Author Archives: Eddie Scorzafava

NFL Week 6 Power Rankings

The NFL season continues to move along. Week 5 saw some surprising finishes, but there are still a pair of undefeated teams that remain. After those two powerhouses, the NFL power rankings are muddied a bit. We take a look at teams 1-10 again this week, trying to sort out who is for real and which teams still have a bit more to prove:

1) The Los Angeles Rams           2018 Record: 5-0          Previous Week: 1 ( – )

The Rams were able to hold off their division rival, the Seattle Seahawks, to move to 5-0. Jared Goff converted a crucial 4th-and-1 late in the 4th quarter on a QB sneak to end the game. The Rams offense has been amazingly efficient, as they lead the NFL in yards per offensive play (7.4) and rank T-4th in fewest turnovers lost (5). Goff ranks 2nd in the league in passer rating (119.7); behind only Drew Brees. The Rams defense also currently ranks 6th in points allowed (19.6 PPG) and has allowed the 3rd fewest attempts inside the red zone (12).

2) The Kansas City Chiefs          2018 Record: 5-0          Previous Week: 2 ( – )

The Chiefs rolled right through the Jags 30-14 and remain one of two unbeaten teams. Kansas City’s defense stepped up big, intercepting Blake Bortles four times. The Chiefs defense came into the game with only two interceptions in the team’s first four games. Patrick Mahomes  had his first game this year without a TD and threw his first two interceptions of the season, but was able to get enough offense going to down the Jags. The Chiefs offense ranks 2nd in points per game (35.0) and ranks T-1st in fewest turnovers (3). The Chiefs are also the 3rd most efficient team at scoring inside the red zone (76.2%).

3) The New Orleans Saints        2018 Record: 5-0         Previous Week: 9 ( +6 )

Drew Brees, this week, became the new all-time leader in passing yards in the NFL. He did so in a 43-19 drubbing of the Redskins in the Superdome. Brees leads this Saints offense that ranks 1st in points per game (36.0) and 2nd in first downs (128). The Saints also got RB Mark Ingram back this week from suspension, and he contributed immediately rushing for two TDs. Brees found rookie WR Tre’Quan Smith three times for 111 yards and two scores, the first of which a 62 yard TD that gave his QB the all-time passing yards record.

4) The Chicago Bears            2018 Record: 3-1            Previous Week: 3 ( -1 )

The Bears had a week four bye after their week three win over the Bucs. For a team that came into the season with modest expectations, the Bears find themselves ranking 2nd in scoring defense (16.3 PPG) and have allowed the fewest trips inside the red zone (7). The Bears’ next matchup is a Dolphins team that ranks 28th in scoring (19.8 PPG).

5) The Cincinnati Bengals           2018 Record: 4-1          Previous Week: 5 ( – )

The Bengals moved to 4-1 after overcoming a 17-0 2nd half deficit to beat the Dolphins. A Bengals defense, which has struggled this season, blanked the Fins for the final 24 plus minutes of game time. The Bengals’ only blemish thus far was a loss on the road in Carolina. The Bengals rank 4th in scoring offense (30.6 PPG) and continues to have a top five scoring offense in the red zone (70.6%).

6) The New England Patriots        2018 Record: 3-2           Previous Week: NR

The Patriots, after some early season offensive struggles, have rebounded with back-to-back wins. They dominated the Dolphins last Sunday, and then beat the Colts last Thursday on a short week to move to 3-2. In the process, the Pats have moved to 6th in red zone scoring (68.8%) and rank 9th in points per game (26.6). The Patriots defense also ranks 9th in scoring (21.6) and has forced 10 turnovers (6th).

7) The Los Angeles Chargers         2018 Record: 3-2         Previous Week: NR

The Chargers took down the Raiders this past week to move to 3-2. Philip Rivers currently ranks 3rd in the NFL at QB rating (116.4) and leads this Chargers offense that ranks 8th in scoring (27.4 PPG). The Chargers offense has also taken care of the football, ranking T-4th in turnovers lost (5). The 2018 Bolts’ defense are T-10th in turnovers (8), and their only two losses have come against the Chiefs and Rams.

8) The Carolina Panthers          2018 Record: 3-2          Previous Week: NR

This past Sunday, the Panthers held off a Giants team desperate for a win. Graham Gano kicked a game-winning 63 yard FG with 0:01 remaining. The Panthers offense ranks 12th in scoring offense (26.0 PPG), and have only committed four turnovers thus far, which is good for 3rd in the NFL. The Panthers defense is ranked 15th in scoring defense (22.8 PPG) and is T-5th best at stopping conversions on 3rd down (30.8%).

9) The Jacksonville Jaguars         2018 Record: 3-2         Previous Week: 4 ( -5 )

The Jaguars hit a lofty speed bump in their 2018 season last week, falling to the red hot Chiefs 30-14. The Jags have had trouble scoring this season; their 20.4 PPG ranks 26th in the league. That said, they still rank T-3rd in scoring defense (17.2 PPG) and are the 2nd stingiest team on defense inside the red zone (33.3%). That defense is also the 6th best in the NFL at getting off the field on 3rd down (30.8%).

10) The Baltimore Ravens           2018 Record: 3-2           Previous Week: 6 ( -4 )

The Ravens lost a tough, divisional game on the road in OT this past week to a reinvigorated Cleveland Browns team. The Ravens struggled mightily on 3rd down (4/16) against their division foe. The Ravens defense, however, still ranks 1st in scoring defense (15.4 PPG) and 1st at getting off the field on 3rd down (28.8%). Their defense is also T-3rd fewest red zone attempts allowed (12). The Ravens offense has come up big inside the red zone, ranking T-8th in converting red zone scores (65.0%).

NFL Week 5 Power Rankings

The NFL season is a quarter way finished, and we are down to only two unbeaten teams: the Rams and the Chiefs. Those teams were 1-2 in last week’s rankings, and there isn’t any good reason to change that this week. But as for positions 3-10, a little shakeup this week as per usual, and some surprising entrants into the top five and top ten. Will the Patriots or Packers re-enter the list after dominant performances against AFC East competitors? Which teams crack the top ten for the first time in 2018? Full list:

1) The Los Angeles Rams          2018 Record: 4-0          Previous Week: 1 ( – )

The Rams took down the Vikings last Thursday to move to 4-0 this year. Jared Goff racked up over 450 yards and five TDs, finishing the game with a perfect passer rating. The Rams defense was finally tested, but their high powered offense proved too much for Minnesota to overcome. The Rams rank 2nd in the league in points per game (35.0) and also have the most 1st downs (105) through the first four weeks. The Rams are tied for 3rd in the NFL with a +4 turnover margin, and are also T-2nd best in the league at converting on 3rd down (48.8%).

2) The Kansas City Chiefs         2018 Record: 4-0          Previous Week: 2 ( – )

The Chiefs appeared to be on their way to their first loss this week at Mile High. That was before Patrick Mahomes led the Chiefs down the field for two fourth-quarter TD drives, the second of which was the game-winner capped off by a Kareem Hunt four-yard rushing score. In the process, the Chiefs broke the Broncos‘ streak of 65 straight wins when leading by at least ten points in the 4th quarter. It was also the first time in 37 games that the Broncos had surrendered over 300 net passing yards; which had been the longest streak in football. A full quarter into the 2018 season, it is hard to argue that Patrick Mahomes isn’t the front-runner for NFL MVP.

3) The Chicago Bears           2018 Record: 3-1            Previous Week: 6 ( +3 )

For most of the year, the buzz surrounding the Bears has been focused on their new look defense. This past Sunday, the defense again was dominant, as they held the fiery Buccaneers offense to only ten points. But the bigger story was Mitchell Trubisky’s six TD passes en route to putting up a near 50 burger on the Bucs. The Bears currently rank T-3rd in scoring defense (16.3 PPG) and 8th in scoring offense (27.8 PPG). Perhaps more impressive, the Bears have forced 11 turnovers already on defense while only coughing the ball up five times. That +6 turnover ratio ranks 2nd in the NFL to the Browns.

4) The Jacksonville Jaguars           2018 Record: 3-1          Previous Week: 4 ( – )

The Jags dominated the Jets this past Sunday, nearly doubling them up in time of possession. Blake Bortles was able to connect with Dede Westbrook nine times for 130 yards. Bortles also found Donte Moncrief five times for 109 yards, most of which came from a big 67 yard TD pass late in the 3rd quarter. I don’t think we learned a whole ton about the Jags this week that we didn’t already know. Four games in, the Jags have the best scoring defense in the league (14.0 PPG). They also commit too many penalties and have turned the ball over seven times already. Their -4 turnover margin is tied for worst in the NFL.

5) The Cincinnati Bengals          2018 Record: 3-1           Previous Week: 8 ( +3 )

The Bengals beat the Falcons this last week in a shootout 37-36. Andy Dalton led a 75 yard game winning TD drive that was capped by a 13 yard score to AJ Green. This Bengals offense has been electric thus far, ranking 4th in the league in scoring (31.5 PPG). They are also the most efficient team inside the 20 yard line, scoring on 11/13 attempts (84.6%). The Bengals are also T-3rd in first downs (98) and are the 5th best team converting 3rd downs (46.5%). The upcoming schedule for this red hot offense looks promising. They play a Miami team next week that was just routed by the Patriots. After that, their next four opponents all are among the bottom eight teams in points allowed (PIT, KC, TB, and NO).

6) The Baltimore Ravens            2018 Record: 3-1           Previous Week: 9 ( +3 )

The Ravens secured a huge win Sunday night in Pittsburgh, downing the Steelers and holding them to only 47 second-half yards. The Ravens defense stepped up huge down the stretch, and Joe Flacco was able to handle the not so elite Steelers defense for 363 yards and two TDs. He also connected with the speedy John Brown three times for 116 yards and a score, including a 71 yard catch and run in the 2nd quarter. The Ravens are one of two teams, the other being the LA Rams, to rank within the top five for both scoring offense (5th; 30.8 PPG) and scoring defense (T-3rd; 16.3 PPG). The Ravens defense is also 2nd best in the NFL at getting off the field on 3rd down, allowing conversions on just 27.8% of attempts.

7) The Philadelphia Eagles          2018 Record: 2-2          Previous Week: 3 ( -4 )

I do not see a three-point OT loss to a better than expected Titans team as a dagger to this Eagles season. And most weeks, it wouldn’t cause them to slip this far at all. What does worry me slightly is the Eagles rank T-26th in scoring (20.5 PPG) through the first four weeks. Another troubling stat about this Eagles team is they have put the ball on the ground 11 times so far, losing five of those fumbles. Their -3 turnover ratio is T-2nd worst in the league. Defensively, Philly has been solid. They rank 3rd in the league in defensive 3rd down conversions allowed (28.3%) and have only allowed seven scores on 16 red zone attempts. Their 43.8% defensive red zone percent ranks 6th best in the NFL thus far.

8) The Tennessee Titans          2018 Record: 3-1           Previous Week: NR

Last week, I mentioned the Titans were tied with the Jags stout defense for best red zone percentage and best at keeping teams out of the red zone entirely. This past Sunday, they found themselves backed up in the red zone at the end of regulation, but held tough forcing a FG to take the game into OT. Again in OT, the Eagles had a 1st and 10 inside the Tennessee 20, but had to settle for a FG. The Titans defense has come up big inside the 20, allowing a league-best 20% of drives inside the red zone to result in a score. They also rank 6th best in the NFL in overall scoring defense (18.3 PPG). Marcus Mariota led the Titans from 14 points down midway through the 3rd quarter. Mariota finished with 344 yards and three total TDs (1 rushing). He also found his #1 target, the 5th overall pick of 2017’s draft Corey Davis, nine times for 161 yards that included the ten yard score in OT.

9) The New Orleans Saints         2018 Record: 3-1          Previous Week: NR

The Saints took down the Giants this week to move to 3-1. Drew Brees leads this offense that ranks 3rd best in the NFL at 34.3 PPG. Brees has been extremely solid to begin 2018, he has 1295 yards, eight TDs, and zero INTs through the first quarter of 2018. The Saints have also added seven rushing TDs so far, five of those by the 2nd year man Alvin Kamara. Defensively, the Saints haven’t gotten off to as hot of a start this year. They rank 29th in the NFL in points allowed (30.3 PPG) and have surrendered the 3rd most yards through the air through four games.

10) The Green Bay Packers          2018 Record: 2-1-1          Previous Week: NR

The Packers rebounded from a tough loss to the Washington Redskins by blanking the Bills 22-0. That shutout was the Packers’ first in eight years, and included a total of seven sacks of Buffalo rookie QB Josh Allen. The Pack defense also forced three turnovers and held the Bills to just 3/16 on 3rd down. Aaron Rodgers, still suffering the lingering effects from a Week 1 knee sprain, wasn’t his normal self. However, RB Aaron Jones was effective on the ground, running 11 times for 65 yards and a score. He could prove to be a real difference maker going forward for this Packers offense. At the least, he could take some pressure off of Green Bay’s all-pro QB until his knee is 100%. This Packers defense is playing better than last year’s team that ranked 26th in scoring. So far in 2018, they rank 11th in scoring defense (20.8 PPG), are T-9th with five takeaways, and also rank T-4th in the league in sacks (13.0).

NFL Week 4 Power Rankings

Entering Week 4 of the NFL season, there are some perennial powers not in their usual place atop the power rankings. The LA Rams and KC Chiefs appear to be the two hottest teams, but what about spots 3-10? Spoiler alert: you won’t find Tom Brady‘s Patriots or Aaron Rodgers‘ Packers. And you still wont see Big Ben’s Steelers, who just got their elusive first win. So who does fill out the best of the NFL after three weeks? You’re going to have to read to find out.

1) The Los Angeles Rams          2018 Record: 3-0          Previous Week: 1 ( – )

The Rams continued their roll in week three, downing the Chargers 35-23. Jared Goff had an impressive showing, tallying over 350 yards in the air, and adding three TDs. He was able to find veteran WR Robert Woods 10 times for 104 yards and a score. Todd Gurley had another 100+ yard game and also added one score. He has been a regular there, as he’s tied for the league lead in rushing TDs with four. The Rams defense added two takeaways vs the cross-city Chargers, bringing their season total to six, which is tied for 6th best in the league. The Rams continue to lead the league in points allowed per game at 12.0. One interesting stat to note, teams aren’t running on the Rams. In three games, teams have rushed 58 times against them (2nd fewest). However, in those 58 rushes, albeit a small sample, the Rams are giving up 5.0 yards per carry (6th worst).

2) The Kansas City Chiefs          2018 Record: 3-0          Previous Week: 5 ( +3 )

What a start to the season for 2nd year QB Patrick Mahomes. Through three games, he has thrown for 896 yards and 13 TDs. That may seem pretty impressive for a 2nd year signal caller, but perhaps even more so, he has yet to throw an INT. That ball security has led Kansas City to a 3-0 record. Thus far, the Chiefs have committed only one turnover, which ranks 1st in the NFL. With elite weapons on offense like Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, Sammy Watkins, and Kareem Hunt, it is no wonder Kansas City leads the league in PPG (39.3). As much as their defense has been shredded thus far, the Chiefs defense actually ranks first in a key category. On third down, they’ve only allowed eight successful conversions of 31 attempts (25.8%).

3) The Philadelphia Eagles          2018 Record: 2-1          Previous Week: 4 ( +1 )

The Birds saw the return of their franchise QB, Carson Wentz, in week three. It may be a few weeks before the Eagles’ offense, which has battled injuries other than Wentz’s, will start to click on all cylinders. They should be able to be held afloat by their 1st ranked rushing defense. Overall, they rank T-8th in scoring defense (18.3 PPG) and may have the best front seven in the league. The Eagles also have one of the best offensive lines in the league, bolstered by all-pro left tackle Jason Peters. Dominating the line of scrimmage, the Eagles ran for 152 yards while only yielding 68 rushing yards vs the Indianapolis Colts. Their defense also racked up 5 sacks while nearly doubling up the Colts in total yards. Three games in, the Eagles defense ranks T-3rd in first downs allowed (48) and 9th in total yards allowed (314.67/game).

4) The Jacksonville Jaguars          2018 Record: 2-1          Previous Week: 2 ( -2 )

A tough divisional matchup with the Titans saw the Jags take their first loss of the season. Blake Bortles, who looked like an all-pro in week two, struggled in week three. He barely surpassed 150 yards in the air, as his team failed to score an offensive TD. The Jags should get a pick-me-up when RB Leonard Fournette returns from a hamstring issue. That said, Blake Bortles will need to perform better than he did this week to win games going forward. The Jags have played undisciplined football the first three weeks, and they rank 4th worst in penalties (26) and 3rd worst in penalty yards (265). The Jags defense is ranked T-2nd best in the NFL allowing just 14.7 PPG. Their defense is also tied for the best redzone percetage (16.7%) and fewest attempts allowed inside the 20 (6). The team they are tied with in both categories: the Tennessee Titans.

5) The Miami Dolphins          2018 Record: 3-0          Previous Week: 10 ( +5 )

Say what you want about the Fins’ quality of competition through three games, this team can win games, and it is not just because QB Ryan Tannehill ranks 4th in both completion percentage (73.0%) and QB rating (121.8). But that sure doesn’t hurt. The Dolphins have been stout against the run, allowing only 3.3 YPC, which ranks 2nd in the league. Then, add in the fact the Fins lead the league with 7 INTs, and they rank 3rd in the league in defensive red zone percentage (33.3%), this team can play. They will, no doubt, face their toughest QB matchup this season when they travel to Foxborough this week to face Tom Brady and the Patriots. But if you’re a Dolphins fan, there may be a tad more optimism about this matchup than usual.

6) The Chicago Bears          2018 Record: 2-1          Previous Week: NR

Last week I debated back and forth whether to put the Bears or Dolphins at #10. The Bears had a tough loss in week one to the Packers, a game in which they led for most of the way. But after three games, it is more than obvious: the Bears are back. They rank 2nd in the NFL to the Eagles in rushing yards allowed (196) and they also rank 2nd in first downs allowed. Through three games, they rank T-2nd in the league with eight total takeaways, thanks in large part to the addition of DPOY Khalil Mack. If it wasn’t for the heroics of Aaron Rodgers and Vicodin, the Bears would be 3-0 at this point. Jordan Howard hasn’t gotten fully going yet, and neither has Tarik Cohen. Mitchell Trubisky has a very respectable completion percentage (69.2), but it hasn’t translated to a ton of yards. With a superb playmaking WR like Allen Robinson, the Bears will look to find an offensive rhythm against a Buccaneers team ranked 31st in yards allowed and 29th in points allowed.

7) The Minnesota Vikings         2018 Record: 1-1-1         Previous Week: 3 ( -4 )

The Vikings were ambushed by the Bills in week three. Josh Allen led Buffalo into Minneapolis and it seemed they were up 17-0 before the game started. It wont get easier this week either, the Vikings have to travel to LA on a short week to play the Rams Thursday night. The Vikings rank 9th in passing defense going into their prime time matchup with the Rams. They also are 8th best in the league in rushing YPC (3.6), and they also have been stingy in the red zone, allowing only four scores on 12 attempts (33.3%), which ranks T-3rd. It very well could be a lopsided Rams victory, but if the Vikings are up to the arduous task of slowing down Todd Gurley, they will have a chance.

8) The Cincinnati Bengals          2018 Record: 2-1          Previous Week: 7 ( -1 )

The Bengals fell in week three to Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers. Coming into the matchup they had been the 3rd ranked rushing defense. Christian McCaffrey changed that, single handedly, by racking up 184 yards on the ground. Newton added 36 yards of his own, and two scores. This week, the Bengals have to travel to Atlanta to face a team hungry to stay in their own divisional hunt. The Bengals will need to score more points than they have been scoring, especially with a defense that after three games is ranked dead last in third down percentage allowed (52.2%) and T-6th worst in red zone scoring percentage (77.8%). The good news, for Cincy, is the Falcons just allowed 43 points to the Saints. Andy Dalton and company will need to make use of the fact that, on offense, they are T-3rd in the league in red zone scoring percent (87.5%).

9) The Baltimore Ravens          2018 Record: 2-1           Previous Week: NR

The Ravens, through three games, have yet to not convert a red zone trip into a score. The lopsided win vs Buffalo in week one aside, the Ravens lost a close game to Cincy and just handed Denver its first loss. They also have one of the better RB tandems, in Alex Collins and Javorius ‘Buck’ Allen, who lead the NFL with a combined six rushing TDs. Thus far, the Ravens have allowed the 2nd fewest passing yards (169.3/game) and are a respectable 13th in rushing yards allowed (103.67/game). Their defense has tallied nine sacks (T-7th) and recorded three INTs (T-9th).

10) The Washington Redskins and the Carolina Panthers          2018 Records: 2-1    Previous Week: NR/NR

As we’ve already seen this season, there are sometimes ties in the NFL. Both the Redskins and Panthers enter a week 4 bye with a 2-1 record. Neither Cam Newton nor Alex Smith have been a true gunslinger this year. But both veteran QBs are taking care of the ball (1 INT each) and avoiding negative yardage (6 sacks each). The Redskins are tied with the Jaguars for the 2nd best scoring defense in the NFL (14.7 PPG). The Panthers, meanwhile, lead the league in rushing yards. Fourth on the list of rushing yards, the Washington Redskins. The Panthers are T-2nd in the NFL with only two turnovers lost, and directly behind them with three is the Redskins (T-5th). The Panthers and Redskins have both gotten off to good starts, and with no matchups this week, we’ll have to wait a bit to see more of each.

NFL Top Ten Power Rankings Post Week 2

With an eighth of the NFL season in the books, some teams have looked ready to compete for a championship. Others have looked shaky to put it lightly. It’s a small sample size, relatively speaking, but some trends have started to emerge. Entering Week 3, here are power rankings of the best and brightest teams early on in 2018.

 

1) The Los Angeles Rams          2018 Record: 2-0

The LA Rams have begun their 2018 season red hot. They look to secure a coveted first-round bye this year, as opposed to playing in the wild card weekend where they lost to the Atlanta Falcons a season ago. Through two games, the Rams lead the league in points against, allowing an impressive 6.5 PA to the Raiders and Cardinals. Equally impressive, the Rams have only allowed two drives to reach the red zone, allowing just one red-zone score, both NFL bests. With perhaps the most valuable defensive player in football, in Aaron Donald, and arguably the best active RB, in Todd Gurley, it is shaping up that the NFC may run through LA in 2018.

2) The Jacksonville Jaguars          2018 Record: 2-0

The Jags just took care of business at home, without the help of talented RB Leonard Fournette, to down the reigning AFC Champion Patriots and move to 2-0. Through two games, the Jags have allowed the third-fewest 1st downs on defense (33). Additionally, Jacksonville has allowed just one red zone score out of four attempts (25%), which ranks 3rd in the NFL. Most importantly, albeit against a non-exceptional Pats defensive unit, Blake Bortles looked locked into midseason form this past Sunday. Bortles was great in Week 2, lighting up the Pats for 376 yards and four touchdown passes. In two games, Bortles has also rushed 10 times for 77 yards (7.7 YPC), which ranks 2nd among QB’s to the speedy Tyrod Taylor.

3) The Minnesota Vikings         2018 Record: 1-0-1

The Vikings have an incredibly talented roster from top to bottom. Two games in, new addition Kirk Cousins has made use of his offensive weapons throwing for 669 yards and six TDs. The WR duo of Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, along with electric RB Dalvin Cook, are as scary as it gets to defend at their respective positions. The Vikings defense has also been the stingiest inside the red zone, allowing just two scores on nine defensive attempts (22%), which is 2nd in the NFL percent wise. On top of that, the Vikings have yet to allow a rushing TD, one of seven teams capable of saying that.

4) The Philadelphia Eagles          2018 Record: 1-1

The most talented team of last year has again been impressive to start 2018, and they played without MVP candidate Carson Wentz for the first 2 games. He is expected to be back this week, giving their team a huge boost at the position. The Eagles, 2 games in, have the 1st ranked rushing defense (58.5) and YPC allowed (2.9). As much as the Eagles have fallen victim to some big plays early on, they have stiffened in the red zone allowing 3 scores on 7 attempts (42.9%), which is tied for 8th best in the league.

5) The Kansas City Chiefs          2018 Record: 2-0

Andy Reid‘s Chiefs are fresh off a shootout win against the dysfunctional Pittsburgh Steelers. Veteran QB Alex Smith headed to Washington, paving the way for the younger Patrick Mahomes to step in. And that he has. In the small two-game sample size, he leads the NFL in TDs (10) and ranks 2nd in the NFL in YPA (10.6). Speedfreak Tyreek Hill is off to a blazing start to the year, with 259 yards and three TDs through the air. He also took a punt return 91 yards to the house. They’re going to need that offense to keep rolling, though, to counteract the fact that they are dead last in passing yards against and defensive red zone percentage.

6) The New England Patriots          2018 Record: 1-1

The defending 2018 AFC Champions have begun 2018 with more questions than answers. Two very important constants remain as fact: they have the best QB and the best coach. Following a gut-check loss to the Jags on the road, the Patriots, who are without WR Julian Edelman for the first four games (SSPD), responded by trading for talented, yet troubled, WR Josh Gordon. Gordon, if healthy and active (two big ifs), may be the best WR Tom Brady has had since Randy Moss. Incorporating Gordon in, alongside Rob Gronkowski, they should have no problem putting up points. MLB Dont’a Hightower, a defensive captain, is back from injury this year. So far, they have four takeaways, ranking 11th in drives ending in a turnover (15.4%). The four turnovers in two games is promising as they only had 18 all of 2017. They still have issues getting off the field on 3rd down, however, ranked 4th worst so far this year (48%). Additionally, they have given up 271 yards on the ground through two games.

7) The Cincinnati Bengals           2018 Record: 2-0

The Bengals are off to a very good start, especially offensively. Through 2 games, they have the NFL’s 2nd leading rusher, in 2nd year RB Joe Mixon. Veteran QB Andy Dalton has already thrown 6 TDs, 4 to the explosive WR AJ Green. The issue with the Bengals seems to lie on the defensive side. They rank 3rd in rushing defense and 2nd in YPA, however, they are giving up 332 YPG through the air. They are also the least efficient team in getting off the field on 3rd down, allowing 54.5% of conversions on 3rd down. Additionally, they have given up the 3rd most first downs (52) in 2 games. Helping to ease those woes, however, the Bengals have 5 takeaways already and are 4th best in percent of drives ending in a turnover (20.8%).

8) The Tampa Bay Buccaneers          2018 Record: 2-0

The Bucs are on an offensive pace that seems impossible to maintain. Ryan Fitzpatrick is leading the NFL in passing yards (819) and ranks 2nd in TDs (8). ‘Fitzmagic’, as many are calling him, isn’t casting spells, but rather using his elite cast of offensive weapons. The veteran speedster DeSean Jackson, who is leading the league in receiving yards (275), has been excellent opposite the tall, more physical WR Mike Evans. Add in two more young, talented players in WR Chris Godwin and TE O.J. Howard, this Bucs offense is for real. The Bucs, however, have been exposed defensively. They rank 2nd last in passing yards allowed and are giving up 30.5 PPG (27th). Teams have also gone for it 6 times on 4th down against the Bucs, four of which were converted, both league worsts. As a small sample it isn’t the worst stat, but does seem to indicate teams are not too scared to test this Bucs defense early on.

9) The Green Bay Packers          2018 Record: 1-0-1

The Packers were close to being 0-2. If Aaron Rodgers‘ knee had been more severely damaged, that would probably be the case. But as long as Rodgers is on the field, the Pack have a chance. He has some familiar weapons, including Randall Cobb and Davante Adams. But the Packers are ranked 25th in the league in rushing yards, and haven’t got the ground game going. They get RB Aaron Jones back from a two-game suspension this week. That could help the run game, he averaged 5.5 YPA last year in limited work, and he may be the most talented RB on their roster. Defensively, it has been tough sledding for Green Bay. They rank 7th worst in passing yards allowed and have only 1 takeaway. They have also given up the 2nd most 3rd down conversions (14) with the 6th worst conversion percentage on that down (45.2%).

10) The Miami Dolphins          2018 Record: 2-0

I am certainly sure there aren’t more than a handful of people who predicted the Dolphins would be undefeated two weeks in to the season. But that’s where they find themselves, and they have looked impressive so far. A powerful RB committee of Kenyan Drake and newly acquired veteran Frank Gore have gotten off to a hot start, as the Fins are 6th in rushing yards after two games. Ryan Tannehill has been a quality QB option early on, and should be helped when WR DeVante Parker returns from injury. The Fins defense has been great early on. They rank 5th best in opposing completion percentage (57%) and already have five interceptions, which has got them ranked 3rd in the NFL in percent of drives ending in a turnover (24%). They have only allowed four drives to enter the red zone and only allowed one score. That 25% red zone rating is currently tied for 3rd in the NFL with their in-state competitors, the Jacksonville Jaguars.

 

NFL Teams That Could Make Their Return to the Postseason in 2018

Every year, it seems, a host of unlikely NFL teams surprises many experts, and fans alike, in crashing the playoff party. Last year, the Bills returned to playoff football, which snapped the longest current drought in American pro sports. The new NFL playoff draught title is bestowed upon the Browns, who haven’t made the playoffs since 2002. The revolving door of the NFL playoffs should keep turning in 2018, and here are a few teams that could make a return to the postseason.

The New York Giants (Odds To Make The Playoffs Entering Season: +280)

Say what you will about Eli Manning, but the Giants had many more issues last year than just at the QB position. It seemed to many NFL insiders that former head coach Ben McAdoo had “lost the locker room”. Combined with the Giants’ rookie coaching issues was a plethora of injuries. The Giants fell from Super Bowl hopefuls to the bottom of the NFC East. Now, enter in new head coach Pat Shurmur, who helped to turn the Vikings offense back into a top 10 scoring offense for the first time since 2009 when they finished 2nd. And speaking of 2nds, more importantly, the Giants drafted star running back Saquon Barkley 2nd overall in this past April’s draft. Add in a healthy Odell Beckham Jr to the mix, along with rookie standout TE Evan Engram entering his 2nd year, the Giants’ already impressive defensive unit looks like it now has the offensive fire-power to carry them back to the playoffs.

The Green Bay Packers (-180)

You need not over think this particular team scenario. If Aaron Rodgers is healthy, the Packers will have a great chance to win double-digit games. Even with the departure of Jordy Nelson, the Pack have a solid #1 option in Davante Adams, who has posted back to back double digit TD seasons. Add in the newly acquired Jimmy Graham and veteran slot man Randall Cobb, the Packers offense should be among the best in 2018. On the defensive side, Clay Matthews and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix are joined by FA acquisition Muhammad Wilkerson. The Packers defense will look to improve upon their 2017 season, where they ranked 7th worst in points allowed and 5th worst in forcing 4th down. All in all, the Packers look to be much improved heading into 2018, and with Aaron Rodgers calling plays, are likely to return to playoff football.

The Los Angeles Chargers (-150)

The Chargers will look to build on an impressive 9-7 finish to 2017. The defense that ranked 3rd best in points allowed last season will suffer a slight setback, losing CB Jason Verrett to a torn Achilles in late July. Rookie DB Derwin James (17th pick) will look to make an immediate impact in the secondary. On the D-line, Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa return to lead the defensive front that ranked 5th in sacks a season ago. On offense, Philip Rivers and Melvin Gordon head a group that last year ranked 4th in yards per game. Plagued by too many injuries in 2017, the Chargers look healthy and ready to contend for a division title in 2018.

*Odds via The Westgate Superbook

Three Quarterbacks You Can Afford To Wait On

Waiting on a quarterback is a common strategy this year, though some quarterbacks are still going way too high in drafts. Let’s take a look at some players who are being over-drafted in ESPN standard leagues:

1) Drew Brees: ESPN ADP: 75.8

The future Hall of Famer finished last year with only 23 touchdowns, which was the fewest he has ever thrown with the Saints. Brees finished 9th in total points among QB’s last season, placing him behind Philip Rivers, Matthew Stafford, and Kirk Cousins. He finished only 12 total points higher than Blake Bortles. With a high powered RB arsenal in New Orleans, led by the now 2nd year Alvin Kamara, expect more of the ground game for the Saints, as they look to keep Brees healthy and fresh in their attempt to make it back to the playoffs. At 75 overall, many elite skill players will still be on the board, including some potential breakout rookie RB’s and the occasional WR1.

2) Ben Roethlisberger: ESPN ADP: 89.5

Big Ben was the QB10 last year. However, he finished just a handful of points ahead of Jared Goff in the same amount of games. As one of the more physically imposing QB’s, Big Ben has taken countless big hits over his career. There are quite a few signal callers at least 10 years younger than Roethlisberger, whose bodies haven’t withstood the grind of the NFL for nearly 15 years, as his has. The NFL is a young man’s game, and one just has to wonder when that physical toll is going to catch up to the 6’5” QB. If healthy, with Antonio Brown, Big Ben could win you more than a few games. That being said, at this point in the draft, starters at skill positions will still be abundant.

3) Jimmy Garoppolo: ESPN ADP: 107.1

Jimmy Garoppolo has proven he can win regular season games; people forget he has yet to lose a start in the NFL. What he hasn’t given you proof of, to this point, is that he can put up a top 10 or even top 12 QB season. Right now his ADP is 4 picks lower than 2016’s MVP Matt Ryan. He’s being selected above Phillip Rivers and Dak Prescott, last season’s QB8 and QB11, respectively. Garoppolo may have a bright future in the NFL, but around pick 107 there will still be a solid selection of WR2’s and valuable RB handcuffs.