NFL Wildcard Sunday – Betting Preview

 

The first two games of Wildcard Weekend are in the books, with the Panthers rolling over the Cardinals, while Baltimore went into Pittsburgh and pulled out the upset thanks to another impressive defensive display. Onto the next batch of games, with plenty of opportunities available, and a better showing needed tonight on our part.

CINCINATTI BENGALS @ INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

First and foremost AJ Green will be a huge miss for the Bengals. The former Georgia man is set to miss out with a concussion, so look for running back Jeremy Hill to feature heavily, as the Marvin Lewis team looks to control the game through their running attack and defence. During the eight weeks where Hill handled 17-plus touches this season, the Bengals went 7-1.

Indianapolis will no doubt have replayed the tape of their 27-0 beat down of this same Bengal squad from earlier this year numerous times this week. Again the Bengals were AJ Green-less then, and it could be even harder for Andy Dalton with it all on the line now. In his three career playoff games, Dalton is 70-of-123 (56.9%) for 718 yards (5.84 YPA) with a 1:6 TD-to-INT ratio, without notching a win.

The Colts two post-season games a year ago saw a combined 154 points, but with some health problems for both units, this might not be as wild as predicted. TY Hilton was hampered down the stretch with a hamstring, while Dwayne Allen and Reggie Wayne also struggled with niggles. With no run game to speak of, it will once again all be on the shoulders of the former #1 pick from Stanford, Andrew Luck.

RECOMMENDATIONS:

Main Selection: Cincinnati +4 pts @ 10/11 (Various) – If Jeremy Hill can have success and keep Dalton in manageable third down situations, the Bengals may be able to get a strong foothold in this game. A field goal game either way sees the bet click.

First Touchdown: Jeremy Hill @ 7/1 (BetVictor, Coral, Hills) – The former LSU man has to carry the Bengal squad today and is an obvious choice to cross first, if the coin toss falls our way.

Additional Selections: Jeremy Hill over 19.5 rush attempts @ 10/11 (Lads) – Keeping on the same theme, for Cinci to win Andy Dalton has to hand it off. Hill must see over 20 carries.

DETROIT LIONS @ DALLAS COWBOYS

Arguably the game of Wildcard weekend as Dallas hosts Detroit in a strength v strength encounter. DeMarco Murary led the league in rushing during the regular season, but he meets a stern Detroit front that finished No. 1 in run defense and No. 1 in yards-per-carry allowed (3.17). The Lions have also been boosted by the news that Ndamukong Suh will be available after having his ban overturned.

Don’t expect the Cowboys to deviate from their gameplan too much despite the tough opposition. Murray is very adept at grinding out the ‘dirty yards’ as put by coach Jason Garrett, which helps open things up for Tony Romo who forced himself into MVP contention with a lights out December. In fact Romo led the NFL in 2014 in completion percentage (69.9%), touchdown rate (7.8% of his throws went for a score), yards per attempt (8.5), and quarterback rating (113.2).

For Detroit’s offence it all comes down to Matthew Stafford. While he has put up nice numbers over his career with the help of Calvin Johnson, Stafford is 0-17 against teams that ended with winning records on the road. Will he be able to get it down with all the marbles on the line?

RECOMMENDATIONS

Main Selection: Detroit Lions +6.5 @ 10/11 (Various) – As a Cowboy fan hopefully its straightforward, but from a logical view this game could well turn into another shootout with the offensive weapons on display. In that scenario, it could well be a field goal or two that seals it either way.

First Touchdown: Cole Beasley @ 16/1 (BetVictor) – Beasley has turned into Wes Welker lite this season, working the middle of the field very well and starting a nice rapport with his quarterback.

Additional Selection – Lance Dunbar over 15.5 Rush & Receving Yards @ 10/11 (Lads) – Dunbar gets some work as the third down and passing back. The screen game could be useful to keep the Detroit pass rush at bay and one screen pass to Dunbar could very well see this bet land.

Betting Preview – NFL Week 12

WEEK  11 BETTING PREVIEW RECAP

So the least said about Week 11’s selections the better. Denver were upset by St Louis, while Cleveland were also beaten at home and Robert Griffin III could only manage 7 points against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, leading to Jay Gruden throwing his quarterback under the bus. Onwards we move to week 12, with the race for the playoffs really hotting up.

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS @ INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

My pre-season wager on Andrew Luck to be the NFL MVP at 28/1 has some legs considering the former Stanford man leads the league in passing yards. With top back Ahmad Bradshaw now on IR, look for Luck to put this team even more so on those broad shoulders of his. Indy put up 43 points in the first clash between these two early in the season, and a repeat performance is fancied, however this Jaguars outfit could have success as well, so OVER 50.5 PTS @ 10/11 kicks off this week’s slip.

Six of the last seven encounters between these two teams saw the total go under, however it was the game earlier this season that saw it easily over, with Luck notching over 385 all-purpose yards and four touchdowns. Another repeat performance could and should be expected of the number 1 pick. Despite losing Bradshaw and tight end Dwayne Allen, Luck still has plenty of targets available including TY Hilton who has burned the Jags in the past. The two games Hilton has played in Lucas Oil Stadium against Jacksonville saw the speedy wideout go for over a 100 receiving yards in each game. Couple that with the fact that Hilton has averaged 82.8 yards with 11 touchdowns across 26 career games indoors, the deep ball will be in play for this Colts offence.

Jacksonville will have spent plenty of this week studying the tape of New England running the ball down Indianapolis’ throat on Sunday Night Football, as the Pats dominated the Colts up front. Denard Robinson has really come on for the Florida side recently, running for 389 yards with four touchdowns on 72 totes (5.40 YPC) over his last four games. If Jacksonville can avoid being blown out early, then it could be another good day for the former Michigan Wolverine.

So OVER 50.5 PTS opens this week’s selections with a scoreline in the region of 34-20 to the Colts doing the job. As mentioned TY Hilton is money against the Jags at home, let’s hope he brings us the dough by going in for the first touchdown at 8/1.

CLEVELAND BROWNS @ ATLANTA FALCONS

Going back to the well with Cleveland again this week. Feel me once shame on you, feel me twice…It’s ok though as finally the Browns get to unleash the beast. Josh Gordon returns from his suspension and immediately slots in as the main pass catching weapon for Brian Hoyer. Both defences have been hit by injury as well as some downright poor play, so again let’s hope for points in the dome in Georgia. OVER 47 PTS @ 10/11 is next.

Let’s start with Gordon then. He immediately offers Cleveland a big body and big time playmaker on the outside. Andrew Hawkins and Taylor Gabriel have done a nice job with inside routes, screens and general quick hitters and have even done well when asked to stretch the field. Brian Hoyer ranks third in the league with completions of 20+ yards with 43 and that’s all without a legitimate downfield threat, or seam-stretching tight end. Now he gets his main man Gordon back, expect the top to be well and truly taken off the Atlanta secondary.

Despite being 4-6, the Falcons lead the disappointing NFC South, and have even managed to get the road monkey off their back, winning their last two on their travels. Now they return home with Matt Ryan back in his comfort zone under the roof in the Georgia Dome, expect plenty of yards and points out of this offence. The former Boston College man has thrown 10 touchdowns against only one interception this year at home, and he could well take advantage of a banged up Browns unit. Despite Joe Haden lifting his game the last month, the Browns don’t have much up front so this often-criticised Atlanta offensive line could have it somewhat easier this week allowing for Ryan to find star receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones.

OVER 47 PTS @ 10/11 looks good here, with Atlanta squeezing out a victory 27-23. No messing about, Josh Gordon to score first at 11/1 is a must-bet.

ARIZONA CARDINALS @ SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

Never like taking under on a low line but it’s strength versus strength in this crucial NFC-West clash on Sunday in Seattle, with the NFL’s best two cornerbacks set to share the turf at Century Link Field in Patrick Peterson and Richard Sherman. Drew Stanton did enough to lead Arizona to victory against Detroit last week, but going into Seattle against Sherman and the 12th man is a whole new ballgame. UNDER 41.5 PTS @ 10/11 rounds off week 12.

Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch are pretty much all Seattle have on offence at the moment, after the departure of Percy Harvin and the off-season loss of Golden Tate. Lynch has been dominating recently and over the past four seasons the bulldozing back has scored 35 TDs across 30 home games compared to just 16 touchdowns in 28 games on the road, so Beast Mode should be a good bet to find the endzone against a very stout Cardinals defence. Arizona held DeMarco Murray under a tonne for the first time all season a few games back so Lynch won’t have it all his own way but don’t expect Seattle to get away too much from the gameplan.

Despite two first quarter scoring throws from Stanton, he didn’t lead Arizona to anymore scoring drives on offence the rest of the game and was also picked off twice. Up against the Legion of Boom and the 12th man it could be more tough sledding for Stanton. The run game of Arizona has also slowed down with Andre Ellington going over 4.0 YPC just once over his last eight games, while he’s averaging 1.76 yards per rushing attempt over his last two. Seattle showed an outstanding defence can carry you to glory last year, but they had more on offence than this current Cards unit has at the moment.

A low-scoring slobberknocker is likely in store in the Pacific North West this week, so UNDER 41.5 PTS @ 10/11 is attractive, with the home side taking it 21-17. Wilson on the QB keeper to score first at 16/1 with Paddy Power appeals.

ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS

  • Great game in store live on Sky in the 6pm slot as the #1 ranked Lions D take on the Patriots in Foxboro. Despite Jonas Gray going off on the Colts last week, it could very well be Shane Vereen who has the most success on Sunday. Detroit has given up the 4th most receiving yards to backs with 520 this term, so look for the scat back rather than the bulldozer against this strong Lions front.
  • Phillip Rivers has a rib injury according to Antonio Gates. Now he has the small matter of the St Louis Rams pass rush to deal with. Robert Quinn and co virtually shut down Peyton Manning a week ago. Any bets involving sacks stands out, while Rivers under 255.5 yards passing is also in play.
  • The New York Giants have allowed the most rushing yards and rushing touchdowns in the league this term. Now they host the juggernaut Cowboys attack led by DeMarco Murray. 6/1 to find paydirt first is a great interest bet for those up late on watching Sunday Night Football.

NFL Betting Preview – Week 7

WEEK 6 RECAP

Not the best week last week, despite Geno Smith’s late pick six seeing Denver somewhat fortunately covering the spread. In our other main selections, the total was well over in Buffalo against New England, while for the luckless Jaguars, I echo Pacman Jones’ words: “Do your job” Josh Scobee!

CINCINNATI BENGALS @ INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

For the first of our week 7 selections, we go to Lucas Oil Stadium and the live Sky game between Cincinnati and Indianapolis. Andrew Luck has put the team on his back so far this season, playing upto MVP candidate level, that’s why COLTS -3PTS is the first on the betslip.

Fantasy players who own Luck (myself included) will be thrilled at the former Stanford man’s production, while it has also translated to the real world with the Colts riding a four-game win streak to bounce back from two tough losses against Denver and Philly to open the year.

On the flip side, despite starting the year 3-0, the Bengals were shellacked by the Patriots a fortnight ago, then playing out a “sister-kisser” last week – a tie with the Panthers. The Bengal defence has also followed a similar pattern to that of the team’s record. In the last two games, they let up 576 pass yards and four touchdowns to Tom Brady and Cam Newton, while Newton was also very effective running the ball. Couple that with the league’s 4th worst D in terms of yards per rush, then Andrew Luck and the Colts offence could well have their way with the Bengal unit.

The game total of 50 pts looks slightly high, but the COLTS -3PTS @ 10/11 appeals more. TY Hilton was simply unstoppable last time out against the Texans and he is a great shout to score the first touchdown at 9/1, burning veterans Terrence Newman or Adam Jones.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS @ DETROIT LIONS

Thankfully for New Orleans the NFC South is rather weak this year, but Sean Payton’s side will be hoping for an improvement in their play coming out of the bye week. However they travel to the league’s number one pass defence in Detroit, with UNDER 48 PTS the selection at Ford Field.

Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin has been a revelation so far this term, with his crew leading the league in pass defence, with a very impressive 5:7 TD:INT ratio. Add in the fact that Drew Brees could very well be without his top target in Jimmy Graham this weekend, it could be a long day at the office for the Louisiana outfit.

Matt Stafford also will be without his main man Calvin Johnson again on Sunday, as the star wideout looks to get healthy in time to entertain me and the rest of the London fans next week. Stafford has only tossed four touchdowns in his last three games, but should have Reggie Bush back this week to offer an option out of the backfield.

As mentioned the Lions defence has been impressive this season and barring the season opening win against the Giants, the game total has went under in each of Detroit’s games this season. Add in the fact that Brees has his struggles on the road, highlighted by the stat that six of the last nine Saints’ road games have went underm we have more than sufficient support to plump for the UNDER 48 PTS @ 10/11.

In the absence of Megatron, Golden Tate has jumped up to the number one wideout spot, 17/2 to find paydirt will do for first touchdown purposes.

CAROLINA PANTHERS @ GREEN BAY PACKERS

Perhaps no two hotter quarterbacks around at the minute than Cam Newton and particularly Aaron Rodgers. For that simple reason we’ll dive onto the OVER 50 PTS hoping it rains points on Sunday at Lambeau.

Rodgers has been straight up balling over the last five games – throwing 14 touchdowns against an incredible zero interceptions! When you couple that with the fact that Carolina have been stung for 38, 30, 24 and 37 point totals so far this season, you’d fancy at least four touchdowns from the Pack at Lambeau.

That leaves the Panthers looking at maybe three touchdowns to land our bet, which looks highly achievable given the form of the former number one pick under centre for Carolina. For all his improvements as a passer this season, the shackles were finally lifted from the legs of Newton, as he ran the ball 17 times for over a tonne in the overtime tie in Cincinnati. Green Bay has a history of being carved up by dual-threat signal callers, so look for the Panthers to stick with Green Bay this weekend.

As mentioned, hopefully there is a bagful of points in Wisconsin this weekend, with OVER 50 PTS @ 10/11 rounding off the treble.

One match up to keep an eye on is 6’5 Kelvin Benjamin up against 5’11 Sam Shields this weekend. The Florida State star to score first is an interesting 10/1, while an over on the receiving yards would be the way to go.

ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS

  • Even the best laid plans can fall short sometimes. Jacksonville had the perfect chance to notch their first win a week ago, time expiring Josh Scobee’s boot between the Florida side and their first W, but no. His kick was blocked and with it spoiling the selection of Jacksonville last week. Fear not though, Blake Bortles is improving each week and this will finally be Jacksonville’s first win of the season against a somewhat overachieving Cleveland outfit  @ 21/10.
  • Atlanta’s offensive line is brutally bad. Halti Ngata, T-Sizzle and co could well have a field day against Matt Ryan this weekend. Baltimore jumped out to a fast start in Tampa Bay last week and again the 13/8 to lead at the end of each quarter appeals.
  • Super Bowl champions Seattle lost at home last week against Dallas, and will be rather keen to right the ship in St Louis. However the Rams are no mugs,  and have started well against Dallas and San Fran, before fading. 9/4 for St Louis to be leading at half time makes for an interesting wager.
  • Peyton has yet another record in his sight. Three more touchdowns and Manning will have thrown for the most touchdowns in NFL history. He looks to achieve the record against a 49er defence that will now be missing All-Pro Patrick Willis, as well as long term casualty Navarro Bowman. That means rookie Chris Borland will have to handle duties inside, and look for manning and Julius Thomas to abuse the former Wisconsin man in the middle of the field. The 13/2 about Thomas to score first appeals nicely.

  • Spread currently sitting at NY Giants +6.5. Jump on that now – last few games Dallas have been favourites have seen the underdog’s spread come in…

NFL Ireland Quarterback Rankings after Week 5

Quarterback debates rage on every week in the NFL, so NFL Ireland weighs in on the topic with our definitive Quarterback rankings of power of every (currently) starting QB in the league. These rankings are informed by how players are performing this year, not on career reputation.

The Elite

Baltimore Ravens v San Diego Chargers

1. Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers: You would have a hard time arguing against the placement of Rivers at number 1 on this list. He leads the league in passer rating, completion percentage, and yards per pass attempt. Not only are the stats in his favour, but he makes the plays happen, when they need to happen. He is the one to beat for MVP honours, his week 5 performance against the Jets cemented that.

2. Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos: Manning has been great this year, but he hasn’t quite performed to the ridiculously high standards he set for himself in 2013. Week 5 saw him reach a career milestone, but that’s not enough to send him to the top. Maybe we’re just bored of Manning’s efficiency, but he’s going to have to do better to take back his throne.

3. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers: Rodgers didn’t have much to do last week against Minnesota, but that didn’t stop him from excelling with 3 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. Rodgers is as dependable as they come.

4. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts: Week 5 summed up Luck perfectly. He still throws those picks, but when the game is on the line he’s your man. His yardage and TD totals are immense, but he’s too mistake-prone to be number 1.

5. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks: He just makes it look so easy. He can throw, he can run, and he can win. His performance against the redskins on MNF showed that he’s an elite QB, he’s not just the guy who gives the ball to Marshawn Lynch.

Near the Top

Sports Day

 

6. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons: Ryan is playing behind a shaky offensive line, but it hasn’t stopped him from producing big totals almost every week.

7. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers: Roethlisberger is still a high-end quarterback, but he should have done better against Jacksonville last week.

8. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys: Romo is still putting up big numbers, but the difference in 2014 is that he’s winning games. With Murray helping him out, Romo hasn’t been struggling with the pressure of carrying the offense, and he has benefitted greatly.

9. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints: Brees hasn’t quite been himself lately. He remains as accurate as ever in terms of completion percentage, but his 3 picks last week against the Buccaneers highlight his recent struggles.

10. Eli Manning, New York Giants: Suddenly everything has changed for Eli Manning. After a rough start, he has been back to himself in the past three weeks with 8 TDs compared to only 1 interception.

11. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers: It seems like Newton’s spectacular performances have left with his receiving corps from last year. However, he doesn’t turn the ball over often, and he has developed into a consistent pocket passer this season

12. Tom Brady, New England Patriots: Everybody thought Brady was finished, but we can never really write him off. As Rob Gronkowski continues on his road to full fitness, we should see Brady’s form continue to improve.

Room for Improvement

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Detroit Lions

13. Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers: Kaepernick hasn’t been accurate this year, but he’s been better than his numbers suggest. He moves the chains with his arm or his legs at pivotal moments in game, and that isn’t reflected in his numbers.

14. Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears: Cutler has 4 interceptions in his last 2 games. His arm is huge, but these interceptions can’t be ignored. He’ll never be elite if he keeps throwing those ugly picks.

15. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals: The numbers, and the tape tell very different stories about Dalton. His numbers are inflated by Yards after the catch. He plays a safe game, but he’s not the game-changer his game stats suggest.

16. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions: Stafford will move up when something resembling consistency comes into his game. Losing to the Bills this week was another example of him not being able to win consistently.

17. Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs: Smith is maintaining his reputation for few yards, and few turnovers. His accuracy was questionable last week, but Smith is what he is. He sticks to the game plan, often with unspectacular results.

The Rest

18. Brian Hoyer, Cleveland Browns: Hoyer guided the Browns to a huge comeback victory in week 5, and he seems to be improving with every game. If the lack of receivers in Cleveland is bothering him, he’s hiding it well.

19. Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens: After a huge week 4, Flacco fell back down to earth against the Colts. During the regular season, he’s an average quarterback. For every good game he plays, there’s usually a poor one to match it.

20. Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles: Foles has been nowhere near the level he played at last year. He hasn’t been bad, but there are more ugly throws and interceptions in his game than there were last year.

21. Austin Davis, St. Louis Rams: Who would have expected Davis to be this high on the list when he was thrown into the starting job earlier in the season? In fact, he has better stats than many of the players ranked above him.

22. Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins: This was supposed to be his year. He ranks 28th in the league in QBR. This is not his year.

23. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Houston Texans: For the 3rd week in a row he threw more interceptions than touchdowns. He turns the ball over too often to give his team a chance.

24. Kyle Orton, Buffalo Bills: In week 5, Orton ensured his starting place for the next few weeks at least. Tired of being a backup, he came in, showed sharp movement in the pocket, and made some nice throws.

25. Kirk Cousins, Washington Redskins: Some thought he was going to take RG3’s job long-term, but Cousins is still growing as a quarterback. He has put up good numbers, but he’s not a reliable QB1 just yet.

26. Mike Glennon, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Glennon is certainly a better option than McCown, for the Buccaneers. His play so far has been steady, but we need to see more from him before he can move up. He needs to prove he’s the answer.

27. Teddy Bridgewater, Minnesota Vikings: Bridgewater has impressed so far in his rookie season, even without throwing a touchdown. His quick release, and decision making is already drawing praise from analysts.

28. Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars: What we have seen from Bortles in his first few NFL starts has been positive. He has brought life to the Jaguars offense, however he has thrown too many interceptions, and not enough touchdowns to be placed any higher on this list. Expect him to rise in the future.

The Scrapheap

IMG-3159.JPG

29. Charlie Whitehurst, Tennessee Titans: Whitehurst is a decent backup quarterback. He is not a starter, and he has shown as much in the last couple of weeks. He’s serviceable, but his ceiling is limited.

30. Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders: Carr was on a bye last week, but let’s not forget how he played before that. Carr just doesn’t do enough. His biggest problem is that he doesn’t throw for enough yards, he has had less than 200 in all but one game this season.

31. Logan Thomas, Arizona Cardinals: It’s hard to know what Thomas is capable of, but until we find out he’ll stay near the bottom of this list. (He is a fourth round-rookie after all.)

32. Geno Smith, New York Jets: Smith did enough in week 5 to get benched at half time. It’s not all his fault, but 27 yards and 1 interception in half a game leaves him in last place.

Week 5 Gifs

A selection of some of the best plays from week 5.

Warning: This one takes a while to load!

Seattle Seahawks 27 – 17 Washington Redskins


Cousins gets lit up


Wilson’s great escape

Chicago Bears 21 – 24 Carolina Panthers


Jeffrey’s one handed catch


Cam blocks Breeze

St Louis Rams 28 – 34 Philadelphia Eagles


Shady’s fumble

Buffalo Bills 17 – 14 Detroit Lions


Watkins’ juggle catch

Arizona Cardinals 20 – 41 Denver Broncos


Manning stops a touchdown


Ellington has get away from the cops speed

Baltimore Ravens 13 – 20 Indianapolis Colts


Luck takes a big hit and Ngata intercepts

Atlanta Falcons 20 – 30 New York Giants


Julio Jones one handed catch


Odell Beckham Jr’s touchdown catch

Houston Texans 17 – 20 Dallas Cowboys


Romo avoids JJ Watt sack


Arian Foster jukes Barry Church

Kansas City Chiefs 17 – 22 San Francisco 49ers


Brandon Lloyd’s athletic catch

AFC South 2014 Preview

Can Luck and the Colts reach the promised land? We find out in our AFC South 2014 Preview


 

Houston Texans

You’ve just finished the 2013 season with a 14-game losing streak. Your head

Texans O filled with stars...and this guy!
Texans O filled with stars…and this guy!

coach is gone and you replace him with a steady Bill Belichick disciple. You take a once-in-a-generation athlete with the no.1 overall pick in the 2014 draft. Everything is looking up! And then you name Ryan Fitzpatrick as your franchise starting quarterback. June 17 should be too early to name the season starter out of a rookie, two veterans and a free agent signing, but that’s the date that the Texans can look back at and say ‘This is when our season finished’. The cut day trade for Ryan Mallett, who has looked abysmal in preseason, is a textbook example of a panic move. On offense the Texans have one of the most reliable receivers in the NFL in Andre Johnson, a potential breakout star in DeAndre Hopkins and a stud running back with a chip on his shoulder in Arian Foster. However, Johnson was so unhappy with the direction of the franchise that the owner had to convince him to report to training camp, Hopkins still looks inconsistent and Foster is coming off a back surgery which made him consider retiring at age 27. Ryan Fitzpatrick is now a 9-year veteran, so he is a known quantity at quarterback, and unless Bill O’Brien can work the same magic he managed at Penn State the Texans will struggle to keep the ball moving. At least their offensive line is extremely solid, and has improved on last year with the 2nd round pick of guard Xavier Su’a-Filo in the draft. The Texans Defense is, however, a completely different story. With the no.1 overall pick in the draft the Texans took Jadaveon Clowney, an incredible athlete who has already shown in preseason that he can get to the quarterback and make tackles for loss in limited time on the field. Clowney, paired with the ever-brilliant JJ Watt up front, will become a fantastic duo in the NFL. They will be assisted by linebacker Whitney Mercilus, who is coming off a strong 2013, and inside him the return of a healthy Brian Cushing will help make this a scary front seven for offenses to face. In the secondary, the arrival of free agent safety Chris Clemons from Miami provides an immediate boost at the position, and Jonathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson are both more than capable cornerbacks. This group will be aided by the formidable pass rush, and opposing offenses should be wary. The Texans will be far superior to their record last season, which shouldn’t be hard, especially with a relatively easy schedule which includes the NFC East and AFC North. Barring something extraordinary happening under centre, however, they will ultimately be held back by a personnel decision announced in mid-June.

Prediction: 2nd

Indianapolis Colts
Looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane. 2014 is make or break for T-Rich
Looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane. 2014 is make or break for T-Rich

Let’s be honest; the Colts won this division by default last year. The Titans were competent, the Jags were the Jags and Houston completely imploded. In fact, Indianapolis was the only team with a .500 or better record in the AFC South, a stat unique in the NFL. Led by the brilliant Andrew Luck at QB, they managed to make the divisional round of the playoffs after a stunning come-from-behind victory over the Chiefs in the wildcard round, and for Indy, the target will be the same this year: Win the division, progress in the playoffs. In theory Luck’s job should be easier this time around, as a softer schedule and the return from injury of WR Reggie Wayne and TE Dwayne Allen gives him back two of his favourite weapons, but problems have appeared along the offensive line, where starting guard Donald Thomas has already been ruled out for the season, starting centre Khaled Holmes sprained an ankle in preseason, and rookie guard Jack Mewhort has struggled with hamstring issues all camp. Not only does this hurt Luck’s protection, but it means they’ll find it hard to create holes for the running game. Trent Richardson played terribly following his trade from Cleveland last year and needs all the help he can get if he’s to be the difference-maker the Colts need out of the backfield. They let Donald Brown go to San Diego in free agency and Vick Ballard is lost to injury, so injury-prone veteran Ahmad Bradshaw and pre-season standout Dan Herron are the only options should Richardson continue to struggle. The worry for the Colts will be that they become a predictable, pass-first offense relying on Luck’s arm talent and scrambling to keep the chains moving. Still, every team relies on their QB to make plays, and few have a playmaker of the calibre of Andrew Luck. The defense is a different matter. They were a good unit in 2013, finishing in the top half in both passing and rushing defense. At the line of scrimmage they have added Arthur Jones to the excellent Cory Redding. Outside linebacker Robert Mathis was a star last season, notching up 19.5 sacks, but then got hit with a PED violation and at 33 will surely see his production suffer. The addition of D’Qwell Jackson should shore up the middle, but they’ll need improvements from last year’s first-round pick Bjoern Werner to become a fearsome front seven. In the backfield, the team lost Antoine Bethea to the 49ers and failed to add anybody to replace him. This leaves Vontae Davis as the lone proven ball hawk in the secondary, and together with a depleted pass rush the Colts might suffer against the pass this season. With Luck under centre and a soft schedule, the Colts should at least win the division, but with potential issues on both sides of the ball, that might be as far as they can hope to progress.

Prediction: 1st

 Jacksonville Jaguars:

Blake-Bortles-Jacksonville-Jaguars
After an impressive pre-season, it’s a matter of when not if Bortles starts this season!

Jacksonville hasn’t had postseason football for seven years, and their 0-8 start last year led to them being the league’s punchline. But progress came down the stretch, as 4 wins and some close losses closed out the second half of 2013. Coach Gus Bradley is slowly building something after taking over a train wreck of a franchise. The Gabbert era is over, as they somehow convinced San Francisco to give up a pick for the former first-rounder, and veteran Chad Henne has been named the starter at quarterback with rookie Blake Bortles, on whom they spent the third overall pick in the 2014 draft, set to sit the season and learn. A hugely impressive preseason from the rookie has changed matters however, and it now seems a matter of when, not if, the former UCF signal-caller takes over the reins. On offense the team will spend the whole year without Justin Blackmon. The troubled wide receiver is suspended indefinitely for another breach of the NFL’s banned substance policies. They struggled last year without him, and spent two high draft picks on wideouts Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson to accompany Cecil Shorts, but it is undrafted free agent Allen Hurns, a surprising playmaker in preseason, who has looked like the no.1 receiver the Jags so desperately need. Injuries and the wear of over 8000 yards in 8 seasons saw Jacksonville let Maurice Jones-Drew leave for Oakland, and his replacement Toby Gerhart will be looking to finally step out of Adrian Peterson’s shadow after 4 seasons as his backup in Minnesota. Together with ‘offensive weapon’ Denard Robinson they could form a nice thunder-and-lightning combo, and have been used in that fashion in preseason. The offensive line, whcih struggled last season, will welcome last year’s first-round pick Luke Joeckel back from injury, and will need to create holes and protect whoever is under centre if this inexperienced but youthful group is to flourish. Gus Bradley’s background as defensive coordinator of the Seattle Seahawks allowed him to raid the Super Bowl champions for Chris Clemons and Red Bryant, who will immediately plug in to upgrade the defensive line alongside Sen’Derrick Marks and Roy Miller, while Dekoda Watson has arrived from Tampa to help out Paul Psoluszny and co. at linebacker. These arrivals definitely improve what was a porous front seven last year, but in the secondary there is little change. Dwayne Gratz, Alan Ball and John Cyprien all played well in patches, but there is plenty of scope for improvement from safeties and cornerbacks alike. Bradley will need to hope that he and his coaches can bring the potential out of young players on both sides of the ball, but this remains very much a work in progress rather than a win-now organisation. As such, a five- or six-win season should still be considered an accomplishment, particularly considering the doldrums the organisation has been in for the last while.

Prediction: 3rd

Tennessee Titans:

The addition of Whisenhunt is the real coup of the Offseason for the Titans
The addition of Whisenhunt is the real coup of the Offseason for the Titans

The appointment of quarterback whisperer Ken Whisenhunt is the real big news in Music City. Having worked with Ben Rothelisberger in Pittsburgh, then reviving Kurt Warner to a Super Bowl appearance with the Arizona Cardinals and reshaping the Chargers offense last season to get the best out of Philip Rivers, he brings big expectations. The thing all of those situations had in common? A durable, talented quarterback. The Titans are still riding veteran Jake Locker, who has shown  flashes of ability in the last two seasons, but also missed a whopping 14 games due to injury over the same period. If he can stay healthy, he can help the team win games, but that’s a big ‘if’. The offense has lost some big pieces this offseason, with Chris Johnson moving to New York and Kenny Britt finding a new home in St. Louis, but these are losses the team are happy with. Britt was troubled with off-field issues and never reached his potential in Tennessee, and Johnson averaged a career-low 3.9yds per carry in 2013. His production will be shared between Shonn Green, offensive weapon Dexter McCluster and rookie Bishop Sankey.The first running-back selected in the draft, Sankey was tipped to be the feature back in Tennessee, but ball security issues have buried him in the depth chart. At TE the team is set with Delanie Walker, a versatile player who can be a threat in the passing game and is a competent blocker, while at WR the departure of Britt leaves Kendall Wright as the undisputed no.1 receiver. With Nate Washington and the intriguing Justin Hunter behind him, there are certainly weapons for Locker to throw to, and the offensive line has improved year -on-year in his career. First-round pick Taylor Lewan is learning behind Michael Roos at LT, with the excellent Andy Levitre inside them. They are complimented by 2013 first-rounder Chance Warmack and free agent Michael Oher on the right side, forming a talented front which should help extend Locker’s playing time if they can all approach their potential. It’s all change on defense, as new coordinator Roy Horton will attempt to transition the team from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defensive front. Coming off a successful stint with the Arizona Cardinals, he has the pedigree and imagination to improve what was already a decent unit last year, but whether or not he has the personnel to carry out a 3-4 scheme yet is a problem. Jurrell Casey is slated to start alongside seven-year veteran Ropati Pitoitua and Sammie Hill, but only Pitoitua has been in a 3-4 before. At linebacker the addition of Wesley Woodyard on the inside is an upgrade, and Derrick Morgan and Kamerion Wimbley provide competence outside. Safety Bernard Pollard will provide hard-hitting run support, but there are questions surrounding the rest of the secondary. Jason McCourty matured into a solid starter last season, but the loss of Alterraun Verner will be sorely felt. In Arizona Horton’s scheme at least had solid corners to rely on, but it will be tested in Tennessee and there could be significant growing pains during the transition. With new coaches and question marks on both offense and defense, this could be a rough year for the Titans as they look to adjust to all the new philosophies.

Prediction: 4th

Fantasy Draft Guide 2014 Rounds 4-7

We continue our Fantasy Draft Guide 2014 Rounds 4-7


Round 4

Round 4 is going to see many running backs and receivers going off the board, but Andrew

If Luck is still on the board, you've got to take him!
If Luck is still on the board, you’ve got to take him!

Luck or Julius Thomas are also being taken here in NFL.com fantasy drafts. Luck continues to improve and gives you a high end QB1 with big upside for a lower price tag than the “Big 3” of Brees, Manning, and Rodgers .Thomas could have an even bigger role in the Denver offense this season, after finishing second among fantasy tight ends last time out. Both are solid options in round 4.

Value Pick: Andre Ellington- Ellington is set to be a huge part of both the Cardinals’ rushing and passing game this season. As a rookie, he rushed for 652 yards and three touchdowns, but he also managed 371 yards through the air. He should be a high-end RB2 this season, despite a potential lack of goal-line work. Bruce Arians says he’s going to give Ellington 20-plus touches per game, which is a great sign for his fantasy value.

Round 5

The 5th round in NFL.com drafts is bursting with bust candidates. Larry Fitzgerald isn’t the WR1 he used to be, and is likely to see his numbers fall further with the emergence of Michael Floyd in Arizona. Victor Cruz barely made it into the top 30 fantasy receivers last year. Who knows what C.J Spiller will do this season? Tread lightly in round 5.

Value Pick: Keenan Allen- Allen was a top 20 receiver last season. I see no reason why

Keenan Allen could be a big steal in the middle rounds
Keenan Allen could be a big steal in the middle rounds

he won’t be even better this year. We need only look at the emergence of Josh Gordon, Alshon Jeffery, and T.Y. Hilton in 2013 to see the breakout potential of second year receivers in the NFL. Allen had over 1000 yards to go with 8 touchdowns in his first season. If he improves as expected he’ll be great value in the 5th round.

Bust: Wes Welker- Welker is being drafted in the 5th round in most leagues, and I don’t understand why. He finished 23rd in fantasy points among wide receivers, but in drafts he’s being treated as the 17th best at the position. His prospects aren’t exactly improving either. He’s 33 years old, and injuries are starting to get to him. I’d rather take a risk on a breakout candidate like Keenan Allen, than settle for a declining Welker.

Round 6

There are four quarterbacks with ADPs in round 6. I think Brady and Stafford will bounce back this year, but I would stay away from RGIII, and Newton in this round. I would wait a few rounds for somebody like Rivers or Cutler, rather than reach for these guys.

Value Pick: Cordarrelle Patterson- On average, Patterson is being taken at the top of the 6th round in fantasy leagues. When we consider the fact that he scored more fantasy points than any other receiver over the last four weeks of the 2013 season, this seems like a bargain. Of course, there is a huge risk factor here, but in Minnesota’s new Norv Turner offense (See Josh Gordon 2013) Patterson could explode. If he’s still around in the 6th, don’t hesitate.

Bust: DeSean Jackson- I know he’s coming off a huge season in Philadelphia, but this

Jackson could get you and the Redskins in trouble if you're relying on him!
Jackson could get you and the Redskins in trouble if you’re relying on him!

move to Washington lowers his value. He’ll be competing with Pierre Garcon for receptions, and I’m not sure RGIII will be back at his best either. I know we shouldn’t take preseason games too seriously, but what I’ve seen of the Redskins offense so far has me worried. He produced 1,332 receiving yards and 9 touchdowns in Chip Kelly’s hurry-up offense, but in DC he will find it difficult to replicate those totals.

Round 7

Both the San Francisco and Carolina defences have ADPs in this round, but I think this is way too early to even consider picking a defence. Stack up depth on offense first, as there will be plenty of decent defences available later on. If worst comes to worst you can always use the pool of free agent defences to play the matchups.

Value Pick: Toby Gerhart- Gerhart is not the most talented back in the league, but for a fantasy running back, that’s not the end of the world. Gerhart has something far more important: guaranteed touches. He’s expected to be one of the few feature backs in the league, and even if his play is unspectacular, I expect him to put up solid WR2 numbers. He’s going at the top of the 7th round in drafts, but I would be happy to reach for him in the 6th if I needed a running back.

Bust: Bishop Sankey – Sankey is unproven at this level. He has already struggled with ball security in training camp, and he hasn’t been running the ball much in preseason either. There’s no way I’m taking a rookie, who might not even start this year, in the 7th round. I’ll accept that his competition in Tennessee is weak, but that doesn’t instantly make him a viable option this year.

Ten players to watch in the coming NFL Season

To say I am excited about the new season is a huge understatement. I am so excited, I no longer count the days from Monday to Sunday, I simply relate the time in terms of “sleeps till Kick Off”. This offseason has been one of the busiest and craziest offseasons the NFL has ever seen and we can only hope that the new season holds as much drama. I have absolutely no doubt it will. Just look at the conclusion to the last Superbowl, a Hail Mary into the End Zone and if the Gronk wasn’t hobbling around on that injured ankle, he may have caught the falling ball and Manning would be underrated again on the NFL top 100 players. So, I think it’s only right to point out my top ten players I feel should be on your radar and why they might offer us the best entertainment value. There are a plethora of Rookies, Oldies, Prospects and Past Patients taking the field in 2012 and they will all add to the unpredictability of this league. Continue reading “Ten players to watch in the coming NFL Season”