AROUND THE NFL

Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com thinks Jeopardy! champ James Holzhauer could find a place in the NFL:

 

Most memorable game-show winners fade from view after their runs end. James Holzhauer may be the exception.

 

Holzhauer, who has cracked the Jeopardy! code through a combination of encyclopedic knowledge, instant recall of it, perfect timing with the in-hand buzzer, and a propensity to push all of his chips to the middle of the table, could end up with a career in sports, if/when (if) he ever loses.

 

“I’m going to go out on a limb, and say when he’s done with [Jeopardy!] he’s going to have an opportunity to work in any sport he wants,” Oakland A’s executive V.P. of baseball operations told the Washington Post. “Or any industry — because all industries are based on data and making predictive decisions.”

 

Holzhauer, a professional gambler, has won more than $1.6 million to date on Jeopardy!, with most of the daily victories coming in runaway fashion. The Post focuses on Holzhauer as a potential baseball executive, but the proliferation of data and predictive analysis in all sports would make him attractive to an NFL team, too.

 

Appearing Tuesday on MLB Network (the normal Jeopardy! flow has taken a two-week break for periodic tournaments), Holzhauer said that “some interesting offers have been floated my way . . .  some potentially life-changing stuff out there.”

 

Holzhauer’s life already has changed, dramatically, despite some complaints that he has “ruined” the game show. It sounds like Beane would be willing to change Holzhauer’s life even more dramatically.

 

“It’s bringing order to something that’s inherently chaotic,” Beane said. “If he’s ruining Jeopardy!, and if we ruined baseball, then ruin away.”

 

Actually, why restrict himself to ruining baseball? Holzhauer, the consummate gambler who’ll be on himself, could set up shop as a consultant, cracking the code for every major sport and selling the secret recipe to the highest bidder.

 

And chances are he’s already under contract with Bill Belichick and the Patriots.

 

We wonder what Holzhauer would say about the advisability of giving $30 million per contracts to good, but not generational, QBs.  Florio takes a crack:

 

Over the past few years, NFL teams have made a habit out of handing out new contract after new contract to quarterbacks, with in many cases the latest quarterback to sign becoming the highest-paid player in league history.

 

Since June 2017, Derek Carr passed Andrew Luck, Matthew Stafford passed Carr, Jimmy Garoppolo passed Stafford, Kirk Cousins passed Garoppolo, Matt Ryan passed Cousins, Aaron Rodgers passed Ryan, and Russell Wilson passed Rodgers, pushing the maximum from $25 million per year to $35 million annually.

 

From those eight quarterbacks we move to another eight quarterbacks, each of whom have contracts lasting one or two years. There’s a growing sense that, at some point, a team faced with high salary demands from a quarterback will say, “No thanks,” trading the quarterback or letting him walk away via free agency. Here’s a look at the likelihood of that happening with any of eight quarterbacks whose contracts are coming up for renewal.

 

Carson Wentz, Eagles: Howie Roseman says that the team wouldn’t hesitate to do the right deal, for both organization and player. But what’s the right deal? Wentz may eventually fall somewhere in the $10 million divide between Carr’s $25 million per year and Wilson’s $35 million. For now, Wentz’s value is closer to the range of $25 million to $30 million. A season that doesn’t end with a December injury and does end with a Super Bowl appearance or something closer to it puts him in the range of $30 million to $35 million. (A Super Bowl win potentially would put him north of $35 million per year.) The real question is whether Wentz will accept the best offer made before Wentz embarks on a fourth NFL season that could dramatically increase his value, if he decides to roll the dice on his ability to continue to play.

 

Dak Prescott, Cowboys: Prescott quietly took a significant step in his development in the 2018 postseason, beating Russell Wilson in the wild-card round and then performing at a very high level against the Rams, at a time when the running game wasn’t giving Prescott the kind of support he usually has when playing well. For now, the sweet spot seems to be somewhere between $25 million and $28 million, especially since Prescott isn’t the quarterback of [insert name of not very relevant team] but is the quarterback of America’s Team. He already makes seven figures in endorsements, and that will continue as long as he quarterbacks a franchise that drives TV ratings like no other. Throw in the pathway to the broadcast booth that awaits his retirement, and Prescott would be wise to take whatever the Cowboys will offer, as long as he’s at least in the range of Garoppolo.

 

Jameis Winston, Buccaneers: G.M. Jason Licht has made it clear that they’re taking a wait-and-see approach with Winston, whose contract expires after 2019. Some would say there’s no reason to wait, because they’ve arguably seen enough from the first overall pick in the 2015 draft. Coach Bruce Arians told ESPN during the draft that Winston needs to stop “throwing the ball to the other team.” That’s easier said than done, especially when Winston has a bad habit of trying to do more than his physical abilities will allow.

 

Marcus Mariota, Titans: Owner Amy Adams Strunk has expressed hope that Mariota will become the team’s franchise quarterback. This implies, obviously, that he isn’t there yet. After four years as a starter, there’s a chance he may never be. Unless he’s willing to accept something closer to $20 million than $25 million, Mariota may not get another deal in Tennessee — especially if Tennessee believes it has a viable alternative elsewhere.

 

Philip Rivers, Chargers: Rivers seems to be at peace with the possibility of having his contract expire, wherever that may lead. He said similar things four years ago, however, before signing a new deal with the Chargers. Then, the team moved to get a deal done. In 2019, will they apply a Band-Aid that keeps Rivers around while they plan for the future, or would they risk the bird in the hand as they search for a different, younger bird that may or may not be in the bush?

 

Andy Dalton, Bengals: The least relevant team in the NFL has the league’s least relevant starting quarterback. Which means they’re a match made in purgatory. The Bengals seem to be ambivalent about keeping Dalton, and he’s a prime candidate to become a free agent after the season, to look around for viable offers elsewhere, and ultimately to take the best offer the Bengals put on the table, like his former head coach did on multiple occasions when becoming a free agent.

 

Cam Newton, Panthers: With two years left on a deal that averages less than $21 million per year, Newton is woefully underpaid. So when does that get rectified? For starters, Newton needs to show that his shoulder has healed. Then, he needs to stay healthy, adjusting his playing style to avoid the kind of contact that results, inevitably, in more injury. He also needs to play at a high level, like he did when becoming the league MVP in 2015. If he can get back to that form, he should get $30 million per year, like another former league MVP who made it to a Super Bowl from the same division in which Newton plays. If Newton isn’t healthy or effective, new owner David Tepper will have a big decision to make.

 

Jared Goff, Rams: The Rams gave up a lot to get him three years ago, but that doesn’t mean they should pay a lot to keep him. Coach Sean McVay inherited Goff, and through two years McVay has surely seen enough to know whether he wants Goff to stick around. Balanced against that is the reality that McVay may be thinking about how another quarterback may be able to better run the offense, especially in light of a season-defining failure to: (1) anticipate that Brandin Cooks would be wide-ass open in a key moment of the third quarter of the Super Bowl; (2) spot Cooks once he was wide-ass open; and (3) deliver an accurate pass that would get the ball to Cooks before he was no longer wide-ass open. That one play could eat at McVay enough during the offseason to persuade him to consider slamming an otherwise wide-open door into Goff’s ass.

 

The unofficial over-under for quarterbacks who won’t get new contracts is 2.5. So what do you take, over or under? Chime in below.

 

Who would rival Cincinnati as the least relevant team at the moment?  We think all three Florida teams have a claim in that discussion.  Detroit?  Tennessee? Buffalo?

 

NFC NORTH

 

GREEN BAY

We knew Ted Thompson had health issues in the final part of his stint as Packers GM.  Some clarity from Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com:

 

Former Packers general manager Ted Thompson said he is suffering from an autonomic disorder, a condition that causes weakness and cognitive issues, and he revealed that it was the reason he is no longer in the GM role with the team.

 

Thompson, 66, issued a statement Wednesday through the team explaining, at least in part, his condition.

 

“I have been diagnosed with an autonomic disorder,” said Thompson, who played 10 seasons for the Houston Oilers (1975-84) before he got into scouting. “I feel that it’s important to mention that based on the test results and opinions of medical specialists, they feel that I do not fit the profile of someone suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy [CTE].”

 

According to the Mayo Clinic, “autonomic nerve disorders [dysautonomia] refer to disorders of autonomic nervous system [ANS] function. Dysautonomia is a general term used to describe a breakdown or abnormal function of the ANS. The autonomic nervous system controls much of your involuntary functions. Symptoms are wide-ranging and can include problems with the regulation of heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, perspiration, and bowel and bladder functions. Other symptoms include fatigue, lightheadedness, feeling faint or passing out [syncope], weakness, and cognitive impairment.”

 

Thompson did not disclose which nerve disorder he is suffering from, and, according to sources, there has been some debate from his doctors about which condition he has.

 

There had been wide speculation about Thompson’s health during the latter stages of his tenure as general manager. He underwent hip replacement surgery in 2014 and curtailed his on-the-road scouting trips for a time. During a rare in-season interview with ESPN in January 2017, the week of the NFC Championship Game, his speech and movements were noticeably affected.

 

It wasn’t until a full year later that Packers president Mark Murphy announced Thompson would be reassigned to a senior advisory role.

 

“Late in the 2017 season, Mark Murphy and I had a conversation about my health and future with the Packers,” Thompson continued in the statement. “At that time, we mutually agreed that it was in the best interests of myself and the organization to step away from my role as general manager. In consultation with team physician Dr. John Gray, I began a complete health evaluation that has included second opinions over the last year from the Medical College of Wisconsin, the Mayo Clinic and the UT Southwestern Medical Center.”

– – –

Thompson’s draft record, while strong for the first 10 years of his tenure, worsened late in his time. There is not a player left from his 2015 draft, his third-to-last class.

 

Murphy did not cite Thompson’s health as a reason for the decision to remove him as general manager immediately after the 2017 season. Thompson remained around the Packers during the 2018 season but then moved to his native Texas. He made fewer appearances in Green Bay as the season went on, and a source said it was because Thompson could no longer travel alone.

 

Thompson was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame on Saturday.

 

“This is a great honor,” Thompson said Saturday. “I appreciate it more than you can ever know. … This means a lot to me.”

 

Most of Thompson’s comments came in the form of a prerecorded video that was played during his presentation.

– – –

Thompson concluded his statement by saying he plans to battle his condition.

 

“I want to thank Dr. Gray, the medical professionals, the Green Bay Packers and my family for all that they have done and continue to do for me,” Thompson said. “It was a tremendous honor to be inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame this past weekend. The Green Bay community and the fans of the Packers have always been and will continue to be very special to me. It is my hope and belief that I will be able to overcome this disorder.

 

“Finally, I’d like to ask that you respect the privacy of myself and my family as we move forward.”

 

NFC EAST

 

NEW YORK GIANTS

We thought 2019 was supposed to be all about the QB ELI MANNING farewell tour.  But maybe not.  Steve Serby of the New York Post:

 

The way Mike Shula sees it, on a different franchise without an Eli Manning standing in his way, Daniel Jones could have been Sam Darnold … Day 1 starter.

 

“I think he’d be ready to go, that’s my personal opinion,” the Giants offensive coordinator and quarterback coach said Wednesday. “I do. I would say this — times have changed. In years past, you draft a guy, whenever you draft him, even if he was that early, those guys would traditionally not play until their second or third year. But really ever since probably six or seven years ago you started seeing more guys playing early.

 

“But I think he has that capability.”

 

Shula was even more impressed with Jones at last week’s OTAs than he was at his Pro Day at Duke.

 

“Throws the ball very well, he’s got a quick release, good touch,” Shula said. “And then when he got here, I think everything was even a little bit better. I think his arm was even stronger than I remember, his release was even quicker than I remember.”

 

The heir to the Big Blue throne has a makeup that might have some calling him Eli Jones.

 

“He’s a solid person,” Shula said. “He’s really smart. And in my opinion the way you can tell that is not alone by how he’s picking things up but by the questions he asks. The things that he was new to, you could kinda see how quickly he picked them up.”

 

Giants defensive coordinator James Bettcher would have done backflips had GM Dave Gettleman drafted OLB Josh Allen with the sixth pick. He was doing cartwheels over Jones anyway.

 

“A guy that was decisive with where he wanted to go with the ball, took great command … there wasn’t a moment where things get a little hairy on defense because there’s a lot of young guys learning new things,” Bettcher said. “There’ll be defensive looks that he’s dealing with that aren’t real defensive looks. You never saw the guy get flustered, you saw him play with poise.”

 

The Giants should make every effort to get Jones on the field at some point because there is no substitute for experience. Manning can forestall what will loom as a gut-wrenching passing of the torch for everyone by turning back the clock.

 

 “Hey, man, we want to win, we want to win right now,” Shula said. “If Eli has his best year, then most likely we’re gonna be in the playoffs. And that’s all we kinda think about.”

 

Manning clearly knew the day would finally come when the franchise would draft his heir apparent. Manning’s reaction when Shula told him on draft night that the Giants were drafting Jones was vintage Easy Eli.

 

“I could barely hear him because he’s got his youngest in his arms, the baby [boy], he might have been changing his diaper … ‘Oh yeah, coach, great. See you tomorrow,’ ” Shula said, and smiled.

 

Jones is lucky getting a chance to watch how Manning, the Perfect Professional, works at his craft.

 

“This time last year was my first time with Eli, and seeing him in the offseason, I thought he was in really good shape,” Shula said. “I think he’s in better shape now. He’s kinda moving around pretty good, his arm looks fresh.”

 

Shula laughed when he was told about the report that one team at the combine asked Jones to work out at tight end.

 

“That’s my thought,” Shula said, still laughing. Then he added: “I’ll say this — he can run on a quarterback draw.”

 

Daniel Jones won’t be running it on Day 1. The intrigue is exactly when he will be.

 

NFC WEST

 

SAN FRANCISCO

QB JIMMY GAROPPOLO ‘s rehab, successful by all accounts so far, has been inspired by secret advice from QB TOM BRADY.  Josh Schrock of NBCBayArea.com:

 

Just because Jimmy Garoppolo no longer is a New England Patriot doesn’t mean he has stopped learning from Tom Brady.

 

The 49ers quarterback currently is rehabbing from a torn ACL suffered during Week 3 last season against the Kansas City Chiefs. Brady suffered a torn ACL during the first game of the 2008 season … against the Chiefs. You see where this is going.

 

Garoppolo has been grinding during his rehab, and recently was spotted at the 145th running of the Kentucky Derby, where he met up with, you guessed it, Tom Brady.

 

On Wednesday, Jimmy G was asked about the advice Brady might have given him about coming back from a torn ACL, but the 27-year-old wasn’t about to divulge TB12’s method.

 

“I’ve got to keep that confidential,” Garoppolo said, via The Mercury News. “But I did actually talk to him about it for a bit. He’s been through everything, seen everything, so whenever I can pick his brain that’s a good thing.”

 

By all accounts, Garoppolo’s rehab is going well, and the quarterback is on track to start in the Sept. 8 season opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. With organized team activities slated to begin May 20, Garoppolo is focused on getting his body used to certain movements.

 

“It’s a combination of reactionary stuff. That’s a big part of it,” Garoppolo said. “When you’re doing rehab, everything is, ‘Do this movement, do this.’ Well, in this game, you’re more reacting than thinking. Getting used to those type of movements. We’ve been doing some of them and patterning them. It’s coming along well.”

 

 

SEATTLE

The Seahawks will be signing DE ZIGGY ANSAH per Adam Schefter as written here by Brady Henderson of ESPN.com:

 

Former Detroit Lions defensive end Ziggy Ansah agreed to a one-year deal with the Seattle Seahawks on Wednesday night, a league source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

 

The deal is expected to include $5.5 million in guaranteed money, with incentives that could boost it by roughly another $8 million, a source said. Ansah is scheduled to fly to Seattle on Thursday to sign the contract.

 

The Seahawks’ acquisition of Ansah will help offset the loss of defensive end Frank Clark, who was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs.

 

By waiting until Thursday, the Seahawks won’t lose a 2020 compensatory pick by signing Ansah. Any unrestricted free agents signed after 4 p.m. ET Tuesday no longer count against the formula used to determine comp picks the following season. The Seahawks were projected to receive the maximum of four 2020 comp picks and did not want to forfeit any of them, which was a reason they waited until now.

 

The Seahawks brought Ansah for a visit in late April, Schefter reported. A source told ESPN they also met with former Green Bay Packers outside linebacker Nick Perry in late March. Perry was released by Green Bay and thus would have had no bearing on future compensatory picks had he been signed before Tuesday.

 

Seattle also was linked to defensive tackles Al Woods, Corey Liuget, Danny Shelton and Earl Mitchell. Woods appeared in two games with the Seahawks in 2011.

 

Ansah, who will turn 30 later this month, has 48 sacks in 80 career games since the Lions drafted him fifth overall in 2013. His best season came in 2015, when he recorded 14.5 sacks en route to his only Pro Bowl appearance.

 

Ansah played on a $17.143 million franchise tag last season and was limited to seven games by a shoulder injury that required surgery. That could keep him out until the start of training camp or longer; some league sources told Schefter they believe Ansah could miss the first month of the season, at least.

 

Defensive line was the Seahawks’ top remaining need after the draft. They took defensive end L.J. Collier 29th overall — the selection they acquired from Kansas City in the Clark trade — but didn’t use any of their remaining 10 selections on edge rushers. The only other defensive lineman they drafted was defensive tackle Demarcus Christmas in the sixth round.

 

With Clark gone, no edge player on Seattle’s roster had more sacks last season than Cassius Marsh’s 5.5, a career high that he reached with the San Francisco 49ers. The other players the Seahawks have at that spot are 2018 draft picks Rasheem Green (third round) and Jacob Martin (sixth), plus Quinton Jefferson, Branden Jackson, Nazair Jones and Nate Orchard. Barkevious Mingo, Seattle’s starter at strongside linebacker, rushed sparingly off the edge in passing situations last season. Orchard, a free-agent addition, received no guaranteed money in his one-year, minimum-salary deal.

 

After the draft, coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider strongly implied that more moves were in the offing to help Seattle up front.

 

“There is work that we’re engaged in,” Carroll said when asked about where the Seahawks stood with their pass rush after trading Clark and drafting Collier. “[The draft] is this stage of filling up the roster, and we’re very much involved with what is coming up next too. So we’re not done. We’ve got work to do. We’re excited about what’s coming up, and you guys will see in time.”

 

Schneider seemingly made reference to the Tuesday cutoff point, saying: “We talk about those phases of free agency, and there’s basically three or four different phases, and we’re basically now heading into Phase 3.”

 

Carroll said at the NFL annual meeting in March that a run-stuffing defensive tackle was a clear area of need for the Seahawks, who let 2018 starter Shamar Stephen leave in free agency and didn’t sign anyone to replace him.

 

Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com admires the maneuvering of the Seahawks:

 

When the Seahawks traded Frank Clark to the Chiefs, they lost their top pass rusher. But they’ve now gained so much that it’s hard not to see the trade as a big win for Seattle.

 

The Seahawks just signed free agent defensive end Ziggy Ansah to a one-year deal worth a reported $5.5 million guaranteed. They also drafted defensive end L.J. Collier with the first-round pick they got from the Chiefs for Clark. There’s a good chance that Ansah and Collier will be the Seahawks’ two starting defensive ends, one acquired by trading Clark and one acquired for much less salary cap space than the Seahawks would have had to to pay Clark on the one-year, $17.1 million guaranteed contract Clark would have made if he played on the franchise tag.

 

That’s not all the Seahawks got for Clark. They also still have a 2020 second-round draft pick coming to them. And the cost of Ansah, Collier (whose rookie contract will be a four-year deal worth around $11 million) and that second-round pick combined will be significantly less than the five-year, $105 million contract the Chiefs gave Clark.

 

As we’ve previously noted, the Seahawks gained big by franchising Clark and then trading him, rather than just letting him walk in free agency. If Clark had left as a free agent, the Seahawks would have received only a 2020 third-round compensatory pick for him.

 

At first glance, it might look like the Seahawks took a big hit when they lost their top pass rusher. But when looking at the totality of the moves the Seahawks have made — losing Clark and gaining Ansah, Collier, a 2020 second-round draft pick and additional salary cap space that may help them lock up another defensive starter like linebacker Bobby Wagner or defensive tackle Jarran Reed, both of whom are heading into the final seasons of their contracts — it appears that the Seahawks handled this offseason perfectly.

 

AFC NORTH

 

CLEVELAND

We like QB BAKER MAYFIELD before this ESPN project, but if we didn’t, we would.  Cassandra Negley of YahooSports.com:

 

The best kind of Mother’s Day gifts are handmade with love — and likely elicit tears of joy. Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield delivered his gift a few days early and hit all the right marks.

 

Mayfield is one of the athletes featured in ESPN’s annual “Dear Mom” campaign. The kids read a letter they wrote for their mother on camera while, unbeknownst to them, their mom listens in a room next door and surprises them.

 

The 24-year-old Mayfield is typically brash and outspoken, often in controversial ways, but his letter to his mom is deep and heartfelt. And yes, it had his mom, Gina, wiping away tears.

 

Plus he provided one of the best Mother’s Day card lines any mom would love to receive:

 

“There’s no handbook on parenting, but if there was, you’d be the author.”

 

Mayfield mentioned Gina’s unconditional love and ability to get through adversity. He told his mom his favorite memory was their difficult journey to Norman, Oklahoma, before he eventually won the starting quarterback job with the Sooners.

 

The youngest Mayfield’s story has featured highs and lows already, both on the field and off of it. The family hit difficult times financially when he was in high school and lived in four rental homes his senior year.

 

In 2015, Gina was seriously injured in a car accident while visiting her sister in South Carolina, per the Oklahoman. It strengthened the bond between mother and son as well as the entire Mayfield clan that includes father James and older brother Matt.

 

They’ll have a chance to out-do Baker in the gift department this weekend.

 

You can watch it here.

 

AFC EAST

 

NEW ENGLAND

The Patriots have reached out to TE BENJAMIN WATSON, and it looks like his retirement could be over.  Herbie Teope of NFL.com:

 

Tight end Benjamin Watson’s time away from the football field could prove short.

 

Watson intends to come out of retirement and is paying a free-agent visit Thursday to the New England Patriots, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported.

 

The 38-year-old Watson spent the 2018 season with the New Orleans Saints after signing a three-year deal. He announced his retirement in late December.

 

A potential signing in New England would reunite Watson with head coach Bill Belichick. The Patriots originally selected Watson as a first-round pick in the 2004 draft and he played six seasons in New England before leaving after the 2009 season.

 

The Patriots also have a need at the tight end position given the recent retirement of Rob Gronkowski.

 

While Watson even in his prime won’t come close to matching Gronkowski’s lost production, he would provide a veteran presence and depth for the tight end group.

 

We’re not sure why he’s not still under contract with New Orleans, based on the facts set forth above.

– – –

Charles Robinson of YahooSports.com looks at the problems in the case against Robert Kraft (and the others who were ensared by the Jupiter police):

 

If Palm Beach County prosecutors weren’t already in danger of losing the misdemeanor prostitution case against New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, newly released court filings suggest the charges may be in jeopardy.

 

An exchange between Kraft’s attorneys and prosecutors this week over the legality of surveillance inside the Orchids of Asia Day Spa revealed a pressing issue for authorities in Jupiter, Florida: The officer who pulled over Kraft’s car following his spa visit was recorded on a police radio exchange saying he’d “come up with something” to justify a traffic stop where he identified a suspect who departed the spa immediately before Kraft.

 

Attorneys for the Patriots owner have consistently argued that police secured illegal video and audio surveillance inside the spa, and followed that up with an illegal traffic stop to identify customers leaving the business. As Kraft’s legal case progresses, his attorneys have pushed a motion to get the spa surveillance – as well as evidence gained in his traffic stop – barred from a trial.

 

Part of that assertion now appears to have traction as it has come to light in a recent legal exchange. The details unfolded when prosecutors asked a judge to find two of Kraft’s attorneys in contempt for falsely alleging that a police officer had admitted manufacturing a traffic infraction to stop and identify the spa patron prior to Kraft’s traffic stop. The request for that contempt finding came after two of Kraft’s attorneys – William Burck and Alex Spiro – asked Jupiter police officer Scott Kimbark if he had told other police officers that he would fabricate a reason to stop a customer who left the spa immediately before Kraft.

 

During the questioning, Spiro repeatedly accused Kimbark of telling other officers that although he didn’t have probable cause to stop the suspect before Kraft, the officer had said he would “make some s— up” to create a traffic stop. Kimbark denied making that statement. Following that denial, Palm Beach County prosecutors repeated that Kimbark had made no such statement and asked the judge to strike the entire line of questioning, while also holding Burck and Spiro in contempt for making a “false and misleading” accusation.

 

Prosecutors further alleged that Spiro had tried to influence Kimbark during a lunch break in the same legal proceedings, telling the officer they had obtained video of him “saying stupid s—”.

 

Kraft’s attorney’s reacted to the contempt allegation by promising a rebuttal that would provide proof for the line of questioning. That evidence was revealed in a filing late Tuesday night, in which Kraft’s attorneys argued that the state has refused to produce Kimbark’s body cam footage during his stop of the Patriots owner. That apparently led Kraft’s legal team to seek out other accompanying evidence, some of which came from the surveillance of the customer who left the spa just prior to Kraft.

 

During that traffic stop, a radio exchange between officers gave Kraft’s attorneys reason to believe that the traffic stop was manipulated. In the exchange:

 

* Officers first discuss a traffic infraction that occurred inside the parking lot of the day spa.

 

* One officer asks if anyone had “anything better than pulling out of that plaza?”

 

* A second officer responds that the suspect was driving like “an angel” after leaving the parking lot.

 

* Kimbark, who eventually pulled the suspect over, responded “Alright I’ll come up with something when I tell him.”

 

While the suspect being spoken about wasn’t Kraft, it was the patron who left the day spa directly before him. That exchange came from the officer’s body cam footage which hasn’t been provided in the Kraft case. At the very least, it opens a window of dispute in Kraft’s defense because it suggests that police engineered elements of the traffic stop to gain the information needed in their case.

 

In the volley of legal paperwork, it becomes clear that the prosecutor’s office is honing in on the line of questioning from Kraft’s attorneys that surrounded the allegation that Kimbark vowed to “make some s— up.” The contention of the prosecution was that Kimbark intended to omit where the traffic stop occurred – in the parking lot of the day spa – rather than fabricating the stop completely.

 

There’s some nuance in language in that argument and it’s open to legal interpretation. But it’s leaning more toward something Kraft’s legal team has been arguing: that police didn’t have proper cause to stop some of their suspects – or perhaps just Kraft specifically.

 

Early in the case, it seemed like that was an argument meant to muddy the legal proceedings. Now, there may be some legitimate standing to question some of the Jupiter police department’s procedures in the case, while also potentially throwing out the traffic stop that identified Kraft.

 

If Kraft’s attorneys can accomplish the latter, it may undercut – and eventually end – the entire misdemeanor case hanging over him.

 

This whole thing seems so 20th Century

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

SUPER BOWL ODDS

Here are the latest odds for all the teams, including Super Bowl victory and other cool stuff compiled by Joe Kligele of ESPN.com with odds from Westgate Las Vegas Super Book:

 

AFC East

 

New England Patriots (6-1 to win Super Bowl)

Odds to win AFC: 3-1

Division: -500

Over/under wins: 11

Odds to make playoffs: Yes -900, No +600

 

New York Jets (80-1)

Odds to win AFC: 40-1

Division: +550

Over/under: 7.5

Odds to make playoffs: Yes +300, No -400

 

Buffalo Bills (100-1)

Odds to win AFC: 50-1

Division: 8-1

Over/under: 6.5

Odds to make playoffs: Yes +500, No -700

 

Miami Dolphins (200-1)

Odds to win AFC: 100-1

Division: 50-1

Over/under: 5

Odds to make playoffs: Yes +1,100, No -2,500

 

AFC North

 

Pittsburgh Steelers (20-1)

Odds to win AFC: 10-1

Division: +150

Over/under: 9

Odds to make playoffs: Yes +110, No -130

 

Baltimore Ravens (40-1)

Odds to win AFC: 20-1

Division: 3-1

Over/under: 8.5

Odds to make playoffs: Yes +180, No -220

 

Cleveland Browns (16-1)

Odds to win AFC: 8-1

Division: +140

Over/under: 9

Odds to make playoffs: Yes EVEN, No -120

 

Cincinnati Bengals (100-1)

Odds to win AFC: 50-1

Division: 20-1

Over/under: 6

Odds to make playoffs: Yes +700, No -1,100

 

AFC South

 

Houston Texans (30-1)

Odds to win AFC: 15-1

Division: +280

Over/under: 8.5

Odds to make playoffs: Yes +150, No -180

 

Indianapolis Colts (10-1)

Odds to win AFC: 5-1

Division: -110

Over/under: 9.5

Odds to make playoffs: Yes -250, No +200

 

Jacksonville Jaguars (60-1)

Odds to win AFC: 30-1

Division: 5-1

Over/under: 8

Odds to make playoffs: Yes +375, No -500

 

Tennessee Titans (100-1)

Odds to win AFC: 50-1

Division: 5-1

Over/under: 8

Odds to make playoffs: Yes +375, No -500

 

AFC West

 

Kansas City Chiefs (6-1)

Odds to win AFC: 3-1

Division: -160

Over/under: 10.5

Odds to make playoffs: Yes -550, No +400

 

Los Angeles Chargers (16-1)

Odds to win AFC: 8-1

Division: +180

Over/under: 9.5

Odds to make playoffs: Yes -220, No +180

 

Denver Broncos (80-1)

Odds to win AFC: 40-1

Division: 10-1

Over/under: 7

Odds to make playoffs: Yes +500, No -700

 

Oakland Raiders (80-1)

Odds to win AFC: 40-1

Division: 16-1

Over/under: 6

Odds to make playoffs: Yes +700, No -1,100

 

NFC East

 

Dallas Cowboys (25-1)

Odds to win NFC: 12-1

Division: +140

Over/under wins: 9

Odds to make playoffs: Yes +105, No -125

 

New York Giants (100-1)

Odds to win NFC: 50-1

Division: 14-1

Over/under: 6

Odds to make playoffs: Yes +500, No -700

 

Philadelphia Eagles (14-1)

Odds to win NFC: 7-1

Division: -125

Over/under: 9.5

Odds to make playoffs: Yes -190, No +160

 

Washington Redskins (100-1)

Odds to win NFC: 50-1

Division: 12-1

Over/under: 6.5

Odds to make playoffs: Yes +500, No -700

 

NFC North

 

Chicago Bears (14-1)

Odds to win NFC: 7-1

Division: +160

Over/under: 9

Odds to make playoffs: Yes -110, No -110

 

Detroit Lions (100-1)

Odds to win NFC: 50-1

Division: 14-1

Over/under: 6.5

Odds to make playoffs: Yes +500, No -700

 

Green Bay Packers (14-1)

Odds to win NFC: 7-1

Division: 2-1

Over/under: 9

Odds to make playoffs: Yes +110, No -130

 

Minnesota Vikings (25-1)

Odds to win NFC: 12-1

Division: 2-1

Over/under: 9

Odds to make playoffs: Yes +130, No -150

 

NFC South

 

New Orleans Saints (8-1)

Odds to win NFC: 4-1

Division: -180

Over/under: 10.5

Odds to make playoffs: Yes -310, No +250

 

Atlanta Falcons (30-1)

Odds to win NFC: 15-1

Division: 3-1

Over/under: 8.5

Odds to make playoffs: Yes +170, No -200

 

Carolina Panthers (60-1)

Odds to win NFC: 30-1

Division: 5-1

Over/under: 8

Odds to make playoffs: Yes +240, No -300

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (100-1)

Odds to win NFC: 50-1

Division: 16-1

Over/under: 6.5

Odds to make playoffs: Yes +500, No -700

 

NFC West

 

Los Angeles Rams (8-1)

Odds to win NFC: 4-1

Division: -175

Over/under: 10.5

Odds to make playoffs: Yes -310, No +250

 

Seattle Seahawks (30-1)

Odds to win NFC: 15-1

Division: 3-1

Over/under: 8.5

Odds to make playoffs: Yes +160, No -190

 

San Francisco 49ers (25-1)

Odds to win NFC: 12-1

Division: 4-1

Over/under: 8

Odds to make playoffs: Yes +240, No -300

 

Arizona Cardinals (200-1)

Odds to win NFC: 50-1

Division: 30-1

Over/under: 5

Odds to make playoffs: Yes +1,000, No -2,000

 

There will be 256 games this year.  The 32 over/under lines add up  to 259.5, so you have slightly better odds across the board with an under – but it’s pretty close.

 

 

ESPN PROJECTIONS

Even though ESPN’s crack analytics team already played the 2019 NFL season 10,000 times, we’ll still watch.  

 

They think 2019 will look a lot like 2018, although as we know one NFL season usually does not look like the one that preceeded it (except for the Patriots being in the Final Four):

 

Hank Gargiulio and Seth Walder

 

Patrick Mahomes already is the reigning MVP. Now he’s a Super Bowl favorite, too.

 

Mahomes, Andy Reid and the rest of the Kansas City Chiefs have a 16 percent chance to hoist the Lombardi trophy following Super Bowl LIV, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI), tops in the NFL.

 

FPI is our prediction model for the NFL. Preseason ratings are based on each team’s Las Vegas win total; last season’s performance on offense, defense and special teams; the number of returning starters; coaching staff changes; and starting and backup quarterbacks. FPI produces team rankings (released on Wednesday) and season projections, which we’re unveiling for the 2019 season for the first time here.

 

A quartet of favorites

In 2019, FPI loves the Chiefs. Though Kansas City was knocked out by the New England Patriots in the AFC title game last season, FPI thought the Chiefs remained the best team in football in 2018 even after the Super Bowl. Mix in the fact that Vegas concurs with Kansas City’s overall strength and that its quarterback has recorded only brilliance on the stat sheet, and FPI forecasts 10.3 wins, a 65 percent chance to win the AFC West and an 80 percent chance to reach the playoffs. And there’s the aforementioned 16 percent shot at winning it all, which matches the chance last season’s favorite — the eventual Super Bowl-winning Patriots — had last preseason.

 

But the margin is slim. Right on the Chiefs’ heels are the New Orleans Saints, Patriots and Los Angeles Rams — the other participants in last season’s conference championship games — with 15, 12 and 12 percent chances, respectively, to hoist the Lombardi trophy before a large drop-off to the rest of the field. In fact, the Patriots have a slightly better win total projection and higher chances to win their division and reach the playoffs than the Chiefs, thanks to a much easier schedule.

 

But overall, FPI is pretty clear: It’s last season’s final four, then everyone else. And that is reflected not only in each team’s individual chance to win the Super Bowl, but also in the most likely Super Bowl combinations.

 

BEST CHANCE TO WIN THE SUPER BOWL

Kansas City Chiefs        16%

New Orleans Saints       15%

New England Patriots     12%

Los Angeles Rams         12%

Indianapolis Colts          6%

 

MOST LIKELY SUPER BOWL MATCHUPS

New Orleans Saints vs. Kansas City Chiefs         7%

New Orleans Saints vs. New England Patriots      6%

Los Angeles Rams vs. Kansas City Chiefs          6%

Los Angeles Rams vs. New England Patriots       5%

New Orleans Saints vs. Indianapolis Colts           3%

 

The Browns have arrived

Guess which 2018 non-playoff team has the best chance to reach the playoffs this season? Guess which team improved its playoff projections by 43 percentage points from this time a year ago? Guess which team is more likely than not to reach the playoffs? Yes, you can count FPI among the Cleveland believers.

 

Technically, at 52 percent, the Cleveland Browns are just better than a coin flip to reach the postseason. Don’t round that up to 100 just because it’s over 50, but considering that Cleveland hasn’t had a double-digit chance to reach the playoffs in the history of FPI’s preseason projections (since 2015), the Dawg Pound is rightfully pumped up. From Baker Mayfield to Odell Beckham Jr. to Myles Garrett to Greedy Williams, there’s plenty of star power assembled on the banks of Lake Erie. 2019 might finally be the realization of the rebuild plan started by Sashi Brown and continued by John Dorsey.

 

Per FPI, the Browns have a 3 percent chance to win the Super Bowl. That might sound low, but it’s actually better than teams such as the Minnesota Vikings, Pittsburgh Steelers, Seattle Seahawks and Dallas Cowboys.

 

FPI is basing its quarterback info off of every Mayfield play last season. But if the Mayfield who emerged in the second half of the season and posted a Total QBR of 70.1 is the real deal, there’s even further reason for optimism in Cleveland.

 

After the Browns, the Green Bay Packers and Steelers are the next-most likely teams to make the leap from out of the playoffs to in them this season.

 

2019 Football Power Index Projections (2018 playoff teams in bold)

 

TEAM                             WINS P’OFFS DIV      WIN SB

Kansas City Chiefs       10.3      80%      65%     16%

New Orleans Saints      10.1      77%      61%      15%

New England Patriots   10.5      86%      80%      12%

Los Angeles Rams       10.1      76%      62%      12%

Indianapolis Colts          9.2      58%      40%        6%

Chicago Bears                 9.1     56%      38%        5%

Philadelphia Eagles       9.4      67%      56%        4%

Los Angeles Chargers    8.8      50%      25%        4%

Houston Texans             8.5      44%      27%        3%

Green Bay Packers          8.6      46%      27%        3%

Atlanta Falcons                8.4     42%      22%        3%

Cleveland Browns            8.8      52%      36%        3%

Minnesota Vikings           8.5      45%      26%        2%

Baltimore Ravens           8.5      45%      30%        2%

Pittsburgh Steelers          8.5      46%      31%        2%

Tennessee Titans            8.0      35%      19%        2%

Seattle Seahawks           8.4      41%      23%        2%

Dallas Cowboys             8.4      44%      31%        2%

Jacksonville Jaguars        7.6      27%      14%        1%

Carolina Panthers            7.7      28%      12%        1%

San Francisco 49ers        7.6      27%      13%        1%

Denver Broncos                7.0     18%      7%       <1%

Detroit Lions                     7.0     17%      8%       <1%

New York Jets                  7.2     21%      11%      <1%

Oakland Raiders              6.5      12%      4%       <1%

Washington Redskins      6.2      10%      6%       <1%

Tampa Bay Buccaneers   6.4      10%      4%       <1%

Buffalo Bills                      6.7     14%      7%       <1%

New York Giants              6.3      10%      6%       <1%

Arizona Cardinals             5.5      4%       2%       <1%

Cincinnati Bengals           6.0      8%       4%       <1%

Miami Dolphins                 5.6     5%       2%       <1%

 

Who will be the kings in the North?

Perhaps the most compelling divisional races will be the AFC and NFC North. Both divisions feature three teams with at least a 26 percent chance of winning the division. In the case of the AFC North, the three teams are given at least a 30 percent chance.

 

What is in the Cards for the 2020 draft?

There are many unknowns going into the 2019 season for the Arizona Cardinals. How will new head coach Kliff Kingsbury and his Air Raid offense fare in the NFL? How long will it take 2019’s top overall draft selection, Kyler Murray, to adapt?

 

Those unknowns are big reasons why FPI favors the Cardinals to have the top pick in the 2020 NFL draft, with a 16 percent chance. FPI does consider Murray as Arizona’s quarterback, but with no information at the NFL level to use in its projections, the model is conservative. If the Kingsbury-Murray combination starts piling up points, FPI will change its tune in short order.

 

Behind Arizona are the Miami Dolphins at 14 percent and the Cincinnati Bengals at 11 percent. FPI thinks Miami is worse than Arizona, but the Cardinals have a tougher schedule. While Arizona might not be in the market for a quarterback at the top of the draft, both Miami and Cincinnati might be, with potential franchise quarterbacks Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert already projected as potential top-five picks.

 

 

TEAM                             #1%    TOP5 %

Arizona Cardinals           16%      53%

Miami Dolphins               14%     50%

Cincinnati Bengals         11%      43%

New York Giants            10%      41%

Washington Redskins      9%     38%

Buffalo Bills                      6%    31%

Tampa Bay Buccaneers   6%     30%

Oakland Raiders              5%     29%

New York Jets                  4%    23%

Detroit Lions                     4%    24%

 

Temper expectations for rookie QBs

FPI naturally lowers the forecasts for teams with rookie quarterbacks because it treats all rookie quarterbacks the same — roughly replacement-level options — until it sees evidence to the contrary. That might seem harsh, but there is more than a fair share of examples of quarterbacks struggling during their rookie seasons. Some later parlay that experience into improvement (see: Carson Wentz) and others don’t (Blaine Gabbert). But either way, it’s reasonable to have a fairly poor expectation for a rookie.

 

We’ve already covered the model’s pessimistic forecast for the Cardinals (5.5 projected wins), but it also is fairly low on Washington (6.2) despite the expectation that Case Keenum will start at the beginning of the season. The New York Giants are not much better at 6.3 projected wins and the Denver Broncos — who took Drew Lock in the second round — are at 7.0. Both teams are expected to at least begin the campaign with veteran QBs rather than starting their rookies.

 

Of the teams that selected a rookie quarterback in the first two rounds, Denver has the best shot at the playoffs at 18 percent.

 

What happened in Simulation 5,130?

To build our projections, we simulated the 2019 season 10,000 times. And exactly once — simulation No. 5,130 — the Dolphins went on to win the Super Bowl.

 

How did they do it? A Miami miracle of astronomic proportions.

 

Brian Flores’ team made a late run, winning four consecutive games from Weeks 13-16 before dropping a Week 17 contest in Foxborough, Massachusetts, against Flores’ old team. No matter: At 10-6, a feisty Dolphins team led by either Josh Rosen or Ryan Fitzpatrick (FPI isn’t clear) sneaked into the playoffs as No. 6 seed.

 

On the road, Miami dismantled the AFC South champion Texans before a rematch against the division-rival Patriots. And this time, it pulled off the upset.  Lamar Jackson and the Ravens’ defense were then no match for Rosen and/or Fitzpatrick in the AFC Championship Game. And miraculously, Flores’ team finished it off with a victory over the Eagles two weeks later.

 

And so it’s possible, Dolphins fans. It’s spring, and thankfully, due to Simulation 5,130, all 32 teams officially have hope.