NFL Week 4

We are three weeks into the 2016-17 NFL season, and things are beginning to take shape. The Broncos are still a Super Bowl contender, the Patriots are still one of the top teams in the league even without Tom Brady and the Eagles and Ravens have surprised everyone en route to 3-0 starts. The Cardinals, Bengals and Panthers have struggled out of the gate, while the Falcons, Raiders and Giants look to be playoff contenders.

There is still a long way to go, but we are starting to recognize which teams are for real and which are in for a very long season. This week I’ll give you my Top-10 teams, along with the teams that are trending up and trending down, and then as always, we’ll look at who you should start and sit in fantasy this week.

Jay’s Top-10 Teams

1 – New England Patriots

 

2 – Minnesota Vikings

 

3 – Denver Broncos

 

4 – Green Bay Packers

 

5 – Pittsburgh Steelers

 

6 – Carolina Panthers

 

7 – Seattle Seahawks

 

8 – Kansas City Chiefs

 

9 – Arizona Cardinals

 

10 – Philadelphia Eagles

Next Five Up – Houston Texans, Oakland Raiders, Baltimore Ravens, New York Giants, Atlanta Falcons

Who’s Trending?

Trending Up

Philadelphia Eagles

I am willing to admit when I am wrong, and it would appear as though I was probably wrong in my judgement of the Eagles. I mean, I don’t think you can blame me. Wins over Cleveland and Chicago were nothing to write home about. But then this past week, they absolutely annihilated the Pittsburgh Steelers 34-3 in front of a very excited crowd in Philly. Carson Wentz continued to show that he is well on his way to being a top quarterback in the league, throwing for 301 yards and two touchdowns. I know last week I said to pump the brakes on the Wentz Wagon, but again, I’m willing to eat crow when I feel it’s necessary. I’m still not ready to crown him the next king, but Carson Wentz has all the looks of a top-flight NFL quarterback, something Philadelphia has desperately needed since the end of the McNabb era.

With this 3-0 start, talk has shifted to whether or not this team can compete for a playoff spot. They are now at 22-1 odds to win the Super Bowl, and they’ve been tabbed as the new favorite to win the NFC East. Based on what we’ve seen thus far, I think it is fair to call this team a playoff contender, but they have a tough stretch coming up. Their bye is this week, which is honestly the worst possible time for their bye. They have tons of momentum, and a week off could take some of that away. They travel to Detroit following the bye, which should be another win. Then they hit the middle of their schedule, which is a brutal 8-game stretch that will look like this:

at Washington
vs Minnesota
at Dallas
at New York Giants
vs Atlanta
at Seattle
vs Green Bay
at Cincinnati

They will benefit from playing three divisional home games at the end of the year, but they’ll need to make it through those eight games in order for those games to mean something. They’ve had a terrific start to the year, but they have a lot more to prove in the middle of the season. We’ll see just how good this team is.

Minnesota Vikings

One of those teams the Eagles will have to contend with is the Minnesota Vikings, who through three weeks have the look of this year’s Broncos. From seemingly out of nowhere, the Vikings defense has become one of the best in the league, and the numbers back that up. Here’s how they’ve started this season:

Week 1 at Tennessee – 16 points allowed, 2 sacks, 77-yard interception return for TD, 2 fumble recoveries, 24-yard fumble return for TD
Week 2 vs Green Bay – 14 points allowed, 5 sacks, 1 interception, 2 fumble recoveries
Week 3 at Carolina – 10 points allowed, 8 sacks, 3 interceptions, 54-yard punt return for TD

It was easy to overlook the performance against the Titans, but the way they played against the two previous NFL MVPs (Cam Newton and Aaron Rodgers) cannot be ignored. They dominated both of those games, and I think it is time to call the Vikings’ defense one of the top units in football. They face another high-octane offense this week when they take on the Giants, but based on these first few weeks, the Vikings should handle business once again thanks to their defense. It’s early, but I think the Vikings are the early favorite to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.

Los Angeles Rams

It’s no secret that Week 1 was a disaster for the Rams. They lost 28-0 to the Rams, and it looked even worse than that. Todd Gurley was invisible and Case Keenum looked horrendous. They were able to bounce back in Week 2 with a 9-3 win in their home opener against Seattle. They have owned the Seahawks as of late, and I think the excited LA crowd helped will the Rams to a victory, because the stats were nothing spectacular. The defense was great, but that is expected.

This past week it finally all came together for the Rams, as they traveled to Tampa Bay and came away with a 37-32 win despite a lengthy weather delay in the 4th quarter. It was an all-around effort for the Rams, with Case Keenum throwing two touchdown passes, Todd Gurley rushing for two scores of his own and a huge 77-yard fumble return for a touchdown early in the final frame from Ethan Westbrooks. Maybe a slight concern that the defense gave up so many yards (472) and so many points, but in a game where the offense needed to step up, it did. West coast teams playing on the East coast is always difficult, and the Rams were able to come away with a victory. They hit the road again this week for a tough matchup with a Cardinals team that desperately needs a win. If the Rams can come out on top this week, they might be for real.

Trending Down

Carolina Panthers

I know I just got done talking about how good the Vikings’ defense is this year, but the Panthers are the defending NFC champions, and they went 15-1 in the regular season last year. Plus they got star wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin back. There is no way that they should have been shut down the way they were by the Vikings, and there is one simple reason that they were… their offensive line.

All last season, Cam Newton was able to thrive despite a below-average offensive line, an offensive line that would eventually let him down against Denver in the Super Bowl. Cam has been terrorized twice now this year, against the Broncos and Vikings, the two teams there were able to get pressure on him. It’s clear that teams with a good pass rush will give Carolina trouble, and they’ll have success against teams with a weak front seven. They are still probably the favorites to win the NFC South, but they’ll have to play better if they want to return to the Super Bowl.

New York Jets

I did not think that the Jets would be able to get a win in Kansas City last week, but I did expect them to at least try to compete. Ryan Fitzpatrick turned in the worst performance of his career, going 20/44 for 188 yards and six, yes, SIX interceptions en route to a 24-3 loss. It seemed at times like the Chiefs’ defenders were the intended target for Fitzpatrick.

It was a very discouraging performance from a team that’s looking to challenge the Patriots for the AFC East. One issue is that it might get worse for the Jets before it gets better. Their next three games are vs Seattle, at Pittsburgh and at Arizona. They don’t even play the Patriots until after Thanksgiving, and at that point, the season may be long gone already. They really need to beat the Seahawks this week.

New Orleans Saints

It’s unfortunate for football fans, but the Sean Payton/Drew Brees era in New Orleans is coming to an end, and it doesn’t appear to be going out on top. The Saints fell to 0-3, losing at home to the Falcons on Monday night, 45-32. Drew Brees is still at the top of his game, throwing for over 375 yards and three touchdowns, but the Saints’ defense cannot stop anybody.

They gave up 35 points to the Raiders at home Week 1, then went to New York and only gave up 16 points to the Giants (but gave up a ton of yardage) and Matt Ryan, Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman went crazy against them on Monday. The Saints can score, but so can every team facing them. They travel to the West coast this week to take on a depleted Chargers team. It’ll be tough after the long trip, but if the Saints can’t get the win, they’ll fall to 0-4, and the contract extension they just gave Brees this past offseason will look like an even bigger mistake than it already does.

Fantasy Start/Sit

Quarterbacks

Start
Matthew Stafford
Stafford is going to be a Top-10 quarterback for the rest of the season, and a matchup with the depleted Bears’ defense is just the type of matchup that Stafford can exploit. With Ameer Abdullah on the IR, the Lions will want to throw even more. Stafford has developed great chemistry with Marvin Jones, and he also has Golden Tate, Theo Riddick and Eric Ebron to toss the rock to. I think Stafford is a Top-3 QB this week, start him if you have him.

Philip Rivers
Yes, Rivers was here last week, and he didn’t throw a single touchdown pass, so I apologize. But he did throw it 39 times, and ended up with 330 yards in the air. Oh, and he gets to face the Saints at home this week. Yeah, that Saints’ defense that I just got done ripping on. Rivers will tear them apart. Trust me again this week, play Rivers.

Dak Prescott
Aaron Rodgers owners are going to need a fill-in for this week. I say that you can do a lot worse than Dak. Yes, it’s a road game, but the 49ers’ defense is nothing special. And despite reports that Dez Bryant will not play, I still like his chances to have a really good game. If you need to grab a QB off the waiver wire, go with Dak.

Sit
Matt Ryan
I know you’ll be tempted to start him given his impressive start to this season. Ryan leads the league in passing, but he faces the Panthers this week, and they easily have the best secondary that he’ll have faced so far this season. Don’t feel like you need to start him this week just because he’s been so good. He’s a prime candidate for regression, and that starts this Sunday.

Russell Wilson
Hey, I can’t be right every time. Yes, I told you to sit him last week and yes, he went off. But that was at home against the 49ers. This week, all the way across the country against an above-average Jets’ secondary, oh, and he has an injured ankle. He may not even play. But if he does, think about sitting him on your bench this week. You can probably do better.

Eli Manning
With injuries to Rashad Jennings and Shane Vereen, the expectation is that the Giants will lean even more heavily on Eli and the passing game to win them some contests. That probably will hold true as the season continues, but this week the Giants face the Vikings in primetime. The Vikings love to blitz and they have a great secondary. This won’t be Eli’s finest performance.

Running Backs

Start
DeMarco Murray
With Marcus Mariota struggling, the Titans will continue to rely on the run game, and Murray has been fantastic so far this season. He’s been exactly what they were hoping for when they traded for him this offseason. He is also among the leaders in receptions for running backs, so he has added appeal in PPR formats. The Texans defense is good, but Murray gets great volume, and he is an RB1 until they stop giving him the ball, which I don’t see happening anytime soon.

Charles Sims
Take advantage of Sims before Doug Martin gets healthy. I know he is facing the Broncos’ defense, but believe it or not, Denver ranks 30th in the league in defending the run. Sims is the every down back with Martin on the shelf, and there aren’t many backs who will get the carries and the targets that he will. Don’t worry about the matchup, start Sims this week.

Jordan Howard
If you were lucky enough to grab Howard off of your league’s waiver wire this week, congratulations are in order! Howard is clearly the most talented player in the Bears’ backfield, and now it looks like he’ll finally get the opportunity to show what he can do. And there’s no better matchup for him than the Lions. They struggle against the run, and I expect Howard to have a breakout game this week.

Sit
Devonta Freeman/Tevin Coleman
After Monday night, I know you’ll have a hard time sitting these guys. And odds are, you don’t have better options. But if you do have other options, consider sitting these two. The Panthers defense is no joke, and I expect the Falcons’ offense to struggle. I feel more comfortable starting Coleman of the two due to his success in the red zone. Each have received 10 carries from inside the 20-yard line. Coleman has 45 yards and four touchdowns. Freeman has 17 yards and zero touchdowns. Coleman has the better chance to find the end zone, so I’d start him over Freeman.

Latavius Murray
The Raiders backfield has turned into a three-way timeshare with Murray (32% rush percentage last week), DeAndre Washington (33%)  and Jalen Richard (29%). It’s a positive for the Raiders, but a negative for fantasy owners. Unfortunately, you have to depend on touchdowns with Latavius Murray, which he has gotten you so far. He’s a FLEX play at best this week, and probably for the remainder of the season.

Matt Jones
It’s probably tempting considering the matchup with the Browns, but the Redskins run game has been virtually nonexistent. It’s the Kirk Cousins show, and Matt Jones is affected most by it. Until the Skins’ offense becomes more balanced, I wouldn’t be comfortable starting Jones.

Wide Receivers

Start
Kelvin Benjamin
You may be surprised to see him here, but it’s only because he put up a goose egg last week, and I’m here to assure you that it will only be viewed as an outlier in an otherwise great season. The Vikings’ defense didn’t give Cam time to breathe, let alone find Benjamin on the outside. Kelvin will bounce back against the Falcons this week, and produce closer to what he did in the first two weeks of the season.

Travis Benjamin/Tyrell Williams
See Philip Rivers above. But seriously, the Chargers are going to throw, and these are the top two guys. Benjamin is the de facto #1 option, and Tyrell Williams has quietly had at least 60 receiving yards in each of the first three games this year. Benjamin is a WR2 this week, and Williams is a great FLEX play with WR2 upside.

Allen Hurns
Vontae Davis will shadow Allen Robinson, and in the two meetings last year against Indianapolis, Hurns went off. He had 11 receptions for 116 yards and a score in the first game, then had 3 grabs for 105 yards and another score in the second matchup. Blake Bortles is going to throw, and Robinson could be blanketed all day long. I like Hurns a lot this week.

Sit
Brandon Marshall/Eric Decker
Both have injury concerns, and they’re facing the Seahawks. It’s as simple as that. I like the Jets to have a good shot to win the game, but for fantasy purposes, I don’t like Marshall or Decker.

Brandin Cooks
I know, you’re almost definitely starting Cooks this week if you have him. He was very quiet against the Falcons, and Drew Brees likes to spread the ball around. He’s still a Top-10 wide receiver this week for most experts, but Jason Verrett has been fantastic for San Diego so far this season. He’ll be on Cooks for most of the day. You’re going to start Cooks, but just don’t be surprised if he has another rough day.

Doug Baldwin
Baldwin had a 2015-esque performance last week against San Francisco, but with his quarterback banged up and a trip East to New York, I don’t see Baldwin having the same type of performance this week. Revis Island isn’t as daunting a trip as it used to be, but it’s enough along with those other factors for me to sit Baldwin this week.

Tight Ends

Start
Dennis Pitta
Start tight ends facing the Raiders. The rule still applies until they prove me otherwise. Plus, he has been targeted 20 times in the last two games, so Flacco clearly likes to throw the rock Pitta’s way. Pick him up if he’s still somehow available in your league. If you have him, start him this week.

Kyle Rudolph
Thank you Sam Bradford! He has turned Rudolph into a TE1 despite being drafted as a TE2 (if he was even drafted in your league). He’s a huge target in the middle of the field and in the red zone. The Vikings’ offense hasn’t lit the world on fire, but the Giants’ defense is a good matchup. I like Rudolph this week.

Sit
Hunter Henry
Don’t be tempted to pick him up and start him. Yes, Antonio Gates is hurt and yes, they are facing the Saints. I just don’t think Henry is a very talented pass catcher or route runner, and that will hold him back. Rivers has other targets, and you’ll likely have other tight ends available that you have a better chance to get more out of this week.

Martellus Bennett
I don’t see the Gronk/Bennett combo being anything like the Gronk/Hernandez combo was. It was nice to have Bennett while Gronk was out, but with him back in the lineup, and not as a decoy like he clearly was used last week, Bennett’s fantasy value takes a major hit. Especially this week against a Bills’ defense that effectively shut down the high-powered Cardinals’ offense last week.

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NFL Week 3

We are two weeks into the season, and only a quarter of the league is undefeated (even less than that now with New England’s win over Houston last night). We still have 15 weeks to go, but there are some things that are starting to take shape. We can see some teams that are going to be major factors at the end of the season, and some other teams that already look like their seasons are over.

This week, I’ll give my Top-10 teams, I’ll look at which hot takes I’m buying into and which ones I’m selling for now, and I’ll finish it off with a look at who you should start and sit in fantasy this week.

Jay’s Top-10 Teams

1 – New England Patriots
An easy win over Miami with Garoppolo at quarterback, and an even easier win over Houston with Jacoby Brissett at quarterback. I think every team in the NFL should be scared due to how New England is performing without its future 1st-ballot Hall of Fame QB. If you didn’t think so before last night, now you know that this is the best team in the league right now.

2 – Pittsburgh Steelers
Pittsburgh won a physical, sloppy game over division rival Cincinnati on Sunday. They turned the ball over a few times, but we can chalk that up to the conditions and an above-average Bengals defense. One more week without Le’Veon Bell, but DeAngelo Williams has filled in quite nicely. That will be a hell of a two-headed monster in a couple weeks.

3 – Carolina Panthers
Cam and company took care of business this week in their home opener with a 46-27 win over San Francisco. That’s a lot of points to give up, but when your offense can almost hang 50, you’re going to win most games. A huge matchup with the scary Minnesota Vikings defense comes this week.

4 – Arizona Cardinals
As I expected, Arizona bounced back this week with a statement 40-7 win over the Buccaneers. The entire team was clicking, and with San Fran, Seattle and LA all looking subpar at best, it looks like the Cards could run away with the division this year.

5 – Denver Broncos
We all knew the Broncos defense was good, but, and I know this sounds a little crazy, they might be better than we even thought. They kept Andrew Luck in check and scored twice themselves on Sunday. Von Miller is a machine, and throwing against that secondary cannot be done confidently (I wouldn’t think anyway). With the Chiefs and Raiders having issues, the Broncos appear to be in the AFC West driver’s seat.

6 – Green Bay Packers
The Packers suffered a setback this week in their 17-14 loss to Minnesota, but I wouldn’t worry too much. The offense isn’t really clicking just yet, but it will. Don’t read too much into their struggles through two weeks, they are still a Super Bowl contender.

7 – Minnesota Vikings
It was looking like a great time to get excited about the Vikings’ prospects for this season, and then Adrian Peterson went down with a knee injury. The projected timetable varies anywhere from four days to four weeks to four months, so we’ll have to wait and see on that. But I think this team, even without AP, is a Top-10 team led by their defense, which has looked absolutely fantastic through the first two weeks.

8 – Houston Texans
I’m not ready to give up on the Texans just yet, especially considering the win last Sunday over Kansas City, but my goodness did they look awful in New England last night. I recognize that it was their first road game, but c’mon man. The offense didn’t run a play in NE territory until late in the 3rd quarter, and the defense, which looked so good the first two weeks, couldn’t stop Jacoby Brissett making his first career start. This team isn’t dead yet, but they need to rebound next week.

9 – Kansas City Chiefs
I might have had the Chiefs ranked a little high last week, but I liked what I saw in their comeback against San Diego. That being said, they really flipped the script on me this past week against Houston. Alex Smith looked horrendous, and without a 100% Jamaal Charles, that could spell some trouble for them down the line. They are expected to get Charles back this week against the Jets, but we do not know just how healthy he is yet.

10 – Seattle Seahawks
Alright, now it’s definitely time to panic. The Seahawks offense looks downright anemic, and that’s not to take away from the Rams defense, but man, Pete Carroll has his work cut out for him. The defense is going to have to hold teams to 14 points or less, and that might not even be enough. They are only still in my Top-10 because of their defense.

Next Five Up – New York Giants, Oakland Raiders, Cincinnati Bengals, New York Jets, Baltimore Ravens

Buy or Sell

We’re only two weeks into the season, but you’ll see a lot of people taking these small sample sizes and making predictions for the rest of the season. Here are some things I’ve heard from experts and the like, which ones I’m buying into and which ones I think we should hold off on for at least a little while longer.

Buying:

Houston Texans as Super Bowl Contenders
Maybe I’m being a bit premature, but based on what I’ve seen through two weeks, I am on the Texans’ bandwagon. Now granted, their first two games were both at home, one against a terrible Bears team and the other against a Chiefs team playing without Jamaal Charles, who is arguably their best player. That being said, these Texans have the look of a team that can compete for a title. Brock Osweiler has started off nicely in Houston, and he has lots of weapons around him. Lamar Miller has been as advertised, DeAndre Hopkins is probably one of the five best receivers in football, and rookie 2nd Round pick Will Fuller just became the first rookie to start his career with two 100-yard games since DeSean Jackson. Add that to one of the best defenses in the league led by J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney, and I think you have the recipe for a team that could make some serious noise in January.

*So I wrote that little blurb on Tuesday of this week, and as I should have expected, they went and laid an egg against the Patriots. I still believe most of what I wrote, but better to disregard it*

Downfall of Seattle
All I keep hearing is that the Seahawks always seem to struggle in September, but they eventually figure it out, and they will again this year. It just seems different this time around though. Don’t get me wrong, the defense is still elite, but even the best defenses need their offenses to contribute at least a little bit. Right now, the Seahawks offense is atrocious. It all starts in the trenches, and even though the O-line wasn’t great when they went to back-to-back Super Bowls, it has gotten progressively worse. Pro Football Focus ranked Seattle’s O-line dead last in the league entering this season, and it shows. Russell Wilson is running for his life (if he even gets a chance to run) and there are no holes for Thomas Rawls or Christine Michael. Remember, Marshawn Lynch created a lot of the holes on his own. Neither Rawls nor Michael are talented enough to do what Beast Mode could do. This team may be able to figure it out and sneak into the playoffs, but they’ll have some rough sledding ahead, and it’ll take a transformation of sorts to get them there.

Kelvin Benjamin as a Top-10 WR
We saw glimpses of greatness from him as a rookie in 2014 when he totaled 73 receptions for 1,008 yards and 9 touchdowns. That’s quite a stat line for a rookie. There was lots of buzz for his second season in Carolina, but he proceeded to suffer a torn ACL during training camp, ending his 2015 season before it could start. Many experts ranked him cautiously given the knee injury, and how it is difficult to project how a player will bounce back. If the small sample size is any indication, Benjamin has responded swimmingly. He has 13 grabs for 199 yards and 3 scores in the first two games of the season, and has picked up right where he left off as Cam Newton’s top target. At 6-5 and 245 pounds, Benjamin is a terror for opposing cornerbacks and safeties, and if he can stay healthy, he is on his way to getting back in the conversation as one of the top wideouts in the league.

Selling:

The Wentz Wagon
Before a bunch of Eagles fans show up at my house with torches and pitchforks, just hear me out. I think that Carson Wentz has looked really good through his first two career games. He has showed nice touch, good accuracy and an ability to move in the pocket and create some plays. I think the future could be bright for him. That being said, it cannot be ignored who he is playing against. The Browns and Bears’ secondaries were ranked 25th and 31st in the league respectively by Pro Football Focus entering this season, and the Eagles have dominated these two mediocre teams to the point where Wentz has yet to be put in a high-pressure situation. He has the tools to succeed in those situations, but we won’t know until we see it. That should come as soon as this Sunday when he faces his first true test against perennial Super Bowl contenders, the Pittsburgh Steelers. Again, I think the future is bright for Carson Wentz, and I am impressed by his performance thus far, but I think everyone needs to pump the brakes a little bit on the Wentz Wagon and wait to see how he performs against much stiffer competition.

Todd Gurley’s Struggles
I don’t really have anything statistical to explain my stance on this (other than Gurley’s stats from last season, which were 1,106 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns in just 13 games), but I think it’s too early to worry about Todd Gurley. Yes, he’s had a rough start to the season, totaling 98 yards on 36 carries (2.7 YPC) through the first two games of the season. There are a combination of factors that could explain this though. While the 49ers defense is not strong, the strength of it is the front seven. Also, the Rams were down early in that game, and Gurley did not get much run in the second half of that game. In Week 2, the Rams were facing the always stout Seattle run defense, so rough sledding was to be expected for Gurley. LA’s offensive line is not great, but they should improve as the season wears on. I also expect Jeff Fisher to get the passing game going, whether it’s Keenum or Goff, and that should open up some more running room for Gurley. He’s running against 8-man boxes, and that’s not easy for anybody. Todd Gurley is just way too talented a rusher for these struggles to continue. I think he’s just having a tough time getting it going here in the beginning of the season, and with time will come improvement.

An Improved Jaguars Squad
There was a ton of hype entering the season around this supposedly improved Jacksonville Jaguars team. In fact, I recall Jeff and I sitting at the bar one day during training camp, and two NFL Network analysts went through the Jags schedule. They predicted a 10-6 season. Jeff and I laughed hysterically. If memory serves, we agreed that 8-8 was a realistic goal, but 10-6 was a major stretch, and they were still at least another year away from competing for a playoff spot. And here we are, two weeks into the season, and I think the Jags are clearly the weakest team in the AFC South. Their run game is still virtually inexistent (granted Chris Ivory is yet to make his debut, but I think the O-line is the biggest reason for that), Blake Bortles has yet to take the next step in his development and despite a huge focus on defense in the offseason, they just gave up 38 points to a mediocre Chargers team missing Keenan Allen and Danny Woodhead, its two biggest playmakers. A home game against Baltimore this week is a good opportunity for Gus Bradley to start to right the ship. The Ravens are 2-0, but haven’t looked overly impressive in getting there. If the Jags fall to 0-3, the season may already be over.

 

Fantasy Start/Sit

As with last week, and as it will be each week moving forward, you won’t start or sit all of these guys depending on who else you have on your roster. This is more just a look at who is playing well or struggling, and which players have good matchups this week and which ones don’t.

Quarterbacks

Start
Matt Ryan
There’s no better streaming option this week at quarterback than Matt Ryan. He just torched the Raiders’ defense last week, and now gets a matchup with what might be an even worse secondary in New Orleans. If you have Matt Ryan, you start him this week.

Philip Rivers
I don’t care that he’s missing his two best playmakers. Playing indoors against the Colts is the perfect recipe for a big game from Mr. Bolo Tie.

Sit
Russell Wilson
Now obviously, depending who else you have on your roster at QB, you’re probably going to start Wilson this week against San Fran. But what I’m telling you is that if you have even a decent second option, start them this week. Until the Seahawks figure out what’s wrong, I wouldn’t feel confident about putting him in my lineup.

Carson Wentz
I know a lot of you are on the hype train, but despite how well he’s played, he hasn’t put up numbers yet to suggest you should be starting him in fantasy. Especially not against the Steelers defense.

Running Backs

Start
Theo Riddick
Ameer Abdullah was placed on injured reserve earlier this week with a foot injury, and that makes Riddick the clear #1 back in Detroit. It’s not a fantastic matchup against Green Bay, but Riddick was already the pass catching back, and now he’s probably also the lead runner. He is a solid RB2 this week, and every week after this as long as Abdullah is on the shelf.

Tevin Coleman
I think that both Coleman and starter Devonta Freeman are solid plays this week against the Saints, but take this suggestion as your glimpse into the future. As this season wears on, Coleman will slowly (but surely) continue to eat into Freeman’s usage share. Freeman had more yards last week against Oakland, but Coleman found the end zone. If you have both, I’d consider starting Coleman over Freeman this week (or start both).

Sit
Spencer Ware
Time is running out for those of you who scooped up Ware when it was announced that Jamaal Charles wouldn’t be ready for the season opener. Charles is expected to make his debut this week, and while that alone takes away value from Ware, they also face the Jets’ very good run defense. This combination of factors means you should probably try your best to avoid starting Ware this week.

Asiata/McKinnon/Whittaker/Artis-Payne
This is the collection of backs that are going to be replacing the injured Adrian Peterson and Jonathan Stewart, and let me be the one to tell you not to start any of them. For one thing, we have no clue how the snaps will be split for any of them. Also, the teams are facing each other, and both the Vikings and Panthers have excellent run defenses. You can be excited if you were able to pick up any of these guys, but don’t start them this week.

Wide Receivers

Start
Jordy Nelson/Randall Cobb
I know you’re probably starting these guys regardless, but I just want to make you feel a little more comfortable about it. I know Aaron Rodgers is struggling, and the offense looks out of sync, but there’s nothing to cure that faster than a matchup with the Lions. Nelson and Cobb are both great plays this week.

Tajae Sharpe
I like to think that the Raiders are going to figure it out defensively at some point this season, but until they do, it’s a good idea to start any receivers you have facing them. This week, that’s Tajae Sharpe of the Titans. He has yet to break out like people thought he might, but there’s a good chance we could see that breakout game this week.

Sit
Sammy Watkins
Rex Ryan says they need to get the ball in Sammy’s hands more often. That’s all well and good, but a guy by the name of Patrick Peterson is most likely going to be shadowing Watkins for the entire game Sunday. That’s not all well and good. Watkins should be fine for the season, but this week, I’d do whatever I could to avoid putting him in your lineup.

John Brown
Poor John Brown. The guy has so much potential, and for whatever reason, he just can’t seem to put it all together. He’s been targeted just seven times through two games, and it seems like Palmer prefers Jaron Brown as a deep threat. Maybe they’re trying to bring him along slowly due to his preseason head injury, but for right now, you just can’t start this guy.

Tight Ends

Start
Jacob Tamme
Who is the second highest scoring tight end so far this year in PPR leagues? That’s right, it’s Jacob Tamme. Despite the presence of Mohamed Sanu, Austin Hooper and Freeman/Coleman, Jacob Tamme has put up solid numbers so far this season. He was targeted EIGHT times last week against Oakland, and could see a similar target share this week against New Orleans. I think Tamme is a must-start this week.

Dennis Pitta
Pitta has 12 receptions through two games (tied with Olsen, Reed and Witten for the most among tight ends), and has easily outperformed Maxx Williams and Crockett Gilmore. Joe Flacco loves his tight ends, and it’s another great matchup this week against Jacksonville. You can do much worse than Pitta.

Sit
Coby Fleener
Jeff touched on this last week, but for the love of God, sit Coby Fleener on your bench. Better yet, drop him from your team. There are options on your waiver wire that will produce more consistently for you than Fleener will (Vance McDonald, Jesse James, Kyle Rudolph just to name a few). Fleener is not worth owning, as he and Drew Brees just do not have any chemistry. One catch Week 1, two catches Week 2. Unless he continues to catch the same number of passes as the week of the game, he’s not worth having on your team.

Trey Burton
I know you’ll probably be tempted to add him to your roster after a nice performance Monday night, but I wouldn’t start him this week against Pittsburgh. The Steelers’ linebackers are very good against tight ends (they shut down CJ Uzomah last week and held Jordan Reed somewhat in check Week 1), and I think the entire Eagles’ passing game could struggle. I’m fine if you want to roster Burton until Zach Ertz returns, but don’t start him this week.

NFL Week 2 Preview

Each week, We Love Sportz will give you a look at the upcoming week in the NFL. I will be joined by my friend and writer for FantasyPros, Jeffrey Greco, as we each give you our Top-10 teams, look at which teams are trending up and down, tell you who to start and sit in fantasy football, and tell you which games deserve your attention. We’ll start it off with Jeff’s Top-10 before Week 2.

Jeff’s Top-10 Teams

1 – Pittsburgh Steelers
Pittsburgh made a statement with their 38-16 win in Washington on Monday Night Football without Le’Veon Bell or Markus Wheaton. Their offense will roll all year long.

2 – New England Patriots
The Patriots beat an NFC Super Bowl contender without Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, or Dion Lewis on offense. Holding the Cardinals to 21 points is no easy task, making Palmer look like he still played for Oakland.

3 – Green Bay Packers
The Pack is back. Jordy Nelson looked healthy, Eddie Lacy thinned out, and Davante Adams didn’t look incompetent. If their defense can hold teams back enough, Rodgers and Co. should put up plenty of points per game.

4 – Houston Texans
Houston at 4? That’s right. Osweiler looked good in his debut, and already has a great chemistry with weapons Lamar Miller, Will Fuller, and DeAndre Hopkins. When J.J. Watt is less limited, their defense will also terrorize teams, making them a scary team to play.

5 – Arizona Cardinals
Everybody is already saying that without a botched snap, they Cardinals should have won 24-23. I agree, but there are some minor concerns. Arizona can’t become totally reliant on Larry Fitzgerald to carry the offense every game.

6 – Seattle Seahawks
Seattle did a terrific job on defense, limiting Miami to 250 yards and 10 points. However, with Wilson hobbled and the running game less dominant, they could seemingly struggle to put up points in future weeks.

7 – Carolina Panthers
Without a doubt, Carolina wins the season opener if the referees call the (multiple) illegal contact penalties on Denver. Regardless, Cam didn’t look like himself all game, and the Panthers defense let Trevor Siemian put up 14 points in the 4th quarter.

8 – Denver Broncos
Speaking of Denver, they still deserve to be a Top-10 team. However, they are primarily carried by the defense and C.J. Anderson. This is great, but can they get it done with “average” quarterback play all year in the AFC West?

9 – Oakland Raiders
Derek Carr will have something to say about that. Oakland went all-in Sunday to beat New Orleans and succeeded. They have a potent offense and a great pass rush. The only worry would be their secondary, which looked god awful on Sunday.

10 – Kansas City Chiefs
Without Jamaal Charles, Kansas City stormed back from a 27-10 deficit in the 4th quarter. Alex Smith had a career game and Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West looked great in the backfield. If only they somehow didn’t let San Diego grab a big lead in the first place.

Next 5 Up – Cincinnati Bengals, Minnesota Vikings, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New York Giants, Indianapolis Colts

Jay’s Top-10 Teams

1 – New England Patriots
No Gronk, no Brady, no Lewis, no Ninkovich, no problem. Yes, they were one bad snap away from a loss, but I don’t care how you do it, you defeat the Cardinals in Arizona, that is a big deal. Just wait til this team gets Brady back.

2 – Pittsburgh Steelers
I was big on the Steelers offense going into the season, but I was pleasantly surprised to see how well their defense played on the road in Washington under the bright lights on the big MNF stage. This team will get a big boost in a couple weeks with the return of Le’Veon Bell.

3 – Carolina Panthers
Yes, they lost on Thursday night. But Cam Newton was beat up (illegally for the most part), and they were still on the road in a hostile environment against one of, if not the, best defenses in the history of the league. The Panthers will be fine.

4 – Green Bay Packers
I’m not surprise that the Packers had to squeak one out in Jacksonville, but they earned the win, and there was a lot of good to take from the game. Jordy Nelson looks like his old self, and that means that Aaron Rodgers should be back to his old self. That’s good news for GB fans.

5 – Kansas City Chiefs
I’m willing to forget all about the 1st half of the game on Sunday. I think this team is a Super Bowl contender, and they stepped up and played that way in the 2nd half and overtime. A big matchup with the Texans looms in week 2.

6 – Houston Texans
The jury remains out on Brock Osweiler, but the Texans looked good on Sunday in their 23-14 win over Chicago. Lamar Miller played well, Will Fuller caught a touchdown (and dropped another), and the defense played as advertised.

7 – Arizona Cardinals
I don’t think it’s time to panic yet, but the Cardinals should have easily handled a depleted Patriots team at home on Sunday night. Bruce Arians got out-coached, simple as that. They get to stay at home this week, but they’ll be tested again by the Buccaneers.

8 – Seattle Seahawks
It could be time to panic for the Seahawks though. The offense looked downright anemic at times during the game against Miami. They played well when they needed too, but Russell Wilson is now hobbled, and the game was at home. They need to play better against a team like the Dolphins in front of the 12th Man.

9 – Oakland Raiders
It wasn’t pretty, but a win is a win. The Raiders are going to compete for a division title this year, and they will depend big time on Derek Carr. The defense struggled Sunday, but we have to remember that the Saints have one of the most high-powered offenses in the league.

10 – Denver Broncos
Yes, the defense is still elite, and that defense will single-handedly win them some games. That being said, Trevor Siemian is just not a good quarterback. He’s going to single-handedly lose them some games.

Next Five Up – Minnesota Vikings, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Cincinnati Bengals, New York Giants, Baltimore Ravens

 

Trending Up/Trending Down

Up:

1 – Detroit Lions
Detroit is a team I had counted out all year long and while their defense is still very bad, their offense functioned very well without Megatron. In fact, it was running backs Theo Riddick and Ameer Abdullah that thrived in the passing game on Sunday.

2 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa Bay is certainly trending up and creeping towards the Top-10. Winston is the real deal, and Evans, Martin and Sims are great targets to have. Their run defense looked great and if they can hold back the passing game, they could compete for the division title.

3 – New York Giants
The Giants are my current favorite to win the NFC East. Now, that isn’t saying much, but their offense is their lifeblood and they have a lot going for them. Beckham Jr. is legitimate, Vereen seems to fit more in the system this year, Victor Cruz looked like his old self, and rookie Shepard is already contributing.

Down:

1 – Los Angeles Rams
Wow are these Rams bad. I mean, I thought they would struggle and post a Jeff Fisher type 6-10 or 7-9, but this week’s final game was hard to watch. Case Keenum couldn’t pass. Todd Gurley couldn’t get past the line of scrimmage. The defense couldn’t stop the predictable Chip Kelly offense. I think they get crushed this week by a hobbled Seattle.

2 – Washington Football Team
“Do you like that” Washington Football Team? I knew you were overrated, but boy did Monday night tell me how much. Kirk Cousins looked awful when he was targeting anybody but Jordan Reed. They didn’t keep Josh Norman on Antonio Brown all night either. Dysfunction and drama will fill the season, and they won’t make the playoffs.

3 – San Diego Chargers
Even without the loss of Keenan Allen for the year, the Chargers always seem to be trending down. Sure, Melvin Gordon looked decent, but they blew a 17-point lead in the 4th quarter. Rivers will focus on elders Woodhead and Gates for the remainder of the year, which doesn’t bode well for this bottom-5 team.

 

Jeff’s Fantasy Start/Sit

*Note from Jayson: Please do not take these literally. These are just players that Jeff thinks will have either good weeks or bad weeks, or have good matchups or bad matchups. I would never suggest you start Joe Flacco over Cam Newton, but I might suggest you start Joe Flacco over Blake Bortles/Philip Rivers/etc.

Quarterbacks

Start:
Eli Manning
Eli plays the depleted Saints secondary in Week 2. If he was drafted as part of a committee, he is your play this week.

Matthew Stafford
Albeit being drafted so late, Stafford has another great matchup versus Tennessee in Week 2. Start him over the likes of Luck (versus Denver) this week.

Joe Flacco
Even without the Perriman, Flacco still has Wallace and Smith to throw to. When he plays Cleveland’s defense in Week 2, you’ll be happy you started him.

Sit:
Andrew Luck
If you have the luxury of a good backup, this is the week to sit Andrew Luck, as he faces off against the terrific Broncos defense.

Kirk Cousins
I am not convinced that he will play well against Dallas. It will be a low scoring game that is run-focused. Don’t force your hand with Cousins.

Alex Smith
Don’t you dare start Alex Smith after his fantastic game 1. Kansas City will be playing Houston in Week 2 and won’t be getting much of anywhere offensively.

Running Back

Start:
Stars
For the love of Harambe, poor Week 1 performances should not make you bench the likes of Adrian Peterson or Todd Gurley

Latavius Murray
Many people don’t like Murray for the remainder of the season. Well, in Week 2 he’s going to play Atlanta and their awful front seven. He’s an RB1 in my eyes.

T.J. Yeldon
With Chris Ivory still potentially out for Week 2, Yeldon should be a solid RB2 in any league, especially against San Diego.

Christine Michael/Thomas Rawls
These are both flex plays, but the Seattle RBs could be leaned on heavily with Wilson hobbled by an ankle injury. Expect them to put up good numbers against Los Angeles.

Super Important PPR Headline: Danny Woodhead
Danny Woodhead is a must-start in PPR every week that the Chargers don’t play the Broncos. Against Jacksonville, Woodhead should have seven catches and a score.

Sit:
Devonta Freeman/Tevin Coleman
If you can swing this with other RBs on your team, bench Freeman this week. Oakland has a great front seven that will stop both Freeman and Coleman from getting anywhere this week.

Frank Gore
You’ll be able to use Gore as a Flex/RB2 one day, but not this week. Playing Denver will make Gore an irrelevant part of the game.

Jamaal Charles
Even if he plays, he won’t get the full workload of carries. Keep Charles on your bench until he has a successful game.

Wide Receivers

Start:
Golden Tate
The Lions will take on the subject secondary of the Titans in Week 2, and you’re going to want Tate’s 8 catches, 110 yards and touchdown in your starting lineup.

Willie Snead
Snead is a Flex play every week, and a WR2 this week when he plays the New York Giants, whose secondary hasn’t been good for years. Expect another 80 yards and a score.

Sterling Shepard
Also in the New Orleans/New York game is rookie Shepard, who should see significant work in the passing game against the Saints’ awful secondary.

Sit:
Mike Evans
I know you probably drafted Evans as your WR1, but Patrick Peterson will follow him all over the field this week. He’ll need to score a touchdown to be worth his ranking this week.

TY Hilton
TY Hilton is a boom/bust player who doesn’t get consistent volume. I will go out on a limb and say that his upside for a big game is limited by the Denver defense.

Tyler Lockett
With Wilson injured, I wouldn’t start any receiver but Baldwin for Seattle. Even if they are playing the Rams.

Tight End

Start:
Antonio Gates
Read this now, but Gates is a top-10 tight end for the rest of the season. I don’t care how old he is, but he is a must-start nearly every week.

Gary Barnidge
Barnidge was successful because Josh McCown was present. Now that he’s back, Barnidge should put up Top-10 numbers.

Jason Witten
Witten was a favorite target of Prescott in his debut, and I’d expect that to continue in Week 2 versus Washington.

Sit:
Coby Fleener
I might have to put this guy here every week. He shouldn’t even be on your fantasy team. He shouldn’t have been ranked as a top-8 tight end. He can’t catch. AND is the SIXTH option in the passing game behind Cooks, Snead, Thomas, Ingram and Cadet. Please just don’t. Drop him now and add Clive Walford or Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Add Jacob Tamme for crying out loud. At least he gets targeted! I can not stress enough how useless I think this guy is. Trade him for the Saints defense. They might have more touchdowns by the end of the year.

Martellus Bennett
Bennett was primarily used as a blocker in his first game, and I’d expect that to continue when Gronkowski and Brady both return.

Jimmy Graham
Who? Oh yeah this guy. Don’t be tempted by his name. His quarterback is hurt and he isn’t the player he used to be.

Jay’s Matchups of the Week

Cincinnati Bengals (1-0) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0)
Sunday 9/18, 1:00 pm CBS

This game will always be enjoyable to watch. I don’t know if there are any two teams who hate each other more than the Bengals and the Steelers. Add on top that it’s the Steelers’ home opener, and this one should be fun. Reportedly the officials have been put on alert for the game due to the history between these two teams. That’s all I need to hear to make me tune in.

Kansas City Chiefs (1-0) @ Houston Texans (1-0)
Sunday 9/18, 1:00 pm CBS

Two teams I have in my Top-5 will do battle with some early season momentum on the line. The Chiefs come in riding high off of their huge comeback victory over the Chargers, while the Texans had a come-from-behind victory of their own over the Bears. I don’t expect this game to be high scoring, and could come down to which offense can make a big play at the end of the game.

Green Bay Packers (1-0) @ Minnesota Vikings (1-0)
Sunday 9/18, 8:30 pm NBC

The Vikings will open their brand new stadium as they play host to their bitter rivals, the Green Bay Packers. Could we see the Minnesota debut of Sam Bradford? Potentially, but with Aaron Rodgers in town, this one will probably come down to how good the Vikings defense can play, coming off of a two touchdown performance last week against Tennessee.

That is all for We Love Sportz’s Week 2 NFL preview. Good luck to all you fantasy players this week, and enjoy Week 2 of the football season!

2016 NFL Season Predictions

There’s Easter, there’s Halloween, there’s Christmas, there’s Thanksgiving, and there’s, oh right, there’s the start of the NFL season. Well, that day is today! After what seems like an extremely long offseason, the 2016 NFL season kicks off tonight with a rematch of Super Bowl 50 as the defending champion Denver Broncos host the Carolina Panthers. With the season kicking off tonight, I figure this is a great time to post my predictions for this NFL season! I’ll be giving my projected standings for each division, followed by who I think will win the various awards, and then finally, I will predict how the playoffs will shake down this year. To foreshadow a little, I believe that a team right on the cusp of a title last year will be able to get the job done this year. Without further ado, here is my 2016 NFL Season Predictions!

AFC East

New England Patriots v Dallas Cowboys

  1. New England Patriots

  2. New York Jets

  3. Buffalo Bills

  4. Miami Dolphins

Are you willing to bet against Tom Brady? Because I’m not. The Pats will survive the first four games (I predict they’ll win 2 of the 4), and then Brady will return with a massive chip on his shoulder. The rest of the AFC is in trouble.

You could make an argument for any of the other three teams to finish 2nd, but I’ll go with the Jets. They have a very good defense, and Ryan Fitzpatrick is one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the league. The Jets will be solid, and might even steal a game from New England.

A lot of people like the Bills to improve this year, but I kind of think they’ll end up the same, hovering around .500. Tyrod Taylor got a huge contract this offseason, and he’ll lead what should be a slightly improved offense. I just don’t think they’re quite there yet as far as challenging for a playoff spot.

The Dolphins are a strange team to me. It will be Adam Gase’s second year at the helm, and a lot of people think he will continue to help Ryan Tannehill reach the upper echelon of NFL quarterbacks, but I’m just not sold. The addition of Arian Foster is a good one (at least it will be until he gets hurt at some point during the first half of the season), but the defense is still suspect, and this is a very challenging division. I could see the Dolphins slipping towards the bottom of the league this year.

AFC North

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers

  1. Pittsburgh Steelers

  2. Baltimore Ravens

  3. Cincinnati Bengals

  4. Cleveland Browns

Call it a hunch, but I like the Pittsburgh Steelers to win the always competitive AFC North this season. They will get Le’Veon Bell back in Week 4, and from there on out will have one of the best offenses in the league. Their defense still isn’t where they’d like it to be, but it will definitely be improved. Don’t get me wrong, they’ll still play their fair share of shootouts, but they have the perfect offense for that.

The Ravens and the Bengals are extremely close for me, and ultimately, I think the Ravens will be much improved and finish ahead of Cincinnati. It could come down to their Week 17 matchup in Cincy, which I predict will be won by Baltimore. Joe Flacco didn’t win a Super Bowl Championship by accident. They made improvements on both sides of the ball (specifically in the backfield and the secondary), which will help lead them to competing for the division title.

The Bengals will still be a very good team, but where I feel Pittsburgh and Baltimore both improved this offseason, I think Cincinnati slightly regressed. Losing 1st Round pick William Jackson III for the season certainly didn’t help, but playing in the AFC North is a grind, and I think this might finally be the year that the Bengals take a step backwards. Andy Dalton has overachieved to this point in his career, and I believe this could be a down year for him, and the Bengals will miss the playoffs.

It’s going to be hard for the Browns to be worse than they were last season, but they might be. The jury is out on Robert Griffin III, so 1st year head coach Hue Jackson has some work ahead of him. The eventual return of Josh Gordon will be a boost, but this team is still a work in progress, and that will result in a Top-3 pick in next year’s draft, where they could have their choice of quarterback for the future (Deshaun Watson? DeShone Kizer? Brad Kayaa?).

AFC South

jj-watt

  1. Houston Texans

  2. Jacksonville Jaguars

  3. Tennessee Titans

  4. Indianapolis Colts

I really don’t know how good Brock Osweiler is going to be in Houston. What I do know is they have the best player in the league (J.J. Watt), a very talented running back (Lamar Miller), a rising star at wide receiver (DeAndre Hopkins) and without a doubt one of the best defenses in the league. I think this will be a much more competitive division this season, but I like the Texans to come out on top.

Now most people who have the Texans winning the division have the Colts at #2. Not me though. A popular breakout pick this year is the Jacksonville Jaguars, and I am sort of on board with that. I could see the bottom three teams in this division all being anywhere from 6-10 to 8-8. I think there is a real possibility that the Jags end up 8-8 or 9-7, thanks to a much improved defense and another year of development for Blake Bortles.

The Titans could end up as one of the most improved teams in the league this year. For that to happen, they will have to lean on the run game with Marcus Mariota, DeMarco Murray and potential rookie standout Derrick Henry. If Tennessee can wear teams down on the ground, that will just open up the passing game, and we could see Mariota evolve in his 2nd season in the NFL.

This is probably my boldest prediction as far as the standings go, but I believe the Indianapolis Colts will finish last in the AFC South in 2016-2017. Look, Andrew Luck is one of the best quarterbacks in the league, but hear me out. The offensive line is still horrendous and their defense did not improve this offseason. In fact, star corner Vontae Davis is dealing with a badly sprained ankle, and is unlikely to start the season. If he is out for an extended period of time, the Colts are really going to be in trouble. I admit that this is bold, but I truly believe that the Colts will finish last in the division this year.

AFC West

khalil-mack

  1. Oakland Raiders

  2. Kansas City Chiefs

  3. Denver Broncos

  4. San Diego Chargers

The Silver and Black is back baby! Maybe I’m slightly biased, but it’s hard to ignore that the Raiders are just about back to relevancy. They have a great core of young offensive stars (Carr, Murray, Cooper), and they won the offseason by adding Kelechi Osemele, Sean Smith, Bruce Irvin, Reggie Nelson and Karl Joseph. Their defense may go from a weakness to a strength, and that only serves to make their offense even more effective. I predict the Raiders will win the AFC West, and return to the playoffs for the first time since 2002.

The Raiders won’t be the only team from this division going to the playoffs though. I think Kansas City got slightly worse this offseason, and it looks like they’ll be without Jamaal Charles at the start of the season, but Andy Reid still has a team talented enough to challenge for the division crown. They have one of the top defenses in the league, and enough playmakers on offense to get the job done. I expect them to return to the playoffs as a wild card.

I am completely comfortable saying that the defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos will miss out on the playoffs this year. You can absolutely argue that the Broncos have the best defense in the NFL, but that defense is now without Malik Jackson and Danny Trevathan, and Trevor Siemian is their starting quarterback. Do you think Trevor Siemian can take a team to the playoffs? Me either.

The Chargers get back Keenan Allen, and they finally signed #3 overall pick Joey Bosa, but I still feel that they are one of the worst teams in the league. I fully expect them to select in the Top-3 again in next year’s draft, giving them a chance to either add a defensive playmaker (which they desperately need) or a QB for the future (since the days of Philip Rivers being a great quarterback are severely numbered).

NFC East

NFL: St. Louis Rams at Washington Redskins

  1. Washington Redskins

  2. New York Giants

  3. Dallas Cowboys

  4. Philadelphia Eagles

The NFC East is going to be extremely tight this year (well, with three of the teams anyway), but I feel that the Redskins will come out on top and return to the playoffs. Kirk Cousins enters another contract year, and he’s got plenty of weapons to play with. They’ve also improved on the defensive side of the ball with the addition of Josh Norman. I think the Redskins are the best built team to take this division.

There might not be a team in the league that improved more this offseason than the New York Giants. I think they realize that their window to contend is closing, and they surrounded Eli Manning with some great pieces. The defense should be much improved, and they’ll contend for the division crown, but I think ultimately they’ll come up short.

Any hopes the Cowboys had of making the playoffs went to the wayside when Tony Romo went down in the preseason with the back injury. Dak Prescott has looked very good in the preseason, but it’s still the preseason. They have the weakest defense in the division, and against the Redskins and the Giants, that will hurt them.

Any hopes the Eagles had of making the playoffs went to the wayside when they traded Sam Bradford to the Vikings. Now, I think that was a terrific trade, but it does put them into total rebuild mode. They are going to start #2 overall pick Carson Wentz in Week 1, and I just don’t think he’s quite ready yet. Their defense will keep them in games, but I think 6 wins is the ceiling for this team.

NFC North

Divisional Playoffs - Green Bay Packers v Atlanta Falcons

  1. Green Bay Packers

  2. Minnesota Vikings

  3. Detroit Lions

  4. Chicago Bears

The Packers will return to form this season. Aaron Rodgers really struggled last year coming off of his MVP season in 2014, but we’re going to see the Rodgers we know and love this year. He gets his favorite target back in Jordy Nelson, and the addition of Jared Cook just gives him another great weapon. This will be the best offense in the league, and they’ll cruise to the playoffs.

The loss of Teddy Bridgewater will have an effect on the Vikes, but this is still a really good team. Trading for Sam Bradford makes sense, and if he can stay healthy, this team still has a great shot at the playoffs. Adrian Peterson is still at the top of his game, and Mike Zimmer knows how to coach up a defense. I’m not sure that they can compete for the division title anymore, but they’ll have a good chance at a wild card.

I LOVE the Lions’ offense this season. Matthew Stafford looked great at the end of last season, and he’s got a boatload of weapons (Golden Tate, Marvin Jones, Eric Ebron, Theo Riddick, Ameer Abdullah). What I don’t love this season is the Lions’ defense.  They are going to struggle mightily again this season, and playing teams like the Packers and Bears, that’s going to put them in a lot of trouble.

I actually don’t think Chicago is that bad a team this season, but they’re still the weakest team in this division. The addition of Kevin White to the offense will help Jay Cutler, and adding Danny Trevathan and Leonard Floyd to the defense makes that unit better, but ultimately, this team is still a couple years away from getting back to the playoffs.

NFC South

luke-kuechly

  1. Carolina Panthers

  2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

  3. New Orleans Saints

  4. Atlanta Falcons

So 15-1 probably isn’t going to happen again, but the Panthers are still one of the most talented teams in the NFL, and they will win another division crown. Cam Newton is still Cam Newton, and he gets back Kelvin Benjamin, who is one of the toughest matchups in the league for a defender. They let Josh Norman go, but as long as they have Luke Kuechly, their defense will be fine.

I think one of the biggest jumps this year will be made by the Tampa Bay Bucs. I may not be a Jameis Winston fan, but I think he was very good last season, and will be even better this season. They drafted Vernon Hargreaves and Noah Spence in the first two rounds of the draft to bolster the defense, and I like the Bucs to compete for a playoff spot this year.

Drew Brees just got a nice contract from the Saints (that could cripple them down the line), but they needed to make one of the biggest stars in their franchise history happy. Brees has consistently been one of the top quarterbacks in the league, and he should captain another high-scoring offense this year. But their defense is still absolutely dreadful, especially with the loss of 1st Round pick Sheldon Rankins for the season. Brees’s window is closing, and this will be another year that he misses the playoffs.

Some like the Falcons to make the playoffs this year. Some like them to be among the worst teams in the league. I’m in the latter camp. I think Matt Ryan looked downright bad at times down the stretch last season, and I think that will spill over to this year. That, combined with a below average defense will result in a last place finish in what should be, overall, and improved NFC South.

NFC West

larry-fitz

  1. Arizona Cardinals

  2. Seattle Seahawks

  3. Los Angeles Rams

  4. San Francisco 49ers

This might be the last year for the Cardinals to have a legitimate shot at a Super Bowl championship, but many believe that they are the favorites entering the season. Carson Palmer has looked very good in a Cardinal uniform, and David Johnson is a budding star at running back. Fitzgerald, Floyd and Brown make up one of the best receiver corps in the league, and with Calais Campbell, Chandler Jones, Robert Nkemdiche, Deone Bucannon, Tyrann Mathieu and Patrick Peterson, I believe Arizona has the best defense in the league. All of that leads me to believe that the Cardinals are the clear favorite to win the NFC West.

But don’t forget about the Seahawks. This is a very overachieving team, led by a very overachieving quarterback, but that doesn’t mean much to me. Russell Wilson is one of the league’s best, and along with a star-studded defense, the Seahawks will once again compete for the division crown, and be one of the top contenders to reach the Super Bowl.

The Rams have made the move back to Los Angeles, and the best thing they have going for them is the best running back in the league, 2nd year stud Todd Gurley. Gurley will continue his trek towards becoming the best player in the NFL, but the Rams don’t have much else around him, especially with Case Keenum at quarterback. The defense is still very good, but having to play 4 games against Arizona and Seattle won’t help favors.

Chip Kelly was somehow able to get another NFL head coaching job, but he inherits a brutal roster in San Francisco. I think he’ll get a lot out of Carlos Hyde, but I question the decision to start Blaine Gabbert over Colin Kaepernick. I think Kaepernick is perfect for what Chip Kelly wants to do offensively, but I guess he knows better than I do. If I have to pick a team to finish with the worst record in the league, I’m going with the Niners.

Awards Predictions

MVP: Tom Brady, QB New England Patriots
Offensive Player of the Year: Todd Gurley, RB Los Angeles Rams
Defensive Player of the Year: Khalil Mack, DE/LB Oakland Raiders
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Ezekiel Elliott, RB Dallas Cowboys
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Vernon Hargreaves III, CB Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Coach of the Year: Jack Del Rio, Oakland Raiders
Comeback Player of the Year: Jordy Nelson, WR Green Bay Packers

Playoff Seeding

AFC

1. New England Patriots
2. Pittsburgh Steelers
3. Oakland Raiders
4. Houston Texans
5. Kansas City Chiefs
6. New York Jets

NFC

1. Arizona Cardinals
2. Green Bay Packers
3. Carolina Panthers
4. Washington Redskins
5. Seattle Seahawks
6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Playoff Predictions

cam-newton-dab

Wild Card Round

Raiders over Jets, Chiefs over Texans
Panthers over Buccaneers, Seahawks over Redskins

Divisional Round

Patriots over Chiefs, Steelers over Raiders
Cardinals over Seahawks, Panthers over Packers

Conference Championships

Steelers over Patriots
Panthers over Cardinals

Super Bowl LI

Panthers over Steelers

Those of you who think that the loss in last year’s Super Bowl will have a big negative effect on Cam Newton, newsflash, it won’t. If anything, I think it’ll probably motivate him even more to get back there and win the whole thing. The return of Kelvin Benjamin will be huge for Cam, and I think the loss of Josh Norman doesn’t hurt them that much. His swagger will be missed, but I think as a cornerback, he’s a little overrated. A lot of people think that Ben Roethlisberger will have a down year, but I think the opposite. I think Ben has one of the best years of his career, and he, Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown will lead that team to the Super Bowl, where the Panthers defense will just be too much for them to handle. Carolina will win Super Bowl LI. You heard it here.

 

That’s it for my 2o16 NFL predictions! Be sure to refer back to this in a few months so that you can laugh at how wrong I was. Besides that, I hope everyone enjoys the beginning of another NFL season!