Tim Sports Report/NFL Week 3

Top 5

  1. QB Kyle Allen 19/26 for 261 yards, 4 TDs, fumble, 144.4 passer rating @ARI

Kyle Allen is an undrafted quarterback who has spent most of his career on practice squads. Last Sunday, he got to live his dream: balling in the NFL. Arizona is weak competition but it doesn’t diminish this man’s performance to me. It doesn’t mean Kyle Allen’s the next superstar but it was his day.

2. WR Keenan Allen 13 receptions for 183 yards, 2 TDs vs. HOU

The Los Angeles is desperate for a second receiving option. Until then, Keenan Allen is balling. The Rivers-Keenan connection is alive and well.

3. QB Daniel Jones 23/36 for 336, 2 TDs, 2 fumbles, 112.7 passer rating, 4 carries for 28 yards, 2 TDs @TB

An 18-point comeback is the perfect start to a career. Daniel Jones still wasn’t worth 7th overall but you could see the team playing with a new energy with Jones at the helm.

4. LB Shaquil Barrett 6 tackles, 4 sacks, 2 forced fumbles vs. NYG

Barrett had three sacks the previous week. 7 sacks in two weeks is outstanding. Tampa Bay might finally have a pass rusher.

5. WR Mike Evans 8 receptions for 190 yards, 3 TDs vs. NYG

Evans narrowly edges out Russell Wilson and Cooper Kupp for the five spot. Evans was a constant torture to the Giants and had it not been for a missed kick, Evans, not Jones, would have walked out the hero.

Worst of the Worst

5. Jets offense

I’m not certain but I think the Jets defense has outscored their offense. Can we officially declare Gase the heretic he is?

4. Arizona outscored 17-0 in final stages, drop to Carolina and Kyle Allen.

Can we declare Kliff the false prophet that he is now? That offense is awful. We were told Kyler was the solution. Turns out Kyler isn’t a miracle man, just an uber-talented athlete.

3. Titans allow nine sacks, drop 20-7 at home vs. Jags

Tennessee looked like a complete mess. It’s time for the Mariota Era to end.

2. Browns game management

With three timeouts, the ball inside the ten and 40 seconds on the clock, Cleveland was down seven and in a golden position to tie the game.

Pass play, incomplete.

With the clock not running, there’s no reason to not call a timeout. Strategize, make the perfect play call. Kitchens didn’t. In fact, he didn’t until after three straight incompletions. On fourth down, a missed blocking assignment sealed their fate. There’s no denying it: Kitchens lost Cleveland the game and spoiled an otherwise strong performance from the Browns.

  1. Steelers force five takeaways, lose anyway @SF

It takes a special team to lose despite a flurry of bounces going their way. Pittsburgh is that team.

Steelers Recap

Five takeaways. Six points.

That summed up the Steelers on Sunday. Five takeaways from the defense, four of them coming on the 49ers first four possessions. San Fran was giving Pittsburgh the ball practically the whole first half. Randy Fichtner is a real dumb guy though and Mike Tomlin isn’t much better. The Steelers continued to run their offense from shotgun rather than utilize a running attack that has helped them develop young quarterbacks in the past. Through one half, Rudolph was averaging three yards per pass attempt.

Impressive. Most impressive.

The Steelers coaching staff also has an obsession with running five-wide with a receiving core that is not equipped for such a task. Behind JuJu, they have James Washington, an inconsistent deep threat, rookie Diontae Johnson (struggles with drops), Donte Moncrief (only drops), stereotypical slot receiver Ryan Switzer and special teamer Johnny Holton. Does that sound like a group that should be on the field the majority of the time?

The Steelers staff is also very rigid and stubborn in their ways even as everyone else watches them run their head into brick walls for an entire afternoon. Normally, there would be consequences for such incompetence but not in Pittsburgh. In Pittsburgh, you can score 16 first half points in three games, average barely two minutes of possession per drive (#3andOut) and have a third-down percentage under 30 and still have your job.

The offensive line looked discombobulated most of the afternoon (whether the departure of line guru Munchak or another year on the tires, who knows) and the defense, minus the turnovers that were handed to them (which was most of them), was mediocre. I will note Minkah Fitzpatrick was responsible for two takeaways in his first game in the black and gold.

And for the third straight post game presser, Tomlin suggested a general lack of unpreparedness was the culprit, summarizing that San Fran was better prepared and was ready to take advantage of their opportunities.

At some point, someone needs to ask, “Why is your team regularly unprepared?” Because that’s Tomlin’s job. The coach’s job is to get his team prepared and if he’s going to keep peddling that as a reason for defeat, it’s only fair to question why that is.

Pittsburgh is a bottom-five team after this performance with a bottom-five offense, a coordinator that refuses to change, a head coach that seems generally unflappable regarding incompetence and a defensive coordinator who can’t define the word adapt.

At this point, six wins seems like a stretch, meaning the first they traded to Miami may likely become a top-ten pick. I still like the Fitzpatrick trade personally because of the team’s general inability to evaluate and/or progress defensive backs but that’s about the only thing to like in Steeler land.

Game of the Week: Vikings@Bears

The NFC North is the league’s toughest division this year with the NFC West not far behind. Minnesota and Chicago have two top-five defenses and Dalvin Cook, with maybe the exception of Christian McCaffrey, has been the league’s best back. Give me this all night long.

Week 3 Picks Against the Spread (Lines provided by ESPN. Lines may vary.)

Last week: 12-4 (!), 27-21 season, 3-0 high confidence

PHI@GB -4.5

Green Bay with three strong wins and Philly can’t stop the slow starts. Philly isn’t getting much from their pass rush either. Rodgers without pressure spells bad news. My pick: GB -4.5

TEN@ATL -4.5

This is my least favorite pick of the week. I’ve changed my mind on this one two or three times. In the end, going to take Atlanta and hate myself when Dan Quinn’s team underperforms again. If they do, it’s time for a change. My pick: ATL -4.5

NE@BUF +7.5

One of my rules is don’t swallow points in rivalry games. Hard for me to follow that rule when Josh Allen is the quarterback for one team and Brady is for the other. I love the Bills defense but can they hold the Patriots under 20? I don’t think so and I don’t have confidence Buffalo scores more than 20 against the best secondary in football. My pick: NE -7.5

CLE@BAL -6.5

Don’t swallow points in rivalry games but the gap between these two teams is so large. I get the better coach, defense, quarterback and home team. Too much to pass up. My pick: BAL -6.5

KC@DET +6.5

I love Detroit this week. Stafford and Kerryon are starting for me in fantasy. Lions also have a serviceable front seven on defense but I think their injuries at corner end up hurting them. It’s gonna be close but I think Mahomes covers. My pick: KC -6.5

OAK@IND -6.5

Indianapolis’ offensive line vs. a defense that doesn’t know what a pass rush is. Better coach, too. My pick: IND -6.5

LAC@MIA +16.5

Trap game for LA, could actually see Miami beating the spread but I’ll believe it when it happens. My pick: LAC +16.5

WAS@NYG -3.5

If McLaurin plays, I’ll take the Redskins. If he doesn’t, give me the Giants. I truly think he’s the difference. My pick: NYG -3.5

CAR@HOU -4.5

Houston just played well on the road against the Chargers. A home win against a team down a quarterback shouldn’t be too much to hope for. My pick: HOU -4.5

TB@LAR -9.5

The Rams were 2.5 point favorites on the road against the Browns. The Bucs and the Browns are basically the same team so the Rams, with the standard home field value of three points, should be -5.5. For whatever reason, ESPN is giving the Bucs an extra four points. Given the Rams performance against Cleveland, too many points. My pick: TB +9.5

SEA@ARI +4.5

Don’t swallow points in rivalry games. This is the game I probably should swallow the points. Arizona is awful but I’m gonna take Kliff’s Kowardice. Already hating myself. My pick: ARI +4.5

MIN@CHI -2.5

My game of the week features two top-five defenses against two bad quarterbacks in Trubisky and Cousins. Counting on Dalvin Cook to break one run. Don’t swallow points in rivalry games. My pick: MIN +2.5

JAC@DEN -3.5

Jacksonville’s Gardner Minshew was fabulous against Tennessee. I expect regression and Fournette can’t run behind a bad scheme. On the other hand, Jacksonville’s defense vs. Joe Flacco is a rather large red flag, one too large to ignore. The Broncos haven’t forced a turnover or recorded a sack yet. I’ll take the points. In a week with a lot of tough spreads, the Jags are my high confidence pick this week. My pick: JAC +3.5

DAL@NO +2.5

The market is overreacting to the Saints performance last week. The Cowboys defense handled New Orleans last year with Drew Brees. This would be a tough game for New Orleans with Brees. I just think it’s gonna be too much without him. My pick: DAL -2.5

CIN@PIT -4.5

The Steelers offense can’t move the ball while Andy Dalton has been serviceable at least. Given the Steelers hit rock bottom last week, I expect a better performance this week but certainly not a five-point win. I actually have Cincinnati winning outright. Don’t swallow points in rivalry games. My pick: CIN +4.5

 

2019 NFL Power Rankings: Week 3

1. Patriots (-) (W 30-14 vs. NYJ) (3-0, 2-1 ATS)

New England has a cakewalk schedule and there’s simply no getting around that. Following the Steelers (remember when that was considered a tough game?), they faced Miami and the Jets. Next few games? @BUF, @WAS, vs. NYG, @NYJ, vs. CLE. None of those teams break the top half of my current power rankings. Their bye also comes before their toughest slate of games. All the pieces are lined up for another trip to paradise.

2. Chiefs (-) (W 33-28 vs. BAL) (3-0, 2-1 ATS)

Kansas City played one of the best teams in the AFC and won. Mahomes looked as good as ever. Mahomes’ Revenge continues.

3. Packers (+2) (W 27-16 vs. DEN) (3-0, 3-0 ATS)

One of three teams still undefeated against the spread (DAL, LAR), Green Bay, after missing the playoffs, is at the head of the North and among the best the NFC has to offer. Crazy what can happen with a new coach. They host Philly at home Thursday night.

4. Cowboys (-) (W 31-6 vs. MIA) (3-0, 3-0 ATS)

Slow start against Miami but ran away with it in the second half. Not much else to discuss here. Travel to New Orleans this week.

5. Texans (+2) (W 27-20 @LAC) (2-1, 2-1 ATS)

Houston beats an AFC competitor on the road. That’s a plus.

6. Ravens (+2) (L 33-28 @KC) (2-1, 2-1 ATS)

Baltimore played a strong game of football against one of the best in the AFC. Despite the loss, the contest confirmed their standing in the conference. Baltimore is for real.

7. Vikings (-1) (W 34-14 vs. OAK) (2-1, 2-1 ATS)

Minnesota handles bad team. On the plus side, Dalvin Cook has been arguably the best running back in football three weeks in. A road win against Chicago would go a long way.

8. Rams (-5) (W 20-13 @CLE) (3-0, 3-0 ATS)

The Rams looked out of sorts on Sunday night and they were one really dumb coach away from letting the game slip away. They may be undefeated but they have questions surrounding them. Jared Goff has been average at best after signing his extension.

9. Saints (-) (W 33-27 @SEA) (2-1, 1-2 ATS)

No Drew Brees? No problem. New Orleans went across the country and handled business. I often say you can tell a lot about a quarterback after he has a week to prepare. Bridgewater looked frazzled after being thrust into the huddle against the Rams. Looked much better on Sunday. Didn’t win the game but didn’t lose it either.

10. Colts (+6) (W 27-24 vs. ATL) (2-1, 2-1 ATS)

I’m as surprised as you but Indy deserves this spot. Top-five offensive line, one of the game’s best coaches and an underrated defensive corps. Luck or not, the Colts will contend for the playoffs. Brissett was near flawless against Atlanta.

11. Lions (+9) (W 27-24 @PHI)) (2-0-1, 2-1 ATS)

Beat the Chargers at home and won a road game in Philly. Impressive. Had it not been for a collapse against Arizona, Detroit’s 3-0. They may have the weakest roster in a loaded division but they’re still a good team. Right now, they’re a great team.

12. Seahawks (-1) (L 33-27 vs. NO) (2-1, 1-2 ATS)

Losing to a Brees-less team at home hurts. Chris Carson’s fumbles are becoming an issue. Amazing what happens when you hand the reigns to Russ, isn’t it? Just missed scratching my top five performances of the week.

13. Eagles (-3) (L 27-24 vs. DET) (1-2, 0-3 ATS)

Philly is one of three teams winless against the spread (DEN, MIA). Another slow start cost them. A slow start in Green Bay will drag them to 1-3.

14. Bears (-) (W 31-15 @WAS) (2-1, 2-1 ATS)

The Bears had an offense on Monday but were also against Washington. Not deserving of a party.

15. Falcons (-3) (L 27-24 @IND) (1-2, 1-2 ATS)

A win on the road in Indy would have meant a lot, especially with Cam and Drew Brees’ future in question but the Falcons have become known for letting golden opportunities slip past them. Happened again on Sunday. Defense looked great against Philly, was a no-show against Brissett.

16. Bills (+2) (W 21-17 vs. CIN) (3-0, 2-1 ATS)

Buffalo is 3-0 but their offense has stalled in back-to-back games and played essentially one quarter in week one against the Jets. Buffalo has escaped with wins, not won decisively. Host New England this week. Good luck with that.

17. Chargers (-) (L 27-20 vs. HOU) (1-2, 1-2 ATS)

Overtime win against the Colts, losses to Detroit and Houston. Oof.

The Rivers-Allen connection was on fire on Sunday and the running duo of Ekeler/Jackson has been more than serviceable but Rivers has no second receiving option. If Mike Williams isn’t being unreliable on the field, he’s being injured off of it. (Remember when he was a seventh overall pick? Ouch) Hunter Henry might never play a season of football again. Travis Benjamin hasn’t been the same since leaving Cleveland (that’s a first). The Chargers need a second receiving option badly.

18. 49ers (-5) (W 24-20 vs. PIT) (3-0, 2-1 ATS)

Five turnovers and escaped with a win because the Steelers are terrible. Hope their bye week cleans that mess up.

19. Panthers (-) (W 38-20 @ARI) (1-2, 1-2 ATS)

Cam is out indefinitely with a Lisfranc injury but how about Kyle Allen on Sunday? Earned my Tim’s top five performance of the week. Least they still have that McCaffrey guy.

20. Titans (-5) (L 20-7 @JAC) (1-2, 1-2 ATS)

The Tennessee offensive line is weak this year which is why I found it odd that most spreads had Jacksonville as two point dogs at home. Weak offensive lines against Sacksonville? No thanks. Destroyed repeatedly, the Titans offense was brought to a standstill. The team is hurting at receiver (Fifth overall pick Corey Davis wasn’t the dynamite they were hoping for) and if Henry gets funneled, the offense runs out of cards to play. The defense bottled Fournette but got shived by the Gardner. After a strong opener, Tennessee is falling back to Earth. That second overall pick you spent on Mariota hasn’t worked out so well either, huh?

21. Jaguars (+2) (W 20-7 vs. TEN) (1-2, 2-1 ATS)

Gardner’s Garden of Misfits (potential fantasy name for next year?) looked great on Thursday night. Nine sacks for the defense certainly helped but Gardner Minshew has really impressed. D.J. Chark has made some dynamic catches and certified himself as a viable fantasy receiver and, more importantly, the WR1 the Jags have been looking for. Shame Doug Marrone is incompetent and driving out their best player (Jalen Ramsey).

22. Browns (+5) (L 20-13 vs. LAR) (1-2, 1-2 ATS)

Competitive game against the Rams earns Cleveland some points but the offense is massively underperforming. Baker needs a real coach. The coaching in the final minute, with four plays, three timeouts inside the ten and 40 seconds on the clock, cost them a chance to tie. Terrible coaching has destroyed many teams and thus far, 2019 Browns is being added to the list.

23. Bengals (-2) (L 21-17 @BUF) (0-3, 2-1 ATS)

Down 14, Cincy scored 17 straight before Buffalo put the final nail in the coffin. Joe Mixon got a chance to perform and the Bengals offense isn’t terrible. They’re nowhere near as bad as expected.

24. Steelers (-2) (L 24-20 @SF) (0-3, 1-2 ATS)

Five takeaways and you still lose. This is the bottom. Rudolph looked pedestrian and the Steelers won’t run the ball. Awful coaching makes bad teams worse. I expect 0-4 next week.

25. Redskins (-1) (L 31-15 vs. CHI) (0-3, 1-2 ATS)

Can we fire the mediocrity that is Jay Gruden now? Washington has been stuck in the swamp of average since Kirk Cousins was their quarterback and now they’re not even that. They have a young core (Terry McLaurin is among the best rookie receivers thus far and almost the entire defensive line is first-rounders.) and some veteran talent. They can’t compete with Dallas or Philly but a new face could create a new beginning and identity for a team that desperately needs it.

26. Giants (+4) (W 32-31 @TB) (1-2, 1-2 ATS)

Daniel Jones’ first start featured an 18-point comeback. Very impressive but also one game. Still, brought a new energy to a team that needed it. Saquon out a minimum four weeks is gonna hurt.

27. Buccaneers (+2) (L 32-31 vs. NYG) (1-2, 1-2 ATS)

Mike Evans had a phenomenal day and the Famous Jameis Bakery was closed on Sunday but kicker Matt Gay missed an extra point, had another blocked and missed a 34-yard field goal as time expired. That’s five points left on the board. They lost by one. They also blew an 18-point lead.

28. Broncos (-) (L 27-16 @GB) (0-3, 0-3 ATS)

In three games with Bradley Chubb and Von Miller, Vic Fangio has managed zero sacks and no takeaways. That’s…not good.

29. Raiders (-3) (L 34-14 @MIN) (1-2, 1-2 ATS)

Raiders look like the old Raiders again.

30. Cardinals (-5) (L 38-20 vs. CAR) (0-2-1, 2-1 ATS)

Kliff Kowardice and company were down 21-20 near the end of the third quarter at home against a quarterback most people had never heard of it. It was a bad spot to be in but they could still change their fortunes.

Arizona was outscored 17-0 the rest of the way. At home. Against an undrafted quarterback who made a living on the practice squad.

Take your false promises and go to the basement. Try to figure out what a run defense is while you’re down there.

31. Jets (-) (L 30-14 @NE) (0-3, 1-2 ATS)

They covered the spread at least? Adam Gase is an awful coach. Shocked the Jets looked like a poorly-coached team. Again.

32. Dolphins (-) (L 31-6 @DAL) (0-3, 0-3 ATS)

This game began with Rosen throwing a bomb to DeVante Parker, who managed a one-handed catch while being draped by a Cowboy.

Miami proceeded to miss the 47-yard field goal.

Down 10-0, Flores did his team no favors by settling for a 19-yard field goal. You have been torpedoed in back-to-back weeks. You can’t lose much worse than 43-0. Go for it.

Down 10-6, Miami was in the red zone in the final minute of the first half. RB Kenyan Drake fumbled and Dallas recovered.

Still, despite bad miscues, Miami was in the game. The offense looked better with Rosen. Had the Dolphins converted their opening field goal, secured seven on 4th-and-goal and got points on their last drive of the second half, this game might have gone differently. Instead, Elliott and backup Tony Pollard each grabbed 100 yards and a score and Dallas cruised in the second half.

Through three games, Miami has a -117 point differential, the worst in the Super Bowl era. They’re competing with the 0-16 Browns and Lions for the worst team in NFL history.

Biggest Climb: DET +9

Biggest Fall: LAR/SF/TEN/ARI -5

Tim Sports Report/NFL Week 2

Top 5

  1. QB Patrick Mahomes 30/44 for 443, 4 TDs, fumble, 131.2 passer rating @OAK

Yes, against the Raiders, I know but go back and watch this film. Disgusting. Mahomes’ Revenge is for real.

2. QB Lamar Jackson 24/37 for 272, 2 TDs, 104.8 passer rating, 16 carries for 120 vs. ARI

The gap between rookie Lamar and year two Lamar is huge. As I said in my power rankings, Lamar Jackson is the best of the 2018 qb class so far.

3. RB Dalvin Cook 20 carries for 154, TD, 3 receptions for 37 @GB

Cook had a rough 2018 behind a haphazard offensive line. Vikings make some changes and draft a first round center and suddenly Cook is one of the best backs in the league through two weeks.

4. RB Le’Veon Bell 21 carries for 68, fumble, 10 receptions for 61 vs. CLE

I watched the entirety of the Monday Night debacle that was Cleveland versus a third-string quarterback. It was brutal but I watched it through to the end because of Bell’s performance. He was a one-man offense. Have to respect that.

5. WR Demarcus Robinson 6 receptions for 172, 2 TDs @OAK

Robinson made some nice catches in his own right. Remove Tyreek and another speed demon takes his place.

Worst of the Worst

5. Jets embarrassed 23-3 at home.

Like I said, it was brutal.

4. Dolphins thrashed 43-0 at home.

Miami is a bad football team. Are they competing for the exclusive circle of unwinnables?

3. QB injuries

Two big stars, Ben Roethlisberger and Drew Brees, left their games with injuries. Jets backup Trevor Siemian broke his ankle and Cam is now unlikely for the cats’ upcoming contest.

2. Kliff Kowardice

The Arizona Cardinals got inside the Ravens ten-yard line three times.

They kicked three field goals.

That cowardice cost Arizona a big road upset. For being a savant, Kliff coaches like a weasel. It’s a dog-eat-dog world and the NFL has no time for rodents.

  1. QB Kirk Cousins 14/32 for 230, TD, 2 INTs, fumble, 52.9 passer rating @GB

While every other facet of the Vikings team was in prime operation, Kirk did what Kirk usually does in big games: he choked.

Go back and watch the film (linked it in my power rankings for this week). Kirk throws one of the worst interceptions you’ll ever see in a crucial situation.

Steelers Recap

The playcall cancer known as Big Ben is out and Rudolph didn’t look like complete roadkill during the remainder of the contest. The argument could be made the offense looked better the instant Ben was taken out. Still, watching Russ run with nothing but green grass in front of him during a two-minute drill is torture. The idea of a QB spy apparently never came up.

And yet as awful as the Steelers have been two games in and with a now young backup at quarterback, I could see them winning against San Francisco. Don’t book it but I’m confidently taking Pittsburgh as 6.5 point underdogs.

Game of the Week: Ravens@Chiefs

Lamar Jackson and the best rushing attack in football face Mahomes’ Revenge. This is a likely playoff preview. Should be fun.

Week 3 Picks Against the Spread (Lines provided by ESPN. Lines may vary.)

Last week: 7-9, 15-17 season, 2-0 high confidence

TEN@JAC +1.5

When it comes to sports betting, I usually take the under for points in divisional games and take the points. Divisional games are always closer than they should be. After being robbed of a win by their own coach last week, Jacksonville comes home with a fire for Tennessee. The Titans weak offensive line against Sacksonville? Good luck. My pick: JAC +1.5

ATL@IND -2.5

Atlanta’s defense frazzled Wentz last week and bullied a top-five offensive line. Now they face another top-five offensive line in Indianapolis. If the defense shows up like they did against Philly, Atlanta should have the firepower on offense to overcome. My pick: ATL +2.5

CIN@BUF -6.5

Buffalo’s got a great defense (sorry, I’m a broken record) but their offense carries a walker. Lead back Devin Singletary is out and the receiving core is one of the weakest in the league (Zay Jones, John Brown, Cole Beasley). The Bills defense will likely thwart Cincy but the offense fails to take advantage of the extra possessions and Cincy finds a way to close the gap. Buffalo wins but I’ll take the points. My pick: CIN +6.5

MIA@DAL -21.5

I hate passing up that many points but I got scorched by Miami last week. Dallas is at home and their defense is stellar. I’ll reluctantly swallow the points. My pick: DAL -21.5

DEN@GB -7.5

Green Bay has a defense now and any capable defense against Joe Flacco is a great matchup. Denver hasn’t recorded a sack in two games. Clean pockets for Rodgers spells trouble. Oh and Green Bay’s at home. My pick: GB -7.5

DET@PHI -6.5

Philly’s slow starts have nearly led to an 0-2 start and they’re 0-2 against the spread. This is their last chance with me. Get it together, Philly. My pick: PHI -6.5

BAL@KC -6.5

Lamar Jackson is no Patrick Mahomes but he’s currently the best dual threat quarterback. The Ravens run game versus the Chiefs defensive front is a huge mismatch. I can’t bet against Mahomes to lose (he’s too good) but I will bet on a close contest against a historically strong Ravens defense. My pick: BAL +6.5

OAK@MIN -7.5

I’ve seen some spreads giving Oakland nine points so I consider myself grateful ESPN has only given them 7.5. The Vikings are a quarterback away from a serious contender. Calling Captain Kirk. My pick: MIN -7.5

NYJ@NE -22.5

Adam Gase is a fraud and poor Luke Falk has to start against the Patriots in Foxborough in his first start. Rough draw. Still like the Jets defense. As bad as the Jets were on Monday night, still only gave up 23. Despite New England being the best team in the league and the Jets one of the worst due to injuries, the Jets cover the spread and lose by 20. My pick: NYJ +22.5

NYG@TB -6.5

I hate betting on the Famous Jameis Bakery but with Daniel Jones starting I’ve changed my pick last second from Giants to Bucs. I played myself, didn’t I? My pick: TB -6.5

CAR@ARI +2.5

For whatever reason, ESPN is giving Arizona two with Cam out. Even if the spread was what it seems to be at other casinos (ARI -2.5), I’d still take Arizona. Carolina looked lost without McCaffery. One-dimensional offenses on the road don’t fill me with confidence. My pick: ARI +2.5

NO@SEA -5.5

Drew Brees is out but as I said in my power rankings, the Saints should be a playoff team regardless. Therefore, New Orleans getting a 5.5 point cushion seems generous especially given Seattle’s offensive line situation. My pick: NO +5.5

PIT@SF -6.5

The Steelers are a bad football team but they did lose a locker room cancer this past week. Hopefully (and this is a slim hope), Fichtner starts calling a run-based game plan with his run-strong roster. Despite all evidence to the contrary, this feels like the type of game Pittsburgh wins: a game against a superior opponent/coach on the road with a backup quarterback in his first start. Sounds like a recipe for disaster which means some baloney is gonna happen. Call it a hunch. My pick: PIT +6.5

HOU@LAC -3.5

This spread is just insulting. Houston played lights out against New Orleans and lost because of the Bill O’Brien Curse. Meanwhile, Los Angeles blew a sizable lead and had to go to overtime with the Colts and then blew another lead and lost to Detroit. Rivers hasn’t been himself to start the season. I get Deshaun and the team that’s playing better plus three points on top of that? Sign me up. NOW. My pick: HOU +3.5

LAR@CLE +2.5

I have high confidence in Atlanta and Houston this week but I’m putting the Rams down for my high confidence pick. Cleveland got wiped off the face of the map by Tennessee and then got a cakewalk last week yet still only managed 23 points. Rams just beat New Orleans handedly, Brees or no Brees. Goff is due to return to form, right? I’ll swallow 2.5 gladly. I would have swallowed 10. My pick: LAR -2.5

CHI@WAS +4.5

Chicago’s offense is a mess and Trubisky is a rather large elephant in the room that won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. This game screams Washington, especially with the Redskins starting strong in their first two contests. And yet…who produces for Washington? AP against the Bears front seven? I like Terry McLaurin but Paul Richardson, Trey Quinn and Vernon Davis against the Bears secondary? The Redskins defense crumbled in the second halves of both predecessors because the offense couldn’t hold possession and I sense a familiar tale about to be told. Once again, Chicago makes it way closer than it should be but a victory nonetheless. My pick: CHI -4.5

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2019 NFL Power Rankings: Week 2

1. Patriots (-) (W 43-0 @MIA) (2-0, 2-0 ATS)

The evil empire continues onward with new secret weapon Antonio Brown. Despite their recent history in Miami, New England was unbothered, smothering the helpless fish. Expect New England to own this spot for the foreseeable future. Their next three dances? NYJ, BUF, WAS.

Oh and Antonio has been cut due to multiple sexual assault accusations. Good riddance but it doesn’t diminish New England’s superiority.

2. Chiefs (+2) (W 28-10 @OAK) (2-0, 2-0 ATS)

Mahomes’ Revenge is continuing its plundering through the AFC. It’s been smooth sailing thus far but rough tides approach: BAL.

3. Rams (+3) (W 27-9 vs. NO) (2-0, 2-0 ATS)

The rematch of the NFC Championship was dented by a Drew Brees injury but a win is a win and it was a dominant one despite another so-so performance from Goff. The NFC West is home to three undefeated teams, however. The Rams need to keep their foot on the gas.

4. Cowboys (+3) (W 31-21 @WAS) (2-0, 2-0 ATS)

Dallas’ case is upended by a weak schedule but they still deserve a top-ten spot. This is likely high given they’re unproven against their peers but they’ll have a chance to prove their worth. Following a vacation in Miami, they have the Saints and Packers back-to-back.

5. Packers (+4) (W 21-16 vs. MIN) (2-0, 2-0 ATS)

My top five teams all come in undefeated in games and against the spread. Green Bay’s offense jumped to life against one of the league’s most talented d-corps, putting up 21 unanswered. They then surrendered 16 straight and might have lost the game at home outright if not for the brainfart that is 2019 Kirk Cousins. Still, despite some concerns, Green Bay sits alone atop the North, the most competitive division in football.

6. Vikings (-4) (L 21-16 @GB) (1-1, 1-1 ATS)

Minnesota floundered early before rallying with 16 unanswered. Had they completed the comeback, they would have surpassed New England for my top spot due to strength of schedule. Instead, Kirk Cousins throws one of the worst interceptions you’ll ever see in professional football and Minnesota, despite two great performances, sits at 1-1. Dalvin Cook and the rushing attack are on a tear, the defense is rejuvenated but Kirk Cousins has been awful. Sunday he was 14/32 for 230, a touchdown and two interceptions, including the costly one in the end zone, and a fumble. That’s not what you’re hoping for when you shell out $27 million guaranteed.

Oh, and the Vikings kicking woes continue. They left four points on the board. They lost by five.

7. Texans (-2) (W 13-12 vs. JAC) (1-1, 1-1 ATS)

Sloppy divisional games happen. I think the team we saw in New Orleans is closer to the mark. Still, the Curse of Bill O’Brien has nearly dragged what should be a 2-0 team to 0-2. Houston needs a statement game against the Chargers this week. Please protect Deshaun Watson.

8. Ravens (+3) (W 23-17 vs. ARI) (1-1, 1-1 ATS)

Had it not been for Kliff Kingsbury kicking three field goals inside the ten, Baltimore likely loses this game. It was a regression and the only reason they move up in my rankings is the continual improvement of Lamar Jackson. It’s crazy what can happen in one summer. At this moment, Lamar Jackson, not Baker Mayfield, is the best quarterback of the 2018 class. Next week we see how good he really is when Mahomes’ Revenge comes to play.

9. Saints (-6) (L 27-9 @LAR) (1-1, 0-2 ATS)

The Drew Brees injury looms large. You could see the offense begin to stutter step when he left the huddle. Great teams overcome injury and the team’s performance without him will say a lot about their character and system. The Saints can and should be a playoff team without Drew Brees.

10. Eagles (-2) (L 24-21 @ATL) (1-1, 0-2 ATS)

Another slow start for the Eagles. Wentz looked awful in the first half, the worst I’ve seen him. He transformed in the fourth quarter and the Eagles nearly escaped playing half a football game. That’s a charade that won’t last against great teams. Philly needs to get their vehicle into gear.

11. Seahawks (+4) (W 28-26 @PIT) (2-0, 1-1 ATS)

The offensive line is an ongoing cause for concern but Russ finds a way, as per usual. DK Metcalf had some moments as Tyler Lockett becomes a WR1. Chris Carson is in danger of losing RB1 duties after multiple fumbles.

12. Falcons (+4) (W 24-21 vs. PHI) (1-1, 1-1 ATS)

Julio had a day but the evening belonged to the Falcons defense. They flustered Wentz most of the night and their defensive front was eating the Eagles offensive line throughout the contest. The Eagles have a top-five offensive line and it was a notable performance from a defense that has struggled to create pressure in recent years. Unfortunately, they play another top-five unit in Indianapolis this week. They can look at it two ways: an impossible expectation or another chance to prove themselves. With Brees and Cam out with injury, the division is theirs for the taking.

13. 49ers (+7) (W 41-17 @CIN) (2-0, 2-0 ATS)

Vegas has underestimated San Francisco in back-to-back weeks as they’ve cruised with relative ease. Matt Breida is beginning to look like a starting running back. Kyle Shanahan is a great coach and now has the team to demonstrate it. Still, their journey to the playoffs is rocky. The NFC is a far tougher conference and their division one of the most formidable in the league.

14. Bears (-4) (W 16-14 @DEN) (1-1, 1-1 ATS)

Chicago has one of the best defenses in football but one of the worst offenses. They are some roughing the passer baloney and a long field goal away from being 0-2. Matt Nagy better find his offense quick before he lets his defense’s efforts go to waste.

15. Titans (-2) (L 19-17 vs. IND) (1-1, 1-1 ATS)

Divisional games are always tougher than they should be. Still, the offense looks so…bland. Remember when Corey Davis got drafted fifth overall? That hasn’t aged well and neither has Marcus Mariota. Two top-five picks and two players who haven’t been the maestros they were expected to be.

16. Colts (+1) (W 19-17 @TEN) (1-1, 1-1 ATS)

Nothing spices up the wagons like a road rivalry win. The Colts are still a good football team. Stop overlooking them.

17. Chargers (-5) (L 13-10 @DET) (1-1, 1-1 ATS)

Los Angeles has had no problems in the backfield but Rivers has been average two games in. A narrow win against a team missing their franchise quarterback and a splattered egg of a performance against the Lions. Not a way to get into my good graces.

18. Bills (+4) (W 28-14 @NYG) (2-0, 2-0 ATS)

Buffalo has an underrated defense (I’ll keep saying it) and Josh Allen hasn’t lost them games though he almost did week one before the Jets went full Jets. With the Dolphins tanking and the Jets wrecked by injuries and coaching malpractice, Buffalo is the clear runner-up in the division. That means a chance at a wild card.

What do you mean Devin Singletary’s out this week?

19. Panthers (-5) (L 20-14 vs. TB) (0-2, 0-2 ATS)

Carolina is in trouble. Cam is not himself. The core is older. McCaffrey and the corpse of Greg Olsen seem to be the only threats on offense. Cam is ruled out for the road game against Arizona. 0-3 looms.

20. Lions (+3) (W 13-10 vs. LAC) (1-0-1, 1-1 ATS)

Matt Stafford is in top form and Kerryon Johnson is a threat. Kenny Golladay ages better every day. The defense isn’t complete turdblossoms. If it wasn’t for the Lions going full Lions, they’d be 2-0. That tie stings.

21. Bengals (-3) (L 41-17 vs. SF) (0-2, 1-1 ATS)

Cincinnati played so well against Seattle and played so poorly against San Francisco. Joe Mixon is trapped behind a porous offensive line. Any news on A.J.?

22. Steelers (-1) (L 28-26 vs. SEA) (0-2, 0-2 ATS)

The playcall cancer known as Big Ben is out for the season following elbow surgery. In a development no one saw coming, the offense looked dramatically better with him off the field. The season is not over. Minkah Fitzpatrick comes in a historic blockbuster for Pittsburgh. For the first time in forever, the Steelers will be without a first-rounder. Minkah should be worth it. Now can they win a football game? Or at least cover a spread?

23. Jaguars (+1) (L 13-12 @HOU) (0-2, 1-1 ATS)

Jacksonville was a trash Doug Marrone play call away from 1-1 and capturing a crucial road rivalry win. How long is this talented roster going to be saddled with this pleeb?

24. Redskins (-5) (L 31-21 vs. DAL) (0-2, 1-1 ATS)

Washington has started off strong in two consecutive contests but remains unable to finish. This Terry McLaurin kid looks good at least.

25. Cardinals (+3) (L 23-17 @BAL) (0-1-1, 2-0 ATS)

If Kliff Kingsbury wasn’t a complete coward, Arizona would have upset Baltimore. Kicking three field goals inside the ten should be a fireable offense.

26. Raiders (-1) (L 28-10 vs. KC) (1-1, 1-1 ATS)

Oakland is not as bad as expected but also isn’t strong enough to compete with Kansas City. That is by no means an indictment. Most teams can’t.

27. Browns (-1) (W 23-3 @NYJ) (1-1, 1-1 ATS)

Congratulations. You won a football game. Against a third-string quarterback. I look forward to you getting plastered on national television by the Rams.

28. Broncos (+3) (L 16-14 vs. CHI) (0-2, 0-2 ATS)

Denver might have lost on Sunday but it felt like a win. An offense that outgunned managed to face a Chicago nightmare. Bravo. Turns out your heart is still beating.

29. Buccaneers (+1) (W 20-14 @CAR) (1-1, 1-1 ATS)

The Famous Jameis Bakery was closed on Thursday night and when it is, life is at least manageable at Raymond James Stadium.

What do you mean that was a road game? They don’t win those. Can’t be right.

30. Giants (-1) (L 28-14 vs. BUF) (0-2, 0-2 ATS)

At this point, might be time to start the Free Saquon campaign.

What do you mean Daniel Jones is starting?

31. Jets (-4) (L 23-3 vs. CLE) (0-2, 0-2 ATS)

The Jets started Thursday with their second-string quarterback and ended with third option Luke Falk. Still, the offense was a complete dumpster fire. Adam Gase sure looked like a football savant, I’ll tell you that.

32. Dolphins (-) (L 43-0 vs. NE) (0-2, 0-2 ATS)

The Dolphins had a chance to do something amazing on Sunday. New England had lost six of their last seven games in Finland and had Miami done the unthinkable, I think most of the country would have been overjoyed. I was just hoping they’d cover the 18.5 point spread and not embarrass the home crowd. It looked like they might do just that at half, down only 16.

The game ended in a 43-0 shutout. Miami is in full tank mode and Flores is on his way out before his career even started. Minkah Fitzpatrick got shipped this week. The only promising thing going in Miami is their 2019 draft capital.

What do you mean Josh Rosen is starting? Can someone give that guy a break already?

Biggest Climb: SF +7

Biggest Fall: NO -6

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Tim Sports Report/2019 NFL Week 1

Top 5

  1. RB Christian McCaffrey 19 carries for 128 yards, 2 TDs, 10 receptions for 81 yards vs. LAR

McCaffrey was a human wrecking ball. At the top of his game, he’s one of not just the best backs but one of the best players in football. Shame the Panthers didn’t take advantage of the huge opportunity his performance provided.

2. WR Sammy Watkins 9 receptions for 198 yards, 3 TDs vs. JAC

Watkins is a wild-card and entirely unpredictable, leading to a 46-point performance against one of the best secondaries in football. With Tyreek Hill out with a shoulder injury, Watkins suddenly enters next week as WR1.

3. QB Lamar Jackson 17/20 for 324 yards, 5 TDs, 158.3 passer rating vs. MIA

Keep the performance in context. It was against Miami, geared for the number one pick come 2020. That said, Lamar still looked real good if you didn’t go back to watch the highlights. You could see the difference a summer made.

4. WR DeSean Jackson 8 receptions for 154 yards, 2 TDs vs. WAS

It was a fairy tale return to Philly for Jackson, who scorched Josh Norman for one of his long scores. Even at his age, DeSean can still thrill.

5. HOU@NO

The first classic contest of 2019 did not disappoint. Bill O’Brien’s incompetence cost Houston a very impressive road win but nonetheless, both teams looked like Super Bowl contenders. Perhaps a preview of what’s to come?

Worst of the Worst

5. Receiver Donte Moncrief records three receptions for seven yards and four drops on ten targets vs. NE

Donte Moncrief had a rough evening Sunday night, putting up one of the worst stat lines for a receiver I’d seen in quite a while. Add to it this was his debut for his new team and it adds another touch of sour to the story.

4. Jameis Bakery hosts Weekend Sale.

Jameis’ 17th career game with multiple picks, he passed Sir Bortles for the most such games since 2015. Two pick-sixes were the cherry on top.

3. Jets lead all game, lose.

The Jets defense scored more points in the contest than their offense. To lose after steering most of the game is such a Jets thing to do.

2. Lions blow 18-point 4th quarter lead to Cardinals, end game in tie.

If it was almost anyone else, I’d start an uproar but it’s Detroit. It’s just part of the script.

  1. The Cleveland Browns hype train derails, explodes in 43-10 bombardment, recording more penalties and penalty yards than any team the last two seasons.

Baker Mayfield was gonna be a potential MVP candidate, throwing to the likes of Nick Chubb, David Njoku, Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry. The defense had multiple Pro Bowlers along the defensive line, a defensive rookie of the year nominee in the secondary. The curse was over.

Turns out you have to play the games before you can wear the crown. Cleveland. Remove Cleveland’s first drive of the game and the Browns looked the same as the Browns of old. They looked entirely unprepared and an inexperienced coach didn’t have the knowledge or experience to correct course. It was quite the comedy to behold.

Steelers Recap

As is usually the tale, the Steelers were manhandled on national television in Foxborough, outmanned, outgunned, outsmarted and outcoached. The offense was in a malaise for the entirety while the tender wounds of a scarred Steelers defense were ripped at once again. In an interview later this week, Ben Roethlisberger said “minor changes” needed to be made. I got news for Ben and everyone else on that roster. When you lose 33-3, you need to make more than minor changes. Something little isn’t why you lose a game by 30. Seattle has a better coach and a more experienced defense. I see 0-2 in the Steelers future.

Game of the Week: NO@LAR

Has to be the rematch of the NFC Championship Game. Last year’s was a classic. It’ll be hard to live up to that but I’ll be watching anyway. I’m taking the Rams, for the record.

Lastly, last week was my first time picking against the spread. I expect improvement as the year goes on. It was a rough week one, going 8-8.

Week 2 Picks Against the Spread (Lines provided by ESPN. Lines may vary.)

TB@CAR -6.5

Carolina fell to Los Angeles by three while the Jameis Bakery was alive and well. Gimme the Panthers and the McCaffery machine. My pick: CAR -6.5.

BUF@NYG +2.5

I don’t underestimate the Bills defense but I don’t have faith in Josh Allen. Their offense was anemic and I think the Giants have more of a chance to win then people are giving them credit for. I’ll take the home team and the points. My pick: NYG +2.5.

SF@CIN -1.5

The Bengals played better than expected in week one but not so good that they should be favored against the 49ers. San Fran looked solid against Tampa Bay and with this spread and the better coach, I’ll take San Fran again. They were my high confidence bet last week and I have a lot of faith in them this week. My pick: SF +1.5

DAL@WAS +5.5

Dak was unflappable, the offensive line is at full health and the attack has a coordinator not named Scott Linehan. Washington started great and fell apart in the second half, losing franchise back Derrius Guice once again. Dallas’ defense is strong and have too many chips on their side. A spread of less than a touchdown is the final straw for me. My pick: DAL -5.5.

LAC@DET +2.5

The Chargers week one performance was a flop. The back duo of Ekeler and Jackson looked strong but Los Angeles also faltered their way into overtime against Indianapolis. They need a statement win and against Detroit, a team that got sloppy in their own second half, they should get it. My pick: LAC -2.5.

MIN@GB -2.5

Minnesota had one of the league’s most dominant performances in week one. Green Bay’s offense was off balance. I think Minnesota has a real shot in this one. My pick: MIN +2.5.

IND@TEN -3.5

The Colts are an underrated team that fans and bettors alike will overlook because of their situation at quarterback. They played their way into overtime against the Chargers and they’re equipped to do it again, especially against a team who struggles on offense. Divisional games are always more competitive than they should be. I’ll take the points. My pick: IND +3.5.

NE@MIA +18.5

Miami is the worst team in football after week one, owing to the 18.5 point spread. Still, New England has lost five of their last six in Miami. I don’t expect that trend to continue but against logic, Miami narrowly beats the spread. My pick: MIA +18.5.

ARI@BAL -13.5

I don’t like betting on teams favored by double digits. 13.5 is a lot to swallow. It seems unlikely the Ravens score 40+ again but the other team is coached by Kliff Kingsbury. The Ravens defense is regularly among the league’s elite and I expect it to rattle Kyler early. My pick: BAL -13.5.

SEA@PIT -3.5

Pittsburgh was undisciplined and unprepared after months to prepare. Their lack of talent at receiver was blatantly obvious. As long as the playcall cancer known as Big Ben continues under center, expect the offense to stall. My pick: SEA +3.5.

JAC@HOU -9.5

Should be 1-0 after a great performance but the human incompetence known as Bill O’Brien made his curtain call with seconds left in the game. I should take the points, especially with it being a rivalry game but I’m gonna take the talent of Houston. My pick: HOU -9.5.

KC@OAK +9.5

I likely lost the last match for getting overconfident about the Texans roster. I won’t here, trusting in the rivalry game to be more competitive than it should be and that the Raiders Monday Night performance wasn’t a blip on the spectrum. My pick: OAK +9.5.

CHI@DEN +1.5

Matt Nagy was off his game on Thursday. The Bears allowed ten points to Aaron Rodgers during an off night for Nagy. Imagine how good they could be when he’s on. A 1.5 point spread is insulting. Put the Bears down as my high confidence pick this week. Hopefully, the curse of Mitch doesn’t come back to bite me. My pick: CHI -1.5.

NO@LAR -2.5

My game of the week is must-watch television. Goff was off last week and Gurley’s workload appears to be monitored. The Saints were great. Hard to bet against them but the Saints were the recipient of luck in O’Brien’s game management. Luck usually finds a way to balance itself out. This game would be the perfect occasion to balance the books. My pick: LAR -2.5.

PHI@ATL +1.5

Atlanta was dominated by Minnesota last week. I expect a bounce back but it’s not enough for the Return of Wentz. My pick: PHI -1.5.

CLE@NYJ +2.5

I had the Jets at the beginning of the week but since then, quarterback Sam Darnold, DT Quinnen Williams and LB C.J. Mosley have been ruled out. That’s too much talent off the board for New York. My pick: CLE -2.5.

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2019 NFL Power Rankings: Week 1

After careful consideration, I’ve decided to scrap my preseason power rankings from this point forward. Trying to set up a ladder before anyone’s played a down is fruitless. Moving on to Week 1!

1. Patriots (W 33-3 vs. PIT)

New England established dominance in their own conference once again. They add Antonio Brown tomorrow. God help us all.

2. Vikings (W 28-12 vs. ATL)

Mike Zimmer is a great football coach and Minnesota looked like a great-coached football team on Sunday. Last year, they feel well short of expectations. This year, after a year to learn and grow, they have no excuses. They showed up in a big game. Atlanta is one of the best offenses in the league. Minnesota bottled them and threw them with the rest of the trash. Dalvin Cook and the run game looked far better than last year. Arguably the best receiver duo in football, Xavier Rhodes and Harrison Smith in the secondary, Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr at linebacker and Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter at end. That’s a lot of problems. Now if Kirk can just start performing in prime time.

3. Saints (W 30-28 vs. HOU)

The Monday Night premiere provided week one’s best matchup. A thriller with two lead changes in the final minute. After all the years of Payton forgetting what a defense was, now he has one and the Saints are a Super Bowl contender because of it.

4. Chiefs (W 40-26 vs. JAC)

LeSean McCoy looked more than serviceable to me. Sammy Watkins played the best game of his career. He’ll have to have some more of those in Tyreek’s absence.

5. Texans (L 30-28 @NO)

They blew an 11-point halftime lead on the road and yet still had a chance to win. Up one, six seconds on the clock and Brees with possession at the 50, everyone knew what was coming next.

Except Bill O’Brien.

In a serious headscratcher, O’Brien called full prevent, a two man pressure with three defensive backs more than 20 yards off the ball. Brees took a gift-wrapped ten yards and kicker Wil Lutz kicked the game-winning points. The Texans looked excellent otherwise, with Deshaun Watson performing magic behind a turnstile of an offensive line. There’s no sugar-coating it. O’Brien cost his team a win and that’s one that’s gonna sting all year. This might be the year Houston makes it to a title game but if only O’Brien doesn’t mismanage it like his red zone offense.

6. Rams (W 30-27 @CAR)

Jared Goff’s progressions were off. He seemed out of sync the whole contest and yet, with their quarterback flustered, the Rams managed 30 points. Still lethal.

7. Cowboys (W 35-17 vs. NYG)

Dallas looked like a playoff team on Sunday.

A lot of teams will look like playoff teams when they play the Giants. Try to remember the context of the performance. The return of Travis Frederick gives the Cowboys arguably the best line in football.

8. Eagles (W 32-27 vs. WAS)

Philly’s start was troubling which is why they’re not higher on this list. The defense did not play well against one of the weaker offensive units in the league. This unsettles me. It’s a flaw Philly can’t afford to have if they want a legitimate chance at an NFC crown this year.

Carson Wentz, after shaking off the rust, looked like the MVP pick I slotted him for (My publishing schedule is off. I’m sorry.) and DeSean Jackson had quite the arrival back to Philly.

9. Packers (W 10-3 @CHI)

Offense looked bad but that wasn’t the story of the game for me. Hurdles arise with new coaching and playbooks but Mike Pettine returned as defensive coordinator and did excellent work with the improved unit given to him by general manager Brian Gutekunst. They looked like a swarm out there, something McCarthy rarely had or attempted to have while he was in charge. Defense is back in Green Bay and a more complete team makes for a more dangerous threat. It’s not a matter of when the offense gets going. It’s when and when it does, the league’s in trouble if Thursday night was any indication.

10. Bears (L 10-3 vs. GB)

When your defense holds Aaron Rodgers to ten points and you lose, all eyes turn to your offense. Mitch lost them this game. Hope it doesn’t cost them in the future. Also probably shouldn’t be giving Mitch the ball 45 times a game.

11. Ravens (W 59-10 @MIA)

If you started the entire Ravens offense in fantasy, you probably won your matchup. Was very impressive but remember the context. It was against the worst team in football.

12. Chargers (W 30-24 vs. IND)

I hope Melvin Gordon wasn’t watching on Sunday. The offense didn’t look serviceable without him; it looked great, running on all cylinders. Still, they blew a sizable lead. Would have liked to have seen them put up a more dominant performance.

13. Titans (W 43-13 @CLE)

Speaking of dominant performances, the Titans are outmatched on paper against Cleveland in every category except two: secondary and coach. Those two were the difference on Sunday. Well-coached teams beat bad-coached teams. #footballrules

14. Panthers (L 30-27 vs. LAR)

Christian McCaffrey put up one of my top-five performances of the week. That is one dangerous man. Meanwhile, Cam’s best days are behind him and you have to wonder if trigger fingers are getting itchy for a new franchise keeper.

15. Seahawks (W 21-20 vs. CIN)

Jadeveon Clowney looked good in a Seahawks uniform. It’s a shame that offensive line is still unsteady. They might want to think about doing something about it sometime. Maybe give the franchise quarterback the ball occasionally.

16. Falcons (L 28-12 @MIN)

Atlanta has a great offense but will struggle when they play more complete teams. Minnesota is a better team because they have a defense. Atlanta has struggled to develop defensive continuity due to injury. The clock is ticking on Dan Quinn. If there aren’t improvements with the defense this year, injuries or not, he should be let go.

17. Colts (L 30-24 @LAC)

Just because Andrew Luck is gone doesn’t mean the Colts season is over, even Colts fans think it is. They are a well-coached team and well-coached teams generally last until the end. Had Vinatieri not left seven points off the board, Indy would have nailed a huge road win against one of the best teams in the AFC with a backup quarterback. Teams and fans alike would be wise not to overlook them.

18. Bengals (L 21-20 @SEA)

Your 2019 passing leader through week one is…Andy Dalton? He threw for 418 yards, a career-high? Hmm.

19. Redskins (L 32-27 @PHI)

I told you not to underestimate Washington’s defense (I know the preview isn’t up yet. My publishing schedule got messed up. Sorry.) and they came to play Sunday. Washington was up 17-0 on the road against Philly. Then their coach showed up.

Jay Gruden is the definition of mediocrity and should have been fired two years ago. He should have been fired Monday morning after putting a healthy Adrian Peterson on the inactive list, a move that caused immediate karma for Gruden when Guice injured his other knee mid-game. Guice’s future in the league is now dismal at best, a player never capable of getting healthy and Washington has likely pissed (has pissed off everyone else in the locker room, including Trent Williams) the only man who wants to carry the football for them. Excellent asset management. Probably why the team is in Washington. It’s par for the course.

20. 49ers (W 31-17 @TB)

Jimmy Garroppolo has issues with his throwing mechanics. He was paid an exorbitant amount of money and made a franchise quarterback before he was truly groomed for the position. San Francisco has a promising young core and a great coach (the Shanahan system is a proven philosophy) but, similar to Chicago, can only go as far as their quarterback allows.

21. Steelers (L 33-3 @NE)

The Steelers’ coaching staff had months to plan for this game and this is what they came up with. A sweep on third and one, five wide on 4th and one and a field goal on the goal line. Teams that do those three things don’t win. The whole coaching staff should have been axed after last year and they’re only giving Steelers Nation more ammunition. Not one facet of the team looked ready on Sunday night.

22. Bills (W 17-16 @NYJ)

Buffalo was outplayed for three quarters and their offense was running on fumes. The fourth quarter came around and suddenly there was fuel. Do not overlook the Bills defense. This game should have been a blowout but the unit kept them in it. Josh Allen is mediocre (who could have saw that coming) but that defense is anything but.

23. Lions (T 27-27 @ARI)

The Detroit Lions were performing. It was unbelievable. The Detroit Lions were winning a game they should have been winning handedly, though not with much help from Kerryon Johnson (RIP, fantasy teams). An 18-point lead in the fourth quarter would surely be enough.

It wasn’t. Detroit squandered the lead, went to overtime and tied with a team they had outmuscled for three quarters and change. A must-win for Detroit, they couldn’t help but go full Lions. That’s why the Lions are the Lions. They take any potential opportunity and squander it. Matt Stafford’s never gonna win a playoff game, is he?

24. Jaguars (L 40-26 vs. KC)

At some point, the real Jacksonville Jaguars need to stand up. A team this stacked on defense shouldn’t be giving up 40 at home to Kansas City. Kansas City is an elite offense, don’t get me wrong, but Jacksonville has so much talent on defense. They should be able to do better than that. First rounders and established veterans all over the defensive line, linebacker corps and defensive backs. The reason the team continues to fall short is because of poor coaching. Jacksonville’s had poor coaching for a long time, even when they won the division in 2017. Marrone’s cowardice blew a ten-point fourth quarter lead in Foxborough and the team hasn’t recovered since. They need new leadership and with new signee Nick Foles potentially missing the year with injury, now would be the time to do it.

25. Raiders (W 24-16 vs. DEN)

Despite all of the drama and losing their best player days before their opener, Oakland came out and…played a good football game? Wow. Truly caught off guard by this one. The Jon Gruden contract is an ugly behemoth and bar the guy winning multiple Super Bowls during his tenure, is a loss for the organization. However, for the team to perform like that through all the scrutiny and press coverage was inspiring. Josh Jacobs looked like a first rounder for the first time in his career and the Raiders gave up no sacks against Von Miller and Bradley Chubb. Give credit where credit is due.

26. Browns (L 43-13 vs. TEN)

Cleveland had the better quarterback, receivers, running backs, offensive line, defensive line and home field advantage.

They lost by 30.

Even when all the cards are in their favor, the Factory of Sadness spurts out more glorious content for family and friends everywhere. Cleveland looked like a team coached by a guy overwhelmed by the moment. Refball was alive and well. Cleveland better get on track fast or this season will eclipse the 0-16 Browns for the most Browns season in Browns history.

27. Jets (L 17-16 vs. BUF)

The Jets commanded this game for three quarters. They had four takeaways in the first half and the defense scored a pick-six and a safety.

They also missed an XP and a field goal. Had they not, they likely would have won. Still, the Jets defense put up an excellent performance and the Jets reverted to typical Jets and buttfumbled a win.

28. Cardinals (T 27-27 vs. DET)

The revolutionary Kliff Kingsbury and prodigal son Kyler Murray were getting stomped on by Detroit. 58 yards of offense in the first half and 100 after three. They were who we thought they were. Until they weren’t.

Arizona mounted an 18-point fourth quarter comeback to push the game to overtime, where the teams would trade field goals before time expired, rendering the match a draw. Arizona had stolen a tie in a game they had every right to lose.

29. Giants (L 35-17 @DAL)

The Giants looked great on their first drive. Not so much the rest of the way.

30. Buccaneers (L 31-17 vs. SF)

Bruce Arians might have come to clean up Tampa Bay but first he’ll have to deal with Famous Jameis. Two pick sixes on Sunday were the difference.

31. Broncos (L 24-16 @OAK)

Was weird seeing Joe Flacco in another uniform. Offense was very bland against below average competition and defense was bad against one of the worst offenses in football last year. At one point in the game, ESPN commentator Joe Tessitore said, “Carr to throw. Why wouldn’t he?” A team with Von Miller and Bradley Chubb on the edges didn’t have any pressure, recording zero sacks. Through one week, looks like Matt Nagy deserves more credit for the Bears defense than Vic Fangio does.

32. Dolphins (L 59-10 vs. BAL)

The Dolphins gave up 59 points.

At home.

They weren’t just the worst team on Sunday. They were the worst-coached team on Sunday. Maybe Flores should spend less time on the playlists at his practices and more time on the practices.

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2019 NFL Power Rankings: Preseason

1. Patriots

The evil empire returns its coach and captain. As long as that’s the case, this team is volatile.

*hears commotion in other room

Whatdya mean they just signed Antonio Brown?!

2. Rams

Sean McVay is the best young coach in the game. Rams signed Jared Goff to an extension. Todd Gurley should be healthy. How does the team rebound after managing only three points in their Super Bowl loss?

3. Saints

Drew Brees is still here, Alvin Kamara is official RB1 and Michael Thomas signed his extension. Anything else, Cap’t?

4. Chiefs

Patrick Mahomes won an MVP his first year as starter. The Chiefs offense was the league’s most explosive. Did they find a defense?

5. Eagles

The Return of Wentz. Are you ready?

6. Bears

The league’s best defense has to be included in the top ten. Can Trubisky get out of his own way? (Based off Thursday, apparently not.)

7. Chargers

Gordon or no Gordon, the Chargers would be a division winner in most of the league’s sections.

8. Falcons

The league’s best receiving trio (Julio/Sanu/Ridley) return as does running back Devonta Freeman. Can their defense stay healthy for once?

9. Texans

Houston mortgaged its future at a time it didn’t need to. Will the immense gamble pay off or ruin a golden opportunity and division dominance?

10. Browns

Is this the year for a division crown or will the Browns go full Cleveland?

11. Vikings

Minnesota’s offensive line was their downfall last year. They return one of the league’s top-three receiver duos (Diggs/Thielen). Can Mike Zimmer get his defense back in shape and will the real Dalvin Cook please stand up? The team is too stacked on paper to miss the playoffs twice in a row.

12. Packers

Aaron Rodgers had a down year last year. He had a TD/INT split of 25/2. God help us if he has a good one.

13. Steelers

Two of three tumors have been removed from the Steel Curtain but will the final one do them in this year?

14. Cowboys

With the Zeke contract bout over, can the team focus on the season?

15. Seahawks

In a tough NFC, can Seattle make the playoffs? Perhaps more importantly, will the Seahawks give Russ the ball more? Please?

16. Ravens

They lost key cogs on defense. Can they overcome and enact a new offense?

17. Lions

The Lions have high expectations. Will they fall short of them yet again?

18. 49ers

As do the 9ers. Can Jimmy G take them there?

19. Titans

This team has a loss of identity on offense and Derrick Henry going off three weeks a season won’t change that. How many weeks does Mariota last this year?

20. Broncos

Vic Fangio made wonder with the Bears. Can we get a repeat in Denver?

21. Colts

The roster is full of promise but Luck’s retirement throws a wrench in the machine. Can they demonstrate resilience?

22. Panthers

McCaffrey’s future? Sky’s the limit. Cam’s? Not so much.

23. Bills

Josh Allen and the offense didn’t get it done last year. The defense did. Can the offense join the party?

24. Jaguars

Given the personnel on defense, this team could make the playoffs. Given the offense and coaching staff, they could go broke. Which will it be? Does Nick Foles success story have another chapter?

25. Jets

Time for Sam Darnold’s next step. Right?

26. Redskins

An underrated defense is anchored by a floundering aerial attack.

27. Giants

Welcome to the Saquon Show!

28. Buccaneers

Can Bruce Arians balance the Famous Jameis?

29. Cardinals

Kliff Kingsbury couldn’t win in college. Can he make all the doubters shut up?

30. Raiders

Antonio Brown is gone. Waive the white flag, Oakland. The Jon Gruden experiment is a failure, not that anyone could have told you.

31. Bengals

A.J. Green will miss the opener and the Bengals are…meh.

32. Dolphins

This year we’ll see how far a Dolphin can sink.

 

Week 1 Picks Against the Spread (Lines provided by ESPN. Lines may vary.)

GB@CHI -3.5

I get the home team and the best defense against a new coach and offensive scheme. I’m counting on the Bears holding Rodgers under 20. My pick: CHI -3.5

ATL@MIN -4.5

This should be a great contest. Minnesota is scary on paper but they were last year and managed to miss the playoffs. I’ll take the best receiver corps and the points but I think Minnesota gets the win. My pick: ATL +4.5

BUF@NYJ -3.5

Week one football is generally sloppy and divisional matches are often more competitive then they should be. The Bills defense is underrated. My pick: BUF +3.5

TEN@CLE -5.5

The Browns hype train may derail early but I watched the Titans play their starting offensive line against the Steelers. They were bullied. Tennessee will be without left tackle Taylor Lewan due to suspension. Against a Pro Bowl defensive line, Cleveland could run away with this one. My pick: CLE -5.5

KC@JAC +3.5

Jacksonville has a great defense on paper, going top-five in yardage and points allowed. Missing the playoffs with a top-five defense is impressive and a reflection of an incompetent coaching staff that’s returning for 2019. I’ll take Mahomes over Foles. My pick: KC -3.5

LAR@CAR +2.5

Cam Newton’s health is a concern but so is Todd Gurley’s. His health was a story that didn’t get as much traction as it should have. Even if he isn’t ready to go, I get a better coach and deeper roster against an iffy offense. I’ll swallow the points for the NFC Champions. My pick: LAR -2.5

BAL@MIA +4.5

The Ravens offense is a wildcard but 4.5 against the worst roster in football isn’t enough. My pick: BAL -4.5

WAS@PHI -9.5

Ten points is a lot but I also have high expectations for the Eagles. Wentz is my frontrunner for MVP. I’ll probably regret it but I’ll take the Birds. My pick: PHI -9.5

CIN@SEA -9.5

Another one I’ll probably regret but an improved defensive line for Seattle encourages me as does the combo of Russell Wilson and Chris Carson. The Bengals will struggle without A.J. Green. My pick: SEA -9.5

IND@LAC -2.5

This spread is just ridiculous. No Andrew Luck and the Chargers are still only favored by three at home? My pick: LAC -2.5

NYG@DAL -7.5

Divisional matchups are never gimme’s. Saquon makes it interesting and the Giants just beat the spread. My pick: NYG +7.5

DET@ARI +2.5

The only reason I’m not screaming to bet your life savings on Detroit against an unproven coach, terrible offensive line and rookie quarterback is because it’s Detroit. I still expect a win but likely closer than it should be. My pick: DET -2.5

SF@TB -1.5

This wasn’t the line on the sportsbook downtown but if it were, I would have been putting money on the 9ers. The return of Jimmy G, an underrated offense and a dynamo in George Kittle, a young but growing defense and Jameis is on the other team? Yeah, give me SF all day. This is my high confidence pick. My pick: SF +1.5

PIT@NE -6.5

Antonio Brown won’t be eligible to play but it hardly matters. With the exception of last year, the Patriots have been whipping the Steelers the last decade. I get the home team, better coach and better quarterback. The Steelers offensive line may keep them in it but the defense will keep them out of it. My pick: NE -6.5

HOU@NO -6.5

Houston is a dark horse conference champion. Hopkins was last year’s best receiver, the offensive line should perform better and the defense returned to form. Bill O’Brien’s coaching malpractice, especially in the red zone, costs them a big week one victory. My pick: HOU +6.5

DEN@OAK -2.5

After the release of Antonio Brown, I find it unlikely the Raiders are still favorites (multiple outlets have moved the line to DEN -2.5) but ESPN hasn’t updated their lines. Denver is easy money if you find a bookie dumb enough. My pick: DEN +2.5

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2019 NFL Preview: AFC East

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

KEY ADDITIONS: WR Demaryius Thomas, TE Benjamin Watson, LB Jamie Collins, TE Lance Kendricks, OL Jermaine Eluemenor, WR Antonio Brown

KEY DEPARTURES: TE Rob Gronkowski, DE Trey Flowers, OT Trent Brown, DT Malcolm Brown, QB Brian Hoyer, WR Cordarrelle Patterson, TE Dwayne Allen, CB Eric Rowe, WR Chris Hogan, DE Adrian Clayborn

DRAFT: 1st round: WR N’Keal Harry, Arizona State   2nd round: CB Joejuan Williams, Vanderbilt   3rd round: DE Chase Winovich, Michigan   RB Damien Harris, Alabama   OT Yodny Cajuste, West Virginia   4th round: G Hjalte Froholdt, Arkansas   QB Jarrett Stidham, Auburn   5th round: DT Byron Cowart, Maryland   6th round: P Jake Bailey, Stanford   7th round: CB Ken Webster, Ole Miss

SUMMARY: The evil empire returns for another campaign but this year without a key cog: tight end Rob Gronkowski. Gronk is a Hall of Famer but had lost a step this past season. Still, in the game’s biggest moments, Gronk showed up. Even a down year for Gronk was an elite year for most players. It’s hard to replace that talent.

The two tight ends they brought in to replace Rob, former Patriots Benjamin Watson and newcomer Lance Kendricks, have both been suspended for the first four games of the season, leaving Matt LaCosse starting.

2018 first-rounder Isaiah Wynn likely starts at left tackle after missing his rookie year with injury. Patriots captain and center David Andrews has been placed on season-ending IR with blood clots, so the Patriots may end up plugging in former Raven Jermaine Eluemenor at center.

Still, the Patriots offensive line is stout, as it always has been since the arrival of Belichick and Brady. Touchdown Tom has been sacked 35 or more times only four times in his career, the most recent in 2017. In ’16? 15 times. In ’18? 21 and longtime offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia.

Demaryius Thomas joins the Patriots on his retirement tour while Josh Gordon returns after rebuilding his mental health. Despite all the missed opportunities and lost time, Gordon offers upside.

Sony Michel broached the 1,000 plateau in his rookie year and behind a strong offensive line, should put up numbers this year.

Stephon Gilmore had an All-Pro nod last year in Foxborough and the defense finished 7th in points against (20.3)

New faces arrive but the Patriots continue on. Mark down another division championship and a strong chance at another Super Bowl trip.

Oh, and as I write this, AB just signed with the Patriots. Sounds like the season’s over already. The Patriots current depth at receiver reads: Antonio Brown, Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon, Demaryius Thomas, N’Keal Harry, Phillip Dorsett.

New faces arrive but the Patriots continue on. Mark down another division championship for Belichick/Brady and a strong chance at another vacation to the Super Bowl.

Even if Antonio Brown’s dive into madness continues and he ends up not playing a snap for the Patriots, New England, these things are assured. If he does, God help us all.

FANTASY PLAYER TO WATCH: James White

White finished 2018 with 87 receptions, good for 15th-best in the league and third-best among running backs (McCaffrey, Barkley). Last year, he had a career-high 123 targets (19th best). I don’t like taking players off career years but White’s target share is consistent and the Patriots always scheme him into the game plan. Sony Michel and Julian Edelman are also on my board this year but White has done me well three years running and I don’t see a reason to back off him now.

SCHEDULE     PROJECTED RECORD: 13-3

Week 1: vs. PIT   Week 2: @MIA   Week 3: vs. NYJ   Week 4: @BUF   Week 5: @WAS   Week 6: vs. NYG   Week 7: @NYJ   Week 8: vs. CLE   Week 9: @BAL   Week 10: BYE   Week 11: @PHI   Week 12: vs. DAL   Week 14: vs. KC   Week 15: @CIN   Week 16: vs. BUF   Week 17: vs. MIA

NEW YORK JETS

KEY ADDITIONS: LB C.J. Mosley, RB Le’Veon Bell, WR Jamison Crowder, C Ryan Kalil

KEY DEPARTURES: G James Carpenter, CB Buster Skrine, QB Josh McCown, CB Morris Claiborne, WR Jermaine Kearse, RB Isaiah Crowell

DRAFT: 1st round: DT Quinnen Williams, Alabama   3rd round: DE Jachai Polite, Florida   OT Chuma Edoga, USC   4th round: TE Trevon Wesco, West Virginia   5th round: LB Blake Cashman, Minnesota   6th round: CB Blessuan Austin, Rutgers

SUMMARY: The Jets did something very New York-like this offseason: they bought everything.

Between top-three adds C.J. Mosley, Le’Veon Bell and Jamison Crowder, the Jets spent $166 million. C.J. Mosley was an excellent linebacker in Baltimore and was a must-have. Bell, off a vacation year, is a wildcard with dangerous upside and Crowder, with a stable quarterback, has a chance to return to form. Ryan Kalil moves to center from Carolina and Quinnen Williams, a player with HOF talent, enters the middle of the defense. Quinnen likely makes life easier for Leonard Williams, the former USC first-rounder, and All-Pro safety Jamal Adams.

The Jets lack depth at receiver (Robby Anderson/Quincy Enunwa/Crowder/Josh Bellamy) and Mosley is a linchpin in the linebacker corps. The corners are relatively thin behind Trumaine Johnson. That lack of depth put the Jets in 29th for points against last year. The additions on both sides of the ball should improve that number. Hard to imagine it being much worse but how much better can it be?

Teams that build through free agency generally don’t succeed. Teams are determined by their drafts and the Jets are notoriously bad at drafting. Their future will be determined by Darnold’s sophomore season.

He didn’t look like a third overall selection last year (2,865 yards and a 17/15 split) and was showed up by Baker in a worse situation (3,725 yards and a 27/14 split). Darnold needs to make dramatic improvement in 2019. Hopefully Adam Gase doesn’t sabotage the effort.

Despite being better, the Jets likely miss on the playoffs due to a tough schedule (AFC North/NFC East).

FANTASY PLAYER TO WATCH: WR Jamison Crowder

I have no interest in taking a running back one year older and one year removed from football. Bell has high upside, sure, but with a pick that high in the draft, I want to know what I’m getting. There’s no knowing what Bell puts out there in 2019 and for that reason, I’m taking Crowder. The Jets D/ST should be improved and may make a splash or two but I’m going to put my faith in Darnold’s improvement and Crowder’s upside (59/67/66 receptions in his first three years).

SCHEDULE     PROJECTED RECORD: 7-9

Week 1: vs. BUF   Week 2: vs. CLE   Week 3: @NE   Week 4: BYE   Week 5: @PHI   Week 6: vs. DAL   Week 7: vs. NE   Week 8: @JAC   Week 9: @MIA   Week 10: vs. NYG   Week 11: @WAS   Week 12: vs. OAK   Week 13: @CIN   Week 14: vs. MIA   Week 15: @BAL   Week 16: vs. PIT   Week 17: @BUF

BUFFALO BILLS

KEY ADDITIONS: C Mitch Morse, WR Cole Beasley, WR John Brown, TE Tyler Kroft, RB T.J. Yeldon, RB Frank Gore, CB Kevin Johnson, G Jon Feliciano, G Quinton Span

KEY DEPARTURES: RB LeSean McCoy, DT Kyle Williams, G John Miller, TE Charles Clay

DRAFT: 1st round: DT Ed Oliver, Houston   2nd round: OT Cody Ford, Oklahoma   3rd round: RB Devin Singletary   TE Dawson Knox, Ole Miss   5th round: LB Vosean Joseph   6th round: S Jaquan Johnson, Miami   7th round: LB Darryl Johnson Jr., North Carolina A&T   TE Tommy Sweeney, Boston College

SUMMARY: The Buffalo Bills basically cleaned house on their offensive line this offseason. Oklahoma tackle Cody Ford will start while free agent acquisitions Mitch Morse, Jon Feliciano and Quinton Span all slot in with the returning Dion Dawkins.

Removed from that, I’m rather unmoved by the Bills roster. Buffalo had one of the weakest receiving cores in football for Josh Allen’s rookie year. This offseason, they bring in John Brown and Cole Beasley as well as TE Tyler Kroft, all of whom were complimentary players on their former teams. These receivers won’t be able to bail Allen’s out of precarious situations. I’m already not high on Josh Allen. Wasn’t at the draft either. His offensive situation isn’t helping that stance.

While the defense may not jump out on paper, they were solid last year. They finished middle-of-the-road in points against (23.4) but second in yardage allowed (4,706). When a team on paper outperforms expectation, it is a result of players overachieving or coaching. I’m more inclined to give some praise to coach Sean McDermott, though it would be wrong to not applaud efforts from the unit, specifically Tre’Davious White, Lorenzo Alexander, Tremaine Edmunds and the defensive line.

In addition to an inept passing game, LeSean McCoy is now gone, headed for the Midwest. The Bills were right to alleviate a contract that had run its course but now are left with journeyman Frank Gore, rookie Devin Singletary and Jaguar T.J. Yeldon. The Bills offense has to come from somewhere. It’s hard to believe they could be any worse (30th yardage, 31st pass, 30th points) but if the Bills can’t replicate 2018’s ninth-best rushing attack, they might be. The Bills season depends on it.

FANTASY PLAYER TO WATCH: Bills D/ST

With the offense as dead as a Buffalo winter, the defense is the only place to turn. They were the seventh-best defense in standard ppr last session. As they say, no one circles the wagons like the Buffalo Bills.

SCHEDULE     PROJECTED RECORD: 6-10

Week 1: @NYJ   Week 2: @NYG   Week 3: vs. CIN   Week 4: vs. NE   Week 5: @TEN   Week 6: BYE   Week 7: vs. MIA   Week 8: vs. PHI   Week 9: vs. WAS   Week 10: @CLE   Week 11: @MIA   Week 12: vs. DEN   Week 13: @DAL   Week 14: vs. BAL   Week 15: @PIT   Week 16: @NE   Week 17: vs. NYJ

MIAMI DOLPHINS

KEY ADDITIONS: QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB Josh Rosen, CB Eric Rowe, WR Allen Hurns

KEY DEPARTURES: DE Cameron Wake, OT Laremy Tunsil, WR Kenny Stills, LB Kiko Alonso, OT Ja’Wuan James, WR Danny Amendola, RB Frank Gore, G Josh Sitton, S T.J. McDonald, DT Akeem Spence, QB Ryan Tannehill, DE Robert Quinn

DRAFT: 1st round: DT Christian Wilkins, Clemson   3rd round: G Michael Deiter, Wisconsin   5th round: LB Andrew Van Ginkel, Wisconsin   6th round: T Isaiah Prince, Ohio State   7th round: FB Chandler Cox, Auburn   RB Myles Gaskin, Washington

SUMMARY: The Dolphins finished 7-9 which is rather impressive considering their offense had a ppg of 19.9. Teams under 20 don’t normally fair well but one way or another, Miami managed seven wins.

They’ll be lucky to make half of that this year. The good news is that Miami is trying to tank for Tua. It would be very concerning if they were trying to compete and ended up being that bad.

With pretty much every possible tradeable asset gone, the Dolphins are a bare bones roster. A receiving core of bust DeVante Parker, Albert Wilson, Allen Hurns and Jakeem Grant will not scare anyone. The offensive line is relatively unknown and the verdict is still out on Kenyan Drake. Mike Gesicki could return to his Penn State form and provide a spark?

Xavien Howard and former Pat Eric Rowe will cycle in the corner spots with long-timer Reshad Jones at safety. The defensive line will be carried by Clemson first-rounder Christian Wilkins.

FANTASY PLAYER TO WATCH: QB Ryan Fitzpatrick

Miami’s passing offense finished 30th last year but Fitzmagic has come to town. As we saw last year in Tampa, Fitzmagic hasn’t died yet. He still has some magic left in the beard. The issue with magic is that it’s entirely unpredictable. Don’t draft Ryan but pay attention to his performances. He could go off at any minute. Be ready to jump on the train.

SCHEDULE   PROJECTED RECORD: 3-13

Week 1: vs. BAL   Week 2: vs. NE   Week 3: @DAL   Week 4: vs. LAC   Week 5: BYE   Week 6: vs. WAS   Week 7: @BUF   Week 8: @PIT   Week 9: vs. NYJ   Week 10: @IND   Week 11: vs. BUF   Week 12: @CLE   Week 13: vs. PHI   Week 14: @NYJ   Week 15: @NYG   Week 16: vs. CIN   Week 17: @NE

AFC NORTH   AFC WEST   AFC SOUTH  NFC NORTH   NFC WEST   NFC EAST   NFC SOUTH   Playoff Predictions   Preseason Power Rankings

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Antonio Brown: An American Story

Antonio Brown was nothing, a no one. Drafted in the sixth round out of Central Michigan, the league as a whole had decided Antonio Brown did not have what it took to make it in the NFL. He was too short, played at a small school where he’d never faced the “real deal” guys.

Brown would write his own story, setting numerous NFL records, routinely making All-Pro teams and began making a case for himself as the greatest receiver since Jerry Rice. He hugged field goal posts after punt return touchdowns, performed backflips, burnt defenses with his speed. Brown had it all: a second contract and all the accolades.

Then, he was decapitated.

Vontaze Burfict took his trademark headhunting prowess and directed it at Antonio Brown. Brown would suffer a concussion and miss the following week’s divisional round bout with the eventual Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos.

From that point on, Antonio Brown began to unravel but not in the areas the public and organization deemed important. Brown was still a maestro on the football field. He’d enter the NFL’s Top 100 for receptions and receiving yards the following year, climb the ranks of the Steelers’ all-time receiving list but the Antonio Brown that was fun and lovable, who entertained fans with touchdown celebrations, began to fade. That postseason he would record a Facebook live stream of a postseason victory speech in the Steelers’ locker room, dissuading team captains and head coach Mike Tomlin, who rightly eviscerated Brown.

The Steelers, unaware of the changed star, signed him to a five-year contract extension, making him the highest-paid receiver in football. There was a speeding ticket on McKnight Road, absences at practice but these were overlooked. This was just a star enjoying his spotlight.

Sideline antics would follow, spouts would be had and eventually, over time, the Steelers had decided they had enough. Brown would be shipped to Oakland.

This offseason the world watched as Antonio Brown capsized in the Bay, arriving late to his first press conference, true to form. He would suffer frostbite on his feet during a cryotherapy session, threaten retirement over a helmet disagreement, miss practices, criticize the Raiders for penalizing him for missing those practices, call his general manager “a cracker” and request his release from a contract after the Oakland Raiders nixed his guaranteed $30 million.

This behavior was not normal, never has been normal but the public ate it up, salivating at what the next development could be. As Antonio Brown’s mental sanity continued its tour down the well, no one seemed to raise an eye. People were only concerned with who Antonio Brown would be catching footballs for next.

Next? Surely a team wouldn’t sign someone so over the radar, someone who had so clearly lost his faculties?

The New England Patriots signed him within 24 hours.

It should not have come as a surprise. Tyreek Hill can break his three-year-old son’s arm and get a $54 million contract the same year. It’s the same reason why Richie Incognito can burst into a funeral home asking for his father’s head to be removed for research purposes and make an NFL roster within a year.

The people don’t care.

Athletes’ well-being or criminal history is not a concern to the NFL or to its fans. The only matter to debate is how many touchdowns they can score or stop.

Antonio Brown did not become a malignance by himself. He became one because he was enabled. Social media adored him, people in positions of power refused to hold him accountable. He was told he was bigger than everything. His #CallGod has become a reference to himself.

It’s no wonder. We just enabled him again.

The Antonio Brown saga will play out like an episode of the Running Man. We will watch as our contestant hurdles over obstacles and drives ratings and we will continue to do so until our player falls and gets brought by the chainsaw. Rather than bemoan the horror at the end of the road, we’ll just move to the next candidate whilst questioning how it all went wrong, ignorant of our contributions to the bloody mess.

But God forbid if Antonio Brown ever took a knee.

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2019 NFL Preview: AFC West

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

KEY ADDITIONS: S Tyrann Mathieu, DE Frank Clark, DE Alex Okafor, RB LeSean McCoy, RB Carlos Hyde, CB Morris Claiborne, CB Bashaud Breeland

KEY DEPARTURES: S Eric Berry, C Mitch Morse, CB Steven Nelson, DE Justin Houston, RB Kareem Hunt, CB Orlando Scandrick, WR Chris Conley, RB Spencer Ware, S Ron Parker, LB Dee Ford

DRAFT: 2nd round: WR Mecole Hardman, Georgia   S Juan Thornhill, Virginia   3rd round: DT Khalen Saunders, Western Illnois   6th round: CB Rashad Fenton, South Carolina   RB Darwin Thompson, Utah State   7th round: Nick Allegretti, Illinois

SUMMARY: Patrick Mahomes last year was nothing short of magical. In all my years watching this sport, Mahomes’ 2018 was right up there with the best I’ve witnessed. Incredible arm talent and more importantly, the patience and methodical nature of a war room maestro, Mahomes looked not like a season vet but an all-timer.

But now is a new year, a chance to reflect and to look forward. The Chiefs offense was among the league’s best which overshadowed a disastrous defense, a weakness that eventually revealed itself (2nd-last in total yardage). Many staples of the franchise left this offseason, including franchise safety Eric Berry and pass rusher Justin Houston. In a bizarre move, the Chiefs decided to move on from Dee Ford but then send a boatload of picks to Seattle for Frank Clark. I’m sorry but the difference between Ford and Clark is not a first, second, swap of thirds and a five year, $104 million contract. Few players ever live up to trades that lopsided and Clark isn’t even on the Mount Rushmore of his position. That’s the type of package you send for Khalil Mack, not Clark.

But that’s what Kansas City is rolling with. Backs LeSean McCoy and Carlos Hyde boost a run game that will need to make up the difference in Mahomes regression. I expect Mahomes to be great once again and among the league’s most efficient passers. Average and even above average players are not capable of Mahomes’ 2018. Only the truly gifted are. This guy’s for real.

But yes, there will be regression. I find it unlikely Kansas City repeats a 35 points per game pace but a rejuvenated defense with a new coordinator should make the Chiefs a more complete team, a unit who will have a chance to demonstrate it during a soft first-half schedule where Kansas City plays their toughest games at home. They also just signed star receiver Tyreek Hill to an extension.

Now, if they can just exercise those playoff demons.

FANTASY PLAYER TO WATCH: RB Damien Williams

I generally avoid players coming off career years because a regression to the mean often follows. It would be difficult for Mahomes or Tyreek to play better than they did last season. Kelce is a top-three tight end but also going as early as the second round and Watkins was unplayable last year. That leaves Williams. A few weeks ago, I was much more confident in this pick but in the last week, the Chiefs have added LeSean McCoy and Carlos Hyde to their running back group, likely reducing Williams workload. Still, Kansas City is full of offensive talent that’s highly sought after by fantasy players and Damien Williams is the one player that’s falling down draft boards. Williams will still get an overwhelming share of the targets in passing situations and McCoy and Hyde may play complimentary roles. Williams may not be the safest bet on the team but he offers the most bang for your buck.

SCHEDULE     PROJECTED RECORD: 12-4

Week 1: @JAC   Week 2: @OAK   Week 3: vs BAL   Week 4: @DET   Week 5: vs. IND   Week 6: vs. HOU   Week 7: @DEN   Week 8: vs. GB   Week 9: vs. MIN   Week 10: @TEN   Week 11: vs. LAC   Week 12: BYE   Week 13: vs. OAK   Week 14: @NE   Week 15: vs. DEN   Week 16: @CHI   Week 17: vs. LAC

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

KEY ADDITIONS: QB Tyrod Taylor, LB Thomas Davis

KEY DEPARTURES: WR Tyrell Williams, CB Jason Verrett, S Jahleel Addae, DT Corey Liuget, TE Antonio Gates

DRAFT: 1st round: DT Jerry Tillery, Notre Dame   2nd round: S Nasir Adderley, Delaware   3rd round: OT Trey Pipkins, Sioux Falls   4th round: LB Drue Tranquill, Notre Dame   5th round: QB Easton Stick, North Dakota State   6th round: LB Emeke Egbule, Houston   7th round: Cortez Broughton, Cincinnati

SUMMARY: The Chargers were never able to put it together in San Diego but have been great since their move to L.A., going 9-7 and 12-4 since the relocation. It’s just unfortunate timing since Kansas City’s rebuild is now a full-powered racecar. The Chiefs have a ton of firepower and the defense should improve.  If the Chargers wanted a shot at a division crown, it was last year.

Melvin Gordon is holding out but the Chargers are right not to make a move. Gordon has averaged a sub-4.0 ypc three of his four years and only broached 1,000 once. That’s not elite production and therefore does not command an elite salary.

Future HOFer Antonio Gates is gone for the Bolts, meaning Hunter Henry has extra responsibility this season.

Keenan Allen is one of the league’s best route runners and the Bolts are lucky to have Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson in the backfield during Gordon’s absence. The Chargers return most of their starters from a top-ten defensive unit, though Derwin James’ season is up in the air.

The team will go where Rivers does. Philip is looking to improve his playoff win:children ratio and has had a renaissance the last few seasons. He’s been reliable. Does he have another year in him? And how many wins can coach Anthony Lynn steal?

FANTASY PLAYER TO WATCH: QB Philip Rivers

Rivers isn’t a Hall of Fame quarterback but he is an above average regular season passer. He’s thrown for minimums of 4,286 yards and 28 touchdowns each of the last six campaigns. His usage will likely go up during Gordon’s holdout. I got Rivers in the 15th round in one of my drafts following an 11th place finish last year. He’s a steal who can spot in as a starter on a regular basis.

SCHEDULE     PROJECTED RECORD: 10-6

Week 1: vs. IND   Week 2: @DET   Week 3: vs. HOU   Week 4: @MIA   Week 5: vs. DEN   Week 6: vs. PIT   Week 7: @TEN   Week 8: @CHI   Week 9: vs. GB   Week 10: @OAK   Week 11: vs. KC   Week 12: BYE   Week 13: @DEN   WEEK 14: @JAC   Week 15: vs. MIN   Week 16: vs. OAK   Week 17: @KC

DENVER BRONCOS

KEY ADDITIONS: OT Ja’Wuan James, CB Kareem Jackson, CB Bryce Callahan, RB Theo Riddick

KEY DEPARTURES: C Matt Paradis, CB Bradley Roby, G Billy Turner, G Max Garcia, LB Shaquil Barrett, LB Brandon Marshall, LB Shane Ray

DRAFT: 1st round: TE Noah Fant, Iowa   2nd round: OT Dalton Risner, Kansas State   QB Drew Lock, Missouri   3rd round: DT Dre’Mont Jones, Ohio State   5th round: LB Justin Hollins, Oregon   6th round: WR Juwann Winfree, Colorado

SUMMARY: Things could go poorly for Denver fast, facing Chicago, Green Bay and the Chargers in their first five games but with tough games come opportunities to prove oneself. I’m very interested by new coach Vic Fangio and what he plans to do with this squad. The Bears defense last year reminded Chicago of their glory days. Can Fangio utilize Von, Chubb and company to similar standards?

And what of Joe Flacco’s retirement tour? Does he has a little fire left in him?

And is Lindsay a one-hit wonder or a true starter?

How does Emmanuel Sanders return from his Achilles?

There’s just a lot of questions for this team and the only sure thing is that Noah Fant is going to catch a lot of drags from Flacco.

FANTASY PLAYER TO WATCH: RB Phillip Lindsay

I could have put Fant here given the quip above but Lindsay was a great get for my fantasy squads last year. Lindsay was one of nine backs over 1,000 in 2018 on a 5.4 clip. That clip is unsustainable and Lindsay seems destined to regress if only Joe Flacco weren’t his quarterback. I project Joe to be basic nourishment at most and starvation at worst. The worse Flacco plays, the more opportunity for Lindsay. Who do you got your money on? Lindsay or Joe?

SCHEDULE     PROJECTED RECORD: 7-9

Week 1: @OAK   Week 2: vs. CHI   Week 3: @GB   Week 4: vs. JAC   Week 5: @LAC   Week 6: vs. TEN   Week 7: vs. KC   Week 8: @IND   Week 9: vs. CLE   Week 10: BYE   Week 11: @MIN   Week 12: @BUF   Week 13: vs. LAC   Week 14: @HOU   Week 15: @KC   Week 16: vs. DET   Week 17: vs. OAK

OAKLAND RAIDERS

KEY ADDITIONS: WR Antonio Brown, OT Trent Brown, WR Tyrell Williams, S LaMarcus Joyner, LB Vontaze Burfict

KEY DEPARTURES: TE Jared Cook, OT Donald Penn, RB Marshawn Lynch, S Reggie Nelson, WR Martavis Bryant, WR Seth Roberts

DRAFT: 1st round: DE Clelin Ferrell, Clemson   RB Josh Jacobs, Alabama   S Johnathan Abram, Mississippi State   2nd round: CB Trayvon Mullen, Clemson   4th round: DE Maxx Crosby, Eastern Michigan   CB Isaiah Johnson, Houston   TE Foster Moreau, LSU   5th round: WR Hunter Renfrow, Clemson   7th round: DE Quinton Bell, Prairie View

SUMMARY: I will have a feature upcoming about the Antonio Brown saga in Oakland so I’m not going to spend time discussing it here. Just know as of this morning, Brown is no longer a member of the Oakland Raiders.

Oakland went all in on free agency this season, splurging more than $150 million on tackle Trent Brown, receiver Tyrell Williams and safety LaMarcus Joyner. That is a ton of money to put into three players and it seems favorable that one if not all of those contracts age poorly.

As for season outlook, I can’t say I’ve seen anything to flip my stance. Three first rounders is nice but the likely misuse of those picks, especially Ferrell at four when he was projected much later, bothers me.

Carr was my 2016 MVP choice back when fourth-quarter comebacks were his daily supper but since that leg injury, he hasn’t found the same form. He’s been mediocre while soaking up a sizable portion of Oakland’s cap space. If the Raiders want to go anywhere before Vegas, he needs to get back on track. 19 touchdowns on a cap hit of $20+ the next three years isn’t going to cut it.

At the end of a bumpy road, Oakland is outmatched by better management and athletes in their own division. Improvement? Likely. Playoffs? Rather dim. A road schedule featuring Minnesota, Green Bay and Houston is just brutal.

Also, their defense was hot garbage last year and I haven’t seen enough improvements to think they’ll be a spring chicken now.

FANTASY PLAYER TO WATCH: WR Hunter Renfrow

I do not like putting high draft stock in rookies. With the exception of Saquon Barkley last year, most rookies going in early rounds struggle to meet expectations. Josh Jacobs is not an outstanding back prospect when compared to draftees in year’s past. Jacobs wasn’t a standout at Alabama. His usage rate will be high but in this case I’m concerned about the quality of that usage. With Antonio Brown’s departure, acquisition Tyrell Williams moves to the #1 spot. That’s not great for an offense who’s already thin at receiver. However, Renfrow was a standout slot receiver at Clemson and is now in position to move into that slot in Oakland. He’s going undrafted so there’s no need to take him in your draft but keep your eye on him.

SCHEDULE   PROJECTED RECORD: 6-10

Week 1: vs. DEN   Week 2: vs. KC   Week 3: @MIN   Week 4: @IND   Week 5: vs. CHI   Week 6: BYE   Week 7: @GB   Week 8: @HOU   Week 9: vs. DET   Week 10: vs. LAC   Week 11: vs. CIN   Week 12: @NYJ   Week 13: @KC   Week 14: vs. TEN   Week 15: vs. JAC   Week 16: @LAC   Week 17: @DEN

AFC NORTH   AFC EAST  AFC SOUTH   NFC NORTH  NFC WEST   NFC EAST   NFC SOUTH   Playoff Predictions   Preseason Power Rankings

 

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