NFL Fantasy Waiver Wire: Week 2

Welcome to this season’s NFL Fantasy Waiver Wire list. Each week, we’re going to give you the top five options to pick up off waivers from each position, helping you add some extra points and wins throughout your fantasy season!

37616648265_d5fd12c9c1_o
“Mariota to Murray” by Brook Ward is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Quarterbacks

  1. Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers, 33.5 percent availability
  2. Matt Stafford, Detroit Lions, 83.7 percent availability
  3. Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans, 93.8 percent availability
  4. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals, 95.8 percent availability
  5. Case Keenum, Washington Redskins, 98.8 percent availability

I don’t know how Rivers is still available in 33.5 percent of ESPN leagues. Despite not having RB Melvin Gordon, Rivers is still one of the top options at quarterback this season. He has a lot of offensive weapons, such as receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams to pass the ball to. The returns of running back Austin Ekeler and tight end Hunter Henry from injuries last year is also another boost for Rivers, so make sure you pick him up if he’s somehow available in your league.

Stafford looked a lot better in his week one performance than he did all of last season. Unfortunately, the running game looked like it did over the past several seasons. It’s good for Stafford and those who plan on adding him. He seems to have a good feeling and quick connection with added weapons T.J. Hockenson and Danny Amendola. If he’s on the same page with them, he could put up big points for your fantasy team.

Mariota has always been an off and on type of quarterback. He and the entire Titans team was on in their week one game. Mariota has a strong connection with both Derrick Henry and Delanie Walker. If the three of these guys are healthy enough to play every game together, they could put up a ton of points. Mariota also has a nice set of receivers to throw the ball to, which could lead to a more consistent year for him.

Dalton and Keenum were both impressive in their first games, despite not having a lot of their talented players on the field with them. Dalton had to play without receiver A.J. Green, but that didn’t stop him from having a big game with receivers John Ross and Tyler Boyd. For Keenum, it was a chance to prove he is certainly the guy to go to at quarterback in Washington. Keenum made an offense with not many weapons look good in the first half of their season opener. Let’s see if he can continue his hot start against the Dallas Cowboys.

 

Running Backs

  1. Justin Jackson, Los Angeles Chargers, 59.6 percent availability
  2. Giovanni Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals, 67.7 percent availability
  3. Carlos Hyde, Houston Texans, 60.6 percent availability
  4. Chris Thompson/Adrian Peterson, Washington Redskins, 81.1/73.7 percent availability
  5. Jamaal Williams, Green Bay Packers, 89.4 percent availability

As we look at the running back situation of many teams, a lot of factors come into play. For Jackson, it’s about him sharing carries with Ekeler in the Chargers’ backfield. We haven’t seen him get much work yet, as it was the Austin Powers show, but we do expect Jackson to get more and more carries as the season goes on.

Bernard will be looking to get a lot more of the workload while Mixon nurses his ankle back to full health. If Mixon is expected to miss any time, Bernard will be the main guy to get in this week’s waivers. Bernard is a great addition to have on your roster, as the Bengals are dealing with a lot of injuries already.

Houston is going with the running back by committee approach, as we saw from their game Monday night. Hyde had a lot of touches and made good progress with them. He was traded to the Texans after running back Lamar Miller went down with a season ending injury. He is expected to have a bigger role as the season goes on.

Thompson and Peterson are both part of the running back by committee in Washington along with Guice. However, Guice may be missing time and Adrian Peterson is returning from injury. Peterson will look to be the rushing back, as Thompson continues to be the pass catching back for the Redskins. Thompson has that role with the team and would be a nice addition to your team if you’re in a PPR league.

Williams is a stretch on this list because he and his counterpart, Aaron Jones, didn’t have any success in week one. Based off the passing success of the Green Bay Packers, Williams might be more valuable this season. Add him now while he’s still available in 89.4 percent of leagues.

 

Wide Receivers

  1. Tyrell Williams, Oakland Raiders, 36.5 percent availability
  2. John Brown, Buffalo Bills, 64.7 percent availability
  3. John Ross III, Cincinnati Bengals, 95.2 percent availability
  4. Marquise Brown, Baltimore Ravens, 71.8 percent availability
  5. Danny Amendola, Detroit Lions, 96.6 percent availability

I expect everyone on this list to be added this week after their big performances.

Williams’ stock rose after all the Antonio Brown drama settled for Oakland. He found himself having a nice game on Monday night, as he had 150 yards and a touchdown in their win over the Denver Broncos. Look to add Williams in all leagues where he’s available before he’s gone. He’ll be the number one target for Derek Carr all season long.

John Brown had a lot of flashes as the top receiving option last season, and expectations were high for him heading into this one. Brown is the deep threat for quarterback Josh Allen, if he has enough time to get the ball down field to him. Brown should consistently give us 15 points in the standard PPR league, whether it just comes from touchdowns or receptions and yards.

Ross was questionable to play week one, so that’s probably why he was available in so many leagues. I know I failed to add him this week, and I’ll be trying to sneak him in this week. We expected to see this from him early in the season, as receiver A.J. Green is out with an injury. Ross has moments where he could be great and moments where we could regret adding him, but right now it seems more like greatness, so pick him up if you can.

There was a show in Miami this weekend, and the Baltimore Ravens brought “Hollywood” along. No one expected QB Lamar Jackson to get five passing touchdowns. We didn’t expect receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown to score two of them. We knew he was a speedy receiver, but didn’t know the arm strength of Jackson. I think Brown will have a successful season if he can find ways to keep getting open for Jackson.

Amendola joined the Lions after a rough year in Miami, and he’s out to prove he’s still got it. He had a nice week one, as he found the end zone with a pass from Stafford. As you might have read above, I’m expecting a better year from Stafford than we saw last season, and Amendola could be a huge part of that success.

 

Tight Ends

  1. Mark Andrews, Baltimore Ravens, 49 percent availability
  2. Jimmy Graham, Green Bay Packers, 52.4 percent availability
  3. T.J. Hockenson, Detroit Lions, 70 percent availability
  4. Darren Waller, Oakland Raiders, 73.2 percent availability
  5. Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys, 85 percent availability

Andrews still being available in 49 percent of leagues is ridiculous! He’s been talked about as one of the tight ends with a high ceiling this year. If the Ravens’ offense does anything like it did in week one, we should expect to see Andrews continue to put up numbers for our teams, so pick him up now before he’s not available anymore.

Graham showed us he’s healthy and ready to get back to the touchdown scoring tight end we’re used to seeing. I don’t think he’s an every week starter, but it’s nice having him on the bench when your starter is on bye or when you need an extra guy.

Hockenson is one of the most talked about rookie tight ends in a long time, and we expect him to continue having success after last week’s performance. With all the pieces on the Lions’ roster, he could be one who stays a consistent weapon for Stafford. I expect him to average 15+ points weekly.

Waller will be playing the Jared Cook role in Oakland this year, and we got to see a small sample of it on Monday night. Waller didn’t score a touchdown, but he did record several catches. He led the Raiders in targets, and we should expect that to happen more often. Don’t miss your chance to add him, because that 73.2 percent availability will likely turn into 73 percent owned.

Witten came out of retirement because he knew he still had something left. The Cowboys also struggled to have success with their tight ends last season. With Witten back, that’s another weapon for the Dallas Cowboys offense, and we saw that early, as he scored a touchdown in week one. Look for Prescott to turn to him a lot in the red zone this year.

——————————————————

I hope you pick up the right players to help you win in week two if you fell short last week. Good luck, and happy picking!

2019 NFL Predictions: AFC South

We continue our NFL kickoff  countdown with the AFC South. Over the past five days, we’ve given you a preview of what to expect from some of the top divisions in football. We’ll continue that here and see who has what it takes to win the AFC South.


It’s going to be an interesting season in the AFC South because of all the moves made via injuries, retirement, etc. I’ll break it all down as it leads to each team. How will they all benefit with the changes? Can the Texans and Colts make playoffs again? Can the Jaguars and Titans get back in? Let’s find out!

1. Houston Texans

 Last season’s record: 11-5

Postseason Result: Lost to Indianapolis Colts (21-7) in the Wild Card round

Offseason Acquisitions:

Signed:

  • RB Duke Johnson (Traded from Cleveland)
  • LT Laremy Tunlis and WR Kenny Stills (Traded from Miami)
  • RB Carlos Hyde (Traded from Kansas City)
  • DE’s Jake Martin and Barkevious Mingo (Traded from Seattle)
  • CB Keion Crossen (Traded from New England)
  • TE Darren Fells (Cleveland)
  • LT Matt Kalil (Carolina)
  • SS Jahleel Addae (L.A. Chargers)
  • P Bryan Anger (Tampa Bay)
  • CB Bradley Roby (Denver)
  • S Tashaun Gipson and CB Briean Boddy-Calhoun (Jacksonville)
  • QB AJ McCarron and RB Taiwan Jones (Buffalo)

Drafted: 

  • OT Tytus Howard (23rd)
  • CB Lonnie Johnson (54th)
  • OT Max Scharping (55th)
  • TE Kahale Warring (86th)
  • RB Cullen Gillaspia (220th)
  • CB Xavier Crawford (195th)
  • DE Charles Omenihu (161th)

Offseason Departures:

  • RB Lamar Miller (Injured ACL)
  • DE  Jadeveon Clowney (Traded to Seattle)
  • C Martinas Rankin (Traded to Kansas City)
  • LT Julie’n Davenport and CB Johnson Bademosi (Traded to Miami)
  • S Tyrann Mathieu (Kansas City)
  • CB Kareem Jackson (Denver)
  • CB Kevin Johnson (Buffalo)
  • TE Ryan Griffin (N.Y. Jets)
  • OT Kendall Lamm (Browns)
  • RB D’Onta Foreman (Indianapolis)
  • WR Demaryius Thomas (Free Agent)
  • Retired P Shane Lecher

The Big Question:

Despite all the news of DE Jadeveon Clowney being traded to Seattle, the Texans have other concerns to worry about.

How will the defense perform with the loss of Clowney? How about the offense? Can WRs Will Fuller, Keke Coutee and newly acquired Kenny Stills stay healthy enough for QB Deshaun Watson to have more weapons? Stills could be a secret weapon alongside DeAndre Hopkins.

What about the running game? With the injury to RB Lamar Miller, can Duke Johnson become a star? Will they look to add another RB in the mix via trade or free agency? I think the Texans defense might be good either way. They’ve continuously been a top tier defensive team.

If the receiving core can stay healthy, there’s a lot more opportunities to be successful on the offensive side, and the running game wouldn’t matter as much. Although, I think they’ll find a way to add more RB depth, whether it’s part of a trade or free agency.  Let’s see how well their season goes.

Prediction: 11-5

 

2. Jacksonville Jaguars

Last season’s record: 5-11

Postseason Result: N/A

Offseason Acquisitions:

Signed:

  • ILB Myles Jack (Extended)
  • TE James O’Shaughnessy
  • OL Tyler Shatley
  • RB Alfred Blue (Houston)
  • WR Terrelle Pryor (N.Y. Jets)
  • QB Nick Foles (Philadelphia)
  • ILB Jake Ryan (Green Bay) 
  • TE Geoff Swaim (Dallas)
  • WR Chris Conley (Kansas City)
  • OT Cedric Ogbuehi (Cincinnati)

Draft: 

  • DE Josh Allen (7th)
  • RT Jawaan Taylor (35th)
  • TE Josh Oliver (69th)
  • LB Quincy Williams (98th) 
  • QB Gardner Minshew (178th)
  •  DT Dontavius Russell (235th)

Offseason Departures:

  • DT Malik Jackson (Philadelphia)
  • RB T.J. Yeldon (Buffalo)
  • RB Carlos Hyde (Kansas City to Houston)
  • QB Blake Bortles (L. A. Rams)
  • WR Donte Moncrief (Pittsburgh) 
  • OT Ereck Flowers (Washington) 
  • RT Jeremy Parnell (New Orleans) 
  • TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins (Free Agent)

The Big Question: 

The Jaguars made one big change to their roster this offseason, and it was to the most important position on the team. That position is the QB spot. The Jaguars signed Super Bowl LII MVP Nick Foles, while getting rid of Blake Bortles.

There are several questions that could be asked here, like the impact RB Leonard Fournette will have this season after spending most of last season banged up with injuries.

There’s also the health of the Jaguars WRs too. Last year was another injury prone season for the Jaguars receiving core. It honestly made Bortles look worse then he was at times. 

I don’t think Bortles is a bad QB, it just wasn’t the right system for him. However, this will be a good season for the Jaguars with Nick Foles. They finish with a 9-7 record behind a tough schedule.

Prediction: 9-7

 

3. Tennessee Titans

Last season’s record: 9-7

Postseason Result: N/A

Offseason Acquisitions: 

Signed:

  • QB Ryan Tannehill (Traded from Miami)
  • DE Reggie Gilbert (Green Bay)
  • G Rodger Saffold (Oakland)
  • WR Adam Humphries and OG Kevin Pamphile (Tampa Bay)
  • DE Cameron Wake (Miami)
  • DT Brent Urban (Baltimore)
  •  

Draft:

  • DT Jeff Simmons (19th)
  • WR A.J. Brown (51st)
  • G Nate Davis (82nd)
  • S Amani Hooker (116th)
  • OLB D’Andre Walker (168th)
  • LB David Long (188th)

Offseason Departures: 

  • Retired RB Chris Johnson and OLB Derrick Morgan 
  • WR Taywan Taylor (Traded to Cleveland)
  • G Josh Kline (Minnesota)
  • S Johnathan Cyprien (Philadelphia) 
  • TE Luke Stocker (Atlanta)
  • QB Blaine Gabbert (Tampa Bay)

The Big Question: 

One of the biggest questions surrounding the Titans has to do with their receiving group. Can Corey Davis actually be the top receiver in the Titans offense? How long will it take A.J. Brown to adjust to the NFL game?

I’m not too worried about the Titans defense, because I think they will continue to be a good force. For the Titans to find success and be able to compete this season, they will need to be able to find a way. 

For the sake of the Titans, I hope their receiving core can find a way to come up big this season. It’ll take a lot pressure off of both Henry and TE Delaine Walker as two guys who look to be a huge part of the Titans offense. 

Prediction: 9-7

 

4. Indianapolis Colts:

Last season’s record: 10-6

Postseason Result: Beat Houston Texans (21-7) in Wild Card round, Lost to Kansas City Chiefs (31-13) in the Divisional round

Offseason Acquisitions:

Signed: 

  • G Evan Boehm (Traded from Miami)
  • CB Nate Hairston (Traded from N.Y. Jets)
  • C Jake Eldrenkamp and QB Hoyer (New England)
  • DE Justin Houston (Kansas City)
  • WR Devin Funchess (Carolina)
  • DB Pierre Desir
  • LB Luke Rhodes 
  • DB Clayton Geathers
  • WR Chester Rogers

Draft:

  • CB Rock Ya-Sin (34th) 
  • DE Ben Banogu (49th)
  • WR Parris Campbell (59th) 
  • LB Bobby Okereke (89th)
  • S Khari Willis (109th)
  • LB E.J. Speed (164th)

Offseason Departures:

  • Retired QB Andrew Luck
  • DT Hassan Ridgeway (Traded to Philadelphia)
  • WR Ryan Grant and TE Erik Swoope (Oakland)
  • WR Dontrelle Inman (L.A. Chargers) 

The Big Question:

The Colts were hit by the surprise announcement of QB Andrew Luck’s retirement. Now they’re faced with a lot of important questions.

Was it really a surprise? As banged as Luck was,  he Colts should’ve seen this coming.  Now we worry about how QB Jacoby Brissett will play as the starter again. Can he have the “Luck” for the Colts?

I’m expecting the defense to be fine, but can Brissett and WR T.Y. Hilton build chemistry together? Hilton’s production was at a career-low with Brissett at QB in 2017, and we hope it’s not the same this year. 

The Colts added a lot of offensive pieces over the years, and they should be able to find some success this year with RB’s Marlon Mack and Nyhiem Hines to join Hilton, Devin Funchess and TE’s Jack Doyle and Eric Ebron as they look to make the playoffs again.

Prediction: 6-10

 

Predicted Division Standings:

  1. Houston Texans (11-5)

  2. Jacksonville Jaguars (9-7)

  3. Tennessee Titans (9-7)

  4. Indianapolis Colts (6-10)

 

The Canton Worthy: Linemen

Today, I’m taking a look at the five linemen who are finalists for the NFL Hall of Fame. Among them, one is a center, two are guards, one is an offensive tackle and one is a defensive end/defensive tackle. I’ll first take a look at the three interior linemen before moving on to the lone tackle. Then I’ll wrap up with the sole defensive player.

Steve Hutchinson blocks B.J. Raji in a November 14, 2011 game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Green Bay Packers.” by Mike Morbeck is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Interior Linemen

Kevin Mawae, Center: Seattle Seahawks, 1994-1997; New York Jets, 1998-2005; Tennessee Titans, 2006-2009

Though he began his career as a guard, Mawae moved to center in 1996 and played there for the next 14 seasons. As of today, there are only 12 centers in the NFL Hall of Fame. Mawae stacks up well with all of them.

One thing that can’t be overlooked is longevity in the league. That can incredibly help a player who’s able to play at a high level for years on end, but lack thereof can also be detrimental, as I’ll get to shortly with a different player.

For Mawae, it helps.

Mawae spent 15 of his 16 years as his team’s primary starter at his position, either avoiding or playing through injuries. He made All-Pro three times with a period of nine seasons coming between his first and third selections. He was elected to his first Pro Bowl when his was 28 and his last when he was 38. In 12 seasons, he not only played in, but also started all 16 games.

Among Hall of Fame centers, only one was his team’s primary starter at his position more than Mawae–Mick Tingelhoff, who is allegedly a real person, did it 17 times. Only three centers were named to more Pro-Bowl teams than Mawae. The biggest hit against Mawae is the low number of times he made All-Pro.

However, Mawae should overcome that. From his rookie year until he hung ’em up, Mawae was a stalwart on his team’s offensive line. Not only that, he anchored the lines as a center for 14 seasons. This LSU product should become the 13th center elected to the NFL’s Hall of Fame.

 

Alan Faneca, Guard: Pittsburgh Steelers, 1998-2007; New York Jets, 2008-2009; Arizona Cardinals, 2010

Steve Hutchinson, Guard: Seattle Seahawks, 2001-2005; Minnesota Vikings, 2006-2011; Tennessee Titans, 2012

Perhaps unfairly, Faneca and Hutchinson are squaring off against each other for a single spot in Canton. Because their careers overlapped so much, from 2001-2010, these two will be compared against each other and will most likely take away votes from one another.

And now that I’ve pointed out how unfair it is comparing these two great guards against each other, I’m going to do exactly that.

First, let’s take a look at Faneca. Another LSU product, Faneca went to the Steelers as the No. 26 pick in the 1998 draft. He immediately stepped into the fray, playing in all 16 games the following season, starting 12 of them. For the following nine seasons, Faneca helped hold down the left side of Pittsburgh’s offensive line en route to seven Pro Bowls, six All-Pro selections and a victory in Super Bowl XL. After leaving Pittsburgh, he’d make another two Pro Bowls with the Jets before retiring as a member of the Cardinals after the 2010 season.

Then there’s Hutchinson, taken with the No. 17 overall pick by the Seahawks in the 2001 draft out of Michigan. In 10 seasons, Hutchinson would start at least 12 games, going the full 16 games on eight occasions. Between his time in Seattle, Minnesota, and Tennessee, he made seven Pro Bowls and five All-Pro teams. His teams reached the Super Bowl only once, where his Seahawks lost to Faneca’s Steelers.

There are exactly 20 guards in the Hall of Fame. Only three of those 20 have made more All-Pro teams than Faneca, with only five making more Pro Bowls and a mere two having been his team’s primary starter at his position longer. For Hutchinson, five made more All-Pro teams, eight made more Pro Bowls and 12 were primary starters for a longer period of time.

This year, Faneca gets the nod. Hutchinson may in the future, but not in 2019.

 

Offensive Tackle

Tony Boselli, Tackle: Jacksonville Jaguars, 1995-2001 & Houston Texans, 2002 (DNP)

A stalwart at left tackle for the expansion Jaguars beginning in 1995, Boselli made five consecutive Pro Bowls from 1996-2000. In the middle of that run, he also made three straight All-Pro teams, from 1997-1999. Throughout his time in Jacksonville, he helped legitimize the young squad, helping the team reach the playoffs in 1996 (when they reached the AFC Championship game), 1997 and 1998.

Sadly, after playing a possible 47 out of 48 games between 1998-2000, injuries hit Boselli hard. He played in only three games in 2001. Later, the Houston Texans selected Boselli with their first pick of the expansion draft, but he never played for them, retiring after the 2002 season.

Though Boselli was dominant for a solid six seasons with Jacksonville, longevity is taken into account when being considered for the Hall of Fame. Of the 28 tackles in Canton, all of them played at least eight seasons. Of the three who played a mere eight seasons, two retired before 1930 while the other retired after the 1955 season.

While there’s no doubt that Boselli is one of the greatest Jacksonville Jaguars, he didn’t play long enough to make it in the league’s Hall of Fame.

 

Defensive Lineman

Richard Seymour, Defensive End/Defensive Tackle: New England Patriots, 2001-2008 & Oakland Raiders, 2009-2012

The No. 6 overall pick in the 2001 draft out of Georgia, Seymour enjoyed a very successful start to his career with the Patriots, making five straight Pro Bowls from 2002-2006 while being named to three All-Pro teams from 2003-2005. Perhaps more importantly, he won three Super Bowls during his New England tenure, capturing Super Bowls XXXVI, XXXVIII and XXXIX. With the Patriots, Seymour accumulated 39 sacks, 357 total tackles, 64 tackles for loss and at least 37 quarterback hits.*

*Quarterback hits is a stat that pro-football-reference began keeping during the 2006 season.

After the 2008 season, the Patriots traded Seymour to the Raiders for a future first-round draft pick (used in 2011 to take tackle Nate Solder). While in Oakland, he made back-to-back Pro Bowls in 2010 and 2011 before retiring after the 2012 season. In his four seasons in Oakland, Seymour collected 18.5 sacks, 139 total tackles, 27 tackles for loss, and 42 quarterback hits. Except for 2009, Seymour spent the majority of his Raiders career as a defensive tackle.

But despite Seymour’s versatility to slide back and forth between end and tackle, he didn’t do enough to get into the Hall of Fame. He was one of the defensive stars of those early Patriots dynasty teams, and yet the Patriots continued winning after he departed. He never collected more than eight sacks in a single season, nor did he disrupt offenses enough to ever threaten to win any Defensive Player of the Year awards.

Richard Seymour was good, not great, and won’t make it into Canton.

 

Recap Through Two Articles

Yesterday, I took a look at head coaches Tom Flores and Don Coryell, passing on both of them. With today’s selections of Kevin Mawae and Alan Faneca, I’ve elected two of a maximum of five players. Tomorrow, I’ll look at five members of the secondary before wrapping up next Monday with an article on three offensive play makers.

Of the eight remaining players, only one is a lock.

Unpredictable results renewing interest in NFL

Note: Article originally published in The Talon in November of 2018: Dacula High School’s newspaper and is published with permission.

Chicago Bears vs. Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on December 25, 2011.” by Mike Morbeck is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Since the early 2000s, the New England Patriots have dominated the NFL, appearing in the Super Bowl eight times and winning five. Along with that, as a Chicago native, my beloved Bears were not doing so well, so it felt like every season was the same. But on Sep. 9, 2018, I witnessed two results which made me question my lack of interest in football. That was the Houston Texans losing to the New England Patriots 20-27 and the Green Bay Packers beating the Chicago Bears 23-24. Just like before, the Patriots won and the Bears lost, but this time, the wins for the Patriots and the Packers were much harder to achieve.

I was still questioning if football can really become this entertaining again, and if the Bears were really capable of challenging the top teams this season. But that weekend, two other surprising results posed new questions. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers beating the New Orleans Saints 48-40 and the Pittsburgh Steelers tying the Cleveland Browns? After drafting running back Alvin Kamara from the University of Tennessee, the New Orleans Saints were not just massive favorites to top their division, but also to perhaps make a run to the Super Bowl. However, Tampa Bay’s signing of quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick produced results with their offense, managing to score eight more than the Saints. The second result really put Pittsburgh to shame. The Cleveland Browns. The Browns. The team that had won only once in two years? Seriously Pittsburgh? They could not beat the Browns?

This result is promising, a promise of more competition, more fun, more unpredictability. As I started to renew my interest in the NFL, the Cleveland Browns played the New Orleans Saints, and nearly won. The Browns had reassured their seriousness this season, and despite not being able to win against the Steelers, they took on a far harder challenge and almost handed the Saints what would have been their second embarrassing defeat of the season. However, later that week, an even crazier result happened. Yet another tie took place, this time between rivals Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers. After scoring 22 points in the final quarter, the Vikings fought the Packers to a draw in overtime, not only making the competition between these two teams fiercer, but also creating a new pathway for the other teams in the NFC North, the Chicago Bears and the Detroit Lions to move to the top.

That was exactly what happened. The Chicago Bears won their next three games, including a game-changing 17-24 victory against the Seattle Seahawks and a 10-48 thumping of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and moved to number one in the NFC North. Today, Chicago’s arch-rival Green Bay is on the verge of not making the playoffs, a team who has made the NFL playoffs 13 times since 2001! However, it is not just the Bears who are having an incredible season. The Miami Dolphins, Cincinnati Bengals and Tennessee Titans are all having really excellent seasons, with the Dolphins holding a 5-5 record and the Bengals and Titans boasting a 5-4 record (including a Titans’ massive 34-10 victory over the New England Patriots in Week 10).

Normally, by now, well over half-way into the season, it should have been easy to predict who will make the playoffs, if that has not been decided by now already. But right now, no team has clinched the playoffs. Even the Cleveland Browns, with their three wins, are still in contention for the playoffs. It is nearly impossible to predict exactly which team will compose the playoff bracket, as the competition is so tight. For example, in the AFC, the Cincinnati Bengals, Tennessee Titans and Miami Dolphins are all on five wins, but it is unlikely all three teams can make the playoffs, thus building a very interesting and tough concentration. In the NFC, the usually more competitive conference, five teams are all currently tied on four wins, with Super Bowl winners Philadelphia Eagles on the same level as the Dallas Cowboys right now. Because the “weaker” teams have been playing really well this season, giving trouble to the usual dominators of the NFL, even a team like the Oakland Raiders, with only one win, has not been eliminated from playoff contention yet (although it is highly unlikely they make it).

With only six weeks left, the playoff picture is still really blurry. Not only is it unclear as to which teams will make the playoffs, predicting the winners of the next few matches are going to be really difficult. For the first time in years, strong teams like the Green Bay Packers and the Seattle Seahawks could be forced to give up their spots for teams like the Dallas Cowboys and Chicago Bears. All of this together makes for one of the best NFL seasons in the modern era, one of the most entertaining seasons, and most definitely one of the most heart-stopping.

New Year’s resolutions for every AFC team who missed the playoffs

A new year has come, and with it the many resolutions we swear to. Each year we promise we are going to go to the gym more, or see the world more. Some short lived, some we actually see through.

NFL teams have New Year’s resolutions just like us. Below I’ve provided you with the resolutions for every AFC team who did missed the playoffs. I decided to keep the playoff teams out, because it is pretty obvious what their resolution should be. Win a Super Bowl.

Gregg Williams” by Erik Drost is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Just like ours, some are probably not going to be seen through, while others I think have a chance of happening up to the kickoff of 2019. Along with the teams, I also provided resolutions for each division and what they hope to accomplish for 2019.

Part two, the NFC resolutions will come out early next week.

 

AFC East

Resolution: For any team but the Patriots to win the division next season

New England has had a stranglehold on the crown for ten years straight. I think I speak for everyone when I say it’s getting pretty old. No one has seemed to come close to the top. It really has made the division a laughing stock in the league. One has to assume the Patriots’ success has to be tied to the fact that New England plays the Bills, Jets and Dolphins twice a year. This year the Patriots’ road to clinching the division was through Buffalo and the Jets at home. The NFL will be a better place if just one team decides to be consistently competitive in the AFC East.

New York Jets

Resolution: Get Jim Harbaugh/No sophomore slump for Darnold

The Jets’ resolution is two parts. The first, the Jets have to do whatever it takes to ensure Sam Darnold does not go through a sophomore slump in 2019. They cannot afford to have Darnold regress in 2019 with a new coach. Darnold did not have an overly impressive rookie season. Though he had a bunch of bright spots, the Jets need Darnold to have a coming out party in 2019 to show 2018 was not a waste. Something good has to come out of this miserable season.

The second part of this resolution is in regards to the recent reports the Jets are pursuing Michigan’s Head Coach Jim Harbaugh. Though the reports have been refuted by Ian Rappaport, Jets ownership has been supposedly going to make the Michigan man an offer he can’t refuse. One that is well north of his already lucrative seven million a year contract. If that part can happen, you can almost guarantee Darnold is going to take steps in the right direction in 2019. They just  may be able to take over as the Kings of New York, at least for one year.

Buffalo Bills

Resolution: Spoil Josh Allen

The Bills’ resolution revolves around taking care of their prized possession, Josh Allen. I am fairly confident Allen has proven to most he has all the tools and intangibles to be a productive quarterback. The issue is, he did not have the ability to display those skills on a consistent basis. He is not good enough to make bad receivers look good. Throwing the ball to the likes of Robert Woods or Zay Jones did not help out Allen at all. No offense to them, but they are not clear cut number ones who can change the course of a game. The Bills have struck out as of late trying to get viable weapons at the Wide Receiver positions. Drafting Sammy Watkins, who ended up being a bust. Making a trade for Kelvin Benjamin, which showed the front offices incompetency. They need to do better for Allen. If they can’t get someone to throw to, then write a big check on the insurance policy and revamp the offensive line. Do something that will help Josh Allen carry this franchise to success, not make it harder.

Miami Dolphins

Resolution: Hire a coach with the intention of keeping them for more than three years

The Dolphins magically were on the cusp of a possible playoff birth with a few weeks remaining in 2018. The most inconsistent team in the NFL this year, the Dolphins looked like a dangerous playoff team one week, only to look like a team with no identity the next. The quick flashes of great play though were not enough to keep Adam Gase’s job, as he was fired a few days after their embarrassing 42-17 loss to the Bills.

The Dolphins are starting another off-season in the all to familiar position of finding a new head coach. They yet again let go of another coach after three seasons and mediocre numbers. Gase was 23-25 with one playoff appearance in three years. Wins matter, and owners have zero patience when it comes to waiting for them, so I get the move. 2019 has to be different for the Dolphins though. Thus their new year resolution has to be the either finding the right man for the job, who brings them back to the winning culture of the past, or they grow enough patience to at least give their new coach the time to get it right. I am not talking Marvin Lewis kind of time, but maybe four years, especially if they show some kind of promise. No Dolphins coach has lasted more than four seasons since Don Shula left in 1995. 2019 needs to be the year that changes.

 

AFC North

Resolution: The Browns win the division next year

This resolution is pretty easy for me. The North has long been dominated by the Steelers and Ravens. There needs to be a change, since the Steelers are looking more like a circus than a football team and the Ravens are too boring for the NFL’s liking to be the face of the North. Enter Baker Mayfield and the Cleveland Browns. The North needs the Browns and Baker Mayfield to win the division in 2019 in a big way.

Cincinnati Bengals

Resolution: DO NOT HIRE HUE JACKSON

So the Bengals already accomplished my resolution for 2019, which was to fire Marvin Lewis and just start over. I honestly didn’t think that it would actually happen, so I am kind of surprised. I figured the only way he was to leave was if he just resigned. But the Bengals finally decided they are better than being mediocre every year.

I naturally felt good for the city of Cincinnati and all of their fans. That was until I remembered they hired Hue Jackson earlier in the season. There is a big possibility of him being their next Head Coach. Jackson saw great success while he was their offensive coordinator, enough success that landed him the job in Cleveland. Judging by the fact Bengals ownership allowed Lewis to stay their head coach for 16 years, they just may pull the trigger on a familiar face and name.

So now my resolution for the Bengals has transformed into them NOT HIRING HUE JACKSON. If they were to do that, you can bet they would be winless against the Browns and probably every team during the duration of his tenure there. Based off of the Bengals’ track record, that may be a long time!

Cleveland Browns

Resolution: Keep Gregg Williams as their Head Coach

The Browns are in unfamiliar territory. They are coming off one of their most successful seasons in recent memory and for once are going into an off-season with a lot of expectations. None of that will matter though if they decide to go in a different direction and get them a new head coach not named Gregg Williams.

The Browns clearly transformed once Jackson was let go and Williams took over. They adopted his demeanor and played with a relentless drive to win. Besides that, Williams, along with his offensive coordinator Eddie Kitchens, were able to harness Mayfield’s talent and bravado and turned it into a style that led men on and off the field. Williams is the perfect fit at head coach because his attitude matches his starting quarterback. No nonsense, “not here to make friends” mentality, that done right can result in many wins for a team and fanbase that has not seen many.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Resolution: Hope Ben Roethlisberger retires

It is time. The Steelers need an obvious shot of life right now. One of the most historic, iconic NFL franchises is being viewed as a joke right now. To many Steeler faithful, that is unacceptable.

Julius in Remember the Titans said it best when he told captain Gary Bertier that “Attitude reflects leadership, captain.” The Steelers have a mixed bag of personalities, egos and talent that have brought them a long way, but the name that leads them all is their quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The team goes as far as he does. Recently, though putting up gaudy numbers, his attitude and questionable leadership skills have been dragging down a proud organization and fanbase. From him putting everyone on retirement watch to him blowing his injuries out of proportion, to calling people out on radio shows, Big Ben’s attitude is rubbing off on the rest of the team finally and the Steelers need him out.

They need 2019 to be the year he exits the league on his own, because the Steelers will never let him go, so in turn they will continue to get worse.

 

AFC South

Resolution: Prove they are a strong division

The South once again has two teams in the playoffs. An underrated division going into the season, the South has once again proven that in a dogfight, they will win. They need this momentum to carry forward into 2019 and make sure what we saw in 2017 and 2018 was not a fluke. Their division as a whole needs to be more competitive outside their own and prove the only reason why two teams represent the south for the second year in a row is not that of the fact that they have a weak division.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Resolution: Make people forget how bad the 2018 season was

I do not care what the Jaguars have to do, but they need to do something that makes their fans forget just how disappointing the 2018 season was for them. Very similar to when the Raiders went 6-10 in 2017 after going 12-4 with a playoff appearance the year before, the Jaguars came into 2018 with a tremendous amount of hype and expectations. Not only did they fall short to the lofty expectations, but they also managed to make 2018 into a train wreck, where there are more questions than answers.

Bortles was their answer, but now he is not. Fournette was poised to be the next great NFL running back to start 2018, but it ended with his future as a Jaguar in question. Jalen Ramsey was more worried about other teams’ quarterbacks other than his own. Their elite defense crumbled under the pressure of carrying their team once again to the playoffs.

The Jaguars need something to happen. Anything to happen to make everyone talk about something else and not how bad 2018 was in Jacksonville. From either firing their coach to making a big signing or trade, Jacksonville needs some kind of reprieve from the madness and aggravation.  

Tennessee Titans

Resolution: Make Marcus Mariota the main man

The Titans are a well-disciplined football team. They play smart fundamental football and take away a gutsy failed two-point conversion call late in the fourth because they did not want to tie against the Chargers, then I may be writing about the Colts right now instead.

Just like the Dolphins, the Titans played inspired football, only to follow it up with dismal performances which make you question which team is the real Titans. Part of their success is that they finally got Derrick Henry moving. He provided a jolt to the team and put an identity to them. The issue is though, Henry is not the answer. Mariota is. Until they provide him the weapons he needs, Tennessee will find themselves in this situation more often than not. They need to make sure that going into the 2019 season, Delanie Walker is not their number one weapon in the passing game. They need to make a big but smart splash in either free agency or the draft that builds Mariota’s confidence to see if he is the franchise quarterback they all thought he would be a couple of years ago.

 

AFC West

Resolution: Their two playoff teams right now need to make it to the Super Bowl

This resolution is more for the teams who are in the playoffs right now, the Chiefs and Chargers. The West needs to have one of their two teams in Super Bowl, and at the very least make the AFC Championship. The Chiefs for the past couple of season have been on top of the division, only to be bounced out in their first playoff game. That cannot happen this year as the top dog in the AFC. The Chargers are riding the coattails of Philip Rivers in what could be his last chance of a Super Bowl. The Chargers have disappointed the West way too much in the past and could use a run from the second-best team record-wise in the AFC, but the fifth-ranked team in the playoffs.

Denver Broncos

Resolution: Build around Phillip Lindsey

When the Broncos have been successful, there has always been a Hall of Fame caliber quarterback behind it. When the Broncos made the Super Bowl, it was with either Elway or Manning under center.

Denver will not find that with Case Keenum. He is a game manager, not a game changer. There is nothing wrong with that though, as long as you have a good running back who can carry the load. The Broncos have struck out in recent memory with drafting running backs, so it is pretty ironic that the one they found success with is one they did not draft. Phillip Lindsey is a dynamic multi-faceted running back who played more of a role in Broncos’ victories than Keenum did.

Elway needs to realize this and bring in a coach who will build a system around him who will run first to set up the pass, which I think is the exact system Keenum will excel in. The question is, will Elway do this or try to sign a big-name quarterback?

Oakland Raiders

Resolution: Settle on any place to play their home games this year that is not in San Francisco

It is well known the Raiders most likely played their last game in Oakland Coliseum. Yes, it is sad, but long overdue. The Raiders are the only NFL team who was still playing their home games on a converted baseball field. Though it helped win two of their games this year, they deserve a lot better. One of the solutions that was suggested was to have their home games played in Levi Stadium, which is the home field for the 49ers.

That is like recommending Michigan play its home games in Ohio State’s stadium. It is just a bad idea. The Raiders hate the 49ers and the Niners hate the Raiders. It is just how it is, and I do not see good things happening if the Raiders and Niners shared a field for 2019. Though it is not ideal, I would rather see them play at UNLV or even Bishop Gorman High School in Vegas (before you question my decisions just Google them and you will see their facilities rival those of top Division 1 football programs.)

Yes, I get the Raiders have a lot more problems than where to play, but if they want their loyal fans continuing to come, then they need to provide them with a better solution than playing at their rivals home.  

NFL head coaches

Reviewing 2018’s first-year NFL Head Coaches

Before Black Monday arrived, four NFL head coaches had already been fired. Two during the season and two yesterday after Week 17’s concluding games. Today, the Broncos, Bengals, Dolphins and Cardinals (more on them in a moment) joined the Browns, Packers, Jets and Buccaneers in looking for a new head coach.

NFL head coaches
Matt Patricia in 2018” by Louis Briscese is licensed under Public Domain

That means that in 2019 there will be eight teams with new NFL head coaches. That’s a quarter of the league!

For this article, though, we’re going to take a look at how 2018’s seven first-year NFL head coaches fared.

First, a table with the results of those coaches compared to their teams’ records in 2018.

Coach Team 2017 Record Playoffs? 2018 Record Playoffs?
Jon Gruden Raiders 6-10 No 4-12 No
Matt Nagy Bears 5-11 No 12-4 Yes
Matt Patricia Lions 9-7 No 6-10 No
Frank Reich Colts 4-12 No 10-6 Yes
Pat Shurmur Giants 3-13 No 5-11 No
Mike Vrabel Titans 9-7 Yes 9-7 No
Steve Wilks Cardinals 8-8 No 3-13 No

The One-and-Done

After the Cardinals fell five games from 8-8 to 3-13, management decided to move on from Wilks, hired away from the Panthers at the end of last year. While the team plummeted, it wasn’t entirely Wilks’ fault. His general manager, Steve Keim, should’ve been the one to take the fall. The roster Keim handed Wilks was bad from the beginning. After a slow start, Wilks made the wise decision to move on from veteran quarterback Sam Bradford in order to develop rookie quarterback Josh Rosen, the no. 10 pick in the draft last year.

It’s doubtful the Cardinals would’ve finished much better with Bradford playing the entire year (something he’s rarely done), but Wilks’ fate was sealed when Arizona secured the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft.

Simply put, Wilks was put into a no-win situation and got a raw deal out of it.

 

The Setbacks

Last year, the Lions moved on from Jim Caldwell after a 9-7 finish that found them just outside the playoffs. General manager Bob Quinn, who had previously worked for New England, hired the Patriots’ defensive coordinator to replace Caldwell and to get the Lions over the hump.

Instead, under Patricia, the Lions regressed, finishing 2018 with a 6-10 record. That put them last in the NFC North. Patricia managed to avoid Caldwell’s fate. That was mainly because he’s Quinn’s choice, whereas Quinn inherited Caldwell from the previous regime. Both Patricia and Quinn will now be under enormous pressure to not only produce a winning record in 2019, but to also make the playoffs.

Every year there seems to be a surprise firing. This year’s is up for debate between Marvin Lewis, who had been with the Bengals for 16 years, and Adam Gase, who just finished his third season with the Dolphins with a 23-25 record and one playoff appearance.

But there was no question as to last year’s surprise. The Titans, after defeating the Chiefs before falling to the Patriots in the playoffs, fired Mike Mularkey after just two full seasons as the head coach. They replaced him with Mike Vrabel.

While Vrabel’s first Titans squad finished with the same record as Mularkey’s last, the difference is stark. The former missed the playoffs, while the latter made it.

Now, I doubt Vrabel will be under the amount of pressure in 2019 that’s surely to face Patricia, yet he’ll face some. After all, he replaced the man who led the Titans to the playoffs for the first time since the 2008 season, was handed a talented roster, and then couldn’t match the results.

 

Nudging Upward

After face-planting in 2017, the Giants hired Pat Shurmur away from the Vikings. He’d been the offensive coordinator there the previous two seasons. In 2017, relying mainly on Case Keenum, Shurmur somehow managed the no. 10 ranked offense in Minnesota. That team would make it to the NFC Championship.

When he got to New York, he inherited two-time Super Bowl winning, but aged, Eli Manning. In the draft, the Giants passed up taking a young quarterback to sit and learn behind Manning, instead opting for start running back Saquon Barkley. They also added left tackle Nate Solder in free agency before signing fan-favorite wide receiver Odell Beckham to an extension.

All told, the Giants improved from 3-13 to 5-11.

Still, the trajectory is right. It will be interesting to see what the Giants do in the draft with the No. 6 pick. It’ll be especially interesting with Oregon’s Justin Herbert, rumored to be the top quarterback in the draft, returning to school. Will the Giants still go with a QB in the first round? If so, who? If not, will they grab one later, hoping for better growth than the likes of Kyle Lauletta?

 

The Implosion

Two years ago, the Oakland Raiders made the playoffs after going 12-4. But with quarterback Derek Carr injured, they fell in the Wild Card round. Last year, after regressing to 6-10, owner Mark Davis fired head coach Jack Del Rio in favor of hiring Jon Gruden, who hadn’t coached in a decade.

Gruden started off things by trading the team’s best player, Khalil Mack, to the Bears. Later, during the season, he traded wide receiver Amari Cooper to the Cowboys. After that, with the team faltering, Davis fired general manager Reggie McKenzie.

The Raiders did not look good, and maybe that was the point, as Davis and Gruden (and now new general manager, Mike Mayock) prepare for a future in Sin City. It looks like the Raiders’ power brokers are taking a page out of the Rams’ recent playbook. Burn it to the ground in the old city before rising from the ashes as a contender in the new one.

Easier said than done.

But, hey: Gruden has nine years left on his deal. So he’s got the time.

 

The Playoff NFL Head Coaches

Hat tips to both Frank Reich of the Colts and Matt Nagy of the Bears. These two were the best first year NFL head coaches. Both took over abysmal squads and turned them into playoff teams. Heck, Nagy’s Bears even won the NFC North.

Both of these coaches overcame some adversity to get where they are. Let’s start in Chicago.

The Bears last made the playoffs during the 2010 season under Lovie Smith. That was three NFL head coaches ago. Between 2011-2017, Chicago finished above .500 only once. In the 2017 NFL Draft, general manager Ryan Pace selected the draft’s first quarterback. And it wasn’t Patrick Mahomes II (who went No. 10) or Deshaun Watson (who went No. 12). Instead, with the No. 3 pick, Pace selected North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky, a one-year starter for the Tar Heels.

After a 5-11 2017 under John Fox in which the offense was 29th in points and 30th in yards, that pick looked to a bust. But under Nagy, the former Chiefs offensive coordinator, Trubisky turned it around. Of course, he was aided by several key offensive weapons. The Bear’s defense, a top-10 unit last year, also helped. They finished No. 1 in points and No. 3 in yards.

The situation in which Reich found himself was just bizarre. He won a Super Bowl ring as the Eagles’ offensive coordinator last year, and only landed the Colts job because Patriots’ offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels pulled out in the 11th hour. Reich then found himself stuck with several key staff members hired to work with McDaniels.

Yet, somehow Reich made it work. That “somehow” is mainly the Comeback Player of the Year favorite, quarterback Andrew Luck. With Lucks’ return and the shrewd drafting of guard Quentin Nelson, the Colts’ offense improved from No. 30 in points and No. 31 in yards to No. 5 in points and No. 7 in yards.

Not to be overlooked, the revamped defense also improved. They went from No. 30 in both points and yards allowed to No. 10 in points and No. 11 in yards.

While the Colts didn’t win the AFC South, the six-game improvement, topped off with a victory in last night’s win-or-go-home game against division rival Tennessee, gets the Colts back to the playoffs for the first time since 2014.

Expect Nagy and Reich to receive plenty of deserved consideration as the best NFL head coaches this season. They’ll be in the Coach of the Year running.

They’ve also set the bar for whoever lands one of the eight current openings for NFL head coaches for the 2019 season.

Week 17 NFL picks

3405933244_e04b02154e_o.jpg
2009 NFL Black Logo” by Michael Tipton is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Last Week’s Prediction Records:

Aman: 13-3

Cullen: 11-5

Mickayeen: 11-5

Rahim: 10-6

Joel: 10-6

Adam: 11-5

Kevin: 9-7

Josh: 11-5

Dan: 10-6

Christan: 11-5

Dennis: 13-3

Jon: 12-4

 

Overall Prediction Records:

Aman: 142-81-1

Cullen: 146-77-1

Mickayeen: 139-84-1

Rahim: 126-97-1

Joel: 137-86-1

Adam: 137-86-1

Kevin: 90-57 (Started Week 7)

Josh: 77-42 (Started Week 9)

Dan: 70-49 (Started Week 9)

Christan: 54-38 (Started Week 11)

Dennis: 25-7 (Started Week 15)

Jon: 12-4 (Started Week 16)

This is our last week of picks before the regular season comes to an end, although we’ll still be making our picks throughout the playoffs. With one week left to go, Cullen Jekel holds a four pick lead over our second place writer, Aman Huda. Can Aman overtake Cullen in the final week to be our 2018 picks winner? The rest of us will most likely be fighting for positioning outside of first place. Where will we all end up? Let’s see who we’ve all picked for Week 17’s games.

 

Dolphins vs Bills

Predictions

Aman: Dolphins

Cullen: Bills

Mickayeen: Bills

Rahim: Bills

Joel: Bills

Adam: Bills

Kevin: Bills

Josh: Dolphins

Dan: Dolphins

Christan: Bills

Dennis: Bills

Jon: Dolphins

Neither team has anything to play for. This game means nothing for the playoffs or division positioning. Here’s why I’m personally taking the Bills in this game. The Dolphins are 1-6 on the road this season. The Bills and their 3-4 home record isn’t great, but the Dolphins have been a different team on the road, not in a good way.

 

Falcons vs Buccaneers

Predictions

Aman: Falcons

Cullen: Falcons

Mickayeen: Falcons

Rahim: Falcons

Joel: Falcons

Adam: Falcons

Kevin: Falcons

Josh: Falcons

Dan: Falcons

Christan: Falcons

Dennis: Falcons

Jon: Falcons    

Neither of these teams have anything to play for, other than ending the season on a high note and draft position. Even though both teams could earn a higher draft spot by losing, I think they both want to win. The Falcons are heavily favored. We’ll see if they can improve their road record, as they’re just 2-5 on the road this season. The Buccaneers are 4-3 at home. Which team wants to end their season on a high note more?

 

Cowboys vs Giants

Predictions

Aman: Cowboys

Cullen: Giants

Mickayeen: Giants

Rahim: Giants

Joel: Cowboys

Adam: Cowboys

Kevin: Giants

Josh: Cowboys

Dan: Cowboys

Christan: Cowboys

Dennis: Giants

Jon: Cowboys  

The Dallas Cowboys will be playing their starters in this game, aside from maybe G Zack Martin and a couple other guys who have lingering injuries already. How long the starters play, I don’t know, but the Cowboys will be playing to win regardless of who’s in. They want to get to double digit wins.

For the Giants, they want to finish the season on a high note and prevent their division rivals from getting that 10th win. This is a home game for the Giants, but they’re only 2-5 at home this season. The Cowboys are 2-5 on the road. Factoring in that, the injuries to both teams and the Cowboys potentially not playing their starters the entire game, the outcome could go either way.

 

Panthers vs Saints

Predictions

Aman: Saints

Cullen: Saints

Mickayeen: Panthers

Rahim: Panthers

Joel: Saints

Adam: Saints

Kevin: Saints

Josh: Saints

Dan: Saints

Christan: Saints

Dennis: Saints

Jon: Saints

It’s likely the Saints will rest several starters after they locked up the number one seed in the NFC last week. If the starters do play, I don’t expect them to be in for long. This will give us a chance to see how good the Saints really are. Or maybe how bad the Panthers really are.

Last time around, the Panthers lost in a 12-9 game, but that was a home game for the Panthers. This time they’ll be in New Orleans, where the Saints are 6-1. New Orleans is a tough team anywhere they play, but at home they’re even tougher. Most of us have the Saints winning, even without their starters.

 

Jets vs Patriots

Predictions

Aman: Patriots

Cullen: Patriots

Mickayeen: Patriots

Rahim: Patriots

Joel: Patriots

Adam: Patriots

Kevin: Patriots

Josh: Patriots

Dan: Patriots

Christan: Patriots

Dennis: Patriots

Jon: Patriots  

The Patriots are sitting as the two seed right now, but they have to win this game if they want to stay in that spot. Earning a first-round bye would be crucial for this New England team, as they’ve struggled at times this season.

The Jets won’t be in the playoffs, but I’m sure they’d love to hurt the Patriots’ chances of making the Super Bowl. Sam Darnold wasn’t able to get the Jets a win last week, but he had a great game. He completed 68.6% of his passes for 341 yards, three TDs and no INTs. He had a great game in their loss to the Texans the week before. If Darnold can have another great game against the Patriots, the Patriots could be in for a scare and at risk of losing their first-round bye.

 

Jaguars vs Texans

Predictions

Aman: Texans

Cullen: Texans

Mickayeen: Texans

Rahim: Texans

Joel: Texans

Adam: Texans

Kevin: Texans

Josh: Texans

Dan: Texans

Christan: Texans

Dennis: Texans

Jon: Texans

Houston still has a shot at being the two seed in the AFC. That means they have a shot at getting a first-round bye. That means they’ll be playing to win. In order to earn the two seed, the Texans will not only have to win, but will have to hope the Patriots lose to the Jets.

In addition to trying to earn the two seed, the Texans want to win this game to make sure they enter the playoffs on a high note. After losing to the Eagles last week, this team needs to make sure it rebounds before playing the best teams the AFC has to offer in win or go home situations.

In addition to entering the playoffs on a high note, the Texans need a win to secure themselves the AFC South. If they lose and the Colts win, the Colts will win the division. That would mean the Texans would have to play their first playoff game on the road rather than at home. This game is a big one for Houston!

 

Lions vs Packers

Predictions

Aman: Packers

Cullen: Packers

Mickayeen: Packers

Rahim: Packers

Joel: Packers

Adam: Packers

Kevin: Packers

Josh: Packers

Dan: Packers

Christan: Packers

Dennis: Packers

Jon: Packers

Neither team is playing for the playoffs in this game, but I think both teams are still wanting to win. I’ll take the better QB in this game, which is Aaron Rodgers. The Packers just want to end their season on a high note after the disappointing year they’ve had. The Lions could compete, but their offense hasn’t been great for sometime now.

 

Eagles vs Redskins

Predictions

Aman: Eagles

Cullen: Eagles

Mickayeen: Redskins

Rahim: Eagles

Joel: Eagles

Adam: Eagles

Kevin: Eagles

Josh: Eagles

Dan: Eagles

Christan: Eagles

Dennis: Redskins

Jon: Eagles

If the Vikings lose their game to the Bears, the Eagles can make the playoffs with a win over the Redskins. The defending Super Bowl champs have actually looked like the champs over the past couple of weeks. They would love to get a real chance to defend their title. Other than the Vikings, all that’s standing in their way is the Redskins. They have fourth string QB Josh Johnson starting. Can they knock the defending champs out of the playoffs?

 

Chargers vs Broncos

Predictions

Aman: Chargers

Cullen: Chargers

Mickayeen: Broncos

Rahim: Chargers

Joel: Chargers

Adam: Chargers

Kevin: Chargers

Josh: Chargers

Dan: Chargers

Christan: Chargers

Dennis: Chargers

Jon: Chargers 

The Chargers still have a chance to earn the top spot in the AFC. They need to not only win this game, but hope the Chiefs lose to the Raiders. After an awful performance against the Ravens last week, the Chargers should just be focused on winning. They need to rebound as they head into the playoffs. Philip Rivers has put together an MVP campaign, so a rebound seems likely. The Broncos did beat the Chargers last time. Can they do it again and ruin the Chargers’ chances at a first-round bye?

 

Raiders vs Chiefs

Predictions

Aman: Chiefs

Cullen: Chiefs

Mickayeen: Chiefs

Rahim: Raiders

Joel: Chiefs

Adam: Chiefs

Kevin: Chiefs

Josh: Chiefs

Dan: Chiefs

Christan: Chiefs

Dennis: Raiders

Jon: Chiefs 

If the Chiefs want to earn themselves the number one spot in the AFC playoffs, they have to win this game. The Chargers can still earn the top spot if the Chiefs lose. The Chiefs don’t want that to happen, so they have to win. The Raiders gave the Chiefs a hard time last time around, but the Chiefs still came out on top. Can they upset the potential MVP, potentially knocking them into the Wild Card round?

 

Bears vs Vikings

Predictions

Aman: Vikings

Cullen: Vikings

Mickayeen: Vikings

Rahim: Bears

Joel: Vikings

Adam: Vikings

Kevin: Vikings

Josh: Bears

Dan: Bears

Christan: Bears

Dennis: Bears

Jon: Bears

This game is interesting because of the playoff implications. If the Bears win and the Rams lose, the Bears would get a first-round bye. If the Vikings win, they’re in, but if they lose and the Eagles win, they’re out. With the Rams playing at the same time as the Bears, will the Bears play their starters and try to earn a first-round bye, or will they rest their starters and give the Vikings an easier time making the playoffs?

 

Browns vs Ravens

Predictions

Aman: Ravens

Cullen: Ravens

Mickayeen: Browns

Rahim: Browns

Joel: Ravens

Adam: Ravens

Kevin: Browns

Josh: Ravens

Dan: Ravens

Christan: Ravens

Dennis: Browns

Jon: Ravens 

Which division rival does Baker Mayfield dislike more? Would he rather have the Ravens or Steelers in the playoffs? The Steelers are hoping it’s them, because they need Mayfield and the Browns to beat the Ravens for them to have a chance at the playoffs.

The Ravens don’t really care what Baker Mayfield thinks. They just care about winning. Win and they’re in. This defense is one of the best in the league. We saw them dominate a hot Chargers team last week. Can they do the same against the Browns and secure themselves a spot in the playoffs?

 

49ers vs Rams

Predictions

Aman: Rams

Cullen: Rams

Mickayeen: Rams

Rahim: Rams

Joel: Rams

Adam: Rams

Kevin: Rams

Josh: Rams

Dan: Rams

Christan: Rams

Dennis: Rams

Jon: Rams  

The Rams are currently in the two spot in the NFC, meaning they’d have a first-round bye if the playoffs started today. However, they haven’t been locked into that spot yet. There’s still a chance for the Bears to take the two spot. For that to happen, the Rams would have to lose and the Bears would need to beat the Vikings. The Rams know this. They’ll be playing all out against the 49ers to make sure they get the first-round bye. The 49ers could potentially hang around for a little while, but I believe they’ll put the game away well before the end of regulation.

 

Bengals vs Steelers

Predictions

Aman: Steelers

Cullen: Steelers

Mickayeen: Steelers

Rahim: Steelers

Joel: Steelers

Adam: Steelers

Kevin: Steelers

Josh: Steelers

Dan: Steelers

Christan: Steelers

Dennis: Steelers

Jon: Steelers

For Pittsburgh to make the playoffs, they have to not only beat the Bengals, but need the Ravens to lose to the Browns. I believe the Steelers will take care of business and give themselves a chance. They want to be in the playoffs, which will elevate their game all around. However, the Bengals could step up their game because they know they can keep the Steelers out. I’m sure they would love to do that.

 

Cardinals vs Seahawks

Predictions

Aman: Seahawks

Cullen: Seahawks

Mickayeen: Seahawks

Rahim: Seahawks

Joel: Seahawks

Adam: Seahawks

Kevin: Seahawks

Josh: Seahawks

Dan: Seahawks

Christan: Seahawks

Dennis: Seahawks

Jon: Seahawks

Even though the Seahawks have already locked up a playoff spot, they’re not resting their starters. Having to play in the Wild Card round, the Seahawks want to make sure they’re sharp heading into that game. Playing against the Cardinals to end the season is the perfect way to make sure they do that. This game should be easily won by the Seahawks, which will give them a confidence boost in their game against their first playoff opponent, likely the Dallas Cowboys.

 

Colts vs Titans (Sunday Night)

Predictions

Aman: Colts

Cullen: Colts

Mickayeen: Colts

Rahim: Colts

Joel: Colts

Adam: Colts

Kevin: Colts

Josh: Colts

Dan: Colts

Christan: Colts

Dennis: Colts

Jon: Colts

The winner of this game makes the playoffs. We’re all picking the Colts to get in. Over the past two games, the Colts’ defense has held Ezekiel Elliott and Saquon Barkley in check. Both of those guys are top three in rushing yards this season. Now they face Derrick Henry, who has had his three best games of the season over the past three weeks.

The formula of Derrick Henry dominating has worked out nicely for the Titans, but can he have a good performance against the Colts? If he doesn’t, it will likely give Andrew Luck a lot more time with the ball. That means more points, which means the Colts winning.

Wild Card watch: Update on the race with three weeks remaining

Two weeks ago I posted a blog about the wildcard picture in both the AFC and NFC. With three weeks remaining in the season, I revisit some of my thoughts and update you on the Wild Card races.

15209895019_95244e8893_k.jpg
Terrell Suggs, Cam Newton” by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

By Dennis Olmstead

 

Panthers are all but done

I have been duped. I trusted the Panthers and what they have in Carolina. The talent on that roster is not translating to the field, which has caused them to go on a losing streak. That streak couldn’t come at a worse time.

The fifth seed is all but locked by Seattle, but the sixth seed is WIDE open right now. Even with Carolina’s poor play, they still miraculously have a shot at the playoffs. The issue is their chances of making it are slim to none. With three games remaining, the Panthers play the NFC leading Saints twice. They’re in New Orleans this Monday, finishing the season up with them coming to Charlotte. In between the two meetings, they have Atlanta at home.

The Vikings are the only reason the Panthers are still in the hunt. Minnesota has been matching the Panthers losses the last two weeks and also have no right to be mentioned in the same sentence as the playoffs. Back to back close losses to the Buccaneers and Browns have made the road to the playoffs for the Panthers very challenging, if not impossible. They need to play the best football they have played this season three straight weeks. Even that may not be enough.

 

Cowboys are proving it’s better to be lucky than good sometimes

It is so very hard for me to accept the fact that the Cowboy’s are good. I cannot and will not take away their wins against the Saints and Eagles, but they certainly made their lives a lot harder and the games more exciting by keeping them close. I get it, a win is a win, but their inability to close out games when they have the opportunity to is a sign the team may not be as good as advertised.

Let me provide you with some stat lines from the game against the Eagles:

Prescott: 42/54, 455 yards, three TD’s and two INT’s

Elliot: 28 carries, 113 yards, 12 catches and 79 yards

Cooper: 10 catches, 217 yards and three TD’s

With those great offensive numbers, they still needed OT to win the game. A defense that held Drew Brees to 10 points let up 22. You may be wondering why am I focused on the Cowboys when I am writing about the Wild Card Race. Legit question, but if you read my predictions two weeks ago, you would know then that I foresaw an epic collapse by the Cowboys. They have not done that and I am bitter. Them atop of the NFC East and the struggles of the Panthers and Vikings still leaves a window open for the Eagles to make playoffs. That window is extremely small and will most likely close quickly this Sunday against the Rams. Like the Cowboys’ victory against the Saints taught us, anything can happen.

 

The AFC race just got better:

With the Colts and Ravens going 1-1 in the last two games (Colts lost to the Jags and beat the Texans. Ravens beat Atlanta and lost to KC), the Dolphins and Titans capitalized on it by going 2-0, officially making it a four horse race.

This Sunday could be the week where one or two teams separate themselves from the pack.

Of the four teams, the Dolphins and Colts have the toughest matchups this week. Though their recent struggles, Minnesota is still a good football team with talent that keeps them in every game they play. Miami needs to refocus after a big win against New England and keep that momentum going. The Dolphins have been the most up and down team we have seen this season and could be in for a hangover and let down when they travel up north to Viking country. The Colts have the hottest team in football coming to town, the Cowboys. It is a tough matchup, but the Colts at home have been very good. After ending the Texans’ win streak, they will be looking to put out the fire surrounding the Cowboys.

Both the Colts and Dolphins can easily lose those games, leaving the Ravens and Titans an opportunity to separate themselves. I will admit, I have not given the Ravens enough credit this season. They are a gritty team that has proven to be a lot harder to beat than I thought. They played hard against the Chiefs, nearly stealing a big game. Tampa Bay proves to be an easier match-up than KC, but have been sneaky good at times and could give the Ravens fits if they are not ready for it.

The Titans also have a winnable game, at least if they show up the same way they did against the Jaguars Thursday Night. The Giants will give them problems, but I think last week’s win can fuel Tennessee for a big run to end the season. The Giants could be just a speed bump in the way of the last playoff spot. But just like the Dolphins, just when you think they have it all right, they don’t show up the next week.

If I had to guess, I’d say the Dolphins lose, Colts win, Ravens win and Titans lose. Making it Ravens (8-6) Colts (8-6) Titans (7-7) Dolphins (7-7)

These teams are still in the hunt, but I did not mention because they need a lot of help. Broncos (6-7) and Browns (5-8) in the AFC and Giants (5-8) and Packers (5-7-1) in the NFC.