Category Archives: Sports

The Tragic Tale of Tua

Alabama was losing a football game.

That sentence hadn’t been said often in recent history and certainly not during Nick Saban’s dominant tenure in Tuscaloosa: 12 straight 10-win seasons, eight SEC Championships, five National Championships and a record of 126-20. He had overseen the college careers of 54 NFL draft picks, including 17 first-rounders and accomplished all of this in ten years with the program. It was one of if not the premier example of excellence in college football.

But Alabama was losing.

Alabama didn’t lose. They weren’t supposed to lose but, on the game’s biggest stage, the National Championship game against Georgia, Alabama was losing and doing so decisively. Quarterback Jalen Hurts was caged like a lion at the zoo for the entirety of the first half. What could go wrong went wrong and like when the Patriots struggle, the internet and seemingly world at large was thrilled. It’s yet another reason why excellence is so hard to achieve. Few root for Zeus.

Coming out of the tunnel for the second half, Saban made one of the biggest decisions of his career: he benched his starting quarterback.

It was an unprecedented decision. This was a championship game. Teams don’t recycle signal callers often and never with trophies on the line. Hurts had been flawless until this game and yet, when the clock began to tick, it was Tua Tagovailoa, not Hurts, who entered the huddle.

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Tua was king of the world. Now, his future is in doubt.

Tagovailoa was a freshman, adding insult to injured pride. Prior to January 8, 2018, Tagovailoa was an unpronounceable unknown but from the first snap, it seemed destiny itself coursed through his arm. Georgia had a lead, they had time, they had the crowd on their side but the coliseum of sport is fickle. It knows a great story when it sees one.

Two hours later, everyone knew who Tua was. Alabama rallied from 13 down, forcing the game into overtime, where Tua punctuated the night thousands of kids across the country dream of.

His postgame interview, a creature salivating at the thought of a misstep, was flawless. A truth became evident: Tua was not a one-night show. Tua was going to be somebody.

Hurts would later transfer to Oklahoma while Tua climbed Heisman boards. #TankForTua became an acceptable approach. No one likes to see a tank but Tua was worth all the marbles. The public was all-in. Week after week, Tua was untouchable.

He was all but a certainty for the first overall pick, a selection that last year would have garnered him a $30 million contract, with tens of millions guaranteed at signing. Given the skillset, Tua was all but gifted the titles of franchise savior and contract extension.

And then, as has been the case in college sports many a time, it was taken away.

With two minutes to go in the first half of what was becoming a blowout against Mississippi State, Tagovailoa came onto the field for a final drive, two-minute drill prep for their next victim. Rolling left, Tagovailoa was crunched and did not get up. Medical scans would later confirm a posterior wall fracture and hip dislocation, not only ending his season but potentially his career. This was the same injury that tore down the immortal Bo Jackson.

The minute Tua went down, he lost millions of dollars, compensation Alabama nor the NCAA will ever repay him. There is a possibility his career is never the same and a strong chance his career ends prematurely.

It was another example of why college athletes need paid for their efforts. The NCAA is a billion-dollar industry but maintains its tax-exempt status by spending money fruitlessly, upgrading renovations just installed the previous year, implementing locker room makeovers and jersey alterations. This is all money the NCAA could not make without stars like Tua. No one watches college football because they want to see the NCAA. They watch it for the players. Those responsible for making the funds are not receiving their proper share of the pie.

The guise of an education is thinly-veiled fraud (Richard Sherman’s time at Stanford and his testimonials after say as much) and the NCAA often recovers parts of those funds back by imposing fines on those who already don’t have the funds to pay for admission.

Take the story of Chase Young, a defensive end prospect from Ohio State who is jockeying for the top spot Tua has left open for bidding.

While progressive states like California pass legislation governing collegiate athletics, states in the South resist. They’ve been a fan of free labor for a long time: maximize profits, marginalize the guy responsible for them. It’s not an approach created overnight and it’s therefore unlikely a solution appears tomorrow but as with most things, acknowledging there’s a problem is the first step. Athletes like Tua are not an anomaly. They’re a regularity.

It would be one thing if football was the only thing these athletes were providing but they’re sustaining a billion-dollar industry, creating thousands of jobs in media, sports medicine, concessions, travel, hospitality, sports management, coaching and analytics. Take the NCAA out of college football and college football lives on. Take the athlete out of college football and there’s no football. It’s very clear who needs who more.

While slavery metaphors have no place in this discussion (repeat: none), players like Tua are rewarded with so little that a prison labor analogy is wholly appropriate. As host John Oliver discussed on Last Week Tonight on HBO, prison labor often goes for pennies on the dollar, at 63 cents an hour on average, or 8.7 % of minimum wage. In this monopoly, a free ride to Alabama, a $60,000-a-year institution, is literal pennies on the dollar in actual worth and Tua has earned the NCAA more in the last year than potentially any other athlete or employee. Since Tua declared for the draft after this season, that would mean he was compensated $60,000 on a total profit share of $867,530,000 this past year. That’s .0069%.

That number is just from network and marketing profits. It’s also worth noting that March Madness historically makes a larger piece of the pie than college football but the fact remains: college football’s face was not properly compensated. Not even close.

As if to add insult to injury, less than a week after Tua’s injury, Alabama poured $92.5 million into stadium renovations, including new founders suites that sold for $5 million each. “This money could be yours and probably should be but you’re an amateur. *shrug emoji”

If the NCAA wants to continue to pander like a child, they have a right to do so. The world has the right to drag the screaming delinquent to the real world.

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Luck of the Draw: What’s in the Water in Pittsburgh?

Sunday, the 19th of January, brought a wide array of exciting moments in sports. Among them? American Patrick Kane became the 90th player to record 1,000 regular-season points, the San Francisco 49ers set franchise rushing records in a disembowelment of the Green Bay Packers and a man by the name of Mahomes brought Arrowhead to the sky. Those theatrics notwithstanding, the day’s biggest impression on me came from none of these teams and players but from a game earlier in the day: the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins.

For context, let’s go back a couple of scenes.

With the team locker room resembling a hospital at points this season, the Penguins came into the week prior leading the league in man games lost with 188 and as of Sunday’s match, had breached the 200 wall. Many notable names have spent time on Pittsburgh’s injury list this season, names including Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, Patric Hornqvist, Brian Dumoulin, Justin Schultz, Bryan Rust, Jake Guentzel and Nick Bjugstad.

So, a lot.

Despite a constantly evolving list of characters, the team hasn’t stagnated. In fact, it’s surged forward. During Crosby’s absence, the unit went 18-6-4. They had one of the more impressive records of December, going 9-2-1.

While a lesser talking point, the goaltending on the back end has been exceptional. With franchise goalie Matt Murray struggling after an initial strong start, coach Mike Sullivan turned to backup Tristan Jarry in mid-November. Jarry has been Vezina-worthy since in 20 games, recording a 2.10 goals-against-average and .929 save percentage. During that hot December, Jarry produced a 1.56 goals against average, .947 save percentage and three shutouts.

While Crosby has returned to doing what Crosby is known to do (he’s produced quite the highlight reel over the last few days), a notable misstep occurred in Boston the prior Thursday in which the Penguins were dispatched 4-1 (3-1 and an empty netter).

After the contest, coach Sullivan commented his team looked tired and lacked the jump in their game they usually have.

A rematch in Pittsburgh awaited them on Sunday and Matt Murray, who has heated up over his last few starts, was given the nod.

It did not start well.

Bruins center Patrice Bergeron would net the game’s first in 11 seconds.

Winger Anders Bjork would make it 2-0 less than two minutes later and star winger David Pastrnak, the league’s leader in goals, made it 3-0 with an assist from Penguins defenseman Jack Johnson, who shuffled the rubber into his own net.

Down 3-0, the game was all but over. No team in the NHL was more consistent with a three-goal lead than the Boston Bruins. Since the 2010-2011 season, the Bruins boasted a 200-1-6 record when leading by as much. Time for the next contest. Pittsburgh was and has always been capable of heroics, especially during Mike Sullivan’s tenure but 200-1-6 and a three-goal deficit? Unlikely seemed a kind term for the situation.

A little over a minute later, Sidney Crosby made a pass from behind the net to an open Dominik Simon, who netted one from along the goal line to cut the deficit to two.

As the period ended, the entire world seemed to have come to the same conclusion: pull Matt Murray. The analysts on NBCSN, most of if not all my media colleagues were calling for it and even I couldn’t come up with a good counterargument. The one man who wasn’t swayed? Mike Sullivan and, as per usual this season, Mike Sullivan was right again. Murray would pitch a shutout the rest of the contest.

Crosby would do Crosby things again in the second, tapping a no-look, behind-the-back pass to an open Teddy Blueger for the Penguins’ second goal horn. Pittsburgh carried play for most of the middle frame.

In the third, the Penguins would find themselves down two forwards. Wingers Dominik Kahun and Dominik Simon (bad time to be named Dominik) both went down with injury. Down a goal to one of the most complete teams in hockey and without their leading scorer (winger Jake Guentzel will likely miss the remainder of the season after shoulder surgery), Pittsburgh would have the added bonus of playing two men short on their bench.

Then the lethal Boston Bruins powerplay (third in the NHL at 26.6%) got an invitation to the ice after a Kris Letang elbow on Bruins winger Brad Marchand.

The Penguins’ luck was simply not good today.

Then the Penguins got a rush shorthanded and Jack Johnson (yes, that Jack Johnson) lumbered his way down the ice to gift the Penguins an odd-man opportunity, drilling a shot under the blocker of Bruins goalie Jaroslav Halak.

Now tied at three, Pittsburgh had a chance to do something quite historic here and if you’re wondering who was responsible for such a moment, well, I think you know.

He’s developed quite the reputation for making big plays in big moments, to the point I’ve started calling him “Mr. Clutch”.

He’s tied for 16th in the league for third-period goals and boasts an 18.7 shooting percentage this season, good for 12th in the NHL.

His name is Bryan Rust and Bryan Rust is a Pittsburgh Penguin.

In a goal eerily similar to the Crosby helper that started it all, Malkin won a puck from behind the net and threw it to a wide-open Rust near the bottom of the left circle for the lead-taking tally.

Boston attempted a rally of their own but were stonewalled by a Murray who has apparently recovered his form. In four games to start the new decade, including that Sunday’s, Murray has produced a 4-0 record with a 2.25 goals against average and .928 save percentage.

Pittsburgh continued its heroics after the All-Star break, displaying exquisite passing in an overtime win against rival Philly last night.

The Penguins have been given poor hand after porous hand all season at the table but keep putting together wins despite the odds. I don’t know what’s in the water in Pittsburgh but the Penguins should keep drinking. It’s working wonders for them.

Tim’s 2019 NFL Awards: Offensive Rookie of the Year

Welcome to the second annual NFL awards on this blog. Here’s to many more. We have a strong list of candidates for this year’s prizes after what has been a contentious, drama-filled and, at times, quizzical regular season. These nominees demonstrated the best their sport had to offer. We begin this year’s ceremony with the newcomers, the members who have burst onto the season as innovators and prodigies of the sport.

And the nominees are…

Terry McLaurin, WR, Washington Redskins

58 receptions for 919 yards, 15.8 ypr, 7 TDs

The Ohio State product was one of the year’s first breakout candidates. In his first five career games, McLaurin registered 23 receptions for 408 yards and 5 TDs. His numbers began to regress once quarterbacks started going in and out of the starting rotation in Washington but we’d seen a glimpse of what McLaurin was capable of in a rebuilding scenario. Imagine what he can do when the Redskins build a team around him.

Josh Jacobs, RB, Oakland Raiders

242 carries for 1,150 yards, 4.8 ypc, 7 TDs, 20 receptions for 166, 8.3 ypr, 1,316 yards from scrimmage

I always come clean when I’m wrong.

I did not like Jacobs’ tape out of Alabama. He didn’t have elite burst or eye-raising quickness nor did he possess overbearing strength. Jacobs was good at a lot of things but he didn’t seem particularly great at any one thing. I also found his limited reps in Tuscaloosa concerning.

This was one of the worst misses of my life. Jacobs started off with a bang, amassing 100 scrimmage yards and two touchdowns in the opener, the first player to do so since the great LaDainian Tomlinson in 2001. All Jacobs did through 2019 was force 69 missed tackles, the most by a rookie according to Pro Football Focus and become the focal point of a bruising Raiders rushing attack, amassing over 1,100 yards in 13 games. Had it not been for injuries, Jacobs might have battled for the rushing title. For the first time since Carr’s career year (earned my MVP vote that campaign), the Raiders looked like a legitimate football team and the drafting of a running back few had a strong first-round grade on made all the difference.

Kyler Murray, QB, Arizona Cardinals

349/542 for 3,722 yards, 64.4%, 6.9 ypa, 20 TDs, 12 INTs, 55.8 QBR, 93 carries for 544 yards, 5.8 ypc, 4 TDs

Kyler Murray came into a firesale situation. No one expected the Cardinals to be good this year and they weren’t but Kyler was. He had growing pains but a few times each Sunday, you’d see a play that demonstrated the talent valuation of a first-round pick.

Murray was a versatile athlete throughout the season, doing a young Russell Wilson impression much of the year as he did his best to squeak away from a constantly crumbling backfield. Kliff Kingsbury’s first year in Arizona was raw and certainly had some questionable decisions, including one of the league’s worst red-zone offenses and a ppg average of 22.6 (16th) but the Air Raid scheme itself has a storied track record of success. Even if Kliff turns out not to be the guy, Kyler certainly is.

A.J. Brown, WR, Tennessee Titans

52 receptions for 1,051 yards, 20.2 ypr, 8 TDs

Half of the gym rat duo from Ole Miss was one of 26 receivers to cap 1,000 yards this season. Brown also tied for eighth in 20+ yard receptions with 15 and finished sixth among receivers in yards after the catch (463).

It’s been quite a while since there was a dominant receiver in Nashville. The Titans have had one of the worst receiving corps in football over the last two decades. There are multiple years during this span none of their WRs finished top-50 (4!) The last WR to net 1000 for TEN was Kendall Wright in 2013 (also Nate Washington in 2011) but to find a Titans receiver who finished top-ten in yardage, you have to turn the clocks all the way back to 2004. Derrick Mason finished 15th with 1,168 yards that season but it was Drew Bennett (there’s a forgotten name) who finished in the top-ten, totaling 1,247. The quarterback that year? A duo of Steve McNair and Billy Volek.)

The Titans, finally, might have found their guy. Now, about that quarterback…

Gardner Minshew, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars

285/470 for 3,271 yards, 60.6%, 7.0 ypa, 21 TDs, 6 INTs, 42.6 QBR, 67 carries for 344, 5.1 ypc, 12 fumbles

Speaking of the Air Raid, Gardner Minshew played quarterback at Washington State where Air Raid figurehead Mike Leach called home. Minshew, under Leach’s guidance, took the program to a 10-2 regular season mark, tying a school record.

At the beginning of the season, QB Nick Foles goes down with a broken collarbone in his first start after signing a contract to be the franchise quarterback and sixth-round selection Minshew is thrust into the spotlight.

To say Minshew handled the pressure well would be an understatement.

Minshew would start with a 9/1 TD/INT split and end the year with a 21/6 ratio. The Jaguars developed an air attack for the first time since I don’t even know.

(Blake Bortles actually threw for over 4400 yards and 35 TDs in 2015, albeit 18 INTs. Before that? It’s been a while. You have to wade through the Chad Henne and Blaine Gabbert years to 2008 when David Garrard threw for 3,620 yards but he also only threw 15 TDs to 13 INTs. The year before that though, in 2007? 18/3.)

Minshew Mania took over the sports world for a few weeks. Minshew’s play did take a noticeable dip in the second half of the season (He lost 12 (!) fumbles) but between Minshew and receivers D.J. Chark, Chris Conley and Dede Westbrook, the Jaguars looked like an offense no longer playing with a handicap.

And the Oscar goes to…

Josh Jacobs, RB, Oakland Raiders

A few years ago, Josh Jacobs, his siblings and father were homeless. Now look where is he. In addition to a year that deserves recognition, Jacobs’ journey deserves applause as well.

I still have questions regarding his long speed and ability to accelerate but Jacobs displayed deceptive quickness and rock-like strength this year. He is by far the team’s most valuable player going forward. Where the Jacobs’ train goes, the now Las Vegas Raiders go.

Previous winners:

2018: Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants

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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.


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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