Tag Archives: Browns

Three Teams Taking Advantage in the Off-Season

When discussing the NFL Off-Season hype that comes around every year, some teams use this time to make  “splash” signings, while others hope to fill  holes in their roster and others just bolster what they already have.  These three teams have taken advantage of free agency and the trade-block as best as they could in 2018.

1. Philadelphia Eagles

Leon Halip/Getty Images North America

Sometimes, the rich, do indeed get richer.  That is the story with the reigning Super Bowl champions, the Philadelphia Eagles.  While some teams are scrambling to sign a free agent quarterback, or positioning themselves in the draft to get one – the Eagles, have both a Super Bowl winning quarterback in Nick Foles,  and a quarterback who was (with debate) on his way to winning league MVP in Carson Wentz.   Already having one of the more balanced rosters in the league, the Eagles went and signed defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (1 year, $2.6 million), re-signing their own linebacker, the versatile Nigel Bradham and trading with the Seahawks to land defensive end Michael Bennett.   All this did was bolster an already strong run defense that in 2017 allowed 4. 5 yards a rush, which was third best in the NFL and it will surely increase their sack number (which last year was at 36 for the season) and will add even more power to the league’s best defense in applying pressure.   When you’re already at the top of the mountain, you don’t have to jump any higher, just secure your footing, and that is just what the Eagles did.

2. Minnesota Vikings

Cindy Ord/Getty Images North America

The Vikings were thought to be the team that would represent the NFC in the Super Bowl until that NFC Championship game where they got thoroughly embarrassed by the Eagles.  The Vikings one issue was an obvious one.  When a team lets all three of their quarterbacks go and test the free agency market – it’s a telling sign.  The Vikings had just about every position on the field covered except for quarterback.  They did the only logical thing.  They went all in on the player who would demand the most money in free agency this year, former Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins.   They were willing to sign Cousins to a three year deal with $84 million guaranteed.  This is a gamble worth taking.  Cousins was working with a beaten up offensive line, and targets that were more often injured than capable of playing the game of football. Even then, he threw for over 4000 yards, 27 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.   Playing indoors for at least nine times a year (remember they have that one away game at Detroit which is also played indoors), playing for a smart organization and healthy/good players around him – is only going to make Cousins excel in Minnesota.  The offensive system will be something similar to what was run in Washington so the learning curve shouldn’t be a hurdle for him.  Aside from this signing, was also the ability to acquire defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson on a one year deal.  This is a low-risk, high reward type of deal for the Vikings who have a strong front and are hoping to get a season out of Richardson in which he can try to prove himself as a force in this league again.

3. Cleveland Browns

Chris Trotman/Getty Images North America

For all the excitement the Browns have generated this off-season, in my eyes this is more about the “hype” than actually making a difference.  Let’s be serious, after an 0-16 season, the only way to go is up, right?  The Browns realized quickly that they had no patience for DeShone Kizer at quarterback so they acquired former Bills QB, Tyrod Taylor.  Tyrod was used more as a scapegoat than anything else in Buffalo, and at least in Cleveland, everyone knows the problems come way before Tyrod had anything to do with it.  For Tyrod Taylor it’s a fresh start somewhere, where the expectations are low.   The Browns also traded for wide receiver Jarvis Landry.  Landry can get open, and he can catch.  What he does after the catch though, is usually get tackled.  Last year Landry racked up 112 receptions and could not get over the 1000 yard receiving mark.  That’s something that is hard to do while even trying to do it.  Pairing him up alongside a healthy Corey Coleman should go over well in Cleveland, if Tyrod Taylor gets the ball to them.  The Browns went all in on this offense as they signed right tackle Chris Hubbard to a five year $37.5 million dollar deal ($18 million guaranteed) to a guy who’s started 14 games in five seasons. . . The Browns also went a little nutty and signed running back Carlos Hyde, who was the 49ers starting running back for the last two seasons and has missed the 1000 yard rushing mark both times. . . but he was playing for the 49ers so we’ll give him a break on that.  It was just a weird signing because they already have Duke Johnson in their backfield and they could have drafted the more explosive, younger and versatile Saquon Barkley in this year’s upcoming draft.  If the Browns can follow these moves with a strong draft AND they are able to maximize the potential that is on this team – they can easily be the third best team in the AFC North. . .That’s an improvement at least.

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

Beating Vegas: Playoff Positioning

Week Seventeen of the NFL season is the trickiest of all when it comes to getting an edge against the spread.  For some teams it’s “win and you’re in” while others need help from other teams so they can get into the playoff dance.

Cleveland Browns +10.5 at Pittsburgh Steelers

Yes, this is a very predictable start for this week’s Beating Vegas.  The Steelers need to win in order to secure home field advantage but they also need the New England Patriots to lose their game against the Jets.  The last time the Steelers played the Browns,  it was week one and the Steelers squeaked by 21-18.  This loss was looked upon as a positive for the Cleveland Browns, who hung in there and made things difficult for Pittsburgh, but that premature optimism was proven to be idiotic because they are currently on a 15 game losing streak (just in case you didn’t figure it out, that means they haven’t won a game all season long).  Cleveland is in the pitts (burgh? eh. . .) and now many on this team are just auditioning to keep their jobs on the team or trying to play themselves off of it. . .  Cleveland’s one positive all year has been their rush defense but in the last two weeks, they’ve let up 4 yards per rush against Melvin Gordon and then 5.4 yards a carry against Baltimore’s Alex Collins.  Steelers running back LeVeon Bell was held to 32 yards rushing the last time he went up against Cleveland and will be looking to make his mark this week.  Browns quarterback DeShone Kizer seems to get worse every week – while hovering at the 50% completion mark with only 9 touchdowns and 21 interceptions. Pittsburgh’s pass defense is ranked in the top 10 this year and will have no problem confusing  “Disheveled Kizer.”  Pittsburgh is also top ten in rushing yards allowed in the NFL so this shouldn’t be a repeat performance of week one.

The Pick:  Pittsburgh -10.5

Carolina Panthers +4  at Atlanta Falcons

This game is interesting because two other games that directly affect the Falcons and the Panthers playoff hopes are being played at the same time.  Here is the breakdown for the NFC South:

  • New Orleans wins the NFC South if they beat the Bucs or if the Panthers lose
  • The Panthers win the NFC South if they beat the Falcons AND the Saints lose
  • The Falcons get a wildcard berth if they win OR if the Seahawks (who also play at 4:30) lose.

Keeping all this in mind, the public is going to jump all over the Panthers getting points against a team that since last year’s Super Bowl has been a punchline. . . The Falcons offense, has indeed taken a step back – but remember the numbers they were putting up – it was video-game-like.  Matt Ryan is still completing passes at 65%, Julio Jones has over 1300 receiving yards and the Falcons possess the second best running back duo in the league with Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman (behind the Saints).   If Coleman’s concussion symptoms linger – Freeman has proven before he can carry the load for the whole four quarters. . . the Panthers defense is what generally keeps them competitive, but they are allowing 4.1 yards a rush and let opponents throw against them for a completion percentage of 64%.  Atlanta is pretty much right there defensively with Carolina – but nobody really talks about that. . . out of these two teams, Carolina is definitely the one you don’t want to play in the playoffs because their style of play can travel well; but in this scenario the Falcons at home are the play.  Don’t be cheap though – buy the whole point and give yourself the -3, even maybe buy a point and a half.

The Pick: Atlanta Falcons -4

Cincinnati Bengals +9.5 at the Baltimore Ravens

For the Ravens it’s pretty simple – win and you’re in.  It seems almost too simple.  You beat the Bengals and you’re in though, and the Bengals at 6-9 have nothing going for them. . .nothing except playing the role of spoiler to the Ravens.  The last time these teams played was on week one were the Ravens shut out the Bengals 20-0.  The Ravens went on to shut out two more teams this year (the Dolphins and the Aaron Rodger-less Packers, big whoop) and pretty much lucked in with second year running back Alex Collins who is averaging 4.7 yards a carry.  Joe Flacco is the most underwhelming “franchise quarterback” in the NFL, and it’s been that way for about four or five years.  Sure he completes 65% of his passes, but he only averages about 6 yards a pass.  Cincy might be without running back Joe Mixon and linebacker Vontaze Burfict this week, but believe it or not, there is so much talent on both sides of the ball, it shouldn’t make a difference.  Yes, I said it, there is actual talent here.  The results don’t show it and that is why this is head coach Marvin Lewis’ last year.  Expect the leaders on this team – quarterback Andy Dalton and wide-out AJ Green to expect their teammates to send their coach out with a win, against their division rival.  This is a team with nothing to lose, getting almost ten points and in a position to play spoiler against a division rival.  Who wouldn’t love the odds here!?

The Pick: Bengals +9.5

Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

 

 

 

 

Beating Vegas: Sorry Chief

Kansas City Chiefs  +3.5 at New York Jets

The Kansas City Chiefs have lost four of their last six games and are currently in the midst of  a three-game losing streak.  This is the same Kansas City Chiefs team that started out the season 5-0 and had people thinking that Alex Smith was a legit contender for the MVP award this season. . . yeah, things have changed -drastically for the Chiefs.   This is an offense that is sputtering – not being able to hit the 20-point-mark in their last four games, and it’s not all on Alex Smith.  Running back Kareem Hunt started out the season looking like he would run away with rookie of the year honors, but in his last six games he has averaged just 3.15 yards a carry and has not topped the 100-yard-rushing mark in a game.  The pass defense, on paper, looks good only letting opponents complete – an NFL best – 55% of their passes – but they’ve been able to bolster that number going against offenses like the Giants, the Bills and the Broncos as of late. . . This week’s opponent, the New York Jets – have exceeded very, very, very low season expectations and the veteran quarterback Josh McCown is leading quite an impressive aerial attack.  Yes, the Jets are 4-7 but McCown is completing 67% of his passes and he has formed a great chemistry with the speedy wide-receiver Robby Anderson, who has scored a touchdown in each of his last five games. Wide-out Jermaine Kearse is on pace to having the best season of his career and is neck and neck with Anderson in receptions.  At this point the Jets just seem like the team that is playing harder and the Chiefs have lost their identity.  Add to the fact that this is the Chiefs second cross country visit to New York in the last three weeks and there are now rumors of Andy Reid having Alex Smith on a short leash, this points all the way to the Jets.  Watch the line even out by kickoff.

The Pick: Jets +3.5

Cleveland Browns +13.5 at San Diego Chargers

Cleveland has been broken down here at Beating Vegas, countless times already this season. . . good run defense / worst offense in the league. That pretty much sums them up. Fans are calling for another new regime, another quarterback to be taken in the first round and they are getting ready for another season to come to a merciful end. Deshone Kizer’s five touchdowns coupled with fourteen interceptions would get him benched in any other town – he has been benched actually – but he always comes back, because – why not? Running back Duke Johnson, was basically the only bright spot of this offense, but it seems Corey Coleman is almost back to his old self after returning to the field two weeks ago.  What people will be looking forward to seeing though is the return of troubled wide-out Josh Gordon.  The last time Gordon played meaningful football was in 2014.  . .  with no disrespect to Deshaun Watson – the Browns are playing a quarterback this week who is the consummate professional at his position – Philip Rivers.   Rivers has the Chargers actually thinking about the AFC West division and a playoff birth (yes, they are 5-6 and that pretty much puts them right in the mix) and with the supporting cast he has at his disposal, this could be one of the more damaging dissections of this Browns secondary that we’ve seen all year.  The Browns are allowing opponents to complete passes at a rate of 67% and as a defense are allowing quarterbacks to generate a 103 rating against them.  Regardless of who’s out there running routes for Cleveland, they still have the worse quarterback in the league under center, and he’ll be under pressure from two of the best pass rushers in the business in Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram.

The Pick: Chargers -13.5

Pittsburgh Steelers -5 at Cincinnati Bengals

In the last ten meetings of this AFC North rivalry, the Cincinnati Bengals have only come away with two victories.  The Steelers pretty much own the Bengals and that’s not ground-breaking news to anyone even half-way-familiar with the Bengals.  The Bengals are pretty much one of the more underwhelming franchises of all time.  Even if they make the playoffs, you know they’re getting the boot in the first round. . . but.  . . there is something about a home underdog on Monday Night Football.   No, I’m not one of those superstitious-line-watchers who believe it’s a “lock” to take the home under dog on Monday Night Football, but this time around, it’s something to consider.  The Pittsburgh Steelers are probably the “phoniest” 9-2 team you’ll ever see.  They play down to the level of their competition as if it’s their job.  This is proven by their three-point victories over the Aaron Rodger-less Packers, the Cleveland Browns (look above to see how awful they are) and the Colts.  Let us not forget that this Steelers team actually LOST to the lowly Chicago Bears as well.  This game will be determined by how early and hard the Bengals hit the Steelers.  Five points is a lot, and it seems like a line that is put there because of the “public” – more than football reasons.

The Pick: Bengals +5

Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

Beating Vegas: Patriots;Whenever, Wherever

New England Patriots -6.5 versus Oakland Raiders

(game to be played at Azteca Stadium in Mexico City, Mexico)

After the Patriots manhandled the Broncos on Sunday Night Football, they decided to stay in Denver before flying back home.  Why?  Because coach Bill Belichick decided to keep his team practicing in a high-altitude-enviornment like the one they’ll see at Mexico City.  Smart play by “the Hood,” but that’s no surprise.   Remember when the Patriots started the season 2-2 and people said that this defense was probably the worst in the NFL?   That was cute.  Since then, New England has won five straight with their opponents highest point total being 17.  Meanwhile, the L.A. Raiders were supposed to be a top contender in the AFC and they have fallen miserably short.  The Raiders are currently 4-5 and a loss this Sunday can pretty much wrap this season up.  The Marshawn Lynch experiment is turning out to be a bust, Derek Carr is looking like a shell of himself from last season (13 TD’s, 7 INT’s); and the leading receiver on a squad that has Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper is tight-end Jared Cook.  The Oakland pass defense is gives up the highest completion percentage to it’s opponents (71%), has recorded no interceptions on the season and is tied with the Giants in sacks (13) which puts them dead last in that category as well.   Gross.  Did you even notice how we didn’t mention Tom Brady once in this article?  Yeah.  Tom Brady.

The Pick: New England -6.5

 

Detroit Lions -3 at Chicago Bears

It’s time for the hopeful and misguided Chicago Bears fan to realize the truth about their team.  They are below average. As a Bears fan myself, I knew this before the pre-season, but many others let their minds wander to a false state of grandeur.  Now, the Bears are looking to play out the season, but whether or not they do it respectfully is what really matters.  With head coach John Fox just waiting for this season to end so he can move on with his life in retirement, the Chicago Bears have a defense that is pretty-decent -but also a lot of smoke and mirrors.  The Bears pass defense is ranked in the top ten when it comes to passing yards allowed, but they are letting opponents complete 65.5% of their passes and at seven yards a clip. The Bears’ rush defense is better-than-average allowing 3.9 yards a rush but this should all work out in favor of the Detroit Lions, who can’t run the ball, so they abandon it early – and usually end up airing it out most of the game.  Detroit’s receivers are averaging 11.9 yards a catch.  At the end of the season, Lions’ quarterback Matthew Stafford may be responsible for having two 1000 yard receivers in Marvin Jones and Golden Tate.   Detroit’s in the top 10 in rush defenses which will give Bears running back Jordan Howard some fits, as he is the only source of offensive power on this roster.  The Bears tendency on defense of either missing tackles or letting opponents break out of tackles will be something to watch out for with the speedy players like Golladay, Tate and Abdullah for the Lions.

The Pick: Detroit -3

Jacksonville Jaguars -7.5 at Cleveland Browns

This is a big number for the Jaguars to cover.  It doesn’t matter who they’re playing.  Eh, they’re playing the Browns. . . The Jaguars are toting around the number one pass defense in the NFL  which is mostly due to cornerbacks AJ Bouye and Jalen Ramsey.  Offensively, they try to manage the game around their quarterback rather than let their quarterback manage the game.  Blake Bortles is on thin-ice to be the starting quarterback in Jacksonville next year – but that’s next year.  This season, Bortles is the man under center, but it’s more about the guys in the backfield.  Rookie running back Leonard Fournette  has been as good as advertised (albeit he did get benched one week for violating team rules) but the Jaguars must be feeling cautious of not over-using him, as head coach Doug Marrone has hinted at spreading the ball among all three backs including Chris Ivory and TJ Yeldon.    As a team the Jaguars are averaging 4.8 yards a rush and because it is what they want to do, the Browns actually pose a threat to their success on the ground.  The Browns have consistently been in the top five of the NFL when it comes to rush defense, allowing only 3.1 yards a rush.  The Browns are getting back wide receiver Corey Coleman this week, which will be good to see considering Duke Johnson, the number two running back on the depth chart, is the team’s leading receiver.  At the end of the day, who cares?  DeShone Kizer is still there throwing to the wide-outs with his 4 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

The Pick: Jacksonville -7.5

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

Beating Vegas: Houston Is A Problem

Houston Texans +5.5 at Seattle Seahawks

A lot of people wanted to jump ship when the Houston Texans lost J.J. Watt for the season, but the truth is: The Texans are kind of used to it by now.  What also has tempered the over-reaction of panic in Houston is the play of rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson.  Watson, who said he’s looking “forward” to playing against the Seattle secondary is completing passes at a rate of 61.5%, with a 3:1 TD to INT ratio.  Nobody can be happier than wide-out  DeAndre Hopkins.  Hopkins was almost “forgotten” among the NFL’s “elite receiver class” but this year has 6 touchdowns, averages 10 yards a catch and is the team- leader, by far, in receptions with 37.  Hopkins will go against a secondary in Seattle that is still living up to it’s legendary status.  The “Legion of Boom” is holding the opposition to 5.6 yards a completion and a completion percentage of 55%.  The rush defense has seen better times in recent years, as this year’s group is allowing 4.7 yards a carry.  Fortunately for them, they are seeing Lamar Miller across from them this week, who is averaging 3.8 yards a carry.  The Seahawks are 4-2 so far this season and it has ZERO to do with their offense.  Their wins so far have come off of inexperienced or putrid competition.  Usually the Texans win their division by default and although “default” will play a role again in them taking the AFC South, this is a more competitive team than we’ve seen under Bill O’Brien.  Houston doesn’t only cover the five and a half points – but wins this one outright.

The Pick: Houston +5.5

L.A. Raiders +2.5 at Buffalo Bills

The Buffalo Bills have been a part of the very confusing AFC East.  They currently stand at 4-2, and as long as quarterback Tyrod Taylor can stay healthy, the win total should only go higher.  Defensively, the Bills are holding the opposition to 3.4 rushing yards a game.  This of course forces teams to throw against them, but even then – the Bills are second in the league with nine interceptions.  Offensively, as mentioned before, this team goes as far as Tyrod Taylor will bring them.  Tyrod is a game manager who’s success is determined on his amount of turnovers.  So far he’s only got two interceptions and zero fumbles, so things are looking good, for the former Hokie.  The Raiders came into the season with high expectations and started out the season 2-0 looking to make all pre-season pundits look like genius’.  Then. . . they lost their next four.  Yes, Derek Carr got hurt during that, but even when he played it was nothing special.  Last week they got up for division rival, Kansas City and beat them 31-30, although some would say they netted that win due to help from the officials.  .  .Derek Carr has two viable targets in Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree but the chemistry hasn’t exactly been perfect. Cooper was in a real struggle but blew up last week with over 200 yards against a below average Kansas City secondary.   When it’s all said and done if this game was on the West Coast it would be a pick ’em.

The Pick: Buffalo -2.5

Minnesota Vikings -9.5 at Cleveland Browns

From the pre-season to early in the regular season,  this Vikings offense looked legit. And with their already stout defense, people were thinking they could take the NFC North crown this season.  Then after Sam Bradford gets hurt and then (the bigger blow) rookie running back Dalvin Cook got hurt – things started to change. Now with the Vikings having Case Keenum in at quarterback and rumors starting to mount about a Teddy Bridgewater return to the position – things may get weird to say the least. As long as they can, the Vikings will try to push Jerick McKinnon down the public’s throats, but that’ll be tough against a Browns defense that’s done at least one thing right this year: stop the run.  The pass defense is tied with the NY Giants for giving up the most TD’s through the air (15) and are letting opponents sit back and complete 70% of their passes.  What makes matters worse for Cleveland is that their starting quarterback is Deshone Kizer who is flat-out awful.  Expect the Vikes to win this one  24-7, which means you can take them -9.5 but the smarter play here is the “under.”

The Pick: The Under at 38

Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

Beating Vegas: Lucky Week 7

Tennessee Titans -6 at Cleveland Browns

It seems as if, for one reason or another, the Titans and Browns are a “mainstay” at Beating Vegas this year.  This week, these two teams square off against each other, with the Titans coming off a Monday Night victory against the Colts and the Browns losing. . .again.  After Kevin Hogan’s inefficient outing against the Houston Texans, the Browns have decided to go back to starting rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer.  Teams that flip-flop on quarterbacks like this, especially when both quarterbacks are below average – are usually teams that have issues.  The Browns have had issues since they’ve come back into the league.  In the five games he’s played, Kizer has three touchdowns, nine interceptions and is averaging less than five and half yards a carry.  He’s a quarterback who only finds success when throwing to the left side of the hash-marks and one must wonder what his confidence is like at this point.  The good news for Cleveland is that Tennessee’s defense has been disappointing this year.  The Dick LeBeau coached unit is allowing 27 points per game and allowing opponents to complete passes at a 60% rate.  The thing to watch here is the health of Marcus Mariota.  He was stiff but was able to complete passes from the pocket for over 300 yards against the Colts.  Mariota’s more effective as a mobile threat and he should be a little more inclined to take off this week.  The Browns are holding opponents to 3 yards a carry and this will be the defenses toughest test when they go up against Demarco Murray (4.6 yards a rush) and Derrick Henry (5.1 yards a rush).  Add to the mix a more mobile Mariota and this will be too much for Cleveland to sustain passed a half.

The Pick: Titans -6

Washington Redskins +5 at Philadelphia Eagles

Philly’s second-year quarterback Carson Wentz is already putting himself in some NFL pundits’ early MVP conversations. He’s looking like a seasoned pro this year and his supporting cast have all helped to carry some of the load.  The name that may surprise many this year is running back LaGarrette Blount.  Why is he a surprise?  Because a week before the season there was talk about him possibly getting cut.  Blount is averaging 5.6 yards a carry this year, which puts him right in the class of Kareem Hunt, who is averaging 5.9 yards a carry this season. This will be an interesting match-up for Blount because Washington is currently only allowing 88 yards a game on the ground.  For all the talk of Carson Wentz this year though, Kirk Cousins is putting together another nice season for the Redskins. Cousins is averaging 8.5 yards per pass this season with 9 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions. The emergence of running back Chris Thompson has been something to see this year as well.  Thompson has apparently come out of nowhere and is leading the team in yards per carry (4.9), receptions (18) and receiving yards (340). The Redskins are averaging 23.4 points a game so far this season, which is a pretty average total, but considering they are getting little to no contributions from Jordan Reed, Jamison Crowder and Josh Doctson – it’s a miracle they’ve done this well.  Keep an eye on this game as the public will tend to go heavy on the Eagles, at home on Monday night, so the Skins may end up getting more points before kick-off.  The Redskins lost by thirteen points at home when they opened up the season against Philadelphia and they’ll be looking for revenge on the national stage.

The Pick: Redskins +5

New York Jets +3.5 at Miami Dolphins

The New York Jets have a lot of gamblers sweating considering they were only expected to win 4-5 games this season and they are already at three.  Be careful with those pre-season prop bets. . . Anyhow, the Jets haven’t looked too bad.  Their running game is confusing because although everyone sees that Bilal Powell should be the guy the Jets keep on trying to force Matt Forte onto our television sets.  That’s a good reason why they are ranked 28th in the NFL in rushing offense.  Its been veteran quarterback Josh McCown who’s been leading the charge.  He’s got viable targets in Jermaine Kearse, Robbie Anderson and Jeremy Kerley – you would think they’d throw the ball more but they hover around mediocrity averaging 234 passing yards a game.   The Jets should look to take advantage of a Miami secondary allowing a completion percentage of 72.4%.  The Jets though have been struggling to stop the run and if last week’s explosion by running back Jay Ajayi was the coming out party most of the league has been waiting on from him, he could stand to put up another monster performance.  Also, last week – it seems Adam Gase stopped being conservative and let Jay Cutler just throw the ball around – it opened up the entire offense and they’ll want to do that again this week because they’ll have their shots to take.  Division rivals usually are at a 3.5 point spread because of the familiarity, and it’s a good line here – for Vegas.  The real play here is the over/under of 38 points.  The over is the play here because both teams’ strength on offense is the other teams’ weakness.  Could spell a recipe for disaster for one side.  Which side?  Who cares?  Just put those points up!

The Pick: The Over at 38 points

 

Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

Beating Vegas: L.A. Non-Consequential

Pittsburgh Steelers -3 at Baltimore Ravens

Forget about the actual spread, and lets take a look at the over/under number of 42.  This match up is typically a grudge match and here is how the numbers look since 2010:  Three games have gone completely over, two of those games have been right at 42 and three of those games have gone to 43 points (one of those meetings needed overtime to do so). That leaves the other 7 meetings to obviously go under our “magic number.”  This year the Steelers look “un-even” and Baltimore looked like they had the best defense in the league until (excuse me as I double check the stats) Blake Bortles threw for 244 yards and 4 touchdowns against them – yeah, I know. . . The Steelers lost to a Chicago Bears team who’s offense is as one dimensional as one can get and had to squeak by a Cleveland Browns team, that is ___________ (you can fill in the blank).  Bottom line is, Joe Flacco and the Baltimore offense is probably just as hard to watch as the Panthers are now-a-days and it seems that “Big Ben” Roethlisburger may have finally lost a step.  Expect a 13-10 thriller, and it doesn’t matter who wins.  We all lose if we watch this game.

The Pick: The Under at 42 points

Philadelphia Eagles +1.5 at the Los Angeles Chargers

We’re taking a look at this game because of the optics.  Both teams got worked by Kansas City, but if not for two botched field goals, the Chargers would be sitting at 2-1 much like the Eagles.  Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers has gotten off to a slow start this season averaging less than 7 yards a pass, with 4 touchdowns mirroring 4 interceptions.  The public is riding high on the Eagles this week with 68% of the money going that way, which isn’t surprising because the national and local public pay no mind to the Chargers anyway.  The Eagles escaped with a win against New York, as the Giants realized too late that the Eagles have no secondary.  The Chargers, when compared to the Giants have a formidable group of wide-outs, a better offensive line and yes, a better quarterback.  On top of all that you got a team coming off a win against a division rival traveling 3000 miles to the team football forgot.  Great time for the home team to pick up their first win of the season.

The Pick: The Chargers -1.5

Here at Beating Vegas, we’re feeling good about those two picks.  The rest of the match-ups don’t look to pleasant but for the sake of writing down a third “lock” as we always do, here we go. . .

Cincinnati Bengals -3 at Cleveland Browns

Last week told us two things, the Browns aren’t good enough to beat the Colts and the Bengals should be almost good enough to beat the Packers.  It might sound crazy, but that tells a lot.  The Colts possess one of the worst rosters in the NFL this season (and last season) so for the  Browns to put up the “L” against them is atrocious.  The Bengals, came out the gates looking like the NFL’s only punchline.  A firing of an offensive coordinator and the discovery of using Joe Mixon, gave the offense some life though.  The Bengals actually DO have a good roster – that’s never been the problem, it’s been coaching – eh, yeah and sometimes it’s Andy Dalton as well. . . Bottom line is people keep looking for the Browns to turn the corner and for the Bengals to stump their big toe on the curb – truth is, neither of that will happen.  At least not this year.

The Pick: The Bengals -3

Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

NFL Free Agency, Pt. 2

Last week we discussed who should get paid, where they should land and who should be ignored.  We nailed Alshon Jeffrey landing with the Eagles, but what we didn’t see coming was his one-year price tag. For a young guy, only his fifth-season – signing a one-year deal worth $14 million seems to just short change his economic potential.  The Patriots made two moves, one in signing corner Stephon Gilmore, who we gave a “buyer’s beware” tag attached to his name, and then traded for Saints wide-receiver, Brandin Cooks – proof that the rich only get richer. . .

The move that made the most noise was the Cleveland Browns trade with the Houston Texans, and breaking it down, we’ll reveal why. The Texans traded quarterback Brock Osweiler, 2018 second-round pick and a 2017 sixth-round pick and in return the Browns gave the Texans a 2017 fourth-round pick, and helped relieve the weight of the Texans’ purse.  The Texans are set to save about $10 million in salary-cap space this season because of the move, and are also out of a bad marriage, which was the contract they gave Osweiler.  From the onset it looks like a landslide victory for the Texans, but for the Browns it was all about the draft picks.  The Browns have more cap room than anyone else in the league (I’m not a “cap” guy, but it’s in the area of $100 million in cap space) so even if they decide to cut Osweiler, it won’t affect their plans in the off-season – it was all about the draft picks.  It’s a pretty unconventional move, but these two had to means and desire to get it done.  The Browns would be better off just cutting Osweiler instead of actually starting him, and Osweiler will most probably land somewhere as a back-up for what he’s really worth.  .  .

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This trade opens up the quarterback position for the Houston Texans now, who many feel are one-quarterback-away from at least getting to the AFC Championship game.  Currently, their quarterback position is filled with the likes of Tom Savage and Brandon Weeden.  The “dream” scenario would be to sign Tony Romo if he was to be released by the Cowboys.  Only problem is, that still hasn’t happened.  Romo’s relationship with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, is what’s basically holding it back.  Jones does not want to trade Romo to a team that he doesn’t want to go to – which is admirable but at the same time, teams who are interested (like the Texans and Broncos) don’t want the lucrative contract that comes with the talented, yet very injury prone veteran quarterback.  In all reality, the Cowboys could still hold onto Romo and keep him on as a back-up, and knowing Jerry Jones, that’s very much so a possibility.  . . Back to the Texans though. . .  if Bill O’Brien and Houston can’t land Romo, who’s the next best option? Nick Foles? RG3? Colin Kaepernick? Or maybe, just maybe – Jay Cutler?  Previously, in the NGSC article entitled “Where Does Cutler Go Now?” five different landing spots were mentioned (one of which was ‘retirement’ which may still happen) but the Texans were never quite entered that discussion until now.  The Jets are so far the only team rumored to be interested in the veteran QB, but if the Texans can’t land Romo – are they really going to go through another year of Brian Hoyer type (who just signed with the 49ers)?  Very unlikely.  Cutler would actually make sense, and this would be his most complete team to start for in his career.

The running back position is always an interesting one in free agency.  The league just doesn’t want to pay the big bucks to that position, which seems foul, but it’s just becoming smart business.  We discussed last week how Adrian Peterson didn’t show much last year, but his name will garner him attention,  but there are a few other backs that should be interesting, if not anything else, to follow.  Isiah Crowell is a talented, strong back with a lot of upside on the field, but got into some hot water for his tasteless take on police brutality on his twitter account last year.  He is a public relations nightmare waiting to happen, even if you were to just interview him.  BUT, in terms of business a team may be able to pay him less than what he’s worth and it can benefit them.  Seattle, might be a good landing spot for him.  They are looking to bolster their running back group and are rumored to have interest in Adrian Peterson (yikes).

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A nice addition to any team would be Mike Gillislee.  Last year for Buffalo, he averaged 5.7 yards a carry and rushed for 8 touchdowns.  He’s perfect for teams that employ a split at the halfback position, although if he was asked to carry the full load, it’s doubtful he’d disappoint.  He played his college ball at Florida and the Jaguars like spending money at free agency, it could work out nicely for him to get a job in Jacksonville.

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The “30 and Over” crowd at the running back position usually get the raw end of free agency.  Guys like LeGarrette Blount, Tim Hightower and DeAngelo Williams can still be productive but if a team  takes them on, it will be at a discount price and in a clear number two (even three) spot on the depth chart.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

3 Immediate Impact First Rounders

Every year in the NFL draft there are players who will be stars, players who will play a role and players who will “bust.”  When a young man is a first round pick in the NFL draft, there is a certain aura around that player.  He is expected to help a team get to the next level, or even carry them into a new era.  This is a lot to put on the shoulders of a kid straight out of frat-parties, juggling girlfriends and handing in a science lab on time.  When you’re a star though, you welcome that pressure and are excited to see how well you will be in the NFL.  Here are three players taken in the first round who will have a positive impact on their teams from week one.

Ezekiel Elliot, Dallas Cowboys, Fourth Pick in the Draft

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This one is the most obvious choice.  The Cowboys thought they could lose Demarco Murray and replace him with just about anybody behind that offensive line.  Joseph Randle was the one people though would carry the torch, but he proved himself to be a knucklehead (for lack of better words) and Lance Dunbar proved to be “just a guy” on the roster.  They were lucky enough to take a gamble on Darren McFadden last year, when most teams in the league didn’t want to touch the often-injured back.  McFadden carried the ball for over a 1000 yards, but to expect that again would be asking for a lot.  The Cowboys signed Alfred Morris to a deal which many thought would be enough.  The pairing of Morris and McFadden behind the offensive line seemed to be a match that could work but the Cowboys, like most gunslingers in the wild west would think – there is never enough ammunition.  Looking at his play in college, Elliot has the abilities to transcend himself in the league to be a top-five back in the NFL today.  That’s something McFadden can’t say, and Morris – well to be nice, he could be a top ten back. . .

Many thought that Dallas should upgrade their defense with this pick, but the Cowboys realized one young player on their defense won’t help to satisfy all their woes, so they decided to stockpile on the offensive side of the ball where they can do their damage.  Elliot can give the Cowboys a running game closer to what they had with Murray, which will make this offense one of the best in the league (of course this all goes hand in hand with keeping quarterback Tony Romo healthy, but a strong running game will leave the veteran QB less vulnerable.)

Predicted Stat line: 1,350 Rushing  Yards, 10 Rushing Touchdowns, 4.8 yards per carry

Robert Nkemdiche, Arizona Cardinals, Thirtieth Pick in the Draft

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If it wasn’t for “character concerns,” Nkmediche would have been a top ten pick, easily.  This was a smart move by the Cardinals who have a good roster as is, and were only looking for most pass rushers, particularly from the inside.  NFL.com has him listed as a defensive tackle, but his athleticism and quickness will no doubt see him attacking from the outsides more.  He is an aggressive pass rusher who uses his athleticism and balance well against the opposition.  If Nkemdiche can’t work with head coach Bruce Arians, who is without a doubt one of the best in the NFL, then he won’t be able to work with any coach in this league.  This is a great landing spot for Nkemdiche who is used to a winning tradition with talent around him and now he has that same formula at the next level where his skills should show an immediate impact.

Predicted Stat Line:  7 sacks, 80 tackles

Corey Coleman, Cleveland Browns, Fifteenth Pick in the Draft

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Although the best receiver of this class is Laquon Treadwell, who got drafted by the Vikings with the twenty-third pick overall – it’s Coleman who will be more heavily relied on in the Browns offense.  Where Treadwell has Adrian Peterson, Coleman has Isiah Crowell and Duke Johnson. . . Where Treadwell has Teddy Bridgewater, Coleman has RG3 and/or Josh McCown.  In other words, everything around Coleman is inconsistent where Treadwell is steady.  This is good and bad for Coleman.  Bad because, well. . . the Browns are bad.  There is just no other way around it.  The good news for Coleman though,  is that he is already the team’s best wide receiver and outside of left tackle Joe Thomas, he is also the teams best offensive weapon.  Coleman is the type to make a catch and immediately tries to make something big happen.  McCown and/or RG3 are both capable enough at the quarterback position (and smart enough) to get the ball into Coleman’s hands as much as they can.  If RG3 happens to catch half the magic he played with in his rookie year, Coleman will put up monster numbers.  He’s a deep threat, and chances are the Browns will be faced with a lot of second and long and third and long situations. . . they’ll also be playing from behind a lot. .  .  . so there’s that.  . .

Predicted Stat line: 85 catches, 1235 yards, 7 touchdowns

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

Josh Gordon’s Problem Isn’t the NFL’s Problem

The great Jay-Z once said: “What you eat, don’t make me shit,” and he said that to say – whatever you do to yourself, doesn’t affect me.  The NFL has a different way of looking at things.  The NFL feels, if you’re an employee of the league, you represent them, all of them – and they can punish you for things that you are doing to yourself if it affects the “collective image” of the league.

It’s kind of funny that the NFL wants to set a standard for this “collective image” when the players feel such a disconnect from their owners and the league’s overall hierarchy.  If they felt comfortable in that relative dynamic, there  would not be a need for a players-union.

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With that being said, the Cleveland Browns have become the hot-bed for substance abuse related suspensions in the NFL.   Most notably because of weed smoking Josh Gordon and heavy drinker, hard-party-goer and generally assumed drug addict, former quarterback, Johnny Manziel.  Gordon has just failed another drug test so his fate is pending and Manziel is currently unemployed with teams scared to touch him.

While realizing that alcohol and drug addictions are serious vices to one’s life.  Just how serious should it be in terms of “playing football.”   Alcohol is legal.  Marijuana is legal in some states, with over-zealous modern day hippies pushing for it to be legal in all fifty states.  So what’s exactly “wrong” in dabbing in legal and semi-legal vices?

Well for starters – the word “vices” lends itself to being “no bueno” and they’re not.   Who are we to judge though?  Sure we’ve seen town-drunks, heard stories about the drugged out or drunkard parents, but these are  adults, in their chosen career paths – doing what they want on their spare time.   The NFL though, has made it their duty to punish players for being victims of their vices – even when not on “company-time.”

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The NFL should leave it up to the team to dish out a punishment.  Why the team and not the NFL?  Because it’s the team, in this case the Browns, who hired the likes of Manziel and Gordon.  It should be up to the Browns organization to decide if their actions deem a punishment.  The Browns made their decision loud and clear in the case of Manziel by releasing him.  Manziel’s off-field nonsense included, partying, lying and even a domestic abuse case – it was easy to cut ties with the young quarterback, who for all things considered, would’ve been “marginal” at best in the NFL.  Josh Gordon on the other hand, he’s a beast.  One of the best wide-receivers in the league.  Do you really think a sorry-ass, lowly-ass, lower-tier-team like the Browns would want to lose their best player – over smoking some “kush?”

No.  Of course not.  But the NFL somehow has gotten the “right” to punish a player – quite harshly at that – for being addicted to marijuana.  Of course, if the rule is in place, the player should know about it and have the right state of mind to NOT do it – but we’re talking about an obvious addict here.  Sure, a lack of intellect or judgement can be thrown in the direction of Josh Gordon but is his “wrong doing” as equal as let’s say beating a woman, or relentlessly punishing a young child?  Or even in some cases, vehicular manslaughter?

No.  Of course not.

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If the NFL wants to seriously consider punishing players for marijuana use, they need to get the penalties right.  Josh Gordon shouldn’t feel like a woman/child beater for smoking weed.  He should just be embarrassed at the fact that his addiction is public knowledge and it should be up to the Cleveland Browns, to decide what to do with him.  It’s like being a big business owner and having one kick ass employee who helps you generate millions of dollars every year.  The only issue with this employee is that he sleeps with every new young intern your company hires and it causes some headaches.  Would you put up with the headaches and daily drama for the sake of millions?  Yes, of course you would (okay, you on your high horse who said “No, I wouldn’t” – go plant yourself in a room with your self-righteous bullshit).

For the record, I’m not an advocate of “legalizing marijuana.”  I’m just a guy who believes in the old saying “let the punishment, fit the crime.”  For Josh Gordon, being a member of the Cleveland Browns organization is punishment enough.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio