Why Lamar Jackson HAS to Win in 2020

Last year the Baltimore Ravens took the NFL by storm. Great defense (not surprising-that’s Baltimore’s staple for years), and a great rushing attack. But now a passing game (when needed) that is effective enough to really add that dimension of a whole new scary.

The Ravens selected Lamar Jackson in 2018 after teams worried he wouldn’t be a legit passing quarterback. Some thought Baltimore wasted the pick. In two seasons, Jackson however has helped guide the Ravens to two division championships with the latter being a 14-2 season, best record in the NFL, and an MVP to his credit.

The numbers are impressive that Jackson has put out on his MVP year: 1,200 rushing yards, 3,100 passing yards, 43 total TD’s (bear in mind he played 15 of 16 games). It wasn’t ANY doubt Jackson was deserving of taking home the trophy. Adding on, he makes smart decisions with the ball and is a very accurate passer.

But there has been one tiny problem with Jackson to this point. He’s 0-2 in playoff games.

I think we all gave Jackson a free pass in his rookie year because well, it was his rookie year and the Chargers had a pretty good team. But last year people were stunned that not only the Ravens lost at home to a Titans team that was labeled as one-dimensional on offense, but were smacked silly by Tennessee. And Jackson looked anything but an MVP quarterback (3 turnovers, sacked 4 times).

Now it may be premature to think that in year three Lamar Jackson is in a make-or-break year. I don’t think he is in THAT category. But most of the time the mobile quarterbacks do not have prolonged careers without adapting (McNabb comes to mind as an example of becoming more passing oriented later on) and Jackson is definitely a true dual threat QB. However, do I think that the next season Lamar Jackson is very important? Yes.

I mentioned after the 2015 season that Cam Newton’s biggest season had to have been 2016. He was licking his chops after the Super Bowl loss to Denver and how he handled the loss (though many viewed him as a childish brat after all the antics he done when he was winning). I thought “maybe he will be more driven” to succeed in 2016. Instead he went out and spoke that how he was zeroed in on…..a new dance in 2016 whenever he would score a touchdown. Compiling on was that Cam was starting to get dinged up including a concussion he suffered early against the Falcons as he looked like he was about to high step in after a 2-point conversion and later on getting benched in the first series against Seattle for whatever team rule he violated and just performed on a mediocre level in 2016. The next 3 seasons where hit or miss (mostly miss) when he was on the field and had battled injury after injury to the point now teams are shying away on Cam as a starting QB.

But we are talking about Lamar Jackson here, not Cam Newton. And Lamar Jackson has proven he is no Cam Newton.

Jackson is one of my favorite players in the NFL. He can do things not many people can do on that field, but he is also soft-spoken and lets players around him get the love. But also what I give him mad respect for is how he is always improving his game and WANTING to improve. When Jackson won the Heisman at Louisville, many believed he didn’t deserve to win because of A. Deshaun Watson and B. He was a running only QB who couldn’t pass. The next year Jackson’s numbers were similar but had been more prevalent in the passing game and could have ended up with another Heisman Trophy had Louisville not been a mediocre squad in 2017. So for Jackson to keep improving on all aspects of the game CANNOT be overstated. He does.

But again we are back to Jackson possibly having detractors. I mentioned that the one concern I had about the Ravens getting the Lombardi Trophy was that they hadn’t dealt with adversity (i.e. trailing much in games) and the times they did, the Ravens ended up losing those games to both the Chiefs and Browns. Jackson had challenges when he was forced to pass and expected to pass. The Titans jumped on Baltimore early and often and you could tell at times Jackson was not comfortable all the time being and staying in that pocket. He possibly put TOO much pressure on himself to do well.

So now Jackson will have to answer questions of being a quarterback that can thrive under pressure a la Brady, Rodgers, and now Mahomes. To me, the upcoming season for the Ravens will be one that if Jackson builds off of that he will be a monster. That is the next step in his progression will be a comeback QB if the manner presents itself to him.

Baltimore has to be considered one of the front-runners and probably my “way too early Super Bowl pick” but if Jackson doesn’t take that next step it could be an opportunity missed and sometimes what seems like is a large window will close very quickly.

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

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Making Sense of the Packers Selection of Jordan Love

We should just start to remember about the NFL Draft is this: in the days and weeks leading up, there is always talk of teams possibly making trades in the first five picks yearly. This year we heard the possibility of the Lions trading out of #3, the Falcons, Patriots, and Cowboys moving into that spot. We heard chatter of the Giants moving out of #4. We heard the Niners were trying to make a splash to get in the top 3 and back out of the top 3, etc.

And the Draft occurred….nothing mind-boggling early on. But then as we should remember still, the back end of the first round is where the must-see TV is on draft night.

This year, the winner of the shocking move: the Green Bay Packers trading up to select quarterback Jordan Love.

Of course, the first reaction many had was “deja vu” as Green Bay 15 years before selected Aaron Rodgers as the quarterback of the future while many viewed Brett Favre as the firmly solidified franchise guy. However, for 3 seasons, Rodgers sat the bench while Favre played for the Packers.

But the times are a little different with a rookie cap. Love will not be given a nice contract for four years just to be the backup for Aaron Rodgers. One year, yes. But let’s face it, despite the long-term contract Rodgers has signed, he is likely going to be moved before the 2021 season somewhere (heck, maybe even before 2020 if the Patriots are salivating for him).

Many were stunned by the move and my initial reaction was that too, but I also remembered last year there were rumors swirling around that the Packers were high on Drew Lock. So I’m surprised, but not (if that makes sense).

Did the Packers do well on the logistics of the pick? I will reference my fellow writer in Sports Awakening with unpopular opinion takes: yes. The Packers made a good selection.

“Are you insane????? Rodgers is one of the best ever and still a top 10, perhaps top 5 QB!” I would actually say he is the 5th best QB currently in the NFL (Mahomes, Jackson, Wilson, and Watson I’d only rank higher). He doesn’t turn the ball over, still accurate, and knows when to run and when not to run and he was better at it this year. The numbers aren’t as gaudy was it was from 2008-2016 but still throws for 4,000 yards like it’s nothing.

HOWEVER…

Rodgers in the past few years, whether justified or not, has been ridiculed for his “lack of leadership” on the Packers, quarreling with head coaches (notably Mike McCarthy), some say blaming his receivers not named Devante Adams for not performing well, tongue-in-cheek comments that come off as arrogant and snotty, etc. Even this year the body language towards Matt LaFleur (yelling about offensive plays he didn’t like on the field) just seemed like he isn’t happy with how things on offense is run in Title Town.

So, let’s look at what I feel are some of the reasons the Packers are developing that blueprint from moving on to one of the best ever.

The relationship with Lafleur and Rodgers may not have been much different than what Rodgers had with McCarthy.

THE BALANCE OF THE OFFENSE: Green Bay made the playoffs for the first time in 3 years and went 13-3. Largely because there has been a running game that improved tremendously thanks to Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams. With the running game improved and eating time off clocks and timely passing, Green Bay’s defense also showed growth as they weren’t gassed out from having to be on the field all the time (save the NFC Championship game). “But the NFL is a passing league and it has been that way for some time!” Check out the teams who were there in the playoffs last year: Ravens, Titans, Seahawks, 49ers, Bills,Vikings and Texans were top 10 in rushing. Packers, Eagles, and Saints were top half of the league in rushing as well. Compare that to the likes of the Falcons, Chargers, Buccaneers, and to a lesser extent the Patriots last year (near the top in passing and made an attempt to run the ball but were terrible at it) and you see that the league is evolving again. And then also look at 2018 for Green Bay as they were one of the most elite passing squads there was. A 6-9-1 squad that was dead last in running the ball (in attempts) and a continued maligned defense that had more holes in it than a cheesehead. The offense had to go through Rodgers, and honestly that may have been the key reason why the Packers struggled, not necessarily because of McCarthy. And I think Rodgers wants that offense to go through him where he can dictate how the offense works (i.e. passing). And it is another presumed power struggle with Rodgers and a head coach, that this time Rodgers won’t win on.

LAFLEUR’S SYSTEM: As mentioned above, LaFleur is focused on more balance of offense in Green Bay, maybe more of a run-style squad than anything else. And LaFleur is probably wanting a quarterback he could mold to fit his system. Love seems to be that guy perfect in his system. “But Rodgers is a first-ballot Hall of Famer! LaFleur has to build the offense around him!” Not how it works. Rodgers is one of the most complete quarterbacks ever, both having the ability to pass and run when needed (probably ran too much at times). And Rodgers is 36…he isn’t inclined to run around like he used to and hasn’t been used to. And whether you like him or not, one thing I think everyone agrees is that he is a stubborn bull. It is what makes him great, but also at times a lightning rod for controversy. Telling a passing QB that they need to change the style of being more run oriented isn’t something that will be done easy. Think of Dan Marino and Jimmy Johnson in the late 90’s in Miami. That did NOT work out too well.

“But who is Matt LaFleur to say that Rodgers needs to change the way things are done in Green Bay?” That’s probably the same attitude Rodgers has right now. Remember, it’s a team game. Quarterbacks, even ones who have been stellar for their careers, can also be a liability down the stretch of their careers for their teams in some manner (Marino, Roethlisberger, Cam, Aikman, McNabb, Rivers, Vick) and do more damage than good for the team. And quite honestly, Green Bay playing shootout in the passing game from 2011-2018 netted them playoff exits if a team was able to contain the Packers passing attack (49ers, Falcons, etc.)

“But LaFleur isn’t Kyle Shanahan or Sean McVay!” Yes, you’re right. In LaFleur’s first season Green Bay won 13 games and guided the Packers to an NFC Championship appearance. It took 3 seasons for Shanahan to get to the playoffs. McVay got to the playoffs his first year and he was bounced by Atlanta in the Wild Card game before getting to the Super Bowl in his second season where he laid a massive egg (nearly a goose egg at that too). Let’s see where seasons 2 and 3 happen.

In regards to LaFleur, he needs his own quarterback to work his system. If you look around, the teams with newer coaches around want that young quarterback to build off of (McVay-Goff, Shanahan-Jimmy G, Kingsbury-Murray, and to a lesser extent Pederson-Wentz). I’m not saying Rodgers wouldn’t or refuses to work LaFleur’s way but telling a guy who has been around long enough and doing it the way he knows best and feels like he can be at his best it is a hard adjustment. And for someone who is proud like Rodgers is, it is almost impossible.

WHAT’S NEXT? It will be very interesting on how things are handled by Rodgers, LaFleur, and the Packers. Rodgers is one that pretty much once that chip is on his shoulder it stays on. Does he come out and vent? Does he make an underhand potshot? Does he have people “close to him” say things on how he feels (look at the Brett Favre comments)? Does he say “all the right things?” Rodgers could force Green Bay to push a trade this summer and I can see that happening (which probably has him going to New England). Either way he will be in a new uniform by 2021. As for LaFleur, it will be interesting on how he handles things with this situation. He has been grilled for the draft of not getting any wide receivers which many believe was desperately needed outside of Adams. Does he say “enough is enough” if he considers Rodgers a problem and start Love? Does he play Love for a series here & there in the regular season and have Rodgers get angrier? Or does he let Rodgers with a little more control of the offense?

I think it may be best if Green Bay moves Rodgers before the 2021 season. All parties should just let it play out and see while Love learns from the sidelines on how the offense is run. And in the next off-season the Packers could have more takers to move Rodgers out with some sort of value coming in besides one or two teams now.

But to me, I think the Packers did right in drafting Love. They’ll be a better team for it, maybe not next year but down the road.

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

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2020 Defensive Player of the Year Predictions

Hey, everyone, we hope you are all safe at him with your loved ones through this quarantine. This post here will be the first of many predicting the 2020 NFL season that we are at this point just hoping will happen regardless of whether or not fans will be in attendance.

This post will go over our odds for winning the 2020 Defensive of Player of the Year award:

We hope you enjoy!

1. Aaron Donald (+600)

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Aaron Donald is an easy first selection for most likely to win Defensive Player of the Year for the (hopefully) upcoming 2020 NFL season. After winning it in both 2017 and 2018 he is my favorite
to pick up the award again this season. Led by Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey, the Rams defensive has a promising outlook on both fronts for the upcoming season.
Although he didn’t win the award last season, Aaron Donald has opened as the favorite to win NFL DPOY according to Sports Betting Dime for the second straight season.
Aaron Donald is, in my opinion, the most dominant player in the NFL today just ahead of Patrick Mahomes. One of only three players all-time to repeat back-to-back defensive player of the year
and has increasing respect amongst some of the best pass rushers of all time.

2: Nick Bosa (+950)

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3: Khalil Mack (+1000)

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4: TJ Watt (+1200)

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5: JJ Watt (+1300)

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Thanks for the quick read here everyone make sure to follow us on Twitter @prosportsfandom were we are soon to re-decorate and overhaul the account into something much better!

Stay tuned for the rest of the posts!

Updated Super Bowl Odds

An incredible week we saw this wild-card weekend with names such as Tom Brady and Drew Brees falling to Ryan Tannehill and Kirk Cousins. The only predictable thing in the NFL is unpredictability.

I even had the Saints as my favorite in the NFC only for them to lose to Kirk Cousins at home. Next week we’ll see the Green Bay hosting Seattle at Lambeau Field, the 49ers hosting the Vikings in the NFC. In the AFC we’ll see Lamar Jackson and the Ravens hosting the Titans and Patrick Mahomes hosting Deshaun Watson and the Texans.

With this let’s try and give some odds with the help of MyTopSportsBook:

Obviously, all the teams that won on Wild Card Weekend saw their Super Bowl odds improve, namely the Seahawks (+1200), Vikings (+1400), Titans (+2000), and Texans (+3300). But one team that didn’t even take the field got a big bump, as well. The Packers, who were around +1000 heading into last Sunday, are as short as +650 at some sites listed on MyTopSportsbooks. Oddsmakers had penciled in a meeting with the high-powered Saints in the Divisional Round, but now Green Bay gets to host the banged-up Seahawks instead.

Ravens (+200)

49ers (+300)

Chiefs (+330)

Packers (+600)

Seahawks (+1200)

Vikings (+1250)

Titans (+2000)

Texans (+2250)

Looking at these odds there is a clear tier one and two with the Packers being almost somewhere in between. Looking at these odds I like the Vikings at +1250 with volatile quarterback Kirk Cousins. I like their odds against the 49ers game this weekend and feel that should be more competitive than the rest of the game thinks it should be.

My least favorite odds here are probably the Seahawks who have a tough schedule ahead of them on the road vs Aaron Rodgers this week and then between the Vikings or the 49ers if they can beat the Packers at Lambeau.

Make sure to follow @prosportsfandom and @MyTopSports on Twitter and thanks for the help today from MySportsBook.

 

 

NFC Overview: Week 9

Week 8 brought a few teams back into playoff consideration (Lions & Eagles) but it also may have ended some other teams’ hopes (Bears & Panthers).  With 9 weeks remaining, there are still many things that can happen, but right now the conference looks like a three team race between the Saints, Packers, and 49ers.  Power Rankings are posted below, as well as predicted playoff matchups new this week.

NFC NORTH

1. Green Bay Packers (7-1)

Aaron Rodgers has found his groove in 2019.  After a lackluster 2018 with a few injuries and the firing of his old head coach, the fans in Green Bay were uncertain how this season would play out.  Fortunately for them, Aaron Rodgers is playing like an MVP candidate right now (16 Touchdowns, 2 Interceptions).  With a four game win streak, including a Week 8 win over the Chiefs in Arrowhead, the Packers are one of the hottest teams in the NFL right now and are looking to continue that into Week 9 against the Chargers in L.A.

 2. Minnesota Vikings (6-2)

The Vikings have rattled off four in a row since their Week 4 embarrassment in Chicago. Kirk Cousins has led this charge, and Dalvin Cook continues to dominate on the ground.  With a top ten defense complimenting their offense, Minnesota looks to have a playoff spot locked down. Whether it be a wildcard position or the division crown remains to be seen.  Week 9 starts a tough 4 game stretch in which the Vikings have 3 road games against the Chiefs, Cowboys, and Seahawks.

3. Detroit Lions (3-3-1)

The Lions are a sneaky team in the NFC.  With a win against the Giants in Week 8, Detroit has moved back to .500. Matthew Stafford is having another solid season and the Lions are averaging 25.7 points per game. The Lions have a tough road test in Oakland for Week 9.  With the division crown seemingly out of reach, the Lions need almost every game in this second half to keep pace with other teams competing for the wildcard in the NFC.

4. Chicago Bears (3-4)

Things can’t get much worse for the Bears.  Mitchell Trubisky has continued to struggle and put his team (and his defense) in horrible situations.  Matt Nagy has also received heavy criticism after taking a knee and settling for a 41-yard field goal instead of trying to gain a few more yards.  Eddie Pineiro ended up missing the potential game winning kick and now the Bear’s season is all but derailed.  With such promise coming into this season, Chicago has fallen flat on their faces.  Week 9 takes the Bears to Philadelphia for a tough matchup.

NFC WEST

1. San Francisco 49ers (7-0)

In Week 8, the 49ers proved that they are the team to beat in the NFC. With a 51-13 rout of the Panthers, the ‘Niners dominated on all sides of the ball.  The defense is probably the best in the conference, and the offense is playing mistake free football and making the most of their redzone opportunities.  As Week 9 approaches, San Francisco heads to Arizona for a Thursday Night matchup against the Cardinals.  The 49ers have one of the tougher schedules in the league for the second half, so winning the games against “non-playoff caliber teams” is important going forward.

2. Seattle Seahawks (6-2)

Although the Seahawks rebounded with a win against the Falcons in Week 8, the last few games for Seattle have been shaky.  With a home game against the Buccaneers in Week 9, the Seahawks can prove themselves as one of the “Elites” in the conference.  Seattle has a difficult second half schedule, so the Seahawks need to be careful not to look past any teams.

3. Los Angeles Rams (5-3)

The Rams have won two in a row after losing three straight and are now 5-3.  Although the wins came against bad teams, it was refreshing to see the Rams look dominant again.  This week L.A. travels to Pittsburgh to face the Steelers who have won three out of four.  The Rams need to continue winning to stay close to the 49ers and leave a chance to still win the West.  A wildcard is the likely playoff route for the Rams.

4. Arizona Cardinals (3-4-1)

The Cardinals lost to the Saints in Week 8 and now have the 49ers coming to Arizona in Week 9.  Facing two of the best teams in the conference in back-to-back weeks will most likely derail any faint playoff hopes left in Arizona.  The Cardinals traded for Kenyan Drake this week who looks to be taking over the running duties in Arizona.  Kyler Murray is continuing to develop which is a good sign as well.  2020 could be special for the Cardinals.

 

NFC EAST

1.Dallas Cowboys (4-3)

The Cowboys come off of their bye with a half game lead over the Eagles. At 4-3 the Cowboys still have some things to prove to show that they are the best team in this division.  Although they handled the Eagles rather easily in Week 7, the Cowboys have games against the Vikings and Patriots in the coming weeks which will show the true colors of this team.  For week 9, Dallas heads to New York to face the Giants in an NFC East tilt on Monday Night football

 2. Philadelphia Eagles (4-4)

The Eagles beat the Bills in Week 8 and improved to 4-4.  Despite the win, the Eagles are the most inconsistent team in the NFC. You just never know what team you’re going to get each week.  With a home game against the Bears in Week 9, this is seemingly an elimination game for playoff contention. Considering the high expectations for both of these teams heading into the year, it’s a shame that there isn’t more riding on it.

3. New York Giants (2-6)

The Giants have lost four straight but Daniel Jones is developing nicely.  Jones had four touchdowns in a losing effort against the Lions.  At 2-6, the Giants are simply looking to developing their young team for the 2020 season.  Up next is the Cowboys at home on Monday night.

 4. Washington Redskins (1-7)

The Redskins lost a sloppy game to the Vikings last Thursday and fell to 1-7.  The rumors are stirring in Washington that Dwayne Haskins may make his first start in Week 9 against the Bills.  This could be the turn for the Redskins’ Franchise that puts them back on the map.

NFC SOUTH

1.New Orleans Saints (7-1)

Drew Brees made his return in Week 8 and it looks like he hasn’t missed a beat.  A win against the Cardinals isn’t all that impressive, but it was the perfect game for Brees to jump back into things for the Saints. Week 9 is the bye week for New Orleans as they will get two weeks to prepare for the Falcons at home a week from Sunday.  With Brees ,the Saints have this division locked up.

2. Carolina Panthers (4-3)

 The Panthers got embarrassed in San Francisco in Week 8.  Cam Newton will be out again for Week 9 but he may start practicing later this week.  With the Titans coming into town this Sunday, the Panthers can reinsert themselves into the NFC playoff picture with a win.

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-5)

The Buccaneers have lost three in a row and their season is all but over.  The the Jameis Winston experiment is over and the Bucs should move on and draft another quarterback this year.  Week 9 brings a tough road game for the Bucs who have to travel to Seattle to face the Seahawks.

5. Atlanta Falcons (1-7)

Six straight losses for the Falcons has destroyed the morale in Atlanta.  With the Saints up next after the bye, the Falcons should focus on securing a top five draft pick to tighten up their defense.  Matt Ryan and Julio Jones are still in their primes and the Falcons need to make moves to salvage the offense productivity still remaining in the team.

NFC POWER RANKINGS (Week 8 Ranking)

  1. New Orleans Saints (1)
  2. Green Bay Packers (2)
  3. San Francisco 49ers (3)
  4. Minnesota Vikings (5)
  5. Seattle Seahawks (4)
  6. Los Angeles Rams (6)
  7. Dallas Cowboys (7)
  8. Detroit Lions (9)
  9. Philadelphia Eagles (11)
  10. Carolina Panthers (8)
  11. Chicago Bears (10)
  12. Arizona Cardinals (12)
  13. New York Giants (14)
  14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (13)
  15. Atlanta Falcons (15)
  16. Washington Redskins (16)

Playoff Predictions

  1. New Orleans Saints *BYE*
  2. Green Bay Packers *BYE*
  3. San Francisco 49ers vs 6. Seattle Seahawks
  4. Dallas Cowboys vs 5. Minnesota Vikings

NFC Overview: Week 8

The Super Bowl contenders are separating themselves in the Conference. The Saints, Packers, and 49ers all proved once again that they have what it takes to represent the NFC in February.  The second tier, headlined by the Seahawks, is still a bit murky, but the Vikings, Rams, and Cowboys are rebounding after some question marks earlier this year.  See how each division stands and the updated power rankings for this week below.

NFC NORTH

1. Green Bay Packers (6-1)

Aaron Rodgers had a historic day on Sunday.  He had a perfect passer rating (first time in Packers’ history) and accounted for 6 touchdowns (5 passing/1 rushing).  The Packers are firing on all cylinders right now, and a huge road test against the Chiefs awaits in Week 8.  The Chiefs will be without Patrick Mahomes, and Davante Adams should be back for the Packers.

 2. Minnesota Vikings (5-2)

The Vikings were tested by the Lions, but ultimately pulled away to secure their first divisional victory.  Despite a 1-2 divisional record, the Vikings still have 3 home games against the NFC North ( where they are 3-0 this year).  Kirk Cousins is playing some of the best football of his career lately and the Vikings remain just a game back of the Packers.  With the Redskins coming to Minnesota this week, a (likely) victory could put them even with the Packers who may lose in Kansas City.

3. Chicago Bears (3-3)

The Bears’ season is at a breaking point.  Putting on one of the most embarrassing performances of the season this season, the Bears offense failed to get anything going, committing 2 turnovers and 6 three-and-outs.  Mitchell Trubisky continued to struggle and Matt Nagy received harsh criticism for only calling 7 run plays, amounting to 17 rush yards.  With the Chargers coming to Soldier Field in Week 8, the Bears have a favorable chance to get back on track.  A loss may end any playoff hopes and waste another season with a top 10 defense.

4. Detroit Lions (2-3-1)

Detroit played another very tough game against the Vikings, but weren’t able to pull off the upset.  This Lions team is very talented, but their record juts doesn’t match it.  I’m not ready to write them off as a playoff team, but they need to start stringing together a few wins if they want to make a push.  The first step would be to take care of the Giants at home this week.

NFC WEST

1. San Francisco 49ers (6-0)

The 49ers won an ugly game in Washington 9-0 this past week.  The rain had a huge impact on the game so it is tough to take away much of anything from this game except for the road victory for the ‘Niners.  Although the hot start is refreshing in San Francisco, the second half of the season doesn’t have many weak opponents.  This week the 49ers play host to the Panthers who are 4-2 and fresh off of their bye week.  After a gritty win in Week 7, a letdown wouldn’t be that surprising.

 2. Seattle Seahawks (5-2)

The Seahawks got roughed up on Sunday against the Ravens, and Russell Wilson finally looked human again.  Even with this tough loss, the Seahawks are still a dangerous team and have plenty of opportunities to win this division.  The best news for Seattle is getting to play the Falcons this week to secure a bounce back win.

3. Los Angeles Rams (4-3)

The Rams embarrassed the Falcons in Atlanta last Sunday, and looked similar to the Rams we have become used to seeing each week.  At 4-3, the Rams can still find a way to win the division, although a wildcard seems like the probable playoff route for L.A.  For Week 8, the Rams host the winless Bengals as they look to start a much needed win streak.

4. Arizona Cardinals (3-3-1)

At the bottom of the division is the Cardinals who have won 3 straight and look dangerous.  Kliff Kingsbury is utilizing Kyler Murray well, and the young quarterback is playing within himself and making the plays he was brought in to make.  Although nobody really considered the Cardinals a playoff team with a new head coach and rookie quarterback at the beginning of the year, they have an opportunity to sneak in.  Every victory is precious at this point, but a visit to New Orleans this week makes that a tough task.

NFC EAST

1.Dallas Cowboys (4-3)

The Cowboys looked very good on Sunday night and made easy work of the Eagles.  With the conference having so many teams (10) at .500 or better, it looks like the only payoff team from the NFC East will be the division winner.  Dak Prescott bounced back in Week 7 and needs to continue to build on this against the Giants in Week 8 if the Cowboys really want to prove that they are the best team in the division.

2. Philadelphia Eagles (3-4)

The Eagles are sliding fast.  The season is looking all but over after their Sunday Night performance.  Carson Wentz looked horrible and the defense came nowhere close to stopping the Cowboys’ offense.  If the Eagles want any hope restored in their playoff chances they MUST WIN in Buffalo this week. 

3. New York Giants (2-5)

The Giants lost to the Cardinals this past week in the battle of rookie quarterbacks. Daniel Jones needs to continue his positive development and Saquon Barkley returning will certainly help that. If this offense can stay healthy and make strides towards the end of this season, the Giants will be one wide receiver away from being a dangerous offense next year. In Week 8 New York travels to Detroit where both teams are still searching for their third win of the year.

 4. Washington Redskins (1-6)

The Redskins lost again at home.  The Redskins have nothing to lose and should start playing Haskins now. If he begins to play well, fans will have some hope heading into next season. If he doesn’t get any more experience this year, the 2020 season could be another year of growing pains in Washington.

NFC SOUTH

1.New Orleans Saints (6-1)

The Saints dominated the Bears in Week 7 and this team is running like a well-oiled machine right now.  After Drew Brees’ injury many people wrote off the Saints, but now 5 straight wins have kept them near the top of the conference and Drew Brees is almost ready to return.  There are rumors of him practicing this week, and has not been ruled out for their game against the Cardinals this week, but it seems more likely he will return in Week 10 after the Saints’ bye week.  Nonetheless, Teddy Bridgwater and Sean Payton deserve all the credit for keeping this team from falling apart after losing Brees in week 2.

2. Carolina Panthers (4-2)

The Panthers come out of their bye with a big game awaiting in Week 8 against the 49ers.  A win would put the Panthers on everyone radar as a serious playoff team. A loss would continue the Panthers’ season on this path of mediocrity it is seemingly already on.  Cam Newton is rumored to start practicing again, but will not play in Week 8.  With Kyle Allen still undefeated as the starter, who knows if this job still belongs to Newton when he is finally healthy.

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-4)

The Bucs enjoyed their bye in Week 7 and now travel to Nashville to play the Titans.  This is definitely a winnable game, but thats assuming Jameis Winston avoids another 5 interception game. A few weeks ago, this game looked like the awaited the rematch of Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston, but with Mariota on the bench, we will have to settle for Winston v Tannehill. 

4. Atlanta Falcons (1-6)

The Falcons lost yet again to the Rams in Week 7, making it 5 in a row. Wide Receiver Mohamed Sanu was traded this week, and it may be the start of a larger unload in Atlanta.  This team needs to fix its defense, as they rank 27th in total defense.  Hosting the Seahawks this week will likely be another loss, especially if Matt Ryan remains on the sidelines.

NFC POWER RANKINGS (Week 7 Ranking)

  1. New Orleans Saints (1)
  2. Green Bay Packers (4)
  3. San Francisco 49ers (3)
  4. Seattle Seahawks (2)
  5. Minnesota Vikings (6)
  6. Los Angeles Rams (8)
  7. Dallas Cowboys (11)
  8. Carolina Panthers (9)
  9. Detroit Lions (7)
  10. Chicago Bears (5)
  11. Philadelphia Eagles (9)
  12. Arizona Cardinals (14)
  13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (12)
  14. New York Giants (13)
  15. Atlanta Falcons (14)
  16. Washington Redskins (16)

NFC Overview: Week 7

The NFC playoff picture is beginning to clear up as teams are becoming more predictable.  With 10 teams at .500 or better, it looks like even the Wildcard teams will have 10 or 11 wins. Here is how each division stand after the sixth week of action, followed by the conference power rankings at the end. 

NFC NORTH

1. Green Bay Packers (5-1)

The Packers came out slow on Monday night and looked rather sloppy for most of the game.  On the final drive two very questionable “Hands to the Face” calls against the Lions helped extend the drive to set up the game-winning field goal.  The Packers won but looked outplayed.  At the end of the day, a win is a win and a division win is even sweeter for the Packers. Next week Green Bay welcomes the Raiders to Lambeau field.

 2. Minnesota Vikings (3-2)

The Vikings exploded on offense against the Eagles.  Stefon Diggs caught 3 touchdowns and the Eagles couldn’t overcome the poor defensive performance.  Right now the Vikings are looking like a playoff team, just two weeks removed from their dismal loss in Chicago where they scored 6 points.  A huge divisional game in Detroit awaits this Sunday.

3. Chicago Bears (3-2)

The Bears took Week 6 off and got plenty of injury updates. Wide Receiver Taylor Gabriel and Defensive Lineman Bilal Nichols are healthy.   Lineman Kyle Long went on the IR and Akiem Hicks looks to be out for a few weeks.   Mitchell Trubisky returned to practice and looks like he will play.  With the Saints coming to town, it is a big opportunity for the Bears to reassert themselves in the elite conversation.  A loss would hurt the Bear’s playoff hopes tremendously in a cluttered NFC.

4. Detroit Lions (2-2-1)

Detroit came out firing against the Packers, going up 13-0 in the first half. At some junctures of the game, the Lions looked a bit stagnant and complacent kicking field goals.  That being said, they played a pretty good game Monday night and if not for some “iffy” calls on the last drive, they would have three victories.  Bouncing back won’t come easy though as the Vikings come into Ford Field after an impressive win in Week 6.

NFC WEST

1. San Francisco 49ers (5-0)

The 49ers continued their dominate start to the season by easily handling the Rams on the road.  The ‘Niner’s defense looks dominant and the offense has many weapons.  The return of Tevin Coleman has been noticed and Nick Bosa is making his presence felt every game.  This week the 49ers head across the country to Washington D.C. to play the Redskins.  Although Washington earned its first victory this past week, the 49ers look like an unstoppable force right now.

 2. Seattle Seahawks (5-1)

The Seahawks put together an impressive comeback win against the Browns in Week 6.  This team is looking more and more capable of representing the NFC in the Super Bowl with each game they play.  A tricky home game against the Ravens  is up next in Week 8. Even with a playoff spot likely locked down, the Seahawks would much rather win the division and (most likely) get a first round bye in the playoffs, so every game is important to keep up with the 49ers.

3. Los Angeles Rams (3-3)

The Rams have lost three in a row, matching their loss total from last year.  The team looks completely out of sync, and securing a playoff spot seems more and more unlikely with each week.  the Rams made headlines this week trading two first round picks to receive Jalen Ramsey from the Jaguars.  Ramsey will add even more star power to the Rams’ defense, but they have not looked as dominant as advertised lately.  Maybe Week 7 will be the turning point for L.A. as they travel to Atlanta.

4. Arizona Cardinals (2-3-1)

The Cardinals have put together two in a row, and Kyler Murray is no longer looking like a rookie quarterback.  A trip to play the Giants and fellow rookie quarterback, Daniel Jones, is up next for Murray and the Cardinals.  A win would bring the Cardinals to .500 just under halfway through the season.  Although a playoff appearance seems like a reach, crazier things have happened.

NFC EAST

1.Dallas Cowboys (3-3)

The Cowboys have dropped three straight and do not look playoff worthy.  A road loss against the winless Jets is definitely an eye opener, and now Jason Garrett’s seat has warmed up a bit.  Failing to make the playoffs would almost certainly be the end of Garrett’s time in Dallas. The first step to avoiding  this letdown is this Sunday at home against the Eagles.  

2. Philadelphia Eagles (3-3)

The Eagles performed rather poorly in Minnesota last week coming off of two consecutive wins. Although the Vikings played very well themselves, some fans still consider the Eagles Super Bowl contenders and playing like they did this past week isn’t going to get the job done.  Week 7 brings us the long awaited matchup in Dallas.   With both the Cowboys and Eagles sitting at 3-3, it looks like the division winner may be the only playoff team from the NFC East.  Expect a tight one in Dallas with playoff like atmosphere.

3. New York Giants (2-4)

The Patriots were too much to handle for this young Giants’ team in Week 6.  Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley are the future in New York and getting back to the winning tradition may be closer than we think in  New York.  With the Cardinals coming to town in Week 7, getting to 3-4 would leave the Giants just a game out of first place.  Even with the early season struggles, the lack of dominance in the NFC East will leave the door open for the Giants for quite a few weeks; it will be their job to seize the opportunity.

 4. Washington Redskins (1-5)

The Redskins won the tank bowl against the Dolphins 17-16.  The team is still without a (permanent) head coach, and Case Keenum is starting over Dwayne Haskins.  The Redskins’ organization is in shambles, and trading away players for draft picks would be the ideal approach to rebuilding this historic franchise.

NFC SOUTH

1.New Orleans Saints (5-1)

The Saints won an ugly game in Jacksonville, 13-6.  Teddy Bridgewater didn’t look very sharp, but the defense led them to a road victory which is never easy in the NFL.  This week the Saints head to Chicago where Khalil Mack and the Bears’ defense awaits.  With both defenses playing well, it looks like a big turnover or special teams play could be the deciding factor.  This is a big game for the Saints as the Panthers are just a game back.

2. Carolina Panthers (4-2)

Kyle Allen has led the Panthers to four straight wins as the starter and the murmurs are beginning to spread that even with a healthy Cam Newton, the Panthers should go with Allen at quarterback.  With a bye in Week 7, the Panthers are expecting Newton to be healthy for their Week 8 matchup in San Francisco, but that does not mean he will be the starter.  Whatever the Panthers decide, they will have Christian McCaffrey running the ball out of the backfield, building on his MVP type season.

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-4)

The Bucs are trending in the wrong direction.  Jameis Winston threw FIVE interceptions against the Panthers in London this past week and the Bucs may have now lost any playoff hopes they had heading into Week 6.  Tampa Bay will take Week 7 off to rest up and prepare for a trip to Tennessee in Week 8 looking to get things back on track.

4. Atlanta Falcons (1-5)

The Falcons’ Week 6 loss summed up their whole season. There is nothing more frustrating than missing a potential game-tying extra point in the final few seconds.  For a team that was expected to be competitive, these losses prove why the Falcons have lost four straight.  This week the Falcons host the Rams who have been on a losing streak themselves, in a battle of hungry teams dying to get back in the win column.

NFC POWER RANKINGS (Week 6 Ranking)

  1. New Orleans Saints (1)
  2. Seattle Seahawks (2)
  3. San Francisco 49ers (4)
  4. Green Bay Packers (3)
  5. Chicago Bears (7)
  6. Minnesota Vikings (10)
  7. Detroit Lions (5)
  8. Los Angeles Rams (6)
  9. Carolina Panthers (11)
  10. Philadelphia Eagles (9)
  11. Dallas Cowboys (8)
  12. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (12)
  13. New York Giants (13)
  14. Arizona Cardinals (15)
  15. Atlanta Falcons (14)
  16. Washington Redskins (16)

NFC Overview: Week 4

After three weeks of football, I think it is finally appropriate to analyze each team’s progress and future path with three performances to critique.  The NFC is shaking out to be a very competitive conference with many teams sitting at 2-1 or better.  Read below to find out how I see each division playing out, as well as a preview for Week 4. Finally, in the end, I will provide a power ranking for each team in the conference.

NFC NORTH

I think it is only fitting, to begin with the NFC North because of its combined record of 9-2-1.  Every team looks like it could make a run for the playoffs.  Although some teams may have executed and performed better in some games, I think we can get a true sense of each team’s identity heading into Week 4.

1. Green Bay Packers (3-0)

Heading into the season, Green Bay was holding its breath as new coach Matt LaFleur was beginning his tenure as the leader of one of the NFL’s most coveted franchises.  Of course, there has been some drama regarding Aaron Rodgers in the past few seasons on his coachability, but thus far that doesn’t seem to be an issue. After three games, the Packers are undefeated and their defense is leading the way.  The offense has had some forgettable moments (The ugly win in Week 1 at Chicago) but it seems to be trending in the right direction.  Being 2-0 in the division is certainly an added bonus to this unbeaten start, and they will look to improve to 4-0 on Thursday Night Football as the Packers will host the Eagles who have gotten off to a rocky start themselves.  I predict the Packers to win against a beat-up Eagles squad who is having difficulty on the defensive side of the ball.  Look for the Packers to get an early lead and coast.

2. Detroit Lions (2-0-1)

WOW! What a start for the Lions.  Coming into the year I don’t think many people expected much from this team, but they have proven everyone wrong. At times, they have looked sloppy (4th Quarter against the Cardinals Week 1, and Most of the game against the Chargers) but at the end of the day, they have beaten two playoff teams from a year ago, and have been able to withstand late-game pressures. Matthew Stafford looks solid again this year, and the team is playing well in the early parts of the game, which was often a problem in recent seasons.  This week the Lions host the Chiefs.  Although it seems like a daunting task, I think the Lions are a pesky team that could hang around for a little in this game.  In the end, I expect the Chiefs to remain undefeated and the Lions to fall to 2-1-1, which is by no means a failure considering their early-season opponents.

3. Minnesota Vikings (2-1)

The Vikings look like a playoff team. They have dominated the Falcons and Raiders at home, but in between, they fell to the Packers at Lambeau.  Although they need to improve their ability to play on the road, the Vikings defense is once again looking dangerous, and Dalvin Cook has returned to his rookie form.  Kirk Cousins, however, still leaves questions about his ability to be a reliable quarterback each week in the NFL. Upcoming, the Vikings travel to Chicago where a very important road divisional game awaits.  As good as the Vikings may seem, if they fail to win road games, especially in the division, they could be a team that misses out on a playoff spot with a seemingly worthy record.  All that said, I don’t think the Vikings will be able to pull out a victory against the Bears this week.  The game being at 3:25 pm will only add more pressure to Kirk Cousins who can simply look overwhelmed when he faces pressure, and I expect the Bears to be very hungry to win at home after their Week 1 letdown.

4. Chicago Bears (2-1)

The Bears came into this season with Super Bowl aspirations. After adding pieces to an already stellar defense (HaHa Clinton-Dix) the Bears seemed like they might be on their way to just that.  Although being 2-1 isn’t bad, the Bears have certainly left room for improvement on the offensive side of the ball.  Third-year quarterback, Mitchell Trubisky showed some signs of development and growth last season but hasn’t been able to put together a complete performance.  His play on Monday Night Football against the Redskins was the best it has been, but he still threw a poor interception in the endzone and missed some rather simple throws.  I like the Bears to win this week against the Vikings, but the only way for them to accomplish that is with a good performance from Trubisky. 

NFC WEST

The NFC West is another strong division with a combined record of 8-3-1.  The Rams look like they are definitely capable of returning to the Super bowl. The Seahawks and 49ers have good records but haven’t beaten any team with a winning record yet. Although the Cardinals have a poor record, they have shown positive signs with a rookie quarterback.

1. Los Angeles Rams (3-0)

The Rams are coming off a solid win in Cleveland on Sunday night.  The most promising part of the Ram’s performances up to this point is the fact that Todd Gurley hasn’t gotten going.  He still has much more to offer in this fire-powered offense, which is benefitting immensely from the return of Cooper Kupp.  The defense looks solid yet again, and I expect them to handle the Buccaneers rather easily this Sunday before a tough Thursday Night Football matchup with the Seahawks in Seattle. A return to the Super Bowl certainly seems possible if things continue this way.

2. San Francisco 49ers (3-0)

The 49ers look like the team everyone expected last season before Jimmy Garoppolo got injured. The offense is producing very well even with injuries and uncertainty in who the top receiver is. The biggest concern at this point is the quality of the opponents they have faced. Combined, the Buccaneers, Bengals, and Steelers are 1-8. This Monday the 49ers host the Browns who are still trying to find themselves as well. Nonetheless, a Monday night win at home to improve to 4-0 will surely boost their stock and put them into serious playoff talks.

3. Seattle Seahawks (2-1)

The Seahawks hosted the New Orleans Saints last Sunday who were without Drew Brees. Even so, the Saints dominated that game. Although the final score was 33-27, the game was over halfway through the third quarter. With their two wins coming against winless opponents, (By slim margins) I still cannot tell if the seahawks will be true playoff contenders. They have a divisional game at Arizona this Sunday which they most likely will win, but I think the Seahawks’ true colors will show next Thursday against the Rams.

4. Arizona Cardinals (0-2-1)

The Cardinals will not make the playoffs this year. The focus is all on developing Kyler Murray and preparing him for important games in November and December for seasons to come. Coach Kliff Kingsbury was criticized for not exploring enough with Murray in the first few weeks. In week three Murray looked overwhelmed at times in the second half against the Panthers, and turnovers killed any chance of pulling out the victory at home. As disappointing as it may be for a Cardinals fan, every young quarterback needs games where they perform poorly because it motivates them for weeks to come. I am excited for this team’s future with Murray at the helm.

NFC EAST

1.Dallas Cowboys (3-0)

The Cowboys look unbeatable right now. Dak Prescott has shown up this season. The move for Amari Cooper gets better with each game he plays, and Zeke is…being Zeke. The defense is strong, and the Cowboys have cruised to every win easily. The strong start is nice, but this Sunday night they will travel to play the Saints in New Orleans. This is the most intriguing matchup this week, but I am leaning slightly towards the Saints at home. Even still, the Cowboys look to be on their way to winning the NFC East again.

2. Philadelphia Eagles (1-2)

The Eagles are in a tough spot. after three games they are 1-2 and have a difficult road game in Green Bay on Thursday. Starting out 1-3 was not on the agenda for anyone in Philadelphia, but maybe this game could turn everything around. They haven’t looked particularly sharp in any game. The offense is banged up and the defense can’t keep teams out of the endzone. If a 1-3 start is the case, the panic meter will be tapped out.

3. New York Giants (1-2)

The Giants have entered the Daniel Jones era. Week 3 marked Jones’s first start in a Giants uniform and boy did he show up. Although a missed field goal from the Bucs ultimately decided the game, it would be hard to imagine the Giants in that position with Eli Manning under center. No disrespect to Eli, I believe he will be in the hall of fame someday. For now, he should either find a team who needs another quarterback or just retire. This week I think they will easily handle the redskins and be 2-2. As for the Giants season, I don’t expect them to make the playoffs but they should be much more fun to watch and be competitive each week.

4. Washington Redskins (0-3)

Jay Gruden should be sweating after Monday night. The Redksins did not show up at all, Case Keenum turned the ball over 5 times, and the “boos” were out early and often. Dwayne Haskins should be ready at any moment because at this point they have nothing to lose. The lone bright spot has been rookie receiver Terry McLaurin. He has made an instant impact and scored a touchdown in each game. Things only get worse as the ‘Skins travel to New York to face Daniel Jones in his first home game.

NFC SOUTH

1.New Orleans Saints (2-1)

The Saints got robbed last year in the NFC Championship. With most of the team returning, reaching the Super Bowl is almost the expectation in New Orleans. Everything was on course until Drew Brees broke his thumb and needed surgery which sidelined him for 4-6 weeks. The game against the Rams wasn’t pretty and losing Brees just added insult to injury. The bounceback against the Seahawks was impressive, but another tough test against the Cowboys awaits this Sunday. Although Brees is crucial to the Saints’ success, I think they will stay afloat and then capture the division after his return.

2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-2)

The Bucs do look improved under Bruce Aryans. Jameis Winston looks more like himself and although they had a tough loss to the Giants Sunday, I wouldn’t be surprised if they won 7 or 8 games this season. The winning, however, might have to wait a few weeks as road games against the Rams and Saints are up next.

3. Atlanta Falcons (1-2)

The Falcons are a tough team to figure out. After a poor performance week 1 against the Vikings, they responded with a hard-fought, dramatic victory against the Eagles on Sunday Night Football. Week 3 however, they could not secure a road victory against the Colts on the road and are now at 1-2. This week they travel to Houston to play a tough Texans’ defense and Deshaun Watson and Deandre Hopkins. I truly think the Falcons are better than their record, but that doesn’t mean much in this league. Each week is a crapshoot and you have to execute to earn victories.

4. Carolina Panthers (1-2)

I have lost all faith in Cam Newton. Even before his injury in week 2 he looked awful. Kyle Allen, on the other hand, seized his opportunity, and after an impressive win in Arizona, some people are saying there could be a quarterback competition in Carolina. I know it seems impossible that a former MVP could have his job at stake, but this is an unforgiving league and winning is the most important. If that isn’t being done, then changes will be made. Carolina hosts the Jaguars this Sunday and has a good chance to get back to .500.

NFC POWER RANKINGS

  1. Los Angeles Rams
  2. Green Bay Packers
  3. Dallas Cowboys
  4. New Orleans Saints
  5. Minnesota Vikings
  6. Detroit Lions
  7. Seattle Seahawks
  8. San Francisco 49ers
  9. Chicago Bears
  10. Atlanta Falcons
  11. Philadelphia Eagles
  12. New York Giants
  13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  14. Carolina Panthers
  15. Arizona Cardinals
  16. Washington Redskins

 

Obstructed NCAA Top 5-Week 1

It’s back. The week that we all get excited about arrived. Now, nothing against Oklahoma, Houston, Notre Dame, and Louisville, but Saturdays are where it is at. So I will enjoy doing this today as it was an interesting, yet not a bombshell-worthy week in Week 1. So let’s hit it.

TOP 5 WINNERS:

Auburn’s win was reminiscent of some previous Auburn teams that were memorable

(1) AUBURN: We’ve seen this story from the Tigers in those magical years in 2010, 2013, and 2017. You get a break here and there. You keep it close in games you probably don’t deserve to be in. You win late. You have a quarterback that is a dual threat and brings some arrogance and cockiness. And just a friendly reminder to Alabama and Georgia: you have to go down to the Plains this year (and Georgia, you better not sit on any lead). And LSU & Florida: you better have your A games even though you are at home. This could be “that year.”

Travis Etienne had no problem against Georgia Tech

(2) TOP TEN TEAMS: Oklahoma aside because they play on Sunday and Notre Dame on Monday (they play Louisville), the top ten squads played in a DOMINANT fashion. While there were issues for most of the teams at some point (either slow starts or just sat on leads), the games were never really in doubt. Next week will change a few things though (LSU/Texas, Texas A&M/Clemson)

Don’t sleep on the Utes in 2019

(3) UTAH: Utah isn’t as “exciting” as some want them to be. But they have a great defense, a great run game, and a quarterback who makes the needed passes. Are they a sleeper in the PAC-12? You bet. They went into BYU and really handled them well. And that is NOT an easy place to win at.

Bachmeier is being hyped as the next great Boise State QB

(4) BOISE STATE: You go across country for what you expect to be a “neutral site game” and then get pushed to the opponents home, get down big at halftime, and then come back and win. Feels like only Boise State can do that. And the talk of Hank Bachmeier being the next great Broncos QB has begun just like that.

Dobbins and Ohio State had little issue with FAU

(5) BIG TEN EAST: 7-0 this week. We expected all of them to win, well, most of them. Rutgers even won and put up 40. And we had a bit of that 70’s show feel to it as well. Maryland and Penn State ran up the scores (79 points for both of them in their wins) and Michigan State’s defense gave up -79 rushing yards to Tulsa. And Indiana didn’t fall into that trap of losing to a MAC school. Of course, I don’t genuinely think Rutgers, Maryland, or Indiana will be a major threat to the division, but it was a nice start.

HONORABLE MENTIONS: North Carolina, Virginia, Boston College

TOP 5 LOSERS:

Herbert and Oregon blew a great chance to show they can beat an out-of-conference power

(1) OREGON: A few things here: the turnover deep in Auburn’s territory was reminiscent of the Stanford game which really doomed the Ducks from playoff contention. They sat on their lead once they got up 21-6, something Oregon NEVER does. And they gave the PAC-12 another black eye for the conference as a whole of not being able to compete with the other conferences. Sad because for the first three quarters Oregon really dominated Auburn. So in our annual “do we think Oregon is a legit program that can go up with the other powers in the nation” question, the answer is the same: no.

Tennessee just got outplayed and then some by Georgia State

(2) TENNESSEE: And just like that the honeymoon period for the Volunteers and Jeremy Pruitt is over and looking more like a divorce is impending. How do you give up 38 to Georgia State? Props to Georgia State for wanting it. Tennessee was just expecting the Panthers to hand them a W. Pruitt will have to do some serious damage control.

Florida State could not run away from Boise State and they had everything going for them!

(3) FLORIDA STATE: If not for Oregon blowing a lead and giving them their own black eye and knocking them out of National Championship hopes, and Tennessee for losing to the bottom of the barrel Sun Belt team, the Seminoles probably had the worst weekend out of anybody. First they get the Boise State game home instead of Jacksonville which meant it was a big jolt for the Noles and a major adjustment for Boise, and then you build a huge halftime lead only to choke it away. Willie Taggart in already his second season cannot afford any more bad losses because he will end up being fired very soon. Is it fair? No, but Florida State fans expect to be a yearly top five team. Right now, they may not even be top 5 in the ACC Atlantic. Think that one carefully.

A loss like what South Carolina had could also doom coaching tenures

(4) SOUTH CAROLINA: North Carolina played tough. That was the one thing I got out of that. But even then, South Carolina made silly mistakes, turned the ball over and Jake Bentley was terrible. This feels like 2013 Florida a bit with Will Muschamp around (the year where Florida went 4-8 and lost to Georgia Southern at home). It may be very ugly out in Columbia in 2019.

Maybe we are really seeing a decline of Virginia Tech in the ACC

(5) VIRGINIA TECH: 35 to Boston College? That should not happen. Yes, they “stopped” AJ Dillon (3.5 yds per carry but 83 yards) but giving up 400 yards to them? And the Hokies Bud Foster Farewell tour couldn’t start off to a worse situation. Adding on top of it, Virginia Tech is now in the hole in the ACC Coastal with road trips to Miami and Virginia this year. Adding on, they see Old Dominion next week, which was the beginning of the end for them last year.

HONORABLE MENTION: Missouri, UCLA, Ole Miss

TOP 5 QUESTIONS

Muschamp’s schedule was already tough, but a UNC loss was not needed at all

(1) ASIDE FROM THE LIKES OF WILLIE TAGGART, WHICH POWER 5 HEAD COACH IS IN MAJOR TROUBLE AFTER THIS WEEKEND? While Jeremy Pruitt has now become public enemy #1 in Knoxville for losing to Georgia State, I’m going with Will Muschamp. South Carolina isn’t really expected to contend in the SEC East this year (at least to me) but beating North Carolina should have happened. Just some decisions made and again, they failed to put the throat on the Tar Heels and let them in the game. And it’s more feasible to see the Gamecocks go 4-8 than 8-4 now. So he is probably in the biggest trouble.

Fuente needs to find some answers fast before the Hokies faithful really get onto him

(2) WHICH HEAD COACH IS NOW HAVING A WARM SEAT? Justin Fuente. The Hokies have been atop the ACC until last year and losing to Boston College (the Eagles aren’t bad at all but giving up 35 to them?) the way they did is very concerning. A 6-6 record for the second year in a row won’t cut it in Blacksburg especially now if Virginia is starting to be the power in that state.

Alabama still remains the elite of the SEC

(3) THE SEC HAD HIGHS AND LOWS THIS WEEKEND. ARE THEY THE BEST OVERALL CONFERENCE? Yes, only because of their top 5. Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, and LSU are without question the cream of the crop. Texas A&M is also on the verge of cracking it, assuming if they can take down Clemson next week in Death Valley. However, once you get past them, they may have some of the weaker programs in the nation. I somewhat liken it to if you align the football programs like planets in order of the sun (just imagine we have 14 planets here), the 5 teams I mentioned would be the inner solar system, very close to one another. Then you have Texas A&M somewhere in the asteroid belt. And then you have the next 8 where Pluto is. It’s just a massive gap, and that bottom half could get beaten by any bottom half in the Power 5.

LSU danced their way to an impressive win against Georgia Southern

(4) WHICH TOP 10 TEAM LOOKED THE STRONGEST? LSU obviously. And a team like Georgia Southern gives everyone fits with the option. Not tonight. Adding on top of it the Tigers did something we are not accustomed to: passing. Granted we don’t know what kind of team Georgia Southern will be and it may be a bit different when LSU has to face the likes of Auburn, Alabama, and Florida. But if you are a Tigers fan, you still have to feel good on what you saw last night down in Baton Rouge.

Michigan won relatively easily, but there were some concerns

(5) WHICH TOP 10 TEAM LOOKED SHAKY? It is very hard to say because all of them outside of LSU had their woes in some manner yet somehow dominated. Georgia and Ohio State got off to roaring starts only to sit on the lead and lose all their rhythm after the first quarter. Alabama struggled early on before looking like Alabama. Clemson played sloppy notably in the first half against Georgia Tech. Michigan did allow 21 to Middle Tennessee. Texas did “fine.” If I count Florida from their win last week against Miami, it would be the Gators largely because of poor play at quarterback and Feleipe Franks is a massive question mark moving forward. But I won’t, so I will probably say Michigan at this point. Do they have enough offense to win? Can they do better on defense than what they showed? It’s just the teams that haven’t been proven to win those big games will the the ones scrutinized. And right now, Michigan is that.

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

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The Obstructed ACC (& Notre Dame) Preview-2019

The ACC was and up-and-down conference last year. Clemson won another national championship while Syracuse and Virginia rose through the ranks. However, the likes of Florida State, Miami, Virginia Tech, and Louisville pretty much imploded early on and got knocked on its rear end the rest of the way. Adding on top of it with them, Duke, Georgia Tech, NC State, Pitt, Wake Forest, and Boston College could not generate any consistency to their seasons while North Carolina was just awful. So it is one extreme or the other in the ACC last year. Will it change this year?

Clemson is the king of the mountain while there really isn’t much of a viable contender right now. Syracuse has given them fits the last two seasons including a win in 2017. Will the Orange give Clemson a legitimate shot in the standings? Can Florida State rebound? Can the ACC Coastal have a shot of being a legitimate threat?

I’m going to try a different format so I don’t kill myself on the weekends from now on. Instead of giving a team capsule (which takes forever for me) I’m going to put out a key question for each team and then give my projected record. So let’s try it and see how it goes.

ACC ATLANTIC

Lawrence is widely regardesd as the Heisman favorite

CLEMSON: Can the Tigers repeat another undefeated season? Despite the ACC powers being really down, there is one game that still is going to be watched: Syracuse. And this may be a huge game September 14 in the Carrier Dome because both teams have very favorable schedules. However, Trevor Lawrence is the quarterback and 6 other starters return including 4 linemen and very underrated running back Travis Etienne. Add in the receivers who just can dominate at any point, and you may have the best offense in the nation. It’s going to be the defense in question early up front. That’s why I think that game in Syracuse might pose a problem. They got a great secondary, but can they push up on the line? That will be the key issue. But aside from that, Clemson should pretty much dominate most if not all their games in 2019. Maybe keep an eye on their rival game in South Carolina given how the Gamecocks did throw it around pretty well on them, but even then I don’t see Clemson losing that. BEST CASE RECORD: 12-0 WORST CASE RECORD: 10-2. MY PREDICTION: 12-0. That game will be a fight in the Carrier Dome I believe.

Robinson and Syracuse are really chasing after Clemson in 2019

SYRACUSE: Can Syracuse be the sleeper in the Playoff picture? Only if they can beat Clemson. But they do bring a lot of starters back and a quarterback in Tommy DeVito who has experience, but yet to gain consistency. However, he will have a different offense to go with since Eric Dungey’s mobility will not be there. He will throw to experienced receivers and have Moe Neal in the backfield. But the question needs to be can they make huge strides on defense? The Orange struggled in the passing game in 2018 (116th) but bring back their entire secondary and they do have great pass-rushers in Kendall Coleman and Alton Robinson, which will be interesting if they can get to Lawrence in their Clemson match. So I expect Syracuse’s defense to play a huge role this year and if they do upset Clemson, that will be the reason why. BEST CASE RECORD: 12-0 WORST CASE RECORD: 9-3 MY PREDICTION: 10-2 IF Syracuse beats Clemson, I can see them running the table or at least going 11-1 (don’t know if they can beat Florida State in Tallahassee though). Either way a New Year’s Six Bowl is a likely with a record like that.

Wake Forest Demon Deacons defensive back Essang Bassey (21) on defense during first half action against the Boston College Eagles at BB&T Field on September 13, 2018 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The Eagles defeated the Demon Deacons 41-34. (Brian Westerholt/Sports On Film)

WAKE FOREST: Can the Deacons continue stability in the program? Interesting is that Wake Forest has strung together a decent run under Dave Clawson in the last few years. Clawson has turned a program around that was vying with Virginia as the worst program in the ACC. Granted 6-7 wins every year isn’t like wowing, but better than where they were. Wake Forest has some uphill challenges to build off of their run. Do they use Jamie Newman who played well down the stretch or incumbent starter Sam Hartman who injured his leg? Both played well last year though it seems like Newman is more of a playmaker. More questions are abound with the defense however as it has been a mess the last few seasons. They only bring back 4 starters which is a problem. However, two of the starters are at corners and there are hopes that Essang Bassey is the guy there and one of the best in the ACC. But given consistency issues and not much upgrade on defense, don’t figure the Deacons to be in the race for an ACC Championship game appearance (not with Clemson there obviously). That said, they could take another step up in the right direction. BEST CASE RECORD: 8-4 WORST CASE RECORD: 6-6 MY PREDICTION: 8-4. Deacons will continue to push upwards, but only if that defense makes progress

Akers will need an offensive line to make a major impact

FLORIDA STATE: Will Willie Taggart survive the 2019 season? It all depends on how they play. The Noles last year failed to make a bowl game for the first time in 36 years. Even a berth to a bowl is not necessarily a life saver to Taggart. The biggest issue is that the offensive line was putrid. Deondre Francois is still alive, but I wondered at times if he would be during the season. But a new quarterback will take over whether it is James Blackman or Alex Hornibrook. Blackman has the inside track and played well for the Noles when he was in. Cam Akers. much like Francois, was pretty much unable to do what he could have done thanks to the line. So it will all depend on the line, which may be a problem in the ACC. Offensive coordinator Kendall Briles hopes the offensive line can improve so he can install the systems he wants. The other thing is going to be can the defense step up as they were pretty weak there as well too. But they like the linebacking crew to really get things going. However, it will have to take major jumps on both sides of the ball to really feel like Florida State is legit again. The good news is they have the talent. They just need to utilize it. So a 7-5 season and possible blowout losses to Clemson and Florida may not keep Taggart around. BEST CASE RECORD: 10-2 WORST CASE RECORD: 4-8 MY PREDICTION: 7-5. I don’t think it will be enough for Taggart to survive the high demand of winning in Tallahassee.

Dillon needs to stay healthy if the Eagles are to be a legit threat

BOSTON COLLEGE: Will the Eagles ever get out of the rut of being a 6-7 win team? Hard to say. Boston College in recent memory was known as being a run-first, run-often and play physical defense in the process. They have AJ Dillon at running back and when healthy is one of the best backs in the nation. Anthony Brown can be a quality quarterback if he continues to step up. But the defense kinda went backwards in a big way as they were pretty much middle-of-the-pack to bottom-half in the college world. Not good when right now the Eagles offense has been relatively one-dimensional. The defense and Brown needs to step up and if Dillon is not in the game either due to injury or because they’re down, Boston College will keep struggling if they can’t get the defense worked out or if Brown doesn’t improve. BEST CASE RECORD: 9-3 WORST CASE RECORD: 5-7 MY PREDICTION: 6-6. The Eagles could get off to a nice start being 6-1 before the second half is doomsday (Clemson/Syracuse/Florida State/Notre Dame in four straight games) By then, they may just run out of gas at Pittsburgh.

If Smith-Williams is a dominant force at NC State, the Wolfpack could surprise a few people.

NC STATE: How far will the Wolfpack take a step back with the exits of Ryan Finley, Jakobi Meyers, and Kelvin Harmon on offense? I think it is a nice drop and when you add in losing Bradley Chubb the year before, you really get hit a lot. The Wolfpack will have to rely on their defense a bit more. Good if it means stopping the run, but if the passing defense continues its mishaps you could see NC State near the bottom of the ACC in 2019 It is hard to replace a guy like Finley at Raleigh. But when the key weapons on offense are also gone with Finley and the running game on top of it is gone too, problems will occur. But if the defense improves especially against the pass, look no further than James Smith-Williams on the line going after quarterbacks. But it may not be a fun year in Raleigh if you are a Wolfpack fan. BEST CASE RECORD: 8-4 WORST CASE RECORD: 4-8 MY PREDICTION: 6-6 NC State will have a few games they should win, but they will fall behind a good chunk of the ACC for at least this year.

Hassan Hall should be a bright spot for Louisville

LOUISVILLE: How long will it take Scott Satterfield to get the Cardinals back to respectability? Hard to say, but don’t expect a massive rebound in Louisville in 2019. Yeah, the Cardinals couldn’t really do anything last year and Bobby Petrino was kicked out of the door (which was a nice thing given how he ups and leaves programs). It’s really hard to figure out where Louisville will be, though I don’t know if the talent is there on either side of the ball at this point. It will be a nice long rebuild if there isn’t a quarterback to go for. Seems like there isn’t a cut favorite and just woes all over the place. Hassan Hall may be the focal point of the offense at running back. They do have a group of linebackers who have a lot of seasoning, but nobody stands out, save maybe CJ Avery. So what you will see in Louisville will not be an about-face. And worse, the teams they see are more talented the Cardinals. BEST CASE RECORD: 4-8 WORST CASE RECORD 1-11 MY PREDICTION: 2-10. They may put up a stronger fight with Satterfield, but Rome wasn’t built in a day and Louisville’s program isn’t going to be rebuilt in a year.

ACC COASTAL

Williams figures to be a huge improvement at quarterback in Miami

MIAMI: Can the Hurricanes get that needed quarterback to compete? Well, the hope WAS that Ohio State transfer Tate Martell would be the guy to get Miami in that direction, but Jarren Williams will take over when the Hurricanes play Florida to start the season. So you already have that as a bit of an issue. And that is why probably the Hurricanes collapse late in 2017 and not really be a serious threat in 2018 because of the poor play of Malik Rosier. It is also why Mark Richt (who was pressured to fire his son who was coaching the offense) had enough and retired. So Manny Diaz takes over in what kinda feels like of a messy situation despite the talent pool in Miami. Williams will have Dan Enos as his offensive coordinator so that may be very helpful, though the offensive line is going to be a major question mark in 2019. DeeJay Dallas could be a star in the making but if the line can’t block for him, it may be pointless. So Miami once again will rely on the defense, which ranked #1 against the pass and looks to be aggressive as ever and the linebacking corps may be the best around. So again, Miami may end up winning some games on defense until the offense figures things out. BEST CASE RECORD: 12-0 WORST CASE RECORD: 8-4 MY PREDICTION: 10-2 (Disclaimer: I did put this prediction up before the Florida game and said Florida would win so nothing really changes here) Miami may end up winning it through defense once again and has both Virginia schools coming down to Hard Rock Stadium. That’s a huge advantage.

Perkins play may decide how big of a year the Cavaliers have

VIRGINIA: Can Bronco Mendenhall get the Cavaliers to that next step? It’s hard to think that at one time Virginia was a legit football program after years and years of futility in the ACC. Yeah, probably not a national contender, but in the 90’s they had some excellent teams. But Mendenhall provides stability and he’s a proven coach with how well he did out at BYU. But right now the “biggest thing” Virginia fans want from Mendenhall is a win over rival Virginia Tech who have just slapped the Cavaliers silly for so long now. A win over the Hokies for the Cavaliers may be what the Cavaliers need to really up the program. Virginia has a defense that has been improving and could only get better in 2019 with linebackers who are strong and Jordan Mack at linebacker may be a name to watch. So if that upgrades and the offense moves up from being a mediocre one. High hopes are set on Bryce Perkins, a true dual-threat quarterback and could have a monster year again. But they need a run game to replace Jordan Ellis. If the Cavaliers can upgrade both sides, which they should as the talent level is rising in Charlottesville, Virginia could be a tough out, even perhaps for Clemson should they see each other in the ACC Championship game. BEST CASE RECORD: 11-1 WORST CASE RECORD: 8-4 MY PREDICTION: 10-2. Virginia may be the biggest sleeper in college football in 2019, assuming the run game improves.

More pressure is on Dax Hollifield and the Hokies defense than the offense in 2019

VIRGINIA TECH: Can the Hokies recover from last year’s disaster of a season? My answer is yes. The Hokies do return everybody back from last year on defense, which will be Bud Foster’s last season running that group. But last year on defense was an absolute nightmare for the Hokies. They should be much better on defense if they stay healthy. The experience is there, but what got them was the injury as they were depleted. But the offense also has questions notably in the run game and blocking. Ryan Willis played admirably at quarterback last year after Josh Jackson got injured, but the line has to improve but with questions with experience, it could be hit or miss. So, Virginia Tech, if the defense led by Rayshard Ashby and Dax Hollifield at linebackers can get back to what we know at Blacksburg about Bud Foster’s defense, could be a threat once again in the ACC. BEST CASE RECORD: 10-2 WORST CASE RECORD: 7-5 MY PREDICTION: 9-3. It may come down to Virginia in the last week of the season but I just am concerned the shift of talent may fall in Charlottesville.

Jackson will be a major focal point for Duke in 2019

DUKE: Can Duke compete without Daniel Jones? Whether you think Daniel Jones will be an adequate NFL quarterback or not one thing will be true: Duke will miss him. Quentin Harris will take over for Jones this year and Duke brings back 4 starters on the line to protect him and a running back in Deon Jackson to take pressure off of him. But the issue will be at receiver where they are vastly inexperienced. So Harris has his work cut out for him, especially to open the year against Alabama in Atlanta. If Duke is to win, it will be on defense….somewhat. The Blue Devils are solid against the pass, but they are also thin outside of their starters, where 9 return so any key injuries will be a major issue on defense for Duke, especially up front where they could get obliterated by the better blocking teams in the ACC with the offensive line. So to answer the Jones question, yes. But even if Jones was there for another year, he’d struggle with what he has to work with in Durham. BEST CASE RECORD: 6-6 WORST CASE RECORD: 2-10 MY PREDICTION: 4-8. Duke doesn’t have the same talent as the others in the conference. They will get the weaker squads like Pitt and Georgia Tech, but the after that run will be murder and possibly looking at an 0-6 second half.

Rashad Weaver will be counted on to pressure the quarterback

PITTSBURGH: Is Pat Narduzzi in trouble at Pitt? I’d say yes. Questions are all over with the offense starting with replacing starters on the line and two running backs tallying over 1,000 yards and Kenny Pickett who was inconsistent as inconsistent could get out. Can Pickett do well? Can the line protect Pickett? Can AJ Davis be a feature back? The defense isn’t much better. Narduzzi was a stout defensive coordinator at Michigan State before getting the Panthers job. They played strong down the stretch last year but only return five. The linebacker play will have to massively improve but will be hard to do so with missing two guys. The secondary is solid with Damar Hamlin at safety who is very underrated. And if Rashad Weaver & company get to that quarterback like he did last year (6.5 sacks in 2018), the Panthers may have something cooking and could keep Narduzzi around a little bit longer. BEST CASE RECORD: 7-5 WORST CASE RECORD: 3-9 MY PREDICTION: 4-8. Just too many questions on offense to make me seriously think the Panthers have much of a shot, if any in 2019.

Mason will be in a very different offensive system at Georgia Tech

GEORGIA TECH: How long of an adjustment will it take for Geoff Collins to get the offense in rhythm? That’s the million dollar question in Atlanta. We’ve seen Georgia Tech play in the triple-option offense for the past decade with mixed results. But now that Johnson has retired, the new coach will put in a more modern offense. But any program that has used the triple option and then go more modern has taken a very long time to get going. Nebraska is at the top of that list while Georgia Southern (Johnson’s old school) opted to try the modern one for a while and was just a disaster. The likely starter is Tobias Oliver, but didn’t throw much and when he did was streaky (under 50%). Oliver does have a dynamic playmaking ability though. Jordan Mason should be the feature back though teams will zero in on him more instead with no option. The defense will be a work in process as the Jackets bring back only three guys so if you expect the Jackets to rely on defense this year, it may not be the year to do so. The offense I think will have major issues all season and it will be a long season in Atlanta in 2019. BEST CASE RECORD: 8-4 WORST CASE RECORD: 3-9 MY PREDICTION: 4-8 If the Jackets can find a way to get any rhythm down the stretch, the record won’t speak for itself, but I don’t see Georgia Tech flipping the script on offense.

Hopes are high for North Carolina in the future with Mack Brown and Sam Howell

NORTH CAROLINA: How quick can Mack Brown get the Tar Heels back? Maybe not this season as there is going to be a lot of turnover for the Heels, especially on offense with a freshman at quarterback in Sam Howell. But the hopes that UNC’s offense won’t slowing down from Larry Fedora to Brown is high as Brown wants to keep that up-tempo, quick strike offense going on. Where they will be hoping good things to happen is with the running game as a lot of the backs return so there is depth. But the issue will be can they get better on defense? That is the problem and up-tempo style offenses when they aren’t doing well leaves defenses out high and dry (see Oregon and Texas Tech). So if you are all hoping for UNC to get rolling and improving to a bowl game this year, it may not be it. There are questions on that defense, though I do believe if there is a strength it has to be the secondary with starters in three spots, but the depth is a concern. So Brown’s return to UNC will probably not be gumdrops and lollipops in the first year, but if the Heels can keep their high school stand-outs in the state and in Chapel Hill, they will be well enough to get back to “normal.” BEST CASE RECORD: 4-8 WORST CASE RECORD: 1-11 MY PREDICTION: 3-9 Heels could get a W against rival Duke and FCS Mercer, but it will take another year before North Carolina sees a bowl game at least. Just too high of a turnover for the Heels.

Etienne could have a big day in the ACC Championship

ACC CHAMPIONSHIP: CLEMSON VS. MIAMI: I’m going to sum it up nicely on this one: Miami needs turnovers from its defense to win. That is how they are built. They are good at doing so especially wearing the gold turnover chain, but Clemson is on another level overall. They do not make silly mistakes on offense and/or defense. I cannot see a way this game is super-competitive though Jarren Williams is a far better option than Malik Rosier ever was. Clemson should claim their 5th straight ACC title. CLEMSON 45, MIAMI 21

NOTRE DAME

Okwara will be a nightmare for opposing offenses

NOTRE DAME: Can the Irish repeat last year’s performance of a Playoff? Hard to say. They return 9 starters on offense including quarterback Ian Book and four offensive linemen. So that shouldn’t be an issue They bring six back on defense which was pretty good at keeping teams out of the end zone (until Clemson), but the issue isn’t who they have, don’t have, miss. It’s the issue of who they face on the road, which is Michigan and Georgia. Both teams have high hopes in 2019 for the Playoff. That is not going to be easy and the Irish didn’t have a team on the road last year that could legitimately stop them until Clemson, who slapped them silly. So it is going to be a task. If the Irish defense keeps up the pace under Chuck Lea like they had with Mike Elko, then they have a shot at at least stealing one in Ann Arbor or Athens, especially if Julian Okwara can create havoc on the end and get after quarterbacks. BEST CASE RECORD: 11-1 WORST CASE RECORD: 8-4 MY PREDICTION: 9-3 . I don’t see the Irish winning at Georgia at all. I don’t see Michigan losing to them either but that game may be closer. And that game in Stanford isn’t going to be a fun one. But no Playoff for Notre Dame.

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

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