Category Archives: NFL

2017-2018 AFC Division Preview

AFC East:

Winner: New England Patriots

The AFC East is the easiest of the divisions to predict as the Patriots will win their 9th straight AFC East Division Title. The Patriots are the best team on paper, especially after winning the Super Bowl last season. A team led by Tom Brady and Bill Belichick will always be competitive, but this Patriots team has the chance to be special. The team has weapons on both offense and defense such as Rob Gronkowski, Brandin Cooks, Danny Amendola, and Julian Edelman. On defense, Patriots have a solid mixture of both experience and youth like Patrick Chung, Devin McCourty, David Harris, Donta Hightower, and Malcolm Brown, In addition to the Patriots dominance, the rest of the division is incredibly weak. The Jets may have the least amount of talent in the NFL, the Bills just traded their best wide receiver, and the Dolphins lost their starting quarterback and are relying on the mercurial Jay Cutler.

AFC North

Winner: Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers are looking to be the first consecutive division winner since 2011-2012 when the Baltimore Ravens were able to claim the division title two years in a row. The Steelers are one of the most explosive teams in the entire NFL. On offense, the team is led by their killer B’s, Big Ben, Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, and Martavious Bryant. Le’Veon Bell is the most electric running back in the NFL because of his ability to run effective, but also catch the ball out of the backfield. Antonio Brown is the most consistent receiver in the NFL as he has a knack for finding an opening in the defense, runs incredible routes and possesses great hands. The offensive success of the team will rely on the trios ability to remain healthy and out of legal issues. On defense, the team is slowly improving as they continue to add talent through the draft, especially with their early selections. The Steelers should possess a solid pass rush with James Harrison, TJ Watt, Bud Dupree, and Ryan Shazier. However, the defense cannot succeed without improvement in the secondary. If the secondary can improve, this team should dominate the division and potentially rival the Patriots in the Conference. Outside of the Steelers, the Ravens and Bengals should be able to compete with the Steelers, but they will need to have big years from Joe Flacco and Andy Dalton, respectively.

AFC South

Winner: Tennessee Titans

Although the Titans have been mired in mediocrity for years, there are a group of people that believe they can win the division and return to the playoffs. The combination of a rising young quarterback and a weak division gives the Titans a chance to win the AFC South Division Title. Tennessee reminds me of Oakland last season as they have a number of weapons and a quarterback that is ready to become a star. The Titans’ quarterback, Marcus Mariota, has the stars around him, DeMarco Murray, Rishad Matthews, Delanie Walker, and rookie wide receiver Corey Davis. Mariota should be able to succeed because of the explosive talent from the skilled position and the skill on the offensive line. On defense, the Titans are hoping to take a step forward with young talent. Outside of the Titans, the AFC South of solid teams, but no great team. The Colts have Andrew Luck, but the rest of the team is terrible and Luck is already injured. The Texans have across the board, but the quarterback position is a serious question mark, which keeps them from being more than a 10 win team every year. The Jags are destined to stay in the cellar for another year. The race should be a three horse race, but fans should be exciting in November and December.

AFC West

Winner: Oakland Raiders

The Raiders were one of the hottest teams in the NFL until starting quarterback Derek Carr became injured and the team needed to rely on backup Connor Cook. Last season, Derek Carr took a major step forward and became one of the elite throwers in the league. Along with Carr, the Oakland offense is incredibly successful because of their array of weapons, whether it be Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree, and Marshawn Lynch. The offense will be happily assisted by their defense, which has stars at every level. The defense is led by star defensive end Khalil Mack, who has become one of the best defensive stars in the league. Besides Mack the team has impactful veterans such as David Amerson, Reggie Nelson, Karl Joseph, Sean Smith, and Bruce Irvin. The biggest rival to the Raiders is the defending AFC West Champion Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs are a deep, talented, and well-coached team that will win at least 11 games. Even though they do not have the dynamic ability like the Raiders, they are a solid football team led by Alex Smith and a great defense.

Three Best Bets for Week One in the NFL

  1. N.Y. Giants (+5.5) vs. Dallas

For the third consecutive season, the New York Giants will open up against the Dallas Cowboys in Jerry’s World. The previous two match-ups, the games have been decided by one point or less and they have split both contests. Over the past few years, the Giants have experienced great success against the Cowboys, which makes this line seem quite favorable. The Giants significantly improved this offseason by adding more offensive weapons in addition to solidifying their already daunting defense. On offense, the Giants were able to lure All-Pro wide receiver Brandon Marshall away from the Jets while drafting star tight end Evan Engram in the first round. Those two weapons, combined with Odell Beckham Jr. and an improved Paul Perkins, will provide nightmares for any defensive, especially the Dallas Cowboys’ defense. Last season, the Cowboys improved defensively, but a majority of their success was due to the consistency on offense, which was one of the best in the NFL. Ezekiel Elliot’s ability to chew up time on the ground, while Dak limited turnovers, allowed the defense to be on the field for as short of time as possible and put their opponents in poor field position. The Giants should be able to hinder Zeke as they have in the past because they possess one of the best front sevens in the league and were very stingy when it came to rushing yards last season. Ultimately though due to the Giants’ offensive firepower and defensive strengths, I not only believe that they will cover the spread, but that they will win the game outright.

2. Carolina (+4.5) vs San Francisco

Although it is difficult to give points when you are on the road, I expect the Panthers to defeat the 49ers soundly during week one of the season. Last season, the Panthers had a down year, especially after going 15-1 during the regular season and reaching the Super Bowl. However, the Panthers still possess an impressive defense and Cam Newton remains the quarterback of the team. Newton had a relatively down year last season, but it was mostly due to the fact that he was frequently hit in the pocket and dealt with numerous nagging injuries throughout the season. This season, he has stated that he is already healthy and ready to wreak havoc on the league just as he had two years ago, when he was named NFL MVP. Along with Newton’s health the offense should be relatively dangerous because they maintained their core weapons, Kelvin Benjamin and Greg Olsen, while adding do-it-all running back Christian McCafferty. In addition to the Panthers’ skill, the team will win comfortably because the 49ers are one of the worst teams in the NFL. Even though they had a quality draft, in which they drafted very good defensive players, their offense is non-existent because of their lack of playmakers and skill at the quarterback position. On defense, they are not much better as they lack the necessary star power and playmaking ability that once made them the best defense in the league. Take the Panthers and give the points.

3. Philadelphia vs. Washington (-2.5)

In another battle of NFC East foes, the Redskins will welcome the Eagles to FedEx Field for this week one match-up. Last season, the Redskins were able to defeat the Eagles twice, once at home by seven points and once on the road by five points. Outside of their wide receiving core, which lost two starters, DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon, the Redskins return most of the core pieces. In order to replace the duo, the Skins signed Terrell Pryor, who had a breakout year for the hopeless Browns last season, and Brian Quick, a tall and intimidating figure from the Los Angeles Rams. In addition, the offense kept stud tight end Jordan Reed and quality running backs, Samaje Perine, rookie, and Robert Kelley. Along with Kirk Cousins, the offense should not worry about scoring points, even against a defense that is as stingy as the Philadelphia Eagles. Even though the Eagles have an impressive defensive unit, maybe one of the best in the NFL, the Skins are not too shabby themselves, especially considering they possess stars such as Josh Norman, rookie, Jonathan Allen, Trent Murphy, Ryan Kerrigan, and DeAngelo Hall. This unit may not be the best, but they should be able to hold down the Philadelphia offense, which ranked toward the bottom half of the league last season. Take the Redskins and give the points.

AFC Wild Card Round

Oakland Raiders vs Houston Texans

The matchup between the Raiders and Texans may be the worst quarterback matchup in a playoff game in the history of the NFL. Connor Cook is the first quarterback in NFL history to make his first start in the playoffs. On the opposing side of the ball, Brock Osweiler will be starting for the Houston Texans and he has been an absolute disaster throughout the season. Before the Raiders lost Derek Carr, they were a Super Bowl contender because Carr was a MVP candidate. Although Carr will not be under center, the Raiders still have quality offensive weapons like Latavius Murray, Amari Cooper, and Michael Crabtree. In addition, Cook showed during his years at Michigan State that he can win games against top competition. If Cook can limit the turnovers, he should be able to take advantage of his weapons. On the defensive side of the ball, the Raiders should be to stop Brock Osweiler without much difficulty. Although the Raiders’ defense has not been very consistent this season, they have talent throughout the defense. However, the Raiders have Khalil Mack, who was the first player ever to be selected to the All-Pro at two different positions during the same season. Mack has the potential to disrupt an entire offensive game plan, if he can apply constant pressure. Outside of Mack, the Raiders will rely on Bruce Irvin, Malcolm Smith, and Reggie Nelson. The Raiders should be able to frustrate the Texans and do enough on offense to overcome the Texans, who are playing at home.

Although the Texans lost Defensive Player of the Year, JJ Watt, and received terrible quarterback play from Brock Osweiler, the Texans were able to claim the AFC South Division for the second straight season. When the Texans signed Osweiler to a 4 year/$72 million deal this offseason, Coach Bill O’Brian was believing that they finally acquired the right quarterback to pair with their stout defense and make a run in the playoffs. Even with stars around him like Lamar Miller, DeAndre Hopkins, and Will Fuller, Osweiler threw more interceptions than touchdowns. If the Texans are going to score enough points to outlast the Raiders at home they are going to need to heavily utilize Lamar Miller. Miller had one of the better years for a running back this season by accumulating over 1200 yards of offense from the line of scrimmage and 6 touchdowns. While the offense will play a conservative style, the defense should be aggressive from the kickoff and try to disrupt Cook and force him into errant throws. Although they do not have Watt, the Texans pass rush is formidable with Jadeavon Clowney having the best season of his career and Whitney Merciless. In addition, the Texans boast one of the better secondaries in the league as they have allowed the second least passing yards in the NFL. The combination of their effective pass rush and ball hawks in the secondary such as Quintin Demps and Kareem Jackson force quarterbacks into mental mistakes and turnovers.

Score: Raiders win 13-10

Miami Dolphins vs Pittsburgh Steelers

The Dolphins and Steelers are a rematch of their week 6 matchup, which saw the Dolphins dominate the Steelers 30-15. In this contest, the Dolphins were able to expose the Steelers’ porous rush defense as Jay Ajayi rushed for 204 yards and 2 touchdowns. However, the Dolphins will not be starting their best quarterback Ryan Tannehill in this game due to a knee injury. Although Tannehill will not be under center, Matt Moore is a competent veteran quarterback and he has a string of weapons to utilize on offense. The Dolphins will stick to a basic game plan by feeding Jay Ajayi early and often and putting the ball in the hands of star wide receiver Jarvis Landry. Landry is one of the best slot receivers in the league and should be able to record double digit catches against the Steelers’ defense. On defense, the Dolphins will have their hands full with Big Ben, Le’Veon Bell, and Antonio Brown. The trio is the best QB-RB-WR combination in the entire league. The Dolphins will need a huge effort from their defense in order to slow the Steelers’ dynamic offense. Suh, Andre Branch, and Cameron Wake will have the responsibility of dominating the line of scrimmage, stopping Bell, and applying pressure on Roethlisberger. If the Dolphins can contain Roethlisberger and not allow him to scramble outside the pocket, they can stop him from completing his passes down the field.

The Steelers have been one of the most frustrating teams in the league because they have the talent to score every possession, but frequently underachieve. Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown are arguably the best players at their respective possessions. Bell is an incredible running back because he has great vision and patience, which allows him to find holes and get to the second level. In addition, he is the best receiving running back in the NFL and accumulated over 600 passing yards in 11 games. Along with Bell, Brown had a fantastic season even with Roethlisberger missing a few games. Brown put up over 1250 yards of offense while recording 12 touchdowns. If the Steelers’ offensive line can protect Roethlisberger and provide holes for Bell, they should be able to score enough points to beat Matt Moore and the Dolphins. On defense, the Steelers are going to need to play as a team in order to stop the Dolphins’ running attack. Outside of Lawrence Timmons, Pittsburgh does not have any stars on defense. However, they are stacked with former first round picks so they have the talent to put forth a dominating effort. The Steelers should look to apply constant pressure on Moore and hope that it will lead to turnovers and better field position for the offense. Ultimately, the offensive prowess of the Steelers will be too much for the Dolphins, especially without Tannehill to take advantage of their defense.

Score: Steelers win 27-20