2018 NFL Kickoff: Thursday Night Football

As I sit here and watch the end of the last episode of Hard Knocks with the Browns, I have to start by mentioning how disappointing it was to not see Cajuste get a spot and how shocked I was that they let Nassib go.  I thought for sure Nassib was a lock and with Cajuste having a pretty decent offensive game in the last pre-season game, thought they might keep him but I know they already had 3 solid tight ends so the harsh reality was just seeing him cut.  Anyways, without further ado…..

Welcome to the start of the 2018 NFL season and the start of my predictions machine (hint: I am the machine haha!).

Atlanta at Philadelphia, 8:20p, NBC (Eagles: -1, O/U: 44.5):

The Falcons will play a little roll reversal coming into this game as underdogs compared to being favorites going into Philly for the NFC Divisional game last season.  The previous seasons Super Bowl champs are 12-2 in the last 14 season openers.  The average point totals in those games racked up to a whopping nearly 48 points.

The Eagles have many questions coming into this game as Foles had a bad pre-season and they are dealing with a handful of injuries to key players.  Doug Pederson will keep Foles reigned in and focused while calling plays that will be successful and suit his skill set, like he did in the playoffs.

The Falcons roster hasn’t changed much other than adding another offensive weapon via the draft, Calvin Ridley.  The only worrisome note was the drop in offensive scoring output from 33.8 points in 2016 under Shanahan to 22.1 points in 2017 under Sarkisian.  Given that it was the teams first year under Sark, they should see improvement in their consistency, from game to game, in year 2 under his watch.

The game moved 3 points after the official news that Wentz was out and Foles was in as starter for the Eagles.  To be honest, that’s scary but it also gives me what I need to know about the Eagles.  Like I said, Doug keeps Foles in line for this week and keeps the game close but take the Falcons and their high powered offense to cover +1 and win in the over, Falcons 24-21.

There you have it, game one in the predictions column.  Happy football eve everyone!  Don’t forget to thaw the dip, get the family sized bag of Tostito’s and get your order in early to your favorite wing joint…… oh, and good luck!

#beatyourbookie

 

NFL Week 1: Season Opener

Welcome back to another NFL season!

This year, it just feels like it is going to be a great one.  The draft came and went with lots of quality depth for the running back and wide receiver positions.  Fantasy draft season hits and you’re suddenly thrown into the conundrum of taking a seasoned vet or one of the 4 rookie backs that could start and make huge impacts?  And talk about depth at receiver!  Outside of the top crop of players guaranteed to vie for the 200-250 point mark in most PPR leagues, there is some amazing depth there for your WR2-4!

Then pre-season hits. You’re excited, waiting for the first big crack of pads and game action regardless if they are guys who will be cut in 4 weeks (and Hardknocks).  Football is back!  A couple key injuries here and there and then you’re wondering why Greg held the damn draft so early in the pre-season…….but you don’t care because it gives you an excuse to play GM for your team and scour stats of the waiver wire players for that undrafted diamond in the rough stud!

Man, what a time of the year…

Fast forward to the first game of the season, Chiefs @ Patriots.  Pats -9, O/U 48.5:

Rule of thumb for the past 15 years or so has been, don’t bet against the Pats at home, EVER!  Chances are, out of 8 games, you’ll be in the black, handedly, every year.  Their ATS coverage at home since 2003 is amazing (75-54-4, 58.1% covers).  The only team better than them is Seattle 73-46-4 (61.3% covers), and those figures include playoffs.  Needless to say, SHOCKER! I mean, the only thing not shocking about that game was that the Chiefs were going to cover the 9 points Vegas gave them.  They had to have been reminded by that fact all week and possibly helped create a “chip on the shoulder” mentality that they weren’t being respected coming into this game.  Let’s be honest though, we know the Pats are REALLY good at home especially when it’s a feature game, but 9 POINTS!?!?!  That’s a spread you reserve for the Pats/Jags or the Pats/Browns, not the Chiefs.  I figured they’d cover but still lose…..because, well…..it’s the Pats at home.  I couldn’t have been more wrong about the final score.

Covers.com had the game at Pats -9, O/U of 48.5. I figured that the Pats secondary would make it difficult for Smith to be relied on solely, so I planned on his usual 1 maybe 2 TD’s through the air and maybe 250 yards, effectively like a pro vet QB, managing the game well.  I expected Hunt to make a small impact in his first game, maybe 70 yards and a score.  I expected the Pats to have their run game stall because of the Chiefs stingy defensive front and I expected Tom would exploit the defense on a handful of plays to keep the Pats ahead with his numerous air attack weapons.

Not once could I have predicted Hunt tearing off 148 yards on the ground with another 98 through the air along with 3 TD’s, (dramatic pause), ALL after losing a fumble on his first ever carry! Nor did I see Smith tossing for 368 and 4 scores while completing 80% of his passes.  No one, however, could’ve seen this coming, Tom Brady completing just 44% of his throws and end up with 0 TD’s, (another dramatic pause) 0!!!!  They only averaged 3.5 yards rushing as a team, mostly thanks to Gillislee and White (side shocker no one saw coming, Gillislee having 3 rushing TD’s).

So the Chiefs defense did what I thought they’d do but the pass rush against Brady was alive last night!  Brady had a bunch of time in the pocket for most of the night despite the 3 sacks but he felt the pressure amount the longer he held the ball (which was evident on a play where no one was all that close to him and he flinched in the pocket, ducking down as if to brace for a sack and quickly stood straight back up to fire an incompletion).  The Chiefs did all of this while amassing 15 penalties for 139 yards to which the Pats got 4 first downs from and set up a few close TD’s at the Chief’s goal line.

First game, in the books, complete shocker.  Expect a big bounce back next week since that usually happens when the Pats lose bad.

Check back Sunday morning for a preview of Sunday’s games complete with spread and over/unders from Covers.com along with my predictions for each game along with Colin Cowherd’s Blazing 5.

WHY THE TEXANS SHOULDN’T SELECT JADEVEON CLOWNEY #1 OVERALL

Let’s go down memory lane for a moment. The Texans had this very pick in 2006 and it came with a ton of pressure, as it usually does. Everyone was aware that Vince Young was the most versatile quarterback in the draft and fans wanted to see an actual Texan lead the, still relatively new, franchise with the hopes of the next Michael Vick. Pre-Draft mock experts had Reggie Bush going number one to the Texans, pretty much all across the board. To everyone’s surprise, the Texans talked with Mario Williams and signed him on the night before the draft making him, not Bush, the number one overall pick. Going into the 2006 draft, the Texans needed a ton of help on both sides of the ball which they balanced out with the use of the rest of their picks. They used their first two picks on defense picking up Williams and DeMeco Ryans (2nd round, 33rd overall) and their next five picks on offense (OT – Charles Spenser 3/65, OT – Eric Winston 3/66, TE – Owen Daniels 4/98, RB – Wali Lundy 6/170, and WR – David Anderson 7/251).

Combine Results

40 Yd Dash

3 Cone Drill

225 Bench Press

Broad Jump

Vertical Jump

Mario Williams – 6’7” 295 lbs

4.66

7.21

35 Reps

10’

40 ½”

 

One reason Vince Young wasn’t really on their radar was due to the fact that they still saw major potential with David Carr whom they drafted number one overall back in 2002 but had struggled staying upright being the highest sacked quarterback three of his first four pro years. However, he showed the Texans enough to get another full year of starts before not being resigned in favor of the Texans getting Matt Schaub. The Texans even drafted two offensive tackles to help protect Carr, but he eventually played horribly in other areas. Needless to say, the 2006 Texans had four different rookies start eight games and lead their respected position, while finishing 6-10. Williams had a great start and produced solid numbers over his time with the Texans (averaging 40.16 tackles and 8.83 sacks each year and could’ve been more if he didn’t miss 14 games his final 2 years). The point is, he was also a can’t miss pick, at defensive end, but it didn’t help them win a Super Bowl. Even though Vince Young isn’t employed by the NFL at this point, it doesn’t mean he couldn’t have flourished with Andre Johnson either.

Fast forward eight years and the Texans find themselves in a similar spot come May 8th. This draft seems similar, however on different circumstances this time around, the Texans have the distinct opportunity to select the top college prospect (in their eyes) of this year’s draft. It is an exciting time for any team that holds this pick each and every year but with this pick comes ultimate scrutiny from the beloved owner(s), writers and fans. At the forefront of this year’s draft is Jadeveon Clowney, who after his pro-day, is the can’t miss number one pick for any team in the Texans position, according to mock draft experts. There is just one thing, this year is also packed of NFL talent at the quarterback position as well, which the Texans also need. After the Schaub/Keenum experiment last year, the Texans could really use a new franchise quarterback more than another defensive end that could have the same impact as JJ Watt has on the other end. On the forefront of the needs board, the Texans have three quarterbacks, to which no one really is considers as a true franchise quarterback, and five defensive ends.

The one thing that every team needs to win and on a consistent level, is a consistent quarterback with good size. Bill O’Brien has had that in his coaching career since 2006 (Tom Brady in New England, Matt McGloin and Christian Hackenberg at Penn State). Having Bortles could continue that trend and allow O’Brien to keep the style of offense that has helped make him one of the top offensive minds in football. Taking on Clowney would mean that they would have to scheme defensive plays to make him effective since they also have Watt rushing hard on the other end as well. Their Romeo Crennel defense is a make-up of mostly 3-4 mixed with some 4-3. In his 3-4, the lineman are to draw double teams so that blitzing linebackers don’t get tangled up with offensive lineman. Does that type of defense sound good for a light on his feet, quick and explosive defensive end like Clowney? I think not. In fact, game films show Clowney against double teams all throughout his senior year and he was tossed around and not very effective.

The video below is of the Missouri game in which Clowney played poorly throughout only having 4 solo and 1 assisted tackles as well as a deflection in a two overtime game. Props to whom ever made this montage highlighting every play he was on the field for. You can visibly see some good things but on most plays he isn’t putting much effort in, peeling off of chasing the backs, going 10 yards deep in the back field and if he doesn’t get the edge he lets up. In fact he was mostly blown off of the line of scrimmage where as his other team mates took on double teams as well and were more effective in staying on the line.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mb-8ePTyOnQ

Top Quarterback Prospects Combine or Pro Day workouts:

 

40 Yd Dash

3 Cone Drill

Broad Jump

Vertical Jump

Blake Bortles – 6’5” 232 lbs

4.93

7.08

9’7”

32 ½”

Tajh Boyd – 6’1” 222 lbs

4.84

7.33

8’10”

30 ½”

Teddy Bridgewater – 6’2” 214 lbs

**4.79

7.17

9’5”

30”

Derek Carr – 6’2” 214 lbs

4.69

9’2”

34 ½”

Johnny Manziel – 6’0” 207 lbs

4.68

6.75

9’5”

31 ½”

**Denotes 40 yd dash was a result from pro day

The Texans are faced with a tough issue at hand with the number one pick overall. Need one, get Clowney and fill a pass rushing need on one of the leagues worse defenses. Need two, improve on the quarterback position which is also a huge need and pick up a defensive end later in the draft with either picks acquired in a trade down or with their second round pick. Huge issues stand in the way of Clowney and the Texans. Numerous experts and former pro athletes who all study the tapes say that the commitment isn’t there. Warren Sapp was recently quoted as saying, “My grandfather taught me something a long time ago. He said ‘You will never get more money by doing less work,’” Sapp said, via the Houston Chronicle. “I look at Jadeveon Clowney’s [game] tape and I don’t see a guy that is playing the game with his hair on fire, making plays, running up and down the field sideline to sideline, doing all of the things.”  That’s not something you want to hear as a team with that number one pick looking to possibly draft Clowney.  Merrill Hodge recently was picking apart his game as recent as his senior year, stating that his technique is flawed, looks like he lacks desire and has limited moves as a defensive end with really only having a good swim move.

Tedy Bruschi has stated that he loves Clowney and sees no reason as to why he shouldn’t be number one.  That was mere moments after Clowney finished his pro day.  First off, pro days are over-rated in some ways and this is due to the fact that it is all schedule and rehearsed.  These players spend weeks and months working out, getting stronger and faster for the combine, doing the same combine drills over and over to get the technique down and to improve for the combine.  After the combine, it’s off to working on areas of your game that you need to improve on to show NFL scouts on your pro day and individual private workouts afterwards, that you are ready to be “their guy”.  Players hook up with a training coach and come up with 50-70 drills/plays to best show off their talents.  Let me reiterate, it’s planned, rehearsed, practiced over and over and over against bags, against no defenses really pressuring them, against upright bags not blocking or applying pressure on them.  Not to knock Tedy Bruschi and his knowledge and experience but why get excited about that?  I would want to see this guy blow by actual players and avoid blockers and pass rushers by moving around in the pocket in that moment and see how they all deal with the similar pressures they will face in a game.  Don’t put too many eggs in the basket of someone’s awesome pro day, put your eggs in the decision on not wanting to pick a guy who was rattled in his pro day like Teddy Bridgewater.  How do you mess up a planned workout?  They say nerves; his nervousness of his pro day and he got rattled?  What happens when you select him and he chokes under NFL pressure?

Enough of that rant, let’s look at scenarios for the Texans.

The Texans have a huge advantage by hanging that first pick over the heads of the rest of the league. A very possible scenario is that the Texans don’t want to play against Clowney if they do pass on him and choose either Khalil Mack or Bortles with the first pick. A team just out of the top five, sitting at number six is the Atlanta Falcons who could use a pass rusher in the worse way. The Browns have been heard to like a wide receiver or quarterback at the number four spot which it’s predicted that Manziel or Sammy Watson will go there, so the Browns will not want to trade up to select either of those players first since they will be there by pick four anyways. Oakland at number five is not in need of a quarterback since they had picked up Matt Schaub and will be looking to bring him pieces to the aerial attack like Sammy Watkins or go defense to go along with newly added Lamarr Woodley and Justin Tuck, if Mack is available. If the Texans can trade down out of the top five and still be in front of the Vikings at eight, they would take Bortles and force the Vikings to take Bridgewater, whose stock has been tarnished with his so-so pro day.

The Texans have a high demand pick for a high demand player in Clowney which they could easily scoop up a ton of early round picks in a trade down scenario to which they could also scoop up Bortles, who experts say is a Bill O’Brien type of guy. If they take Bortles first overall or are able to trade out of the top five with Atlanta, to hope he is there at six, he will more than likely sit behind Ryan Fitzpatrick and either take over later in the season if there are struggles or sit pretty much the whole year and develop to take over in 2015. With their second round pick or if they trade for other picks, they can easily find a decent defensive end in this draft to help on the other side of the line with JJ Watt. That defensive end could be Dee Ford who posted a better 3 cone drill, 225 bench and similar 40 yard dash, broad jump and vertical jump as Clowney. I see the next two years going the same way, if not better for O’Brien, like his two years at Penn State, if Bortles is picked. O’Brien had to deal with a previously under-performing team with an inadequate armed quarterback in McGloin (who doesn’t have great zip on the ball) and had his ideal quarterback (Hackenberg) arrive a year later playing very well as a freshman. Bortles has the NFL frame and arm to get the job done especially with the revamped receiving core and the still dangerous backfield.

Top Defensive End Prospects Combine or Pro Day workouts:

 

40 Yd Dash

3 Cone Drill

225 Bench Press

Broad Jump

Vertical Jump

Jadeveon Clowney – 6’5” 266 lbs

4.53

7.27

21 Reps

10’4”

37 ½”

*Dee Ford – 6’2” 244 lbs

4.59

7.07

29 Reps

10’4”

35 ½”

Kony Ealy – 6’4” 273 lbs

4.92

6.83

22 Reps

9’6”

31”

Scott Crichton – 6’3” 273 lbs

4.84

7.19

24 Reps

9’

31 ½”

Kareem Martin – 6’6” 272 lbs

4.72

7.20

22 Reps

10’9”

35 ½”

*Denotes Pro Day workout (did not attend combine)

Can you name more dominant defensive players that are attributed to winning their teams multiple Super Bowls than quarterbacks? What you may realize is really what the Texans should do with that first pick. Mark my words, the Texans will be contending for a Super Bowl in the coming years and could quite possibly be the next New England Patriots with Blake Bortles as “their guy”.