Reality setting in for the win-less Shanghai Dragons

The most impressive feat of the season is not going to be New York Excelsior only dropping a few maps or the Boston Uprising winning the most games in a row. No, the most impressive thing to come out of the inaugural season of Overwatch League would be the Shanghai Dragons miraculously failing at winning a game, and ending with a  0-40 record.

With one week to go in stage three, the reality of their situation is starting to reach a boiling point. Sitting on a 28 game losing streak. A streak so long that it will pass the biggest all-time losing streak in professional sports history with another loss. 12 more losses and the unthinkable will become reality.

Dragons signing autographs. Photo via Shanghai Dragons twitter

Fortunately, stage three has been an improvement on their past two stages. The new additions are starting to find their footing, and that shows with this team winning seven of their 15 total map wins in stage three. Looking back a week ago, the Dragons took the Philadelphia Fusion to the edge before losing on Oasis in game five. It’s not a total lost cause for Shanghai.

Unfortunately, stage three ends for the Dragons against the best team in the league and the London Spitfire currently sitting as the three seed. The likeliness of them going into stage four with a win is low. The fate of their winless season will depend on either the week one matchup with the Dallas Fuel or the week four match with the Florida Mayhem.

Outside of the Dragons beating one of the bottom four teams, the Dragons have been to game five twice against the Fusion and have played close games with the Seoul Dynasty. Of the 14 shutouts against the Dragons, only two have come on stage three. After a staggering seven matches that ended in a sweep in stage two, the Dragons have shown some promise with the new roster.

The Barrier of Entry into the Overwatch League

One of the hardest parts of adding all the new players is getting the right communication. The Shanghai Dragons employed a team of all Chinese players, who speak primarily mandarin, before signing all the Korean-born players at the opening of the stage two transfer period. The Language barrier being an issue is a theme throughout the league, but it’s none more prevalent than on the Shanghai Dragons.  

Coordinating dives is hard enough without a language barrier, adding that into the mix makes it nearly impossible. And unlike the other teams, this team didn’t have an entire preseason or offseason. This is all having to be handled mid-season. Each one of the new additions not only had to adjust to living in the United States, learn their new teammate’s playstyle and tendencies, but also had to do this while working through a translator. It’s not the only reason this team is falling, but it’s safe to say they have an excuse.

Fearless. Photo via Shanghai Dragons Twitter

Additionally, the level of competition the Chinese players faced before OWL was nowhere near the level of these other players. This team came in with a hindrance and after 13 weeks of play, nothing this team has done has resulted in a win. The roster changes have helped, but we’re still seeing this team lacking in the same areas.

The progress is slowly starting to show. Chon “Ado” Gi-hyeon is working more efficiently with Weida “Diya” Luas both of their playstyles mesh well together on DPS. Dae-min “Daemin” Kiim seems to be a nice find, but it will be a few weeks before he reaches his normal playing level. The signings have not only brought in new players, but are actively helping the original roster improve. Peixuan “FreeFeel” Xu looks like an entirely different player in stage three, playing behind Lee “Fearless” Eui-Seok and Geguri.

The outlook for the Shanghai Dragons

On top of adding talented players, adding a name like Se-yeon “Geguri” Kim, the first woman to be signed in the league, has provided the Dragons with a cult-like fan-following. Most fans of the OWL love an underdog story, and there’s nothing more underdog than a team looking to avoid a winless season. It’s brought in a boisterous crowd of fans to the Blizzard Arena, and each week the yells and screams grow louder.

Muma and Geguri forever. Photo via twitter.com/shanghaidragons

Looking ahead, this team isn’t far off from a win, and it isn’t necessarily going to be a non-playoff team that finally breaks the streak. Teams with aggressive tanks seem to be their best bet because their DPS hero pool tends to lean more towards anti-dive, using Diya on McCree or another his-scan. Based off their two matchups with the Fusion, seeing Ado outplay the Fusion’s EQO on Genji, showed the potential.

However, the Shanghai Dragons ending this season with a winning record seems unlikely. Even against the bottom teams, only a few of those matches produced any map wins. So far, the Dragons only have three map wins off the bottom four teams. The league isn’t too far ahead, but this team needs more time before they’re truly ready for the task. Regardless, the entire OWL viewer base will be behind this team cheering them on. A raucous pro-Dragons crowd could make a huge difference in the end.

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Feature photo via Overwatch League Twitter

Detroit Lions Schedule Prediction

2018 Detroit Lions schedule predictions

Well, it’s official, the NFL schedules have been released! Fans are busy planning which games they will attend and predicting ways for their team to make the playoffs. If predicting these games were possible, there would be no need to play the games. In the NFL, there are too many factors to consider when predicting who will win games. Injuries are unpredictable and often will reveal the character of a team. Additionally, the chemistry within the locker room will dictate how well these teams perform. Chemistry is affected by many things like, the personality of the coaching staff, new players melding together with returners, and the amount of trust built between the players and staff. Without further ado, here is the Detroit Lions schedule predictions for the 2018 season.

New York Jets – Week 1 – September 10, 2018 – Home (1-0)

The Detroit Lions start the 2018 season on primetime, Monday Night Football, at Ford Field. With the New York Jets coming to town, this figures to be a very winnable game for the Lions. The Jets finished in the bottom quarter of the league last season. However, they present a tough physical challenge, which should provide insight into Matt Patricia’s coaching style.

Lions win, 27-17

San Francisco 49ers – Week 2 – September 16, 2018 – Away (2-0)

Traveling out west in week two should be a great early season test of a road trip. Jimmy Garoppolo was traded midseason to San Francisco. He took the reigns of a team that was 1-10. He started the final five games of the regular season, earning a 5-0 record. They beat the Titans, Jaguars and Rams in weeks 15, 16, and 17 respectively, all three teams participated in the playoffs. This will be a very close game and a hard-fought road win for the Lions.

Lions win, 24-21

New England Patriots – Week 3 – September 23, 2018 – Home (3-0)

Matt Patricia is reunited with his old team, this time on opposite sides of the field. Will he be able to prove his ability to outcoach his mentor and longtime head coach, Bill Belichick? The good news for the Lions is they get the Patriots early in the year where they tend to struggle. Another bonus, the game is in primetime on Sunday Night Football and is going to be played in Detroit. The uncertainty hanging over the Patriots organization also leads to New England having a slow start, as they did last year.

Lions win, 31-27

Dallas Cowboys – Week 4 – September 30, 2018 – Away (3-1)

Dallas comes off a down year, largely due to the suspension of Zeke Elliott looks to rebound and should challenge Philadelphia for the division crown this year. This is a road game for the Lions and it is always tough to play down in Jerry’s World.

Lions lose, 27-21

Green Bay Packers – Week 5 – October 7, 2018 – Home (4-1)

After sweeping the Packers last season, Detroit needs to set the tone for this season by continuing their win streak against the hated Packers. Green Bay currently appears to be the third best team in the division as they let Rodgers’ top target and friend Jordy Nelson walk and have serious question marks on the offensive line. They have serious needs on both sides of the ball and if they can’t protect Aaron Rodgers, their season will be short lived yet again. The Lions take care of business at home against the Pack, finishing the first 5 games with a 4-1 record.

Lions win, 34-27

Bye – Week 6

Miami Dolphins – Week 7 – October 21, 2018 – Away (5-1)

Detroit Lions Schedule Predictions

Photo: Andrew Weber

After the strong start to their season, the Lions travel to Miami to play the Dolphins. Miami is in a rebuilding year of sorts after trading away Jarvis Landry and still searching for their franchise quarterback. They also released Ndamukong Suh and look to have a tough year ahead where they will be fighting to finish third in their division.

Lions win, 31-10

Seattle Seahawks – Week 8 – October 28, 2018 – Home (6-1)

The Seahawks are looking like a new team and it will be interesting to see how they rebound from losing some of their star players. Michael Bennett is now in Philly and Richard Sherman is with division rival, San Francisco. On offense, Jimmy Graham is in Green Bay and Paul Richardson signed with the Redskins. If they are not able to replace these players, they will be an average team. Also, the Lions get them at home.

Lions win, 20-17

Minnesota Vikings – Week 9 – November 4, 2018 – Away (6-2)

This will be a major challenge for the Lions heading to NFC runner-up Minnesota. However, they did win on the road against the Vikings last year, 14-7. With Kirk Cousins in town, the Vikings believe they have their franchise quarterback and have gone all-in on winning a Super Bowl. Dalvin Cook will return from injury as well and if he can run with the potential he showed last season, they will be a serious contender once again.

Lions lose, 28-17

Chicago Bears – Week 10 – November 11, 2018 – Away (7-2)

Detroit Lions Schedule Predictions

Photo: Kirthmon F. Dozier, Detroit Free Press

The Chicago Bears finished at the bottom of the division last year and are expected to struggle again this year. They have a young quarterback and it will be intriguing to see Trubisky’s development. Will he develop into a top-level quarterback or has he already reached his ceiling? Even though this is on the road and it is tough to win in the Windy City, Detroit still wins.

Lions win, 34-20

Carolina Panthers – Week 11 – November 18, 2018 – Home (7-3)

After losing to the Panthers last season, the Lions have a chance at revenge. Cam Newton and McCaffrey continue to develop chemistry and this will be a big game for both teams. The Lions will drop one here to the Panthers and look to rebound on Thanksgiving Day.

Lions lose, 31-24

Chicago Bears – Week 12 – November 22, 2018 – Home (8-3)

Thanksgiving Day games for Detroit Lions is a great tradition and Stafford tends to play well on Thanksgiving. He currently holds the record for most passing yards in Thanksgiving Day games over his career. Lions win this easily.

Lions win, 38-13

LA Rams – Week 13 – December 2, 2018 – Home (8-4)

The Rams are one of the most improved teams on paper. They added Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib, and Ndamukong Suh to their defense. They also acquire Brandin Cooks on offense from New England. This team appears to be a front-runner for the NFC title. Thankfully, the Lions have them at home and it should prove a lot about the team as the playoffs draw near.

Lions lose, 27-17

Arizona Cardinals – Week 14 – December 9, 2018 – Away (9-4)

After a tough week against the Rams, the Lions have three of the final four games on the road. The Cardinals are moving forward with Sam Bradford and could select a QB in next week’s draft. It’s hard to project how they will be, due to that uncertainty they appear to be a big underdog in this game. With QB questions looming as well as the return of David Johnson after injury, Detroit is able to pull this one out on the road.

Lions win, 28-13

Buffalo Bills – Week 15 – December 16, 2018 – Away (9-5)

Playing on the road in the NFL is always a challenge. Add to that the fact it is in a cold weather city in December and we have a recipe for a loss in upstate New York. This also could be a trap game as the Lions mentally prepare for the “Battle for the North” in the final two weeks.

Lions lose, 17-10

Minnesota Vikings – Week 16 – December 23, 2018 – Home (10-5)

The Lions are in prime position to make a push for the playoffs and that will start with a home win against the Vikings.

Lions win, 21-17

Green Bay Packers – Week 17 – December 30, 2018 – Away (10-6)

Detroit Lions Schedule Prediction

GREEN BAY, WI – NOVEMBER 06: at Lambeau Field on November 6, 2017 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

Week 17 could very well decide the division but playing at Lambeau Field in late December is a challenge for any team, even more so for a team that plays home games indoors. Ultimately, eight months away from the game with no knowledge of the condition of the teams, the home-field edge goes to Green Bay.

Lions lose, 27-24

Recap

Overall, the season starts out with some big challenges and the entire season appears to be a difficult road. The Lions have the second toughest in the league. The final three games will prove tough and could make or break the season. Week 15 at the Buffalo Bills will be a cold outdoors game in the middle of December. Then, to end the season against the other two division contending teams could ultimately decide who wins the NFC North.

Based on these projections the Lions finish the season 10-6 which would put them in position to challenge for the division championship, at least a wildcard spot in the playoffs. This would be a great outcome and finish to the season. The Lions record could really end up anywhere from 6-10 to 12-4. There are six games on the schedule that are toss-ups and are nearly impossible to predict. No matter how it turns out, it will be interesting to see how the team responds to Patricia’s coaching. Can Detroit have a quick turnaround with a first-time head coach like the Rams did last season with McVay? Lions fans certainly hope so!

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

NFL Draft

Redrafting the 2017 NFL Draft

With all this commotion about the upcoming 2018 NFL Draft, it seems like the perfect time to look back at last year’s first round and see how much has changed.

1st Overall, Cleveland Browns – Deshaun Watson, QB 

Actual pick – Myles Garrett, DE

After an invigorating seven games where Deshaun Watson set the football world on fire he deserves to be the first quarterback taken. Leading the NFL in touchdowns with 19 through 7 games while playing as a rookie is no small feat, in fact, it’s almost unheard of.

2nd Overall, Chicago Bears – Myles Garrett, DE

Actual pick – Mitch Trubisky, QB

With no quarterbacks worthy of the second overall pick left, the Chicago Bears settle for the best player available and take the most talented player in the draft. Garrett was limited last year by injuries but when he was on the field he showed the special talent that made him first overall last year. He had seven sacks and a forced fumble in just 11 games played last season.

3rd Overall, San Francisco 49ers – Alvin Kamara, RB  

NFL Draft

Alvin Kamara splits two Green Bay defenders for a big gain. Photo by Sports Illustrated

 

Actual pick – Solomon Thomas

Sure, this is early for a running back, but with Alvin Kamara in the fold it opens up a lot of options for Kyle Shanahan to exploit in his offensive attack. Kamara had 1,500 yards from scrimmage while spliting time with Mark Ingram and as the year progressed he appeared to take the mantle of starter from Ingram as well.

4th Overall, Jacksonville Jaguars – Patrick Mahomes, QB

Actual pick – Leonard Fournette, RB

Yes, I know that Leonard Fournette had a great year and rushed for over 1000 yards. However, he was injured for three games and this seems like the perfect time for a team loaded with talent to grab a very talented quarterback to compete with and later replace Blake Bortles.

5th Overall, Tennessee Titans – Juju Smith-Schuster, WR

Actual pick – Corey Davis, WR

Worries about Juju Smith-Schuster’s long speed are no longer a problem after he was shown to be a blazer last season, even scoring a 97 yard touchdown where he outran the whole Lions’ defense. He would step in and make an immediate impact for the Titans.

6th Overall, New York Jets – Marshon Lattimore, CB

Actual pick – Jamal Adams, S

The Jets get the best corner in the draft with the sixth pick, Lattimore, a lockdown corner who will help sure up the Jets defense for a long time. Lattimore was a big part of the reason the Saints defense jumped from 31st to 10th in scoring defense and 32nd to 15th in passing yards allowed. He could have a similar impact with the Jets.

7th Overall, Los Angeles Chargers – Jamal Adams, S

Actual pick –  Mike Williams, WR

The Chargers needed a safety and luckily the best one fell into their lap at 7th overall. Adams is a safety that you can keep single back or move him up into the box and either way he will make an impact.

8th Overall, Carolina Panthers – Dalvin Cook, RB

Actual pick – Christian McCaffrey, RB

Cook had a very promising rookie season for the Vikings until his season-ending injury. Cook looks to be the best running back left in this draft in terms of running and catching out of the backfield. Some would say that Kareem Hunt belongs here but I believe Dalvin Cook has a higher ceiling. He would provide the Panther’s offense with what they thought they were getting when they drafted Christian McCaffrey.

9th Overall, Cincinnati Bengals – Ryan Ramczyk, OT

Actual pick – John Ross, WR

The Bengals deal with their biggest problem on offense by drafting a big guy to help them win in the trenches. Ramczyk would shore up a line that was terribly leaky last season which caused many of their offensive issues. They allowed 40 sacks last season and had the second worst rushing attack in all of football last season. With most of the issues coming from the offensive tackle position it makes this pick easy.

10th Overall, Kansas City Chiefs – Mitch Trubisky, QB

Actual pick – Patrick Mahomes, QB

The Chiefs wouldn’t have traded up for anything else, they still need a rookie to develop behind Alex Smith and they get theirs in Trubisky. He had some promising moments in his first year as a starter, but clearly still needs the right situation to thrive. Andy Reid is a play calling magician and a quarterback whisperer if he cant make Trubisky work, no one can.

11th Overall, New Orleans Saints – Tre’Davious White, CB

Actual pick – Marshon Lattimore, CB

The New Orleans Saints needed defensive help and with Lattimore off the board, they grab the next best corner in White. Rated by Pro Football Focus as the second best corner in the league last year, the Saints are getting some serious value.

12th Overall, Houston Texans – O.J. Howard, TE

Actual pick – DeShaun Watson, QB

With all the potential quarterbacks worthy of a first-round pick gone, the Houston Texans go with someone who will help out the running and the passing game in O.J. Howard.

13th Overall, Arizona Cardinals – Corey Davis, WR

Actual pick – Haason Reddick, LB

The Cardinals finally find someone to pair up with the great Larry Fitzgerald to create a truly dominant receiving duo. Davis struggled with injuries in year one but started to come on towards the end of the season. Year two will be a more accurate measure of where he is developmentally, he lands here with the Cardinals based on potential.

14th Overall, Philadelphia Eagles – Derek Barnett, DE 

NFL Draft

Derek Barnett sacks Dak Prescott. Photo by Hunter Martin

Actual pick – Derek Barnett, DE

Barnett was the right choice for this team. That, coupled with the fact that there are no glaring needs on Philadelphia’s roster make Barnett the perfect choice. Edge rushers are the second most important position on the team and with Barnett in line for an even bigger role in 2018 this pick seems like a huge success.

15th Overall, Indianapolis Colts – Cam Robinson, OT

Actual pick – Malik Hooker, S

The Colts are a team with many holes, none of them as poor as the offensive line, which is truly offensive to football fans. They draft Robinson and he can help keep whoever is quarterbacking the Colts (hopefully Andrew Luck) safe for years to come.

16th Overall, Baltimore Ravens – Cooper Kupp, WR

Actual pick – Marlon Humphrey, DB

It feels like the Ravens haven’t had a competent receiving corps in years, drafting Cooper Kupp to play with Jeremy Maclin and Mike Wallace might give them the firepower they need on offense. Kupp had 865 yards and 5 touchdowns as a rookie and really helped elevate the Rams recieving corps.

17th Overall, Washington Redskins – Kareem Hunt, RB

Actual pick – Jonathan Allen, DE

Hunt would add a new layer to the Redskins already multifaceted approach. He might just be the piece that could have made the Redskins’ offense elite. Hunt finished with almost 1800 yards from scrimmage on the season as the focal point of the Chiefs attack and earned the rushing title with 1327 yards in his rookie season.

18th Overall, Tennessee Titans – Rueben Foster, LB

Actual pick – Adoree’ Jackson, CB

A crazy athlete that also fills an important need in the Titans defense. Foster would step in and be an immediate starter in Tennessee’s defense. His range is his biggest asset and would help a Titans defense that struggled with its linebacking corps in 2017. His only downside has been off the field issues.

19th Overall, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Solomon Thomas, DL

Actual pick – O.J. Howard, TE

A slightly below than expected season performance from Thomas causes him to slip until here. That being said, the Buccaneers would run this pick up to the table. The talent and potential have made him a top-five prospect and he fills a need on Tampa’s desolate defensive line.

20th Overall, Denver Broncos – Malik Hooker, S

Actual pick – Garrett Bolles, OT

The Broncos look to keep their defense at the top of it’s game with this pick, which truly solidifies Denver’s defense. Hooker is a safety with incredible range, he has the ability to truly shut down the middle of a football field.

21st Overall, Detroit Lions – Christian McCaffrey, RB

Actual pick – Jarrad Davis, LB

The Lions need a running back. The last time a running back rushed for 100 yards on the Detroit Lions was Reggie Bush on Thanksgiving, in 2013! Lion’s fans know this after hearing it in pretty much every game last season. McCaffrey is a good pick at 21st overall and although he made less of an impact than expected in year one he still has the talent that made him the eighth overall pick last year.

22nd Overall, Miami Dolphins – Haason Reddick, LB 

Actual pick – Charles Harris, DE

Reddick is a really good player who would get some playing time almost immediately in Miami, they definitely need him. After playing defensive end in college he gained attention by showing that he can also be an inside linebacker in the NFL. He would be a great fit for the Dolphins with their need for both a pass rusher and a linebacker.

23rd Overall, New York Giants – Garrett Bolles, OT

Actual pick – Evan Engram, TE

The Giants take steps to help out Eli Manning by drafting an offensive lineman. Needs meet best player available again.

24th Overall, Oakland Raiders – Gareon Conley, CB

Actual pick – Gareon Conley, CB

The Oakland Raiders had a huge hole at cornerback, Conley is a over 6 feet tall and showed immense potential in his time at Ohio State. The Raiders wouldn’t let this opportunity slip by.

25th Overall, Cleveland Browns – John Ross, WR

Actual pick – Jabrill Peppers, S

Ross did not have a good first year in the NFL but he will surely develop in year two and his speed is a huge asset. After all he does have the fastest 40 yard dash at the combine ever. The Cleveland Browns seem like the team that would draft him here.

26th Overall, Atlanta Falcons – Takkarist McKinley, DE

Actual pick – Takkarist McKinley, DE

The Falcons made the right pick as far as I’m concerned, McKinley looked good last year and seems to fit the scheme well.

27th Overall, Buffalo Bills – Jonathon Allen, DE

Actual pick – Tre’Davious White, CB

Jonathan Allen slipped on draft day because of health concerns, now he’s slipping again because of them. Jonathon Allen looked good last year but how long can he stay healthy? You can’t make an impact if you’re not on the field.

28th Overall, Dallas Cowboys – T.J. Watt, OLB

Actual pick – Taco Charlton

T.J. Watt showed explosion at times last year, I just don’t believe he was as consistent as I would have liked, but, despite that, and his size concerns, he rose two spots. The Cowboys were disappointed by Taco Charlton last year they wouldn’t be disappointed with this pick. I believe Watt could be an effective pass rusher for the Cowboys.

29th Overall, Cleveland Browns – Marlon Humphrey, DB

Actual pick – Deshone Kizer, QB

Marlon Humphrey is a big, fast, and strong corner. His biggest question mark was his ball skills but his two interceptions last season in Baltimore showed that it probably will not be too much of a problem.

30th Overall, Pittsburgh Steelers – Shaquill Griffin, DB

Actual pick – T.J. Watt, OLB

Shaquill Griffin showed off some real potential in his rookie season earning himself the corner spot opposite Richard Sherman. He would be a great asset for Pittsburgh to have as they reshape their defense.

31st Overall, San Francisco 49ers – Evan Engram, TE

Actual pick – Rueben Foster, LB

Engram is not the best at blocking, but he is a good reciever, with good hands and good speed for a tight end. Exactly the kind of player coach Shanahan and General Manager John Lynch would want to add to his team.

32nd Overall, New Orleans Saints – Marcus Williams, S 

NFL Draft

Marcus Williams misses a tackle in the NFC Championship game. Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Actual pick – Ryan Ramczyk, OT

Williams has shown to be a great fit in the Saint’s defense, a good tackler who makes good decisions (except that one play in the NFC divisional round). Why not take the same guy since he worked out so well.

 

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Richard Sherman: A crusader? Or a clown?

This offseason has already seen the making of a memorable one for history. Big crazy trades and free agent signing has set an overcast in the journey to the upcoming NFL Draft. One signing, in particular, would be the San Francisco 49ers acquisition of Pro Bowl corner Richard Sherman. Sherman, whose season was cut short after an Achilles injury in week 8, agreed to a contract worth up to $39.15 million dollars for three years, three days before free agency opened up. But there has been some controversy surrounding the deal itself and Sherman’s role in it. It is reported that Sherman himself handled the negotiations without the representation of an agent.

Some questions now have surfaced to why Richard Sherman would go this route and the future of players handling their own affairs pertaining to contracts. Some see this as the future of the league while others see this as Richard Sherman’s ego getting in front of his talent once again. Sherman has been critical of how agents operate and encourages a path for players to be more proactive in these areas. However, the same can be said about the team he signed to minutes after he was released, comprised a deal that many have criticized.

The Contract

First, let’s talk about the contract. Richard Sherman has signed a deal that is worth $39.15 million dollars. The key word is “worth”. Most NFL contracts, like other sports and management positions, are worth a dollar amount. Most of the money to be earned is tied up in incentives, bonuses and allowances. Sherman’s deal includes $3 million dollars in full guarantees, $7 million in practical guarantees and up to $9 million in earnings baring injury during the 2018 season.

In an offseason where the value of individual prospects and a team’s desire to certain prospects have set an unprecedented amount of money for their acquisitions, this deal doesn’t seem to make much sense. This could be a fault towards Sherman who essentially worked out the deal himself. This contract is purely based on Sherman’s ability to stay healthy and perform at a high level.  However, this opens a door for other players. Sherman, who is also a Stanford grad, is a key player in the NFLPA and knows how the business works. If players are to take the same route, they too might be able to capture some control in the debating process.

Pros

Players ultimately have all the power. They decide whether to take deals or leave hem on the table. Agents look to give them the best deal possible. In return, this could leave the player losing the ability to play for a favorable destination. Not saying that players aren’t sitting at the negotiation table but what Richard Sherman did, extends the amount power a player has.

Because of this, the player is able to negotiate a deal that they might feel is good for them. Most agents meet with teams with a hardline offer and it doesn’t really dip or bend from there. Plus with the ability of players to sit out, this pretty much twists the hands of management into submission. Most teams now have tried to stay away from hardline offers as they have led to some of the worst deals. Kirk Cousins suffered from franchise tag-itis because of The Washington Redskins horrible deal with Albert Haynesworth. As other teams have been ultimately forced to give in to player demands. If players want to take slashes in their guaranteed money in favor of being placed with the team that they desire to be on, then they should have that power.

Negative

What makes this deal seem sour is the subject at hand, Richard Sherman. Richard Sherman anchored one of the best defenses in five years that led to two Super Bowl appearances and one Super Bowl title. With the right defense, Richard Sherman is arguably the best cornerback in the National Football League. With that being said he should be paid accordingly to his value. Looking at this contract, it seems that he is selling himself a bit short. For example, as an analogy, Richard Sherman believes he should get $10 million dollars a year. Team A is willing to give him $10 million dollars and Team B is willing to give him $15 million dollars.

Your value isn’t the price tag that you put on yourself but rather how much someone is willing to pay. Despite his wishes, Richard Sherman is worth $15 million dollars in actuality. In comparison to the deal made in reality, Sherman would never see those $15 million dollars. If he never talks to Team B, it would be impossible. The idea of him not talking to other teams is quite depressing. He would never fully exercise the potential of the deal. This could be a downside for players who really want to play for a particular team and might be blindsided by their “wants” when they should focus on what should be owed to them.

The Future

At the end of the day, Richard Sherman has to accept or decline a deal. This particular deal is what he wanted and it is what he got. Other players in the future may not be so lucky. Determining a players’ value really depends on a broad spectrum. It’s not a discussion with a team who only really seems to benefit themselves and not the player. Despite this, a lawyer never acts as a legal representation for himself and a doctor doesn’t examine herself.

Agents are there to work out a deal. They know more about the process and are able to twist numbers and squeeze out the best deal possible. If that means shelving off between 1.5% to 4% in earnings so be it, there is no such things as a free lunch. In the future, negotiations should be left to agents as most believe that one would never let Sherman walk away with that deal. Sherman’s deal isn’t bad at all for other cornerbacks.

However, for an all-pro player, that gravitates a brand presence and is arguably the best cornerback in the league, it’s a terrible one. This contract is a deal for players that are on the cusp of proving themselves. For Sherman, he doesn’t have to. Despite suffering an injury and turning 30 years old in a matter of days, Richard Sherman has already proved his worth. A contract suited for someone who hasn’t is deplorable in his situation.

Fortunately, Richard Sherman got the deal he wanted. He went to the team he wanted and is in the best situation for himself. He’s happy and everyone should. More than likely, the deal will mature to be a wise one. It also might open the doors for other players to follow. On the other hand, if it flops, it would be a disaster and cemented as “pulling a Richard Sherman”. Who knows? Only time will tell.

 

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Chicago Bears 2018 Draft profile

The 2018 NFL Draft is just under a month away, which means that Draftmas is back. Draftmas will take a look at each NFL team heading into this year’s draft, what their needs are and who they could be targeting. Draftmas continues today with the Chicago Bears 2018 NFL Draft profile.

Summary

The Chicago Bears enter draft season with an entirely different outlook after free agency. Despite a 2017 season that ultimately ended John Fox’s time with the Bears, there are some promising signs for this team moving forward. However, that only happens if general manager Ryan Pace is able to land impact players in the 2018 draft. The Bears are teetering on relevancy for another season, picking in the top 10.

First and foremost, the development of Mitch Trubisky is vital to any future success the Bears might have. Pace ensured this by trading up last April to grab his favorite quarterback in that draft, and after a rather typical freshman season, it’s time for Trubisky to take a jump in year two.

Fortunately, the Bears went out and grabbed a number of offensive free agents to help ease Trubisky into new coach Matt Nagy’s system. Acquiring Allen Robinson was a huge step in the right direction for a wide receiver group that caught four touchdown passes all of last season. Add speed demon Taylor Gabriel and the versatile Trey Burton to the list of signings, and the Bears have the start of something.

As for the rest of the team, it’s still going to be a work in progress. It’s no secret the Bears have little to offer at outside linebacker, and if one position of need sticks out, it’s an edge rusher. The offensive line also needs some help due to the ongoing health-related problems with Kyle Long and the release of Josh Sitton. If the Bears wish to compete in 2018, Pace has to hit on impactful players in the draft.

Picks and Needs

The Bears have seven picks in the 2018 draft.

First round (1 pick): 8

Second round (1): 39

Third round (0):

Fourth round (2): 105, 115

Fifth round (1): 145

Sixth round (1): 181

Seventh round (1): 224

Offensive needs:

Offensive line One unit that had plenty of promise heading into last season that did not live up to expectations was the Bears offensive line. Injuries and regression plagued the line last season, and despite a solid pairing of Long and Cody Whitehair inside, the Bears need to touch up the tackle position and secure Whitehair’s spot at center. Jordan Morgan is still a question mark, and Charles Leno Jr. is already signed through 2020 and looks to have another effective season. If the Bears have a shot at the golden boy prospect, Quenton Nelson, it’s hard to see Pace passing even with a need on the edge.

Slot receiver Yes, the Bears brought in two wide receivers and a pass-catching tight end this free agency, but there is still a missing piece in the slot. Looking at this draft, a particularly strong area is the slot receivers, especially value picks that will go on day two and three. The Bears needed an overhaul to the worst wide receiver group in all of the NFL in 2017, and a player like Christian Kirk or Anthony Miller would do the trick.

Defensive needs:

Outside linebacker As alluded to earlier, outside of Leonard Floyd, the Bears have little to no pass rush on the edge. Pernell McPhee and Willie Young were promptly cut, saving the Bears some money to buy free agents, but leaving a gaping hole at linebacker. Luckily, Akiem Hicks alleviates some of that concern, but the Bears need some new pass rushing blood more than ever.

Cornerback The Bears cornerbacks were one of the most underrated units in all of football last season. The resurgence of Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara fueled a total turnaround for a young Bears secondary. However, with Fuller signing an offer sheet and Amukamara back for a couple more years, it would be a good time to add depth and find the next potential starter.

Targets

First round:

Pick No. 8: Tremaine Edmunds, OLB, Virginia Tech

The Bears won’t likely win the Quenton Nelson or Bradley Chubb lottery, even if there is a run of quarterbacks. But Edmunds would be an underrated, value pick at eighth overall. Looking back at what Pace’s prototypical prospect is, Edmunds fits almost perfectly. Edmunds has elite, athletic ability at 6-foot-5 and is still learning the game. He will continue to grow into whatever position he plays at the NFL level.

Edmunds is not that Week 1 impact player. He will take plenty of time to learn the game, but there is not a better coach to utilize his talents than defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. Two things are clear: he is raw and undefined as a defender. But with his frame and speed, there is a chance he develops into one of the most imposing defenders in football. Edmunds arguably has a higher ceiling than even Chubb and is considered one of the best raw talents in this draft.

However, this pick is going to be volatile towards draft day. It is a quarterback-driven top of the draft, and with so many moving pieces, Quenton Nelson could end up being the pick. It is likely that Nelson is the first player on Pace’s draft board, but based on previous drafts and characteristics, Edmunds might be second.

Second round:

Pick No. 39: Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M

Pace has made it abundantly clear that this offseason’s sole purpose is to give Trubisky all the tools he needs to succeed as an NFL quarterback. Christian Kirk would cap off an addition to a now talented group of skill position players. The Bears need a slot receiver, and unless Nagy has ideas for Tarik Cohen in the slot, a player like Kirk would be a great addition.

Now, spending early draft capital on a position the Bears spent lavishly on in free agency might seem counterproductive and could lose out on more needy positions. However, Kirk would be an excellent value in the early second and would make an immediate impact on the field. On top of good football instincts, Kirk runs a fast 40-time and has excellent ball skills. Another dangerous weapon to add could help push this team into contention.

Conclusion

The Bears might be just out of the picture of getting Nelson, but Edmunds is nothing to be upset about and brings much-needed help to the pass rush. Kirk would cap off a great supporting cast for Trubisky to work with.

Make sure to tune in tomorrow for the San Francisco 49ers 2018 Draft profile.

 

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Players to Watch on Every Overwatch League Team

The era of franchised esports leagues begins with the opening of the Overwatch League at Blizzard’s Arena in Burbank, California. The team-based, first-person shooter, with millions of players and fans worldwide, throws its hat into the competitive arena, but I’m not here to talk the business side anymore.

It’s finally time for the players to suit up and actually find out who the best is on the battlefield. 120 of the top Overwatch players from across the globe are competing for that title at the end of the season. Each team is crammed with firepower, but here are THE players to watch on each Overwatch team.

Shanghai Dragons: Diya, Hitscan main

Lu “Diya” Weida, a Chinese DPS-main, took the preseason by storm. The Dragons, while talented, had a relatively unknown roster for Western Overwatch fans heading into season one. Diya quickly made an impression with incredible precision on McCree. On a Dragons team lacking solid supports, Diya will have to carry the offense. He’s certainly talented enough to do so.

Boston Uprising: Gamsu, Tank

See? It’s not all damage-mains. The bulk of talent actually seems to bleed into the tank line. Yeong-jin “Gamsu” Noh, the famous League of Legends player, now headlines on the Uprising as their consistent tank. In the preseason, Gamsu played a major role in the attack. He sets up for the Uprising damage-duo to do work on the backend.

Photo Courtesy of Overwatch League

San Francisco Shock: Babybay, Hitscan/Flex

The Shock will be getting much-needed reinforcements with Jay “Sinatraa” Won, but in the meantime, Andrej “Babybay” Francisty will be carrying the Shock offense. This is similar to what he had to do in the preseason. A strong force as a hitscan player that can also flex onto tank roles. Babybay’s damage output could decide games.

Florida Mayhem: Manneten, Tank

Throwing out a curveball here. Everyone knows Kevyn “TviQ” Lindstrom can ball, but analyzing this team, Tim “Manneten” Bylund comes away as the most important player on the roster. In a rather lackluster preseason showing from the Mayhem, Manneten was the only player putting up any sort of fight. His hero pool, as a tank main, is more versatile than most.

Houston Outlaws: LiNkzr, Damage

The Outlaws are a team stacked with DPS-depth, but one player looks on the verge of a breakthrough: Jiri “LiNkzr” Masalin. Sure, Matt “Coolmatt” Lorio might set the tone for this team, but LiNkzr is the player who’s going to separate the Outlaws. If Widowmaker is as popular in the meta as it was in the preseason, LiNkzr could be even more dangerous.

London Spitfire: Fissure, Tank

The most stupidly, ridiculously stacked team in the Overwatch League is the combination of two of the best Korean teams. Every position is filled with 2-3 players that would be possibly the best player on another team. So, who stands above as the essential personnel? Well, that would be arguably the best tank main in Korea, Baek “Fissure” Chan-hyung. He will spearhead the entire Spitfire attack.

New York Excelsior: Saebyeolbe, Hitscan

Possibly the most exciting team to watch in the preseason, a combination of explosiveness and solid team-fighting. Until Hwang “Flow3r” Yeon-oh arrives, Park “Saebyeolbe” Jong-yeol will have to carry the reigns of this spectacular DPS-duo. His Tracer play is near the top for one of the most talented characters in all of Overwatch.

Dallas Fuel: Taimou, Damage/Flex

It’s simple for the Dallas Fuel, get Timo “Taimou”  Kettunen sightlines or pave the way for this player. Yes, Félix “xQc Lengyel and Christian “Cocco” Jonsson are a phenomenal tank-line, but Taimou will make or break maps. In terms of aim, Taimou can destroy pushes with Widowmaker. His hero pool allows plenty of versatility as well, I mean did you see that Roadhog?

Los Angeles Gladiators: Shaz, Support

A support main? What?

Yes, Jonas “Shaz” Suovaara will be the key to the Gladiators success this season. Only a few other players impressed me more in the preseason than Shaz. He was involved in every situation and worked in tandem with Benjamin “iBigG00se” Isohanni. Shaz finds a way to stay alive and gives the Gladiators DPS-mains the push needed to take points. The support main to watch this season? Shaz.

Los Angeles Valiant: uNKoe, Flex-Support

Benjamin “uNKoe” Chevasson isn’t the most talented player on this team, but a player who can switch off Ana, Zenyatta, and Mercy is invaluable in any meta-game. Valiant have a load of work to do before this team is a real contender, based on the preseason, uNKoe will be one of the few consistencies on this team. The French player has the most experience on this team.

Photo Courtesy of Overwatch League

Seoul Dynasty: Zunba, Flex-Tank

For my money, Kim “Zunba” Joon-hyuk is going to be the player that pushes this team over the top. The Dynasty have 10 players to keep an eye on, but it feels as if their biggest advantage is in the Flex-Tank spot, and Zunba being a versatile and strong option in that regard.

Philadelphia Fusion: Carpe, Damage

The remains of the FaZe clan team of Lee “Carpe” Jae-hyeok, George “ShaDowBurn” Gushcha, and Joe “Joemeister” Gramano will be the core of the Fusion. The experience from these three will be important, but the dynamic DPS-duo of Carpe and Shadowburn will be what this team will lean on.

With the Overwatch League going on this week you can decide who you think the player to watch on each team will be. Let us know on Facebook or Twitter!

 

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Davante Adams

Week 17 NFL picks against the spread

My run of solid late season weeks continued with an 8-8 mark against the spread. Headed into the final week of the regular season, my record sits at 104-124-11. With several teams resting starters, lines are strange this week. All games will be played on Sunday afternoon. My picks are bolded, outright upsets have an asterisk, and all lines are from rtsports.com at the time of my writing.

Bears at Vikings (-12) – A win is all Minnesota needs to ensure that first-round bye in the playoffs. They will get it, but the Bears have been tough out all year long. This includes playing the Vikings to the gun during Mitchell Trubisky’s starting debut on Monday Night Football.

Chicago has since figured out that Jordan Howard as well as the defense are the best things this team has going for it. While that revelation likely came a little too late to save the employment of John Fox, it has given some good teams like Carolina and Baltimore fits along with the Vikings. Despite this, Minnesota being the team that has something to play for will get him over the line in this one. Min 21 Chi 17

Browns at Steelers (-6) – Both teams have something to play for here. The Browns are trying to avoid joining the 2008 Lions in the 0-16 club. Should New England stumbled against the Jets, Pittsburgh can earn home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs, Reports of Ben Roethlisberger and Le’Veon Bell resting for the playoffs tell you how little faith the Steelers have in that possibility.

Cleveland played a full strength Steelers team to the wire during opening week. With Pittsburgh nowhere near full strength for this one, something similar should be expected here. Unfortunately for Cleveland fans, the only fitting end to their team’s season would be losing yet another close game to make dubious history. Pit 24 Cle 20

Cowboys (-3) at Eagles- Philadelphia has secured home field throughout the NFC playoffs, but they are banged up. After a shaky showing against the Raiders last week, Nick Foles and the offense clearly need work, but what if he gets hurt? How the Eagles approach this one is anyone’s guess. Dallas is playing for pride here, but Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliot are a safer bet than anything the Eagles offense has to offer right now. Dal 27 Phi 20

Texans at Colts (-5.5) – This is possibly the worst game of Week 17. Jacoby Brissett has proven to be serviceable at quarterback for the Colts this year despite being thrown in to a bad situation. Chuck Pagano has ran his course in Indy, but the players have pretty much always played hard for him. Expect no different in what is likely his swan song.

The only Houston’s offense had going for it was DeAndre Hopkins who is set to miss his first career game with a calf injury. If the Texans had stayed healthy, what might have been? We will never know. Both defenses are bad here, but the offenses are worse. Brissett has shown flashes of being able to lead an NFL offense. Meanwhile, the Texans have scored 13 points in their last two games combined. They have been forced to go too deep on their quarterback depth chart to truly compete. Ind 20 Hou 10

Jets at Patriots (-15.5)- Do not be fooled by New York’s record, Todd Bowles has gotten more out of this team make anyone expected this year and is very deserving of the contract extension he signed earlier this week.

New England still has to take care of business here to ensure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. So, the Jets have no chance at winning this game. However, they always play New England very tough and the first meeting this year was no exception. To be a good bet here, New York does not even have to keep it all that close. NE 30 Nyj 17

Redskins (-3) at Giants- Both of these team are bad and ready for the offseason. However, at least the Redskins are not calling their teammates “a cancer” and are still playing hard. Expect Kirk Cousins to play well in what could be his last go around as a Redskin. Was 23 Nyg 13

Cardinals at Seahawks (-8.5) – Seattle is the exact opposite of Atlanta. The Seahawks may be loud and dysfunctional at times, but you can always count on Russell Wilson and Pete Carroll to come through when the chips are down. Look no further than last week.

Ever since the Super Bowl collapse, the same leadership is not in Atlanta. Seattle has a much easier opponent this week, but leadership is why Seattle wins here to force Atlanta to have to do the same to reach the playoffs. Sea 31 Ari 14

Bills (-2) at *Dolphins– Buffalo needs a win and some help to end the longest playoff drought in major American pro sports, but there is no reason to trust them here. Miami has been a disappointment this year, but a home game with a chance to bury a division rival should motivate them.

Slumping offense are worrisome this time of year. Buffalo is not the only desperate AFC team with a sagging offense, but the Bills have scored 20+ points just once since late November. That has to catch up with them eventually, this is the last chance for it to do so. Mia 20 Buf 17

*Panthers at Falcons (-4) – The Falcons get in the playoffs with a win here and may still get in with a loss. This line was made as if Carolina has nothing to play for and that is not the case. The Panthers can still get a first round bye and division title depending on other results. Most important, they need to win this one.

The Falcons have struggled all year to find consistency and beat good teams. They lost to Carolina a handful of weeks ago. The Panthers are the better football team and have been really solid for the last month. Meanwhile, the Falcons were manhandled by the Saints last week and had to squeeze by the lowly Bucs the week before. The cream rises to the top. Car 31 Atl 28

Bengals at Ravens (-9.5)- Of the four teams battling for the final two playoff spots in the AFC, Baltimore is the only team you should feel good about. They are not flashy, but they have a quarterback and coach who have been there and done that when it comes to December and January football. They also run the ball well and play defense. Those two things always translate well this time of year.

Joe Flacco

Photo: thebiglead.com

We saw the Bengals last best showing for the apparently soon to be departing head coach Marvin Lewis last week. The Ravens take full advantage of a favorable schedule down the stretch to emphatically punch their ticket to postseason. This is the one team New England should be nervous about in the AFC. Joe Flacco and John Harbaugh have gone in to New England and won twice before in the playoffs. Bal 30 Cin 13

*Packers at Lions (-7)- Neither team is playing for anything here, but the Lions folded against a bad Cincinnati team last week when they still had playoff hopes, it is hard not to expect a carryover even though the Lions have more talent. Combine that with the strange statistical reality that Brett Hundley has been better on the road, and that is good enough for me. GB 21 Det 20      

*Jaguars at Titans (-2.5) – Tennessee is playing for its playoff life and Jacksonville’s playoff position is secure. Even so, the Jaguars have given every indication that they are playing this game at full tilt.

This means the best defense in football will get a crack at Marcus Mariota and the slumping Titans offense. Mariota has averaged just 224 passing yards for last month and has more interceptions than touchdowns on the year. Nothing we have seen from this offense recently is good enough to make the playoffs. Jac 20 Ten 14

Chiefs at Broncos (-3) – Paxton Lynch will get one last chance to effect Denver’s offseason quarterback plans. The playoff bound Chiefs are resting several starters and giving rookie quarterback Patrick Mahomes a look see. The Denver defense is a pretty tough first assignment. Despite the team having an awful year, the defense leads the league in yards allowed.

Patrick Mahomes

Photo: Denver Post

Given the quarterback matchup, nobody knows what to expect here, Vegas included. Having the home team favorite by a field goal is the catch all line for NFL games. Denver’s offense is woeful, but it is hard to imagine that throwing a rookie quarterback out there surrounded by several backups against Von Miller and company is going to end well. Den 16 KC 10

Saints (-5) at Bucs- For some reason, the Bucs have reportedly decided to retain Dirk Koetter. Despite a ton of young offensive talent, the losses continue to mount. There no reason to think they can stop the tough, physical, and playoff bound Saints from locking down a division title. NO 31 TB 20

Raiders at Chargers (-7) – The Chargers need a win and help, but a playoff spot is realistic. The Raiders will be pesky as they were last week, so, take the points. In the end, the fiery will of Philip Rivers will be enough. Lac 30 Oak 27  

49ers (-4) at Rams- The Rams are guaranteed to host a playoff game next week no matter what happens here. Thus, Jared Goff, Aaron Donald, and several others will sit this one out. With Jimmy Garoppolo still white hot for the 49ers, backups should not be able to slow him down in the season finale. SF 27 Lar 17  

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Week 16 NFL picks against the spread

The folks in Vegas were on their game last week as I posted a 6-7-3 mark against the spread. 96-116-11 is my record for the season.  My picks are bolded, outright upsets have an asterisk, and all lines are from rtsports.com at the time of my writing. Happy Holidays everyone!

Saturday: 

Colts at Ravens (-13.5) – All Baltimore has to do for a return to the playoffs is beat the Colts and Bengals and have Buffalo lose one of its final two games.

This is a huge amount of points to swallow, but the Colts are just plain bad. Baltimore’s only loss in the span of more than a month was in Pittsburgh as time expired. Other than that, they have ran the ball and played defense to beat teams into submission. Indianapolis certainly isn’t in a position to stop that trend. Despite being pesky all year long, it seemed their last bit of fight went out the window in the second half of last week’s loss. Bal 31 Ind 13

Vikings (-9) at Packers– Now eliminated from playoff contention, the Packers made the wise decision to shut down Aaron Rodgers for the rest of the year. Even so, Brett Hundley had some good moments while Rodgers was out injured.

Minnesota is not a flashy football team, but they are very complete. The Vikings still have everything to play for as they try to secure home field advantage in the NFC playoffs, but the Packers would love to make life difficult by hanging a late-season loss on their division rival. That will not happen, but the Packers as 9.5 point underdogs at Lambeau Field is one of the stronger best of the week. Min 27 GB 24

Sunday:

Falcons at Saints (-5.5) – The three horse NFC South race will likely be down to two after this one. Atlanta’s inconsistency is still concerning. They ran Tampa Bay out of the building for most of the game last Monday night and still had to rely on a missed field goal to escape with a win. This team is good, but not as good as New Orleans or Carolina.

The Saints got a little too cute at the end of the game in Atlanta a few weeks ago. Do not expect Sean Payton and Drew Brees to make the same mistake twice. Mark Ingram and Alvin Karmara will both be healthy for this matchup. This is a key difference from a few weeks ago. The Saints approach to winning football games is safer and more consistent. NO 28 Atl 21

Bills at Patriots (11.5) – The fact that a team like Buffalo is holding down a playoff spot speaks to what a dismal year the entire AFC is having. Buffalo will need to win at least one of its final two games to end the longest ongoing playoff drought in major American pro sports. Ever since Nathan Peterman briefly became the starter, this team has not played well.

To their credit, they have still managed to find ways to win, which is more than most of their counterparts can say. Even so, they do not have the firepower to go on the road to New England and trouble the reigning Super Bowl champions who got a huge but controversial win to take control of the entire conference last week. NE 31 Buf 17

*Browns at Bears (-6.5) – Unless Pittsburgh is in a situation where they can rest starters next week, this is Cleveland’s last best chance to avoid going winless. This pick has nothing to do with scheme or matchups.

It has everything to do with the fact that Chicago is not a good team and that the Cleveland defense is on pace to give up over 100 points less than the 2008 Lions who became the first team in NFL history to go 0-16. The Browns have played too hard and been so close to win so many times this year to go winless. Somehow, they will find a way. Cle 17 Chi 14

*Broncos at Redskins (-3.5) – As the season winds down, the game of quarterback musical chairs continues in Denver. It will be Brock Osweiler or Paxton Lynch this week.

Regardless of who is playing quarterback for the Broncos, their defense has given up just four touchdowns this month at two of them were off short fields created by turnovers. Combine that with the fact that Washington’s offensive line has been held together with duct tape all year long, and the Broncos are well-equipped for a minor upset here. Den 20 Was 17

Lions (-4.5) at Bengals- It has all but been confirmed that this is the last home game for Marvin Lewis as Bengals head coach. Lewis never could get the franchise over the hump, but he made football relevant in Cincinnati again. For that reason, it would be nice to see his players play hard, send him out a winner, and muck up the playoff picture in the process. However, Cincinnati has been outscored 67-14 in their last two weeks. Thus, there is no reason to think that will happen. Det 28 Cin 17

Chargers (-6.5) at Jets– The Chargers laid an egg in a big game last week. A pattern that has become all-too-familiar to that fan base over the last 15 or so years. They still have miniscule playoff hopes and having Philip Rivers under center ensures that this team will continue playing hard.

Bryce Petty and the Jets surprisingly gave New Orleans a fistfight last week. New York has been a good bet as an underdog this year. They have managed to beat Kansas City and Jacksonville while covering against teams like New England and Atlanta. The Los Angeles pass rush will be too much for the Jets to overcome. They will not win, but their season-long trend of playing talented teams tough will continue. Lac 24 Nyj 21

Rams (-6.5) at Titans- Tennessee is still very much a part of the AFC playoff conversation. Thus, this is the worst possible time for them to be playing their worst football of the year.

Ever since about October, Mike Mullarkey has struggled to get his team to play well on both sides of the ball at the same time. Two weeks ago they gave up just 12 points and lost. Last week, they scored 23 points and still came up short. If you are not playing well, the Rams may be the last team you want to face at the moment.

Even if the Titans manage to contain Sean McVay’s high powered offense, there is no indication that the offense can score enough points to win. This means that Tennessee is also in trouble if this game turns into a shootout. Either way, the Rams coast here. Lar 30 Ten 20           

Dolphins at Chiefs (-10)-  After teasing the entire Miami fan base by leading an upset of the mighty Patriots, the grumpy and inconsistent version of Jay Cutler made a return last week in Buffalo. With Miami now needing nothing short of a miracle to reach the playoffs, he is probably wishing he would have kept his broadcasting gig.

Jay Cutler

Photo: abcnews.go.com

Miami’s cause is not helped by the fact that Kansas City is finding some of its early-season form after routing division rivals to reestablish control of the AFC West. The Raiders and Chargers offenses have been held under 20 points in recent weeks by the Chiefs. Miami’s offense is not as good as those offenses. Add in the fact that Kareem Hunt has put up consecutive games of at least 100 yards rushing, and this game could get ugly. KC 34 Mia 17

Bucs at Panthers (-10) – Carolina has scored over 30 points in four of the last five games, but the defense has allowed teams to make things interesting late in the games. The Bucs are still fighting hard despite a season that started with such high hopes turning out to be a disaster. The pattern continues and Tampa Bay gets a garbage time touchdown to cover the spread, but the Panthers clinch a playoff spot. Car 30 TB 23

Jaguars (-4) at *49ers– Jacksonville is a legitimate contender that will cause problems for any opponent in the AFC playoffs. This pick has more to do with San Francisco and Jimmy Garoppolo. The former Tom Brady understudy is still undefeated as a starting quarterback in his career. In his three starts with San Francisco, he has limited turnovers while shredding three solid defenses. This is just a case of a team running into a hot quarterback. As good as it is, the Jacksonville defense has not ran into many of those this year. SF 24 Jac 17

Giants at Cardinals (-3.5) – Two bad teams are doing battle for nothing but pride in this one. For the NFL to have so few meaningless games this late in the season is a great thing. The Giants have looked a little more presentable since Eli Manning got his job back, but not much. They are ready for the offseason.

Meanwhile, Arizona is still plugged in despite not finding the end zone in a little more than two games. They managed to beat Tennessee and nearly knocked off Washington on field goals alone. They will break the touchdown drought and smother the Giants. Ari 21 Nyg 13

*Seahawks at Cowboys (-5)This is the sucker bet of the week. Both teams need a win to keep their playoff hopes alive. The public is down on Seattle. It is understandable after last week’s surprising blowout. Meanwhile, the public is high on Dallas with Ezekiel Elliott returning to the fold this week.

Ezekiel Elliott

Photo: si.com

With Dallas being at home and a relatively small favorite, Vegas is begging you to take Dallas. So, the only logical thing to do is go the other way. If Seattle was not so experienced in situations like this and did not have Russell Wilson at quarterback, I would bail on the Seahawks too, but that is not the case. Sea 24 Dal 20

Monday:

Steelers (-9.5) at Texans- The only thing to worry about here is Pittsburgh’s strange struggles with bad teams on the road this year. They lost outright to Chicago and failed to cover against Indianapolis, Cleveland, and Cincinnati. Also, Antonio Brown is a massive loss in the short term and possibly long term as well. Despite all that, it is difficult to get around the fact that Houston is a four win football team that is likely going to have to start T.J. Yates at quarterback again this week. Pit 34 Hou 17

Raiders at Eagles (-9) – If the Eagles defense plays like they did last week, Nick Foles will be the least of their worries come playoff time. Foles showed last week that he is very capable of keeping the train on the tracks.

The Raiders found another very creative way to lose a football game last week. With their playoff hopes now all but gone, it is hard to imagine Oakland providing much resistance here, even though they have the talent to do so. If Oakland was playing like they did last year, this would be a fun one, but they aren’t. Phi 38 Oak 24

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Jarvis Landry

Week 14 NFL picks against the spread

Finally, a good week. I went 10-6 against the spread for week 13. This included correctly predicting outright upsets by the Packers, Seahawks, and Cowboys. 82-101-8 is where I stand as the stretch run rolls on. My picks are bolded, outright upsets have an asterisk, and all lines are from rtsports.com at the time of my writing.

Thursday Night:

Saints (-1.5) at Falcons- A loss to their division rival here would likely end the relevant part of Atlanta’s season. Even during last year’s Super Bowl run, their defense was average to slightly above average. The difference this year has been the offense being too inconsistent to make up for the defensive shortcomings.

If Atlanta managed to hold an opponent to 14 points last year, that was a certain blowout victory. Last week against Minnesota when that happened, the Falcons lost. Meanwhile, New Orleans is the exact opposite. Run the ball with two great backs, play defense, and ask Drew Brees to go win the game if necessary. The approach is consistent and has worked very well. Taking consistency over inconsistency is always the safe bet. NO 28 Atl 21

Sunday:

Bears at Bengals (-6)- We are getting to the point in the season where there are a few matchups each week featuring teams that don’t have much to play for. This certainly qualifies as one of those. The Bears have stayed scrappy all year long. Firing John Fox would be a mistake, but is likely inevitable at this point.

You could feel the wind come out of Cincinnati’s sails after the close loss to Pittsburgh on Monday night. Chicago has struggled to finish games all year long and Cincinnati definitely has more offensive firepower. The Bengals will win, but six points is too many. Cin 20 Chi 17

Cowboys (-4) at Giants- Dallas is still breathing in the loaded NFC playoff race. They ran the ball down Washington’s throat last week. No matter who is in the backfield, that is what they do best. To call the Giants a dysfunctional franchise right now would be an insult to dysfunctional franchises everywhere.

Eli Manning gets his job back for the Giants a week after his bizarre benching. The regime that made that move as well as all the other moves that have led to New York’s disastrous season has been fired. Who knows what the long-term future of the Giants looks like? In the short term, it is tough to imagine this team being competitive with anyone at the moment. A desperate Dallas team is no exception. Dal 24 Nyg 14

*Lions at Bucs (Pick ‘em) – Here is a game shrouded in quarterback mystery. A pick ‘em line is the only way to go until Matthew Stafford’s playing status becomes clearer. Detroit still has an outside shot at the playoffs. Regardless of who plays quarterback for the Lions, Tampa Bay appears to have closed up shop for the remainder of the season. Their only two wins since the first month of the season came when the guy they drafted to be their franchise quarterback just a few years ago was hurt. This franchise needs to take a long look in the mirror. Detroit is tough to trust, but Tampa Bay is impossible to trust this season. Det 24 TB 20

Packers (-3) at *Browns– The Packers are the better team, but Brett Hundley has been wildly inconsistent since taking over for Aaron Rodgers. He only had 84 passing yards last week in a win against Tampa Bay. The Cleveland defense has been in the top half of most categories all year long. They are one of the more underrated units in the league.

Deshone Kizer

Photo: nydailynews.com

Also, Josh Gordon clearly added a layer to the stagnant Browns offense in his return last week. DeShone Kizer is still responsible for far too many turnovers, but the rookie quarterback has shown real improvement in the last month. Going winless for an entire season in the NFL is hard to do and the Browns could easily have three or four wins by now. This is one of their last realistic chances to avoid legendary embarrassment and they know it. Somehow, they will find a way. Cle 17 GB 14

            *Colts at Bills (Pick ‘em) – A 3-9 record is bad, but if games ended at halftime, Indianapolis’s record would be flipped. They have played hard all year long and can play with anybody, even with a backup quarterback. Even though Buffalo is the team that is still alive in the playoff hunt, that same type of fight just is not there. With Tyrod Taylor injured, the line for this game will remain fuzzy right up until kickoff. Things seem to be trending towards backup Nathan Peterman who threw five interceptions in the first half of his NFL debut earlier this year. That is a great reason to pick the road team.

Vikings (-2.5) at *Panthers– The Vikings continue to defy expectations. Defense is their identity, but Case Keenum and the offense are doing enough to win games. Minnesota has won eight in a row.

I might be the last person on earth that is still skeptical of Keenum, but it is tough to pick this team when they go up against top-flight quarterbacks like Cam Newton. The Panthers run a ton of formations and are difficult to prepare for. The Vikings offense did struggle a little bit last week. The defense had to stand on its head to secure the 14-9 victory. This game will come down to which offense will be able to better move the ball against a really good defense. These teams are right next to each other in a lot of statistics. The only definitive advantage is Carolina being at home. Car 14 Min 13

 

 

Raiders at Chiefs (-4) – With three teams in the AFC West tied at 6-6, this is a huge game. Oakland won the first meeting with a touchdown at the gun. Both teams were thought to have explosive offenses that have pretty much disappeared ever since that shootout. Anything could happen here, but Kansas City still has one of the toughest home-field advantages in all ofsports. Also, even though Andy Reid is taking a lot of heat for Kansas City’s dramatic drop-off, the Chiefs have a significant coaching edge here. KC 27 Oak 20

Jimmy Garoppolo

Photo: espn.com

*49ers at Texans (-3)-  While Texans fans are no doubt wondering what might have been had Deshaun Watson stayed healthy, Tom Savage has settled in and at least played okay the last few weeks. However, Jimmy Garoppolo’s first start had to give the entire 49ers organization a lift last week. The offense struggled in the red zone, but they found a way to win. Like last week, they will not need to score a lot of points to get the job done here. SF 17 Hou 16

Jets (-1) at Broncos- If you had said the Jets would be road favorites in Denver this year before the season, you would have been laughed out of the room. New York has played solid fundamental football all year long to notch five more wins than most people predicted. They do not have a ton of talent, but their ground game is effective and Josh McCown has 10 more touchdown passes than interceptions.

This pick has more to do with Denver. The Broncos defense is still really good, but the offense is constantly shooting itself in the foot. This is a winnable game for both teams, but Denver made the Dolphins look like the 85 Bears last week. It is tough to pick them after that. Nyj 19 Den 13

Titans (-3) at Cardinals- Thanks to the lack of depth in the AFC, Tennessee appears headed for a rare playoff appearance. Tennessee is not flashy, but there is a lot to be said for winning five one possession games this year.

Arizona has been all over the map this year. Despite flashes of looking like the playoff team many thought they would be, sitting at 5-7 means that they are probably closer to the team that got demolished by the Rams last week. A bunch of key people in the organization are old. It could look a lot different in 2018. Tennessee is not really capable of blowing anyone out, but they should get the job done as they have for most of the season. Ten 20 Ari 14

Redskins at Chargers (-6)- The Chargers are suddenly the trendy pick to make noise in the AFC playoffs after getting back to .500 following an 0-4 start. Their remaining game with Kansas City will likely decide that. For now though, with injuries, losses, and questions about the future piling up, the Redskins are in no position to cool off a red-hot quarterback and pass rush at the moment. Lac 30 Was 20

Eagles at Rams (-2.5) – One of the best matchups of the week is a simple one to analyze. Last week, the Eagles faced a team that was playing well on the road for the second time this year. They were manhandled for the second time. The same scenario applies this week. Both these teams have benefited from the fact that there are just a lot of average to below average teams in the NFL right now. They both are probably too young to win a Super Bowl this year, the Rams are coming in with more confidence and playing at home. Lar 24 Phi 16

*Seahawks at Jaguars (-2.5) – Here, you have two likely playoff teams with really good defenses. Jacksonville’s unit is a little better, but rely a lot on sacks. Good luck trying to run down Russell Wilson. This matchup is as simple as one team being quarterbacked by Wilson and the other by Blake Bortles.  Sea 21 Jac 13

Ravens at Steelers (-5) – The best rivalry in football takes center stage for Sunday Night Football. Everyone has been panicking about Pittsburgh’s slow starts and locker room drama all year long. They just keep finding ways to win.

This is a completely different Ravens team than the one that Pittsburgh manhandled in early October. The defense remains stout, but the emergence of Alex Collins at running back has given the offense a much-needed identity. They have scored over 20 points in their last four games.

Most weeks, that is going to be more than enough for Baltimore’s defense. John Harbaugh’s team has started to separate itself in the mediocre AFC wildcard race. The Steelers might be the toughest offense in football to contain. Their stars will do just enough to pull out a win. Even so, an underdog getting anything more than a field goal in this matchup feels like stealing. Pit 24 Bal 21

 Monday Night:

Patriots (-11) at Dolphins- Miami’s convincing win over Denver last week is hardly a sign that this team is making progress. They still committed three turnovers. New England is rolling and never beats themselves the way Denver did. Even with Rob Gronkowski sidelined, there is nothing to suggest that the Patriots will not dominate this matchup much like the way they did less than a month ago. NE 31 Mia 14

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2017 NFL power rankings week 14

2017 NFL power rankings week 14

December football is upon us, and as the weather gets colder, the NFL playoff races are heating up. Four teams have been officially eliminated from playoff contention; Cleveland, San Francisco, Chicago and the New York Giants. There is also a few playoff-clinching scenarios in play during week 14. New England can clinch the AFC East with a win over Miami or a Buffalo loss. Philadelphia can clinch the NFC East title with a win over the Los Angeles Rams, or with a New York Giants win over Dallas. Minnesota can clinch the NFC North with a win over Carolina or losses by both Detroit and Green Bay. With all that being said, here are the current 2017 NFL power rankings for Week 14.

32. Cleveland Browns (0-12)

2017 NFL power rankings week 14

(Photo Credit: John David Mercer, USA TODAY Sports)

Last week: 32 (no change)

Next game: home vs. Green Bay

There is little to say about Cleveland that hasn’t already been said. They are four games away from an infamous 0-16 season. All Cleveland can focus on is the draft. This year they must find the quarterback that can change the franchise. They have gone too long without a true leader to play under center. In the last two seasons, they have missed out on Carson Wentz, DeShaun Watson, Dak Prescott and other. In 2018, they need to find a way to take Lamar Jackson or Baker Mayfield.

31. New York Giants (2-10)

Last week: 30 (-1)

Next game: home vs. Dallas

Giant fans can breathe a sigh of relief. Mustache man, Ben McAdoo is gone and can no longer hurt your team. New York is having a disastrous season but at 2-10, they have a lot of talent still. The defense is a couple of players away from being elite. The offense has Odell Beckham Jr. and Evan Engram to build around. Their focus needs to be solidifying their offensive line and finding a workhorse running back. If they do that they can still win with Eli Manning at quarterback. He does not have to be replaced yet.

30. Denver Broncos (3-9)

Last week: 29 (-1)

Next game: home vs. New York Jets

Getting blown out by Miami has shown just how far the Broncos have fallen this season.  Nothing is going right and they need to hit the reset button. The Jets will be coming to town to put a beatdown on the Broncos. This once feared defense is now 31st in scoring defense giving up 26.2 points per game. Going forward they will need to fix this defense or find a new identity.

29. Chicago Bears (3-9)

Last week: 28 (-1)

Next game: away vs. Cincinnati

The Bears might not be a playoff contender but man does their future look exciting with players like Tarik Cohen and Mitchell Trubisky. Their defensive play has gone under the radar because they are eliminated from the playoffs. The only thing the Bears can do for the remainder of this season is build momentum for the future.

28. San Francisco 49ers (2-10)

Last week: 31 (+3)

Next game: away vs. Houston

Jimmy Garoppolo has generated a buzz in San Francisco. It appears that he will be the franchise quarterback moving forward. This is good news for the 49ers who will have another top-five pick to build their team. As they continue to build their defense Garoppolo can provide the consistency needed from a signal caller. If the defense steps up next season and the front office gets Jimmy G some weapons on the outside, then the 49ers will be one of the surprise playoff teams as early as next year.

27. Indianapolis Colts (3-9)

Last week: 27 (no change)

Next game: away vs. Buffalo

The Colts defense has kept them in most of their games but it usually breaks in the second half. One thing to keep an eye on for the remainder of the Colts’ season is Frank Gore. Gore is only 368 yards from another 1,000 yard and at age 34 which is remarkable. He is also just 404 yards away from passing Curtis Martin for fourth on the all-time rushing list. If he can reach that mark in the final four games it would be the highlight of the Colts’ season.

26. Miami Dolphins (5-7)

Last week: 26 (no change)

Next game: home vs. New England

Miami blew out the Broncos to end their five-game losing streak. Jay Cutler threw for 235 yards and Kenyan Drake ran for 120 yards on just 23 carries. Drake is proving he could be the feature back moving forward. This week the Dolphins will host the Patriots and Miami have lost three straight to New England and four of the last five.

25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-8)

Last week: 24 (-1)

Next game: home vs. Detroit

Fixing the defense should be the number one priority this offseason. Jameis Winston is a really good young quarterback but the Bucs could end up wasting his talents. The offense around Winston is very solid as well with O.J. Howard, Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson. Doug Martin could be replaced with a more reliable back but overall the offense is solid. The defense must step it up but they can’t salvage this season.

24. New York Jets (5-7)

Last week: 25 (+1)

Next game: away vs. Denver

Somehow, someway the Jets have won five games and continue to be the most unpredictable team in the NFL. They are mathematically alive in the playoff hunt but don’t get it twisted, they are not a playoff caliber team. They should find themselves in the win column again with a road trip to Denver on the schedule. But then again, if anybody could lose to Denver at this point in the season, don’t be surprised if it is the Jets.

23. Arizona Cardinals (5-7)

Last week: 22 (-1)

Next game: home vs. Tennessee

Bruce Arians is a damn good coach who has kept the Cardinals very competitive despite losing David Johnson and Carson Palmer this season. Arizona is struggling to score points but if they had Johnson and Palmer they would be fairing much better. After dropping a game to the Rams the Cardinals get to host the playoff-bound Titans and it will be a tough test.

22. Houston Texans (4-8)

Last week: 23 (+1)

Next game: home vs. San Francisco

For some reason, the Texans threw the ball 49 times with Tom Savage. Anybody who knows anything about football knows that a team can not win with Savage throwing that ball that often. Houston needs to run the ball more and 22 attempts are not enough. It is no surprise they lost to the Titans because of this formula. If they have a similar gameplan against the 49ers they will lose to them as well.

21. Cincinnati Bengals (5-7)

Last week: 19 (-2)

Next game: home vs. Chicago

Cincinnati had a 17 point lead at home against their rival Pittsburgh Steelers. Blowing that game may have cost them a shot at the playoffs. Looking back at that game, it summarizes Marvin Lewis’ time in Cincinnati. In the beginning, it looked great and there have been multiple displays of greatness. At the end though, they always come up short. Cincinnati needs a change of culture and Marvin Lewis needs to be fired.

20. Kansas City Chiefs (6-6)

Last week: 14 (-6)

Next game: home vs. Oakland

Losing to the Jets is the last straw. This team will miss the playoffs and be a footnote in history of the teams that got off to a hot start but eventually folded. Andy Reid finally got back to airing it out and opening the offense for Alex Smith but then the defense decided to go missing. Kansas City has a virtual playoff game this week but the way their season has gone recently they will probably lose again for the seventh time in eight games.

19. Buffalo Bills (6-6)

Last week: 13 (-6)

Next game: home vs. Indianapolis Colts

Buffalo only managed to score three points against the Patriots. LeSean McCoy was held to just 93 yards and as a team, they only threw for 115 yards. The Bills are still in the hunt in the AFC wildcard picture but their schedule doesn’t look favorable. Buffalo should beat Indy this week but then they have to face Miami twice and New England one more time. The benching of Tyrod Taylor against the Chargers might end up being the difference when it is all said and done.

18. Oakland Raiders (6-6)

Last week: 18 (no change)

Next game: away vs. Kansas City

The Raiders control their own destiny in the AFC West as the Chiefs and Chargers are both 6-6 as well. If they win their next four games they will win the division title but they have Kansas City this week followed by Dallas, Philadelphia and the Los Angeles Chargers. It will not be easy to accomplish but if they run the table it would be well earned.

17. Washington Redskins (5-7)

2017 NFL power rankings week 14

(Photo Credit: AP Photo)

Last week: 16 (-1)

Next game: away vs. Los Angeles Chargers

Washington got completely manhandled by the Cowboys and that is a disturbing outcome. The Redskins will not make the playoffs and still have to worry about Kirk Cousins walking away from them this offseason. If that happens Washington will no longer have an identity and will have to start yet another rebuild. They must travel to Los Angeles to face the scorching hot Chargers.

16. Green Bay Packers (6-6)

Last week: 20 (+4)

Next game: away vs. Cleveland

Green Bay got a much needed, momentum building, win against the Buccaneers. All they have to do is beat Cleveland and then they get Aaron Rodgers back for the final three games. 10 wins are typically the benchmark to make the playoffs and with Aaron Rodgers returning it is very possible they reach that benchmark. Cleveland should present an easy opportunity for a win. The rest of the NFC should be on the lookout for the Packers.

15. Detroit Lions (6-6)

Last week: 15 (no change)

Next game: away vs. Tampa Bay

The Lions have lost back to back important games and must finish the season on a four-game win streak to have a shot at making the playoffs. Detroit’s final four games include the Buccaneers, Bears, Bengals and Packers. All their remaining games are winnable. One thing the Lions must do is play better defense as they are giving up 25.7 points per game which is sixth worst in the NFL. Matthew Stafford can’t do it all himself and if the defense doesn’t lend a hand then Detroit will miss the playoffs.

14. Dallas Cowboys (6-6)

Last week: 17 (+3)

Next game: away vs. New York Giants

The Cowboys season may have changed for the better after a huge win against their biggest rival, the Redskins, 38-14. Dallas got back to running the ball. Alfred Morris had 27 carries for 127 yards and one touchdown. Dallas sits at 6-6 and is on the outside looking in of the playoffs. if they can win four straight, like many other teams, they will find themselves in the playoffs. Unfortunately, they still have games against the Raiders, Seahawks and Eagles so the playoffs do not look likely.

13. Baltimore Ravens (7-5)

Last week: 21 (+8)

Next game: away vs. Pittsburgh

For a while now I have not given the Ravens the credit that they have earned. Their defense has been recognized but their inept offense gave a cause for pause. After thrashing the Lions, it is clear that the Ravens will likely be a playoff team. Now, they probably won’t go too deep into the playoffs but this a good team. If they get an upset win on the road this week, they are all but a lock for a playoff berth and could even have a shot at winning the division.

12. Tennessee Titans (8-4)

Last week: 12 (no change)

Next game: away vs. Arizona

Tennessee is an old-school football team that pounds the rock behind two really good running backs. Derek Henry is averaging 5.7 yards per carry and a total of 629 yards while DeMarco Murray has racked up 518 yards. As a team, Tennessee is averaging 122 yards per game on the ground. Marcus Mariota has the ability to get hot at any moment and if he does then the Titans become a darkhorse in the AFC.

11. Atlanta Falcons (7-5)

Last week: 8 (-3)

Next game: home vs. New Orleans

How many times have these Atlanta Falcons been held to under 10 points and no touchdowns at home? Not very often. The loss at home to the Vikings dampers their chance of returning to the playoffs. However, if they can find some of that old offensive magic this week against the Saints, then they still have a shot at winning the division.

10. Carolina Panthers (8-4)

Last week: 7 (-3)

Next game: home vs. Minnesota

Carolina does not match up well with the Saints. New Orleans swept Carolina and holds all the tiebreakers against them. The Panthers don’t get much of a chance to catch their breath either because the first seeded Vikings are coming to town to finish their road trip. The Panthers are going to have to control the clock. If they can win the time of possession they will tire out Minnesota’s stellar defense and have a shot at winning.

9. Los Angeles Chargers (6-6)

Last week: 9 (no change)

Next game: home vs. Washington

Los Angeles is one of the hottest teams in the league, winning six of their last eight. That is why they are ranked in the top ten of these rankings. The Chargers have caught up to the Chiefs. Nobody wants to play the Chargers because they can get after the quarterback and create havoc for opposing offense. On the other side of the ball, they have an experienced quarterback and a young running back to rely on. Los Angeles will continue to win games and just like the Titans, be a darkhorse to challenge in the AFC.

8. Jacksonville Jaguars (8-4)

Last week: 10 (-2)

Next game: home vs. Seattle

Jacksonville’s defense is Super Bowl caliber and can lead them deep into the playoffs as long as Blake Bortles doesn’t mess it up. The Jaguars rank first in total defense (282.5 yards allowed per game), passing defense (167.1 passing yards allowed per game), sacks (45) and second in takeaways (27). Seattle will be a difficult challenge but Jacksonville has the luxury of playing this one at home.

7. Seattle Seahawks (8-4)

2017 NFL power rankings week 14

(Photo Credit: JONATHAN FERREY/GETTY IMAGES SPORT)

Last week: 11 (+4)

Next game: away vs. Jacksonville

Just how good is Russell Wilson?  He has the Seahawks winning games with a horrible offensive line and half of the Legion of Boom missing. Wilson should be the favorite to win the MVP award because without him the Seahawks would be lucky to have three wins. Wilson has thrown for 3,256, 26 touchdowns and just eight interceptions. Beating the Eagles was a statement to the rest of the NFC that the Seahawks are not to be overlooked.

6. New Orleans Saints (9-3)

Last week: 6 (no change)

Next game: away vs. Atlanta

There is no better running back duo in the NFL than Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara. This duo is doing so well they need a nickname. Ingram likes Boom and Zoom but I am sure they can find a better one. New Orleans has swept Carolina because of these awesome backs that have led the way. If they can repeat that success against Atlanta this week they will put a nice hold on the division.

5. Philadelphia Eagles (10-2)

Last week: 2 (-3)

Next game: away vs. Los Angeles Rams

Philly had their long win streak snapped and it wasn’t a huge surprise. Winning in Seattle is tough and the Eagles had not been in many close games against good teams. The defense was a bit exposed and may struggle to shut down the Rams explosive offense. Carson Wentz will need to play great to keep the Eagles soaring.

4. Los Angeles Rams (9-3)

Last week: 5 (+1)

Next game: home vs. Philadelphia

Los Angeles has been on a scheduling gauntlet lately. The recently played the Vikings and Saints and now they have to face the Eagles. This is a big game for both teams as they are fighting for a possible first-round bye and possibly home-field advantage. Their recent win against the Cardinals was a tune-up for this showdown. There should be fireworks as the teams are tied for first in scoring offense averaging 30.1 points per game.

3. Minnesota Vikings (10-2)

Last week: 4 (+1)

Next game: away vs. Carolina

The Vikings are a win away from clinching the division title. All they have to do is win one game against the Panthers, Bengals, Packers and Bears. That should be easy enough for a team with a defense as strong as theirs. Case Keenum continues his MVP-level play completing 25 of 30 pass attempts against the Falcons. He didn’t throw a single incompletion in the second half. Minnesota has a third straight road game this week against the Panthers. It will be impressive if they can pull off another win.

2. Pittsburgh Steelers (10-2)

Last week: 3 (+1)

Next game: home vs. Baltimore

The Steelers keep catching flack for winning close games against inferior teams but wins are hard to come by in the NFL. A win is good no matter if it is by one or 100 and Pittsburgh just keeps winning. They are earning a lot of experience for close battles they will encounter in the playoffs. When the playoffs start the Steelers will find themselves prepared for anything and everything.

1. New England Patriots (10-2)

Last week: 1 (no change)

Next game: away vs. Miami

New England continues to win games and look like champions while doing it. The Patriots are the best team in the NFL because they have the greatest coach and quarterback of all-time. Their defense is coming off a great performance against the Bills allowing just three points. New England has nothing to worry about and are gearing up for their favorite time of the year.

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