What I learned from week 4.

Greatest Show on Surf.

The LA Rams were good last season.  This season they may be unstoppable.  Adding downfield threat Brandin Cooks has opened up the middle of the field for slot receiver Cooper Kupp as well as forcing teams to play Robert Woods one on one.  This team can throw, run and control the tempo.

This team has offensive talent throughout the roster.  The Vikings defense has not been the dominant force that it was in 2017 but they still were completely dominated an overmatched.  The only defense that can maybe slow them down would be the Jaguars but they won’t have to deal with them during the season.  Every player on this team is a must start in your fantasy lineup and its not even debatable.

Steelers will finish third in the AFC North.

The Steelers fell to 1-2-1 on Sunday night getting handled easily by division rival Baltimore.  The Steelers gave up 14 points right off the bat and never truly were able to overcome the deficit.  The Steelers defense is bad and it won’t get much relief for the next two weeks.  The Falcons come to town next week followed by a trip to Cincinnati.  Both of those games are tough matchups for a Steelers defense that has given up 26. 27, and 42 over the last three games.

It is realistic that the Steelers are going to be 1-4-1 before they get the relief of the Browns coming to Pittsburgh. The Steelers also need to make a decision on what to do with their disgruntled RB LeVeon Bell, it is causing a rift in the team.  They are in trouble and are very likely to not make the playoffs this season.

Patriots still own the Dolphins and the AFC East

Last week I wrote that I learned the Patriots may be in trouble.  They were beaten on the national stage by a team that had been dominated by Sam Darnold during the first week of the season.  Then the Patriots got exactly what they needed to turn themselves around a trip to Miami against their whipping boys the Miami Dolphins.

The Dolphins were a mirage of 3-0 that had people buying into the potential of them winning the division.  Bill Belichick and Tom Brady quickly reminded us that they are the class of the AFC East and they are an AP class while the Dolphins are trying to work their way out of entry level.  The Patriots will not have the returning Julian Edelman next week which will only make this team even more dangerous and it will open up the playbook for Gronk and Josh Gordon.  The Pats were also able to establish rookie Sonny Michel and the run game.  This team is dangerous and I quickly have learned that you never count out the Pats.  My bad.

Titans may be for real.

I have been a hater of the Tennessee Titans since the season started.  They don’t play the brand of football that grabs your attention.  But you cannot ignore what they have done over the last three weeks.  Wins over Houston, Philadelphia and Jacksonville put the Titans at 3-1, first place in the AFC South.  They have found themselves there despite inconsistent play on the offensive end.

Corey Davis and Marcus Mariota seemed to build a rapport with each other, Davis going for 9 catches 151 yards and a touchdown yesterday against a suspect Eagles secondary.  The Titans have found the mojo with their arial attack which can open up the run game for Derrick Henry.  With the victory over the Jags the Titans sit in the drivers seat for the division and could be a tough matchup for any AFC teams.

Weekly Picks- NFL, NCAAF

Pittsburgh Steelers -3.5 at Cleveland Browns

The Pittsburgh Steelers have a major problem but the Browns are not that problem.  Despite the absence of LeVeon Bell the Pittsburgh Steelers should be in a great place to cover on Sunday.  The lose of bell has moved the line to 3.5.  The Browns are improved with Tyrod Taylor, Jarvis Landry and a healthy Josh Gordon should allow them to put points on the board but the Steelers still have a dominate offense that will be able to pull this one out by a touchdown.  I think the Browns will win at least 6-7 games this season and surprise a lot of teams, but the Steelers offense feels like they have something to prove on Sunday and the Cleveland defense will not be ready for James Conner and Big Ben.

The Steelers are 13-4 ATS vs Cleveland over their last 17 games.  Cleveland has not one a season opener since 2004.

PicksSteelers -3.5 (Like the over at 44)

Cincinnati Bengals at Indianapolis Colts -2.5

The return of Andrew Luck makes the Bengals and Colts makes this a much more interesting matchup then it would have been in 2017.  The Colts sitting at a 2.5 point favorite stills surprised us.  The Bengals may not be world beaters but they have veterans all through the offense and a defensive front that features studs Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson.

Luck hasn’t played in a year and that Colts line hasn’t gotten much better.  I can’t buy that Luck is ready to step in right away and look like the Pro Bowl player that he was right away.  Look for Luck to make some plays that reminds us of his greatness but he will have some first game jitters.

Picks Bengals -2.5

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints -9.5

In two games against the Buccaneers last season, the Saints averaged 30.5 points per game, Drew Brees averaged 254 pass yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions, the running back corps averaged 121.5 rushing yards, and receivers caught 44 passes for 505 yards with three touchdowns. The Buccaneers have not made big improvements on the defensive end.  Why would they be able to stop the Saints in 2018??

Jameis Winston will be serving the first game of his 3 game suspension which means veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick will step in to try take down the great Drew Brees.  9.5 is a lot of points for the first game of the year, but when you have a veteran like Brees and dynamic players like Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas the Saints should control the the game on offense and the ball hawking defense should cause plenty of turnovers i

PicksSaints -9.5

Air Force at Florida Atlantic University -9

FAU was embarrassed in their opener versus Kyler Murray and the Oklahoma Sooners in week one.  Air Force is not Oklahoma.  It’s time for people to jump back on the Lane Train in week 2.

Florida Atlantic will come out throwing the ball early, jumping ahead and not looking back.  Air Force dominated a Stoney Brook but Stoney Brook is does not have the talent level of Florida Atlantic.  Being at home and most likely going to be very motivated I like Florida Atlantic to turn the table and blow out Air Force.

PicksFlorida Atlantic -9

Arkansas -14 at Colorado State

The Colorado State defense stinks.  Giving up 45 and 43 to Hawaii and Colorado.  They now are staring at an incoming SEC team in Arkansas.  Arkansas threw for 343 yards in game one against Eastern Illinois.  Colorado State has given up a 373 yards per game in the first two games of the season.

Arkansas will score and they will score and they will score.  That was not a typo.  I see Arkansas putting up a lot of points and silencing any potential home field advantage.  I would take Arkansas by 21 if it went that high.

PicksArkansas -14

James “Why Not” Pick of the Week

PicksHouston Texans +6.5

The Patriots gave up a lot of yards in 2017.  The Texans will have back their second year QB Deshaun Watson who was putting up MVP like numbers before his injury.  Watson is good and his receivers are good.  The Patriots historically have come out of the gates sluggish until Belicheck figures everything out.  Look for a high scoring game where the better defense makes a big play.  Houston has the better defense.  Houston may not only cover but I could see them knocking of the AFC Champs.

 

Biggest Fantasy Draft Questions?

Each year we set up for our drafts the same way.  Do as many mocks as we can fit in on a work day.  Debate with friends and co-workers about who is going to be the biggest sleepers or the most likely busts . It’s time for the top four questions going into your draft.

David Johnson or Antonio Brown at #4

This has been the question I have been asked multiple times by many different people.  After the top three (Elliot, Bell, Gurley) come off the board, who’s next?  ESPN has David Johnson actually ranked ahead of Ezekiel Elliot on their draft boards.  Johnson coming off a season ending injury last year was a unanimous top two pick going into that season.

Johnson has the ability to be the best runningback in the league when healthy but he also has a problem of lack of talent around him.  Sam Bradford is an injury machine and Josh Rosen is a rookie.  Two quarterbacks that give the opposing defense little to worry about.  Antonio Brown on the other hand is the unquestioned #1 wideout on any and all draft boards.  Brown is a part of a high level offense that will be putting up points throughout the season.  Going with Johnson is not going to put you in a bad position but Brown brings you a number one unquestioned top player on your roster.  David Johnson is great but he was only great for one season.  If you can’t get the best of the best at RB1 I say you go for the top receiver.

Who could be a late second round steal?

Getting the first few picks is fun but it also means you have a long wait for the next pick.  Who should you be keeping an eye on for a second rounder with 1st round talent. Davante Adams.

Davante Adams has become the #1 target for the best Quarterback in the league. With the decline of Randall Cobb, departure of Jordy Nelson and lack of overall running game Adams will be target number one for Aaron Rodgers.  Adams emergence into fantasy relevance relevance over the last two seasons has put him in a prime spot to top 3 receiver status.

Adams quietly grabbed 22 touchdowns over the past two seasons.  This season he could propel not only to double digit touchdowns but also break 1,000 yards for the first time in his career.

When do you take a Quarterback after the top 3 are gone? Who do you take?

So you didn’t get Russell Wilson, Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers. What do you do?  You wait.  Players like Drew Brees are falling down draft boards faster than Ohio State’s reputation.  Projections are showing Brees being chosen as late as the 11th round. Brees has his issues with age and a movement of assets but to get him with your 11th selection is still a steal.

Keep an eye on the falling Ben Roethlisberger and Pat Mahomes.  Two teams that have dynamic talent around them.  You can load up on high level RBs, WRs and backup tightends.  There is a perception that after the top three the quarterback situation stays the same but it is important to understand the teams style before just plugging in the middle tier players.  If you do plan to wait for a quarterback you need to make sure you add two of the middle tiers guys to play the matchup.

What rookie should I target?

Runningbacks are the obvious choice when looking for rookie fantasy value.  With the injury to Derrius Guice there is a new opening for rookie talent in your fantasy draft. Calvin Ridley of the Atlanta Falcons is a player that I plan to take late in drafts. Ridley is coming through as advertised as an ideal complement to Jones with reliable hands, strong routes against single coverage and a nose for the end zone.  Ridley will also have the chance to work against single coverage with Julio Jones and Mohammad Sanu attracting most of the attention.

Time to give up on Jameis?

Coming out of Florida State Jameis Winston was the clear choice for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  A two sport athlete, excelling in baseball as well as football Jameis had everything physically a team wanted.  Standing a 6′ 3″  weighing 235LBS  he was the perfect size, he was mobile, agile, possessed great arm strength, had a Heisman Trophy and a National Championship.  The Buccaneers took Jameis with their #1 pick in the 2015 NFL draft.  They had the face of their franchise, the quarterback that was going to lead them for the next ten years.  As they prepare for the fourth year of Jameis Winston the Buc’s may need to rethink their plans.

Entering the NFL with a checkered past, Winston’s talented overshadowed any problems that may come up from drafting an accused rapist.  The Buccaneers wasted no time turning their organization over to Winston naming him the starters right away.  He flourished early dominating his opening season matchup with fellow first round quarterback selection Marcus Mariota, confirming that he was the right choice for the struggling franchise.  Winston set franchise rookie records in pass attempts, pass completions, passing yards, and passing touchdowns. Winston finished his rookie season with 4,042 passing yards, finishing 23 yards short of the franchise record set by Josh Freeman in 2012.  Tying the record for touchdowns in a game by a rookie (5) on November 22, 2015, against the Philadelphia Eagles, Winston had arrived. After Tom Brady declined playing in the pro bowl, Winston was chosen to take his place.

Following his rookie season big things were expected of Winston and the Buccaneers. Winston led the Buccaneers to their first winning season in 6 years after defeating the Carolina Panthers  in the regular season finale, during which he broke the franchise records for passing yards and passing touchdowns in a season and became the first quarterback in NFL history to start his career with consecutive seasons of 4,000 yards passing; however the Buccaneers were eliminated from playoff contention via a tie breaker with the Detroit Lions. He was ranked 57th by his peers on the NFL Top 100 of 2017. 

Entering the 2017 season it was not just Winston that had the high expectations but it was the team in whole.  The pressure seemed to bring out the worst in the team opening the season 2-6, immediately falling out of contention.  The poor start coupled with a Winston injury doomed the Buccaneers to a 5-11 season. While Winston’s numbers and play have shown flashes of brilliance the lack of development on the field has been noticable. After three years as an NFL starter, Jameis Winston is still hard to figure out. He has produced dazzling highlights coupled with maddening turnovers, finding open receivers long after plays have broken down, yet coughing up the ball when he should have taken sacks. While his development of the field has haulted, his maturity as a human being has yet again come into question.

As Tampa Bay enters the 2018 season they have been forced to deal with the new that Jameis Winston will miss the first three games due to an incident with an Uber driver in March of 2016.  The latest incident has raised the question of how much is to much from a public figure.  The face of a franchise cannot be a player that continues to show lack of maturity.

Feb. 22, 2017: During a talk to students at St. Petersburg’s Melrose Elementary School, Winston says that boys are supposed to be strong but ladies are “supposed to be silent, polite, gentle.”

This comment shows a false sense of understanding about how men and women are suppose to be treated in society.  The early excuses for Winston’s actions were that he was young and needed to grow up, but how much time can you give a person who is such a prolific person in your community.  When I took a trip to Tampa two years ago every street light and sign that had anything to do with the Buc’s featured Winston’s face.  He is Buccaneer football, but is that really what they want?

The fact of the matter is they have regressed as a team over the last three seasons,  In an NFL where quarterback play rules all, Winston has tons of trade value.   Still being young enough for a coach to think they can help with his turnover problem and a GM thinking they can fix his personality.  Winston could net the Buc’s a solid second round pick or better if a team really believes in him.  In a time of social consciousness in the NFL the Buccaneers have to make a decision that I am sure they do not want to, it is time to move on from Winston or continue to allow him to put their team at risk.

 

Eagles: The New Dynasty?

The 2017 NFL season has come to an end with a surprising result.  The Philadelphia Eagles took down the perennial powerhouse New England Patriots 41-33 in the most offensive football game in NFL history.

The media circus around the New England Patriots focused on the potential inner turmoil created in the New England locker room.  While the Patriots are still the best franchise in over the last 15 years, they are beginning to show chinks in the armor.  The uncertainty of the future for Rob Gronkowski, Tom Brady and even Bill Belichick has left the world looking for the new dynasty and they can look no further than the new world champions they Philadelphia Eagles.

Ironically the Eagles story of victory is as compelling as a young Patriots team in 2001 that made a change at Quarterback and overcame a powerhouse team.  Nick Foles was able to lead a stacked roster of talent to victory along with great coaching.  Foles most likely earned himself a chance to be a starter somewhere in the NFL to start the 2018 season.  Best bet would say that he is moved to the Arizona Cardinals for a mid-level pick.  The injury to Wentz allowed the Eagles to also get a look at Quarterback Nate Sudfield. His 83% completion percentage set a new NFL record for completion percentage for a quarterback making his NFL debut (minimum 20 attempts). The record was previously held by Sam Wyche, who completed 80 percent of his passes for the Cincinnati Bengals against the Houston Oilers in 1968.

The potential loss of  Nick  Foles  and the likely longtime multi- use runningback Darren Sproles. The Eagles should return multiple effective assets.  The Eagles will also get a full season with dynamic runningback Jay Ajayi alongside bruiser Legarrette Blount and their new version of Sproles, 3rd down back Cory Clement the Eagles will feature a trio of backs that second to very few in the NFL.  The Eagles made a great move in the offseason bringing in a real number one receiver in Alshon Jeffery which allowed Nelson Agholor to move to the slot where his skill set makes him the most effective.  The Eagles should look to add depth to in the secondary which gave up way to many big plays throughout the season.

Carson Wentz will return in 2018 and will have be a part of a championship team that will come out as the favorites in the NFC barring in crazy moves.  For the Eagles to make themselves the next great dynasty they will have to do what their Superbowl counterparts have been doing for the last decade, they have to win when its expected.  Their will be no sneaking up on teams in the 2018 season, each night they will get every teams best effort.  They are set with the best offensive line in the league and some of the most dynamic playmakers on both sides of the ball. They have the potential to dominate the NFC for the next ten years, should be fun to watch.

NFL Playoff Picks: Divisional Rounds

Atlanta Falcons -3 at Philadelphia Eagles

The Atlanta Falcons proved last week that experience does play a factor in the playoffs. This week they head into Philly with a chance to take down the NFC’s top seed.  Betting lines opened favoring the the 6th seeded Falcons.

The main reason the Falcons will be favored this weekend is the Quarterback position.  The evolution of the Quarterback position puts the Eagles at a disadvantage. Over the past half-decade the NFL has seen deliberate, slow-twitch pocket passers virtually disappear from the landscape. Over the last two weeks of the regular season Nick Foles showed no confidence in his pre-snap decision making.  The evolution of the play extending Quarterback has changed the way the game is played.  While Foles is a serviceable backup his inability to adjust at the line and extend plays has caused a change in the offense for Philly.  The Eagles have been unable to adjust their style of play from the Carson Wentz style to the Nick Foles style. With the emergence of the Falcons Dieon Jones and the tanacity of pass rusher Vic Beasley Nick Foles will be forced to make quick decisions that will not pay off.

Matt Ryan’s confidence has grown over the last three weeks of play, the reigning MVP will head into Saturday’s matchup on his hottest streak of the season.  Multiple offensive weapons will be at Ryan’s disposal which will spread a suspect Eagles secondary very thin.  The best chance the Eagles defense will have will be to put as much pressure as possible on Ryan.  Dynamic backfield playmakers Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman will give Ryan the ability to bootleg and make short passing plays, eventually leading to openings downfield.

 James Caldwell: Falcons    Matt Boeding: Falcons (Take Falcons to cover)

Tennessee Titans at New England Patriots -13.5

Tennessee shocked the Kansas City Chiefs in the Wild Card round setting up a matchup with the #1 seeded New England Patriots.  The Titans enter this game with all the momentum in the world, Derrick Henry and Marcus Mariotta showed up in the second half last week while the defense shut down rookie of the year candidate Kareem Hunt.  The problem that faces the Titans on Saturday is the Patriots have a bit of a different playoff history then the losers in Kansas City.

While Tom Brady gets most of the credit for the Patriots success, the defense has been playing very well, they have allowed a stingy 11.8 PPG over the last 5 home games. While the Patriots lack depth on the defensive front, the secondary has played at an elite level. Matt Patricia has schemed his way around the pass rushing depth masterfully.  The biggest factor in this game will be Pro Bowl Tightend Rob Gronkowski.  The Titans were being dominated by Travis Kelce last week giving up 66yards and a touchdown before Kelce left the game with a concussion.

The Titans strength is stopping the run, but Tom Brady has shown throughout his career the ability to make the right adjustments, even if the Titans find a way to get pressure New England has multiple playmakers that an be matchup problems.

James Caldwell: Patriots (Titans Cover)  Matt Boeding: Patriots (Pats Cover)

Jacksonville Jaguars at Pittsburgh Steelers -7.5

Sunday features the two most intriguing games of the weekend.  The first will see the Jacksonville Jaguars take on the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field.  The Steelers will have revenge on their mind as they were embarrassed by the Jacksonville at home 30-9 in week five. Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin stated the team has “evolved” since the beatdown.

The Steelers evolution will have to based around stopping the run as Jacksonville will look to run early and often.  Leonard Fournette torched the Steelers defense for over 160 yards and two touchdowns in their early season showdown.  The Steelers will continue to be without defensive leader Ryan Shazier which will impact he middle for Pittsburgh.  Look for Pittsburgh to do everything they can to clog up the running lanes and force Blake Bortles to beat them through the air. Bortles has dynamic young receivers on the outside but he has not shown the ability to takeover the game.

The Steelers will have to protect their franchise Quarterback on Sunday.  Antonio Brown’s calf injury will slow him no matter what he is telling people.  Big Ben will have to be given time to find his dynamic playmakers.  Le’Veon Bell is the key to success for this game, if he goes for 100 on the ground the Steelers will roll. Take into account that it will be very cold on Sunday in Pittsburgh.  Florida teams traditionally don’t play well in those type of conditions.

James Caldwell: Steelers       Matt Boeding: Steelers (Steelers cover)

New Orleans Saints at Minnesota Vikings -5

Their may be no two teams in this league that have changed more from what they were week one then the Saints and Vikings.  Adrian Peterson was pouting on the sideline, Sam Bradford and Dalvin Cook had use of both of their knees and Case Keenum was a perennial backup. Fast-forward to the playoffs and now Keenum has a legitimate MVP case, Alvin Kamara is a lock for Offensive Rookie of the Year and the biggest shock of all, the Saints pass defense is competent.

Sam Bradford torched the Saints for 346 yards in week one.  Case Keenum hasn’t thrown for 300 yards since week 3.  The Vikings will have to run the ball effectively to open up the passing game for Keenum.  The Saints have been much improved defense but over the last two weeks they have been giving up a lot of yards to a terrible Tampa Bay team and an at the time struggling Carolina team.  Keenum has shown he has the ability to make the throws down the stretch.

Drew Brees is a hall of famer, Kamara and Ingram are dynamic.  Most of the money is going to go towards the better QB. I love Drew Brees but the Minnesota defense makes the difference.  I see a close game here.

James Caldwell: Vikings     Matt Boeding: Saints   (Saints Cover)

The Chiefs are Losers

While writing this I first want to say that I respect Chiefs fans, they are loyal.  Arrowhead is one of the coolest places in the world to watch a football game and the fanbase knows how to tailgate.  But it’s that time of the year again where the inevitable has happened, it is time for the fanbase to realize that the Chiefs are losers.

Over the last 23 years the Chiefs have lost an astounding 10 of 11 playoff games, the single victory coming against a Houston Texans team the was playing their practice squad offense due to massive injury issues.  This team has become infamous for breaking down in the most crucial moments.

Saturday, the Chiefs entered the second half of a home playoff game with commanding 21-3 lead  against a lackluster Titans team.  As I watched along side multiple Chiefs fans whom had already begun preparation for next weeks playoff party, I couldn’t help myself but to quietly laugh, knowing what was to come over the next two quarters.  The game was not over, the game is never over when it is crunch time for a team that seems to live for disappointment.  Slowly as the trainwreck was taking place in front of me I saw a familiar look on the fans faces.  Their once bright dream of a playoff run was fading away and in the back of their heads they knew if was going to happen. When the clock finally struck 0 and the game ended their wasn’t shock in the room, their was just a realization that their team had done it again.  Their was no anger their was acceptance.  When a fanbase has acceptance of a meltdown, it has accepted that they are losers.

Alex Smith played well, the defense was sound for most of the game, the coaching staff made the right calls. When you look at a game as a fan you try and find the reason that your team has lost.  What could have been done to avoid this defeat.  Questions loomed: How can a player catch his own pass for a touchdown?  What if Travis Kelce doesn’t get concussed?  What if the sack of Marcus Mariota is called a fumble?  What Demarco Murray doesn’t get hurt and Derrick Henry is watching this game from the sideline?  If any one of these questions had a different answer maybe the Chiefs somehow win, but thats not the world we live in.  We live in a world where the Kansas City Chiefs are losers.

We head into an off-season where the Kansas City Chiefs have to figure out how to lost their stigma of just good enough to be in the playoffs.  Historic franchises have found ways to reverse what seems to be a curse, the Red Sox and Cubs found a way to reverse their curses and bring home World Series titles with the prophet that is Theo Epstein.  The Cleveland Cavaliers found a king to break their curse.  Is their a mythical way for the Chiefs to overcome what has become a curse.  The stench of losing is one that can take years to wash away.  The first step is to understand that their is a stench.

I have gotten used to hearing Chiefs fans say their is always next year…Do you really believe that?

No….you really don’t.