Thursday Night Pick Steelers vs. Browns

Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns -3 

The Steelers have won four straight games propelling them into AFC playoff contention.   It’s been the defense that has taken the reigns with the loss of Big Ben and injury to James Conner. The Steelers defense has allowed fewer than 193 passing yards and 96 rushing yards over their last three games. Pittsburgh was able to bottle up the red-hot Cooper Kupp last week.  They will look to do the same to Odell Beckham. Beckham was targeted ten times last week but was still unable to make an impact in a game that Cleveland actually won. 

Cleveland’s offensive line has been solid on the run but has had serious problems protecting Baker in throwing situations. The Steelers are third in the league in sacks, while applying a ton of pressure.  Baker Mayfield has been subpar under pressure this season.  Mayfield has a completion percentage of just 37% while under pressure this season. Mayfield’s flaws are apparent, this matchup is not good for the struggling former #1 pick. 

Both of these teams need this win.  The Cleveland flaws are obvious.  Pittsburgh will be able to exploit those flaws while Mason Rudolph does what he does best: game manage.  Steelers are just a better overall team, most importantly better coaching. 

Pick: Pittsburgh Steelers +3

What I learned from week 8

Jameis Winston is a what I thought he was.

I have been preaching this for the last two seasons, Jameis Winston is a talented player that will never be a winner. He is the definition of a loser as a player and a person.  When you choose a player #1 overall you are expecting to get a great talent that is going to progress into a potential Hall of Famer.  It doesn’t always work out that way but in this case he has been the exact opposite of what you are looking for. Winston has gotten worse year by year and continues to just hurl the ball all over the field whether or not it makes sense or not.

Ryan Fitzpatrick will take over in week nine for the Bucs and hopefully the organization realizes that if you are forced to put in Fitzmagic mid-way through a season the guy he is replacing is most likely not the answer to your organizations future.

My advice for Jameis is to drop the I from his name and go by James Winston and hope that most people don’t realize who he is.  Maybe then he will get a chance somewhere else.

Redskins are the class of the NFC East.

The NFC East was up for grabs and the Redskins have grabbed it a locked it away.  Alex Smith and Adrian Peterson have given them leadership on the offensive end while the defense has quietly been very underrated.

The most surprising aspect of Sunday’s matchup with the Giants was that Washington was only favored by 1.5 points! The final score was only 20-13 but the score didn’t show the true dominance of the Redskins.  The Cowboys and Giants are flashy, the Eagles are the champs, the Redskins are the best in in the NFC East.

The Saints are legit contenders.

The Saints are good.  They are very good.  Week 1 they were tricked by the Fitzmagic but since that lose they have won 6 in a row in impressive fashion. The return of Mark Ingram has given them another weapon to use along with Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas.  Drew Brees is known for spreading the ball around, whenever you think that you have them figured out they find a new star in the making.

The Saints have had three impressive wins versus winning teams the Ravens, Vikings and Redskins.  The Saints will continue to be tested as their schedule doesn’t get much easier down the stretch of the season. The are looking at matchups against the Rams, Eagles and Bengals over the next three weeks.  The Saints have the ability to run, throw and the defense has stepped up holding down the run.  I think they take down the LA Rams this week and the rest of the NFL realizes this team is for real.

The Steelers may not need L-Bell.

James Conner continues to roll along as the premier back for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Conner has the support of the locker room and the fans.  146 rushing yards, 66 receiving yards and  two touchdowns are LeVeon like numbers.  The Steelers have pulled off three straight victories including two in the division.  With the Ravens loss this weekend to Carolina they have been put right back in the driver’s seat of the AFC North.

So what happens if Bell returns from his hold out?  Does the team really play as hard for him?  If he is in shape and ready he can be a difference maker for them.  At this point how can they turn the backfield back over to Bell.  Conner has earned his playing time and the team is winning.  James Conner is for real and he wants to be there.  Trade Bell and get yourself something for him before it is to late.  Bell is great, but sometimes its time to cut the cord.  The time has come for the Steelers.  This is James Conner’s team.skysports-james-conner-nfl_4469320

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.