The Daily Briefing Friday, September 14, 2018

AROUND THE NFL 

NFC NORTH

 

GREEN BAY

RealClearLife.com with some thoughts on gambling and the health of QB AARON RODGERS:

 

If you want to know what’s going on in NFL, follow the money … line.

 

As of Friday morning, BetDSI has Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers installed at -350 to miss Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Vikings.

 

That means the site has the odds set at 3.5:1 that the All-Pro QB will not be suiting up because of the leg that bothered him during Sunday night’s win over the Bears.

 

Given that the game is bound to be close, oddsmakers think the Packers will play it safe with their star signal-caller and keep him on the sidelines.

 

“If Rodgers plays this week we’re looking at Green Bay as a 1- or 2-point home favorite. If he doesn’t, you’re going to see spreads anywhere from Vikings -7 to -9,” BetDSI head risk manager Brent Corobotiuc said in a statement to NESN. “There is a vast dropoff between Deshone Kizer and Aaron Rodgers, but it’s even greater this week due to the opponent being one of the best teams in football.”

 

Even at home, could DeSHONE KIZER keep the Packers within 8.  We wouldn’t bet on it.

 

NFC SOUTH

 

ATLANTA

The Falcons don’t want to fall two games behind the rival Panthers, but their task Sunday has gotten harder with the news on an injury to RB DeVONTA FREEMAN.  James Parks of 247Sports.com:

 

Here’s another injury to report for the Atlanta Falcons, but this one is nowhere near as serious as the other two which struck the team’s starting defense this week.

 

Head coach Dan Quinn said that starting running back Devonta Freeman is day to day with a sore knee and will not be at the team’s practice on Thursday for the second consecutive day as they prepare for their Week 2 game against the Carolina Panthers.

 

“Have more tomorrow,” Quinn said of his opinion on Freeman’s progress.

 

Freeman injured his knee in the Falcons’ Week 1 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, an ailment that forced him from action in the second half and deprived their offense of his contribution down near the goal line when they had a chance to win the game.

 

He finished with just 36 rushing yards on six carries and 14 additional yards receiving, while reserve back Tevin Coleman rushed for the team’s first touchdown of the season, but the larger concern remains with their starter, one of the league’s most physical backs.

 

The Falcons can hardly afford for their starters to lose any time on the practice field or in games considering how unlucky the team has been on the injury front already one week into the season: starting middle linebacker Deion Jones and starting strong safety Keanu Neal were both placed on injured reserve after suffering foot and ACL injuries, respectively.

 

Next up after Coleman would be RB ITO SMITH who got his nickname do to a perceived resemblance to the O.J. Simpson judge.  Given name Romarius.

 

Freeman did not practice on Friday.

 

 

CAROLINA

Owner David Tepper wants the Panthers to have more information than their opponents – and to act on it.  First down passes seem to be a priority.  Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

New Panthers owner David Tepper has told his coaching staff he wants a forward-thinking approach to the game, which includes a focus on analytics.

 

Tepper noted that the Panthers called more passes on first down in Week One than they typically did in past years, and he said analytics had shown that’s a wise approach.

 

“Those first-down passes,” Tepper told Panthers.com. “I’m real focused on analytics, and we hadn’t really done that before. I loved the mix of plays. The first down passing was a new look for this team.”

 

Some of the most successful owners in the NFL, including New England’s Robert Kraft and Philadelphia’s Jeffrey Lurie, have said they attribute much of their teams’ success to a focus on analytics. Tepper said he expects his football people to follow that lead.

 

“You have to incorporate modern ideas,” Tepper said. “I just want to make sure analytics are applied. I don’t want human biases to alter what we think is correct or not correct. There is an openness to it here, which is good. I want a tough mentality, I like grittiness, but this is a new age.”

 

The Panthers are off to a 1-0 start in the new age that Tepper is bringing in. Tepper knows one game is far too small a sample size to draw any big conclusions, but he’s pleased with what he’s seeing so far.

 

 

TAMPA BAY

According to the Friday injury report, CB BRENT GRIMES will miss his second straight game due to a groin injury – but WR DeSEAN JACKSON and DE JASON PIERRE-PAUL both practiced fully on Friday.

 

NFC WEST

 

LOS ANGELES RAMS

Sean McVay is haunted by the fact that he can’t forget a play.  Lindsey Thiry of ESPN.com:

 

Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay has a simple explanation for why he has a seemingly super-human ability to recall plays.

 

“I have no life,” he said. “Other than I love football.”

 

McVay’s power of recall was on full display in a recent Bleacher Report video, in which he was peppered with game scenarios from past seasons and perfectly recalled what play was run, as well as its result.

 

He said his ability to recall these events is actually due to a process he’s “always revisiting.”

 

“It’s not like I’m just recalling it and that’s the only time you’ve ever done it from,” he said. “These are things that we as coaches always go back through. So, it’s kind of something that you’re always revisiting, especially when it’s relevant plays.”

 

Coaches and players who work with McVay, 32, said his memory should not be downplayed.

 

Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, now in his 41st season as an NFL coach, said McVay’s recall ability was an uncommon trait among coaches.

 

“I think it’s a common between savants,” Phillips said. “He has got tremendous recall, but he has got great people skills, too, and that’s the difference in him and some real smart guy. He’s way above my head, that’s for sure.”

 

When McVay’s recall ability was described to Todd Gurley II, the running back said, “Sounds about right. … He has a great memory.”

 

Still, McVay insisted his recall only works when it comes to football.

 

“It is not a joke,” McVay said, “when I say I really do not remember anything else.”

– – –

Look out QB SAM BRADFORD.  DT NDAMUKONG SUH blames you for what he perceives as a slight.  ESPN.com:

 

Ndamukong Suh loves to hit quarterbacks.

 

Especially quarterbacks named Sam Bradford.

 

It’s really nothing Bradford did. But still, the Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle told the “Around the NFL” podcast during training camp that he always marks the calendar for matchups against the Arizona Cardinals quarterback.

 

“He definitely has a little bit bigger target on his back,” Suh said Wednesday, as the Rams prepare to play the Cardinals on Sunday in an NFC West matchup at the Coliseum.

 

Ndamukong Suh and Sam Bradford have met on the field three times since they went No. 1 and No. 2 in the 2010 draft. Suh has two sacks. Eric Hartline/USA TODAY Sports

It all goes back to 2010, when the St. Louis Rams selected Bradford out of Oklahoma with the top overall pick in the NFL draft.

 

Suh, who starred at Nebraska, went second to the Detroit Lions.

 

That is something Suh, a five-time Pro Bowl selection and three-time All-Pro (who also has been fined nearly $300,000 for overly aggressive play throughout his career), never will forget.

 

And he won’t let Bradford, who has faced a never-ending battle with injuries, forget it, either.

 

“Great. I get it,” Bradford said. “I think everyone wants to hit me. I think that’s kind of how it goes. So, I don’t really think too much more about it than any other week.”

 

Suh and Braford have met only three times in eight seasons. Suh has sacked him twice.

– – –

A hefty fine for CB MARCUS PETERS:

 

Marcus Peters paid tribute to Marshawn Lynch during his backward dive into the end zone on a pick-six in Monday night’s victory over the Oakland Raiders. Now the Los Angeles Rams’ corner must pay out of his pocket.

 

NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Peters was fined over $13,000 for grabbing his crotch during the touchdown celebration, per a source informed of the punishment.

 

Jordan Schultz of Yahoo Sports first reported the fine.

 

Peters intercepted Derek Carr late in the fourth quarter Monday night and scampered 50 yards for the game-sealing score. Upon reaching the end zone, the corner leaped backward and grabbed his crotch, a move Lynch had been fined for in the past.

 

AFC NORTH

 

BALTIMORE

Chris Wesseling on the spotty appearances of QB LAMAR JACKSON:

 

Ravens rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson made an appearance for a handful of plays, rushing twice for six yards and functioning as a decoy on a few others. It’s fair to question the timing and effectiveness of the plan to shoehorn Jackson’s unique skill set into action as a ploy to keep defenses guessing. This was certainly an underwhelming showing for Flacco, but is it worth upsetting the veteran’s rhythm when he’s in a groove?

 

Based on his own feelings as a player, Troy Aikman was adamant on Thursday night that however Flacco might keep his mouth shut, he is not at all excited about Jackson’s occasional intrusions into the offense with Flacco heading out to wide receiver.

 

 

CINCINNATI

Chris Wesseling of NFL.com gets the early vibe (as does the DB) that the AFC Central is going to be a three-team dogfight. 

 

Off to a 2-0 start without suspended linebacker Vontaze Burfict, the Bengals find themselves in the driver’s seat of an improved AFC North. That said, the Ravens and Steelers aren’t going away. This has the early look of an especially competitive division that could come down to the season’s final week before establishing a champion.

 

Actually, it might be too early to discount Cleveland.

 

 

PITTSBURGH

The DB would think that the presence of RB JAMES CONNER would be a good thing if recalcitrant RB Le’VEON BELL is worried about his workload.  But according to former RB Maurice Jones-Drew, Bell sees Conner’s opening week performance as a glass half empty:

 

Non-Steelers Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell hasn’t said much publicly as his contract impasse with the team has reached Defcon 5 (or maybe it’s Defcon 1 . . . whichever is the bad one). He recently spoke privately to former NFL running back Maurice Jones-Drew. Based on Jones-Drew’s explanation of the conversation, it seems fairly obvious that Bell’s stance hasn’t changed much in the last week.

 

Specifically, Bell continues to be concerned about the possibility that, in what most likely will be his last year with the Steelers, Bell will be overused.

 

“[Bell] was happy for James Conner after that performance but that performance justifies why he’s not there right now,” Jones-Drew said on the Dave Dameshek Football Program earlier this week. “If you’re going to give James Conner 31 carries, imagine how many you’d give to Le’Veon Bell?”

 

Bell also told Jones-Drew that there’s nothing personal about an inherently business decision to stay away, avoiding excessive contact with a major payday looming.

 

“[Bell] said to me, ‘People think that I don’t like Pittsburgh, I don’t like James Conner, I don’t like these guys,’” Jones-Drew said. “He was like, ‘Yes, I was disappointed they went out and spoke about my contract,’ understandably so. He was like, ‘But I still want them to do well, they’re still guys that I work with and guys that I’ve put in this extra work with — blood, sweat and tears like I still want them to do well.’”

 

That last part is telling. “They’re still guys I work with.” This means that Bell indeed intends to return to work at some point. The only question is whether that comes before or after the Tuesday after Week 10, which represents his final deadline for showing up and playing this season.

 

Bell for now remains on track to give up $855,000 (gross not net) again this weekend in order to avoid the kind of workload that could result in the kind of injury that keeps him from cashing in. Under that analysis, he has no reason whatsoever to show up before the Tuesday after Week 10.

 

AFC SOUTH

 

INDIANAPOLIS

The one constant of the QB ANDREW LUCK Era has been change on the OL.  Charean Williams of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

The Colts have worked on fixing their offensive line problems, well, forever it seems. But for one reason or another, they can’t seem to get any continuity up front.

 

With left tackle Anthony Castonzo ruled out for a second consecutive week with a hamstring injury, and right tackle J’Marcus Webb placed on injured reserve this week, the Colts will start their 37th different offensive line combination in front of Andrew Luck, according to Nat Newell of the Indianapolis Star.

 

Thirty-seventh?!

 

Luck will play his 72nd career game Sunday.

 

Joe Haeg started in Castonzo’s spot last week. Rookie Braden Smith and Le’Raven Clark are the other tackles on the roster.

 

“It’ll be a new combination, and that’s a combination we will have a lot of confidence in,” Colts coach Frank Reich said. “This is why we went big on the offensive line in the draft.”

 

 

TENNESSEE

Coach Mike Vrabel talks about a two-QB attack on Sunday.  Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

The Titans expect to have rookie linebackers Rashaan Evans and Harold Landry in the lineup after they missed the opener with injuries, but the news isn’t as good on the offensive side of the ball.

 

Titans coach Mike Vrabel said that the team is still going through the evaluation process with quarterback Marcus Mariota‘s elbow and that he expects both Mariota and Blaine Gabbert to play against the Texans on Sunday. It’s not clear how that would work as one would imagine Mariota will play if healthy and that the Titans would sit him if he isn’t, but we’ll find out Sunday.

 

Vrabel also said, via Terry McCormick of Titan Insider, that Mariota’s progress has been “stagnant” this week. Gabbert replaced Mariota during last Sunday’s loss to the Dolphins.

 

Whoever Tennessee has at quarterback is going to be playing behind a pair of backup tackles. Left tackle Taylor Lewan and right tackle Jack Conklin were both ruled out on Friday and matters have been further complicated this week by backup Dennis Kelly‘s illness. Kelly didn’t practice Thursday and wasn’t seen during the portion of Friday’s practice open to the media.

 

AFC EAST

 

MIAMI

The Dolphins have lost veteran G JOSH SITTON.  Cameron Wolfe of ESPN.com:

 

The Miami Dolphins got bad news Friday when tests revealed that left guard Josh Sitton tore his rotator cuff and will be out for the season.

 

Sitton was placed on injured reserve Friday. The Dolphins will not make an immediate corresponding move prior to Sunday’s game.

 

Sitton suffered the shoulder injury by taking what coach Adam Gase called, “a weird hit” in last Sunday’s win against the Tennessee Titans. He didn’t practice Wednesday or Thursday.

 

“We’ve had an idea all week that he wasn’t going to be ready for this game,” Gase said. “After a lot of discussions with him and everybody in the organization, we realized the best option was for him to have surgery and not try to risk anything where it could prevent him from ever playing again.”

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

TOP FRONT SEVENS

Former NFL safety Matt Bowen ranks the top front sevens to current NFL defenses at ESPN.com:

 

1. Jacksonville Jaguars

Starting defensive line: Calais Campbell, Marcell Dareus, Malik Jackson, Yannick Ngakoue

Starting linebackers: Telvin Smith, Myles Jack, Leon Jacobs

 

Why they’re ranked here: The monster sack production of Campbell and Ngakoue jump out when you turn on the tape. Campbell put up 14.5 sacks last season, and Ngakoue had 12. But don’t forget about the impact Dareus had in Jacksonville in 2017. With Dareus in the middle of that defensive line in Weeks 9-17, the Jags ranked No. 9 against the run, allowing 98.9 yards per game. In Weeks 1-8, before they made the trade with Buffalo? Dead last, giving up 136.8 rushing yards per game. It’s the versatility of this defensive front with the speed of Smith and Jack at the second level. They are ideal fits at the linebacker position in Jacksonville’s three-deep coverage looks.

 

2. Minnesota Vikings

Starting defensive line: Everson Griffen, Sheldon Richardson, Linval Joseph, Danielle Hunter

Starting linebackers: Eric Kendricks, Anthony Barr, Ben Gedeon

 

Why they’re ranked here: The Vikings allowed only 275.9 yards per game last season, best in the league. They were No. 1 in points allowed per game at 15.8. And they held opposing offenses to a 25.2 percent third-down conversion rate, which is ridiculously low. With two high-end pass-rushers in Griffen and Hunter, plus the interior disruption that Joseph provides next to Richardson, this D-line is as nasty as it gets. With versatile linebackers off the ball who can plug gaps in the run game, a unique blitz front in coach Mike Zimmer’s camouflaged pressure schemes, the Vikings have one of the most complete front sevens in the league.

 

3. Philadelphia Eagles

Defensive line rotation: Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, Haloti Ngata, Derek Barnett, Chris Long, Michael Bennett, Destiny Vaeao

Starting linebackers: Jordan Hicks, Nigel Bradham, Nathan Gerry

 

Why they’re ranked here: Forget about the starters along the defensive line — this is a deep and talented rotation of studs. The Eagles led the NFL in rushing defense last season, allowing just 79.2 yards per game. This unit also held opposing offenses to a 32.3 percent conversion rate on third downs while ranking fourth in points allowed per game at 18.4. Cox is in the discussion with Aaron Donald as the top defensive tackle in the league. He’s a game-wrecker. And coordinator Jim Schwartz can throw multiple edge rushers at opposing offenses. Plus, as we saw in the Week 1 win vs. Atlanta, Hicks has the ability to rush from the second level, and Bradham is a solid player. Both are fits for what Schwartz wants to do with his game plan.

 

4. Carolina Panthers

Starting defensive line: Mario Addison, Kawann Short, Dontari Poe, Julius Peppers

Starting linebackers: Luke Kuechly, Shaq Thompson, David Mayo

 

Why they’re ranked here: The Panthers produced 50 sacks in 2017 and allowed just 88.1 rushing yards per game, which ranked No. 3 in the league. Given the high-level consistency of Kuechly inside and the ascending talent of Thompson, the Panthers are set at the linebacker position, with Davis returning from suspension in Week 5. Up front, this is a veteran unit, anchored by Short on the interior and the presence of Peppers in passing situations. The 38-year-old still can hunt for a front seven that continues to show up year after year.

 

5. Chicago Bears

Starting defensive line: Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman, Jonathan Bullard

Starting linebackers: Khalil Mack, Danny Trevathan, Roquan Smith, Leonard Floyd

 

Why they’re ranked here: The addition of Mack amplifies a front seven under veteran coordinator Vic Fangio that has so much upside. The Bears ranked No. 10 in total defense last season, allowing an average of 319.1 yards per game, and they produced 42 sacks. We should expect a boost in total sack numbers with Mack in town, and the veteran put on a show in Week 1 against the Packers with a sack, forced fumble and a pick-six off a screen concept. Along with the interior push of Hicks and the length/speed combo of Floyd off the opposite edge, the Bears will be able to create pressure up front. And the hype with Smith is real, too. Playing behind the big body of Goldman, the rookie linebacker should rack up tackles in the run game. Given Fangio’s ability to blur coverage schemes with his two-high safety looks, the Bears now have the personnel to aggressively attack opposing offenses.

 

Teams on the cusp of the top five

 

Houston Texans

This starts with J.J. Watt. If the defensive end returns to the high-level play that allowed him to rack up Hall of Fame-level numbers before injuries the past two seasons, Houston is in the mix. The upside is there with young linebackers Zach Cunningham and Benardrick McKinney. And we know the issues that Jadeveon Clowney can create against opposing offenses.

 

Cincinnati Bengals

Don’t sleep on a Cincinnati defensive line that is led by Geno Atkins. Highlight stuff. Carlos Dunlap is the vet on the edge, but the Bengals also have some youth there in Carl Lawson and Sam Hubbard. Preston Brown brings some veteran experience to a young linebacking group.

 

Baltimore Ravens

Linebacker C.J. Mosley and defensive tackle Brandon Williams fit the Don “Wink” Martindale scheme in Baltimore. And Terrell Suggs is still getting to quarterbacks off the edge. Coming off an 11 sack season, Suggs has now racked up 125.6 sacks over his 16 years in the league.

 

Los Angeles Chargers

The Chargers have the edge rushers in Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. These two can generate chaos when they turn the corner. The question I have is at the second level with the linebackers. L.A. has to show more consistency there to rise higher.

 

Washington Redskins

Jonathan Allen is back, and they have rookie nose tackle Daron Payne. Those are young, physical players who mesh with Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith, with Zach Brown off the ball.

 

San Francisco 49ers

Defensive end Solomon Thomas needs to make a jump in his second pro season, but the 49ers have talent on the interior with DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead. Pair that with Reuben Foster at linebacker. He has the tools to be a star.

 

 

NO PLAYOFF SOUP FOR YOU

Alex Finnis of The Telegraph has seen enough of 10 NFL teams in 2018 to say they will not be playing in January.  Including two that made the playoffs last year:

 

The first weekend of NFL action is the best of the entire regular season. Seven months of waiting, prophesising, over-analysing and drinking that sweet, sweet Kool-Aid labelled “BELIEF” get blown up in our faces as we realise everything we thought we knew about our teams was nothing more than a mirage carefully constructed by our poor, football deprived brains.

 

Who saw Ryan Fitzpatrick producing one of the most statistically perfect quarterback games in NFL history to carve up the Super Bowl-contending New Orleans Saints? Who honestly predicted the Jets decimating Detroit in Sam Darnold’s first-ever NFL game? Or Tom Brady throwing three touchdowns to help the Patriots put away the Houston Texans? OK, I guess some things you can predict…

 

And the fun doesn’t stop when the dust has settled – there’s no week like week one for overreacting wildly to just 60 minutes of action. Super Bowl champions are crowned and franchises are damned to the number one overall pick with 15 games still to play.

 

With that in mind, I’ve decided to do, well, just that. Based on just one tiny slice of football, I’ve picked 10 teams whose playoff chances I’m casting to the dirt this season. Will at least one of these franchises come back to bite me in the arse come late December? Almost certainly, but that’s the fun of it.

 

Arizona Cardinals

It was only three years ago that the Seahawks and Cardinals were the accepted superpowers in the NFC West, and the Rams and 49ers were doormats. That’s how quickly the NFL changes, and on Sunday Arizona looked like comfortably one of the poorest teams in the league.

 

We can now finally cast aside Sam Bradford’s mythical season opening display from 2017 – he looked distinctly average against the Redskins – and while David Johnson’s return and a defense with high turnover potential are boosts, they won’t be enough to see the Cardinals into January.

 

Buffalo Bills

Bills fans have every reason to be absolutely livid with their organisation. I mean, that’s nothing new, but this year is especially bad. Nathan Peterman, the man who was handed the starting quarterback job before the season opener, has now started three NFL games and produced two of the worst performances at the position the league has ever seen.

 

The warning signs were clearly visible to everyone except, seemingly, the Buffalo Bills coaching staff, who are now left with no choice but to throw Josh Allen – the rawest talent of the five QBs selected in the first round of the 2018 draft – to the wolves. The only thing worse than all this? The Bills will somehow stumble their way to 5-11 and end up with a middling draft pick, because that’s just what the Bills do.

 

Cleveland Browns

The only team on this list who didn’t lose their opener, I really wanted to avoid putting the Browns on this list, even just as recognition of their marked improvement. The aggressive defense finally gives this organisation a positive identity, and Josh Gordon’s return could be one of the feelgood stories of the season, but looking at the rest of the league there was no one left I could put below the Browns in terms of playoff potential.

 

Whether Hue Jackson is a good enough head coach to ever bring January football to Cleveland is up for debate, but this year certainly feels too soon. Anything over five wins should be seen as success.

 

Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys may actually have the best defense they’ve had in years. Unfortunately, it’s going to be tough for fans to enjoy it when their offense is so limp. People will jump to put the blame on Dak Prescott, but he and Ezekiel Elliott are this attack’s saving grace. It’s inept coaching that really deserves to be under the flashlight.

 

Dallas will win games this season – they’re probably a six to eight win team – but I fully expect them to be propping up the NFC East come New Year. The Redskins and Giants just have far more to get excited about right now.

 

Detroit Lions

Could Matt Patricia have endured a worse start to his NFL coaching career? I like the Lions a lot, and really fancied them to be good ahead of the season. I still think they could be. The problem is that right now they look like the worst team in the NFC North, and the Bears may well have leapfrogged them to be the outside shot in the division.

 

Bill Belichick disciples have a long and strange history of flopping when they’re finally released from his clutches into the big, wide world of head coaching. Detroit is an organisation with high expectations – Patricia can’t afford many more performances like their Monday night demolition by the Jets.

 

Indianapolis Colts

Despite the Bengals’ comeback victory, there was a lot for Colts fans to feel positive about on Sunday, and all of it was because of Andrew Luck. At his best, Luck is a top five-calibre quarterback, and all the signs point towards him getting back to that level.

 

The Colts’ problem is that outside of their starting QB, they have one of the weakest rosters in the league. Luck should be able to drag Indianapolis to a respectable win total, but the playoff run might have to wait until the 2019 season.

 

New York Giants

A lot of pundits had the Giants making a triumphant return to the playoffs this season, but their defeat to Jacksonville showed they’re still dealing with the same old problems, despite all the shiny weapons Eli Manning has at his disposal.

 

The offensive line resembles a revolving door, and Eli just isn’t a good enough QB to compensate for that anymore. Saquon Barkley is a potential Hall of Fame-level talent and will have a big season in New York, but you have to wonder whether, in a decade’s time, the Giants will regret not taking Sam Darnold or Josh Rosen instead.

 

Oakland Raiders

It’s pretty incredible how quickly the Jon Gruden Experience has soured in Oakland. Hailed as the man to take the Raiders to Vegas and turn them into a superpower, Gruden’s first few months in charge have mostly been made up of ditching the franchise’s most promising players and replacing them with ageing veterans who may or may not have much left in the tank.

 

They started well, but in the end the Raiders were comfortably rolled over by the Rams on Monday Night Football. Who was to blame for the defeat? According to Jon Gruden, a skunk which got loose in the team locker room. It could be a long season.

 

Seattle Seahawks

Do I feel incredibly nervous about writing off the Seattle Seahawks one game into the season? You bet I do, if because of Russell Wilson and Russell Wilson alone. This isn’t the Seahawks team that once was – the legion of boom is dead and Wilson doesn’t have a lot to work with out wide, but despite being a de facto top five quarterback I can’t help but feel the man is still underrated.

 

Looking through the NFC, though, it’s hard to vouch for Seattle as a wildcard when three of Minnesota, Green Bay, New Orleans, Atlanta and Carolina won’t win their division. All five look far more equipped.

 

Tennessee Titans

You could argue the Titans had the most disappointing opening game of any team. They won a playoff game last year, and have since brought in a promising new head coach in Mike Vrabel and made a number of big additions to their roster – former Patriots and proven winners Malcolm Butler and Dion Lewis are now among their ranks.

 

But there wasn’t much in Tennessee’s display against the Dolphins to inspire hope. This is a crunch season for Marcus Mariota, who has to prove he can be more than just a middling NFL quarterback, but the Jags and Texans both look better set up in the AFC South.

 

Which team is he most likely to be wrong about?  The Giants – we don’t think a one score loss to JAX is necessarily disqualifying.  Maybe the Lions and Cardinals will get some traction as they play more for their new coaches, same with the Raiders?

 

 

DRAFT 2019

Chris Trapasso of CBSSports.com offers his early Mock Draft with no skill players in the first eight picks:

 

Realize this mock draft will change many more times, and the same goes for the order of the picks. No need to get riled up about the selections themselves or where your team is slotted to pick. The order is determined by SportsLine’s current Super Bowl odds, with a few playoff teams moved around to simulate alternating conferences at the end of Round 1.

 

Looking for a hot new podcast that’s your home for all things NFL? Look no further. The Pick Six Podcast with Will Brinson has you covered every weekday morning with new episodes around 30 minutes each. Subscribe: via iTunes | via Stitcher | via TuneIn | via Google Play.

 

1. Buffalo Bills

Nick Bosa, DE, Ohio State. Easy pick for the Bills here, a club with a need at edge-rusher, especially with Jerry Hughes entering the final year of his contract in 2019. Nick is as good as his brother Joey when he entered the NFL in 2016.

 

2. Arizona Cardinals

Jonah Williams, LT, Alabama. In 2015, the Cardinals spent a first-round pick on D.J. Humphries out of Florida. While the left tackle has played respectably after returning from injury, he’s not the franchise guy. Williams can be that for the Josh Rosen era in Arizona.

 

3. Oakland Raiders

Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson. Ferrell isn’t as polished of a player with his hands as Bosa, but he’s probably more explosive off the ball. The Raiders need a high-caliber specimen to take the place of Khalil Mack.

 

4. Indianapolis Colts

Ed Oliver, DT, Houston. After years with traditional, two-gap principles up front in their base 3-4, the Colts are now a 4-3 team with mostly one-gap duties for their defensive linemen. Oliver is the premier one-gap defensive tackle in this class.

 

5. Detroit Lions

Dre’Mont Jones, DT, Ohio State. The Lions are in dire need of more juice on the interior of their defensive line, particularly in terms of pass rush. Jones provides that, and he’s a defender who can be used at the end position too.

 

6. Cleveland Browns

Greg Little, OT, Ole Miss. The Browns have an uber-talented left tackle starting right now in Desmond Harrison, it’s just going to take time for him to get NFL strong and learn to deal with the variety of counter moves he’ll face from pro pass-rushers. Little is a superb talent too, and he’ll have had three years of schooling in the SEC. 

 

7. Seattle Seahawks

Greedy Williams, CB, LSU. The Seahawks could go in plenty of directions here, but they stay true to form and pick the 6-foot-3 corner with plus ball skills to form a solid tandem with Shaquill Griffin on the outside.

 

8. New York Jets

Bobby Evans, OT, Oklahoma. The Jets’ offensive line looked like a brick wall against the Lions’ weak pass rush, but New York does need more formidable pieces up front for the beginning stages of the Sam Darnold era. Evans is a mauler with light feet and experience at right and left tackle.

 

9. Miami Dolphins

A.J. Brown, WR, Ole Miss. The Dolphins are one of the many teams that certainly would benefit if the offensive line was addressed early in the draft, but they can’t pass on the complete skill set of Brown here.

 

10. Dallas Cowboys

N’Keal Harry, WR, Arizona State.Though not known for his separation skills, Harry is a grown man at receiver and would provide a big boost to the Cowboys receiver room.

 

11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Deandre Baker, CB, Georgia. Much-needed investment in the secondary for the Buccaneers, especially with Vernon Hargreaves looking like a player who won’t be on the roster in a couple of years.

 

12. San Francisco 49ers

Anthony Johnson, WR, Buffalo. Same pick as lack week’s mock … it’s just too perfect. The 49ers need a young, boundary wide receiver who can create after the catch. That’s Johnson.

 

13. New York Giants

Drew Lock, QB, Missouri. The Giants are going to need a true quarterback of the future soon. Lock has the arm strength and the gun-slinger mentality to stretch NFL defenses every Sunday, which should keep an extra defender out of the box for Saquon Barkley.

 

14. Oakland Raiders from Bears

Devin White, LB, LSU. White misses more tackles than you’d like. But you’re willing to take the bad with the good because his athleticism is at an elite level, and he’s still a relatively young player. He’ll be the new leader on the Raiders defense.

 

15. Washington Redskins

JJ Arcega-Whiteside, WR, Stanford. The Redskins need to provide Alex Smith with more weapons, and Arcega-Whiteside is a monster in contested-catch situations. He’ll improve Washington’s red-zone efficiency right away.

 

16. Cincinnati Bengals

Dalton Risner, OT, Kansas State. On paper, the Bengals have one of the most well-rounded rosters in the AFC. If there’s one glaring weak spot … it’s at right tackle. Risner is arguably the best right tackle in the country, an experienced blocker with a sturdy anchor and deceptive foot quickness against speed-rushers.

 

17. Carolina Panthers

Zach Allen, DE, Boston College. Heading into 2019, the Panthers are going to have a big need on the edge. Allen is a larger, heavier-than-normal defensive end with heavy hands and a high motor.

 

18. Tennessee Titans

Rashan Gary, DL, Michigan. At around 6-feet-5 and 280 pounds, Gary can be a five technique in Tennessee’s base 3-4 and rush the passer from the inside in nickel situations. He’s probably best on the interior too.

 

19. Denver Broncos

Ryan Finley, QB, NC State. Will John Elway be gun shy to pick a quarterback in the first round after the Paxton Lynch debacle? Ehhh. Elway, of anyone, knows how a true, franchise quarterback can reinvigorate a team. Finley is an well-schooled pocket passer with good athleticism.

 

20. Los Angeles Chargers

Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson. Consider Lawrence Brandon Mebane 2.0 but with more athleticism and better block-shedding skills. He’ll be an exquisite piece between Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram.

 

21. Kansas City Chiefs

Carl Granderson, DE, Wyoming. Given Justin Houston’s age and Dee Ford’s vast inconsistency, the Chiefs have a need at outside pass-rusher. Granderson is a long, super-physical defensive end with a nice array of moves to beat offensive linemen en route to the quarterback.

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 22. Houston Texans

David Edwards, OT, Wisconsin. Even with third-round pick Martinas Rankin a promising blocker at left tackle, Houston needs to load up on offensive line talent to keep Deshaun Watson clean.

 

23. Baltimore Ravens

Deionte Thompson, S, Alabama. Despite still playing well, Eric Weddle is in the twilight of his career. Thompson is a rangy safety who could learn from the veteran for a season before stepping in next to Tony Jefferson.

 

24. Green Bay Packers from Saints

Beau Benzschawel, G, Wisconsin. The Packers stay local to upgrade the interior of their offensive line. Benzschawel can look out of sorts at times yet is a dancing bear at the guard position.

 

25. Atlanta Falcons

Michael Deiter, G, Wisconsin. Couldn’t change this pick from last week … it’s makes a lot of sense, as the Falcons need someone who could potentially play guard or right tackle.

 

26. Minnesota Vikings

Deebo Samuel, WR, South Carolina. If there’s one thing the Vikings could use, it’s more wide receiver depth. Samuel is a decently sized, sharp route-runner with dynamic ability in the open field.

 

27. Jacksonville Jaguars

Tyree Jackson, QB, Buffalo. Jackson is a 6-7, 245-pound, highly athletic quarterback with a rocket arm. He’s a little raw at this point, but he’s in for a big year which will likely lead to a major draft-stock ascension in the spring.

 

28. Philadelphia Eagles

Marquise Brown, WR, Oklahoma. It wouldn’t hurt the Eagles to add a twitchy speedster at the receiver spot for 2019 and beyond. Brown is definitely that type of electric player.

 

29. Green Bay Packers

Brian Burns, DE, Florida State. As a stand-up linebacker mostly tasked to get after the quarterback, Burns could become a wrecking ball in the Packers defense. He’s not refined yet but is supremely athletic.

 

30. Pittsburgh Steelers

Amani Oruwariye, CB, Penn State. The Steelers have seemingly needed help at cornerback for a while. Oruwariye is a good-sized, plus athlete who routinely finds the football in the air.

 

31. Los Angeles Rams

Jeffrey Simmons, DT, Mississippi State. Ndamukong Suh is on a one-year deal, and if he has one of his typical season in 2018, the Rams aren’t likely to be able to afford him. Simmons is a hand-use master with a powerful bull rush in his arsenal.

 

32. New England Patriots

Te’von Coney, LB, Notre Dame. As of 2019, Dont’a Hightower will have two years left on his contract, but the Patriots could stand to add more athleticism to their group of off-ball linebackers. Coney can be the Mike linebacker of the future.