Thursday, September 22, 2016

2016 NFL Week 3 Picks

Week 2's are always tough because you don't want to overreact to one  game, but that's all you have to go on besides preseason expectations. I struggled with my picks after the Jets won on Thursday, with the Giants not covering by a point after kneeling at the 1 and the Jaguars and Bears killing themselves with turnovers that took them out of any chance to win, but I did get it right with the Texans, which is where I'm going to start my redemption week. Posting this early for the Thursday night game, and I'll add the rest over the weekend.

Texans -1 at Patriots

This feels like the type of game Bill Belichick somehow pulls out when the odds are stacked against him like in Week 1 at Arizona, but they had all offseason to get Jimmy Garoppolo ready for that one compared to a short week for the third round rookie , Jacoby Brissett. A good defense travels, and J.J. Watt's group will be ready to terrorize the third string quarterback who relied almost exclusively on passes at the line of scrimmage in relief last week. That will change with first team reps at practice, but it will be difficult to match points with the suddenly explosive Texans, whose new additions at the skill positions are paying off.
Now back at defensive end, JD Clowney has been dominating
9/24 Addition:
Man, when I lose a pick, I lose BIG, with another team that shot themselves in the foot. Note to self: don't pick against your Super Bowl pick at home, no matter who's starting.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

2016 NFL Week 2 Picks

The last couple of seasons, my weekly posts have faded down the stretch due to priorities with work and school, so I'm going to change things up a bit this year and only highlight a handful of picks each week that I at least have some sort of confidence in after going much more in depth in my season preview. Due to a lack of injury information on most teams earlier in the week, I won't always have picks for the dreaded Thursday games, but I had the Jets in that surprising shootout.

Giants -4 versus the Saints

It'll take more than that to stop OBJ.
The Cowboys' usual keep away tactics didn't let the Giants get their explosive offense into rhythm, limiting them to a minuscule 54 total plays in just 23:17 of possession, but New York is in a great spot this week at home against a bad Saints defense that lost their top corner Delvin Breux while giving up 35 points last week. The Giants lost this matchup 52-49 in New Orleans last year at the last minute, but Drew Brees has been mortal on the road in recent season, with a 288.1 yards per game average and 9-6 touchdown to interception ratio away from home compared to 356.6 YPG and a 23-5 ratio in the Superdome last year. It will be hard to match last year's jaw-dropping numbers, but New Orleans natives Eli Manning (30/41 for 350 yards, 6 touchdowns, and no picks) and Odell Beckham (caught 8 of 9 targets for 130 yards and 3 scores) should have no trouble carving up this defense again.

2016 NFL Preview and Week 1 Picks

Football is back! It's the time of year when every team has reason for optimism with a new season and new players, and I'm going to go through each team's season outlook with their Vegas over/under for win totals as I make my Week 1 picks, with the road team listed first.

Panthers over 10.5 wins

On offense, MVP quarterback Cam Newton gets his favorite receiver, Kelvin Benjamin, back after a lost season due to a torn ACL, and when the 6'5", 240 pound behemoth was healthy in 2014, he was peppered with 145 targets that he turned into 1,008 yards and 9 touchdowns as a rookie. His return's impact on the offense will be interesting since besides counting on Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olsen, an unheralded receiving core provided well distributed production, including another jumbo sized receiver that they like in 6'4", 232 pound Devin Funchess. This is still a run first offense, though, with Newton and effective running back Jonathan Stewart running behind one of the best interior lines in the league with Ryan Kalil, Chris Norwell, and Trai Turner.

On defense, it is abundantly clear where general manager Dave Gettleman values his players with an absolutely beastly front seven that has heavy draft capital in it, including this year's first rounder, defensive tackle Vernon Butler, who might be the eventual replacement for Kawann Short due to an upcoming monster contract that's well deserved. If defensive end Kony Ealy maintains his high level of play from the playoffs, then they'll continue to get by without having to pay a high premium on defensive backs thanks to go with their elite coverage linebackers. Gettleman's been great at picking up veterans off the scrap heap that provide big contributions like safety Kurt Coleman last year, and now after letting All-Pro corner Josh Norman go to Washington after developing him as a fifth rounder, they're going to be giving second and third round rookies James Bradberry and Daryl Worley all the snaps they can handle with third year player Bené Benwikere.

Overall, the NFC champions kept finding ways to get it done during a remarkable 15-1 season, and their outlook for 2016 hasn't changed in a substantial way. They're a mostly young, hungry team that seems certain to make the playoffs again behind their defensive front and playmaking quarterback.

Broncos over 9.5 wins

A full year in Kubiak's scheme is good news for C.J.
On offense, they actually have potential to improve from last year's mediocrity, which is surprising considering one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time just retired, but Peyton Manning wasn't nearly the player he normally was. Now, they'll be fully committed to head coach Gary Kubiak's system after trying to mix it in with Manning's preferred offense last year, and the offensive line could be a lot better with free agent tackles Russell Okung, who struggles to stay on the field but was signed to a steal of a contract after he chose not to use an agent, and Donald Stephenson, who flashed potential but inconsistency with the division rival Chiefs, in the fray. Running back C.J Anderson is set up well to be the bell cow after they matched Miami's contract offer to him, and fourth rounder Devontae Booker should prove capable if he can't maintain his strong finish for the second year in a row. Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, and underrated tight end Virgil Green make up a strong receiving core, but last year's seventh rounder, Trevor Siemian, will likely just be a caretaker at quarterback until first round pick Paxton Lynch is ready to roll. That could be a problem, though, considering that Siemian had a 58.9% completion rate and a 27-24 touchdown to interception ratio in 44 college games at Northwestern.

On defense, a consequence of having a historically good unit is that you'll lose some key pieces to free agency like defensive lineman Malik Jackson and inside linebacker Danny Trevathan. That being said, this is still the best secondary in the league behind arguably the best group of outside pass rushers, a devastating combination. If remaining inside linebacker Brandon Marshall can continue to make plays behind run-stuffing lineman Sylvester Williams and Derek Wolfe, this could still be the top defense in the league.

Overall, defensive coordinator Wade Phillips leads a group that is capable winning games by themselves, so the defending champs should have another successful season. After all, the already dealt with poor quarterback play last year, so could this year really be that much worse?

The pick: The Super Bowl champs almost never lose these Thursday night home opener, but they also hardly ever have a giant hole at the quarterback spot, either. Denver might have more talent on the roster overall, but Carolina's offense is much more reliable in this situation. Panthers -3