Week 3 Primer (2014-2015)

JJ WattJJ Watt is primed! Your turn!

Week 3 Picks

Buffalo 27 – San Diego 20

A long trip across the country to a city that is suddenly hostile territory…disadvantage: San Diego. While the Chargers have proven themselves capable, and not everyone is buying the Bills’ fast 2-0 start, I think the travel time and atmosphere in Buffalo will be the tipping points in this close matchup.

Cincinnati 30 – Tennessee 7

There isn’t a defense in the league playing better than the one in Cincinnati so far this year, and the Titans just don’t have the firepower to do anything about it. Meanwhile, a balanced offensive attack will continue to pay dividends for a Bengals team who looks to maybe, just maaaybe…taking the next step.

Cleveland 23 – Baltimore 16

Three divisional games to start the season is rough, almost too rough. While the Ravens have broken even throughout the first two, they now head into Cleveland for their third. The Browns have been tough so far, and if they put up the same fight in this game, I don’t think Baltimore will match it.

Green Bay 34 – Detroit 31

Games that smell like shootouts, look like shootouts, are as often not as they turn out to be as they appear. This game, however, I’m willing to bet on being a high-scoring affair. If the Packers want to maintain course in a crowded NFC North, these are the games they must find a way to win; road divisional matchups. I think they can, but that has more to do with the inability of the Lions in closing out tough games.

Indianapolis 34 – Jacksonville 24

Now we’re beginning to see how borderline the Colts really are. Andrew Luck can work miracles, but this team is going to struggle going forward if they can’t find balance across the lines and defensive playmakers. Still, the Jaguars should be a good rebound for the more talented Colts.

New England 38 – Oakland 13

Raiders fans will reminisce on happy memories of the Tuck Rule game because, hell, at least they were competitive back then. Dennis Allen is on his way out in Oakland, and whoever comes in is going to inherit a mess.

New Orleans 35 – Minnesota 23

For the 0-2 Saints, a home game is looking to be just what the doctor ordered to salvage their season before it slips away. For the Vikings, they just have to hold on and hope Matt Cassel can limit the four-turnover mistakes he made last week. Or, maybe they don’t have such hopes, and want rookie Teddy Bridgewater out on the field ASAP. This game could be the catalyst for such a change.

Houston 28 – New York 10

The Texans are playing smart football so far, running the ball and holding strong on defense. This formula will work against the lesser teams in the league. Teams like the Giants.

Philadelphia 24 – Washington 23

Nobody is paying much attention to how well the Redskins have been playing defense so far, but the Eagles will get a course in it this week. Granted, Philly could easily add 10 points to my projected score just by giving Darren Sproles a few more touches, but I like this one being close all the way to the end. I just don’t think Washington is ready to win this sort of game.

St. Louis 23 – Dallas 17

DeMarco Murray will see his numbers increase steadily this week, but the Cowboys’ offense could be rendered one-dimensional with the Rams’ pass rush and a handful of turnovers courtesy of Tony Romo. Given 3rd string QB Austin Davis’ successes against a decent defense last week, I think he’s more than capable of beating what Dallas will line up in front of him.

San Fransisco 31 – Arizona 24

This is a statement game in the NFC West. While the Cardinals have overcome a wide variety of adversity (off-field issues, injuries, etc) to start strong at 2-0, the 49ers have been definitively inconsistent at 1-1. I’m putting my money on the team with the better track record of recent successes, but this one is going to be a battle and worth watching.

Miami 30 – Kansas City 20

I think Knile Davis, in place of Jamaal Charles, is going to have some success in Miami this week. I don’t think, however, that Alex Smith will. As Kansas City continues to deteriorate, the Dolphins can bounce back with a strong home showing after losing in all phases against a divisional foe last week.

Seattle 34 – Denver 28

A lot of people have been talking about this game. Not sure why. Superbowl rematch or some such hullabaloo. All jokes aside, the Seahawks are the better team right now, so I’m picking them. It’s as simple as that. If Peyton Manning manages to find his groove against the defense that borrowed it for four quarters back in February, it could go the other way. I think the real key here is how much more explosive Seattle’s offense is becoming, and how the Broncos much-talked-about revamped defense isn’t quite ready to keep up.

Carolina 27 – Pittsburgh 9

The Panthers are looking very strong after two games. The Steelers, not so much. In Carolina, on Sunday Night, the Panthers will show up looking to make a statement. Lately, when they do this, the results are in their favor.

New York 24 – Chicago 21

I don’t like all the injuries the Bears are accumulating. This is the blood in the water that the Jets can and, I think, will use to their advantage on Monday Night. Remember, they (the Jets) were a confusing timeout away from possibly upsetting the Packers last week. So long as Rex Ryan and his sideline don’t step on their own feet, they have as good a chance to upset the Bears.

(That wasn’t a Rex Ryan-likes-feet pun. At least, it wasn’t intended to be. Was it?)

Fantasy Start’Em/Sit’Em

Start ’em

Geno Smith, QB, New York Jets
Ryan Tannehill, QB, Miami Dolphins
DeAngelo Williams, RB, Carolina Panthers (Or Johnathan Stewart, flip a coin)
Khiry Robinson, RB, New Orleans SaintsMike Wallace, WR, Miami Dolphiins
Julian Edelman, WR, New England Patriots
Marcedes Lewis, TE, Jacksonville Jaguars
Martellus Bennett, TE, Chicago Bears
Caleb Sturgis, K, Miami Dolphins
New England Patriots D/ST

Sit ‘Em

Tony Romo, QB, Dallas Cowboys
Jay Cutler, QB, Chicago Bears
Trent Richardson, RB, Indianapolis Colts
Andre Ellington, RB, Arizona Cardinals
Keenan Allen, WR, San Diego Chargers
Victor Cruz, WR, New York Giants
Charles Clay, TE, Miami Dolphins
Heath Miller, TE, Pittsburgh Steelers
Cody Parkey, K, Philadelphia Eagles
Seattle Seahawks D/ST

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TMD-B

The “R” in RG3 now stands for Rubber Legs. Rubber Legs Gimp the Third.

No Fins No!

As you may have seen in my primer, I predicted this loss, but I certainly didn’t predict the ineptitude of the Dolphins. We showed up like a high school team whose best players were sleeping on the bus. The injury to Knowshon Moreno? Just mixing that with the insult of a pathetic showing. This team has, after two weeks, looked exactly like their 2013 version: capable of beating anyone, capable of beating themselves just as often.

Ambulance!

The early games on Sunday looked like a fast-paced run through a hospital ward. Griffin’s gumby-legged pogo jump that dislocated his ankle, while certainly disappointing for Redskins’ fans and Griffin himself, was hilarious. Watching Moreno’s elbow dislocate wasn’t funny. Desean Jackson’s shoulder is now located somewhere near his esophagus.

Then the injuries continued.

A.J. Green stubbed his toe on his other toe, or something. Jamaal Charles’ high ankle sprain is the latest in a series of injuries that, if I had to venture a guess, have come due to the Football Gods decreeing last year’s Chiefs to have been too big for their britches.

What are britches?

Anyway, there were a lot of high-profile players wearing braces, walking boots, Ace bandages, ice packs, toe slings and riding golf carts. But that didn’t get in the way of some good football…

Why Should I Care About Johnny Manziel? Why Shouldn’t I Care About Kirk Cousins?

Honestly, folks. Let’s start with number one:

Manziel, the offseason equivalent of a Paris Hilton sex tape (back when she didn’t have a collection of them), was put into a close game against one of the best teams in the NFL (not that their record shows it so far, but still, they’re good) for no apparent reason. Comments from coaches and starting QB Brian Hoyer lead you to believe that the team has such packages in place “in case they’re needed”. Why, Cleveland, did you deem it “needed” to put in your rookie, backup QB for a few plays when the balance of a pivotal game had yet to be decided? Even if Johnny-College-Football made something happen (which he didn’t, handing off twice and throwing a short and very poorly timed pass before riding the pine again), you’re essentially asking for a mistake. That the Browns managed to win, on the quick eyes of Hoyer and a well designed pass play, might be a sign that the aforementioned Football Gods are done with their childish bullying of Cleveland.

At least for one week.

Now, on to Cousins. The Redskins’ offense, with Rubber Legs Gimp, is a stagnant, uncoordinated thing. He’s still playing scared or at the very least tentative about his prior injuries, and now you’re adding another leg issue to the mix. Right now, especially after seeing the results the Kirk Cousins-led offense had (Jaguars comments notwithstanding), I have to say that Captain Kirk is the man for the job. Whether or not Rubber Legs is healthy.

Also, can someone please remind the offensive coaches that they have one of the best and most durable running backs in the league on their roster? You know, in case they forget again in the future? Maybe stick a post-it to Rubber Legs’ helmet.

These Games Showed Me Things…

The Ravens went from lost to found quicker than the eye could really process, but I have to remember that Joe Flacco looks pretty damn good at home. The whole team does; but they need to improve their overall consistency. Such a key word in football, consistency. No wonder I use it so much.

Pittsburgh will still be trouble.

The Panthers just won back-to-back games I didn’t think they had it in them to win. I won’t be underestimating them anymore, but that doesn’t mean I think they’re a great team. Close enough, though. Close enough.

And with the Saints sitting at 0-2, the Falcons unable to beat a good defense and the Buccaneers not realizing the preseason is over, Carolina has a fast track to the division title.

Cincinnati would look to be the team to beat in the AFC North. They are, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the rest of the division manages to beat them at least once this year. Still, awesome job shutting down Matty Ice and the Falcons.

No amount of Adrian Petersons saves the Vikings from the wroth of a 0-1 Patriots team. Well, maybe 53 of them might have, but cloning isn’t legal. Yet.

53 Adrian Petersons. Hide yo kids…

…I’m kidding. Leave Adrian alone.

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The Chargers beat the Seahawks. Doesn’t Richard Sherman owe a team a steak dinner or a bunch of medals or something? Oh, and let’s stop this “Sherman was exposed” nonsense, shall we? He’s not good enough to be talked about in such ways. Good, damn good, but his mouth is what you’re all attacking. Have the common sense to say so, hmm?

How about them Chargers, though? Antonio Gates, father time is on vacation.

The Broncos are concerning me. They let a dying Chiefs team stay in the game. These aren’t the world-beaters we saw last year.

Wes Welker will be back soon, though. Oh my.

Too many pundits have been claiming the Packers as one of the best teams in the league. They’re not. Not even close. But they can be. They just need to, you know, win games more convincingly. A win is a win is a win, but the Jets were rolling over the Pack for much of the game. Too-smart-to-be-wrong ‘experts’ need to lower the Packers in their power ranking. Just a little bit.

What the hell happened in San Fransisco? I watched it, but I’m still not sure. Is Brandon Marshall just that good? Yeah, he is. But the Bears defense? That isn’t supposed to happen, is it?

The Colts were robbed, but they still look suspect, giving the slow-start Eagles a chance to lift off in the second half. Chip Kelly is starting to look like the NFC’s version of Bill Belichick, with savvy halftime adjustments and instilling the will to win in his players. It’s impressive, without a doubt. Imagine what they’re going to look like when they start playing four quarters…

Weekly Awards

QB Of The Week: Philip Rivers. Legion of Boom? Meet the Boomstick.

RB Of The Week: Darren Sproles. When LeSean McCoy says he’s been the 2nd best back on his team this year, you look at the other guy and you say, “you must be good”. Sproles is more than good, and he just showed that last night.

WR Of The Week: Sammy Watkins, welcome to the NFL. You’re going to be one of the best. Antonio Gates, keep on keeping on, old-timer.

Offensive Line Of The Week: Chicago Bears. Give Cutler time, and he will prosper. Good showing also by the Chargers and Browns. This one can easily be split three ways.

Defensive Performance Of The Week: The Lions were one Jed Collins’ broken tackle from possibly being shut out. That doesn’t happen. None of it, not even Jed Collins catching the team’s only touchdown. Who is Jed Collins? Doesn’t matter. Props to the Panthers defense, who might actually be better than they were in 2013. Scary stuff.

Goat Of The Week: Richard Sherman. He really didn’t give up much at all, but when your mouth writes checks…you know the rest. Dude needs to be publicly humble every so often. His behavior after this game was not an example of such.

Coaching Performance Of The Week: It would be easy to give this to Mike McCoy. So easy, in fact, that I’m giving it to him. He figured out the Superbowl champs and put his team in position to do the rest. But, kudos to Doug Marrone (Buffalo) for sitting at 2-0 and beating two good teams in the process.

What’s Next

I know the Dolphins can beat these Chiefs. I know it. But will they? Oh, will they? Somebody say yes.

The Redskins found their stride against the team everyone finds their stride against, but will that stride match the Eagles’? I doubt it, but it should be fun to watch either way.

I know they just got blown up, but the Vikings-Saints matchup has intrigue written all over it. Peterson will most likely be playing, and if Cassel can avoid throwing four more interceptions…well, the Saints haven’t beaten anyone yet.

Ravens-Browns. Packers-Lions. San Fransisco-Arizona. Divisional fun. These games will be close ones, and worth keeping an eye on constantly.

Oh, I heard the Seahawks are playing the Broncos, too. I think it’s a rematch of last year’s Superbowl or something. Should be decent.

riversface

Week Two Primer (2014-2015)

Cameron WakeCameron Wake is primed. Your turn!

As average as it gets for yours truly in week one action, I now sit at 8-8 on the year so far. Time to rub the crystal ball with a little more conviction…

Week One Picks

Buffalo 27 – Miami 23

This has been a rough matchup for Miami in recent years, regardless of how the two teams finish their seasons. It seems winnable for Miami in particular because of the huge win over the Patriots they’re coming off of. Of course, that’s also priming for a letdown. I’m leaning towards the latter.

Detroit 20 – Carolina 14

In time, I expect the Panthers to look similar to the 2013 version that won the NFC South. However, I smell a bit of an upset here in Carolina. The Lions may have mystified me based on their porous competition (Giants) last week, but the whole team looked like a team for the first time in years. That sort of effort, with their talent, can be a threat to any other in the league.

Cincinnati 33 – Atlanta 20

The Falcons shocked a lot of people with their inspired play against the Saints last week, myself more than most. I still think they’re a team with holes, particularly in the running game and across their defense. The types of holes a better Bengals team, at home, can and should exploit.

Cleveland 27 – New Orleans 24

Upset of the week, perhaps? The Saints are not as steady on the road, and that does factor into this decision, but what’s more vital to this matchup is how energized both teams will be coming off of near-wins against divisional foes last week. That, plus Cleveland’s home field advantage and progressing offense, equals a possible upset that I’m banking on.

New England 30 – Minnesota 24

With or without Adrian Peterson (I won’t be touching that story, don’t worry), I couldn’t see the Vikings getting past a motivated and embarrassed Patriots team this week, even at home. I do think, however, that Minnesota will keep it honest and show more of the fight that allowed them to blow out the Rams last week.

Arizona 30 – New York 13

I think we all need to get used to seeing the Giants struggle. Unlike years past, they simply don’t have the personnel to rise above the competition. It’s no slight of Tom Coughlin or new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo, just a bitter fact that teams like Arizona are going to give us examples of during a long, long year for Giants’ fans.

Tennessee 33 – Dallas 26

It’s not difficult for a veteran team like the Cowboys to correct mistakes, but it is difficult for a defense as bad as theirs to correct a talent deficiency. The Titans beat a depleted-yet-better-than-Dallas team in Kansas City last week, and they’re on the right path. Look for a similar outcome, but with a little more work out of Dallas’ offense.

Washington 24 – Jacksonville 17

I gave serious consideration to flipping a coin before realizing that Washington has too much talent to lose games like this. Of course, all that talent means nothing when turnovers become routine. If Washington can fix that, and get RG3 playing more confident, they’ve still got a chance this year. This would be as good a time as any to get the ball rolling (or not rolling, in this case).

Seattle 31 – San Diego 21

The Seahawks looked way too good against the Packers for me to think a road trip is going to hurt them, especially not one down the coast. The Chargers have the ability to pull off the upset, but Seattle has the ability to nullify that, and one outweighs the other too much to pick it any other way.

Tampa Bay 20 – St. Louis 13

The offensive drought in St. Louis will continue against a stout Buc defense. Beyond that, this is going to be a messy game by all indications, something akin to last week’s Jets-Raiders mashup.

Denver 34 – Kansas City 17

Last year, a fit and talented Chiefs team looked to take their division away from the eventual AFC Champions. They couldn’t win either game, and this year, the Chiefs are sinking fast while the Broncos are just a’rollin’ along. They’ll keep rollin’ this week.

Green Bay 40 – New York 24

This is going to be ugly. While the Jets boast a tremendous front seven, the Packers boast Aaron Rodgers, who treats pressure like a bothersome fly. New York doesn’t have the firepower to keep up, and the Packers’ defense is already more dynamic with Julius Peppers taking pressure off of Clay Matthews. Geno Smith is going to feel the heat.

Houston 17 – Oakland 13

JJ Watt puts up about 10 dynamic plays; sacks, blocked passes, maybe an INT or forced fumble. He pretty much wills his team to victory. Again. The Raiders have a long, long way to go. Derek Carr doesn’t look too bad, though.

San Fransisco 28 – Chicago 17

With the possibility of Brandon Marshall AND Alshon Jeffery missing or at least being limited in this game, almost all hope of the Bears pulling off the upset goes up in smoke. I’m not 100% sold on this 49ers team yet, but starting 2-0 while waiting for core players to return from injuries is certainly huge.

Philadelphia 38 – Indianapolis 31

Offensive onslaught. Both ways. Neither defense has the bodies to cover one another, so this comes down to clever Chip Kelly playcalling, keeping the ball out of Andrew Luck’s hands early and often enough to pull out a close, exciting one. Fantasy owners: sit the defenses, start everyone else.

Fantasy Start’Em/Sit’Em

Start ‘Em

EJ Manuel, QB, Buffalo Bills
Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers (No brainer perhaps, just don’t want to see anyone get nervous about the matchup.)
Giovanni Bernard, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
Fred Jackson, RB, Buffalo Bills
Reggie Wayne, WR, Indianapolis Colts
Vincent Jackson, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Scott Chandler, TE, Buffalo Bills
Brent Celek, TE, Philadelphia Eagles
Mason Crosby, K, Green Bay Packers
Denver Broncos D/ST

Sit ‘Em

Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons
Tony Romo, QB, Dallas Cowboys
Doug Martin, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Stevan Ridley, RB, New England Patriots
Roddy White, WR, Atlanta Falcons
Victor Cruz, WR, New York Giants
Charles Clay, TE, Miami Dolphins
Martellus Bennet, TE, Chicago Bears
Matt Bryant, K, Atlanta Falcons
New York Jets D/ST

Thursday Night Special

NFL_Thursday_Night_Football_logo_1379353641_full
Thursday, September 11, 2014

Pittsburgh Steelers Vs. Baltimore Ravens
Baltimore, MD

My Pick: Pittsburgh 24, Baltimore 20

What I See Happening: I won’t buy into the distraction factor of what’s going on in Baltimore, since I truly don’t believe most professional football players let this stuff get in the way of doing their jobs. That being said, Baltimore tripped over their own feet too often against the Bengals, yet still managed to keep it close in the end. Their lack of a sustainable running game will allow the Steelers to play a one-dimensional defensive game, while Ben Roethlisberger should find success against the Ravens in the middle of the field. That, coupled with a solid running game, will give the Steelers another big divisional win.

Sizing ‘Em Up

QB: Joe Flacco is the most overpaid player in the league, regardless of position. He’s essentially Carson Palmer, and with the protection issues Baltimore displayed in week one, he should be pressured into a bad game. Roethlisberger, on the other hand, has always been the better passer and looks more athletically fit this year than in recent seasons. His ability to stretch plays will put at least one touchdown on the board.

RB: Le’Veon Bell is quickly looking like a stud for the Steelers, while the Ravens lack a permanent fixture. Bernard Pierce is capable, and last week showed us that Justin Forsett can offer a solid change of pace, but this team is lacking punch across the offensive line. Both teams may find some success on the ground, but Bell should easily be the leading rusher.

WR: Torrey and Steve Smith are formidable, and Dennis Pitta is a threat and constant target for Flacco, but Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown is simply the superior at the position amongst both teams. Beyond him, Markus Wheaton and TE Heath Miller provide ample targets. The matchup here is close, but I’ll give the edge to the team who suits up the best WR: Pittsburgh.

Offensive line: The Steelers’ line isn’t exactly a group of worldbeaters, but compared to Baltimore, they’re more than suitable.

Defensive line: Pittsburgh keys off of their linebackers, but their defensive line performed well in week one. Baltimore has more beef up front, and more talent, so I’ll give them the nod on this one.

Linebackers: The Steelers continue to produce excellent talent at the position, and few teams can match what they’ve got at the moment. The continued growth of rookie Ryan Shazier is going to be fun to watch. Baltimore has skill here as well, but Pittsburgh is a linebacker machine that keeps going and going and going…

Secondary: I’ll take the young legs in Baltimore’s secondary over the old guard in Pittsburgh, although either of these situations could result in big plays in the passing games of each team.

Special Teams: Jacoby Jones is dangerous when he can bring down a kick, and the Ravens have the edge in kicking with Justin Tucker. Don’t discount Antonio Brown’s ability as a punt returner, though. Especially if an opposing player finds himself being jump kicked.

Fantasy Start/Sit

This matchup is always difficult for fantasy owners. On one hand, both teams have major potential at certain positions. On the other, all that can go out the window with the way these teams go at each other. That being said, I’d sweep the waver wire before I started either defense, simply because of the aforementioned uncertainty.

Owners should start Le’Veon Bell without prejudice in any matchup. Roethlisberger is worth rolling the dice on, as is Antonio Brown. For the Ravens, I’d bench Flacco (and consider dropping him altogether if it’s feasible) and give Pierce, Steve Smith and/or Dennis Pitta a moment’s consideration.

TMD-B

Your friendly neighborhood Tuesday Morning Double-Back is…back. Huzzah!

Go Fins Go!

As is tradition here at KTN (or at least it was until I stopped doing it last year. Never again.), we’ll start the proceedings with a few words on my favorite team, the Miami Dolphins. I proclaimed they would win and take no credit for the prediction as I felt our chances were as slim as Tom Brady’s significant other. Alas, after a porous first half that our defense managed to keep from turning into a total rout, Knowshon Moreno took the team on his back, Cameron Wake made two pivotal strip-sacks and Ryan Tannehill found his stride in a 33-20 victory of momentous proportions. This is the type of win, against your most difficult division rival, to open your season, that teams can use as fuel for a notable fire going forward. The Dolphins, after one game, are better than they were at any point in 2013.

Catching Our Collective Breath

There wasn’t a game (okay, maybe the Jets-Raiders didn’t exactly burst off the screen) that didn’t grasp my attention on Sunday.

Since so much took place (and when doesn’t it seem like so much on kickoff weekend?), I’m going to break down the performances in tiers from “outstanding” to “time to worry”, in terms of how well (or not so well) the teams did in their victories (or defeats).

Outstanding

Not to continue to toot my own horn, but it cannot be overstated that the Dolphins, in beating the Patriots, started the season on an unbelievably high note. Losing Dannell Ellerbee for the season is probably going to hurt, and losing fellow LB Koa Misi for an unknown length of time won’t help either, but the backups played soundly and the confidence level of this team has to be high after one game.

It was a few days earlier, but the Seahawks simply manhandled one of their toughest conference foes on Thursday night. The Packers had moments, but so few and far between that the Seahawks looked like they had actually improved since winning the Superbowl last year. Frightening.

I made mention of the Buffalo Bills being a breakout candidate this year, but I simply didn’t see it coming in Chicago against a Bears team that has as impressive of an offensive arsenal as any team not playing in Denver. Buffalo’s overtime victory came from a team effort, which is exactly what has been missing from the Bills for the past…20 years? If they can maintain this level of play, no one on their schedule will be unbeatable.

This is borderline outstanding, but the Steelers are working with a somewhat fresh slate from 2013, despite many of the same names across the roster. Their disappointing campaign last year led many to believe them in a decline, while the Browns, with big offseason/draft acquisitions and a new coaching staff, seemed to be in an upswing. Pittsburgh controlled most of the 60 minutes in this game and should only be concerned with allowing the Browns to make a game of it down the stretch. No small concern, but still, a big divisional statement for a team many had written off before the first whistle blew.

Considering what they had to work with, and lacking their superstar QB, the Carolina Panthers went back to basics against an improved Tampa Bay squad on Sunday. Relying heavily on their stable of running backs and a potent defense, Carolina maintained ball control, got some solid work from backup QB Derek Anderson and continuously disrupted the Bucs’ offensive plans. The score doesn’t quite tell the story of this game, but like the aforementioned Steelers, the Panthers cannot allow their competition to stick around after tossing them around for the majority of a game. Hopefully the return of Newton and their dedication to full balanced football can keep that from happening with regularity.

 

Oh, and the Falcons beating the Saints? Biggest upset of the week. Hell of a game, great outcome for Atlanta, and that’s all I have to say about that. For now…

Solid

It had the potential to separate two good teams into one very good team, but last night’s Chargers-Cardinals bout ended up asking more questions than it answered for either squad. Still, despite the struggles of two potent offenses, the Cardinals proved they could stay efficient and still play solid defense despite the offseason losses, suspensions and injuries. They’re still in play in the NFC West so long as they can close out games like this, but some more punch would be nice to see.

The Rams’ inefficiencies on offense kept me from including the Vikings’ blowout victory in the ‘Outstanding’ category, but I do believe this is an excellent taste of what their future opponents are going to have to deal with. A much more stout defense under the wing of head coach Mike Zimmer, and an explosive offense directed by OC Norv Turner. Very early, it seems that Minnesota has a real shot at taking the NFC North.

This goes to both teams, as the Broncos managed to stifle any last-second Luck Magic while the Colts managed to keep the game respectable towards the end when it was anything but for three and a half quarters. Indianapolis has an uphill climb with the recent news of Robert Mathis’ torn Achilles, but they showed heart on defense and held a powerful offense within range of their own. That counts for something. The Broncos, on the other hand, should have played better, and get this spot mostly for the win and also for the potential that their new defensive acquisitions showed. Once that defense comes together, it might be game over for the rest of the AFC.

They Were Who We Thought They Were

In victory, the Bengals, Texans, Titans, Jets, Eagles, 49ers and Lions won games they should have won, so nothing overly spectacular there. In the case of the Bengals and Titans, their opponents were worthy on paper but simply didn’t show up to offer much competition.

Despite their losses, the Packers, Saints, Patriots, Browns, Colts and Chargers are very much capable of bouncing back. The Browns in particular showed incredible resiliency for a young squad, and should continue to improve going forward.

Time To Worry

The trouble in Baltimore doesn’t begin and end with the Ray Rice fiasco, as anyone who watched their stumbling effort against their biggest divisional threat can attest. The Bears need to be concerned about the potency and mistakes of their offense under Jay Cutler, who still seems to be able to look elite and horrible in the same game, sometimes in the same offensive series. The Redskins have no excuses for their embarrassing efforts against Houston, and if they’re going to turn it around, it has to start with Robert Griffin III not playing scared. Because he still is.

The Chiefs are literally falling apart before our eyes. It’s going to take some very crafty coaching from Big Red to keep that ship afloat.

The Raiders kept it respectable, but the Jets did them some favors, and neither team can count on such things every week to help them along.

The Jaguars looked incredibly sound for two quarters, and then reverted to their old selves in a 34-0 second half. It’s hard to be optimistic when you perform a 180 of that magnitude.

The Rams are offensively challenged.

The Cowboys are just challenged. In every way imaginable.

The Bucs were playing against a great defense with a new offensive scheme and new pieces, but something about their performance over 4 quarters rubbed me the wrong way. It was almost as if they couldn’t decide how, or why, they wanted to win…until it was too late.

The Giants, after one game’s worth of ineptitude, have the look of a 2-win squad.

Weekly Awards

QB Of The Week: Matty Ice is back in black…and red.

RB Of The Week: Knowshon Moreno. Put his offense on his back and willed them to victory. Miami hasn’t had a running back do that since Ricky Williams wasn’t sampling the world’s varieties of marijuana.

WR Of The Week: I’m giving this to Megatron because, well, he deserves it. But a very honorable mention to Percy Harvin, who is still as terrifyingly good as he was a couple of years ago.

Offensive Line Of The Week: Minnesota Vikings. You mean, nobody on the Rams recorded a sack? That doesn’t happen much these days. Kudos to the league’s most underrated O-Line.

Defensive Performance Of The Week: Buffalo Bills. Holding the Bears to 20 is no small feat, and the Bills’ defensive line were everywhere, while their secondary came up big when it counted.

Goat Of The Week: RG3. Watch him, and realize, he’s tentative, indecisive, and at this point, the 2nd best QB on the Redskins roster. When you were paid for with three years’ worth of top-tier draft prospects, that is 100% unacceptable.

Coaching Performance Of The Week: Chip Kelly. Totally manhandled after one half, Kelly, I imagine, instilled calm, confidence and an entirely new gameplan for his Eagles and the results were on the scoreboard by the final whistle. With Chip, you feel the Eagles can never fall too far behind as long as there’s time on the clock.

What’s Next

The Ravens have a fast turnaround against another divisional foe as Pittsburgh comes to town on Thursday night. With all the Ray Rice drama swirling, coach John Harbaugh is going to have to get his team centered and forgetful about their disappointing loss on Sunday…fast.

The Dolphins are going to face a test against a Bills team they’ve struggled against in recent years.

The Jaguars and Redskins will compete to see who can make the most mistakes and still win a football game.

In possible bounceback game, can the Cowboys, Patriots, Saints, Chargers, Packers and Bears rebound against solid competition?

Answers: No, Yes, Yes, No, No, No. Check the schedule for all the reasons you need.

Falcons and Bengals is going to be a good one.

Eagles and Colts should be even better.

Final Thoughts

I’ve seen many, many things in my years of watching NFL football, but I’ve never seen someone get kicked in the face. At least, not in the way Antonio Brown kicked Browns’ punter Spencer Lanning while returning a kick. It looked like a scripted scene from an action movie, and it will be thankfully revisited by multiple sports media outlets for weeks.

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh SteelersFLAWLESS VICTORY.

The first week of an NFL season tells us things. Some of these things are sweet lies, some are bitter truths, and some are just simple facts that you have to accept. You know how to figure out which is which?

You watch 15 more games.

Let’s see what happens, shall we?

Week One Primer (2014-2015)

It’s that time! Time to get primed!

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Phillip Rivers is primed! Your turn!

Week One Picks

New Orleans 34 – Atlanta 20

This game has all the ingredients for a battle royale, including a team with Superbowl glimmers in their eyes (New Orleans) and a return to relevance in their minds (Atlanta), within the same division and with a notoriously shaky road team (New Orleans) having to travel. Look for the first half to be tight as the Saints dust off their deep playbook and the Falcons put up a strong fight, and then look for New Orleans to run away with it in the 3rd quarter.

Baltimore 23 – Cincinnati 17

One of a few upsets I feel good about in week one, the Ravens are capable of knocking off last year’s divisional winning Bengals at home, and head coach John Harbaugh will not hesitate to emphasize the importance such an early victory would have now and down the stretch. Cincy’s defense is going to be a tall order for Flacco and co. to score against, but I’m banking on an underrated Ravens D to create some opportunities for their offense and kicker extraordinaire Justin Tucker.

Chicago 36 – Buffalo 24

The Bills have plenty of question marks, but I expect them to make a bigger splash this year than most other pundits do. They won’t, however, hit the water in week one, as they travel to Chicago to stare down an offense that looks like it could actually pace the best in the league so long as QB Jay Cutler stays healthy…and stays consistent.

Washington 20 – Houston 17

I read an article today on the mystery factor of this game, and the points made are all tantalizing to imagine: will RG3 regain his form? Will JJ Watt and hyped rookie Jadeveon Clowney begin terrorizing offenses right off the bat? Can the Redskins’ defense kick it up a gear? Can Houston’s offense, under the command of the underwhelming Ryan Fitzpatrick, make the Redskins’ D have to kick it up a gear? Hopefully we get some clarity with this game. Oh, in case you were wondering: I see both teams struggling, but the offensive firepower in Washington tipping the scales for a close victory.

Kansas City 24 – Tennessee 10

So many are doubting the Chiefs, with their offseason losses and little to balance that particular scale. Yet, the bulk of one of the most intimidating defenses in the league is still there, and Alex Smith, content under a new contract, has the ability to make a so-so Tennessee defense look worse than they are. Of course, his throwing options will be limited, but you know that guy…oh, what’s his name…Jamaal Charles? He’ll take care of things. In a big way.

Miami 29 – New England 27

HOMER ALERT!? No, no. These are, traditionally, the games the Dolphins somehow find a way to win; early-season home contests against teams that are clearly better. The south Florida weather will help a Dolphins defense more accustomed to it keep the rest of the team on track, and Tannehill will likely find enough time to get the field goal machine rolling. Gonna be close…unless New England shows up ready to make an early statement. Then the word ‘close’ won’t apply to anything in this game.

New York 23 – Oakland 13

The Jets are going to have a hard time of it this year and make no doubt about that, but if there was ever a team to get off to a good start against, it’s this year’s Oakland Raiders, who are tying their hopes to a rookie QB and a patchwork of newcomer veterans who have minimal tread on their tires. Watch the workload of Chris Johnson and backup Chris Ivory; it could be an indicator of how the Jets’ offense will run going forward.

Philadelphia 30 – Jacksonville 24

You look at this matchup, in Philly, and you start having thoughts of 40+ points and Lesean McCoy lapping a team who has struggled for so long nobody can remember when Tom Coughlin led them to an AFC Championship game. However, the Jaguars are ascending, and despite their hesitation to start preseason darling Blake Bortles over Chad Henne, should put up more of a fight against Chip Kelly’s Green Machine (TM) than you might expect. Just don’t expect them to win.

Pittsburgh 24 – Cleveland 14

Where’s the firepower in Cleveland? On defense. When/if Johnny Football is on the field, and when/if he plays up to expectations, the Browns are going to struggle to keep up with anyone despite their strong (and growing stronger) defensive play. The Steelers are reportedly preparing for Manziel and Hoyer, so I don’t think it’ll matter much if Browns’ OC Kyle Shanahan decides to use the ol’ switcheroo at QB during this one; Pittsburgh will not go quietly this year, and Cleveland will be their first showcase of that.

Minnesota 20 – St. Louis 10

Both offenses will face tough sledding. The Vikings, simply because of the defense across the field from them. The Rams, simply because Sam Bradford is no longer playing QB and nobody can guess how effective new starter Shaun Hill will be with limited reps and prep time. This pick is also being made with the prognostication that the Vikings are going to be a scary team this year, with the progression of young up-and-comers and the stabilizing presence of key veterans to go with a revamped and much improved coaching staff.

Dallas 32 – San Fransisco 28

Shot in the dark. So much seems to be against the Cowboys this year, particular on defense, but I have confidence enough in picking them for the biggest upset of the week. Why? Tony Romo to Dez Bryant and Jason Witten. The 49ers pass rush is going to struggle until Aldon Smith is back, and their secondary isn’t exactly a strength at the corners. Plenty of 3-4 receiver sets, with a balancing bulk of DeMarco Murray touches, can give the Cowboys what they’re looking for. At least at home against a team whose offseason looks like a police blotter.

Tampa Bay 21 – Carolina 16

Hey, I’ll bite on occasion. The Bucs, coming off of a stinker of a 2013, are as revamped a team as any in football. What few seem to realize, however, is that the nucleus of a competitive team has been simmering in Tampa for a few years now. Meanwhile, Cam Newtown is iffy to start and regardless of the QB, who the starter ends up targeting is anyone’s guess. The Bucs will field a quality defense this year, and will hold off the questionable Panthers’ offense at home this week.

Denver 44 – Indianapolis 31

Sunday night is, in my estimation, going to be exactly what the NFL wants it to be my setting this game in the primetime slot; a shootout of memorable proportions. Peyton Manning gets another shot at his former team (whom he is 0-1 against as a Bronco so far), but this time it’ll be on his mile-high field, with a defense that certainly looks better on paper and an offense that, regardless of Wes Welker’s short absence, is to be deeply feared. The Luck of the Colts (TM) will not be pulling off any late-game heroics in this one.

Detroit 34 – New York 14

I’m not one to let a preseason dictate my thoughts of a team once the games matter, but the Giants look shaky on the field and off of it. The Lions can look however they look and still fall apart, but a home opener on the national stage Monday Night should be more than enough motivation to take a suspect Giants team to the cleaner’s.

San Diego 27 – Arizona 24

The last game of the week, late Monday night, is going to be worth staying up for. I wouldn’t be surprised if it ends up being the most enjoyable game of the week. These two teams match up incredibly well, and there are questions aplenty about both. If San Diego wants to continue to improve upon 2013’s surprise playoff appearance, they’ll have to get past an Arizona team with an offense that is on the cusp of something special. The Cardinals defense, with the losses of Karlos Dansby, Daryl Washington and Darnell Dockett, may not be the same, and this should give San Diego the wiggle room to pull off a last-minute type of well earned victory.

Fantasy Start ‘Em/Sit ‘Em

Remember this? Here, I give ten fantasy starts and ten sits, and try to avoid the obvious names in favor of my guesses at underdogs/relative unknowns or those solid starters who you may be questionable towards because of unfavorable matchups, injury concerns, etc. Roll the bones.

Start ’em

Tony Romo, QB, Dallas Cowboys
Alex Smith, QB, Kansas City Chiefs
Alfred Morris, RB, Washington Redskins (Might seem obvious to some, but I’ve heard speak of concern about one of the best fantasy backs in football, and I’m here to set you all straight. He’s still a must-start, every week.)
Joique Bell, RB, Detroit Lions
Vincent Jackson, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Markus Wheaton, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
Kyle Rudolph, TE, Minnesota Vikings
Jordan Reed, TE, Washington Redskins
Caleb Sturgis, K, Miami Dolphins
Baltimore Ravens D/ST

Sit ’em

Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers
Andy Dalton, QB, Cincinnati Bengals
Chris Johnson, RB, New York Jets (give him a week, but start him if you’ve no other decent option on your bench)
Ben Tate, RB, Cleveland Browns
Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons (tough call, but you might get better performance out of someone with less question marks this early in the year)
Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
Scott Chandler, TE, Buffalo Bills
Antonio Gates, TE, San Diego Chargers (watch this situation in San Diego; I believe Ladarius Green is the TE to own on the Chargers)
Greg Zuerlein, K, St. Louis Rams
49ers Defense/ST

Thursday Night Special

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A small new feature this year: pre-game analysis of every Thursday Night contest! Woohoo! Since this is only one game per week, I’m gonna have a little fun with the format. Hope you enjoy it!

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

Green Bay Packers Vs. Seattle Seahawks
Seattle, WA.

My Pick: Seattle 29, Green Bay 24

What I See Happening: The rust is always being shaken off, but as last year’s blowout courtesy of the Broncos showed us, some teams simply show up better prepared from the gate than others. While Green Bay has some real bite to their team, particularly on offense with a healthy Aaron Rodgers, a young and motivated Eddie Lacy and a hungry-for-a-contract Reggie Cobb, I think Seattle’s preseason performance and superior defense will give them the edge in the regular season opener.

Sizing ‘Em Up

QB – I’ll take Rodgers over Russell Wilson anyday, but you cannot discount what the young Wilson brings to the table. His ability to evade pressure, extend plays and accurately put the ball in the right spots will give the shaky Packers defense fits…when they’re not trying to stop this other fella who loves his skittles…

RB – Lacy showed some real skill in his rookie season, but I’ll take the proven veteran in Marshawn Lynch, especially considering their opposing defenses. For fantasy owners of Lacy, I wouldn’t be quick to bench him, as key cogs from Seattle’s run defense (Red Bryant, Chris Clemons) from 2013 are no longer in town. I think both runners will have solid performances, but Lynch is going to be the bigger difference maker.

WR – No comparison here. If the Pack want to pull off a good sized upset tonight, they’ll need Jordy Nelson and Reggie Cobb at their absolute best. For Seattle, Percy Harvin is the X-Factor that needs to be monitored closely; if he can quickly regain his early-2012, MVP-caliber form, their offense is going to start looking dangerous. Doug Baldwin is an excellent compliment and gets the job done, but Nelson/Cobb are just a better and more consistent duo right now.

Offensive Line – Not many realized it, but this was more of a weakness for the Seahawks in 2013 than a strength. Their starting tackles were injured for much of the year and the interior of the line struggled at times. Still, they’re retooled and recovered and have some solid bodies. The Packers are in a similar boat, but with less experience across the board and a harder job in protecting Rodgers from the Seahawks’ volatile pass rush.

Defensive Line – Much depends on the ability of their edge rushing linebackers, but the Packers’ defensive line is still a major question mark. B.J. Raji’s season-ending injury is a major concern going forward. Despite their losses, the Seahawks should field the better D-Line in tonight’s contest.

LB – Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers, if the latter can regain a bit of his younger self’s capabilities, might be as dangerous a one-two pass rush as any in the NFL this year. I doubt the latter will happen, though, and when you sift through the bounty of edge rushers and overall talent the Seahawks have at the linebacker positions, you realize how much of a vital cog it is to their dominant defense. Edge to Seattle.

Secondary: This isn’t even worth discussing, is it? The best defensive backfield (Seattle, in case you’re reading this accidentally and have zero interest in the NFL) in the league makes any other look amateur in comparison.

Special Teams: Both teams have their strengths, but if Cobb isn’t returning punts for the Packers, and Harvin IS returning them for the Seahawks, the scales tip.

Fantasy Start/Sit

You’re going to want (or have) to start Aaron Rodgers, despite the matchup. Lacy is a guy many will consider benching, but I think the odds are in his favor for a decent night. Out of the two main receiving options for the Packers, Jordy Nelson is the more likely candidate for starting, but only as a low-end #2/Flex option. Green Bay’s defense most likely should be benched.

For Seattle, Wilson isn’t a terrible option but you might find a better one in your free agent pool or sitting on your bench, depending on matchups and the size of your league. Start Lynch without prejudice, roll the dice on Harvin as a flex and start the defense with moderate confidence.