensively inept Rams should not be an issue. Car 21 LA 10

Saints (-3.5) at 49ers – A win here gets the Saints back to .500, plenty could enough to be a factor in the NFC wild card race. The defense has gone from God awful to just bad. Despite splitting their last two games they have held opponents to under 30 points. Most times, that is going to be more than enough for Drew Brees and the offense. The 49ers are just dreadful in every phase of the game. The defense is spent by halftime because the offense cannot stay on the field. If I am Chip Kelly, I jump back to the college game as soon as I can. He is a college coach. There is nothing wrong with that. NO 38 SF 17

photo from cbssports.com

photo from cbssports.com

Colts at Packers (-7.5) – Andrew Luck is still forced to do it all on his own for the Colts. Much like last week, he is up against a pretty solid opponent. The offense in Green Bay finally returned to normal last week, and they are not facing the high powered Falcons offense this week. No drama here. GB 31 Ind 21

Titans at Chargers (-4) – The Titans are the worst .500 team I have ever seen. Meanwhile, the Chargers are the best below .500 team I have ever seen. Tennessee has a negative point differential. Conversely, if games were 58 minutes rather than 60, the Chargers would be 7-1. San Diego has closed games better lately. Expect them to roll here. SD 31 Ten 17

*Broncos at Raiders (-2)- My only outright upset pick of the week should surprise no one who knows me or reads my stuff. Even if I thought Oakland was going to win, it is not in me as a human being to pick the Raiders to beat the Broncos. This used to be a great rivalry, it is awesome to have the game be so meaningful again.

In this matchup, Denver will be able to do whatever it wants on offense, just like every other Raiders opponent this year. Oakland is allowing six yards a play on defense. Oakland’s offense has had to put up video game numbers to win games, including 600+ yards to get by in overtime last week against Tampa. If anyone thinks something like that will happen against the Broncos defense, they are sadly mistaken. The Raiders deserve a ton of credit for being where they are, but play time is over. Den 34 Oak 24

MNF: Bills at Seahawks (-7) – The Seahawks offense is just plain bad right now. Only Russell Wilson knows if he is truly healthy. Despite last week’s loss, any doubt about the defense is unfounded. Holding the Saints to 25 points in their building is nothing to sneeze at. Buffalo’s run first style keeps this close, but Seattle finds a way as they so often do. Sea 26 Buf 20

 

 

The NFL Ratings Drop Is Not a Big Deal…Yet

In case you have been living under a rock, NFL television ratings are down considerably. All primetime broadcast windows have seen a double-digit percentage decrease from last year. CBS’s Sunday afternoon ratings are down in similar fashion. The numbers at Fox have stayed the same or are only down slightly depending on the data source. Everyone within the NFL and those who cover it seem to be panicking. They should not be and here is why.

Prior to this year, record ratings were the norm- This is just simple logic. Everything peaks at some point. 19 of the 20 most watched television programs in American history are Super Bowls. Also, the top seven are all Super Bowls from this decade. The NFL may never be as popular as it was prior to this year again. That does not mean there is not still a massive market for it. However, whenever something is put up against record highs, the numbers are going to look bad. In a world where my friends and I struggle to agree on where to eat, it is difficult to get millions and millions of people to watch the same product every year.

 

We are living in a bizarre time- Some of this was already covered by my fellow writer Michael Sullivan in a well done recent article. Right now, we are all witnesses to the most unique (for lack of a better word) election anyone has ever seen. It is no secret that it is stealing viewers from football. The first presidential debate absolutely slaughtered the Monday night football game that was on at the same time.

 

There is also the Cubs. Those of us younger than 71 have never seen the wildly popular “lovable losers” have a legitimate chance at the World Series. Game one pulled in almost 20,000,000 viewers Tuesday night. Granted no NFL game was on at the same time. Even so, it has been a long time since baseball put up numbers comparable to those of the NFL. It will be interesting to see how the numbers stack up Sunday with both sports on at the same time. The good news for the NFL is that both the election and the Cubs are temporary. If there is not a significant ratings uptick for the NFL by the end of next month, I will be shocked.

photo from si.com

photo from si.com

 

The NFL is in a transition period- Like any other television show, the NFL is star driven. The stars are the quarterbacks. It has been a rough year for the established stars at that position. Peyton Manning retired and guys like Tom Brady, Tony Romo, and Ben Roethlisberger have missed or are missing extended periods of time for various reasons. Also, the signal callers that most thought would be the next generation of stars like Andrew Luck and Cam Newton are underperforming. Thus, we have had some underwhelming quarterback matchups this year. I love football and will always watch whenever it is on. However, I can certainly see some casual fans not being eager to tune in to a Brock Osweiler vs. Jacoby Brissett duel. The league went through a similar ratings dip when John Elway, Steve Young, Troy Aikman, and Dan Marino all retired in 1999-2000. New stars emerged then, and they will again, but it takes time.

photo from nydailynews.com

photo from                                              nydailynews.com

 

It is not like nobody is watching- So, the Seahawks/Cardinals game last Sunday ended tied at six and was mocked by media and fans the next day. As ugly and “boring” as it was 28.6 million people watched it. The NFL is doing just fine.

Declining ratings are never good, but if any other television show pulled in 28 million people with everything going on, we would be talking about how amazing it is. If the ratings are still sagging when the season ends, this can be revisited. Until then, stop finding solutions to problems that don’t exist and enjoy the football.

 

What to Make of Early NFL Surprises?

We are two weeks into the NFL season. As usual a lot of people who think they know a lot about the league have been proven foolish, myself included. There is still a ton of football to be played, but here are my thoughts on some early season surprises. These are surprises to me. They may not necessarily be surprises to you.

Carson Wentz and the Eagles- Anyone who tells you they saw their 2-0 start coming is lying. Granted they have only played the hapless Browns and hugely disappointing Bears, but I am still stunned. For Carson Wentz to go from North Dakota State, to just six preseason drives, to winning his first two NFL starts without committing a single turnover is nothing short of incredible. All this has happened in under a year. I had them winning maybe two games all year. Do I think they will come down to Earth eventually? Yes, but there are a hell of a lot better than anyone expected. For now, Doug Pederson and his staff deserve a lot of credit.

The Vikings- Much of what I said about the Eagles is true of the Vikings. In fact, Sam Bradford was shipped

photo from denverpost.com

photo from denverpost.com

from Philly to Minnesota on the eve of the regular season when quarterback Teddy Bridgewater went down. Given the fact that Bradford had been in Minnesota for roughly two weeks, him outplaying Aaron Rodgers Sunday night is quite a feat. Bradford gives the Vikings a consistent vertical passing threat. They have not had this since Daunte Culpepper. Life is about to get harder for the Vikings. It looks like running back Adrian Peterson will miss at least a few months with knee injury. Even though Bradford and the rest of the offense were impressive Sunday night, make no mistake. Peterson is the only top-level player they have at the skill positions. Despite that, the defense is loaded with young talent. I am comfortable saying I grossly underestimated this team prior to the season, but I still do not view them as a playoff team.

Seattle’s offensive issues- Without a doubt, the most shocking result of the young season was Seattle losing to the Rams in their LA opener. The Rams looked like a bad high school offense in their season-opening shutout loss. They scored just nine points in week two, but only gave up three. A win is a win. The Rams will struggle on offense all year long. The story here is Seattle. Despite splitting their first two games, they have only scored 13 points on the year. I cannot figure this team out. No one is ever going to mistake them for an offensive juggernaut, but the first two weeks have been really bad. My gut says they will get it corrected quickly. Russell Wilson is too good of a leader as a quarterback for them not to. They are having a much more difficult time replacing former All-Pro running back Marshawn Lynch than I thought they would. Lynch is now retired at just 30 years old, if no one steps up in Seattle in the next couple weeks, I would not be surprised at all if Seattle at least gives him a phone call. This team must run the football effectively to be successful.

The AFC South- Thus far, I have whiffed on two divisions, the NFC North (as noted above with the Vikings) and the AFC South. In that division, Indy’s offensive line issues are not better and may not be fixable this year. At this rate, Andrew Luck will get hurt again before long. Someone needs to tell Jacksonville that the season has started. Tennessee

photo from indystar.com

photo from indystar.com

is improving, but they are too young to really contend this year. That leaves Brock Osweiler and the Texans as the only undefeated team in the division. I am still not sold on Osweiler as anyone’s long term quarterback answer, but Houston is far and away the best team in this division right now. Baring something crazy, they should win it.

There are my early season surprises. Some will prove to be a flash in the pan, others have some staying power. What has surprised you in the early season NFL action?

 

AFC South Preview: Up For Grabs

afc-south21

(https://www.profootballfocus.com/four-analysts-four-questions-afc-south-2/)

The AFC South is the hardest division to predict for me. All four teams have so many questions that need to be answered. Did the Texans find their franchise quarterback? Is Andrew Luck going to stay healthy behind the Colts offensive line? Are the Titans capable of competing at a high level? Are the young Jaguars poised to have a breakout season? Last season nine wins was enough to win the division. Will it be the same case this season? These four teams combined to go 25-39 on the year. With all these questions left to be answered, and their lack of success last season, this division is up for grabs by all four teams. The AFC South may be the most interesting in terms of who will win the division.

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