NFL Ireland Team of the Week: Week 8

Week 8 marks the halfway point for most teams and it’s a good time to sit back, take stock and appreciate what we’ve got. The NFL Ireland Team of the Week has been dishing out the most-sought after honours in sport for half a season now, and the players keep making plays, each one desperate to get their name on the teamsheet! Whether it’s a quarterback making history or a veteran DB revisiting his island, Week 8 saw great performances from some of the top players in the league. Here’s your NFL Ireland Team of the Week!

Offense | Defense

 

TOTW-Offense-8

Quarterback: Ben Roethlisberger – Pittsburgh Steelers

In case you were living under a rock this weekend, on Sunday Ben Roethlisberger gave us one of the greatest QB performances of all time. He was completely error-free, with a box score full of numbers so good they’d make Rachel Riley blush: 40 of 49, 6 passing TDs, 522 passing yards, 0 INTs, 0 sacks. Although he finished a TD shy of tying the single game record, and just 32 yards short of the all-time single-game passing record, Big Ben’s performance made him the first player in NFL history to have TWO games with over 500 passing yards. And this Colts team came into the game looking like one of the better defenses in the NFL. Ben, we salute you.

Running Back: Mark Ingram – New Orleans Saints

Mark Ingram is often the victim, sometimes of injuries, more often of the many-headed running back committee in New Orleans. With Darren Sproles  now injured in Philly and Pierre Thomas and Khiry Robinson both forced to sit out the Saints’ Sunday matchup against the Green Bay Packers, Ingram was finally used as the featured back his Heisman-winning college career promised he could be. The 4-th year veteran didn’t disappoint, carrying the rock 24 times for 172 yards and a touchdown as the Saints got their season back on track with a 44-23 win. Have they finally found how to use the talented back?

Tight End: Rob Gronkowski – New England Patriots

We’ve said it before: Gronk is back and when he works, the Patriots work. The tight end and Tom Brady were partying like it was, well, 2011, as they hooked up on 9 passes for 149 yards and  3 TDs in a blowout win against the misfiring Bears in Foxboro. With Gronk in this kind of form, he only needs to stay healthy to keep the Patriots offense firing. Of course that’s always been his problem, but he is the key to New England booming or busting.

Wide Receiver: Jeremy Maclin – Philadelphia Eagles

Maclin is putting any fears about his ACL recovery to bed this season. Having hauled in a scary 12 passes for 187 yards and two touchdowns in the Eagles’ painful loss to the Cardinals this week, he’s also showing why Chip Kelly had no problem in letting DeSean Jackson walk this offseason. Maclin’s performances have made Nick Foles look good and saved Philadelphia’s blushes on a couple of occasions. It wasn’t enough this time, but if he maintains this form the Eagles will always be in with a chance.

Wide Receiver: Mohamed Sanu – Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals improbably top the AFC North despite putting in some absolute stinkers since their bye week. A big reason for these bad performances has been the continued injuries of A.J. Green, but in his absence, Mohamed Sanu has stepped into his considerable shoes and performed admirably. In a tight divisional game against the Ravens, Sanu caught five balls for 125 yards, adding another 27 yards on two rushing attempts. Plays like this bobbling catch-and-run reception to bring the Bengals into scoring range are a big part of what Sanu does every week, and to do it in this tough a matchup was impressive.

Offensive Line: Denver Broncos

The Broncos managed to keep Peyton Manning’s jersey clean all day Thursday against the Chargers. As well as keeping their QB sack-free, they made the holes for Ronnie Hillman’s second rushing game of at least 100 yards this season. The Broncos O-line has been a strong base from which this offense is able to get downfield and score, which they do better than anybody.

 

Defense | Offense

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Defensive Line: Tennessee Titans

Looking for bright spots as a Titans fan is tough right now, but their D-line is starting to click again having faded after a promising start to the season. Jurell Casey, Sammie Lee Hill, Mike Martin, Al Woods and Ropati Pitoitua served as a reliable rotation in the hybrid fronts of Roy Horton on a team struggling for reliability on both sides of the football. Now if only they could get some help.

Linebackers – Buffalo Bills

So the Bills aren’t missing Kiko Alonso as much as people might have feared. Against a hapless New York Jets side they held the opposition running backs to just 78 yards while also forcing a fumble and taking an interception. A good game for a unit that continues to impress despite injuries to key players.

Cornerback: Darrelle Revis – New England Patriots

The Patriots big offseason acquisition has been a solid performer in recent weeks. Against the Bears he was targeted 8 times but he only gave up 23 yards for 3 receptions. He also managed to catch his second pick since moving to New England. If he continues to perform like this the Patriots will be looking at another deep postseason run.

Cornerback: Antonio Cromartie – Arizona Cardinals

Cromartie landed in Arizona as the second corner behind Patrick Peterson. He’s been a good contributor at times this year, but his talents really shone on Sunday against an Eagles side who like to throw the ball. He had a pass breakup and by the end of the game Cromartie was also celebrating his first multiple-pick game since 2010. He also had this glorious juke on a red-zone interception return to leave two Eagles players smashing into each other.

Free Safety: Tashaun Gipson – Cleveland Browns

After a strong start to the season that saw him make our team in Week 2, Gipson’s form slipped slightly at the start of the month. He’s bounced back in the last two weeks with 3 passes defended, all picks. His most recent interceptions came against Derek Carr and a Raiders team who found it difficult throwing his way, and the Browns safety chipped in two tackles for good measure. With continued good all-round play, Gipson is fast being recognised as a quality safety in the NFL.

Strong Safety: D.J. Swearinger – Houston Texans

Swearinger’s return to form this season has been somewhat overshadowed by the stellar form of J.J. Watt, and his performance against the Titans was again quietly efficient. He didn’t allow a single reception into his area of coverage per PFF, breaking up one pass and picking off another. He’s always been strong against the run but his work in coverage this year has improved, and he has proven to be an excellent and consistent performer for the improved 2014 Texans.

Fantasy Football Starts and Sits: Week 8

Quarterbacks

QB Start of the Week

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Detroit Lions

Matthew Stafford (DET)

Stafford has been struggling in recent weeks without his main weapon in the passing attack. He will more than likely be without Johnson again this week, but I would still roll with him in your lineup, as the matchup is just too good to miss. The Falcons are giving up around 20ppg to opposing signal callers and I would look for Stafford to eclipse this mark on Sunday.

QB Sit of the Week

Matt Ryan (ATL)

Ryan has been really suffering as a result of his offensive line and they lost another starter last week. This week he faces one of the toughest pass defences in the league and will be under constant pressure. Factor in that he has been poor away from home and hasn’t eclipsed 15 fantasy points over the past few games, and you have to keep him benched.

Rankings:

[columnize]1              Peyton Manning DEN  (vs. SD)

2              Aaron Rodgers GB (@NO)

3              Andrew Luck IND (@PIT)

4              Tom Brady NE  (vs. CHI)

5              Russell Wilson SEA (@CAR)

6              Tony Romo DAL  (vs. WAS)

7              Drew Brees NO (vs. GB)

8              Matthew Stafford DET (@ATL)

9              Nick Foles PHI (@ARI)

10           Philip Rivers SD  (@DEN)

11           Carson Palmer ARI  (vs. PHI)

12           Jay Cutler CHI (@NE)

13           Ryan Tannehill MIA  (@JAC)

14           Kyle Orton BUF  (@NYJ)

15           Alex Smith KC  (vs. STL)

16           Cam Newton CAR  (vs. SEA)

17           Mike Glennon TB  (vs. MIN)

18           Joe Flacco BAL (@CIN)

19           Ben Roethlisberger PIT  (vs. IND)

20           Matt Ryan ATL  (vs. DET)

21           Andy Dalton CIN (vs. BAL)

22           Geno Smith NYJ (vs. BUF)

23           Ryan Fitzpatrick HOU  (@TEN)

24           Teddy Bridgewater MIN (@TB)[/columnize]

 

Running Backs

RB Start of the Week

Jerick McKinnon (MIN)

McKinnon has been really good since taking over the starting job from Asiata in Minnesota, and showed exactly what he can do against a tough run defence last week. This week he gets an easy matchup against a TB defence that gives up the 7th most fantasy ppg to opposing runners. I expect a huge performance from him.

RB Sit of the Week

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Chris Ivory/Chris Johnson (NYJ)

Neither of the Jets RB’s have been great this season, although Ivory has emerged into the clear number one ahead of Johnson. I would keep both of them benched this week as they face a tough Bills defence that gives up the 2nd fewest ppg to opposing rb’s.

RB Rankings:

[columnize]1              Jamaal Charles KC  (vs. STL)

2              Arian Foster HOU  (@TEN)

3              Matt Forte CHI (@NE)

4              DeMarco Murray DAL (vs. WAS)

5              Marshawn Lynch SEA  (@CAR)

6              Andre Ellington ARI  (vs. PHI)

7              Le’Veon Bell PIT  (vs. IND)

8              Lamar Miller MIA  (@JAC)

9              LeSean McCoy PHI  (@ARI)

10           Ronnie Hillman DEN (vs. SD)

11           Shane Vereen NE  (vs. CHI)

12           Jerick McKinnon MIN (@TB)

13           Giovani Bernard CIN  (vs. BAL)

14           Eddie Lacy GB (@NO)

15           Ahmad Bradshaw IND  (@PIT)

16           Ben Tate CLE  (vs. OAK)

17           Justin Forsett BAL (@CIN)

18           Joique Bell DET (@ATL)

19           Branden Oliver SD  (@DEN)

20           Darren McFadden OAK  (@CLE)

21           Alfred Morris WAS  (@DAL)

22           Mark Ingram NO (vs. GB)

23           Doug Martin TB (vs. MIN)

24           Isaiah Crowell CLE  (vs. OAK)

25           Bryce Brown BUF  (@NYJ)

26           Tre Mason STL  (@KC)

27           Travaris Cadet NO  (vs. GB)

28           Bernard Pierce BAL (@CIN)

29           Chris Ivory NYJ (vs. BUF)

30           Denard Robinson JAC  (vs. MIA)

31           Anthony Dixon BUF  (@NYJ)

32           Reggie Bush DET  (@ATL)

33           Jonathan Stewart CAR  (vs. SEA)

34           Bishop Sankey TEN (vs. HOU)

35           Stepfan Taylor ARI (vs. PHI)

36           Benny Cunningham STL  (@KC)

37           Jonas Gray NE  (vs. CHI)

38           Storm Johnson JAC (vs. MIA)

39           Jeremy Hill CIN (vs. BAL)

40           Chris Johnson NYJ  (vs. BUF)

41           James Starks GB  (@NO)

42           Matt Asiata MIN (@TB)

43           Joseph Randle DAL (vs. WAS)

44           Darren Sproles PHI  (@ARI)

45           Roy Helu WAS (@DAL)

46           Bobby Rainey TB (vs. MIN)

47           Antone Smith ATL (vs. DET)

48           Daniel Thomas MIA (@JAC)[/columnize]

 

Wide Receivers

WR Start of the Week

Sammy Watkins (BUF)

The number 1 pick in most rookie drafts has emerged into an every week starter ever since Orton took over at QB for the Bills. He has been fantastic over the past few weeks apart from when he matched up against Revis Island. I expect another great performance from him this week as he matches up against the Jets terrible pass defence.

WR Sit of the Week

Torrey Smith (BAL)

After a slow start to the season, Smith has been great over the past few weeks scoring 4 TD’s over the past 4 games. That run could end this week as he faces a tough Bengals defence that historically has a good record against Smith.

[columnize]1              Demaryius Thomas DEN (vs. SD)

2              Jordy Nelson GB (@NO)

3              Antonio Brown PIT  (vs. IND)

4              Dez Bryant DAL (vs. WAS)

5              Golden Tate DET (@ATL)

6              Randall Cobb GB (@NO)

7              Alshon Jeffery CHI (@NE)

8              Sammy Watkins BUF  (@NYJ)

9              Julio Jones ATL  (vs. DET)

10           Michael Floyd ARI (vs. PHI)

11           T.Y. Hilton IND (@PIT)

12           Brandon Marshall CHI (@NE)

13           Jeremy Maclin PHI (@ARI)

14           Emmanuel Sanders DEN  (vs. SD)

15           Mike Wallace MIA (@JAC)

16           Vincent Jackson TB  (vs. MIN)

17           Marques Colston NO (vs. GB)

18           Steve Smith BAL (@CIN)

19           DeAndre Hopkins HOU  (@TEN)

20           Kelvin Benjamin CAR  (vs. SEA)

21           Larry Fitzgerald ARI  (vs. PHI)

22           Eric Decker NYJ  (vs. BUF)

23           Roddy White ATL  (vs. DET)

24           Doug Baldwin SEA  (@CAR)

25           Andre Johnson HOU  (@TEN)

26           Terrance Williams DAL (vs. WAS)

27           Pierre Garcon WAS  (@DAL)

28           Mohamed Sanu CIN (vs. BAL)

29           Julian Edelman NE (vs. CHI)

30           Torrey Smith BAL (@CIN)

31           Allen Robinson JAC  (vs. MIA)

32           Davante Adams GB  (@NO)

33           Mike Evans TB (vs. MIN)

34           DeSean Jackson WAS  (@DAL)

35           Brandon LaFell NE  (vs. CHI)

36           Wes Welker DEN (vs. SD)

37           Dwayne Bowe KC (vs. STL)

38           Brandin Cooks NO (vs. GB)

39           Kendall Wright TEN (vs. HOU)

40           Andre Holmes OAK (@CLE)

41           Percy Harvin NYJ  (vs. BUF)

42           Eddie Royal SD (@DEN)

43           Greg Jennings MIN (@TB)

44           Justin Hunter TEN (vs. HOU)

45           Kenny Stills NO (vs. GB)

46           Jermaine Kearse SEA  (@CAR)

47           Cecil Shorts JAC  (vs. MIA)

48           Louis Murphy TB (vs. MIN)[/columnize]

Tight Ends

TE Start of the week

usatsi_7492554_153192880_lowres

Jordan Reed (WAS)

Reed has looked good since coming back from an injury and I expect a great performance from him this week. The Cowboy s have been really bad at stopping TE’s this season and Reed should score double digit points this week.

TE Sit of the Week

Delanie Walker (TEN)

Walker had a fantastic start to the season, but his numbers have been declining and with news that the Titans are to start Mettenberger at QB this week, he is a risky start. The Texans have also been very good at defending TE’s this season.

[coulmnize]1              Rob Gronkowski NE (vs. CHI)

2              Julius Thomas DEN (vs. SD)

3              Greg Olsen CAR (vs. SEA)

4              Dwayne Allen IND (@PIT)

5              Jordan Reed WAS (@DAL)

6              Owen Daniels BAL  (@CIN)

7              Antonio Gates SD (@DEN)

8              Zach Ertz PHI (@ARI)

9              Jimmy Graham NO  (vs. GB)

10           Jordan Cameron CLE (vs. OAK)

11           Martellus Bennett CHI  (@NE)

12           Coby Fleener IND  (@PIT)

13           Charles Clay MIA  (@JAC)

14           Jared Cook STL  (@KC)

15           Delanie Walker TEN (vs. HOU)

16           Scott Chandler BUF (@NYJ)

17           Clay Harbor JAC (vs. MIA)

18           Gavin Escobar DAL (vs. WAS)

19           Jason Witten DAL (vs. WAS)

20           Jermaine Gresham CIN (vs. BAL)

21           Travis Kelce KC  (vs. STL)

22           Jace Amaro NYJ (vs. BUF)

23           Austin Seferian-Jenkins TB  (vs. MIN)

24           Lance Kendricks STL (@KC)[/columnize]

NFL Betting Preview – Week 6

WEEK 5 RECAP
Week 5 was very much middle of the road. Could have been better, could have been a whole lot worse. The Bears and Panthers went easily over the total, while it was a void bet as over 50 pts hit dead on the mark in New York, and Blake Bortles played like the rookie quarterback he is in Jacksonville’s loss to Pittsburgh, with the total never threatening the over selection. From the additional thoughts section, a nice little selection landed with exactly 4 first half touchdowns at Mile High, while 40/1 is no longer available about my  Super Bowl dark horses the Dallas Cowboys.
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS @ TENNESSEE TITANS
The time has finally come folks. Jacksonville Jaguars are on the betslip! This is the week Blake Bortles plays like the second coming of Ben Roethlisberger, Toby Gerhart summons up his inner Adrian Peterson and the team from North Florida get their first win of the 2014-15 NFL Season @ 9/5.
Regular readers of this column will know this game has been earmarked for a long time for Jacksonville to get off the mark. Tennessee will once again be without starting quarterback Jake Locker, meaning it’ll be another start under centre for the player with the best nickname in the history of sports – “Clipboard Jesus” Charlie Whitehurst.  Couple that with Tennessee’s meltdown last week where they threw away a 28-3 lead against Cleveland to lose at home, they will be vulnerable.
In contrast, Jacksonville will surely be eyeing this game as the perfect chance to find their feet. They went to Bortles slightly earlier than imagined, with Chad Henne’s disguise as an NFL starting quarterback wearing off quicker than the bad guy’s in Scooby Doo. Head coach Gus Bradley is a renowned defensive coach; the former guru of Seattle’s legion of boom before departing to take the top job in Jacksonville. Despite his unit being ranked last in pass defence, they finally showed signs of life last week, limiting Ben Roethlisberger and Co to 17 points. A repeat of that performance against a quarterback not in the same postcode as Big Ben, and the Jags have a huge chance.

 

Jacksonville win the match @ 9/5 by a scoreline somewhere in the region of 21-20. Bortles to take one in for his first rushing score of his career appeals @ 40/1.

 

 

 

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS @ BUFFALO BILLS

 

Write off Tom Brady and Bill Belichick at your peril. The knives were out for the pair after the Patriots were taken apart by the Kansas City Chiefs a fortnight ago, but they responded to the critics by smashing a Bengals team who came into the game last week as the smart new kid on the block, still unbeaten on the back off a bye week. Now New England travels to Buffalo looking to prove that destruction of Cincy was not a flash in a pan and they are indeed back on the right track. However, it won’t be as easy for the former Michigan man this time, with game total UNDER 45 PTS @ 10/11 the selection.

 

Kyle Orton was given the reigns to the Buffalo Bills offence last week after Doug Marrone finally had his fill of EJ Manuel under centre. Orton performed well to upset Detroit at Ford Field, but he should face a stiffer task against a Pats D that is ranked third covering the pass, and that has an AFC leading six interceptions. Then it’s on to the Bills D. They lead the NFL in sacks and also lead the AFC in rush defence. They have not given up a rushing touchdown in their opening five games and allow just 3.04 yards per carry to opposing teams. That’s a big plus in this game, given how the Pats went back to basics last week feeding the ball to Steven Ridley 27 times, while Shane Vereen also had 9 totes.

 

The weather in Buffalo is always unpredictable with a windy, rainy day playing into the hands of any under selection. Hopefully Kyle Orton plays a safe game, with any pick-sixes being a major threat to the bet. Also it remains to be seen how well Buffalo’s linebackers can cope with Gronk and Timothy Wright over the middle, if as expected the Bills are successful at taking away the run.

 

Buffalo are odds against to win the match and I certainly couldn’t put anyone off that given how well their D is playing, but Kyle Orton under centre is a worry. That’s why we’ll plump for UNDER 45 PTS @ 10/11. Sammy Watkins was given a new lease of life it seemed with Orton at the helm last week, we’ll go for the former Clemson start to find paydirt first @ 11/1.

 

 

DENVER BRONCOS @ NEW YORK JETS

 

Let me hear you say BLOWOUT! Geno Smith wouldn’t get a look in for the Irish Champion Belfast Trojans at the moment, nevermind the New York Jets. He was pulled at halftime in the shocking performance the Jets mailed in, at San Diego a week ago. However Michael Vick was equally as useless, and it’s hard to see how Peyton Manning and his star studded offence don’t handle the J-E-T-S in New Jersey. DENVER -8.5 PTS @ 10/11 completes the treble.

 

To be fair to Rex Ryan’s squad, they weren’t given the easiest of schedules to kick things off. Aside from Derek Carr, Aaron Rodgers, Jay Cutler, Matthew Stafford and Phillp Rivers have combined to throw for 10 touchdowns against one single pick against the hapless Jets secondary. Dee Milliner did return last week but still the former first rounder will be rusty and he will have to go up against Demaryius Thomas, fresh off the back of breaking the Broncos single game receiving record, a game which also broke the former Georgia Tech man out of something of a slump.
Again to be fair to Geno Smith, he has literally no playmakers on the field when he lines up under centre. Eric Decker the big offseason acquisition has been dealing with injuries early in his Jet career, while elsewhere you have Jermey Kerley, David Nelson and Jeff Cumberland, names that hardly spark fear in opposing defences.
Look for Peyton to pick off where he left off last week, and this again could very well be over by halftime. DENVER -8.5 PTS @ 10/11 with that man Julius Thomas again notching the first score at 13/2.
 
ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS
·         Pittsburgh hung on against Cleveland back in week one and they square off again this week. Le’Veon Bell showed the league he is one of the top backs around in that game going for 197 yards and a score, while Big Ben also threw for over 350. Pittsburgh at odds against for the win, or +1.5 pts on the handicap will do nicely against a Browns team, who although they did rally and win last week, were 27-3 down at one point to the Titans of all teams!
·         There’ll be some interest in Carolina this week going to Cincinnati. AJ Green re-aggravated his toe injury and is set to miss out alongside fellow wideout Marvin Jones, leaving Mohammed Sanu as the top pass-catching threat for Andy Dalton. However, I’d be more than willing to put down last week’s thumping at the hands of the Pats as a one-off. Vontaze Burfict will return to a defensive unit that before the beatdown from New England, had given up only 2 touchdowns against six interceptions in their opening three games.
·         Maybe no hotter quarterback in the league than Aaron Rodgers right now. He’s been a perfect 11:0 TD:INT over his last four games and will more than likely have perfect passing conditions in Miami. The Dolphins rank ninth against the pass, but faced Derek Carr, E.J. Manuel, Tom Brady, and Alex Smith in their first four games. Expect Rodgers to keep rolling, with a punt on him over 272.5 yards @ 5/6.
·         Finally the weekly Dallas Cowboys discussion. This is the litmus test for just how far this Dallas outfit has come. Demarco Murray has ran the ball in a similar fashion to Beast Mode himself Marshawn Lynch, but this week we’ll see how that talented offensive line does against the best rush defence in the NFL. Still, I would expect Dallas to “dance with the one who brung ya”. In other words don’t look for Scott Linehan to change up the play calling. Keep handing it to Murray and control the time of possession and keep the dynamic Seattle offence on the sidelines has to be the blueprint for success for the Cowboys. Dallas +8.5 pts looks a little too high for my liking…

NFL Betting Preview – Week 4

WEEK 3 RECAP
A return to form was nice last week. We hit two out of three on our main selections, as Dallas fought back from 21-0 down to topple the Rams and the Redskins and Eagles offence both came to play to see the points total easily over. Our under bet had a chance in Jacksonville but some shockingly bad defence blew that out of the water.  In the additional thoughts section the upset of the week clicked nicely as the Chiefs grabbed their first win of the campaign in Miami and also Chicago beat the Jets in New Jersey.
GREEN BAY PACKERS @ CHICAGO BEARS
fbn-spo-green-bay-packers-v-chicago-bears
The total points line OVER 50 appeals in this important NFC North Clash between the Bears and Packers. A tough Lions defence limited Aaron Rodgers and co to 7 points last week, but coming into Soldier Field against a banged up Bears unit, the Packers will be confident of adding more to their tally. Charles Tillman is already on I.R while Marc Trestman’s men also had additional injuries to FS Chris Conte and SS Ryan Mundy in last Monday night’s win over the Jets. This could also be Eddie Lacy’s breakout game. The former Alabama star has struggled so far this term but this Bears defence has conceded 4.97 yards-per-carry in their opening 3 contests.
On the other side, after a sloppy loss to kick off the season, Chicago has bounced back well with impressive road wins over the 49ers and Jets. Despite injury troubles to Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey, both contributed massively to the wins on the road. Not forgetting either Matt Forte who simply shredded Mike McCarthy’s outfit last term. The Tulane-alum ran for 235 yards on 46 carries, had 9 grabs for 101 yards and scored four all-purpose touchdowns.
This is a game Green Bay must have, as they look to avoid going 1-3, which would leave them two games behind Chicago. OVER 50 PTS @ 10/11 as Green Bay scrape out a 27-24 victory in Chi Town. Martellus Bennett has once again started the season hot. He appeals for first touchdown scorer @ 8/1.
TENNESSEE TITANS @ INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

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The total has gone under in the last 5 Titans games, but over in the last 5 Colts games. For that reason we’ll stay away from that market, but INDIANAPOLIS -7.5 PTS takes the eye. The starting point for this selection has to be the quarterback position for Tennessee. Despite an encouraging road win in Kansas City on opening weekend, Jake Locker reverted to form in losses against Dallas and Cincinnati and once again he finds himself in the trainer’s room, doubtful to play this Sunday in Indy. That means career backup, “clipboard Jesus” Charlie Whitehurst and his three career NFL touchdowns will be under centre.
Andrew Luck manhandled the hopeless Jaguars last week in Florida, and more of the same should be expected. We may see more of the Colts running game going by the success Dallas and Cincinnati had pounding the ball on this Titans front the past fortnight. Ray Horton has changed scheme to a 3-4, but he lacks the personnel currently to efficiently stop the run. The often criticised Trent Richardson could use this game to remind people why he was third pick in the 2012 draft.
Indianapolis should roll all over Tennessee here, particularly with Whitehurst running the offence. INDIANAPOLIS -7.5 PTS @ 10/11 lands comfortably as the Colts take this 27-13. It would be rude not to throw a speculative few quid/euros on the Colts D to find paydirt first @ 25/1.
CAROLINA PANTHERS @ BALTIMORE RAVENS

panthers-ravens-football-cam-newton_pg_600

It’s always risky taking a low line, but this could be a somewhat turgid affair between Carolina and Baltimore. UNDER 40.5 PTS should give us a run for our money if both defences give a true showing of their ability. Despite being lit up by Pittsburgh on Sunday Night, the Panthers had previously shut down the high-flying Detroit unit, so Luke Kuchely and co will be keen on a return to form against a Ravens offence who lost tight end Dennis Pitta and starting blindside protector Eugene Monroe this week.
Baltimore bounced back from the season opening loss to the Bengals with an impressive win over Pittsburgh before hanging on to beat the Bengals a week ago. Ray Rice is no longer around for obvious reason and with Bernard Pierce banged up, Justin Forsett has played well with rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro making a case for the starting job after tallying 91 yards on 18 rushes in Cleveland last week. The Carolina offence lacks a playmaker, with Cam Newton’s rib injury limiting his running ability, while Steve Smith will be on the opposite sideline this week, eager to make an impact for this new ballclub against his former employers.
Not one for the neutral this week at M&T Bank Stadium, but a run heavy, clock chewing game will do nicely for the UNDER  40.5 PTS selection @ 10/11 as Baltimore takes I 21-17. Steve Smith to score the first touchdown @ 8/1 has to be the way to go against his former team.
ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS
·         Earlier in the season we claimed that there would come a time the Jacksonville Jaguars would become an attractive bet. That time has half come. Blake Bortles has finally been given the keys to the offence, but his next two games against both San Diego and Pittsburgh look too much for the former UCF man to overcome. However in week 6 against Tennessee the trigger may well be pulled.
·         This week’s “upset” pick goes the way of the Dallas Cowboys. If the running game continues as it has the last three weeks, the Boys may be able to control the time of possession, limiting the opportunities for Brees. 29/20 warrants a somewhat heart over head selection.
·          At the time of writing we’re without a line for rushing for Minnesota RB Matt Asiata. However depending on how low it is, the under could very well be in play. The Atlanta defence has held opposing rushers to just 3.95 YPC so far this term; that coupled with Asiata’s career 3.5 YPC we can’t see the Adrian Peterson stand-in breaking anything. Add in the fact that the Falcons offence could well put up a fair few points with Roddy White back this week, the Vikings could well be looking to the air more with Teddy Bridgewater starting his first game for Minnesota.

·         London game! Not the most attractive but Dolphins and Raiders fans won’t mind as they make the pilgrimage to Wembley to see their heros  or zeros (Ryan Tannehill) in action. Maybe it would be wise for Miami to take the ball out of Tannehill’s hand and feature the running game more, particulay against a Raiders D that has given up over 400 yards on the ground already this term. Lamar Miller to hit the back of the net first at Wembley @ 13/2 .

NFL Week 2 – Betting Preview

WEEK 1 RECAP

It was a mixed bag on the opening weekend of action. We hit on two out of three selections, with two of our first touchdown scorers (frustratingly) scoring second.

Philadelphia turned around a 17-0 deficit to cover the 10.5 pt spread, while the St Louis offence forgot to show up, to see the score under 44 pts. Unfortunately Jake Cutler reverted to type as the Bills upset the Bears in Chicago.

From the “additional thoughts” section we did well, with underdog of the week Tennessee Titans beating KC in Arrowhead, while Gronk was well under his receiving line on his return from surgery and the Lions comfortably handled Eli Manning and the New York Giants.

Moving on, let’s take a look at what’s attracting attention in week 2.

DALLAS COWBOYS @ TENNESSEE TITANS

0205
Dallas can’t play D so they’ve no option but to try run up the score!

Somehow, Dallas and San Francisco failed to go over the total points mark last week, despite a touchdown being scored on the third play from scrimmage. However this week OVER 49 PTS looks a good thing.

The Dallas defence improved from last year’s pitiful showing, but were still hardly stellar as the Niners broke the game open in the first half. Jake Locker is a similar type of player to Colin Kaepernick so we could see similar success if Locker can use his legs to good effect, before finding a multitude of emerging weapons on that Titans offence, such as Justin Hunter and Kendall Wright.

Tony Romo did lay an egg so to speak in that opener in Arlington, but when he wasn’t throwing into triple coverage for interceptions, the Cowboys running game was pounding the ball on the 49ers. In fact, DeMarco Murray had over 100 yards on the ground, something San Fran didn’t allow happen for the whole of the 2013 regular season.

Look for Romo to get back on track here, as a tight game ends somewhere in the region of 29-23 either way, possibly after overtime, sealing the OVER 49 PTS bet. Hopefully we’ll be throwing up the ‘X’ with Dez Bryant for first touchdown scorer at 15/2.

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS @ SAN DIEGO CHARGERS

USATSI_7686528_160074578_lowres-2
Seattle were impressive against Green Bay. We think they will stay impressive!

A road favourite sometimes is a tricky way to go, but the Superbowl Champions were in imperious form as they crushed the Green Bay Packers in the season opener in week 1, and SEATTLE -5.5 PTS is difficult to overlook.

The Seahawks defence picked up where they left off, constantly pressuring Aaron Rodgers, while Richard Sherman was not targeted once. On the offensive side of the ball, beast mode is alive and well as Marshawn Lynch quelled any doubts about his health, running for 110 yards on 20 carries. Russell Wilson did his usual effective job of working the play action game and using his legs at the right time to pull away from the Packers in the end.

Seattle will also be coming off 10 days rest after their Thursday opener, while the Chargers were the last game of week 1, as they went down narrowly to Arizona. You didn’t miss much if you didn’t fancy staying up till 3.20am on a school night. Phillip Rivers didn’t get much going on offence, despite Ryan Matthews running well. Number one target Keenan Allen was shut down by Patrick Peterson and a similar fate awaits this week with Sherman, while Antonio Gates will have the athletic safeties and linebackers on his case all game.

SEATTLE -5.5 PTS looks good enough here, with the champs taking this one 23-17 to squeak our selection over the winning line. Tight end Zach Miller is a big weapon down around the goalline on any play action passes, 14/1 to open the scoring.

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES @ INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

The final game of week two may prove to be the most entertaining, and with that the OVER 54PTS will give us plenty to cheer on. (N.B. OVER 53 PTS available with Paddy Power).

Philadelphia had plenty of last man standing/survivour pool players sweating at half-time last week (myself included), as they were 17-0 to the lowly Jaguars. However an impressive second half display from Chip Kelly’s high-powered offence managed to see the Eagles over the line, covering the spread in the process.

Hopefully Kelly has reminded his boys that the game starts when you run out the tunnel for the first time not the second, and we see plenty of points early doors in this one.

Indy meanwhile were overmatched in the first half in Denver last week by Peyton Manning and his equally classy offence, but with Andrew Luck at quarterback no lead is enough. The #1 pick out of Stanford was delighted to have Reggie Wayne back, as the 35-year-old from “The U” tallied 98 yards, but it wasn’t enough as the Colts went down by a touchdown at Mile High.

Back at home, a fast start should be expected by Indianapolis and with the playmakers on both sides of the ball a 31-27 scoreline come the end of the game could well be in sight, seeing our OVER 54PTS selection touch quite nicely. Zach Ertz nearly clicked our first touchdown scorer bet last week, we’ll stick with the athletic tight end again at 16/1.

ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS

  • Chad Henne came close to orchestrating a huge road win for the Jags in week 1. 9/4 about Jacksonville looks big going into Washington, with Robert Griffin still struggling to find his rookie season form.
  • Despite letting the Colts back in it, the Denver Broncos look set for another run at the Superbowl. Denver -11.5pts is available with certain firms against KC this week. Tennessee showed if you shutdown Jamaal Charles then you shutdown that Chiefs offence. Manning and co could cover the spread quite nicely, if KC’s offence again fails to show up.
  • Look out for teams “needing the win” this week. Starting the season 0-2 is near disastrous, so teams like the NY Giants, Dallas Cowboys and Chicago Bears cannot be easily discounted. Just look at Baltimore this past Thursday night. Those three on the spread makes an interesting treble.
  • New Orleans lost a shootout to Atlanta, but surely Cleveland can’t stay within 6.5 points of the Saints. The Browns were getting thumped by the Steelers until the Steelers defence clocked off early. Brandin Cooks looked every bit rookie of the year on his week 1 showing. 12/1 to open the scoring.

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Fantasy Football Starts & Sits Week 2

Each week during the season, deciding on who to start for your fantasy team is the most pivotal decision. Each week in my Rankings, Starts and Sits article, I will list the players at each position. This will show you who the best play at each position is. I will also recommend a less obvious player at each position who is primed for a big week, and a player at each position who you should avoid. If you have any start/sit questions fell free to contact me on twitter @JamesMaguire21 where I would be happy to answer all questions.

Quarterbacks

jake lockerQB Start of the Week
Jake Locker (TEN)
Outside of the elite QB options, Locker is an excellent start this week. He had a great game last week against the Chiefs, and this week he has a brilliant matchup against the Dallas Cowboys. As we saw last week, the Cowboys defence is atrocious and I would fully recommend starting anyone who plays against them. Locker scored over 20 points last week and I would expect him to do the same again this week.

 

RGIII

QB Sit of the Week
Robert Griffin III (WAS)
Coming off a disappointing 2013 season, many expected RGIII to bounce back this season. However, after seeing him in the 1st game of the season, it is becoming hard to trust him. He just doesn’t look like the same player who was so explosive in his rookie season. I do have hope that he will get back to his best, but until we see some evidence of this, you need to keep him on your bench. This is especially true this week as he faces a decent Jaguars defence who could put him under a lot of pressure.

Quarterback Rankings:
[columnize]1 Peyton Manning DEN (vs. KC)
2 Andrew Luck IND (vs. PHI)
3 Aaron Rodgers GB (vs. NYJ)
4 Matthew Stafford DET (@CAR)
5 Nick Foles PHI (@IND)
6 Drew Brees NO (@CLE)
7 Matt Ryan ATL (@CIN)
8 Tom Brady NE (@MIN)
9 Jake Locker TEN (vs. DAL)
10 Tony Romo DAL (@TEN)
11 Russell Wilson SEA (@SD)
12 Andy Dalton CIN (vs. ATL)
13 Colin Kaepernick SF (vs. CHI)
14 Carson Palmer ARI (@NYG)
15 Jay Cutler CHI (@SF)
16 Cam Newton CAR (vs. DET)
17 Ben Roethlisberger PIT (@BAL)
18 Ryan Tannehill MIA (@BUF)
19 Philip Rivers SD (vs. SEA)
20 Eli Manning NYG (vs. ARI)
21 Matt Cassel MIN (vs. NE)
22 Robert Griffin III WAS (vs. JAC)
23 Josh McCown TB (vs. STL)
24 Joe Flacco BAL (vs. PIT)[/columnize]

Running Backs

bernardRB Start of the Week
Giovanni Bernard (CIN)
Bernard is coming off a good week 1 performance, where we were able to see that the Bengals are going to give him the bulk of the carries. I would expect him to capitalise on those carries this week as he faces a Falcons team who were the worst in the league against RB’s last season. They looked just as bad against the run when playing the Saints last week, and I would expect Bernard to be one of the top scoring players in the league this week

 

joique

RB Sit of the Week
Joique Bell (DET)
The Lions do a good job of getting both Bush and Bell involved in their offense, and most weeks they are both good starts. However, this week Bell faces a Carolina defence that is very good against the run. They only gave up 75yards on the ground in week 1 and Bell could struggle to produce this week. Bush could benefit from some screen passes, but I could see Bell having a down week
Running Back Rankings:
[columnize]1 LeSean McCoy PHI (@IND)
2 Montee Ball DEN (vs. KC)
3 Giovani Bernard CIN (vs. ATL)
4 Matt Forte CHI (@SF)
5 Adrian Peterson MIN (vs. NE)
6 Jamaal Charles KC (@DEN)
7 Arian Foster HOU (@OAK)
8 Le’Veon Bell PIT (@BAL)
9 DeMarco Murray DAL (@TEN)
10 Marshawn Lynch SEA (@SD)
11 Shane Vereen NE (@MIN)
12 Knowshon Moreno MIA (@BUF)
13 Eddie Lacy GB (vs. NYJ)
14 Alfred Morris WAS (vs. JAC)
15 Andre Ellington ARI (@NYG)
16 C.J. Spiller BUF (vs. MIA)
17 Frank Gore SF (vs. CHI)
18 Rashad Jennings NYG (vs. ARI)
19 Terrance West CLE (vs. NO)
20 Chris Johnson NYJ (@GB)
21 Toby Gerhart JAC (@WAS)
22 Zac Stacy STL (@TB)
23 Carlos Hyde SF (vs. CHI)
24 Mark Ingram NO (@CLE)
25 Pierre Thomas NO (@CLE)
26 Ryan Mathews SD (vs. SEA)
27 Reggie Bush DET (@CAR)
28 Fred Jackson BUF (vs. MIA)
29 Maurice Jones-Drew OAK (vs. HOU)
30 Lamar Miller MIA (@BUF)
31 Justin Forsett BAL (vs. PIT)
32 Bernard Pierce BAL (vs. PIT)
33 Shonn Greene TEN (vs. DAL)
34 Danny Woodhead SD (vs. SEA)
35 Doug Martin/Bobby Rainey TB (vs. STL)
36 Ahmad Bradshaw IND (vs. PHI)
37 LeGarrette Blount PIT (@BAL)
38 Joique Bell DET (@CAR)
39 Stevan Ridley NE (@MIN)
40 Steven Jackson ATL (@CIN)
41 Darren Sproles PHI (@IND)
42 Chris Ivory NYJ (@GB)
43 Trent Richardson IND (vs. PHI)
44 DeAngelo Williams CAR (vs. DET)
45 Isaiah Crowell CLE (vs. NO)
46 Dexter McCluster TEN (vs. DAL)
47 Jeremy Hill CIN (vs. ATL)
48 Benny Cunningham STL (@TB)[/columnize]

Wide Receivers

fitzWR Start of the Week
Larry Fitzgerald (ARI)
Fitzgerald is coming off a terrible week 1 performance where he only had 1 catch for 22 yards. This will probably tempt some of his owners to bench him; however I would keep him in your line-ups this week as I expect a huge bounce back performance. This week he faces a Giants defence that was torched by the Lions in week one, allowing the 2nd most points to opposing WR’s. Both Fitzgerald and his teammate Floyd are fantastic starts this week.

Bonus Start: Two more great starts this week are Tennessee’s two WR’s Justin Hunter and Kendall Wright. I expect big games from both.

NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars-Training CampWR Sit of the Week
Allen Hurns (JAC)
Hurns exploded into the NFL last week with a brilliant performance where he caught 2 TD’s and had over 100 yards. I would advise you to pick him up off your waiver wire, however I would also advise you to keep him on your bench. There have been many relatively unknown WR’s who have had huge week 1 performances over the years, but the majority of them have not continued that production into the season. I would advise you to keep him on your bench until we see if it was just a flash in the pan or if he will be the next star WR.

Wide Receiver Rankings:

[columnize]1 Calvin Johnson DET (@CAR)
2 Demaryius Thomas DEN (vs. KC)
3 A.J. Green CIN (vs. ATL)
4 Dez Bryant DAL (@TEN)
5 Julio Jones ATL (@CIN)
6 Jordy Nelson GB (vs. NYJ)
7 Brandon Marshall CHI (@SF)
8 Antonio Brown PIT (@BAL)
9 Randall Cobb GB (vs. NYJ)
10 Cordarrelle Patterson MIN (vs. NE)
11 Mike Wallace MIA (@BUF)
12 Andre Johnson HOU (@OAK)
13 Emmanuel Sanders DEN (vs. KC)
14 Michael Floyd ARI (@NYG)
15 Vincent Jackson TB (vs. STL)
16 Larry Fitzgerald ARI (@NYG)
17 Justin Hunter TEN (vs. DAL)
18 Alshon Jeffery CHI (@SF)
19 Julian Edelman NE (@MIN)
20 Brandin Cooks NO (@CLE)
21 Percy Harvin SEA (@SD)
22 Roddy White ATL (@CIN)
23 Marques Colston NO (@CLE)
24 Kendall Wright TEN (vs. DAL)
25 Eric Decker NYJ (@GB)
26 Kelvin Benjamin CAR (vs. DET)
27 Jeremy Maclin PHI (@IND)
28 T.Y. Hilton IND (vs. PHI)
29 Pierre Garcon WAS (vs. JAC)
30 Reggie Wayne IND (vs. PHI)
31 Michael Crabtree SF (vs. CHI)
32 Torrey Smith BAL (vs. PIT)
33 DeSean Jackson WAS (vs. JAC)
34 Victor Cruz NYG (vs. ARI)
35 Keenan Allen SD (vs. SEA)
36 Anquan Boldin SF (vs. CHI)
37 Golden Tate DET (@CAR)
38 DeAndre Hopkins HOU (@OAK)
39 Hakeem Nicks IND (vs. PHI)
40 Markus Wheaton PIT (@BAL)
41 Terrance Williams DAL (@TEN)
42 Steve Smith BAL (vs. PIT)
43 Greg Jennings MIN (vs. NE)
44 Allen Hurns JAC (@WAS)
45 Andrew Hawkins CLE (vs. NO)
46 Marqise Lee JAC (@WAS)
47 Jarrett Boykin GB (vs. NYJ)
48 Rod Streater OAK (vs. HOU)[/columnize]

Tight Ends

Ertz could be a good to open the floodgates against the Jags

TE Start of the Week
Zach Ertz (PHI)
I recommended Ertz as one of the best starts last week, and he rewarded his owners with a TD and 77 yards. This week he is a fantastic start again, as he faces a Colts team who gave up 3 TD’s to Broncos TE Julius Thomas last week. Keep him in your lineups.

Martellus Bennett

TE Sit of the Week
Martellus Bennett (CHI)
Bennett is comin off a great week 1, but it could be difficult for him to repeat those numbers this week. He faces a 49ers defence who have been quite good against opposing TE’s and managed to shut down Jason Witten last week.

Tight End Rankings:
[columnize]1 Jimmy Graham NO (@CLE)
2 Julius Thomas DEN (vs. KC)
3 Rob Gronkowski NE (@MIN)
4 Zach Ertz PHI (@IND)
5 Greg Olsen CAR (vs. DET)
6 Vernon Davis SF (vs. CHI)
7 Kyle Rudolph MIN (vs. NE)
8 Dennis Pitta BAL (vs. PIT)
9 Delanie Walker TEN (vs. DAL)
10 Dwayne Allen IND (vs. PHI)
11 Jason Witten DAL (@TEN)
12 Charles Clay MIA (@BUF)
13 Martellus Bennett CHI (@SF)
14 Heath Miller PIT (@BAL)
15 Travis Kelce KC (@DEN)
16 Antonio Gates SD (vs. SEA)
17 Larry Donnell NYG (vs. ARI)
18 Levine Toilolo ATL (@CIN)
19 Andrew Quarless GB (vs. NYJ)
20 Jared Cook STL (@TB)
21 Ladarius Green SD (vs. SEA)
22 Coby Fleener IND (vs. PHI)
23 Mychal Rivera OAK (vs. HOU)
24 Niles Paul WAS (vs. JAC)[/columnize]

NFL Ireland Team of the Week: Week 1

Forget bonuses and player grades, MVPs and gold jackets, the most sought after honour in the NFL is a spot on our NFL Ireland Team of the Week! After each game week we’ll bring you the top performers on offense and defense. This isn’t all about statistics or lighting up the highlight reel, sometimes it’s just a player or unit that’s performed way above expectations or overcome some tough obstacles. So without further ado, here’s our first Team of the Week for 2014!

Offense | Defense

TOTW1-Offense

Quarterback: Matt Ryan – Atlanta Falcons

Ryan threw for a career best 448 yards with 3 touchdowns against a solid Saints defense, leading his team to an overtime inter-division win. Hard Knocks showed he doesn’t have much of a personality, but he definitely has a ton of talent.

Running Back: Le’Veon Bell – Pittsburgh Steelers

Bell had a combined 197 yards including a tackle-dodging 38-yard touchdown run against the Cleveland Browns. Other had better rushing stat lines, but according to PFF nobody was as elusive as the Steelers workhorse.

Tight End: Julius Thomas – Denver Broncos

Even with a fumble, Thomas blocked well for Montee Ball and, oh yeah, he had 7 receptions for over 100 yards and three TDs. What more do you want?

Wide Receiver: Calvin Johnson – Detroit Lions

Megatron is back. By the end of the first quarter he already had two touchdowns and just shy of 100 yards. He needn’t have worried, as he finished the night with 164 receiving yards, and an average of 23.4 yards per catch. He’s still the best.

Wide Receiver: Allen Hurns – Jacksonville Jaguars

Even the best couldn’t make 27.5 yards per catch though. Allen Hurns could. We told you that the undrafted free agent rookie would be the guy to watch in Jacksonville’s passing game, and he didn’t disappoint, taking home 2 TDs and 110 yards. It’s not like he was wide open for them either, he worked for his scores. Keep an eye on this guy.

Offensive Line: Miami Dolphins

A completely new offensive line was needed in Miami after last year’s mess gave up 58 sacks on poor Ryan Tannehill. Not this year. New left tackle Brandon Albert and untested centre Samson Satele led the way as the line kept Tannehill upright (mostly) and also created the holes for Knowshon Moreno to rush for a league-high 134 yards. This game was won in the trenches, and the Miami O-line more than did their part.

 

Defense | Offense

TOTW1-Defense

Defensive Line: Miami Dolphins

It wasn’t just on offense that Miami dominated the line of scrimmage. On defense Cameron Wake alone accounted for two sacks and two forced fumbles. Combined with Olivier Vernon, the Dolphins pass rush had Tom Brady under pressure or on his back for much of the game.

Linebackers: Carolina Panthers

They may have been missing Cam Newton, but the Panthers can at least still rely on their defense to win them games. Luke Keuchly and Thomas Davis dominated against the Bucs, combining for 13 tackles and  a sack. Beyond the stats, they just bossed the field whenever they were on it. On this evidence, there’s no drop off in the Panthers D this year.

Cornerback: Alterraun Verner – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

In Verner’s first NFL game for the Bucs he allowed just 4 yards into his coverage per PFF. FOUR! That might say a little about the Panthers’ receiving options, but he was excellent throughout the game.

Cornerback: Jason McCourty – Tennessee Titans

Any preseason worries about the Titans adjusting to Ray Horton’s new offense were clearly unfounded, as their D dominated against a lacklustre Chiefs offense. McCourty was the pick of the bunch, with two, um, picks. Another good year looks in store for him in 2014!

Free Safety: Rahim Moore – Denver Broncos

Moore got a little lucky with his interceptions against Andrew Luck, but he still got two of them. Helping out the depleted Denver linebacker corps, Moore was solid against what was supposed to be an explosive Colts offense.

Strong Safety: Eric Berry – Kansas City Chiefs

In an otherwise miserable day for the Chiefs Eric Berry did what Eric Berry does, dominating with 15 combined tackles. The All-Pro safety can’t do it all on his own though, and Kansas are in deep trouble if they ask him to.

Power Rankings 25-32

Jacksonville are the bottom in our Power Rankings  can they move up? Here is 25-32


 #32 Jacksonville Jaguars

If Blake Bortles was the starting quarterback, this #32 would rise to at least #28 and the Jaguars could battle the Titans for second place in the AFC South, but he is not and Chad Henne is, which might benefit Bortles in the long-term, but will surrender the franchise for another season.

#31 Buffalo Bills

Losing Kiko Alonso to an ACL injury after a breakout season in 2013 coupled with the free agency loss of Jairus Byrd to the New Orleans Saints will be difficult for Buffalo to digest.  The Bills offence has looked average at best during its preseason and E. J. Manuel in particular looks like he’s still going through growing pains.  The season has not yet begun, but already looks doomed for the New York team.

#30 Houston Texans

The Texans did not use a high pick on a quarterback in the 2014 NFL Draft, they did however just pick up Ryan Mallet but is he enough to save their 2014 season?.  Their D line, as ferocious as it is, will only get them so far.

#29 Oakland Raiders

Matt Schaub is not the answer at quarterback and if he does begin the season as the starter, it will not be long before rookie Derek Carr takes over – he’s already made a lasting impression on the fans.  The Raiders are capable of winning at least a couple more games in 2014 thanks to their savvy offseason additions and draftees, but a trying schedule that includes match ups against the NFC West may prevent them from fulfilling their potential.

#28 Tennessee Titans

The Titans are one of the NFL’s biggest enigmas, but the fact is they could finish as high as second in the AFC South in 2014.  New Head Coach Ken Whisenhunt helped the San Diego Chargers become a playoff team last year when he served as Offensive Coordinator and will now look to do the same with Tennessee.  A more stable O line should help keep Jake Locker upright, while Justin Hunter and ‘Fantasy Sleeper’ Bishop Sankey make plays.  However, an uneven Titans defence could hold its offence back.

#27 Cleveland Browns

As if learning a new system was not difficult enough, the Browns will be without their best offensive player (Josh Gordon) in 2014.  A quarterback competition which culminated in the naming of Brian Hoyer as the starter also likely made life in Cleveland a bit more troubling, as first-team reps were divided.  The AFC North is a competitive division, which any first-year team would struggle in.  It appears star players Joe Thomas, Alex Mack and Joe Haden will be forced to settle for another ‘regular’ season.

#26 Minnesota Vikings

Like the Rams, the Vikings have handed their starting quarterback job to a seasoned veteran in Matt Cassel.  Once upon a time (2008), Cassel led the New England Patriots to a 11-5 record.  5 years on, he still has the ability to lead a team, but it is only a matter of time before the gap between his experience and Teddy Bridgewater’s ability closes.  The NFC North team has a lot of talent and a ton of potential all over the field, but they are trapped in a very tough division which will likely subject them to an average record once again.

#25 St Louis Rams

The loss of Sam Bradford to another ACL injury is unbelievable.  Now, the Rams look ready to make former Detroit Lions backup quarterback Shaun Hill their “guy”.  Hill, 34, will enter his 13th season in the NFL with an impressive touchdown to interception ratio – 41-23 that shows off his ability to be careful and make smart decisions.  His ‘game manager’ status will be exactly what the team from the midwest needs in 2014, as they look to capitalise off a ground and pound offence and a reliable defence that features the best D line in the league.