What To Watch For: College Football Week 5

Don’t you love when there’s a fantastic college football weekend and you’re day is completely taken up by ACT prep?

Yeah, welcome to high school.

Thankfully, my ACT prep goes only 30 minutes into the beginning of Wisconsin-Michigan and Tennessee-Georgia.

Stanford-Washington wasn’t so lucky, as work tonight will prevent me from seeing the game.

Anyways, here’s previews for tomorrow’s three biggest games.

No.8 Wisconsin vs. No.4 Michigan

Wisconsin made a big statement against Michigan State last week, and now they face the arch rivals of the Spartans.

The Badgers left me convinced last weekend.  I picked the Spartans and the Badgers let me know that was the wrong decision.  They let me know they can win big games.

I think they’re gonna do it again.

Michigan seems a tad overrated at No.4.  They’re super talented, score a ton, and have a good defense, but they haven’t exactly played anyone great yet.  Their wins are all expectedly large.

The Badgers have beaten two top ten teams already this year, and have what might be the defense in the country.  Michigan has a great and creative rushing attack, but I don’t think the Badgers will be fooled.  Vince Biegel’s injury hurts, but the Badgers have other talented-enough guys to make up for it.

Wisconsin is still figuring out their quarterback situation, but can play ground and pound; typical Wisconsin football.  If they can win the physical game and do their thing, then the victory is in sight.

Prediction: Wisconsin-24 Michigan-20

No.11 Tennessee vs. No.25 Georgia 

This has turned into a pretty underwhelming matchup.

The Volunteers pulled one out of their butt against Florida last weekend, experiencing a Florida State-like 2nd half turnaround.  If not for Joshua Dobbs being the playmaker he is, Tennessee would not have won that game.

The Bulldogs, dealing with sketchiness of their own, have Dobbs to deal with.  They didn’t handle Ole Miss well last weekend.  Now, they have to face Tennessee without star running back Nick Chubb.

Chad Kelly picked apart the Bulldogs’ defense, so much so that the Rebels didn’t blow their lead like usual.

Kelly and Dobbs are different types of playmakers.  Dobbs is dynamic, while Kelly is a pro-style quarterback.  If this Bulldogs defense couldn’t stop Kelly, there’s no way they’re gonna stop Dobbs.

Not having Chubb is gonna hurt against a very good Vols front seven.  This and defensive troubles is gonna send Georgia to 3-2 on the year.

Prediction: Tennessee-35  Georgia-24

No.3 Louisville vs. No. 5 Clemson

Its a defensive coordinator’s nightmare.  The game of the year is gonna be full of offense, as Lamar Jackson and Deshaun Watson get to trade touchdowns tomorrow night.

How is the over/under only 68.5?  Take the over people!  Are we sure one of these teams isn’t gonna score 68 points?  I mean, when you’re dealing with these high octane offenses, anything is possible.

Lamar Jackson has put up video game numbers this year.  Its unlike anything I’ve ever seen.  DeShaun Watson has been great too, but the Tigers are barely 4-0.  Some believe them to be overrated.

I think, if there’s a game where you need to make a statement, then this is the one.

The Tigers are gonna be home.  That should give them all the motivation in the world to come out and light up the Cardinals defense.  The Tigers shouldn’t feel too cocky though, but should have the mindset that they can score on Louisville’s defense.  The Cardinals have a tough test on their hands with Clemson’s speed.  Watson’s rushing skills are some of the best in the country, not to take away from Jackson.

The difference here is that Clemson’s defense can somewhat contain him.  They haven’t ever seen someone like Jackson; no one has.  But they’ve at least done well in controlling mobile quarterbacks.  They can adjust quickly to plays changing and QBs improvising.  I worry about the Cardinals in that aspect against Watson.

No matter what, this game is going to be tight.  The weaknesses each team has won’t play too much of a factor.  This game will most likely come down to the final possession.

Shootouts are so hard to predict.  They’re anyone’s guess.

I think Saturday night’s game is going to an incredible statistical show.  The box score will look like something from a NCAA Football 14 game with 15 minute quarters.

But in the end, its all about the little things in this game.  Clemson has a more talented defense to help defend against Lamar Jackson.  I can’t trust the Cardinals defense to do the same against Watson.  He’s too smart.  Jackson might be a better improviser, but the Tigers D can manage it.  Louisville’s can’t.

Prediction: Clemson-48  Louisville-40

Sending Off Some Of The Best

Its been a pretty sad week in the sports world.  It sucks that I have to write about it.  Some of the best are leaving, whether its on the mound, at the plate, in the paint, or in the booth. All of these add to a year where we’ve already seen names like Peyton Manning, Calvin Johnson, Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant (Boooooo!), and Alex Rodriguez (Boooooo!) go.

I’m gonna try to make this as happy as possible.

David Ortiz

Baseball fans have waited all year for David Ortiz to announce he’s playing next year, but it hasn’t happened, leaving many of us confused.  Why now?  The guy is hitting .318/.403/.626 this season, with 37 home runs and 124 RBIs!  And he’s 40 years old!

Oh, wait.  Thats the issue.  He’s 40 years old.

Maybe Big Papi wants to just hang out.  Maybe he’s tired of playing baseball.  He’s been doing it for 19 years.  Thats a long time!

So many athletes retire at the wrong time.  They let their careers collapse on themselves, and it sucks to watch (like Kobe Bryant and Peyton Manning).  Maybe he knows this is his last year at this level of play.

Everything we know about Big Papi should make us think he’s doing the right thing.  Maybe he just thinks its time.

Big Papi’s legacy lies with time, but not in the way you think.

I mean “time” by when it comes necessary to do something.  Time to hit a mammoth home run.

Every time the Red Sox needed runs, and David Ortiz was at-bat, he’d deliver.  He get a run home, one way or the other.  No other player did that, and no player could you have the confidence in to do that.  And no other player made you know he was gonna do that.

Thats why Big Papi is an all-time great.  Not just because of the ridiculous offensive numbers, but because of how he appealed to fans and the team, whether it was through his personality or through his bat.

Kevin Garnett

What a rough time for Boston…  Well, not really.  Boston fans always have something going right.

There’s no question what Kevin Garnett’s legacy is, but there is one about where it lives.  KG spent a total of 14 years(!) in Minnesota (It feels like less than that).  Statistically, his best two years were 2003 and 2004, both in Minnesota.  His PER never dropped below 28 those two years.

However, Minnesota only made the playoffs once during those two years, and lost in the West Finals.  The Timberwolves haven’t been back since.

From KG’s rookie year till then, they were in it every year.  But KG’s career didn’t hit it’s prime until 2002.  This is why people make the case that Minnesota wasted his talent.  The Timberwolves only made the playoffs twice during KG’s prime.

Thats eventually what led to the trade to Boston, which resulted in, well, you know.

That right there was all the frustration from his time in Minnesota coming out.  At this point, we could start calling KG an old man.  And his numbers backed it up.  His PER slowly dipped towards 20, and soon after below, but KG was still good.  He never completely fell off.

We’ll remember KG for his insane rebounding numbers and his never ending drive.  The guy never quit.  And though he only got one ring, that one ring might be enough to get over all he went through.

Vin Scully

Vin Scully is probably the only reason I don’t wish all bad things against the Dodgers baseball club.

Sunday’s home finale was as perfect as it could get for Vin Scully’s last home call.  The Dodgers won the NL West on a walk-off home run, and Scully sent off the ultimate goodbye.

There will never be another baseball announcer that has a voice like that.  There will never be another baseball announcer that keeps you as entertained as Scully.  There’s been countless moments where I’d be sitting on couch with a Dodger game on, chuckling to myself as I write because of something Scully said.

We can’t finish this off without bringing up the history lessons (Thanks AP World History for giving me some background knowledge on those).  Scully’s stories and lectures are unforgettable.  He can take anyone’s name and find someone in history related to it.

Scully’s biggest influence is his style.  How Scully announces is how I try to write: Having a conversation with the audience.  Scully is so good at it; he sounds just like himself.  Its something I strive to do, but will never be able to achieve at his level.  No one will.

Jose Fernandez

I don’t even know where to begin.  I didn’t Sunday morning and I don’t know now.

Very few had done what Jose Fernandez had done by age 24.  He was on pace to have the highest strikeout rate ever; his current rank is 5th all-time at 31.2%.  He had the highest K/9 in the league this season at 12.49.  He was consistently one of the best pitchers in the league ever since his debut in 2013.  The accolades go on and on.

But Fernandez was more than stats.  He was one of my favorite pitchers in the league to watch.  The guy had what I’d call an electric arm.  The baseball would come off his fingertips so graciously, and zipped so quickly to home plate.

The league’s best pitchers don’t exactly all have “electric arms”.  Madison Bumgarner doesn’t.  Jake Arrieta doesn’t.  The electric arm category features guys like Sonny Gray, Yordano Ventura, and Chris Sale.  Those are all very good pitchers, but those aren’t guys any typical baseball fan would think of.

Fernandez wasn’t only one of the five best pitchers in the league, but he had an arm that’d be make anyone gasp.  And that breaking ball…

Its one of the best breaking balls this game has ever seen.

If you go through my archives, you won’t find a ton about Jose Fernandez.  That seems strange, since he was so good and I’m mourning his death so hard, but really its a testament to how good he was.

Whenever I wrote about the Marlins, Fernandez wasn’t mentioned much.  Why?  Because he was Jose Fernandez.  He never had anything going wrong.  There was never a weird stat that needed explaining, or a pitch that he needed help with.  He was Jose Fernandez, and if you know baseball, his name is all you needed to hear.

I thought Marlins announcer Glenn Genffer summed it up in a perfect way, saying that “I could not wait for every Jose Fernandez start.  Every fifth day you had the chance to see something special.”

That hit hard.  If you had to explain this to a non-baseball fan, thats how you do it.

I don’t think there’s ever been a loss this great in sports, at least when it comes to an active player dying.  Ben Wilson is the closest example.  The potential was that high.

Jose Fernandez was a joy.  There will never be someone like him.  Rest in peace.

I put together a little batch of some Jose Fernandez GIFs.  These all show what a character the guy was.



And my favorite…


What We Learned From Week 3 In The NFL

Three weeks in and we can start to form real opinions.  We’re finding out new things, but other things are remaining the same.  Here are some observations from this weekend:

Trevor Siemian is for real

Paxton Lynch who?  The guy I rooted hard for suddenly as no place in Denver, as Trevor Siemian has proved me wrong and is all the sudden the Broncos’ future at quarterback.

Siemian threw for four touchdowns against a very good Bengals secondary.  The guy just looks conformable under center.  You’d never guess that was his 3rd career game.  He was impeccable.

Sure, the slew of weapons Denver has helped.  But Siemian was mistake-free as he got hit six times Sunday.

He’s really, really good.  He’s much better than any quarterback Denver played last year (Have fun with that Houston!).

This leads into the next takeaway from the weekend, and the question of “Who’s this year’s Denver?” Well, Denver was this year’s Denver, but with Siemian playing like this, they’re much, much better than that.

Minnesota and New England are early surprises, and are only gonna get better

There’s reasons I’m grouping these teams together:

  • Two incredible head coaches who will have their team prepared no matter what
  • Have both knocked off good teams who were favored
  • Have survived quarterback nightmares
  • Have excellent defenses

Who thought the Patriots and Vikings would be where they are right now?  This is what we expected if each team had their normal roster, but three weeks in, nothing has changed.

Minnesota relied on their defense once again, as they sacked Cam Newton eight(!) times Sunday.  Not to discredit the Vikings defense, but this is more the result of Carolina’s crappy offensive line.  The Vikings did an excellent job of containing Kelvin Benjamin though, and stuffed the running game.

Carolina is still very good, but its getting to the point where we can ask the question of “Are we sure the Panthers can beat really good teams?”

New England blew out Houston on Thursday, which was surprising but not as shocking as Minnesota’s victory.

The book on this Patriots season is that, no matter who is playing, Bill Belichick will have them prepared to win.  It just does not matter.  Gronk could play quarterback and they’d still win.

The Patriots defense is extremely underrated, and has played a massive role in why they’re undefeated.  Shutting down Arizona’s offense in Week 1 will be one of the most important moments of this season for the Patriots.

New England is expected to have Jimmy Garrapolo or Jacoby Brissett ready for Week 4.  Thats a win, even though Buffalo put on quite a show Sunday (I’ll rant about that later).

Its still a little early for undefeated talk, but at this point, I think its certainly a possibility for the Pats.

The NFC East is anyone’s guess yet again

The Redskins-Giants game was exactly what we expected:  Three hours of head shaking.

This game was so Redskins and so Giants.  Eli Manning threw an interception to lose the game, which I mean, what else would you expect?

This was Kirk Cousins’ best game of the year, and boy did the Redskins need that.  They got super lucky, but another loss may have resulted in Cousins losing the starting job.

Both of these teams have a “Meh” feel to them.  They’re both fine teams, but thats all.  Neither are good, but neither are bad.

That leaves Dallas and Philadelphia, who look like the most consistent teams in the division.  Dak Prescott has been great for the Cowboys.  That guy can move!  Granted, it was the Bears defense he was faced up against, but Prescott is extremely fast, and moves extremely well in the pocket.  Its as smooth as anyone I’ve ever seen.

Carson Wentz, similar to Prescott, and been amazing for the Eagles.  Wentz has a cannon; his arm might already be one of the best in the NFL.  Wentz’s first true test came this past weekend, and he delivered, throwing two touchdowns.

Its gonna take awhile, like usual, to figure out this division.  Its all about consistency, and no one has totally shown it yet.

Lets not panic about Arizona, yet

I think I am ready to talk about this game…

The first thing that needs to be addressed is…  Could we be 3-0 if we had a decent long snapper?

Kameron Canaday’s bad snaps on field goals cost us a win against the Patriots in Week 1, and let Buffalo completely blow the game out of reach in Week 3.  If the high snap didn’t occur, and Buffalo doesn’t take it back for a touchdown, its still a 20 point game.  But that drive was Arizona’s best of the game.  Couldn’t that have led to more success?  Plus, that would have left us with 17:25 left of game-time to attempt a comeback.

Its still improbable that Arizona would have pulled off a comeback, but it would have at least given us a shot.

Now, lets not like act like our long snapper is the only issue with the team.  He might be the 2nd biggest issue, or maybe the biggest, but he’s not the only issue.

Tackling still remains the defense’s biggest problem.  How hard is it to wrap up?  Arizona missed many open field tackles on LeSean McCoy Sunday.  McCoy ended up running all over the Cardinals for 110 yards and two touchdowns.

Secondly, Tyrod Taylor shredded the linebacking core, and this is a defense that has struggled containing the flats this season.  Tyrod’s awareness, shiftiness and speed led to the Cardinals constantly chasing him downfield.

All of this was because of the lack of effort in the first half.  This isn’t a hard offense to contain; we just, for some reason, didn’t want to contain them.

The offense isn’t a problem.  Carson Palmer has played pretty well overall this season.  Sunday obviously won’t go down as his best game this season.  I just think when things go badly on one side of the ball, it can transition to the other side.  Thats what happened to Arizona Sunday.

Quick hits:

  • Tennessee’s friskiness was on full display against Oakland.  Marcus Mariota played pretty poorly, but the Titans were in it till the end.  A killer penalty by Andre Johnson cost Tennessee the game.
  • I wouldn’t panic about Oakland winning by such a small margin.  Friskiness is an element of a team.  You can’t really stop it.
  • Two absolute crapfests were the Browns-Dolphins and Ravens-Jaguars game(s).  Cleveland lost in the most Cleveland way possible.  The Browns had a chance after a Ryan Tannehill fumble, but missed a field goal which sent the game to OT.  In OT, Jarvis Landry was wide open for a reception of 32 yards, which set up the game-winning touchdown run.
  • What a terrible football game the Ravens and Jaguars played.  If you don’t care to read, here’s that game in one tweet.
  • After trading interceptions three times, Jacksonville lined up to kick a go-ahead field goal, but it was blocked.  That gave Baltimore the ball, and for once they capitalized with a field goal.  That gave Jacksonville a minute left to tie it back up, but Blake Bortles isn’t exactly the best at putting together game-winning drives.  His third pick of the day sealed it.  It wasn’t exactly his fault, as the ball was tipped, but the Jags face a decision.  Is it Bortles or is it Gus Bradley that needs to go?
  • Nice bounce back game from Green Bay.  They desperately needed that or else things would have gotten ugly.
  • This is why I don’t trust Ryan Fitzpatrick.
  • Sure, he was going against the Chiefs defense.  But six picks?  Good Lord!  When do you just take yourself out of the game?
  • Tampa Bay has to be the most mediocre team in the league so far this season.  They’ve had big wins, a blowout loss, and now an embarrassing loss.  I’m not really sure who’s fault it is yet, but its worth monitoring.
  • The Rams defense is back!
  • Similar to Green Bay, Seattle needed a bounce back win Sunday.  They have to hope Russell Wilson can keep playing; it could get ugly without  him.
  • The Chargers-Colts game was all about who’s defense was gonna play worse.  San Diego could not stop T.Y. Hilton, who caught the game-winning touchdown with 1:17 left.  Indianapolis proved little, but at least the defense can handle an offense as decimated as San Diego’s.
  • Tevin Coleman was a nice fantasy pickup this weekend. He helped the Falcons shred the Saints defense Monday night.
  • That was an atrocious game defensively, expectedly so.

Comprehending Sunday Night’s Thriller

I only saw two games Sunday, and both turned out to be ones worth seeing.  Work screwed up my usual football day; I missed every early game and most of the afternoon slate.  However, since Cardinals games are big events in my household, we watched the game on a delay.

It was a really good win by Arizona.  We needed that after Week 1’s embarrassment.  It was evident that Jamies Winston was majorly affected by Arizona’s defensive looks as he threw four interceptions.  I was expecting this game to be a fight like Week 1.  But it turns out that, while Tampa Bay is still a very good team, they’re not on the same level as the best teams in the NFC.

Sunday night was a treat, and a strange one to.  I thought, since there was so many storylines coming out of that game, that I’d just do a whole column on it.

Here are some questions and observations from the game

There’s no way Sam Bradford gets better than that, right?

That was the best game of Bradford’s career.  It was mind boggling that he played well, but even more stunning against a defense as good as Green Bay’s.  Bradford threw for 286 yards and two touchdowns, with Stefan Diggs catching most of his passes.

We could be looking at a strange offensive scheme in Minnesota, one where the wide receivers and running backs actually make the quarterback better, not the other way around.  Good QBs always make their weapons better.  Just look at New England and New Orleans.  Bradford doesn’t make them worse, they make him better.  Its ballsy to say this after the best game of his career, but maybe this phenomena is a toast to Bradford’s crappiness.

I’m making fun of him too much.  He did make some really solid throws, but I wouldn’t say Green Bay’s defense was playing at their best.  Damarious Randall had numerous missed assignments, and gave up a massive penalty that essentially clinched the game for the Vikings.

What role did the football gods have in this game?

Quite a large one!  Part of my explanation for this game is just a theory at this point, its really not based on anything specific from the game itself.  Too much weird stuff happened.

As crappy as the Packers played, they still had a ton of bad luck.  Sam Bradford was lights out.  When has that ever happened?  Minnesota was opening a new stadium.  Tons of energy was in the building due to rowdy fans.  That can be attributed to some of the offensive issues.  Oh, and Aaron Rodgers made a mistake when it mattered most.  When has that ever happened?  Perhaps the other Green Bay turnovers were foreshadowing that one.  Its hard to change game trends in the NFL, at least without explanation, unlike college football.

It just wasn’t a good situation for the Packers Sunday night.  I think its one of those games where, if its played ten times, Green Bay wins seven of them.  Sunday night is one of the three that Minnesota wins.

Everything was going perfect for Minnesota until Adrian Peterson couldn’t put any weight on his right leg.  Turns out, AP’s absence didn’t affect Minnesota at all Sunday night.  I know, its amazing to think that Sam Bradford played that well.

But, its now known that Peterson has a torn meniscus.  Part of this theory is that, for the cost of AP, the Vikings were awarded a win against their biggest rival to open their stadium and were blessed with Sam Bradford’s best game ever.  So congrats, Vikings fans!

Is Minnesota this year’s Denver?

Its looking more and more likely.  But there’s a lot of teams who could be this year’s Denver.  In fact, Denver could be this year’s Denver!  The Broncos are getting around the same quality of quarterback play they did last year.  Still, the defense is winning them games.  Its that good.

The Patriots are in a similar situation, but we all know thats gonna change in two weeks.  Houston isn’t even getting average quarterback play (I’ve thought Brock Osweiler has been terrible so far this year.  He’s under throwing balls and making poor decisions.), but their defense is good enough to win them games.

Minnesota’s defense isn’t quite what Denver’s was last year, but its getting closer.  The Vikings defensive line is super underrated; they have gotten great push on almost every snap this season.  If they can disrupt Green Bay’s offense, then they can disrupt anyone’s.

I guess its becoming less inconceivable for them to make the playoffs.  The problem is that thats as good as Bradford is gonna get.  If anything, he’s gonna get injured or slowly decline throughout the rest of the season.

The good news though, is that its early and we know what this team is already.  Identity is key, and if you have it early, you’re in good shape.

Tampa Bay doesn’t have identity yet.  They’ve looked great and dreadful.

If these end up being the two teams for the last NFC playoff spot, then its gonna be a tossup.

What To Watch For In Week 3

We’re gonna see a lot of points this weekend.  These matchups feature some of the best offenses in the country, including two matched up with one another.  The way I see this weekend playing out leaves three teams with a ton of questions to answer, as three losers will drop from the AP Poll.

No.2 Florida State vs. No.10 Louisville

Oh my, what a treat we have in Week 3.  I cannot wait for this game.

If you like points, you’ll enjoy this game.  Florida State can make any game a shootout, and Louisville wins every game in a shootout.  So yeah, chances are this game ends up in the high 40s.

Florida State is extremely talented in every aspect of the game.  Their defense is much more talented than Louisville’s.

Ironically, the Seminoles defense is tied with Louisville’s at 53rd in the nation.  But as I said above, we know Florida State is more talented.  Their ranking is low due to the Week 1 matchup against Ole Miss, a game where we saw many different forms of this Seminole team.

A rare form of this team is what Louisville needs to see Saturday morning, because even though we have a shootout on our hands, the Seminole defense may be able to get some stops.

If the Cardinal get the Seminole team we saw in the first half of the Ole Miss game, then Louisville certainly has a good chance of pulling an upset.

I don’t think Louisville’s defense is going to faze Deandre Francois though.  If he can turn his play around as fast as he did in the Ole Miss game, then nothing should bother him.  Yeah, the Rebel defense got to him.  But it was his first career game against a good defense.  Give him a break.

I hope this is a game where we can just sit back and enjoy, and I think it will be.  Its hard to analyze shootouts.  Here’s to possibly one of the best games we’ll see all year.

Prediction: Florida State-52  Louisville-48

No.1 Alabama vs. No.19 Ole Miss

This game could go two ways:  1) Shootout  2) Grudge-match

I have trust issues with both of these teams.  Ole Miss completely fell apart in the 2nd half against Florida State in Week 1.  That wasn’t entirely their fault, but this is an Alabama defense thats much better than the Seminoles’.

As for Alabama, its always the quarterback situation.  Now, Jalen Hurts has gotten better.  He’s definitely a play maker, but are we sure he’s gonna be consistent enough?  This Rebels defense is by the far the toughest Alabama has seen this season.  Its gonna be a test for the freshman Hurts.

The biggest advantage Ole Miss has is quarterback.  Chad Kelly is proven and is the best quarterback in the conference.  Going against the Tide’s D is a tough task, but if Kelly plays well, does Ole Miss have a shot?

Possibly.  Its gonna take a bad night from Jalen Hurts, which is possible.  Hurts has a very low completion percentage on the year, turning just over 50% of his passes into catches.

But the Rebels secondary is extremely weak, especially after Ken Webster’s season-ending injury.

Thats the way you beat Ole Miss.  Launch an air assault and don’t let the pressure get to you.  Alabama should be pretty good at that.

For Ole Miss to win this game, they’re gonna have to shut down the Tide wide receivers.  If Alabama opts for a rushing attack, then they have a good enough front seven to contain it.

Prediction: Alabama-35  Ole Miss-24 

No.12 Michigan State vs. No.14 Notre Dame

What a weird matchup.  Both teams aren’t what we thought they’d be.  Notre Dame looked very vulnerable in a Week 1 loss to Texas.  With that in mind, Michigan State definitely has a chance Saturday night.

DeShone Kizer is great, but the Spartans front seven is once again one of the best in country.  They’re gonna get to Kizer.  If that happens too many times, then the Irish are gonna be in trouble.

This is not the Notre Dame defense we’re accustom to.  They’re extremely weak in the secondary.  Michigan State should try and attack downfield, and score that way instead of a ground and pound gameplan.

Its still too early in the season to have real solid opinions, so we have to go off of the first two games (or in Michigan State’s case, one) and make a pick off of that.

The Texas loss was a real blow to the confidence I had in Notre Dame, and with the Spartans armory of offensive weapons, the Irish defense is gonna be in trouble once again.

Prediction: Michigan State-38  Notre Dame-28

No.3 Ohio State vs. No.14 Oklahoma

Similar to Notre Dame, this Oklahoma team looks super underwhelming.  Week 1 against Houston was embarrassing for many reasons.  First, their defense was torn apart by Greg Ward Jr.  The Sooners seem to be a team that when things don’t go well, they panic.  They lose their cool and they get pissy.

They completely collapsed against Houston.  Houston is great, don’t get me wrong, but Ohio State isn’t no Houston.

Ohio State can run or throw the ball.  They can pound you and wear you down, or gas you by moving fast and going long.

Oklahoma’s defense isn’t talented enough to withstand it.  I think there’s a chance this gets ugly, because of the way Oklahoma reacts when things don’t go their way.

When the defense doesn’t play well, Baker Mayfield doesn’t play well.  Whats up with Oklahoma athletes being sensitive to things?  We’ve got Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, and now Mayfield on the same list!

This feels like extremely dangerous territory for Oklahoma and their remaining season.  Do things collapse on Bob Stoops?  Do they drop from the Poll with another loss?

These are questions we’ll have answers to after the Sooners get blown out by the Buckeyes.

Prediction: Ohio State-45  Oklahoma-24

Questions and Observations (And Overreactions!) From Week 1

With every Week 1 comes way too many hot takes, overreactions, and crazy fantasy moves.  So here are mine:

Denver just has Carolina’s edge, thats all

I thought Trevor Siemian played pretty well Thursday night, but he wasn’t the reason Denver got the win.

First, Graham Gano missed a game-winner with nine seconds left.  Talk about barely pulling through.

Secondly, Denver’s defense (expectedly) was amazing, and shut down Carolina’s offense just like they did in February.

Thats the point here.  Carolina isn’t a bad team because they lost to a team who’s QB was making his career debut.  They just simply can never get going against Denver’s scheme.

In every sport, there’s always someone that a certain team struggles with.  Carolina always struggles with Denver, as we’ve seen twice now in the past seven months.  Thats all.  Something about the Denver defense doesn’t allow Carolina to move the ball effectively, and that was the difference in February and Thursday night.  So stop flipping out about the Panthers.

The Browns might actually be dreadful

Remember when I had hopes for the Browns this year?  Yeah, well, those hopes are already nonexistent.

The Browns offense looked so discombobulated and poorly executed Sunday.  And it wasn’t like the Eagles were doing anything fancy defensively.  It really looked like a lack of knowledge by the Browns.

And it was on both sides too.  The Browns let Carson Wentz, a rookie, throw two touchdowns and 278 yards on them.  And its not like Wentz is a star QB or anything.  If anything, you’d expect Wentz to struggle.  The Browns did nothing to faze him.

This isn’t a case of being “unprepared” or having a bad game.  We knew this defense was gonna be bad.  Now, we’re just witnessing it, and its a lot worse than I thought it’d be.

The Browns are about to get a lot worse too.  With Robert Griffin lll’s injury, good ole Josh McCown is now the starting quarterback for Cleveland.

I mean good God!  How much brutality can these fans take?  At least RG3 gave them some hope!

I’ll be floored if McCown can command (Command is very strong word to use there) the offense like RG3 did.  We know the story with McCown by now.

If I’m Cleveland, I’m starting Cody Kessler.  Let the rookie show what he can do.  Its a way to get fans and the media talking.  At this point, what do the Browns have to lose?

How exactly did the Chiefs and Raiders beat their opponent(s)?

There were many good early games, and these two with their dramatic finishes decided to correspond with each other.

The Chiefs were an absolute mess in the first half.  It looked like a typical Alex Smith offense.

The Chiefs biggest problem in the first half was protection.  The offensive line play was absolutely horrendous.  There was one drive where on every play, multiple lineman were missing assignments, leading to Chargers in the backfield constantly.  I was literally watching in disbelief.  I mean, some of the Chiefs’ lineman weren’t executing basic offensive line concepts.  This is stuff I learned in 3rd grade football that Kansas City failed to do up front.

But then Keenan Allen got hurt, and it drained the Chargers effort supply (and perhaps for the season too).  You could tell San Diego was totally thrown off guard and disturbed by it, and it killed them the rest of the game.

In addition, Kansas City’s defense showed up in the 2nd half.  There’s defenses showing up, and then there’s Kansas City’s defense showing up.  Its two different things, and the Chargers found that out in the 4th quarter.

Allen’s a huge loss for the Chargers.  The whole thing totally sucks, as this is the 3rd year in a row Allen has had a season-ending injury.  Philip Rivers is gonna have to make due without his top weapon once again, which is an all-too familiar task for the aging QB.

I think the biggest takeaway from the Raiders-Saints game is, holy crap, these teams can score.

It didn’t matter how big the lead was, Oakland was resilient.  But so was New Orleans, and thats what made this game so fun.

It was hard to analyze.  It was truly a game where you could sit back and watch and enjoy.

I was a little bit skeptical of Drew Brees this year.  It wasn’t so much his age I was worried about, but more the weapons he has and the overall crappiness of his team.  It just felt like this year could’ve been the breaking point.

But here’s the thing about Brees:  He’s one of those quarterbacks that makes everyone around him so much better.  Like Tom Brady.  Like Dirk in basketball.  Like Steve Nash.

Thats why the Saints might escape true crappiness this year.  Brees won’t let them.  The defense might, but Brees won’t.

Did we all get the AFC South backwards?

Before you call me crazy…  Yes, I’m aware Houston won.  

This is definitely an overreaction, but I thought the Texans looked awful against Chicago on Sunday.  Brock Osweiler’s stat line turned out surprisingly well, but if you tuned in to this game at any moment, you’d think the opposite.

Many times Osweiler under threw balls, or miscommunicated with a receiver.  It was constant and extremely hard to watch, especially when you have such confidence in a guy like I did with Osweiler.

I get he’s a young quarterback with limited experience in a new offense and playing for a new team, but for these poorly thrown balls and miscommunications to be happening so often was unacceptable.

Lamar Miller and DeAndre Hopkins were awesome, which isn’t surprising.  Its worth noting that Hopkins’ touchdown catch was an amazing one, as it was (Here we are again!) a poorly throw ball from Osweiler.

It was a lucky win from the Texans.  They’re fortunate the Bears out-sucked them.

Flipping to the Jaguars…  I mean, wow!  What opposite turnouts!

Jacksonville barely lost to the Packers.  This is the frisky Jags team I was talking about in the preview.  Blake Bortles was awesome (So was Aaron Rodgers, of course), making Rodgers-esque throws throughout the game.  Jacksonville’s defense did a good job containing the Packers in the 2nd half, limiting them to two field goals.

The difference was Jacksonville’s inexperience.  Multiple mistakes on the final drive, including a killer holding penalty and a couple of almost-turnovers, killed the Jags hope at the upset.

Still though, it was much more impressive than Houston’s win.  If this becomes a common trend, the Jaguars are the ones to beat in the AFC South.

Other notes from the week:

  • The AFC West is awesome.  The Chiefs and Broncos have their issues, but they’re still gonna make for fun teams.  And Oakland (I know its been a week) is for real.
  • Leave it to Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Jets to blow games at the end.  After the Bengals took the lead, the Jets had 54 seconds to go 75 yards.  Sure, thats a tough task, but they at least could have made more progress.  Instead, Fitzpatrick threw an interception on the 3rd play of the drive.  What else is new?
  • It was easy to see that Minnesota took some time to get used to each other.  It was a dreadful first half for the Vikings, as they failed to get anything going.  In the 2nd half though, things changed.  Minnesota’s defense stepped up and scored two touchdowns, making fantasy owners very happy.
  • Tennessee played fine, but the Vikings’ stingy D was just too much.
  • Sunday’s game is why I have Tampa Bay making the playoffs.  Jamies Winston lit it up, though the Falcons defense isn’t exactly the best in the league.
  • What an absolute crapfest Bills-Ravens was.  It never seemed like Buffalo could get any offense going, but its not like Baltimore did anything special offensively either.
  • Aaron Rodgers was absolutely incredible on Sunday.  Some of the throws he made were outstanding.  Its nice to have him on my TV screen again.
  • What a great slew of late afternoon games; all were close and went down to the wire
  • Miami’s defense might be good!
  • Its probably a combination of good defense and the fact that Seattle never plays well in Week 1.  In fact, Seattle is becoming that team that sucks the first four or five games of the year, then pulls it together.  They’ll be fine.  Again, the biggest takeaway from that game was Miami’s defense playing very well.
  • And if Russell Wilson misses time, its no big deal.  They might have the same record with him through the first four or five games.  If we get the chance, I’m excited for Trevone Boykin.  He’s practically Russell 2.0.
  • Oh man, Kenny Stills, you have to catch that ball.  The Dolphins might have won had he caught that.
  • The Colts defense is so bad that even Andrew Luck couldn’t save them.
  • Dak Prescott joined the large number of young quarterbacks who played extremely well in career and/or team debuts.  He wasn’t great, but I was genuinely impressed.  If only Terrence Williams was aware of the clock…
  • I could write a whole column on the Patriots-Cardinals game.  The simple explanation is that we missed a field goal.  Its partly true, but there was a lot of things Arizona could have done to not put themselves in that situation.
  • Add Jimmy Garappolo to the list of young quarterbacks who impressed greatly in their first starts.   He had total control of the Patriots offense which proceeded to shred Arizona’s defense.
  • Antonio Brown is really good.
  • I have no comment on the Rams-49ers game.

2016-17 NFL Prediction Column

In a little more than two hours, the NFL season will officially kick off.  Here are my predictions for the new season:

AFC East:

Patriots: 11-5

Bills: 8-8

Dolphins: 8-8

Jets: 7-9

Again, the Patriots are gonna be fine.  There’s a serious chance that Tom Brady goes 12-0 once he returns.  I can already tell Buffalo is gonna be the team I whiff terribly on.  I’ve pondered giving them a record as high as 10-6 and as low as 6-10.  They’re way too hard to figure out, and the division they play in doesn’t help for many reasons.  I expect improvement from Miami, and think Ryan Tannehill is going to improve greatly this year, but their defense isn’t talented enough as playoff teams like Kansas City and Cincinnati.  New York could be a little better than the record I have them finishing at.  I’m not on the Ryan Fitzpatrick bandwagon, and have concerns about this defense.  No matter what, the Jets won’t be shorted in media coverage.

AFC North:

Steelers: 13-3

Bengals: 10-6

Ravens: 8-8

Browns: 6-10

This division didn’t get much spotlight in the preview, but thats because its more of the same.

Even with suspensions, the Steelers might be the AFC favorites.  This offense is too good.  Le’Veon Bell will come back pissed off, and Big Ben has all the weapons in the world, minus Martavis Bryant.  However, the defense isn’t all that great.  Still, Pittsburgh should be able to score enough points to win games.

Its gonna be more of the same with Cincinnati.  A lot changed offensively, but they’re still gonna be that Wild Card team that gets knocked out in the first round.

The Ravens should bounce back from last year with Joe Flacco being healthy.  However, its hard to imagine them getting into the postseason with old weapons and a front seven filled with holes.  They might pull some upsets and screw a couple teams over, but nothing else.

Some writers have the Browns going a putrid 2-14 or 1-15.  This team isn’t good, but isn’t God awful either.  If Robert Griffin lll can be competent enough, and their impact defensive players (Danny Shelton and Joe Haden) can have good seasons, then I think they can get to six wins.

AFC South:

Texans: 10-6

Jaguars: 9-7

Colts: 8-8

Titans: 7-9

This is possibly the best division in football.  Not necessarily by the amount of contenders it has, but by overall record accumulation.

No one here is a contender, but the Texans figure to be a team thats gonna get people fired up.  In fact, I think there’s a good chance they become this year’s bandwagon team (Oakland’s a candidate too).  Whats not to like?  Good defense, JJ Watt, fast receivers, and a handsome quarterback for the girls to go “Who’s he?” as their eyes turn to hearts.

The Jaguars are the hardest omission from the AFC playoffs.  I pumped them up in the preview, but when I looked at their and other team’s schedules, they fell just short.  I think the uncertainty lies in Blake Bortles, and how we’re not 100% sure he’s actually good yet.

Andrew Luck is gonna be back, which is great for the league and fans.  But I doubts about his team.  Frank Gore is anchoring a run game (Yikes!) that has no offensive line.  T.Y. Hilton is always hurt, and I don’t think Donte Moncrief is a good replacement as a No.1 wide receiver.  Oh, and this defense is practically full of 2nd-stringers.

The Titans are the most raw squad in the division, and thats why they’re at the bottom.  But hey, being 7-9 and finishing in last place says a lot about how good you are, and how it really was just bad luck.

AFC West:

Raiders: 11-5

Chiefs: 10-6

Broncos: 8-8

Chargers: 6-10

Oakland and Houston are tied for most likely to be this year’s bandwagon team.  The NFL and it’s fans love when the Raiders are good.  This is finally that year.  Derek Carr is the real deal, and Oakland possesses a nasty defense to snarl run games of others.  There’s a lot of guys to be afraid on their defense.

I think Chiefs sneak into the playoffs.  This could be a prediction that goes either way.  Its basically them, Denver or Jacksonville for the last spot.  Kansas City is the only team out of those three where we know the quarterback actually is.  Denver has a carousel at QB, and as I said above, we aren’t totally sure what Blake Bortles is.  We know what Alex Smith is, and I think his performance this year will be better than the others mentioned.

Speaking of Denver…  The Broncos have a super frisky team.  The defense is still fantastic, and I do think Paxton Lynch will be starting at some point this season.  With a decent quarterback in, they’re not gonna be fun to play.

I hate predicting teams to have too low of win totals like 4, 3, 2, or 1.  I’m giving San Diego six wins because they do have a good quarterback in Philip Rivers, but thats basically it.  Besides him, this is a team with decent weapons and a terrible, terrible defense.  In a good division like this, its hard to see the Chargers be much better.

NFC East:

Redskins: 10-6

Giants: 8-8

Cowboys: 7-9

Eagles: 5-11

I have so much trust in Kirk Cousins that he’s my quarterback for one of my five fantasy football teams.  I think Washington finally gets it done this year.  There’s actually stability at quarterback!  I really think thats what held them down for so long, but the coaching hasn’t helped either.  I’m not the biggest Jay Gruden fan, but the Redskins have a good defense that should make up for gaffes at the end of games.

The Giants added a ton of good talent in the offseason, but I don’t think it can offset the very sketchy offense this team will have.  When has Eli Manning ever moved an offense methodically?  It seems like there’s always something with him.  I don’t trust the running game either.  I don’t know; its just very hard to put trust into a team like this.  It doesn’t mean they’ll be bad, but you can’t expect rock solid outings from this offense every week.

See, I told you the Cowboys weren’t totally screwed!  I think there’s a really good chance that most of these wins come from Dak Prescott and not Tony Romo.

NFC North: 

Packers: 13-3

Vikings: 8-8

Lions: 6-10

Bears: 5-11

I remember rambling with a friend back in May, when no one cares about football, about how I thought the Packers would win the Super Bowl next year.  Well, its coming true.

Thats not an official pick, but I think they’re definitely gonna be in contention.  They have no holes, and have everyone back and healthy.  Be afraid.

I don’t expect a total disaster from the Vikings.  Adrian Peterson and the defense will keep them afloat and lead them through the albatross at QB.

The Bears and Lions could easily be the two worse teams in the league.  Neither have trustworthy QBs, and both have horrendous lacks of talent.

NFC South:

Panthers: 12-4

Buccaneers: 10-6

Falcons: 8-8

Saints: 7-9

There’s nothing holding the Panthers back this season.  If anything, its motivation after how last year ended.  Plus, Kelvin Benjamin is returning.

The Falcons feel a lot like the Giants this year.  A team with a “Are we sure he’s good?” QB and can’t move an offense to save their life.

I’m being extremely generous with the Saints this year.  Drew Brees still has it, but thats all this team has going for them.  The defense has massive holes, and I don’t trust anyone expect for Brees on the offense.

NFC West:

Seahawks: 12-4

Cardinals: 11-5

Rams: 6-10

49ers: 4-12

More of the same here.  Congrats to Jared Goff on…  Oh, wait.  Case Keenum is starting.  Yikes!  Didn’t I tell the Rams Goff sucked before the draft?

The 49ers could be a lot of worse than the record I gave them too.  I’d also be shocked if Blaine Gabbert is the QB for the whole season.

Can everyone stop acting like Arizona is gonna suck?  This is super homerish, but Carson Palmer was an MVP candidate last season!  We have one of the best defenses in the league, and all the weapons in the world.  Stop it.

*Rant concludes*

Seattle might be better than their record.  I think it’ll be another battle between them and Green Bay in the NFC Championship Game.

Playoff seeds:


  1. Steelers
  2. Patriots
  3. Raiders
  4. Texans
  5. Bengals
  6. Chiefs


  1. Packers
  2. Seahawks
  3. Panthers
  4. Redskins
  5. Cardinals
  6. Buccaneers

What To Expect From The Patriots These First Four Games

The sting that the NFL ran against Tom Brady and the Patriots has left us with this:  Brady gone for four games, and the Patriots forced to start Jimmy Garoppolo in his career debut versus Arizona Sunday night.

That game is probably the toughest of the games that Brady will miss, but its no easy schedule for New England until Week 5.

The Patriots have to go to Arizona, but is then home for the Dolphins, Texans, and Bills.  Home field is great, but thats a harder schedule than people think!

I (spoiler alert) have Houston winning the AFC South, think Buffalo is going to be a frisky team for someone like New England to struggle with, and think Miami is going to improve greatly.

So, the Patriots are going 0-4 and Tom Brady’s gonna have to throw like 50 touchdowns in 11 games to get New England to the playoffs.


But it’d be fun to think about.

An 0-4 Pats start leaves the AFC East wide open for a team like Buffalo.  My book on them is a poorly coached team with a slowly declining defense.  But, Tyrod Taylor is awesome and LeSean McCoy only needs to hurt his foot OR pull his hamstring this year, not both.

(Since I’ve written the friskiest teams column I’m much less excited about Buffalo.  They’re still frisky, but chances are they’re a fun 6-10 team)

(In fact, this column was going to be titled “What If Buffalo Wins The AFC East?” until I started looking at this team a lot closer)

Anyways, the Patriots should have no trouble with Buffalo.  This isn’t a scary defense by any means.  The only thing holding back New England from a win would be Jimmy G himself.

Houston is a different story.  Houston has a stingy defense with almost no holes.  With the Patriots lacking a consistent running back (Thats not a shot.  I know Bill Belichick will make it work.  But imagine LeGarrette Blount of James White on a different!  Yikes!), running againist this defensive line is gonna be a rough time.  Garoppolo is gonna have to throw for New England to get out of that game with a win.

The case for Miami to win in Week 3 is simple, but unlikely.

Every great team has a team they always have trouble with.  It happens in every sport.  For New England, its always Miami.  Now, these struggles usually occur in Florida, but with a young and raw quarterback in Garappolo, the likelihood of those struggles occurring go up.

While 0-4 probably won’t happen, I’d expect this Patriots team to struggle these first four weeks.  I think if New England goes 3-1 in this stretch its a miracle.  These teams they’re up against aren’t great, but they definitely aren’t bad.  2-2 is probably more likely, with 1-3 or 0-4 being a disappointment.

No matter what the win-loss record is, its certain that when Tom Brady returns, no one is gonna wanna deal with the Patriots.  Assuming the suspension doesn’t put Brady in a funk, New England should be seen not only as the division favorite, but the AFC team with the best odds to go to the Super Bowl.

How Screwed Are The Cowboys And Vikings?

Preseason injuries are part of every season.  Every year, a big time name goes down before Week 1.  Last year it was Jordy Nelson.

But this year we had two.  Not just any two though.  Both were quarterbacks, one with a devastating knee injury, the other with a not-so-shocking back injury.

Both leave huge holes on their team, but one much more than the other.

Lets start with the Vikings, and answer a couple questions regarding their quarterback situation.

Whats the point of trading for Sam Bradford if you have Teddy Bridgewater for next season?

I genuinely felt bad for my Vikings friends when Teddy got hurt.  It was brutal to see the news come through Twitter, and it progressively get worse and worse.

I love Teddy Bridgewater.  I think he’s really good, and have been high on him ever since he was drafted.  In fact, I had Teddy Bridgewater going No.1 overall to Houston until it was not longer reasonable for whatever reason to have him the first round.  It was an insane draft night, and I was stunned he fell so far.  Since, I’ve been on his boat.

There’s a lot of people around the league who don’t like Teddy.  Who don’t think he’s that great.  Who think he’s a game-manager.

He’s definitely not a game-manager, because we’ve seen him do big things.  But he does have Adrian Peterson in his backfield, and we all know the work AP puts in for the Vikings.

But the question with Teddy that I still need answered is…  Can he be the quarterback to get Minnesota to the playoffs without AP doing what he does on a gamely/seasonal basis?  Thats the question we don’t know the answer to.

Trading for Sam Bradford puts the question into discussion.  Adrian Peterson is 31.  We all know how running backs historically preform once they hit that age 31 season.

Now, I’m not predicting a down Adrian Peterson year.  I’m not doing that because he’s AP.  Its not smart to doubt him.

However, come next season, its certainly possible AP begins to decline.  Thats not a prediction.  Its just a statement that is based off of the past.

When Teddy comes back next season, and AP is much older than he was this year (Based on miles and how much is body can handle), are the Vikings gonna be the threat we saw them to be before this season?

The Vikings keep talking about Teddy coming back strong for next year.  I hope thats the case.  But why trade for a guy who’s been nothing but a starter (Not necessarily a great one) his entire career?  Especially a starter who throws a fit when he’s not the guy?

If Bradford preforms this year (Again, not a prediction, just going through scenarios here), which would be extremely unlikely, then what do the Vikings do?  They’ve suddenly created a controversy heading into Teddy’s comeback year.  This after pumping up his return a year before.

Its unlikely, but is also a risk thats there.  We know how changes of scenery can help some guys.  Bradford is certainly not the future, or even the guy for this season, but its an interesting test of character and contradictory that the Vikings front office got themselves into.

And what kind of trade was that?  Why is Bradford’s value so high?  How did Philadelphia convince Minnesota to give up so much?

When news of the trade broke, I was hoping I was reading the report wrong.  A first and a 4th rounder for Sam Bradford?  What world is this?  Pitchers at the MLB Trade Deadline?

Its absolutely mind-boggling that Minnesota would give this much up for a replacement.  I get there’s a window (more on that later), but still.  A first rounder for Sam Bradford?  What would Colin Kaepernick get the 49ers in this market?

This is the latest episode in “Wow, the Eagles front office might actually know what its doing!”.  Ok, I won’t go that far.  But they’ve been extremely aggressive in trades ever since Chip Kelly was forced out.  In fact, its kinda similar to when Chip Kelly was running the team.  Kelly was the first GM we’ve seen to make big-time trades.  While the Eagles have wanted to get rid of any memory of Kelly, it seems like they’ve taken some influence from him when it comes to trading.

Why can’t the Vikings accept the fact that this is a lost season?

This is the epitome of this situation.  Teddy went down for the year and the Vikings’ replacement was Shaun Hill.  Sure, Shaun Hill isn’t great, but there’s no reason to try and compete when you have a Super Bowl contender in Green Bay in your division and a lurker in Tampa Bay.  You don’t have the Broncos defense (Minnesota’s D is very good, but not like last year’s Broncos) to carry you to the Super Bowl.  Yes, this was the Vikings year to do really good things.  But injuries happen, and it’s hard to get over.  I understand there’s a window for the Vikings, especially since Adrian Peterson is close to not being the guy anymore.   Vikings fans have been tortured for so long, and unfortunately, for this situation to have a positive outcome, they’re just gonna have to hope.

Moving to the Cowboys, Dallas is faced with a situation that they see far to often, and perhaps this is the last time they face it.

How good is Dak Prescott?

Really good!  Well, okay, I’m exaggerating.  He went in the 4th round of this Spring’s draft, and was on top of my Heisman ballot for half of last year’s college football season.  Prescott has a great arm and strong body, and can avoid tacklers well.  When he runs, he’s a bulldozer.  He isn’t very shifty or fast, but isn’t a guy I’d want to do an Oklahoma drill against.

There’s a chance that Prescott is more accurate than Tony Romo.  Its kinda sad to think about that we might have seen the final four-interception game from Romo.

Prescott has Dez Bryant to throw to, which is really important assuming Dez can stay healthy.  Nothing helps a rookie QB more than having a No.1 target, and the Cowboys have that in Dez.

I think Prescott’s gonna do fine.  But can he play better than the guy he’s replacing?

What are the odds he takes over the job for the rest of the year?

I think they’re really high.  I really believe this job is his to lose.  I mean, he doesn’t have to do it all.

Dallas’ running game has gotten worlds better since DeMarco Murray left in free agency.  I’m not in on Ezekiel Elliot.  He (obviously) went too high, and I just don’t like the pressure put on guys in this situation.  I think its a deadly combination.  But, its not like he’s the only good running back on this roster.  The Cowboys have Alfred Morris and Darren McFadden lined up behind him.  Those are two guys who you can platoon in any other offense.  In a positive light though, the extra boost from Elliot takes pressure off of Prescott.

Week 8 is the return date for Romo.  I think Dallas will have three losses by then (Packers, Bengals, and Redskins).  A 3-3 record probably isn’t enough, but wins isn’t the most important thing.  What if Prescott starts to just come around as Romo returns?  I think the only way he’s not being considered to take over the job is if the losses they suffer in Romo’s absence fall on Prescott.

Is this it for Tony Romo?

Even if Romo returns in Week 8, I think the possibility of Prescott taking over the reins for next season will be a huge topic this offseason.  Romo will be 37 heading into next season, and has missed games due to injuries the past four seasons.  Thats the elephant in the room, and if I’m the Cowboys, I’m forcing Romo to retire this offseason (assuming Prescott isn’t a flaming mess for these six games), similar to the Broncos and Peyton Manning this past offseason.

Even though Romo has four years left on his contract (including this one), this is something the Cowboys have to consider.  First of all, there’s no way Romo is playing out that contract.  He may not be done after this year, but there’s no way he’s playing through the 2019 season.  Secondly…   If there’s a scenario where Prescott plays well in Romo’s absence, but not quite good enough to assume the job from him, then how can you not ignore that Prescott almost took the job from Romo?

Thats probably the most likely scenario.  Prescott plays well, but not quite well enough to take the job.  The season ends (barring result) and Romo’s turning 37 heading into next year.  How can you not think about your future?  How can you not at least give Prescott a shot?  Why would you want to deal with another Romo injury thats practically a given to occur?

At the same time, none of this matters.  Jerry Jones isn’t gonna do that.  He’s gonna extract every last bit (of back bone) out of Romo that he can.  Excited to see how that goes, Jerry.

The AFC South Is Up For Grabs

What has consistently been one of the worst divisions in football is now suddenly one of the best, in a way.

Its hard to say there’s a contender in the AFC South, but there’s certainly a lot of good teams, in fact, all of them are good teams.

Since we have this phenomenon, I’m going to examine every team’s chances at winning the division.

Indianapolis Colts

The Colts’ season in 2015-2016 was derailed by Andrew Luck’s injury, but a faulty defense didn’t help out the variety of quarterbacks they used last year.

Andrew Luck is thankfully back this year.  I say thankfully because the NFL misses him.  I missed him.  The guy’s a playmaker, and his absence not only took excitement away from Colts games, but allowed an overachieving Texans team to win the division at 9-7.

There’s a good argument that Luck’s return should vault the Colts back into title contention, but this is a defense that hasn’t improved much.  I’ve never heard of anyone on their defensive line.  Robert Mathis is still great, so is Vontae Davis.  But thats only two guys who make an impact defensively.  Not great!

The Colts have a lot to worry about in the division now.  It used to be that, no matter how low the lows were, it didn’t matter because of how weak the division was.  Not anymore.  Its gonna take a special Andrew Luck season for the Colts to win the division.

Houston Texans

The Texans are completely revamped this year.  They stole Brock Osweiler away from Denver, a smart but aggressive move that I loved, not necessarily because of the football side of it, but because of how screwed it left Denver (Take it away, Trevor Siemian!).  They also swapped running backs with Miami; signing Lamar Miller and letting Arian Foster move on.  I’m not totally sure how talented Miller is as a runner.  But he’s been in a bad scheme and has had a crappy offensive line throughout his career.  Plus, in Houston, he won’t have to be relied on as much.

I like Brock Osweiler.  In the games he played in last season, he reminded of Peyton Manning.  Thats not a comp.  I’m not saying Osweiler’s the next Peyton Manning, but certain aspects of the game drew some similarities, like how they see the field, and how accurate they both are.

At the same time, I was blown away by the contract Houston gave Osweiler.  Yes, they were desperate for quarterback.  But Osweiler only has seven career starts, and they’re paying like a franchise guy.

I don’t think the contract is gonna look bad.  I think Osweiler will morph into it.  But its not a deal I would have handed out.

If Osweiler doesn’t reach expectations this season, which would be surprising, he has a great defense to fall back on.

The Texans have JJ Watt, which is kind of a big deal.  I think Jadeveon Clowney is going to get better, though I’m not sure he’ll ever live up to the expectations he had as the No.1 overall pick.  Houston’s secondary is in great shape, and has some depth with rookie Kevin Johnson.

This team is really good, and should be the favorites to win the division.  However, it won’t come easy.

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars are a team who didn’t turn it around in one offseason.  We’ve seen this coming for awhile now.  Blake Bortles has had his obvious struggles, but now he actually has some solid weapons.  Allen Hurns and Allen Robinson are two great wide receivers (and awesome fantasy picks) for Bortles to target.  Julius Thomas’ value for Jacksonville will fully show this season, as injuries bugged him last year.  Jacksonville also added Chris Ivory to the backfield.  You figure Ivory will be the lead back, but TJ Yeldon will certainly get his fair share of carries.

These weapons release a ton of weight off of Bortles’ shoulders.  He still struggles with limiting interceptions; forcing balls is something Bortles commonly does.  Perhaps a shaky offensive is behind that.  Bottles was sacked 51 times last year, most in the NFL.  A bad offensive line can lead to quarterbacks forcing the ball, as Bortles does.

I think that issue will get better this year, but in case it doesn’t, the Jaguars have a secretly good defense ready to back him up.  This defense has the perfect combination of youth, talent, and leadership.  Dante Fowler Jr., Jalen Ramsey, and Myles Jack will make their career-debuts in Week 1.  I was high on Fowler in last year’s draft, and had Myles Jack going No.5 overall in this past year’s draft before his plummet to the second round due to knee concerns.  Those are two guys who’re gonna make immediate impacts.  There’s plenty more like that on this Jags D’.

Jacksonville gave Malik Jackson a ton of money this offseason.  I’m not totally convinced he’s worth it, but he’s gonna make an impact.  Plus, the Jags have ridiculous depth on the defensive line.  The linebacker corps features Dan Skuta and Paul Posluszny, two quality veterans.  Tashaun Gipson (A breakout player from last season with the Browns) and rookie Jalen Ramsey are the highlights in the secondary.  Its still so mindblowing that Jacksonville managed to get Jack and Rasmey in the draft.  Those two were both supposed to be top five picks.

Its a pretty complete team.  They’re just a little young and raw.  One could argue Houston is to, but Jacksonville has youth on both sides of the ball. Houston’s defense is good and has experience.  While Ramsey and Jack are great young guys, they’re still rookies!  That matters in a league where typically, experience wins.

If Brock Osweiler sucks and the Colts aren’t great like I expect, Jacksonville is sitting right there.  I do think though, that they’re still another year away.  I know, I know, we’ve said this every year for the past three seasons now.  But this time, the Jaguars have something real to look forward to.  Not just another 5-11 season.

Tennesse Titans

They’re probably the least likely to win the division.  But this is a Titans team thats becoming relevant for once.  Marcus Mariota is in his 2nd year, and like Jamies Winston, should improve.  Again, both were good last year, but there’s always room for improvement, and they’re both young.

The Titans are also starting to help Mariota out.  Rishard Matthews was a nice pickup, and is being added to an underrated receiving core.  He’s added to a group with Kendall Wright, Andre Johnson, and Harry Douglas, with Delanie Walker at tight end.  All of these guys are quality pass-catchers, exactly what a young quarterback needs.

In case Mariota struggles, the Titans can run the ball, and they can do it well now.  Derrick Henry is a beast, and was taken way to low in the Draft this past Spring.  He’ll split carries with DeMarco Murray, who’s in my mind worth it, because they gave up so little in the trade for him.  But Murray is running behind a pretty sketchy offensive line, and from what we know on him, thats not great.  Murray’s only produced with a good offensive line in front of him.  We don’t know what Derrick Henry will be like yet, but chances are he can run over the people that Murray can’t escape.

Whats gonna hold the Titans back is the defense.  Its getting better, like this team as a whole, but the secondary is really the only positive.  This is a pretty weak front seven, with the defensive line being in bad shape.  Like, the only guy I’ve heard of is Jurell Casey.

The Titans can win the division if the Colts don’t recover, Brock Osweilier sucks, and if the Jaguars don’t improve.  A lot has to happen.  But as I said at the top, anything is possible here.