Week 3 Reflections: I Know Nothing About the NFL

Usually, the deeper into September we get, the proverbial glass clears up, the fog dissipates, and we can see NFL teams for who they really are. I said usually. This past weekend proved to frustrate and confound many of us who, stupidly, think we can predict NFL games or, in the very least, point to the things teams do well and not so well and use those as indicators of team success. I come away from week 3 feeling like I know nothing about this season. I need a reboot. That said, it won’t stop me from looking back at week 3 and coming to some (mostly) sensible reactions.

  1. Pat Mahomes is fun to watch. I’m not going to re-hash what I’ve been saying about waiting to see Mahomes and this KC offense in meaningful games when weather is a factor. Forget that for now. At this moment, there’s not a more exciting player in the league.
  2. I guess having a player retire in the middle of halftime can be used as a motivating factor for an NFL team. So, feel free to thank Vontae Davis, Buffalo fans. (Seriously, how’d the Bills beat the Vikings?)
  3. Here’s how. Maybe. What if Kirk Cousins isn’t the answer the Vikings need? He’s fine, but is that change from Case Keenum to Kirk Cousins really going to put Minnesota over the top? I haven’t been sold, I was never sold, and I’m not sold now.
  4. “Paging Julian Edelman!!! Tom Brady and the Patriots offense need you!!!” The Pats looked slow and inept Sunday night against the Lions. Edelman’s week 5 return should help as far as the offense goes. The defense? Well……
  5. New England’s week 4 opponent, the Dolphins are 3-0 after wins over the Titans, the Jets, and the Raiders. Not exactly the toughest 3-game stretch. But the Dolphins have team speed. That offense could have success against a slow Patriots defense.
  6. Former Patriots OC Bill O’Brien entered this season with the Houston Texans with high expectations. But Deshaun Watson still doesn’t look right and patience, you’d imagine, may be wearing thin after this 0-3 start.
  7. Has there ever been a more talented team that just can’t seem to put it all together than the Chargers? Lack of execution at critical moments on top of bizarre coaching decisions give me the impression this team is missing “it”.
  8. It was a throwback weekend — Tiger won a tournament and Eli Manning went 25-29. Eli did. Eli Manning.
  9. Every sack, interception, or tackle for a loss by Khalil Mack gives me great joy, as I wait for John Gruden to somehow explain why Mack didn’t fit in with the Raiders.
  10. The Rams are by far the most complete team in the NFL right now. Injuries to Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters will test this team’s defense, though. And they get Minnesota’s dynamic wide receiving duo on a short week.
  11. The Titans might not be great, but judging that team through 3 weeks is a mistake. The hurricane game in week 1 and then the quarterback issue shouldn’t be dismissed.
  12. The Jaguars had their come-down week after playing in their Super Bowl against the Patriots in week 2. I don’t get a ton of these right so let me just bask in the fact that I called that one.
  13. If everything isn’t perfect for Dak, he’s not very good.
  14. Why did Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks choose the final 5 minutes of the game to bench quarterback Sam Bradford in favor of the rookie Josh Rosen? That’s a page from the Hue Jackson book of bad coaching.
  15. Typical shootout between the Saints and Falcons. Great offensive outputs, but I don’t trust the Falcons coaching staff in close games.
  16. Cam Newton and Christian McCaffrey have the potential to be a scary tandem in the Panthers backfield.
  17. Andy Dalton came back down to earth a bit after tossing 4 picks in Carolina. In fairness, Joe Mixon was out. I think Mixon might be the most important piece to their offense.
  18. I’m not the biggest Baker Mayfield guy. But I am excited to see what he does with the Cleveland offense.
  19. The Lions played with heart and passion and excitement on Sunday night against head coach Matt Patricia’s former employer. After their 0-2 start, they needed that one. And you’d have to believe Matty P. put a little more emphasis on this one throughout the week.
  20. After his fast start on MNF, Sam Darnold has lost some of his shine. After a few weeks, will we be saying the same thing about Josh Allen, Baker Mayfield, and Josh Rosen?

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 75 of the Sports Talk Center podcast here:

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

NFL Week 3 Picks

Not a great week 2 for my picks (6-9-1 OTS, 8-7-1 straight up). Let’s see if we can right the ship this week. Love the battle of L.A. The Chargers have both the offense and the defense to play with the Rams. But now that the Rams are past the lifeless Raiders and Cardinals, will we see them throw it into another gear against a good Chargers team? Melvin Ingram and Derwin James alone will present more legit threats than the Raiders and Cards defenses did, combined.  And how about the battle of the worst offensive line in football. Is Bill O’Brien coaching for his job? Will Eli Manning leave this game in one piece? I wouldn’t watch this game, but I don’t think I’d be able to look away. It’s going to be a mess.

Let’s check out this week’s slate of games.

Don’t Miss

Chargers (+6.5) at Rams

The Rams will get their first actual test of the year after opening with lopsided wins over the Raiders and Cardinals. Is the Rams defense for real? And how will Jared Goff deal with the pressure he’s bound to feel from Melvin Ingram and Derwin James? As for the Chargers, they have the weapons on offense, but execution is always the biggest issue with this team. Rams, 27-24

New Orleans (+3) at Atlanta

Through two weeks, the Saints either have their offense running well and their defense is terrible or vice versa. If they can put it all together, they’re in great shape. The Falcons miss Deion Jones and Keanu Neal on their defense, which won’t help them defend against Drew Brees. Saints, 30-21

San Francisco (+6.5) at Kansas City

Kansas City’s offense is in some kind of a groove — it’s out of the question to ask the 49ers defense to stop Pat Mahomes. But Kyle Shanahan will scheme something up for Jimmy G as a way to answer the Chiefs crazy, efficient offensive attack. Whether it’s more running the ball or shorter passes, look for the Niners to try and control the clock on offense and limit the amount of time that their defense has to be on the field against Mahomes, Hunt, and Hill. Chiefs, 27-24

Pittsburgh at Tampa Bay (+2)

This could be a shootout. Neither team plays a lick of defense so expect the offenses to show off on Monday night. There’s a lot to like about Tampa Bay right now. They’ve got all the right moves while Pittsburgh can’t get out of it’s own way. Have I mentioned how happy this mess in Pittsburgh makes me? Bucs, 34-27

If It’s On, I’ll Watch

New England (-6.5) at Detroit

Where have we seen this before? Patriots lose and take out their anger on their poor next opponent. Bill Belichick out-schemes a former assistant, as the Pats win big. New England heads into a primetime game after a week of experts doubting their greatness and claiming their reign is over. We know how this ends. Patriots, 31-17

It’s On in the Background

Tennessee (+6.5) at Jacksonville

Despite a disappointing and very lackluster 1-1 start, the Titans can prove a ton with a big performance in Jacksonville. Could this be a letdown game for the Jags after the huge, emotional win over New England? Titans, 24-13

Cincinnati (+3) at Carolina

The Panthers are getting the obligatory 3 points as the home team. What Vegas is telling me is that we shouldn’t believe too much in Carolina. I like the Bengals defense up front and in the secondary; but can Andy Dalton do enough without Joe Mixon? Bengals, 20-17

Denver at Baltimore (-5)

We’re going to learn a lot about these two teams in the coming weeks. Right now the Broncos defense is great, led by Von Miller. But their offense really isn’t been worthy of the 2-0 start. Baltimore seems more balanced on both sides of the ball, despite laying an egg last week in Cincy. Ravens, 20-13

Indianapolis (+6) at Philadelphia

Carson Wentz returns against the guy many feel he’s replaced as the  face of the league for the next 10 years, Andrew Luck. The Jim Schwartz defense will dial it up against the Indy QB and keep things moving quickly. Indy doesn’t have the pass protection and Luck doesn’t completely have his sea legs back yet. Eagles, 24-20

I’m Cleaning the Garage…or Eating Glass

Jets at Cleveland (-3)

The only way I consider watching this game is if we were to get Baker v. Darnold. Expect both defenses to play well and both offenses to be sloppy. The Browns have been so so close in both weeks 1 and 2. They should be able to do enough on the short week. Browns, 16-12

Buffalo at Minnesota (-17)

Give me one reason the Bills keep this within 3 touchdowns. And I’m not exaggerating. The bigger question to place a bet on is will the Bills have more players retire at the half than touchdowns they’ll score. Again, not exaggerating. Vikings, 35-10

Green Bay (-3) at Washington

I’m not sure how healthy Aaron Rodgers is, and it wouldn’t shock me in the slightest if reports surface later that he’s dealing with a much more severe injury than we’re being told now. That said, Andrew Luck and the Colts eased past the ‘Skins last week. The Pack will be able to score and the defense is better than anything Alex Smith has seen this season. Packers, 27-17

Giants at Houston (-6)

Neither offensive line can block to save their lives. At least Houston has a mobile quarterback. And as far as defenses go, the Texans are much more capable of getting to Eli Manning. Eli might not make it a full 4 quarters. But should the Texans be giving anyone 6 points? This line smells. Texans 23-19

Oakland (+3) at Miami

Desperation is already seeping into the water in Oakland. Jon Gruden does  not want to start 0-3, even if he thinks his roster stinks. And Miami isn’t really as good as their 2-0 start wants to indicate. Desperate teams are dangerous teams. Raiders, 23-20

Chicago (-4) at Arizona

So let’s not complicate matters. The Cardinals have scored 6 points through 2 games. The Bears have Khalil Mack and a very good defense. The Cardinals will start Sam Bradford. The Bears were up 20-0 on Aaron Rodgers and then smothered Russell Wilson. We can keep going if you like, but is it necessary? Bears, 24-13

Dallas (+3) at Seattle

The only interesting piece to this game will be if Earl Thomas switches jerseys at halftime. Seattle is a train wreck, and their offense might not be salvageable. Dallas has a front seven that can handle that porous Seattle O-line. Cowboys, 20-13


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 74 right here:

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

NFL Predictions for 2018

NFC North

GB            11-5

MIN        10-6

CHI          7-9

DET          7-9

NOTES: Green Bay has it’s guy back and that’s the difference in the division. Davonte Adams will be fantasy’s top WR. The run game is a question mark but it will sort itself out – Rodgers makes everyone
better. The defense will be good with Mike Petine as DC. Can the young CBs make an impact in rookie year? That would put them over the top. PREDICTION: Rodgers  looks as good as we’ve come to expect him to every year, but the defense finishes in the top 10 — and that’s the difference. Mike Petine is a head coaching candidate next offseason.

Minnesota has a lot of pressure. They have a potentially great running game, the WRs are excellent, and the defense is stout. But the new QB has to be the savior and take them to the Super Bowl. PREDICTION: Expectations are too much, coupled with Aaron Rodgers’s return in GB. 

Chicago has all the right pieces around their young QB, including an offensive-minded head coach in Matt Nagy. The Bears have time to get better – it won’t all happen in one year. Next year could be a big season for Chicago. PREDICTION: Mitchel Trubisky makes the leap forward (not quite like Carson Wentz) with one of Wentz’s former weapons, Trey Burton.

If all goes perfectly, the Lions still may only win 9 games. New HC Matt Patricia needs time to build the culture he wants. The defense is still questionable at best and if they cannot be better against the run, there will be lots of player turnover going into 2019. The offense should be fun to watch. PREDICTION: The run game will finally break out with rookie Kerryon Johnson topping the 100-yard mark half a dozen times. 

NFC South

N.O.        12-4

ATL          10-6

CAR         8-8

TB             2-14

NOTES: New Orleans has all the talent and has pushed all their chips into a 2 to 3 year window, centered around Drew Brees’s 2-year contract and the 3 years Sean Payton has left. They were a fluke play away from a trip to Philly for the NFC title game last year. PREDICTION: Alvin Kamara goes for 2,000 yards from scrimmage and is recognized as a stud RB after this season – in real football and in fantasy.

I have a lot of questions about the Falcons coaching staff and the playcalling on the offensive side of the ball. But Matt Ryan should be better in ’18 than he was in ’17, but not as good as he was in ’16. The defense is still fast and athletic. And Julio should be happy. Plus, Atlanta can still run the ball with anyone in the league. PREDICTION: Julio Jones scores 10 touchdowns.

Of the three south teams that made the playoffs last year, the Panthers are the one who won’t in ’18. It should be interesting to see how OC Norv Turner gels with Cam Newton throughout the season. Cam has weapons, but they’re young and unproven. Christian McCaffrey is the wildcard for me. If he’s great, then Carolina could win 10 games. If he’s mediocre, then the team will follow suite. PREDICTION: Cam and Norv have a blow up on the sideline by week 5, and rumors surface the Turner is contemplating retirement before Turkey Day.

Here we go. I can’t find a single nice thing to say about the Bucs so I won’t say anything at all. PREDICTION: They’ll be picking number 1 in next Spring’s NFL Draft and Dirk Koetter will be unemployed before the first snowfall in the Midwest.

NFC East

PHI          9-7

NYG         8-8

WAS        6-10

DAL         5-11

NOTES: Philadelphia won’t sneak up on anyone this year. The roster is deep, again, and they bring back a healthy and potential MVP candidate in Carson Wentz. But playing with a target on your back is a lot different then chasing one. PREDICTION: It will be a dogfight to win the division, and Carson Wentz won’t be in the MVP conversation at any point during the year.

If the Giants don’t turn things around, people will question their passing of a QB at two overall in last year’s draft. I expect the offense to be really good. However, the defense is where this team will earn it’s stripes. Landon Collins shows signs of being the leader of the unit, but they’ll need a consistent pass rush to show up every week. PREDICTION: Saquon Barkley wins Rookie of the Year, the Giants’ offense is explosive, but Eli Manning ‘s play will make fans long for his replacement.

Alex Smith won’t hurt the Redskins at all. The running game lost a big piece when rookie Derrius Guice went down, but if the offensive line can stay healthy, that will make a big difference in 2018. The defense needs to be faster and play more lively than it did last year. PREDICTION: Alex Smith outperforms Kirk Cousins.

Dallas seems fine with having lost Dez Bryant and Jason Witten. I’m not arguing they needed to keep them, but no WRs stand out to me that will get Dak Prescott back to the way his played in his rookie season in 2016. Ezekiel Elliott is an animal, but he can’t do it alone. I think Dallas is trending down. PREDICTION: Jason Garrett is fired, and Dak Prescott gets benched down the stretch.

NFC West

LAR          10-6

SF             8-8

SEA          5-11

ARI           3-13

NOTES: Let’s get the obvious out of the way out West – the Rams made all the offseason moves like a serious contender would. Now all that’s left is to actually go and perform on the field. As I’ve said on podcasts, multiple times, the Rams are in fine shape with all these shorter term contracts even if 2018 isn’t their year. However, let’s not mince words – they’re in it to win it. The biggest question is how this locker room responds to the bumps in the road that it will face. PREDICTION: Jared Goff isn’t as good as his 2017 season showed. His mistakes will be the difference between the Rams being the one seed and them having to play in the Wild Card round.

If the 49ers had given Jimmy G. a few more weapons on offense, I’d be okay with touting the Niners as a playoff team. Instead, they are lacking in too many spots. But Kyle Shanahan knows what he wants and is building this roster his way. Defensively, they have the pieces, but now is the time for high draft picks like DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead, and Solomon Thomas to come into their own. They’re a year away. One year. Then watch out. PREDICTION: I love the value of Jerick McKinnon in fantasy, but on the field, Alfred Morris will prove to be the most productive and important offensive piece for SF.

The re-build is on – whether folks in Seattle want to admit it or not. And now their top draft pick is banged up. Before that this offensive line is not good, they lost Jimmy Graham, Doug Baldwin is dealing with an injury, and the Earl Thomas drama is hanging over the team. PREDICTION: Russell Wilson will have to be a one-man wrecking crew if this team is going to be anywhere near 8 wins. Also, Chris Carson is not the answer at running back.

Age and injuries will derail Cardinal fans of a successful season. The good news is Josh Rosen will probably play a lot. PREDICTION: Sam Bradford starts less than 4 games – have you SEEN this o-line??? And DJ falls at least 500 yards shy of his 2,000 yards from scrimmage goal.

AFC North

BAL          9-7

PIT           8-8

CIN          7-9

CLE          4-12

NOTES: The Ravens won 9 games last year and were a week 17 Andy Dalton 48-yard TD pass away from being back in the postseason. The wide receiving weapons aren’t deadly, but Michael Crabtree may be looking to prove he’s got something left and John Brown showed flashes of excellence in his years with Arizona. Willie Snead will also be a nice deep threat for Joe Flacco, who loves to throw the deep ball. Alex Collins at running back is also a solid piece. The question is if Flacco and the offense stalls, will Lamar Jackson get his shot? PREDICTION: Lamar starts more games than Flacco.

When it’s over for Big Ben, it’s going to end quickly. All the off-the-field drama (Le’Veon Bell’s contract issue and his past tweets) plus the things we’ve seen happen on the field and in the locker room (blowout playoff loss at home to the Jaguars, Mike Tomlin’s comments) could be too much. Listen, talent-wise on offense, the Steelers are outstanding – 2-time Super Bowl winning QB and the NFL’s best RB and best WR. But the team has no defense, Tomlin doesn’t have control, and these personalities are starting to fray at the franchise’s culture. PREDICTION: Roethlisberger gets benched, Bell gets run into the ground, and AB misses at least 4 games due to injury.

Cincinnati should be better in ’18 than they were in ’17 – the offensive line is better and Joe Mixon showed he can be a bell cow running back – and this year he’ll get carries right off the bat. It’s hard to get behind Marvin Lewis and Andy Dalton, but they’ve proven they are more than capable of winning 7 games in a season. PREDICTION: AJ Green is great but no other WR gets more than 60 catches and 700 yards.

When Cleveland fires Hue Jackson, we can seriously talk about the Browns making a turnaround. The talent seems to be there in spots, as does depth in spots, as well. But Hue will wreck any chance this team has of winning 6 or 7 games. PREDICTION: John Dorsey fires Jackson before Christmas and Todd Haley takes over.

AFC South

TEN          13-3

HOU        10-6

JAC           7-9

IND          6-10

NOTES: Mike Vrabel will make an immediate impact in Tennessee.
This team will play tougher. Dion Lewis and Derrick Henry will be a
fantastic 1-2 punch. This offensive line is outstanding. PREDICTION: Marcus Mariota will have an MVP season and Corey Davis will break out.

The weapons on offense will make Houston one of the most explosive and fun to watch in the league. There are questions defensively – mostly injury-related. Oh, and the offensive line is one of the the worst in the NFL. That said, the differences in Houston and Tennessee should make for an interesting race for the divisional crown. PREDICTION: Jadeveon Clowney, JJ Watt, and Whitney Mercilus will all finish in the top 8 for Defensive Player of the Year – with Clowney winning the award.

Expect a few setbacks for the Jags, who were very fortunate in 2017. Blake Bortles will make some mistakes and the ground game won’t be able to carry the load week in and week out. And the defense will get tested. Jalen Ramsey ran his mouth in the GQ article – those things have a way of coming back to haunt you. The talent is there, but the maturity is not. PREDICTION: No WR reaches 800 yards receiving and the defense finishes out of the top 10.

Andrew Luck’s health is the elephant in the room. But even if he’s healthy, how good can this team be? PREDICTION: Newly acquired Ryan Grant will put up the best numbers of any offensive player on the Colts roster.

AFC East

NE            12-4

NYJ           9-7

BUF         4-12

MIA         4-12

NOTES: The Patriots faced an offseason filled will questions and anxiety. On the field, they will face some issues – the WR battle needs to work itself out, the offensive line is beginning to lack depth, the linebackers still aren’t fast, and they have a 41-year old quarterback. I know, much of that will end up being just fine and wrapping up the division by early December wouldn’t be a surprise at all. But will any of these items hurt them come January? PREDICTION: Chris Hogan will have over 1200 yards receiving and Jeremy Hill will be the Pats best running back.

The J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets have their quarterback!!! But no offensive line will affect Sam Darnold. In the end, his talent will shine through and he’ll do more with less than anyone else in the league. PREDICTION: Darnold throws for 25 touchdowns and 3800 yards.

Buffalo was bad before AJ McCarron broke his collarbone. Pencil in Josh Allen at QB. He’s talented but not ready – especially with no offensive line and unproven wideouts. PREDICTIONS: LeSean McCoy takes a huge step backwards and the Bills end up starting 3 different QBs over the course of the year.

How can a team be worse than Buffalo this year, you ask? Enter the Dolphins. Limited weapons across the board at practically every playmaking position will make it hard for Miami to score points. PREDICTION: Miami scores the fewest points in the conference.

AFC West

LAC          10-6

KC            8-8

OAK        6-10 (9-7 before the Mack trade)

DEN         6-10

NOTES: The Chargers are so snake-bitten. Injuries kill this team year after year. But this defense has the playmakers to keep them in every game and can even win a few alone. PREDICTION: Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram will be top 5 Defensive MVP candidates.

The biggest concern was how Khalil Mack’s contract situation would impact the locker room. Now, since the trade, we are starting to see how current Raiders feel about the move — and it’s not positive. I thought John Gruden would be able to get more out of Derek Carr than any other coach has to this point in his young career. And perhaps the offense will still be good, but the defense is atrocious. The thing here is that good teams don’t trade away guys like Khalil Mack. Gruden clearly doesn’t like this roster and is churning it and twisting it to get draft capital so he can build his team how he wants. Might work later, might not. But it definitely won’t pay dividends this year. PREDICTION: Amari Cooper will catch 90 balls for 1200 yards and 12 touchdowns, and the defense will give up 30 points on a routine basis.

Everything in me says Andy Reid’s history of producing very productive QBs will make the Chiefs good in 2018. And maybe Pat Mahomes will indeed put up very good numbers. But they may not lead to wins. More importantly, the defense must be better than it was a year ago – especially the linebackers and the pass rush. PREDICTION: Sammy Watkins will again disappoint.

Denver’s choice of Case Keenum this offseason was not a bad decision. But the offense is getting older, the running game has been questionable at best for years, and now the defense will feel the need to once again carry the team. PREDICTION: Bradley Chubb will be great, but the defense will struggle to dominate as the offense won’t be able to stay on the field.

PLAYOFFS

NFC

  1. New Orleans
  2. Green Bay
  3. Los Angeles
  4. Philadelphia
  5. Atlanta
  6. Minnesota

NFC Championship

New Orleans over Green Bay

AFC

  1. Tennessee
  2. New England
  3. Los Angeles
  4. Baltimore
  5. Houston
  6. Jets

AFC Championship

New England over Tennessee

Super Bowl

New England over New Orleans: Pats won’t lose two SBs in a row. This sends the organization into post-Brady era quickly, as the QB retires.


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.

Check out episode 68 right here!!!

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

After Week 10 in the NFL, Here’s 20 Things We Know

1.  The NFL would probably solve all it’s television ratings issues if they scheduled the Steelers-Cowboys each weekend. Seahawks-Patriots aren’t bad either.images-6

2. Ezekiel Elliott is a legitimate MVP candidate, and Dallas is a real threat in the NFC. There are the most complete team through 10 weeks.

3. Pittsburgh has twice been below .500 this late in the season since Ben Roethlisberger took the reigns at QB. And both times, the Steelers missed the playoffs.

4. Seattle has vastly improved it’s offense — Jimmy Graham is a threat again, the running game looked impressive in Foxboro, and a healthy Russell Wilson makes all the difference in the world. Dallas may have put together the best overall 10 weeks in the NFC, but no one is playing better right now — perhaps in all of football — than the Seahawks.

5. New England will need to solidify their defense — maybe the Jamie Collins trade had the unit “off” a little bit. But they will recover and despite not playing a great game, the Patriots were a play away from tying that game in the last seconds.

6. If Green Bay “relaxes” much more, they might give up 70 next time out. I’m not sure that will be Aaron Rodgers’ plan of attack this time around. The Packers can’t stop anything on defense, and they can’t run the ball.

7. The Vikings continue their freefall. The Lions didn’t play this weekend, but come out of the bye in first place in the North. The Bears are still alive after getting hammered by Tampa Bay 36-10i, if that gives you any indication of how this division is going.

8. Houston sneaked past the Jaguars, who might be heading to Detroit next week without head coach Gus Bradley; the Colts were on a bye; and the Titans put up 47 on the league’s number one rush D. Are we ready to give Tennessee a little credit finally? They look like the best team in the division more weeks than not.

9. Washington is doing their best to challenge the Cowboys. After their 0-2 start and players within their own lockeroom calling for Kirk Cousins’s benching, the Redskins have gone 5-1-1.

10. No one thought the Eagles would be 5-4 after week 10, but here we are. Big wins over the Steelers, Vikings, and, now, the Falcons should have Philly fans feeling good about their team’s chances against anyone down the stretch.

11. You win by the arm of Phillip Rivers, and other times you die by the arm of Phillip Rivers. Hard to realize San Diego is 4-6 this year — they seem like they’ve been much better. No teams are going to want to play the Chargers in the final month and a half of the season.

12. The AFC West is one tough division. Denver won with a little bit of help — the ol’ let-the-other-team-score-so-we-can-block-the-PAT-and-return-it-for-two-points play. The Raiders were on a bye, but their Sunday night win a week ago is still fresh in everyone’s minds — and may be one of the more impressive wins of the season by any team. And then there’s Kansas City. The Chiefs came back from down 17-0 on the road against the defending NFC champs and the reigning MVP. The winner of this division will be very deserving.

13. Cleveland is still looking at challenging the ’08 Lions for the worst regular season of all-time, 0-16. Stay focused Cleveland.

14. Baltimore somehow flies under the radar, doesn’t offer up too much in the form of a good offense, and just wins enough to lead the AFC North. Their defense has been above average, but this isn’t a great team — just in a very weak division right now.

15. Monday night’s performance from the Bengals feels like many of their 2016 performances — decent, not horrible, not many huge gaffs, but not enough offense in the red zone to win — what was — a winnable game.

16. The Giants were the beneficiaries of the Bengals’ inabilities to capitalize on scoring chances. The Giants have been the anti-Bengals this season in a way. Ben McAdoo’s club is taking full advantage of their opportunities and Eli Manning is spreading the ball around to all his weapons. And maybe most surprising — and definitely most important — is that the G-Men are playing defense, led by rookie Landon Collins.

17. The 49ers-Cardinals game didn’t follow the script that we all expected it to. Instead, like they’ve been all season-long, the Cardinals struggled with consistency and failed to run the ball with any sort of success — against the league’s worst run defense, mind you. Carson Palmer looked fine (30-49, 376 yards), but an ill-timed interception in the final minutes nearly helped throw this game away. As for the Niners, a 3-point loss to the Cards in the desert isn’t all the bad, considering San Francisco’s woes this year.

18. A Bryce Petty – Case Keenum matchup was hardly what the NFL hoped for when this game made it to the schedule. And hardly what we hoped to see.

19. The NFC South. What can be said? If the Falcons don’t wrap that division up and stop playing games, this could be a repeat of a couple years ago when the winner of the South was below-.500. Carolina is not the team they were a year ago; the Saints are game and are playing tougher than I give them credit for; and every time I think I know what Tampa Bay is, they go ahead and prove me wrong. I beg Atlanta to please win this thing so we can stop talking about these other 3 teams.

20. After the disappointing 1-4 start, the Dolphins have reeled off 4 straight wins, are running the ball with authority, and Adam Gase look, indeed, like the “quarterback whisperer” he was all hyped up to be when Stephen Ross hired the young, former OC.

 

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

30 Things We Learned From Week 7 in the NFL

1. As long as LeGarrette Blount pounds the ball like he has in most games this season, the Patriots will remain the favorite in the AFC.

2. Landry Jones can fill in for Big Ben quite admirably. All the snaps the former Sooners QB has taken in preseason and last year appear to have helped.

3. DC Jim Schwartz deserves a lot of credit for what he’s done with Philly’s defense. With a rookie quarterback bound to hit the “rookie wall” at some point, the defense will need to carry the team many weeks.

4. Can someone, anyone stop Jay Ajayi??!! To think, some Fins fans wanted the kid released after missing the plane in week 1 when he was told he’d be playing behind Arian Foster.

5. The Colts do, I repeat, DO have a defense with a pulse!! (A faint one, but it’s there.)

6. Matthew Stafford is playing some of the best football of anyone in the NFL. A couple more wins and people around Detroit might actually hear the letters M.V.P. start being associated with their QB.

7. As someone who picked the Falcons to win the NFC South, I hate to see Atlanta lose at home to the Chargers. That’s a game they’d have lost in the past. Now, let all the questions begin — same old Falcons?

8. Minnesota needs to protect Sam Bradford or else you’re going to see the Sam Bradford we’ve seen in Philadelphia and St. Louis.

9. Aaron Rodgers has some weapons around him. How’s the loss of Eddie Lacy going to impact this offense, though?

10. If LeSean McCoy isn’t healthy, this Bills offense is not the same. It’s bad enough they are without Sammy Watkins on the outside.

11. Four roads wins is nothing to sneeze at. The Raiders can travel.

12. The Cubs are going to the World Series!! Oh, and the Bears played against the Packers.

13. The Indians are going to the World Series!! Oh, and the Browns played against the Bengals.

14. Was never quite sure why Todd Bowles benched Ryan Fitzpatrick in favor of Geno Smith after week 6. Had Smith not gotten hurt and been replaced by Fitzpatrick, the Jets might be 1-6.

15. In his fourth year in the NFL, it’s ironic that offensive-minded head coach Chip Kelly just cannot seem to find a QB to run his system.

16. Tennessee is 3-4, probably no better or no worse than many would have expected back in August. But quarterback Marcus Mariota has been erratic at many points so far this season, and his performance against a weak Colts defense in week 7 served as a microcosm of the young signal caller’s season — lots of missed targets on easy out routes and a fumble at the end that cost the Titans any shot at coming back to win.

17. As unwatchable as the SNF game was, the Seahawks proved that their defense isn’t ready to relinquish their spot atop the NFL as the league’s stingiest scoring defense.

18. Between penalties and turnovers and missed opportunities on offense, Washington did everything they could to lose the game in Detroit on Sunday. It worked.

19. Denver’s defense continues to impress. If it’s possible for a defending champion’s defense to fly under the radar, then that’s what they’re doing in Denver.

20. Arizona has something special in David Johnson. The second year RB had 113 yards rushing on 33 carries against Seattle. So much for thinking this kid can’t be an every-down back. Thirty-three carries!!

21. Baltimore had 6 yards on the ground on Sunday. Six. They rushed 12 times. Oh boy.

22. Houston has some explosive weapons on offense. But if Brock Osweiler can’t get on the same page with them, then this Texans team is no better off than they were last year with Brian Hoyer at the helm.

23. If James Winston and Mike Evans can figure out a way to be consistently on the same page, this could be a Matt Ryan – Julio Jones or Andy Dalton – AJ Green type of relationship in Tampa.

24. His team stinks, he’s playing at Arrowhead, and he’s up against one of the AFC’s best defenses — and Drew Brees still goes for 300 and 3 touchdowns. Hard to say he doesn’t get enough credit, but, seriously, he doesn’t get enough credit.

25. Landon Collins is putting together a stretch of games for the Giants where he looks to be the league’s next best defensive back.

26. Joey Bosa is quickly putting himself in the conversation for Defensive Rookie of the Year.

27. No 3-game losing streak or 4-interception game from Case Keenum is enough to get number 1 overall pick Jared Goff into the starting lineup. How bad does this kid look in practice for Jeff Fisher to not give him a shot? If not now, when?

28. The Chiefs defense gave up yards and TDs to Drew Brees, but when it came time to make the game-changing plays, KC was making them.

29. Blake Bortles missed a prime opportunity to move the Jaguars  into contention in the AFC South. Instead, against a Raiders defense that has made almost every opposing quarterback look like a hall-of-famer this year, the Jags QB went 23-43 for 246 yards, a TD and 2 INTs.

30. The Bengals ought to be thankful they got the Browns when they did — the schedule doesn’t get easier as the team travels to London this week to play a good Redskins team.

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

With TV Ratings Dominating the Headlines, the NFL has a Much More Serious Problem

Over the past few weeks, everyone — for whatever reason — has chimed in with their thoughts on why the NFL is experiencing low television viewership: too many commercials, bad refereeing, no star faces, over saturation
of the product, uninteresting matchups, and on and on. I know we feel it’s imperative that we get to the bottom of why people aren’t tuning in to watch NFL games (not like there’s an election at stake or real life issues we could be worrying or anything), but can we put all that on hold for just a minute and talk about a real problem the NFL has?

In fact, this problem is the reason we should turn off our TVs — but we won’t (but that’s a conversation for another day).

By now, many of you have at least heard the name Josh Brown. Whether you saw the story on TMZ or read snippets of the horrid details in the New York Post or USA Today or any other media outlet for that matter. images-7And if you haven’t, allow me to bring you up to speed.

Brown, a 37-year old veteran placekicker who’s been in the league since 2003, admitted in emails and letters that were originally dated 2014 and 2015, but were just made public this week, that he “physically, emotionally, and verbally” abused his then-wife Molly. In his own words, Brown described himself as “God” and his wife as his “slave”, as he reflected, therapeutically, on his behavior — which also included sexual deviance, an addiction to sex and pornography, and a belief that the money he made gave him the right to mistreat and look lowly upon his wife.

Brown was suspended in 2015 for one game — not a typo — one game for an incident in May of that year involving his wife. But the public didn’t know all the background and sordid details that make this much more than a one-time occurrence. However, guess who did know? The New York Giants. And, of course, the NFL.

The New York Giants ownership failed to either recognize the severity of domestic abuse or just plain didn’t care. In an interview with WFAN radio in New York this week, Giants owner John Mara said, “Certainly he admitted to us that he abused his wife.” And in 2015 after the incident was made public and the one-game suspension came down, Mara told the New York Post in August, “A lot of times there is a tendency to try to make these cases black and white. They are very rarely black and white.”

I’m no lawyer, no investigative journalist, no police detective — but this seems pretty black and white. It certainly is more black and white than the Deflategate saga that the commissioner, Roger Goodell, made into his own personal “Most Dangerous Game”. You’ll devote one and a half years of time, effort, energy, resources, and money into bringing down one of your star players for something that was found to be “more probable than not”, but you won’t spend a day or a week talking to people who may be able to shed more light on a player who has mental problems and a propensity for beating women?

Heck, Goodell’s job didn’t even have to be that difficult, if he chose to look more deeply at Brown. The NFL had it’s own records from the 2015 Pro Bowl, where security was called on Brown and officials had to relocate Brown’s estranged wife and children after the player showed up at their hotel room. Where were the interviews? Where were the witness accounts? Where was the victim’s story? Where were the victim’s children’s stories?

Where was the commissioner?

The NFL’s investigative team either didn’t do adequate follow-up from Brown’s suspension in ’15 or they didn’t do much investigating after the incident at the Pro Bowl. Or both. And then fast forward to now.

Reports surface, evidence gets made public and the NFL looks like they didn’t treat such a sensitive and serious issue with the proper handling that it required.

But, hey. Who can blame the NFL suits in the New York City offices for not being all over this? They’re dealing with very important matters like determining how much money to fine a player for a touchdown celebration or what penalty to impress upon a player when he wears cleats that don’t match the color scheme that the NFL requires.

Oh, but most importantly, Goodell and company are preoccupied with their month-long “October Pink Out”, where players, coaches, referees, ball boys, video technicians, crowd control staff, commentators, and anyone else they can force into partaking in this sham wear pink wristbands, socks, gloves, hats, and blinders (oops) to show just how much the league cares about women.

So see? The commissioner has a lot on his plate.

 

Feedback is always welcome through the website in the comments box or on my Twitter feed — @brian22goodwin.

 

 

 

 

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

28 Things We’ve Learned After Week 5 in the NFL

images-6

1. Minnesota is as real a Super Bowl contender as there is in the NFC. Sam Bradford has been a perfect fit in the Twin Cities — and has even garnered early consideration for MVP. On the other side of the ball, the Viking defense is the best in the NFL.

2. For years we have seen the Atlanta Falcons get out to fast starts, but doesn’t something feel different this time? The week 5 trip to Denver, going up against a great defense, was the perfect time for a typical Atlanta misstep. Instead, the Falcons won a tight game 23-16 and had to rely on their defense.

3. Tom Brady is back. Martellus Bennett and Rob Gronkowski look like the double tight end threat that Bill Belichick has been searching for. Pats got back on track after the shutout loss a week ago.

4. Oakland’s defense was supposed to be much better. But remember, the Raiders have played some of the best, most explosive offenses in the NFL in the first five weeks — the Saints, Falcons, and Chargers. Don’t give up quite yet on this defense. The next 8 games are favorable for the Raiders — could be very telling for their defense.

5. Romo out, Dez hurt, rookie QB, rookie RB. And here stands Dallas at 4-1, atop the division. This team is for real and shouldn’t have any problem telling Tony Romo, when he’s healthy, to have a seat behind Dak Prescott.

6. The more Pittsburgh plays, the harder it is to believe that Philadelphia took them to task, 34-3, a few weeks ago. The Steelers have so many weapons.

7. The Bronco defense is one of the best, but to beat the league’s best teams, they will need to score points. The quarterback position has a lot to prove.

8. Short week for Arizona with a backup QB stepping in to start. Drew Stanton’s 11-28 for 124 yards wasn’t great, but he knew enough to get the ball to playmakers David Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald. The Cardinals looked like that game could have gotten them back on track. No one saw them starting out 2-3.

9. Brian Hoyer has looked good for the Bears, filling in for the injured Jay Cutler. But let’s not go crazy — this is the same Brian Hoyer who couldn’t keep his starting job in Cleveland and then threw 4 picks in a 30-0 loss in last season’s playoff game against KC. It may seem better now, but it won’t last.

10. As badly as the Lions tried to give the game away against the Eagles on Sunday, they managed to win despite making no halftime adjustments. This is a game that we will describe as one that Philly lost, not that the Lions won. Have to wonder how Jim Caldwell continues to keep his job.

11. Stop me if this sounds familiar: Houston beats up on teams they’re better than, but gets routed by the league’s legit contenders.

12. Well, the Carson Wentz dream season of 16-0 is over. Road games in the NFL can never be taken for granted. Philly will have work to do on the offensive side of the ball, as word gets out on Wentz. But the defense is really good and has the Eagles with almost as many wins as I expected them to have for the season.

13. A home game against the depleted Bears and the Colts barely squeaked out the victory. Now come the reports that GM Ryan Grigson is unhappy with Andrew Luck’s gargantuan contract — which Grigson, himself, helped broker. Last season, it was head coach Chuck Pagano’s contract that was the in-season distraction, this season we have this. When did the Colts turn into such a soap opera?

14. Three straight wins by Washington may be masking some bigger, deeper problems in D.C. The offense ranks 3rd out of 4 in the division, and the total defense is 27th in the NFL.

15. Don’t be surprised if over the next couple days you are contacted by someone from the Cleveland Browns front office, asking if you have an interest in starting for the Browns at quarterback next week.

16. It’s not just Odell Beckham, Jr.’s fantasy owners who have a problem with the Giants offense — it should be all New York fans. The G-men are 18th in the league in total yards and have only thrown 5 passing TDs through 5 weeks. Very low and disappointing numbers considering all the expectations placed on this offense at the start of the year.

17. The Buffalo Bills have quickly gone from 0-2 and on the brink of a collapse to three straight wins and looking like a team that is serious. While the Bills passing attack is dreadful — last in the NFL, they are third in rushing; and the defense is sixth in scoring (17.4 ppg) and T-5 in interceptions.

18. All the money Miami has spent on their defense over the last 2 offseason sure doesn’t look like it’s paying off. The Fins are a bottom-5 defense in total yards and interceptions — they have 1 pick in 5 games. And the area that everyone expected to be most headache-inducing for opposing offenses — the defensive pass rush — has only 10 sacks, good enough for 16th in the league.

19. No one has ever accused Chip Kelly of being a defensive-minded coach — and I don’t see those accusations coming any time soon. The 49ers look to be able to put points on the board, offensively; however, they can’t stop a soul on the defense — 28.0 ppt given up.

20. Why the Bengals don’t have a stronger commitment to running the football is beyond me. Two very capable RBs make up that Cincy backfield in Jeremy Hill and Giovanni Bernard. They are 25th in the NFL in rushing.

21. The 3-0 start in Baltimore seems like it was ages ago. The offense lacks any and all explosiveness — 26th in first down percentage and 25th in plays resulting in 20-plus yards. The defense has been good, but you have to wonder can it last with such ineptitude on the offensive side of the ball.

22. Tennessee looks to have the right balance between a quarterback who limits mistakes, a running back who is a horse, and a pass-catching tight end who is one of the best at the position. The offense isn’t blowing anybody out, but they don’t have to. The defense is top-10 in total yards and has done a nice job of keeping the offense in striking distance.

23. Green Bay may not been getting all the glamour shots and may not be the sexy pick right now, but they’re managing to hold things together despite hits to their defense, left and right. Aaron Rodgers is still Aaron Rodgers and the run game is serving the offense well.

24. Who are the LA Rams? One week this club looks like they have a defense that is capable of stopping any offense in football, the next they can’t keep the Buffalo Bills from scoring 30. Offensively, we know the problems that exist, but the bright spot was supposed to be this defense. Too inconsistent for anyone to know what’s going on.

25. Carolina is not the same team they were in ’15. Cam’s not the same — thus the offense isn’t the same. And the defense, you ask? They gave up 101 yards rushing to Jacquizz Rodgers last night on MNF. Not the same team by any means.

26. I’m going to keep saying it: the Jets first 6 games are brutal. It won’t get easier in week 6 against the Cardinals, who appear to have found their groove. But the schedule gets considerably easier after that game. If the Jets can keep their heads above water, they have a lot that could go right from them in their final 10 games.

27. I think through five weeks, it’s safe to say that the Chargers are going to have to rely, heavily, on their offense this year. They’ve been involved high scoring, shootouts in 4 of 5 games this season and have allowed 33, 34, and 34 points in 3 of their 4 losses. This may be bad news for San Diego fans, but fantasy owners should look to pick up Phillip Rivers and his offensive weapons.

28. If Tampa can more consistent pay from all areas, they’d the team that some predicted would make a big jump this year. Instead, he the offense is lighting it up, the defense can’t stop anyone. And when the defense is shutting down offenses, James Winston and company fall asleep. Last night, the Bucs had it going on both sides (they weren’t totally efficient on offense, but good enough) so, of course, leave it up to special teams to let them down for most of the game.

 

Feedback is always welcome through the website in the comments box or on my Twitter feed — @brian22goodwin.

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

This Weekend in Football: 5 Must See Matchups on the Gridiron

It’s still tremendously early in both the NFL season and college football season. But that shouldn’t stop us from enjoying some intriguing games, beginning Friday night. It’s not too often we get treated to three games featuring top-10 teams going head-to-head. While it’s not even October yet, there promises to be major ramifications for the College Football Playoff after Saturday night. We always have lots of questions at this point in the season, and three of them should be answered this weekend: (1) who’s the team to beat in the Pac-12?; (2) is Michigan as good as their ranking? and (3) can Death Valley-bound Louisville traverse the second of three major obstacles on their schedule after demolishing Florida State a couple weeks ago?

In the pro game, it’s really too hard to say if any game this weekend will impact the playoffs — every game means the same, no matter when it’s played, I suppose. But let’s just target a couple games this weekend in the NFL that have the potential to excite and entertain us, the viewing audience.

Here’s five games that shouldn’t disappoint this weekend. Schedule your errands around these matchups.

 

7 Stanford (+3.5) at 10 Washington, Friday, 9:00pm

Seattle is host to a battle of top-10 teams for the first time since Big Red visited in 1997. The Huskies of 2016 are hoping for a better result than the 27-14 loss that the ’97 version of U-W was dealt by Tom Osborne’s Cornhuskers.

Tenth-ranked Washington enters the showdown for Pac-12 North supremacy with a defense that has been very stingy and a quarterback, who is amongst the best in the country through the first four games. The Husky defense has only allowed 14.5 points per game and leads the nation with 13 takeaways. They will, undoubtedly, face their toughest test when All-American Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey takes the field. Last year’s Heisman finalist gashed the Huskies in 2015 to the tune of 221 yards from scrimmage, including a 50-yard touchdown catch. The Cardinal won that game in dominating fashion, 31-14, but this year’s game should be much more competitive.

Washington’s sophomore quarterback Jake Browning has been the model of perfection so far this season with 14 touchdowns to only 2 interceptions. His QB efficiency places him third in the country, and he will be looking to add to his offensive output Friday night against a Stanford defense who is missing its top two cornerbacks.

The Cardinal has won a school-best 7 consecutive road games in conference so don’t expect them to be rattled when entering Friday night’s tilt under the lights in a hostile environment.

 

8 Wisconsin (+10.5) at 4 Michigan, Saturday, 3:30pm

Perhaps the biggest question all of college football wants an answer to is “how good is Michigan?”. The Wolverines have eviscerated their opening four opponents while averaging 52 points a game — the most during any four game stretch to open any season in Michigan history. And while they have risen to fourth in the country, there is still an uncertainty about who this team really is. They haven’t gone on the road, they haven’t played anyone even close to being ranked, and they have gotten exposed at times with regard to running the ball and stopping the run — just check out the Colorado game.

Saturday’s game at the Big House will definitely help us understand what kind of team head coach Jim Harbaugh has there in Ann Arbor. Wisconsin enters the game ranked 8th in the country and coming off a huge 30-6 upset win in East Lansing a week ago over the Spartans. The Badgers won that game with their defense and their ability to force turnovers. They will no doubt want to do the same this weekend. The Badger defense comes to Ann Arbor ranked 7th in scoring defense (11.8 points per game against), 12th in total defense, and 10th against the rush.

Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst will do his best to grind out the win on the ground. His team is third in the country in time of possession. The Badgers game plan is simple — run and stop the run. They will need to do a better job of converting third downs, though. That is one area that the Badger offense struggles at despite their “pound the rock” philosophy. The Michigan defense ranks first in the country in third down conversion rate (stopped 44 of 50 conversion attempts). And they get a healthy Jourdan Lewis back after the All American cornerback was limited in last Saturday’s win over Penn State.

 

3 Louisville (-2) at 5 Clemson, Saturday, 8:00pm

Who would have thought when the schedule makers were finished that this game would turn out to be the most anticipated of the weekend? This battle of top-5 teams comes down to one thing: can Clemson’s defense stop Louisville’s Heisman-hopeful quarterback Lamar Jackson? Period.

Louisville has 19 rushing touchdowns and gains an average of 7.8 yards per carry — Clemson has only allowed 3 touchdowns and allows just 2.6 yards per carry. Louisville’s passing game is just as potent — 15 passing touchdowns through 4 games. In turn, Clemson’s pass defense is equally as strong — just allowing 2 scores and leading the ACC with 7 interceptions.

What these two teams each do best will be pitted against each other, face-to-face, on the field Saturday night. Louisville’s high-octane offense, led by a quarterback who can reach 100 yards rushing easily in one half, going against a Clemson defense that can force mistakes and turnovers and has a defensive front 4 that makes some NFL teams jealous.

If Clemson is to win, they will do so on the back of their defense, but quarterback Deshaun Watson will need to summons some of his 2015 magic. The preseason Heisman favorite has failed to rush for more than 55 yards in a game this season and has lacked that special something that helped make the Tigers so dominant last year. It’s early, though, and maybe this is just the stage for Watson to breakout and show Lamar Jackson that the Heisman hasn’t been handed out quite yet.

 

New Orleans (+4) at San Diego, Sunday, 4:25pm

If you like defensive dogfights, you may want to click over to House Hunters or jump on a Law & Order: SVU marathon. Bottom line — this game is not for you. The Saints defense ranks dead last in the NFL against the rush and 25th against the pass. The Chargers, you ask? Not much better — 30th against the pass (and the against the rush, well, it won’t matter because they’re playing the Saints — and we know the Saints don’t run it).

Both teams will come out testing the other’s secondary. Drew Brees and company lead the league in passing offense and are third in total yards from scrimmage while Phillip Rivers is the 2nd highest rated quarterback, behind only Matt Ryan. The gamelans are pretty transparent in this one. Buckle up. First team to 40.

 

New York Giants (+4.5) at Minnesota, Monday, 8:15pm

This game is intriguing because of the matchup between a very high-powered offense and a defense that is tough and nasty. Eli Manning and Odell Beckham, Jr. will do their best to find inroads against the stingy Viking defense. The Giants offense operates very efficiently — 6.3 yards per play — while the defense has, surprisingly, been better than most anticipated.

On the other sideline, Sam Bradford has stepped into the best situation he could have imagined. Even minus all-pro running back Adrian Peterson, Bradford is not being asked to win games or do too much — that’s the defense’s job. And they’re good at it. Really good. It should be fun to watch Manning and this offense respond to Minnesota’s complex defensive schemes and blitzes.

 

Feedback is always welcome through the website in the comments box or on my Twitter feed — @brian22goodwin.

 

 

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

30 Things We Know After Sunday of Week 3 in the NFL

1. Bill Belichick can prop up a corpse under center and still win a football game. Even more impressive, we now know he can do it on a 4-day week and beat a QB who is making $20 million more than his. Save the debate of who runs this Patriot engine — Belichick or Brady — for another day. For now, let’s appreciate the head coach.

2. The champs are still the champs — with or without a quarterback who we know. If the young man keeps putting up numbers like he did Sunday (22-35, 312 yards, and 4 TDs) on the road against a pretty good defense, we will all know who Trevor Siemian is.

3. Carson Wentz may not be Hall of Fame-ready after just three games, but the rookie starter has played with confidence and moxie. His first two wins — yeah, I know against Cleveland and Chicago — came with skepticism. But putting a thorough beatdown on the Pittsburgh Steelers, who’ve done nothing but run all over opponents and dominate offensively, carries some weight.

4. Maybe it doesn’t matter what injuries Minnesota runs into. The defense has made two great quarterbacks look below average the last two weeks — Aaron Rodgers and Cam Newton. Head coach Mike Zimmer might have something real special going on that side of the ball.

5. Can we all agree that Aaron Rodgers is ok? You want to be that guy that says, “Look, he only threw for 205 yards against a beat up Lions defense”? Yep, he did. All in the first half, basically, because the 4 touchdowns he tossed put the game out of reach before 2pm on the East Coast. “R-E-L-A-X”

6. Respect having to travel in the NFL. It’s not easy to go across the country and play on the road. Ask the Cardinals.

7. I’d like to welcome the Kansas City Chiefs defense to the 2016 season. Glad you could make it. Couple weeks late, but better late than never.

8. I’d like to welcome the Seattle Seahawks offense to the 2016 season. Glad you could make it. Couple weeks — well, you get the picture.

9. Kirk Cousins can rest easy and know his job is secure. Until the Redskins proceed to drop 2 games in a row. Seriously, though, this division could very well be Washington’s, if they just commit to running the ball.

10. Maybe they’re beneficiaries of an easy early schedule. But all the games count the same. However, let’s see where the Ravens are in a few weeks.

11. Houston’s got a good enough team to win the AFC South and maybe win a playoff game. But they’re not in the same class as the Pats or the Broncos.

12. If you’d have told me the score of the Steelers-Eagles game would be 34-3, I would have believed you. Except I’d have had the wrong team on top. Pittsburgh’s offense will be fine, but that defense will need to be more consistent.

13. If the Indianapolis defense can keep making progress — played well against the Broncos and the Chargers, then this offense will catch up and Indy will be leading this division in only a matter of time.

14. So the Rams can win 9-3 and they can also win 37-32. Interesting team Jeff Fisher has out there. Wonder which Rams team we’ll get treated to next week.

15. Tough loss by the Panthers at home against a team who’s offense should have been swallowed up by Luke Kuechly and company. Carolina’s lost both games they’ve played against teams who are expected to be playoff contenders. Something to watch moving forward.

16. This was supposed to be the year Jacksonville made a move. At 0-3 (along with some very very uninspired football the past 2 weeks), the only move may be away from head coach Gus Bradley.

17. The Jets schedule for the first 6 weeks is as tough as they come so a loss at Arrowhead isn’t surprising. But losing 24-3 to the Chiefs is tough to swallow. Ryan Fitzpatrick needs Brandon Marshall to be 100% or else he just chucks it to anyone who will catch it — his team or not.

18. Over the last 6 quarters, Miami’s offense has looked like the Dolphins’ front office hoped it would when they hired Adam Gase as their head coach. Tannehill has a plethora of weapons.

19. Without Ziggy Ansah, the Lions have no pass rush. Without a pass rush to pressure the opposing QB, the Lions secondary has no chance.

20. If Chip Kelly’s defense let the Seahawks ailing offense explode on them, there’s work to do in the Bay Area.

21. The Titans may be 1-2, but DeMarco Murray is bright spot in that Tennessee offense. He gives them much needed balance. If Marcus Mariota had a real receiving threat to go along with tight end Delanie Walker, the Titans might have something scary.

22. The Buccaneers defense has given up an average of 38.5 points the last two weeks. I don’t care how potent the offense can be at times — it’s not averaging 40 a game.

23. One win might have saved the Buffalo Bills season. And Rex Ryan’s job.

24. With all the injuries in San Diego, Melvin Gordon is having himself a very nice start to the year. This season might be what the Chargers thought they would get in 2016 from their first round pick out of Wisconsin.

25. Hopes for 0-16 are still alive for the Browns. For the second straight week, they looked victory in the eye and turned away. Magic is happening in Cleveland.

26. Oakland has a bunch of young weapons. But Michael Crabtree is the glue that holds it all together. Starting to remind me of Anquan Boldin — consistently makes catches and is providing veteran leadership.

27. Cincinnati can’t blame Any Dalton for the 1-2 start. But how long before they make the old “change for the sake of change”? Meanwhile, Jeremy Hill and Gio Bernard are the division’s best running back duo.

28. The NFC East will not be won earlier than week 17. The Giants-Redskins game Sunday is proof positive that the division is up for grabs.

29. The Cowboys are proving each week that they have staying power in the NFC East. Favorable schedule and a rookie QB who continues to impress and progress each week.

30. Is there a more uninspiring team to watch than the Chicago Bears? At least the Browns take leads and are competitive for a time before they blow it. The Bears just, flat, don’t show up.

 

Feedback is always welcome through the website in the comments box or on my Twitter feed — @brian22goodwin.

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

2016 NFL Preview: NFC North

The black and blue division in football. Storied franchises like the Bears and Packers. Cold, wintery, meaningful games being played in November and December at historic venues like Lambeau Field and Soldier Field. The NFC North has that certain midwestern, blue-collar, lunch pail type of mentality, doesn’t it?

The division has for the most part been owned by the Green Bay Packers over the past decade plus. But now Minnesota has taken on the personality of their defensive-minded head coach, Mike Zimmer, and appear to be a credible and longterm threat to the Packers’ divisional supremacy — don’t forget the Vikings won the North last year.

While the best defense in the division belongs to Minnesota (and only appears to be getting better), the Packers should be operating with a higher level of offensive efficiency with a healthy Jordy Nelson. So it should be a contentious fight for the North crown in 2016. And, oh yeah, the Bears and Lions are in the division.

 

Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings defense will supplant Seattle’s as the NFL’s stingiest defense.

The Legion of Boom defense has presided over the NFL over the past 4 seasons, as the league’s most frugal defense. vikings-defense2.jpg.af4e403847f4b89ebb6c91f376689274Although, a dip in the Seahawks offensive efficiency and the loss of Marshawn Lynch should make for a more difficult year in 2016 for the defense.

This leaves the door open for a change at the top of the defensive ranks. And the Vikings are right there ready to lead that charge. Head coach Mike Zimmer has had time to put the players in place that he wants; and a solid running game behind All-Pro Adrian Peterson helps keep the offense on the field.

While the questions about Minnesota’s offense are legitimate, there aren’t many when it comes to their defense. If AP stays healthy now that he’s in his 30s and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater progresses (and impresses) in his third year, Minnesota should improve upon what was an already very successful 2015 campaign.

 

Green Bay Packers

Randall Cobb will have receiving numbers that mirror his numbers from 2014 — 90 catches for over 1,200 yards.

Expectations shifted last August to Randall Cobb when the Packers lost Pro Bowl WR Jordy Nelson to a season-ending knee injury. Cobb was used to settling in as a very productive second fiddle to Nelson’s first chair in the Packer passing attack. With Nelson gone, many believed Cobb would seamlessly slide into carrying the pass nfl_a_cobb_b1_576catching load as Aaron Rodgers’s number one go-to guy. However, things don’t always work out as expected.

Albeit, Cobb’s disappointing 2015 year could be chalked up to a number of factors, aside from the simple fact that he was the guy having to face every team’s top cornerback — something he had never experienced in Green Bay. The Packers run game was terrible — Eddie Lacy looked like Shawn Kemp ate Charles Barkley. The Packer defense was not as stout as they had been over the years. And Aaron Rodgers seemed to be constantly trying to get comfortable with his receivers.

As Nelson returns this season, expect Cobb to gladly resume his secondary role. He will face less daunting matchups from week to week. In addition, Lacy looks slimmed down and Green Bay will be committed to running the ball, which will only serve to help the passing game.

 

Detroit Lions

For a second consecutive season, the Lions will rank dead last in the NFL in rushing.

Ameer Abdullah was a questionable drat choice for a franchise that had missed on so many running backs in past few years — Jahvid Best, Kevin Smith come to mind immediately. Abdullah was great at Nebraska, but he had a i-3fumbling problem in college and he put tons on miles on his legs there. Those usually tend to be red flags for NFL teams. Not the Lions. Abdullah has the potential, but his first year was incredibly underwhelming. And a porous offensive line won’t help the 2nd-year back hit his stride.

The Lions went out and signed former Patriot and Jet Stevan Ridley; but Ridley, too, had trouble hanging onto the football — which caused his release from New England. To add, Ridley is not known as a pass-catching RB and admits that’s not his forte. At best, he will serve as a 3rd down, change of pace back. But if the Lions are counting on much more from Ridley, they’re likely expecting too much.

Offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter will try and play to quarterback Matt Stafford’s strengths — as he did in the final 8 games in 2015 when the team went 6-2. But with the loss of Calvin Johnson to retirement, how this offense will look is a big question mark. If the offense turns pass-heavy or finds itself behind in games, this projection is all but a guarantee.

 

Chicago Bears

Jay Cutler will need an MVP-type of season to get the Bears in contention for the playoffs; finishes 5-11.

Is there any one, single player in the NFL who people seem to have such universal distaste for like they do for Jay Cutler? It’s not a hatred for him, just a distaste. I can’t imagine another year of underachieving for the quarterback or for head coach John Fox with either of them surviving for another year in Chicago. Unfortunately for them, chicago-bears-quarterback-jay-cutlerthere’s not a lot of reason for optimism. While WR Alshon Jeffery has established himself nicely as a top pass catcher in the league, the Bears lack much else on the offensive side of the ball. Cutler isn’t exactly surrounded by a ton of weapons; but that excuse is unacceptable at this stage in his career, and the Bears front office and, especially, Bears fans don’t want to hear it.

The defense should be improved and may even find a way to steal a game or two along the way. But in order for the bears to be playoff contenders, Cutler will have to put the team on his back and do what elite QBs do — make others around him better. But that’s just not something Cutler’s ever proven to be able to do.

 

Feedback is always welcome through the website in the comments box or on my Twitter feed — @brian22goodwin.

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail