NFL 2019 Season Preview Part 2: Ceilings and Floors for Last Year’s Non-playoff Teams in the AFC

Last week I got my NFC side of this story out. Now it’s time to examine the ten AFC teams that missed out on the postseason in 2018 and what they can do to make it into January this year.

Here’s my thoughts in Part 2 of the multi-part season preview piece.

Buufalo Bills

One thing I’m certain of with the Bills is that the defense will be nasty. I’m really high on rookie Ed Oliver and his ability to make an immediate in Sean McDermott’s defense. In order to take this team to the next level however, second year quarterback Josh Allen will need to improve his accuracy. Sub-60 is not going to do it.

Ceiling: 9 wins

Floor: 5 wins

New York Jets

Say what you will about new head coach Adam Gase’s strange behavior over the past few months, from his opening, “eye-popping” press conference to his inhalation of smelling salts on the sideline of the first preseason game, the guy gets the most out of his quarterbacks. In 2008 in Detroit, Gase guided Jon Kitna to career highs in both yards per attempt and completion percentage. Then in San Francisco, Gase got surprising production from the likes of J.T. O’Sullivan and Shaun Hill. In 2011, Tim Tebow struggled statistically in Denver, but under Gase’s tutelage Tebow still led the Broncos to an AFC West crown and playoff win. Even Peyton Manning enjoyed some of his best seasons under Gase in Denver, leading the league in completion percentage, net adjusted yards, and QBR. Manning had only led the NFL in those categories once before — in 2003. The list goes on: Jay Cutler had the best passer rating of his career with Gase in Chicago, and in Miami, Gase’s teams still managed to be competitive despite poor play at quarterback. All that to say that we should expect Gase to have a very positive impact on second year QB Sam Darnold — and if this marriage works, the Jets could surprise people.

Ceiling: 9 wins

Floor: 5 wins

Miami Dolphins

I can’t give you anything tangible here. Everything on that Dolphins roster screams 2 wins — and that’s entirely possible. But call me crazy — I believe in first year head coach Brian Flores. He’s a defensive-minded coach, who learned under Bill Belichick, and he values character guys and leadership. I think the Fins will play hard, and if they buy-in to Flores and what his vision is, the Dolphins could steal a few Ws this year.

Ceiling: 6 wins

Floor: 2 wins

Pittsburgh Steelers

Addition by subtraction is what I keep hearing. But I still need to see how Big Ben responds this year and if Mike Tomlin’s voice still resonates with this team. If the locker room is behind these two, the Steelers might not be dead quite yet.

Ceiling: 10 wins

Floor: 7 wins

Cleveland Browns

Cleveland’s roster is chalk full of talented playmakers. There is no question that the talent is there. I’m interested in how first year head coach Freddie Kitchens keeps the egos in check while still making sure everyone is happy. One thing is for sure — Baker Mayfield is the right QB to lead this team.

Ceiling: 11 wins

Floor: 7 wins

Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals were already a team under fire before the injury bug hit them. Losses on the offensive line plus a foot injury to A.J. Green could solidify Cincy as a team in the running for the number 1 pick in the 2020 draft. If two things happen, maybe the Bengals avoid the NFL cellar this season: (1) Zach Taylor’s offense takes Andy Dalton to a whole new level; and (2) John Ross steps up big as a very good and reliable number 2 option while Green is sidelined.

Ceiling: 5 wins

Floor: 1 win

Tennessee Titans

You might have heard my thoughts on the Titans if you listened to Episode 206 of the Sports Talk Center podcast. This defense is very good, but the quarterback play must take a giant leap forward this year for Tennessee to compete for the playoffs. Sign me up as someone who has his doubts, though. Neither Ryan Tannehill nor Marcus Mariota fills me with a tremendous amount of confidence — not to mention the weapons in Tennessee aren’t striking fear into very many defenses.

Ceiling: 9 wins

Floor: 3 wins

Jacksonville Jaguars

With Andrew Luck’s retirement, the Jags may have become the team with the most to gain. This is still an awesome defense and now they upgrade the QB position with Nick Foles. My question — can Leonard Fournette stay on the field in 2019? If he can, he helps Foles, he helps ball control, he helps that defense.

Ceiling: 10 wins

Floor: 6 wins

Denver Broncos

Hiring Vic Fangio as head coach when the rest of the NFL was searching for their version of Sean McVay showed savviness on the part of John Elway. I want this to work. The problem could be that the quarterback problem might not be totally fixed. For the Broncos to be good, Joe Flacco has to take his game to a level it hasn’t been at since that remarkable playoff run that culminated in a Super Bowl title and MVP in 2012. If he plays the role of Trent Dilfer and allows the defense to be the star of the show in Fangio’s system, Denver could be the surprise team in the AFC.

Ceiling: 9 wins

Floor: 5 wins

Oakland Raiders

Everything in Oakland hinges on Derek Carr. And if we’re going to boil it down to one thing, it has to be whether Antonio Brown’s presence on the field can help to elevate Carr’s overall game. Yes, the offensive line needs to hold up and yes the defense needs to be better, but AB might just hold the key to unlocking his quarterback’s potential.

Ceiling: 6 wins

Floor: 4 wins


Thanks for reading. Subscribe to the Sports Talk Center blog and you can receive emails when content is updated. Also, follow me on Twitter @brian22goodwin. You can also subscribe and download the Sports Talk Center Podcast, wherever you get your podcasts from: Apple iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, Google Play, or Spotify. Just subscribe, download, listen, and enjoy.

Listen to EPISODE 206 (“Andrew Luck’s Abrupt Retirement Plus Breaking Down the AFC and NFC South”) right here:

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NFL 2019 Preview Part 1: How Can Last Season’s Non-Playoff Teams Make a Jump This Year

Twenty NFL teams missed out on postseason play last year. What can these franchises do to make a run this year? Something? Anything? More importantly, can they simply improve upon 2018 and be better in 2019 — regardless of the playoffs or not. That said, it’s always real easy to sit back and say, “Well if Team X would just fix ‘blank’, they’d be better.” In reality, these teams usually need to remedy more than just one thing. But it’s a fun exercise to think if these non-playoff teams from a year ago could be better in just one area, they’d have a shot to reach their ceiling of wins. In other words for them to reach or exceed expectations in 2019, this one thing absolutely must must happen. And if it doesn’t…..well….

Here’s my thoughts on the NFC teams in Part 1 of a multi-part piece.

Arizona Cardinals

This is simple. New head coach Kliff Kingsbury’s fast-paced, high-flying offense has no chance of succeeding if that offensive line can’t keep Kyler Murray upright. There is a ton of optimism in the desert that Kyler, DJ, Christian Kirk, and their new skill position rookies could be exciting and fun to watch. But all that will stall out in a major way if that line, which surrendered 52 sacks and 109 hurries in 2018, cannot block.

Ceiling: 6 wins

Floor: 2 wins

San Francisco 49ers

This defensive line looks strong, their QB is back and healthy, they have an All-Pro tight end, and the running back position is deep. What’s left to do? Kyle Shanahan’s offense needs to turn second year wideout Dante Pettis into a star. Pettis has fewer than 30 career catches, but the talent is there and the ceiling is high.

Ceiling: 11 wins

Floor: 7 wins

Washington Redskins

The Washington defense is really good. With the firm of Allen, Payne, and Ioannidis up front pressuring the pocket, the Redskins should be a force on that side of the ball. That triple threat led the team to 46 sacks a year ago — 4th in the NFL; and now they’ve added Landon Collins at the backend. The defense is not the question here. This team’s success — and probably Jay Gruden’s future — rests in the hands of the offensive line. How effective that unit is will directly impact whoever is under center and the run game (which has some interesting pieces if healthy).

Ceiling: 9 wins

Floor: 4 wins

New York Giants

I have very little faith in this team this season. The fastest way for this team to be anything close to good is that rookie QB Daniel Jones makes everyone, who scoffed at his selection in the draft, eat crow. And this includes his coaching staff — who need to see that he is a better option than Eli.

Ceiling: 6 wins

Floor: 4 wins

Detroit Lions

I’m having a hard time finding wins for the Lions. At least when the offense was playing uptempo and Matthew Stafford was slinging the rock all over the field, there was hope they’d just outscore opponents. Now, this sluggish offense with Darell Bevell calling plays lacks that fiery punch that we’ve seen with this team. A lot will depend on how well Kenny Golladay plays as the number one WR and how much Kerryon Johnson is trusted by the coaches to carry the load. So I guess it boils down to if Matt Stafford can indeed elevate the play of those around him, this team should better than they were a year ago. (A caveat would be that the coaches put players in positions to be successful — especially on offense.)

Ceiling: 8 wins

Floor: 5 wins

Minnesota Vikings

This team looks very similar to the team that entered 2018 as a Super Bowl contender. The offensive line was a constant thorn for this team a year ago, and by drafting NC State’s Garrett Bradbury in the first round of last Spring’s NFL Draft, the Vikings should be more stable up front. For me, their success hinges upon their quarterback’s ability to beat the good teams. The jokes are out there — Kirk Cousins beats the bad teams, but can’t beat t he good ones. For Minnesota to have a realistic shot at the playoffs (and beyond), Cousins must beat teams above .500. Simple, right? It is.

Ceiling: 11 wins

Floor: 7 wins

Green Bay Packers

If you’ve heard me talk on the Sports Talk Center podcast in the past couple months, you know how I feel about the Packers in 2019. New offense? New head coach? Doesn’t matter if this team’s young talent can gel together on both sides of the ball. From WRs Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Geronimo Allison to running back Aaron Jones to second year cornerback Jaire Alexander, the talent is everywhere. If it all comes together, this is one dangerous football team that no one will want to play in January.

Ceiling: 13 wins

Floor: 9 wins

Carolina Panthers

Before Cam Newton got hurt and couldn’t throw a football straight, the Panthers were looking like a playoff team in 2018. If he’s healthy, there’s absolutely no reason to think they won’t be in the mix again this season.

Ceiling: 12 wins

Floor: 7 wins

Atlanta Falcons

This can’t be any simpler: the defense is good when healthy, the weapons on offense are super productive, and the quarterback is more than capable of being a top 5 QB by season’s end. The only question: can the offensive line do their job? If not, we’ve seen the Falcons go a little sideways. Two first round picks were spent in the last draft to bolster that unit.

Ceiling: 12 wins

Floor: 7 wins

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Can Bruce Arians be a positive influence on Jameis Winston? Big Ben, Andrew Luck, and Carson Palmer all benefited under the tutelage of Arians. Can Jameis join that group? For the Bucs to be a good team, he is going to need to because 14 interceptions in 11 games last season isn’t the formula for success in what should be a very tough division.

Ceiling: 6 wins

Floor: 4 wins


Thanks for reading. Subscribe to the Sports Talk Center blog and you can receive emails when content is updated. Also, follow me on Twitter @brian22goodwin. You can also subscribe and download the Sports Talk Center Podcast, wherever you get your podcasts from: Apple iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, Google Play, or Spotify. Just subscribe, download, listen, and enjoy.

Listen to EPISODE 204 (“What to Take from Preseason Week 2 in the NFL”) right here:

 

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NFL Mock Draft 3.0

We’re closing in on the NFL Draft and it’s officially misinformation season. Though, it’s funny — the lead-up to the draft is cyclical. It starts with the initial “this guy’s a can’t miss top 5 pick” and over the course of the combine and player pro days, it turns sour and that top-5 kid becomes a “mid- to lower first rounder.” Then a week or two out from actual draft night, we return to “this kid’s climbing the board” and he ends up right back where he started. (This year’s example — Ed Oliver.) So with that said, let’s have a look at the third installment of my mock draft.

1.  Cardinals

If you’ve read my previous mocks, you know I’ve been adamant that I feel like the Cardinals are putting on a show with this Kyler Murray stuff. However, it appears all signs point to Arizona taking Murray at 1. So I guess I’m on-board. Kind of.

The PICK: Kyler Murray, Oklahoma, QB


2. 49ers

I like Josh Allen more here, but what I like makes no difference to John Lynch. I’d be completely stunned if the pick isn’t Nick Bosa.

The PICK: nick bosa, ohio st., edge


3. Jets

Everyone will be expecting the Jets to trade out here or take the beast in the middle of Alabama’s defensive line, Quinnen Williams, in this spot. Do they have the guts (or the smarts) to take the best player in the draft in my opinion? That’s not a simple question to answer, but reports (believe them or not) are that maybe Williams is slipping a bit.

The PICK: Josh Allen, kentucky, edge/OLB


4. Raiders

I don’t think Mike Mayock wants a quarterback here, and I don’t think Jon Gruden, necessarily, wants to work with a rookie signal caller from this class. The best player on their board should be the pick, and based on other mocks, that guy is Quinnen Williams.

The PICK: Quinnen Williams, Alabama, DT


5. Buccanneers

Tampa Bay needs a lot of help of the defensive side. Todd Bowles’s system calls for a strong presence up the middle at linebacker and safety. Five is too high for safety, but it’s not too high for the draft’s best and rangiest inside linebacker.

The PICK: Devin White, LSU, ILB


6. Giants

“I’m convinced this won’t be a quarterback.” That was my quote a couple weeks ago. I think I still mostly believe that, but I’m not betting my house on it. My next question is about Montez Sweat’s heart. If a team’s medical staff is good with him, he’s definitely a top 10 pick without question. But if there’s concern, he could fall.

The PICK: Montez Sweat, Miss. St., EDGE


7. Jaguars

Nick Foles needs help — from the offensive line to the pass catchers. The Jags can’t go wrong adding to the line here with one of those top offensive linemen. But a big, athletic tight end, who can serve as a blocker on the line as well as a reliable pass catcher for Foles, might be too enticing to pass up.

The PICK: T.J. Hockenson, Iowa, TE


8. Lions

I mocked Devin Bush to the Lions at 8 on a podcast kind of on a whim. But the more I think about it and the more I read, it makes pretty good sense. I think Matt Patricia would prefer a middle linebacker or a cornerback over an edge rusher, if he follows the Belichick model. Trading down is a possibility if Bob Quinn can find any takers. In the event they can’t, I like a University of Michigan guy here.

The PICK: Devin Bush, Michigan, ILB


9. Bills

Buffalo needs offensive line help in a bad way. The question comes down to how much do they like Ed Oliver (if he falls here), and then do they believe they can find solid offensive line help in the later rounds. I get it — Oliver is a luxury pick here for the Bills. But he might be too good to pass up.

The PICK: Ed Oliver, Houston, DT


10. Broncos

I’m fully buying into the speculation that John Elway likes Drew Lock a whole lot. If it’s true, expect Elway to take another stab at finally fixing the quarterback conundrum he’s created in Denver.

The PICK: drew Lock, QB, Missouri


11. Bengals

Two theories of thought here: (1) new head coach usually means let him have the QB he wants; (2) the Bengals have holes all across that defense. So what do you commit to here? Does Zac Taylor fancy Dwayne Haskins in his system or will Andy Dalton suffice for one more season while the team builds up it’s many weakened spots on the other side of the ball? What the Bengals really need to do is dangle this pick out there in hopes that a QB-hungry team like Washington or New York trades up with them.

The PICK: Jawaan Taylor, OT, Florida


12. Packers

After free agency, this Packers team looks pretty solid. I’m not sure any team in the league did more with free agency than what Green Bay did. They now have afforded themselves the luxury of taking the best player available and adding depth, perhaps, at some already strong positions.

The PICK: Jonah Williams, Alabama, T/G


13. Dolphins

New head coach Brians Flores can begin putting his imprints on this roster right away. There are many holes here. If Flores follows the model he was a part of in New England, look for him to target either offensive of defensive line. Personally, I think Flores wants a leader, much like him, on the field.

The PICK: Christian Wilkins, Clemson, DT


14. Falcons

I’m very confident this pick is CB or defensive line. An athletic playmaker at either position would be welcomed by this team.

The PICK: Brian Burns, Florida St., Edge


15. Redskins

The quarterback position is obviously a mess in D.C. If Josh Rosen gets traded, this would be one spot that makes sense. If that happens, the Redskins would not be in the market for a QB here. But I’ll proceed like it hasn’t happened by draft day.

The PICK: dwayne haskins, ohio st., QB


16. Panthers

Carolina needs help on the offensive line. Despite re-signing tackle Daryl Williams, the team released left tackle Matt Kalil. It also makes sense for the Panthers to go and get a stud pass rusher. Both are areas of need.

The PICK: Andre Dillard, Wash. St., OT


17. Giants

I expect the Giants will indeed select Eli Manning’s replacement in this draft — and this seems like the logical spot. Dave Gettleman has referenced using the “Kansas City” model for getting a QB so it’ll be interesting what exactly that meant. Does he plan on moving up on draft night to ensure he gets his guy? Or does it just mean he’ll draft one and let him learn behind Eli for a year? We’ll find out soon enough. For the sake of this mock, I’ve got them staying put at 17 and still getting the QB I think they like.

The PICK: daniel jones, duke, QB


18. Vikings

Yes, the Vikings could use major upgrades at guard and tackle. And they very well may like the options that are available to them at 18. But Mike Zimmer also loves players in the secondary. The team seemed to be shopping Xavier Rhodes not too long ago, and after him, they aren’t all that deep at CB.

The PICK: Byron Murphy, Washington, CB


19. Titans

The draft hosts this year went defense with their top two picks a year ago, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see another defender come off the board here. Maybe wide receiver, or even tight end, could be in play too. But Mike Vrabel likes guys that he can see himself in. Tough, versatile, sound defenders. If this comes down to Rashan Gary or Clelin Ferrell, the choice is obvious.

The PICK: Clelin Ferrell, Clemson, EDGE


20. Steelers

Pittsburgh has the cache to pick whomever is at the top of their draft board. But it’s got to be defense here, right? This is not your father’s Steel Curtain D. Linebacker would be beautiful, but cornerback might be best available. And this kid from Temple seems to be universally loved in NFL scouting circles. He can hit, he’s aggressive, he’s a ball hawk. A little raw, but the Steelers won’t mind that.

The PICK: Rock Ya-Sin , Temple, CB


21. Seahawks

Seattle absolutely needs to trade out here. They currently hold only four selections in this year’s draft. I’m sure a team like New England wouldn’t mind coming up if they have a player in mind — plus the Pats have 12 picks. Twelve!! If Seattle stays, they oughta add to the offensive line that needs a little replenishing.

The PICK: chris Lindstrom, Boston Coll., G


22. Ravens

I’m very torn here. You listen to one group of NFL people and they say with confidence that Baltimore will fill in the holes left on their defense by the departures of Terrell Suggs, Za’Darius Smith, and C.J. Mosely. Then you listen to another group and they are certain the Ravens will give Lamar Jackson every weapon they can find to help his growth. Ugh. Can I agree with both sides?

The PICK: M. Brown, Oklahoma, WR


23. Texans

The easiest pick in this round may very well be Houston’s selection. They need a left tackle in the worst way possible. The problem may be that a real good one isn’t available at 23 and the value of taking another position is too great. So don’t be surprised if the Texans are in the market to trade up. But I’m not going to over-think this right now.

The PICK: Cody Ford, Oklahoma, t/G


24. Raiders

Oakland can come away from this first round having filled some key areas of need with really good football players. Someone to replace Khalil Mack would be a much-needed addition in the first round.

The PICK: Rashan Gary, Michigan, Edge


25. Eagles

Philly will make a smart pick — that much I can tell you. WR and RB are needs, but the value isn’t here — those positions can be very easily filled starting in the second round. Injuries riddled this secondary last season so go get the most NFL-ready cornerback in the draft in my opinion.

The PICK: Deandre Baker, Georgia, cB


26. Colts

Indy could go WR here. But Chris Ballard seems to understand the idea of roster-building. Like the Eagles, this will be a smart pick.

The PICK: Dexter Lawrence, Clemson, DT


27. Raiders

If the Raiders are able to add to their defense with their two earlier first round selections, I could see Jon Gruden getting a fun toy at pick 27. They don’t need WR so maybe they are the first team to grab a running back.

.The PICK: Josh Jacobs, Alabama, RB


28. Chargers

The Chargers could use some depth in the secondary, but the o-line fell apart at the end of last season. Getting a nasty, versatile interior lineman would be a boring, but tremendously necessary pick

The PICK: erik mccoy, Texas A&M, G/C


29. Chiefs

If you’ve listened to my podcast, you already know how I feel about the Chiefs gutting their pass rush this offseason. Fine. Here’s a chance to replace what they got rid of. I’ve read reports that the Chiefs love Jaylon Ferguson.

The PICK: Jaylon Ferguson, LA Tech, Edge


30. Packers

Green Bay did themselves a lot of favors by adding so much on defense in free agency. That decision should please Aaron Rodgers during the draft. If the front office can get Rodgers a weapon who can get down the middle of the field, that’d be a nice addition

The PICK: Noah Fant, Notre Dame, DT


31. Rams

Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters were not without their missteps in 2018 so adding to the secondary is in play here. We also heard all season about the need for edge rush out of this Rams defense. I could see them going in either direction here.

The PICK: Greedy WIlliams, LSU, CB


32. Patriots

I have no idea what Bill Belichick will do here. Does he package a couple of his 6 picks from the top 100 here and go up to get someone — a tight end, a wide receiver, a pass rusher? If he stays put, I think WR is not happening and no edge rusher stands out here. The offensive line could use some depth, but having Dante Scarnecchia as your position coach there gives you some freedom to find those players later. So that leaves interior defensive line — which Belichick covets — and the tight end spot.

The PICK: Jerry Tillery, Notre Dame, DT


Thanks for reading. Subscribe to the Sports Talk Center blog and you can receive emails when content is updated. Also, follow me on Twitter @brian22goodwin. You can also subscribe and download the Sports Talk Center Podcast, wherever you get your podcasts from: Apple iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, Google Play, or Spotify. Just subscribe, download, listen, and enjoy.

Listen to EPISODE 165 (“Let’s Play GM: What NFL Teams Should Do in the Draft”) right here:

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NFL Mock Draft 2.0

It’s April and that means — not Spring, not sunnier days, not that Summer is that much closer — it means it’s NFL Draft month!! The league is full-blown smokescreens and conjecture right now so good luck deciphering what any team truly plans on doing on Draft Night in Nashville. As I made a point of saying in my previous mock, I go with my gut and I try to make sense of what different experts are reporting. Sometimes I look smart, and most of the time I look like I don’t even know what the game of football is. So without further ado — on to the ramblings of an idiot. Enjoy.

1.  **TRADE** Raiders (from Cardinals)

I’m going to keep saying this until I feel otherwise — Arizona is being too “open” with their phony commitment to Josh Rosen. The “he’s our quarterback….for now” quote seems like something you’d say to get other teams talking. So, then, the question becomes  “Is another team infatuated with Kyler Murray to the point they will trade up to 1?”.  Jon Gruden did not like the roster Reggie MacKenzie left him. Get the QB you want and ship Derek Carr out for more picks in another deal.

The PICK: Kyler Murray, Oklahoma, QB


2. 49ers

Adding a pass rusher to all those interior DLs they have stockpiled in San Fran would be a smart move. So the question is — Nick Bosa or Josh Allen? Both should be awesome, but I’d argue the Niners are taking the wrong guy.

The PICK: nick bosa, ohio st., edge


3. Jets

Everyone will be expecting the Jets to trade out here or take the beast in the middle of Alabama’s defensive line, Quinnen Williams, in this spot. Do they have the guts (or the smarts) to take the best player in the draft in my opinion? It’s the Jets — so that should answer that question.

The PICK: Quinnen Williams, Alabama, DT


4. **TRADE** Cardinals (from Raiders)

The Cardinals have a gazillion needs so take your pick here. I am fully in love with Josh Allen, and I believe he’s the most explosive player at the edge position. I like his leadership and the competition he faced in the SEC. But the Cardinals are like the Jets — they don’t exactly instill confidence in their fans with their front office decisions.

The PICK: jawaan Taylor, Florida, OT


5. Buccanneers

Tampa Bay needs a lot of help of the defensive side. It comes down to which player best fits what DC Todd Bowles wants to establish. If the draft falls this way, Bowles will be salivating.

The PICK: Josh Allen, Kentucky, EDGE/OLB


6. Giants

I’m convinced this won’t be a quarterback. Maybe at 17, but not here — nor will Dave Gettleman trade up into the top 3 for one. What I do know about Gettleman is he likes his linemen, but he also knows the importance of having a linebacker who can head up your defense. He had Luke Kuechly in Carolina. Maybe he tries re-creating that with this selection.

The PICK: Devin White, LSU, LB


7. Jaguars

This team was constructed the right way when they were eight minutes from beating the Patriots and going to the Super Bowl a year ago. Add to the lines and get playmakers on defense. I’ve heard Rashan Gary is like Myles Jack. This pick fits.

The PICK: Rashan Gary, michigan, edge


8. Lions

Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia should have some nice options available to them at 8. A tight end for Matt Stafford, another lineman up front to bolster an offensive line that might be slipping? Or maybe an edge guy to put opposite of Trey Flowers — something they never could do when they had Ziggy Ansah.

The PICK: montez sweat, miss. state, edge


9. Bills

Buffalo needs weapons for second year signal caller Josh Allen. Former Patriots’ tight ends coach Brian Daboll is the OC. I think he’d love to get this draft’s version of Gronk. At the same time, this team gutted its offensive line an offseason ago and has not replenished it. They might try protecting their QB.

The PICK: jonah williams, Alabama, OT


10. Broncos

If John Elway likes a QB here (and the rumors swirling say he like Drew Lock), he needs to take him. But I get this feeling that he is perfectly content to go with Flacco for this year (and beyond). But that shouldn’t matter. To make sure you do have your guy, you’ve got to over-invest. That’s the formula. It’s no secret.

The PICK: drew Lock, QB, Missouri


11. Bengals

This defense was atrocious last year so whatever moves can be made to fix it would be wise. Linebacker is a position of need — they’d fall over themselves to land Devin White. The Bengals also need major help along their o-line. I’d say QB, but ownership says they want to give Andy Dalton a year to see what he does in new head coach Zac Taylor’s offense. If so, why not protect him?

The PICK: Andre Dillard, OT, Wash. St.


12. Packers

No team filled their holes in free agency as well and as comprehensively as Green Bay. If T.J. Hockenson falls here, I like that pick for a team that could get younger at the position. If he’s off the board, I could see them adding to their linebacking corps or offensive line.

The PICK: T.J. Hockenson, iowa, TE


13. Dolphins

Miami needs a quarterback in a bad way. But they also don’t seem all that interested in being uber-competitive in 2019. If they like one, they’ll be able to pick one here. If not, new head coach Brians Flores can begin putting his imprints on this roster.

The PICK: brian burns, Florida st., EDGE


14. Falcons

I’m very confident this pick is CB or defensive line. Fourteen might be a bit early for any of these corners, though.

The PICK: ed oliver, houston, dt


15. Redskins

Alex Smith may never play football again, Colt McCoy is not a starter in the NFL, and Case Keenum is not any sort of a long-term solution. If Washington does not go QB here, I’d be stunned. Don’t even count Dan Snyder out of trading up to make sure he gets the QB he wants.

The PICK: dwayne haskins, ohio st., QB


16. Panthers

Carolina needs help on the offensive line. Despite re-signing tackle Daryl Williams, the team released left tackle Matt Kalil. Now, they could certainly go after a pass rusher — that’s another major need area. But after Cam Newton played the second half of last year hurt, it’s a priority to keep him upright and untouched. They’ll have to figure out if waiting on an offensive lineman until the second round is the wise choice. I think it is.

The PICK: Clelin Ferrell, clemson, edge


17. Giants

This seems like the perfect spot for the Giants to pull the trigger on a QB. Daniel Jones likely is not going top-10 so Gettleman can employ the Kansas City strategy here that he referred to earlier this offseason. Why Jones? Don’t overlook the Manning-David Cutcliffe connection. If they don’t love Jones, they’re definitely a candidate to move up somewhere in this round to get Haskins or Lock.

The PICK: daniel jones, duke, QB


18. Vikings

Yes, the Vikings could use major upgrades at guard and tackle. And they very well may like the options that are available to them at 18. If they fail to fix that line, Kirk Cousins will face another year being under fire on and off the field.

The PICK: cody ford, Oklahoma, Ot/G


19. Titans

The Marcus Mariota era in Music City might be coming to an end sooner rather than later. The QB has backed himself into a corner and if he doesn’t prove himself to be the guy who can elevate the Titans to the next level, look for HC Mike Vrabel to start eyeing a replacement. In all fairness, it’s not all Mariota’s fault, but the fact is the team is going to have to decide whether or not they want to invest significant money into the former Oregon Duck or move on to a cheaper option with upside. That said, you’ve got to give him as many pieces to play with as possible. Expect a WR to be the pick here, even if they are better players at valuable positions.

The PICK: marquise Brown, oklahoma, wr


20. Steelers

Pittsburgh needs to get back to building a defense that teams are afraid to play against. The secondary stinks and the linebacking crew is weak. Just about any addition on that side of the ball will be viewed as an upgrade. They haven’t replaced Ryan Shazier — another Big 10 linebacker might be the choice to fill those shoes.

The PICK: devin bush, michigan, ilB


21. Seahawks

This will be an interesting pick. Seattle made the playoffs last season, but they have more holes to fill than people may think — offensive line, interior defensive line, playmaker in the secondary, and a WR who could ultimately push Doug Baldwin down to the two and Tyler Lockett to the three. For good or for bad, John Schneider and Pete Carroll have a history of thinking outside of the box in the draft.

The PICK: chauncey gardner-johnson, florida, CB/S


22. Ravens

It seems like every year Baltimore is searching for a big, fast, playmaking wideout. And every year they either go in a different direction or the selection doesn’t work out. But knowing Lamar Jackson’s limitations at QB, putting capable playmakers around him should be a priority. Don’t count out an edge rusher here, though, either. After letting Terrell Suggs and Za’Darius Smith go in free agency, the Ravens could look to replace them at 22.

The PICK: N’Keal Harry, Arizona St., WR


23. Texans

DeShaun Watson got murdered last year. He was sacked 60-something times — and that cannot continue if Houston expects to have long-term success with their QB. If they don’t fill the left tackle need, don’t expect that offense to fully flourish. There’s a good chance there’s not a great lineman here. Giving Watson another playmaking pass catcher could prove beneficial as well.

The PICK: noah fant, iowa, te


24. **TRADE** Cardinals (from Raiders)

I’m sure Kliff Kingsbury could be talked into a playmaking WR here for his young QB. There are plenty of needs to fill on this Cardinals roster, though.

The PICK: D.K. Metcalf, Ole miss, WR


25. Eagles

Philly added Jordan Howard so my original mock of Josh Jacobs here is in need of an adjustment. And that’s good because the Eagles need to shore up that secondary that was depleted last year.

The PICK: byron murphy, washington, cB


26. Colts

Indy could go WR here. But Chris Ballard seems to understand the idea of roster-building. Adding a defensive lineman is the right move in this spot. And if Christian Wilkins is in fact available, that’s a huge get.

The PICK: Christian Wilkins, Clemson, DT


27. Raiders

The Raiders could use a playmaker on defense — edge rusher or shutdown corner comes to mind. Deandre Baker earned a reputation in the SEC as a CB that QBs didn’t want to throw on, and he can contribute immediately.

.The PICK: Deandre Baker, Georgia, CB


28. Chargers

The Chargers o-line struggled at the end of the season and in the playoffs. They’ll have some good options here. There’s an outside chance they select their QB of the future, if a guy they like is available.

The PICK: erik mccoy, Texas A&M, G/C


29. Chiefs

If you’ve listened to my podcast, you already know how I feel about the Chiefs gutting their pass rush this offseason. Fine. Here’s a chance to replace what they got rid of. I’ve read reports that the Chiefs love Jaylon Ferguson.

The PICK: Jaylon Ferguson, LA Tech, Edge


30. Packers

Green Bay did themselves a lot of favors by adding so much on defense in free agency. That decision should please Aaron Rodgers during the draft. While they could go WR here (out of character, perhaps, but this is a new regime in Green Bay) or maybe grab Brian Bulaga’s eventual replacement, they’ll fill the Mohammed Wilkerson spot on the defensive line with a mountain of a man.

The PICK: Jerry Tillery, Notre Dame, DT


31. Rams

Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters were not without their missteps in 2018. In fact, Marcus Peters was downright bad for stretches. A new athletic, playmaking corner could be in the cards here for Wade Phillips’s defense.

The PICK: Greedy Williams, LSU, CB


32. Patriots

I have no idea what Bill Belichick will do here. Does he package a couple of his 6 picks from the top 100 here and go up to get someone — a tight end, a wide receiver, a pass rusher? If he stays put, I think WR is not happening and no edge rusher stands out here. The offensive line could use some depth, but having Dante Scarnecchia as your position coach there gives you some freedom to find those players later. So that leaves interior defensive line — which Belichick covets — and the tight end spot. Give Tom Brady a weapon for crying out loud!!

The PICK: Irv SMith, Jr., Alabama, TE


Thanks for reading. Subscribe to the Sports Talk Center blog and you can receive emails when content is updated. Also, follow me on Twitter @brian22goodwin. You can also subscribe and download the Sports Talk Center Podcast, wherever you get your podcasts from: Apple iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, Google Play, or Spotify. Just subscribe, download, listen, and enjoy.

Listen to EPISODE 158 (“NFL Draft Prospect Trade Value”) right here:

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2019 NFL Mock Draft 1.0

Happy Mock Draft Season!!! We’re about a month out from the NFL Draft so I figured I better get this going. Full disclosure: this is based on team needs, my gut, and the uncanny ability to cut through all the smokescreens that teams, GMs, PR staff, and owners are putting out there for us all to eat up. That said, bon a petit!!

1.  **TRADE** Raiders (from Cardinals)

This comes down to two things — and we have no idea what is true and what is not: (1) are the Cardinals really ready to move on from last year’s top-10 pick, Josh Rosen, and take Kyler Murray; and (2) is there interest from another team to trade up to select Murray? At this moment, I feel like Arizona is being too “open” with their fake commitment to Rosen. The “he’s our quarterback….for now” quote seems like something you’d say to get people and other teams talking. New head coach Kliff Kingsbury was hired for his ability to work with quarterbacks. If I’m in the Arizona front office, I’m telling him to figure out how to maximize the guy we took last year.  And the Raiders would probably jump all over this. Jon Gruden did not like the roster Reggie MacKenzie established so why stop with Derek Carr? Get the QB you want and ship Carr out for more picks in another deal.

The PICK: Kyler Murray, Oklahoma, QB


2. 49ers

A couple months ago we’d all have guaranteed that if Nick Bosa wasn’t off the board here, the Niners would grab him in a heartbeat. I feel less adamant about that now. It’s easy to make the case that Quinnen Williams is the best player in the draft — I don’t feel that way, but I also don’t feel like Bosa’s the best either. (That’s called a tease.)

The PICK: Quinnen WIlliams, Alabama, DT


3. Jets

If the Jets could trade this pick, it’d be ideal. They need to recoup as many of those lost picks from last year’s draft when they traded up for Sam Darnold. But in the event the keep the pick, Nick Bosa fills a huge need at edge rusher, and the Jets would be thrilled.

The PICK: nick bosa, ohio state, edge


4. **TRADE** Cardinals (from Raiders)

The Cardinals have a gazillion needs so take your pick here. I am fully in love with Josh Allen, and I believe he’s the most explosive player at the edge position. I like his leadership and the competition he faced in the SEC.

The PICK: josh allen, kentucky, Edge/OLB


5. Buccanneers

This is tough. A playmaking WR, who’s stolen the headlines this draft season, sits here in D.K. Metcalf. That’d be an enticing option to pair with Jameis Winston in Bruce Arians’s offense. And the options on defense at this spot don’t come without their warts.

The PICK: d.k. Metcalf, ole miss, wr


6. Giants

After all the things GM Dave Gettleman has done, your guess is as good as mine here. A quarterback seems logical, but he’s also gutted the team and made a financial commitment to Eli Manning. The o-line still stinks so you can’t go wrong there.

The PICK: jawaan Taylor, florida, ot


7. Jaguars

This team was constructed the right way when they were eight minutes from beating the Patriots and going to the Super Bowl a year ago. Add to the lines and get playmakers on defense.

The PICK: Rashan Gary, michigan, edge


8. Lions

Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia should have some nice options available to them at 8. A tight end for Matt Stafford, another lineman up front to bolster an offensive line that might be slipping? Or maybe an edge guy to put opposite of Trey Flowers — something they never could do when they had Ziggy Ansah.

The PICK: montez sweat, miss. state, edge


9. Bills

Buffalo needs weapons for second year signal caller Josh Allen. Former Patriots’ tight ends coach Brian Daboll is the OC. I think he’d love to get this draft’s version of Gronk.

The PICK: t.j. Hockenson, iowa, TE


10. Broncos

If John Elway likes a QB here, he needs to take him. But I get this feeling that he is perfectly content to go with Flacco for this year (and beyond). The defense is aging a bit and giving new HC Vic Fangio a toy to play with on that side of the ball would be useful. But holes exist on the line as well — and Flacco is a statue in the pocket.

The PICK: andre dillard, oT, wash. st.


11. Bengals

This defense was atrocious last year so whatever moves can be made to fix it would be wise. Linebacker is a position of need.

The PICK: Devin White, LSU, ILB


12. Packers

No team filled their holes in free agency as well and as comprehensively as Green Bay. If Hockenson falls here, I like that pick for a team that could get younger at the position. If he’s off the board, I could see them adding to their linebacking corps or offensive line.

The PICK: jonah williams, Alabama, OT


13. Dolphins

Miami needs a quarterback in a bad way. Do they like any of them enough to pull the trigger here (or trade up)? The thing is that they still have so many other needs to fill that a QB here doesn’t fix everything.

The PICK: Dwayne haskins, ohio st., QB


14. Falcons

I’m very confident this pick is CB or defensive line. Fourteen might be a bit early for any of these corners, though. An edge guy really helps this defense that struggled badly for most of last season.

The PICK: brian burns, fsu, edge


15. Redskins

Alex Smith may never play football again, Colt McCoy is not a starter in the NFL, and Case Keenum is not any sort of a long-term solution. If Washington does not go QB here, I’d be stunned.

The PICK: drew lock, missouri, QB


16. Panthers

Carolina needs help on the offensive line. Despite re-signing tackle Daryl Williams, the team released left tackle Matt Kalil. Now, they could certainly go after a pass rusher — that’s another major need area. But after Cam Newton played the second half of last year hurt, it’s a priority to keep him upright and untouched.

The PICK: greg little, ole miss, OT


17. Giants

This seems like the perfect spot for the Giants to pull the trigger on a QB. Daniel Jones likely is not going top-10 so Gettleman can employ the Kansas City strategy here that he referred to earlier this offseason. Why Jones? Don’t overlook the Manning-David Cutcliffe connection. This path could be a way of softening the blow when they do choose to move on from Eli……in 2022.

The PICK: daniel jones, duke, QB


18. Vikings

Yes, the Vikings could use major upgrades at guard and tackle. And they very well may like the options that are available to them at 18. But if Ed Oliver is on the board here, his potential to be a disruptive force from the interior of the defensive line might be too much to pass up for defensive-minded head coach Mike Zimmer.

The PICK: ed oliver, houston, DT


19. Titans

The Marcus Mariota era in Music City might be coming to an end sooner rather than later. The QB has backed himself into a corner and if he doesn’t prove himself to be the guy who can elevate the Titans to the next level, look for HC Mike Vrabel to start eyeing a replacement. In all fairness, it’s not all Mariota’s fault, but the fact is the team is going to have to decide whether or not they want to invest significant money into the former Oregon Duck or move on to a cheaper option with upside. That said, you’ve got to give him as many pieces to play with as possible.

The PICK: marquise Brown, oklahoma, wr


20. Steelers

Pittsburgh needs to get back to building a defense that teams are afraid to play against. The secondary stinks and the linebacking crew is weak. Just about any addition on that side of the ball will be viewed as an upgrade.

The PICK: devin bush, michigan, ilB


21. Seahawks

This will be an interesting pick. Seattle made the playoffs last season, but they have more holes to fill than people may think — offensive line, interior defensive line, playmaker in the secondary, and a WR who could ultimately push Doug Baldwin down to the two and Tyler Lockett to the three. For good or for bad, John Schneider and Pete Carroll have a history of thinking outside of the box in the draft.

The PICK: clellin ferrell, clemson, DT


22. Ravens

It seems like every year Baltimore is searching for a big, fast, playmaking wideout. And every year they either go in a different direction or the selection doesn’t work out. Don’t count out an edge rusher here, though, either. After letting Terrell Suggs and Za’Darius Smith go in free agency, the Ravens could look to replace them at 22. In this mock, I like Chauncey Gardner-Johnson — a versatile slot corner who can be a hybrid safety. His game seems to fit what the Ravens like on defense.

The PICK: chauncey gardner-johnson, florida, Cb/s


23. Texans

DeShaun Watson got murdered last year. He was sacked 60-something times — and that cannot continue if Houston expects to have long-term success with their QB. If they don’t fill the left tackle need, don’t expect that offense to fully flourish.

The PICK: cody ford, oklahoma, OT


24. **TRADE** Cardinals (from Raiders)

I’m sure Kliff Kingsbury could be talked into a playmaking WR here for his young QB, but if the board falls this way, they should be able to snag one at the top of the second round. Arizona has plenty of holes to fill.

The PICK: Greedy Williams, lsu, CB


25. Eagles

People have compared Josh Jacobs to Alvin Kamara in the sense that both split time in their respective backfields in college. If Jacobs turns out to be in the same boat as Kamara, this is a huge win — and fills a big need — for the Eagles.

The PICK: Josh Jacobs, alabama, rB


26. Colts

Adding an interior presence on the defensive line could be the smart play here for Chris Ballard. The Colts don’t have a ton of needs so adding to key positions will be the order of the day.

The PICK: Christian Wilkins, Clemson, DT


27. Raiders

The Raiders could use a playmaker on defense — edge rusher or shutdown corner comes to mind. Deandre Baker earned a reputation in the SEC as a CB that QBs didn’t want to throw on.

The PICK: Deandre Baker, Georgia, CB


28. Chargers

Offensive line play towards the end of 2018 and into the playoffs was not great for L.A. Their guards were getting manhandled. With Phil Rivers not getting any more mobile or younger, the Chargers need to invest n some help protecting him and creating space for Melvin Gordon.

The PICK: Chris Lindstrom, Boston Coll., G


29. Chiefs

If you’ve listened to my podcast, you already know how I feel about the Chiefs gutting their pass rush this offseason. Fine. Here’s a chance to replace what they got rid of.

The PICK: Jachai Polite, Florida, Edge


30. Packers

Sometimes the draft board just falls a certain way. In this situation, a guy I could have mocked to the Packers at 12  falls to them at 30.

The PICK: Noah Fant, Iowa, TE


31. Rams

Why sign and pay Ndamakong Such all that money when you can draft an interior defensive lineman and put him right next to Aaron Donald? Seems a wise way to go, but don’t rule out CB, edge, or even a running back.

The PICK: Jerry Tillery, Notre Dame, DT


32. Patriots

With a number of needs standing out — WR, edge, TE, OL — don’t be surprised if Bill Belichick goes after a space-eating defensive lineman to replace Malcolm Brown and Danny Shelton. Remember he got Brown at this same spot 4 years ago.

The PICK: Dexter Lawrence, Clemson, DT


Thanks for reading. Subscribe to the Sports Talk Center blog and you can receive emails when content is updated. Also, follow me on Twitter @brian22goodwin. You can also subscribe and download the Sports Talk Center Podcast, wherever you get your podcasts from: Apple iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, Google Play, or Spotify. Just subscribe, download, listen, and enjoy.

Listen to EPISODE 152 (“NFL Free Agency Frenzy and KylerMurray/Draft Buzz”) right here:

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7 Burning Questions Heading into the Divisional Round in the NFL Playoffs

  1. Can Dallas do enough, offensively, to keep up with the Rams? This isn’t a trick question. But they might not need to. Yes, the Rams are flashy and fun and when they get rolling, it’s a fast-paced brand of offense that few teams in the NFL can keep up with. But there’s always an antidote for everything. The Cowboys have it — they can run the ball, eat clock, keep Sean McVay’s offense standing on the sideline, and force the Rams into playing frantically with limited possessions. It’s not a matter of Dallas keeping up offensively — rather, it’s whether or not Dallas can impose their own offensive style of play onto this Rams team.
  2. What did the Rams learn from losing to Chicago and from watching the game film of the Dallas win over New Orleans earlier in the season? This is mostly rhetorical because I don’t really have an answer. The Bears and Cowboys play differently on defense, but the overall gameplan is the same — slow the game down, don’t let Todd Gurley run, force Jared Goff into being uncomfortable and rushed, and control the pace of the game. The Rams will need to get on the scoreboard early and turn the tables on Dallas — force the Cowboys into feeling like they need to press and throw the ball more than running it with Ezekiel Elliott. This game is a battle of who can establish their preferred style of play first.
  3. Is Cooper Kupp’s injury going to derail the Rams versus the Cowboys? Since Kupp went down with a season-ending knee injury, the Rams offense has not been the same. More specifically, Jared Goff has not been the same. Through 10 weeks with Kupp in the slot, Goff completed 70% of his passes for 16 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. After Kupp went down, Goff’s numbers slipped — 59% completion rate with 16 TDs and 8 INTs (those were worse until he threw 5 TDs and 0 INTs in the season’s final two games against the Cardinals and 49ers). In addition, Kupp’s replacement has not nearly been as reliable. When targeting Josh Reynolds, Goff is on target 52% of the time with 3 TDs and 4 INTs. Kupp is a big piece to this offense and serves as very reliable safety valve for Goff. If he’s pressured, it’s worth watching how Goff answers and where he tries to go with the ball.
  4. Would anyone be stunned if three road teams won again this weekend? The argument could be made in the AFC that the two best teams remaining in the playoffs are the 5th and 6th seeds. The Chargers are a 12-win team with a top 4 MVP candidate, who just got unlucky that they played in the same division as Kansas City. The Chargers spent the better part of the season in most experts’ top-5 power rankings. And the Colts have won 10 of their last 11 and look as complete a team that’s left standing. Those two teams, without question, could come away with road wins this weekend. In the NFC, the Cowboys are practically playing a home game in L.A. against the Rams. That’s three. The Eagles winning in New Orleans is a much tougher sell.
  5. What looks will the Chargers defense throw at Tom Brady? The Cover-3 scheme has not been a defense that has stymied Tom Brady very much in past years. Against the Cover-3, Brady ate up the Seahawks and Falcons in the Patriots’ last two Super Bowl victories and did the sam in last year’s AFC title game against the Jaguars. Gus Bradley will try and be creative — you’d think rushing four (led by Joey Boss and Melvin Ingram) and dropping seven into coverage would be the plan of attack. The key will be if those pass rushers can throw Brady off his timing. If not, he’ll probably pick apart the defense.
  6. Are we all guilty of completely overreacting to the Colts? The Colts are 10-1 in their last 11 games, including in that time two wins over the Texans and a shut out win over the Cowboys. After their 1-5 start, Indianapolis has more than figured things out. Since mid-October, the Colts are better than the Chiefs. And the Colts don’t have that one glaring weakness, opposed to the Chiefs and their abhorrent defense. No disrespect to the Chiefs because that offense is beyond explosive and their speed might eventually extend plays too long for the Colts defenders to stop them. These are two good teams. The Colts are better, though.
  7. What is stopping the Saints from totally and unequivocally bum-rushing the Eagles like they did when they met earlier this season? Nothing. That’s the answer. The Eagles have improved in the last month — more consistent play out of the QB position and the defense has been much better. But the Saints have few holes and the Eagles are not equipped to exploit them. This might not be very close.

Thanks for reading. Subscribe to the Sports Talk Center blog and you can receive emails when content is updated. Also, follow me on Twitter @brian22goodwin. You can also subscribe and download the Sports Talk Center Podcast, wherever you get your podcasts from: Apple iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, Google Play, or Spotify. Just subscribe, download, listen, and enjoy.

Listen to EPISODE 127 (“Previewing the Divisional Round  of the NFL Playoffs”) right here:

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10 Biggest Questions Surrounding Wildcard Weekend in the NFL

  1. Can the Chargers fix the problems their defense encountered against the Ravens rushing attack when the two played three weeks ago? The stars are there in L.A. That’s not the question. Joey Bosa, Melvin Ingram, and Derwin James (and that secondary) are designed to disrupt the quarterback and make plays on the ball — they are not built to clog lanes and stop the run. Even if the Chargers know what they need to do to stop Lamar and the run game, the question becomes “do they have the personnel to actually do it?”.
  2. Is Phillip Rivers going to look more like the MVP candidate we all talked about for the first 15 weeks of the season or the guy we saw against the Ravens and Broncos the last two weeks? Melvin Gordon’s return should be helpful, and Rivers has played enough football over the course of his career to be able to make adjustments to a defense he saw just three weeks ago. But Baltimore’s defensive front embarrassed those pass blockers in Week 16.
  3. Who out-“ballsys” the other, Matt Nagy or Doug Pederson? Of course, we all watched in awe as Pederson went against the traditional grain in last year’s Super Bowl against the Patriots with his playcalling. Matt Nagy comes from the same Andy Reid tree and understands the importance of making bold decisions in this era of football. In a close game, I’d expect one (or maybe more one) decision to swing the outcome.
  4. Will Mitchell Trubisky be given the time he needs to pick apart the Eagles’ secondary? Philadelphia’s defense is predicated on its pass rush — and it has to be because that secondary has been through the ringer this season. Fletcher Cox, Tim Jurnigan, Derek Bennett, and Michael Bennett will have to make Mitchell Trubisky feel pressured and rushed. The Bears coaching staff has to understand if Trubisky isn’t given enough time to get the ball out, he can easily be forced into some big mistakes. However, if given time, the second-year QB should be able to move the ball down field.
  5. How big of an impact will Khalil Mack have going up against Lane Johnson and/Jason Peters? The versatile edge rusher is better than either of Philly’s two tackles, but Johnson and Peters only need to combine to outplay Mack on Sunday night. Bears’ DC Vic Fangio has moved Mack to the right, to the left, dropped him into coverage, and pretty much played him all over the field, and this has freed up other Bears’ defenders to make plays all year long. Mack doesn’t need a handful of sacks to have a meaningful impact on this game.
  6. Who do you trust more: Jason Garrett and Dad Prescott or Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson? Silly question, I know, but I had to ask it. This game might just be that simple.
  7. Can Seattle’s defense get off the field and limit Dallas’ T.O.P.? Seattle has a top-5 defense on stopping third-down conversions while the Dallas offense converted in those situations at over a 45% rate — top 10 in the NFL. Strength on strength. If Jason Garrett could have it his way, Dallas would grind this win out on the back of Ezekiel Elliott — and that’d be the smart way to go. But Seattle’s defense, you better believe, is going to ask Dak Prescott to make some big plays in the passing game or with his legs. Third down success rate will be a telling stat in the game.
  8. Is the Dallas defense good enough to stop the explosive plays from the Seahawks passing game? We talk about how the Seahawks have transformed their offense into a ground-and-pound attack on the ground, but yards on the ground do not necessarily translate into wins — red zone efficiency and chunks plays are two more predictive indicators of wins and losses. And it just so happens the Seahawks have a Super Bowl-winning QB, who can throw a magnificent deep ball, and has two exceptional weapons on the outside who can get open deep down the field.
  9. If not DeAndre Hopkins, then who? Ummm. I wish I had an answer here, but Houston doesn’t have much in the way of offensive weapons. You’d have to imagine Houston would like to establish the run game with Lamar Miller.
  10. Can the Texans generate an effective pass rush with just JJ Watt and Jadeveon Clowney? Disrupting Andrew Luck will be a key to Houston’s gameplan. And the Texans have the pass rushers, however of their 43 sacks only 18 have come from players not named Watt or Clowney. That’s about a sack a game. If Indy’s very much improved offensive line can limit Watt and Clowney, Houston might have a tough time getting to the QB.

Thanks for reading. Subscribe to the Sports Talk Center blog and you can receive emails when content is updated. Also, follow me on Twitter @brian22goodwin. You can also subscribe and download the Sports Talk Center Podcast, wherever you get your podcasts from: Apple iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, Google Play, or Spotify. Just subscribe, download, listen, and enjoy.

Listen to EPISODE 123 (“The Keys to the Wild Card Games “) right here:

Listen to EPISODE 124 (“Ranking the NFL Playoff Teams, Picking Wild Card Weekend Winners, and Predicting the Eight Head Coaches to Get Hired”) right here:

 

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NFL Playoff Predictions

In the spirit of the holidays, I want to open up by saying thank you to everyone who’s been keeping up and reading with these weekly picks — you’ve been witness to three of the finest weeks I’ve ever had in picking games over the last 12 years. Twice I went undefeated and last week I was 14-2 straight up. For the season, I went 148-75 straight up picking winners and losers; and against the spread, I won us money — 110-104-10.

Why am I talking in the past tense, like it’s all over? Well, let’s face it, it is. Unless you’re a complete degenerate, you’re not risky your well-earned money on Week 17 games that will likely feature myriad back-ups and coaches changing their gameplans on the fly as other scores and results become clearer. For instance, the Bears will likely bench players mid-game and turn their focus to keeping guys healthy for Wildcard Weekend, if they look up at the scoreboard and see that the Rams are burying the 49ers. Same with the Chargers, if the Chiefs appear to have wrapped up their game against the Raiders.

So why would I try and pick these games? It’s plenty hard enough when normal factors are at play, let alone all these wild implications from games that are happening in real time and at the same time. What I’d rather spend a few minutes doing would be predicting who’s in and who’s out of the playoffs in each conference.

AFC

  1. Kansas City (12-4) — A win at home over the Raiders is all that stands in between Chiefs and home filed throughout the playoffs. Not leaving Arrowhead gives the Chiefs as good a shot at making to the Super Bowl with Andy Reid as they’ll ever have. This one’s easy.
  2. New England (11-5) — A win at Foxboro over the Jets would clinch a much needed bye for the Pats, who’ve looked older and more “un-Patriot” like than in over a decade. The players know how important that bye is.
  3. Houston (11-5) — Yes, the Texans have definitely come back down to earth after reeling off 9 straight wins after an 0-3 start. But a loss in Week 17 to the Jaguars means Houston will wind up the 6th seed and having to go on the road in order to reach the Super Bowl. Talk about limping into the postseason.
  4. Pittsburgh (9-6-1) — If you listen to my podcast, you know how much this kills me. But listen, this is typical 2018 Steelers: inconsistent, unpredictable, and in the end, still pretty good. Honestly, this has more to do with the Ravens and their Week 17 opponent — the Steelers just happen to be the beneficiaries, assuming they roll the Bengals like they should.
  5. Los Angeles (11-5) — The Chargers have nothing to play for as long as the Chiefs beat the Raiders. I imagine head coach Anthony Lynn has a quick hook for his starters once he’s told the score at Arrowhead.
  6. Indianapolis (10-6) — This is the underrated story of the year. Andrew Luck has returned to the form we grew accustomed to seeing when he was healthy, and the Colts have a really good offensive line and defense to match. They’ll dispatch Blaine Gabbert (or Marcus Mariota) to get in. And once they’re in, they’re dangerous.
  7. Baltimore (9-7) — Last year’s Week 17 ending was a nightmare for John Harbaugh’s team, as they gave up a final minute touchdown bomb from Andy Dalton, as the Bengals — with nothing to play for themselves — enabled the Buffalo Bills to clinch a playoff berth for the first time since 1999. The scenario this year is quite similar: a “win-and-you’re-in” game against the Browns, who’ve been eliminated from playoff contention. Each year a team in a situation like this inexplicably lays an egg. You can be sure Baker Mayfield will not be giving this game up easily — the Browns have a chance to finish with a winning record a year after going 0-16. Don’t tell this team this game is meaningless for them.

NFC

  1. New Orleans (14-2) — The road the Super Bowl in the NFC goes through the Superdome. That’s already been determined.
  2. Los Angeles (12-4) — The 2-seed is their’s with a win over the 49ers. Sean McVay has a bit of a history of preferring to rest his players than play for playoff positioning — he rested Todd Gurley last week and rested everyone in Week 17 last season, which led to the Rams getting the 4-seed and not the 3. I think he knows the importance of earning the bye, though.
  3. Chicago (11-5) — Once the Rams have demonstrated that they want the 2-seed, it’d be logical to see Matt Nagy sit some starters, which would in turn give the Vikings the advantage and a great shot at securing the 6th seed — and a return trip to Soldier Field next weekend.
  4. Dallas (9-7) — The division has been locked up and Dallas is firmly entrenched in that 4-seed, no matter the result against the Giants.
  5. Seattle (10-6) — A loss could theoretically push Seattle down to the 6th seed. Fortunately for the Seahawks, they play the Cardinals, who you’d have to figure are in a rush for this season to come to an end.
  6. Minnesota (9-6-1) — I’m not picking Kirk Cousins to win a must-win game against the Bears. But considering the circumstances and what I mentioned above with the Rams, the bears probably let Cousins off the hook. If he can’t win then, we’ve got some major problems brewing in Minnesota.
  7. Philadelphia (9-7) — All the defending champs can do at this point is go out and try to win a game against the Redskins. Take care of their business and let the chips fall where they may. If the Bears decide they want to play all-out for a full 60 minutes, the Eagles will get in.

Thanks again to everyone for sticking around this year and humoring me by reading all my picks and predictions. It’s fun and I hope you found some levity in reading it. We’ll be back next week with predictions for Wildcard Weekend.


Thanks for reading. Subscribe to the Sports Talk Center blog and you can receive emails when content is updated. Also, follow me on Twitter @brian22goodwin. You can also subscribe and download the Sports Talk Center Podcast, wherever you get your podcasts from: Apple iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, Google Play, or Spotify. Just subscribe, download, listen, and enjoy.

Listen to EPISODE 119 (“The Running Back Question, Wild Playoff Scenarios, and Top MVP Candidates “) right here:

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NFL Week 16 Picks

I’m going to keep my little intro brief this week. I have some advice here in Week 16. NFL games are hard enough to handicap in the middle of the season when you think you understand what every team is and all their strengths and weaknesses. Betting the last couple weeks, though — it’s almost impossible. There are a number of games this week where it comes down to which team is going to play hard — and that’s an extremely difficult thing to try and predict. For instance, Denver-Oakland will not be the matchup that we may have thought it would be if we looked ahead a few weeks ago. The Raiders have a roster full of veterans, who may not want to get hurt or have packed it in for the year, yet they have won two straight and will be home on Christmas Eve while the Broncos have just been eliminated from the playoff race, have to travel on the holiday, but are playing a bunch of young guys who may have something to prove to their coaches heading into the offseason. So who the heck do you pick??!!

Try and stay away from games like that — and there’s a bunch this week.

Last week, I went 9-7 straight up and 7-8-1 against the spread (ATS). For season, we’re looking at 134-73 straight up and 102-97-9 ATS. Let’s see what happens this week. Merry Christmas!

Santa Came!

Baltimore at Chargers (-4.5)

Baltimore runs the balls at 43. yards per attempt — and they run it more than any other team in the NFL. Conversely, the Chargers give up 4.3 yards per attempts to opponents on the ground. The Ravens will want to run all day long. The problem might be that the Chargers will play that “bend but don’t break” defense and give up yards to Gus Edwards and Lamar Jackson; but at some point, they’re going to make Lamar throw it. And when he does, Joey Boss and Melvin Ingram and Derwin James will be coming for him. That too is too good to be beaten by this rookie, who hasn’t shown any remarkable ability to throw the ball. Chargers, 27-20

Kansas City at Seattle (+2.5)

Seattle’s going to run the ball and KC is going to get gashed. It’s almost best for Kansas City to just concede all those rushing yards and tighten up in the red zone and against any passing attack Russell Wilson comes at them with. Chunk plays will be the key in this one. The Chiefs and Pat Mahomes have mastered those, but don’t sleep on Seattle’s ability to make big plays happen out of the passing game. Seattle, 26-24

Cool Gifts. Thanks.

Houston at Philadelphia (-1)

Let me ask you something: Are you willing to bet against Nick Foles in a “do or die” December game in Doug Pederson’s offense? Philly’s pass rush will give Houston’s offensive line fits. Eagles, 24-20

Pittsburgh at New Orleans (-6)

So the Saints offense hasn’t looked right in a few weeks. If Drew Brees & Co. struggle against Pittsburgh’s defense, then maybe I’ll start to wonder if things are okay in the bayou. I don’t expect the Steelers to keep this close. And the Saints — at home — will not shoot themselves in the foot like New England did the previous week against Pittsburgh. Saints, 34-24

Socks and Underwear

Washington at Tennessee (-10)

It’s fitting this game is being played at 4:30 on Saturday — if either team makes the playoffs that early Saturday time slot is the perfect home for them on Wildcard Weekend. The Titans defense should get after Josh Johnson and it won’t likely take much more than 17 points to win this game. Titans, 24-10

Tampa Bay at Dallas (-7)

Dallas’s offense should get back to moving the ball effectively after a disastrous game in Indy a week ago. Meanwhile, the Bucs offense can certainly be explosive but you worry about the turnovers. Jameis Winston has appeared to have fixed that problem — throwing only 3 interceptions in the last 5 games after tossing 10 in the 4 games prior. The Cowboys defense might goad him into reverting back to bad, reckless Jameis. Cowboys, 27-16

Minnesota at Detroit (+5.5)

This is a tough game to handicap because we still are trying to decipher if what we saw last week from the Vikings offense is going to be trend moving forward or if it was simply a one game blip due to the change at OC. The Lions run defense has been greatly improved since the addition of Snacks Harrison; and this is a in-division road game, where the Vikings don’t always dominate. Vikings, 24-20

Giants (+9.5) at Indianapolis

I get it — Indy is playing well on all sides of the ball. Andrew is a borderline MVP candidate, Marlon Mack has shown promising flashes as a runner, Eric Ebron is a Pro Bowler, the offensive line looks completely fixed, and the defense is coming a shutout of Dallas. But the Giants can score and in the dome, I think Eli and Saquon will be able to generate some points to keep it a game. Colts, 31-24

Cincinnati at Cleveland (-7)

Baker v. Hue, Part Two!! Cincy’s defense is not good and the young Browns know that all they can do is keep winning if they want to have any shot at the postseason. Browns, 27-17

Buffalo (+13.5) at New England

Without Josh Gordon, one wonders how this Patriots offense will look. More 2-back sets; more Chris Hogan-Philip Dorsett-Cordarrelle Patterson; more 2-TE sets? Hey, Tom Brady’s still there and he has weapons. Also, should be fun to see the very mobile Josh Allen in his debut at Foxboro against a suspect Pats’ rush defense. Patriots, 30-20

Chicago at San Francisco (+4)

Yes, on paper the Bears are much better than the 49ers. But three things make me nervous: (1) Bears just won the division by beating longtime nemesis Aaron Rodgers (and they celebrated like they won the Super Bowl); (2) long travel week with a road game on the West Coast; and (3) under Kyle Shanahan, the Niners are 7-1 straight up and 6-2 against the spread in December games. Oh, and the Bears haven’t been all that impressive in road games this year — lost in Miami, blew one week 1 in Green Bay, lost at the Giants, and escaped Arizona and Detroit by the skin of their teeth. Bears, 23-20

Rams (-14) at Arizona

Yep, tell me all about the Rams’ struggles on offense and defense lately. Tell me Jared Goff is the second-to-last QB in efficiency rating over the last 3 weeks. Yes, Todd Gurley may not be right. I understand that Cooper Kupp is, has been, and will be out. Yep, yes, I know. I also know that the Cardinals have an abysmal offense and Josh Rosen lives to throw pick-6s. This is the ultimate “get right” game for the Rams on both sides of the ball. Rams, 31-10

Coal in the Stocking

Denver at Oakland (+2.5)

The Raiders’, presumably, final game in Oakland and it could be interesting — not the game so much, but rather the Raider fans in the Black Hole. Neither team wants to play this game on Christmas Eve so give me the team that doesn’t have to travel. Raiders, 23-20

Green Bay at Jets (+3)

Sounds like Aaron Rodgers will play and that pretty much all I need to hear. The Jets are feisty, but in a game with nothing riding on it, give me the better quarterback with the better weapons. Packers, 24-23

Jacksonville at Miami (-4.5)

You can’t convince me that the Jaguars are interested in playing hard in weeks 16 and 17. On the other hand, Miami is not mathematically out of the playoffs yet, plus they are a different team when playing at home. Dolphins, 24-13

Atlanta (-3.5) at Carolina

No Cam Newton. No real motivation for the Panthers to be competitive. Falcons, 24-12


Thanks for reading. Subscribe to the Sports Talk Center blog and you can receive emails when content is updated. Also, follow me on Twitter @brian22goodwin. You can also subscribe and download the Sports Talk Center Podcast, wherever you get your podcasts from: Apple iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, Google Play, or Spotify. Just subscribe, download, listen, and enjoy.

Listen to EPISODE 116 (“Week 16 Preview & QBs as Christmas Movies”) right here:

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NFL Week 15 Picks

We should know who every team is at this point in the NFL season. However, the NFL is the NFL for a reason. It keeps us guessing from week to week, and anyone who runs the ol’ “Strength of Schedule Predictor Machine” is bound to look foolish because in the NFL it’s “any given Sunday” or “that’s why they play the games”. Pick whichever cliche you want.

Last week was a perfect example. The Steelers in the middle of the playoff race with everything to play for head to Oakland and look clumsy in game that their opponent didn’t even really want to win. The Broncos, hearing everyone prognosticate that they could run the table and end the year 10-6 and grab the 6th seed in the AFC, get beaten by the 49ers, who’d much prefer to improve on their draft slot than win a meaningless game against Denver. Then there’s the Saints, who only defeated the Bucs after they came out of their first half coma at halftime; the Rams couldn’t muster more than 6 points against the Bears; and the Cowboys outplay and out-gain the Eagles in regulation, yet it takes OT for Dallas to get the 6 point win.

If you think you know anything about the NFL, that’s fine — you probably do. But just because you know things, doesn’t mean you can tell me who’s going to win every Sunday.

After a couple of weeks middling at or below .500, I found my groove last week — 11-5 against the spread (ATS) and 10-6 straight up. For the season (minus week 1), I’m winning money: 95-89-8 ATS and 125-66 just picking winners. Here we come week 15.

Don’t Miss

Chargers (+3.5) at Kansas City

Call me crazy, but I don’t think the Chargers need Melvin Gordon to win this game. The Chiefs have an abhorrent run defense to the point where if I padded up, I could gash them for 80 yards. The Ravens had them dead to rights last week — and if Lamar Jackson was a little more experienced and a better thrower of the football, that game might not have been all that close in the end. Phillip Rivers is more than capable of winning a football game like this — especially when his run game should be fine and his defense can be disruptive to Pat Mahomes. Chargers, 34-24

Dallas (+3) at Indianapolis

Can Indy’s defense hold Dallas to field goals? The Cowboys offense should be able to move the ball and Zeke Elliott should get his fair share of touches — but if the Colts can force Dallas into settling for 3s instead of 6s, Andrew Luck should be able to generate enough of his own offense with Eric Ebron to outscore the ‘Boys. Colts, 24-23

New England (-1.5) at Pittsburgh 

The Patriots have too many weapons on offense. Which Steeler defender takes James White when he and Gronk are lined up on the same side? Who can handle Julian Edelman in the slot? And then there’s issue of Sony Michel coming out of the backfield. On the other side of the ball, I think Bill Belichick and Brian Flores scheme a way to limit Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster with some combination of Stephon Gilmore, the McCourty twins, and undrafted rookie JC Jackson. Patriots, 34-27

No Harm in Watching

Miami at Minnesota (-7)

With all the ups and downs in Minnesota, no team is wackier than Miami as far as how they look at home as opposed to on the road. The Fins are 6-1 in South Beach, yet when they travel, they’re 1-5, scoring only 17 points a game, and surrendering 29.5 to opponents. I like the Vikings to play with some excitement on offense with new OC Kevin Stefanski calling plays now. If the Vikings hit their stride here, there’s a chance this could be the moment we look back on in January and say, “Minnesota saved their season with that move”. Vikings, 27-17

Cleveland (+3) at Denver

Denver’s secondary is beat up and their offense is completely dependent on rookies Phillip Lindsey and Courtland Sutton. Baker Mayfield should be able to push the ball downfield on this Denver defense. Browns, 27-20

Tampa Bay (+8) at Baltimore

After the emotional loss at Arrowhead a week ago, the Ravens might need a couple quarters to get going. I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Bucs get out fast to a lead. Let the Ravens settle in, and that defense should be able to force Jameis Winston into a few of his patented turnovers, and the ravens offense really shouldn’t be met with much resistance by the Tampa Bay defense. Ravens, 20-17

Green Bay (+5.5) at Chicago

Bears fans are so scared of this game. Can they step on Aaron Rodgers’s throat and end the Packers season? Maybe this is a new Bears team and they’ll answer the call. But I need to see it first. Packers, 27-24

Philadelphia at Rams (-9)

It doesn’t seem like Carson Wentz will play Sunday — and nor should he with a broken back and Philly’s season all but done. The Rams need a “get right” game after not looking like themselves for the past couple weeks. Rams, 38-17

New Orleans (-6.5) at Carolina

I don’t care why the Panthers  all of a sudden stink. Is Cam hurt? Don’t care. Does the defense stink? Yes. Bottom line — you went from 6-2 and being a fringe-Super Bowl contender to a team that won’t be in the playoffs, might get your coach fired, and will certainly waster Christian McCaffrey’s outstanding offensive season. Save the excuses, Carolina. I don’t care. Saints, 41-24

Tennessee (+2.5) at Giants

Giants hung 40 on the Redskins last Sunday. Let me remind you that was a Washington team decimated by injuries and who was playing Mark Sanchez and Josh Johnson at quarterback. Tennessee might not be great, but they’ve got to win to keep their playoff hopes alive. Mike Vrabel’s defense won’t let the Giants offense run hog wild. Titans, 23-20

What’s This on For?

Houston (-6) at Jets

Houston has given up the second most sacks in the league, and if the Jets were serious about playing, I’d use that as evidence to support a Houston loss here. Can’t do it, though. A little fantasy advice: play Houston’s defense. Texans, 26-13

Seattle (-5) at San Francisco

Short week might be cause for concern for Pete Carroll’s team, but the Niners aren’t equipped to stop what Seattle’s offense wants to do: run the ball. Seattle doesn’t need a perfect performance to win in San Fran. Seahawks, 24-10

“Bleep” Show Games of the Week

Detroit (+2.5) at Buffalo

Buffalo’s offense is predicated on Josh Allen’s ability to move the ball down field — mostly with his legs. But guess what? The Lions are the best team in the NFL against rushing QBs — giving up an average of 4.0 yards per game. Since acquiring Snacks Harrison seven weeks ago, Detroit’s overall rush defense has improved to 18th from 30th. Truth be told, I hate the Lions on the road, especially coming off a dominating performance a week ago in Arizona. And I hate their offense. But it’s not like Buffalo is scoring 30 a game. Defense, defense, defense in this one. Lions, 20-17

Arizona at Atlanta (-8.5)

“The Battle of Two Teams Who Just Don’t Give a Damn”. I guess Atlanta wins — they have the talent and Arizona can’t do anything offensively. It’s just a matter of the final score. Falcons, 27-17

Oakland (+3) at Cincinnati

Oakland was “gamey” last weekend. But how can you get excited to travel across the country to play in Cincinnati in December? I’ll tell you — you know Hue Jackson is waiting on the opposing sideline. No chance I pick Hue. Seriously though, Derek Carr’s been playing much better and Doug Martin — yes, that Doug Martin) can gobble up yards on this Bengals shoddy defense. Raiders, 24-20

Washington at Jacksonville (-7)

Who’s tuning in for this game? You really need to re-evaluate your decisions in life, if you willing choose to spend 3 hours in front of a TV with this game on. Jaguars, 15-5


Thanks for reading. Subscribe to the Sports Talk Center blog and you can receive emails when content is updated. Also, follow me on Twitter @brian22goodwin. You can also subscribe and download the Sports Talk Center Podcast, wherever you get your podcasts from: Apple iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, Google Play, or Spotify. Just subscribe, download, listen, and enjoy.

Listen to EPISODE 111 (“The Mess in Minnesota”) right here:

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