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2017-2018 NFL Preview: AFC West

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

GET: DT Bennie Logan, LB Kevin Pierre-Louis

LOSE: RB Jamaal Charles, WR Jeremy Maclin, DT Dontari Poe, LB D.J. Alexander

RE-SIGNS: S Eric Berry, G Laurent Duvernay-Tardif

DRAFT: 1st round: QB Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech     2nd round: DE Tanoh Kpassagnon, Villanova    3rd round: RB Kareem Hunt, Toledo     4th round: WR Jehu Chesson, Michigan     5th round: LB Ukeme Eligwe, Georgia Southern     6th round: S Leon McQuay III, USC

SUMMARY: The Kansas City Chiefs have surprised me each year for a little while now because on paper, they’re simply not explosive on the offensive side of the ball. For a few years, Jamaal Charles was their only playmaker and the offense was fully reliant on both his health and execution. Last year, Kansas City really impressed me because they showed they could function with the ball without Charles. Spencer Ware finished with 921 yards last year, good for 16th, ahead of Todd Gurley, and carried a 4.3 clip (also 16th), better than names like David Johnson, Latavius Murray, Lamar Miller and Melvin Gordon.

Spencer Ware will miss 2017 with a torn PCL, which puts added pressure on third-round selection Kareem Hunt out of Toledo to serve as a backfield cornerstone. He looked pretty good against New England on Thursday, but that type of production, as Jamaal Charles found out, is taxing on one’s body and very hard to duplicate with regularity.

Alex Smith also played perhaps the best game of his career on Thursday, showcasing he can be more than a game manager. He can actually play a part in changing momentum and making key throws. Tyreek Hill last year was a wild card, but looked like a talented receiver in Week 1. The receiving core isn’t deep, but as long as the offense can perform with some continuity, Kansas City should continue to own the rights to a playoff spot. They were 20th in passing last year and 15th in the ground game, but a 24.3 ppg rate will lead to victories when your defense gives up 19.4 per game (7th). They gave up a lot of yards last year (20th), but total yardage is not always an indicator of a defense’s true potential. Kansas City led the league in turnover differential last year with a +16. Turnover differential is a number that fluctuates year to year and is nearly impossible to repeat, but one way to keep it positive is by increasing their pressure rate. Kansas City had 28 sacks last year, ahead of only the Jets, Browns, Lions and Raiders.

The Chiefs personnel on defense is stout and will keep the team in games. Marcus Peters is likely the best young corner soon to be on the market. Eric Berry’s season-ending Achilles injury will hurt, but Kansas City looks poised for another playoff run.

Tyreek Hill could be a capable fantasy asset as could Kareem Hunt, but I’m unwilling to take on that gamble. Kansas City defense, sign me up.

SCHEDULE     PROJECTED RECORD: 11-5

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

OAKLAND RAIDERS

GET: RB Marshawn Lynch, TE Jared Cook, OL Marshall Newhouse, QB EJ Manuel, LB Jelani Jenkins, LB IK Enemkpali, WR Cordarrelle Patterson

LOSE: RB Latavius Murray, DT Dan Williams, OT Austin Howard, QB Matt McGloin, CB D.J. Hayden, LB Perry Riley, LB Malcolm Smith, OT Menelik Watson

RE-SIGNS: QB Derek Carr, G Gabe Jackson, WR Seth Roberts

DRAFT: 1st round: CB Gareon Conley, Ohio State     2nd round: S Obi Melifonwu, Connecticut     3rd round: DT Eddie Vanderdoes, UCLA     4th round: G David Sharpe, Florida     5th round: LB Marquel Lee, Wake Forest     7th round: S Shalom Luani, Washington State     OT Jylan Ware, Alabama State     RB Elijah Hood, North Carolina     DT Treyvon Hester, Toledo

SUMMARY: There were three true MVP candidates last year: Matt Ryan, Tom Brady and Derek Carr. He threw for 3,937 yards, led his team to multiple comebacks over the course of the season and was by far the team’s best player. His team’s championship hopes were shot the minute his leg broke.

Carr has the chance for even better numbers this year behind one of the best offensive lines in football and with Marshawn Lynch taking additional pressure off of the young quarterback. General manager Reggie McKenzie has given his young quarterback one of the strongest supporting casts in professional football so any failings Carr encounters, in most cases, are his own doing. The team lives and dies on the shoulders of the 26-year-old, which is why he was given such an enormous contract so early in his career. I expect the Raiders passing attack (13th in 2016) to receive a nice boost with another year of experience under Carr’s belt. A sixth-ranked rushing attack will likely regress, but not enough to be a problem. If the Raiders can mimic their 26.0 points per game from last season, they will see the promise land of playoff football. They, and the Steelers, seem to be the only teams with enough talent to beat the almighty New England Patriots in a playoff game.

The defense of Oakland, on the other hand, is poor. There is only one defensive category that they were good in: turnover differential. They tied Kansas City with a +16, but as I already mentioned, it’s a sporadic number that is based on skill, luck and schedule, and not in even portions.

In more important categories, Oakland was one of seven teams to allow over 6,000 yards of offense (New Orleans, Washington, Miami, Indianapolis, Cleveland, San Francisco.) Coincidentally, none of those teams are likely to make the playoffs this year and Oakland needs to change their setup if they don’t want to join the club (24th pass, 23rd rush, 24.1 ppg (20th)). They must improve from a league-worst 18 sacks last year. They also have a strong enough corner group (David Amerson, TJ Carrie, Sean Smith, Gareon Conley) to outpace 60 passes defended, a stat from last year.

Khalil Mack is sure to terrorize opposing quarterbacks, but there needs to be more of a team impact on the defensive side of the ball. The Raiders are also starting rookies Eddie Vanderdoes at defensive tackle and Marquel Lee at middle linebacker.  This won’t be a strong unit. It just needs to be a better one by the end of the season.

Derek Carr is a top-five quarterback for me this year and Amari Cooper, Marshawn Lynch and Michael Crabtree are also great selections in fantasy.

SCHEDULE     PROJECTED RECORD:10-6

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

DENVER BRONCOS

GET: RB Jamaal Charles, G Ronald Leary, OT Menelik Watson, NT Domata Peko, QB Brock Osweiler, OT Menelik Watson, G Allen Barbre

LOSE: LB DeMarcus Ware, S T.J. Ward, LB Danny Trevathan, OT Russell Okung, NT Sylvester Williams, OT Ty Sambrailo, G Michael Schofield, RB Stevan Ridley, WR Marlon Brown, OL Michael Schofield, RB Juwan Thompson

RE-SIGNS: F

DRAFT: 1st round: OT Garett Bolles, Utah     2nd round: DE DeMarcus Walker, Florida State     3rd round: WR Carlos Henderson, Louisiana Tech     CB Brendan Langley, Lamar     5th round: TE Jake Butt, Michigan     WR Isaiah McKenzie, Georgia     6th round: RB De’Angelo Henderson, Coastal Carolina     7th round: QB Chad Kelly, Ole Miss

SUMMARY: The Denver Broncos have new faces at the linebacker spots including Shaquil Barrett and Todd Davis, along with second-year safety Justin Simmons taking the spot of hard hitter T.J. Ward. They also lost Wade Phillips, one of the best defensive coordinators in the NFL, along with coach Gary Kubiak, who called it a career. In comes Vance Joseph, former DC for the Miami Dolphins. Step one: choose a quarterback and for week one, Joseph has chosen to stick with Trevor Siemian, a short-term solution until someone better comes along. Paxton Lynch has progressed little since being drafted, leaving Siemian, who performed admirably last year (3,401 yards, 18/10 TD/INT, 84.6 passer rating) for a seventh-rounder. With receivers like Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders flanking you, Siemian needs to do his best Alex Smith impression for the entirety of 2017 if he wants his team to have a chance. Denver and Kansas City are constructed the same way and will find success in the same manner.

The Broncos offensive line needs to be better this year after allowing 42 sacks (third-worst) and dragging a 27th-ranked ground attack through the mud. Jamaal Charles may very well get one last hoorah in Denver and by mid-season, could own the starting role if C.J. Anderson can’t get the wheels turning.

Conversely, Denver got run over last year (28th, 130.3 ypg), a stat that must change in a ground-and-pound division. If they sure up up front, Denver will be nearly unstoppable. They were first against the pass with the best corner duo in football (Aqib Talib, Chris Harris Jr.) and their 18.6 points per game was fourth-best. They have the tools to contend for a second wild-card spot. I’m just not sure it happens.

The Denver defense is the top pick from this squad for fantasy football. Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders should be given WR2 consideration. If Jamaal Charles is available near the end of your draft, I believe he’s worth a selection.

SCHEDULE     PROJECTED RECORD:8-8

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

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

GET: OT Russell Okung, QB Cardale Jones, G Michael Schofield, LB Korey Toomer, S Tre Boston

LOSE: OT King Dunlap, G Orlando Franklin, G D.J. Fluker, LB Manti Te’o, K Josh Lambo, QB Kellen Clemens, RB Kenjon Barner, TE Jeff Cumberland

RE-SIGNS: S Jahleel Addae, RB Brandon Oliver

DRAFT: 1st round: WR Mike Williams, Clemson     2nd round: G Forrest Lamp, Western Kentucky     3rd round: G Dan Feeney, Indiana     4th round: S Rayshawn Jenkins, Miami     5th round: CB Desmond King, Iowa     6th round: OT Sam Tevi, Utah     7th round: DE Isaac Rochell, Notre Dame

SUMMARY: San Diego is no more. The Chargers are now onto Los Angeles and are likely the lesser of the two LA-based teams this fall. The Bolts carry a strong defensive line featuring Ohio State product Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram (combined 18.5 sacks), but they’re weak at the linebacker spot after the anchor of the unit, Manti Te’0, left for New Orleans. Kyle Toomer, fresh from Oakland, and Kyle Emmanuel are young players who’ve yet to make an impact on the field and Jatavis Brown has done only slightly more than those two. I expect San Diego to fall drastically in the run defense column (10th last year at 97.9) and their points against is unlikely to make a notable improvement from the 26.4 they allowed last year (29th). Casey Hayward and Jason Verrett are capable corners, but Verrett begins the year on the PUP list, which spells bad news for Los Angeles, San Diego edition.

Philip Rivers has top target Keenan Allen back, but for who knows how long given his injury history. Rivers has slowly become one of the better quarterbacks remaining in the league and has aged well, but at 35 is the only player keeping this team above water. He’s done much with little and it’s a shame he couldn’t have been this player about ten years ago during the LaDainian Tomlinson years. He would likely have a ring. Instead, Rivers is likely to end his career without reaching the playoffs again. When his inevitable retirement occurs, this team will find itself stranded at the bottom of the AFC.

Melvin Gordon should break the 1,000 yard mark after falling three yards short last year, but is unlikely to have double-digit touchdowns for the second straight year. All in all, the AFC West, the strongest division in the AFC, is just too strong for Los Angeles.

Rivers has the strongest fantasy upside for the Bolts and Gordon is a RB2.

SCHEDULE     PROJECTED RECORD:6-10

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

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Tim Sports Report for 2014 NFL Week 7

Top 5

1. QB Peyton Manning 22/26 for 318 yards, 4 TDs, 157.2 QBR vs. SF

Breaks Favre’s 508 TD record

2. QB Russell Wilson 23/36 for 313 yards, 2 TDs, 110.1 QBR, 7 carries for 106 yards, TD vs. STL

First player to throw for over 300 yards and run for 100 yards in the same game

3. Steelers score 24 points in 2:54 (21 in 1:13) in second quarter vs. HOU

4. WR Demaryius Thomas 8 receptions for 171 yards, 2 TDs vs. SF

5. RB Le’Veon Bell 12 carries for 57 yards, 8 receptions for 88 yards, TD vs. HOU

Sets Steelers record for most yards from scrimmage in player’s first two seasons.

Worst of the Worst

1. Bengals shutout vs. Colts, 0-2-1 and outscored in 107-54 in last three games.

1/13 on third down, 54 plays for 135 yards (2.5 ypp) 10 3-and-outs, punted franchise-record 11 times

2. Seahawks lose to third string QB, third string RB and second string RB tops receptions in Rams win.

3. QB Brian Hoyer 16/41 for 215 yards, INT, Fmb, 46.3 QBR vs. JAC

4. QB Blake Bortles 17/31 for 159 yards, TD, 3 INTs, 40.3 QBR vs. CLE

5. Bills lose Spiller, Jackson to injury

Steelers Recap

I went to the Steelers game on Monday and it started the way I feared it might, with Arian Foster gouging the Steelers defense with 102 yards in the first quarter and the Texans jumping to a 13-0 with 7:16 remaining in the second quarter. The Steelers looked pretty bad, but as I noted to one of my friends in the stands, all the Steelers needed was a big play: a sack, a big run, anything to give the Burgh some momentum. After a Suisham field goal and a Texan 3-and-out, Roethlisberger escaped a sack and screened it to Bell, who ran for a 43-yard gain. The very next play, Big Ben found their fourth-round pick, WR Martavis Bryant, in the end zone for his first touchdown of the season. The ensuing kickoff was bobbled by the Texan returner and left the Houston with poor field goal position. On the second play, Foster fumbled the ball and Antonio Brown threw, yes, threw, a touchdown pass to Lance Moore. The next Houston offensive possession, a deflected pass wound up in the hands of Brett Keisel and RB Le’Veon Bell scored on the next play.

It was a demonstration of how deadly the Steelers can be if they execute. The last three minutes of the second quarter was some of the best Steelers’ football I’ve seen in a while. Despite how well they played, they face the second-best team in the league right now, the Indianapolis Colts. Got to side with Luck on this one.

Game of the Week: Eagles @ Cardinals

Both teams are 5-1 and with the Cowboys on a hot streak, the Eagles have to keep pace if they want to win the division. The Cardinals have a good defense but their pass defense has been one of the worst in the league, a huge surprise for many. Going to take the pass-heavy Eagles.

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Tim Sports Report for 2014 NFL Week 5

Top 5

1. Patriots dominate the Bengals 43-17 and Tom Brady surpasses 50,000 yards. The Patriots outgained the Bengals 505-320 in total yards, 220 of those on the ground. New England also allowed zero third down conversions the whole game. A superb performance just one week after their 41-14 loss to Kansas City sparked criticism.

2. Browns rally from 25-point deficit to stun Titans at home. It was the largest comeback in league history by a road team.

3. WR Demaryius Thomas 8 receptions for 226 yards (franchise record), 2 TDs vs. ARI

4. Broncos’ record-setting game. The Broncos had their best offensive output in franchise history (568 yards) against two of the best cornerbacks in the game, Patrick Peterson and Antonio Cromartie. Peyton Manning set a career-high with 479 yards and threw his 500th touchdown pass, joining Brett Favre in the elite club. Finally, Wes Welker’s seven receptions moved him past Rod Smith for the most catches by an undrafted player (854).

5. RB Arian Foster 23 carries for 157 yards, 2 TDs vs. DAL

Worst of the Worst

1. Jets obliterated by the Chargers 31-0. QB Geno Smith was benched at halftime. New York didn’t make it past the 50-yard line until 7:35 left in the fourth quarter, which was only thanks to a 33-yard pass interference call. They had only four first downs through three quarters. At the game’s conclusion, the Jets had run 54 plays for 151 total yards (2.8 yards per play), committed 12 penalties for 94 yards and two turnovers, and gone 1/12 on third down.

2. Bears blow 14-point lead, commit four second half turnovers in loss to Carolina. The Bears have been outscored 34-3 in the second half the last two weeks.

3. QB Christian Ponder 22/44 for 222 yards, 2 INTs, 6 sacks, 95.8 QBR vs. GB

4. QB Drew Brees 35/57 for 371 yards, 2 TDs, 3 INTs, 70.1 QBR vs. TB

5. Someone shoots laser pointer in Bills’ field goal holder’s eyes during field goal try. Come on, man!

Steelers Recap

The Steelers beat Jacksonville 17-9, a score that was much closer than it should have been. A late interception for a touchdown solidified the win, but the fact the win needed to be solidified in the fourth quarter is not encouraging. Props to ESPN for trying to give the Steelers more credit than they deserved.

As the recap says, “Pittsburgh’s defense looked somewhat suspect in the first four games, giving up 350 yards and 25 points a game.”

That sounds a lot more than suspect to me. Sounds like criminal negligence.

“The Jaguars finished with 243 yards and were 3 of 12 on third-down conversions.”

When you’re complimenting a team’s defense for throttling the Jaguars, you know you’re desperate for results.

“Jacksonville’s defensive effort was more surprising. The Jaguars had been gouged in every game this season, giving up an average of 451 yards and 38 points in the first four weeks.”

I don’t like stats that average things because it doesn’t account for outlier performances. Jacksonville forced three first half turnovers and led 17-0 at halftime against the Eagles in week one. I would also mention that the Jaguars had the misfortune of playing Indianapolis and San Diego in back-to-back weeks, two prolific pass offenses.

What all that comes down to is that the Steelers are trending down and need a decisive win. In Cleveland, they’ll have the opportunity. Let’s go Steelers.

Game of the Week: Cowboys @ Seahawks

I hate picking the same teams each week for Game of the Week, but the Cowboys-Seahawks matchup looks like the game to watch in week 6, with the Packers @ Dolphins matchup being a close second. I’ve got a lot of upsets picked this week, including the Dolphins, the Bills at home vs. the Patriots, the Jaguars on the road against Tennessee, the Bears in Atlanta, and the Redskins in Arizona. Not in that list? The Cowboys in Seattle. Tony Romo is overrated and as good as DeMarco Murray is, I think this is the week he struggles.

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Tim Sports Report for 2013 NFL Week 10

Top 5

1. Saints set record for most first downs in a game (40), hold Cowboys to 0/9 on third down and 193 total yards, get 625 themselves including 245 rushing vs. DAL

2. WR Tavon Austin 2 receptions for 138 yards, 2 TDs and a punt return touchdown vs. IND

3. CIN LB Vincent Rey 15 tackles, 10 solo, 3 sacks and an interception vs. BAL

4. QB Drew Brees 34/41 for 392 yards, 4 TDs, 139.0 QBR vs. DAL

5. WR Demaryius Thomas 7 receptions for 108 yards, 3 TDs vs. SD

Worst of the Worst

1. Colts go 2/12 on third down, commit five turnovers, get 18 yards rushing, and allow two defensive/special teams TDs vs. STL

2. Ravens S James Ihedigbo tips hail mary ball to A.J. Green for last second TD to force overtime

3. Dolphins get two yards rushing vs. TB

4. QB Colin Kaepernick 11/22 for 91 yards, INT, six sacks, 42.0 QBR vs. CAR

5. QB Tony Romo 10/24 for 128 yards, TD, 72.9 QBR vs. NO

Steelers Recap

The Steelers beat the Buffalo Bills this past Sunday  23-10. The Burgh held the Bills to 95 yards rushing on the game, limiting the tandem of Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller to 78 yards. Pittsburgh held Buffalo to 3/14 on third down and went 8/17 themselves. However, the team was 2/5 in the redzone, which kept the Bills in the game when it easily could have been 35-10. The Steelers face the Lions this upcoming Sunday, a team that leads the NFC North at 6-3. One of the best quarterback-wide receiver tandems in football in Stafford and Megatron will give the Steelers secondary plenty of work. Reggie Bush is a more than capable runningback and I just don’t see how the Steelers can win this game and that’s without mentioning the matchup of the stellar Lions D-line against the patch-worked Steelers O-line.

Game of the Week: Patriots @ Panthers

Last week, I picked the Cowboys and Saints as the game of the week but the game was overshadowed by the defensive showdown between the Panthers and 49ers. The Panthers went on to win the game and they’re on a five-game winning streak. This Monday Night matchup will show if the Panthers are playoff-bound or not. I’m not sure who to pick in this one yet. It could go either way.

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