Tag Archives: Cowboys

Beating Vegas: Are the Rams Good?

Green Bay Packers +2 at Dallas Cowboys

In what will be called the “marquee match-up” this Sunday, the Packers will go into Dallas.  The Cowboys are 2-2 and still have yet to be a “good” team.  The Packers standing at 3-1, may just be the brand of “good” that the Cowboys need to get a “W” against to prove to the world that they are still playoff contenders.  The public’s money is going HEAVY on the Green Bay Packers here and this is why: 1. The last time the world saw the Packers play was on national television, making short work of the lowly Chicago Bears; and 2. The Aaron Rodgers-Factor.  Rodgers is one of the most visable players in the NFL and if he is ever getting points, the public is quick to jump on it.  Why shouldn’t they?  I’ll tell you why.  The Cowboys pose the same threat to the Packers as the Falcons did a few weeks ago.  The Cowboys average rushing yards a game are right at what Green Bay allows (114 in comparison to 111) and as long as Prescott can complete intermediate passes against the zone coverage, which he does well, the Cowboys should have little resistance from the Pack.  Of course though, there is : the Aaron-Rodgers-Factor.  And although he is off to another impressive start to the season, the Packers offense is painfully one dimensional.  Go with the team at home, who people are doubting and have better balance on offense.

The Pick: Cowboys -2

 

Seattle Seahawks +1.5 at Los Angeles Rams

I honestly never thought I’d see the Rams be a favorite ever again.  I mean, it’s the Rams.  Remember they took that “bust” Jared Goff last year in the draft.  Yeah. . .about that.   Jared Goff has the third best Quarterback Rating in the league at 112.2 and has thrown 7 touchdowns with only one interception.  As a team, the Rams have the best offense in the league and are 3-1.   The Seattle Seahawks are still a “good” defensive team, and although being a “good” defensive team is usually a. . .”good” thing – it loses it’s value when not too long ago you were the “best” defense.  Things get really put into perspective when you factor in the Seahawks offensive game plan is pretty much “let Russell Wilson create.”  It seems that over-night the Rams have become a viable player in the NFL while the Seahawks have been slowly regressing.  This game is usually close anyway – just got to ride with the hot hand at the moment.

The Pick: Rams -1.5

 

Arizona Cardinals +6.5 at Philadelphia Eagles

Well look at what we got here.  One team I’m not too high on and the other is a team I basically told everyone to bet against for the whole season.  Listen here. . . Yes, the Arizona Cardinals are traveling to Philadelphia, and yes, the Cardinals are looking pathetic but we’re taking the Cardinals this week – why?  Because 70% of the public is taking the Eagles to win this game by a touchdown.  6.5 is a lot of points in the NFL and you still have to believe that Bruce Arians is one of the best coaches in the NFL.  The Cardinals have special teams talent and defensive talent to give the Eagles a headache this week.  The Eagles last two wins came against win-less teams and they won both games by the smallest of margins.  The Cardinals are desperate for a big win, they throw the ball a lot (2nd in the NFL in passing yards) and that is the weakness to the Philadelphia defense.

The Pick: Cardinals +6.5

Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

 

Beating Vegas: NFL Week 1

The “sharps” at Vegas play the NFL lines differently from the college lines.  A lot of what is determined is based off what the “public” leans towards.  Don’t fall for the “sucker-bets” and the “traps” – just beat, Vegas.

Arizona Cardinals -1.5 at Detroit Lions

Last season was a disappointing one for the Cardinals who finished 7-8-1 (yes and ONE).  Coach Bruce Arians is still regarded as one of the best in the NFL but his team as a whole just didn’t seem to max out their potential. In what may be a “make it or break it season” for veteran quarterback Carson Palmer, opening weekend means a lot.  Detroit on the other hand, surprised the masses last season.  As well as over-achieved.  .  . They rewarded their quarterback Matthew Stafford with a five year $135 million contract.  It’s been brought to the light that Stafford has a record of 5-46 when playing against teams with a winning record, and although I’m not big on putting wins and losses on a QB, that stat is just mind blowing.  Lucky for him it’s the first game of the season and the Cardinals are 0-0.  Even then, the Lions (since dating back to 2006) have lost six straight to the Arizona Cardinals.  The public will jump on the Lions being a playoff team home dog to the Cardinals, but the Cardinals have weapons on offense, including the best player in the NFL, David Johnson and a healthy defense that can cause trouble for Detroit.

 

The Pick: Cardinals +1.5

Los Angeles Chargers +3 at Denver Broncos

Let’s just call it for what it is when it comes to the Broncos: Good defense that picks up the slack for an average vanilla offense.  John Elway really thought he could sway a QB to come here, or at least expect last year’s first round pick Paxton Lynch to step up and assume the starting position, but nope – we’re here once again to see another season of Trevor Siemian.  Not that Siemian is “terrible” – 18 touchdowns, 10 interceptions and 3400 yards passing last year – but he won’t “wow” you either.  On the other side of the field, the Chargers have one of the more underappreciated starting quarterbacks in NFL history in Philip Rivers.  Rivers, was average at best in two games against the Broncos defense last year but running back Melvin Gordon was able to run for 111 and 94 yards in both games.  An added bonus for the Chargers this time around is that they have a healthy receiving core (minus rookie Mike Williams) which includes Keenan Allen, Tyrell Williams and Travis Benjamin.  The Chargers defense is one of my “sleepers” this year and against this very limited and predictable offense, the Chargers win this one in a low scoring affair.

The Pick: Chargers +3

Oakland Raiders +1.5 at Tennessee Titans

The Raiders won five games last year by 5 or less points.  Sure that’s a result of good coaching and focus by the players – but lets not kid ourselves – you need a lot of LUCK for that to happen as well.   Quarterback Derek Carr is the leader of Raider Nation and he enters the home of a Titans defense that finished third worst against the pass last year letting up 7.2 yards an attempt.   One could easily say that number was that high because teams were forced to throw against a defense that was stingy against the run last year ( allowing 4 yards a rush).  The Raiders allowed 4.5 yards on the ground and even more yards per pass last year than the Titans at 7.9.  Bottom line is, the Raiders can’t get “lucky” with this bad play by their defense.  That line should actually be 6 or 7 in favor of the Titans.

The Pick: Titans -3

New York Giants +4 at Dallas Cowboys

Two rules that I have when it comes to sports wagering:  1) Never bet on or against your favorite team and 2) Never bet on or against the team you despise.  The Giants are the team I despise, while the rest of the world either hates the Cowboys, or can’t get enough of them.  Last season the Giants beat the Cowboys in both meetings 20-19 and 10-7 respectively. This is a rivalry in which both teams know each other well and with another tight race expected in the NFC East this season, the importance of this rivalry is multiplied by fifty.  The Cowboys have their running back Ezekiel Elliot (at least for week one)  who had a 50 and 100 yard game against the G-Men defense last season which was only allowing an impressive 3.6 yards a rush.  The Cowboys defense was just as impressive against the run last year but it was their pass defense that was gross allowing quarterbacks to complete 67.1% of their passes last year (second worse behind Detroit).  Although Eli Manning isn’t the most accurate of passers in the NFL, his receiving options are plentiful.  As long as Eli can get rid of the ball quickly, the Giants should not only cover the spread but win outright over the Cowboys. So much for my “rules.”

The Pick: Giants +4

Only if you must: Pittsburgh Steelers are a 9 point favorite in Cleveland against the Browns.

Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

Sophomore Prescott

Last season, the NFL world marveled as the Dallas Cowboys’ fourth round pick, quarterback Dak Prescott out of Mississippi State became an overnight sensation in the league.  Each week,  Cowboys fans were on the edge of their seats and Cowboy “haters” did the same as well while watching Prescott thinking to themselves “is this kid truly, the real deal?”

It sure looked that way last season.

Dak finished the season with over 3600 passing yards, 29 total touchdowns (23 passing, 6 rushing) and 8 total turnovers.  He played within head coach Jason Garrett’s system and it paid off for him and fellow rookie, Ezekiel Elliot (the Cowboys first-round pick who ran for over 1600 yards in a remarkable rookie campaign).

The only question now is – can Dak do it again?

Dak was considered by many to be a better version of a “dink and dunk” passer.  This argument may be one Cowboys fans can choose to ignore but keep in mind that Cole Beasley and Jason Witten were the most targeted options for Prescott (75 and 69 respectively).  Add on to the fact that Elliot had 32 receptions, you are looking at a small slot receiver, aging tight-end and running back as the primary targets – this kind of screams “dink and dunk.”  Granted, the teams number one wide-out Dez Bryant missed three games, his yards per game were second lowest in his career and his 2.8 YAC was the lowest of his career.

Prescott was of course playing behind one of the best offensive lines in the NFL last year and was playing alongside a running back who was pretty much unstoppable behind those same monsters.  These monsters probably looked more beastly than originally expected due to the level of defenses they saw for most of the year.  The Cowboys played only two defenses in the top ten last year – losing both times to the Giants and edging out the Vikings by two points another time.  The Cowboys offensive line, matched up SEVEN times against defenses that ranked in the bottom half of the NFL last season.

A positive note on Prescott (because I feel the need to prove that I am NOT, a Cowboy-hater) is that most of these games were relatively close.  Of course that means “shame-shame” on the Cowboys defense, but three cheers for Prescott and the Cowboys offense who were able to maintain poise in late game situations and either hold on to leads, or get a score in the closing minutes.

This season, Dak Prescott will be tested in the first four weeks of play as the Cowboys square off against the Giants, Broncos, Cardinals and Rams.  All four of these teams are projected to have good defensive seasons, based on the talent and depth they all provide on that side of the ball and the Cowboys will have to do more than just “ball control” against these teams.  All four of these teams have keys to eliminate that “short-pass-safe-haven” for Dak Prescott.  The Rams have a talented linebacker rotation and the other teams have  a play-maker at the safety spot, which is key against the tight end position.

Two other interesting match-ups this season which doesn’t include playing against tougher defenses is the match ups between the Redskins, Packers and Falcons.  These three teams have offenses that can score against anybody and in the case of the Packers and Skins, it’s all about revenge for last year.  Aaron Rodgers and the Packers lost by 14 points to the Cowboys and we all know Mike McCarthy and the Packers are looking to run up the score on them if given the opportunity; the Redskins lost both times to the Cowboys – once by four points, the other time by five points.  The Falcons return with high expectations with their high octane offense and will look to work the Cowboys defense heavily.  These games will put Dak on the spot – Can he keep up with these high powered offenses?  What happens if he’s down by 14 or 17 points early and the offense becomes one dimensional, forcing him to pass the ball?

Granted, the Cowboys defense needs to step up this year so it isn’t ALL on Dak Prescott, but the odds do not match up in his favor.  He can, and very likely will be the long-term answer for the Cowboys at quarterback, but to expect better production out of him in his second year is asking a lot.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

NFC East: First Round Mock

The NFC East is usually a crap-shoot when it comes to guessing which of these four teams will finish the season on top.  The Redskins have the roster – but are a mess of a franchise; the Eagles are always a popular pick but usually fizzle out; the Giants get a pass on average seasons because of their recent history in the playoffs and the Cowboys – well, you either love ’em or hate ’em.

Philadelphia Eagles

Finished with a  7-9  record

Def Yards: 13th   Off Yards: 22nd

The Eagles started off 5-0 and were a train wreck the rest of the season.  They had a horrific record away from home 1-6 and rookie quarterback Carson Wentz had a terrific start and was sent right back down to the Land of Humble Pie by year’s end.  They spent the off-season getting offensive line help and more depth at the wide-out position and although they could use a new look at running back, chances are they will address the defense with the 14th pick in the first round.   Tennessee’s Derek Barnett is a defensive end who can help out the Eagles pass rush.  They finished in the middle of the NFL with 34 sacks last year and a pass-rusher of this caliber will help put them in the upper tier of that category and as we all know.  In a division where the Cowboys and Redskins both finished in the top five of total offenses next year – this would help the Eagles tremendously.

New York Giants

Finished with a 11-5 record

Def Yards: 10th    Off Yards: 25th

My least favorite team to talk about.  Ever.  They went out and signed Brandon Marshall at wide-out giving them a three headed monster at the position along with Odell and Sterling but they lack a punch with the offensive line, Eli seems to be regressing and zero-talent at the running back position.  Defensively they over-achieved playing against a lot of back up quarterbacks last season so it’ll be interesting where they go.  Jerry Reese usually just goes with the “best player on the board” concept during the draft.  Their might be two linebackers in that spot and two offensive linemen in that spot.  The Giants need to address the offensive line if they ever intend to have a running game and expect to keep Eli upright.  Wisconsin’s Ryan Ramczyk is a tough tackle who worked to get where he is.  He worked through the FBS ranks to find himself starting at left tackle for Wisconsin.  Wisconsin plays a brand of “tough” football so he’s no stranger in mixing it up at the line of scrimmage.  Could be a very, very good pick for the Giants.

Dallas Cowboys

Finished with a 13-3 record

Def Yards:14th    Off Yards: 5th

The Cowboys are turning the page in the franchise and it’s clear that the future is now, with quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliot.  Losing safety Barry Church in free-agency might’ve been a blessing in disguise because he was a perennial under-achiever who “just happened” to play well in a contract year.  Knowing who the Dallas Cowboys are, they will fill in that safety spot with the biggest grin on their faces as they take Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers.   Peppers is one of the true first-round-wildcards because people love his versatility and athleticism but wonder how well it will translate in the pros.  If Peppers is there at the 28th pick, you better believe the Cowboys are wasting no time and going with the flashy pick that may end up being well worth it.

Washington Redskins

Finished a 8-7-1 record

Def Yards:28th    Off Yards: 3rd

Oh man.  Why won’t they just give Kirk Cousins the contract he wants?  Why?  The stupid, stubborn Redskins finally have a good thing going and they are going to watch it blow up in their faces.  Cousins is primed to have another good year.  He’s seemingly mastered Jay Gruden’s system and is in a contract year.  The Redskins, aside from their average record, really have a nice roster.  They could go cornerback at this spot, and help out Brashad Breeland (who really disappointed me last season – get it together Breeland, I still believe in ya’!) or go draft a running back – I mean that’s what Dallas did and it worked for them right?! (that’s me imitating the Washington brass. . .)  Florida State running back Dalvin Cook makes the most sense just because it is a guarantee that Cousins won’t be here next season, so having all the pieces on the offense around a new quarterback might be exciting for a free agent or draft pick in 2018.  The Redskins are going to look flashy from time to time this year and Cook has all the tools to be a big play maker for them in the backfield.

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

2016 NFC East Preview

  1. Washington Redskins – The “Washington Football Team” surprised some folks last  year, but if you look at their roster – it’s pretty legit.  Kirk Cousins is playing for a mega-contract this year, last year he showed the composure needed to run head-coach Jay Gruden’s offense.  Cousins isn’t great but the truth is, if you’re a quarterback that can master the system you’re in, that’s all that matters.  Cousins may not have much in the backfield this year, but the Redskins will probably work their offense in reverse.  What that means is, while most set up the pass with the running game, the Skins can open up the run game with the pass – get it?  The receiving core is a fantastic group.  Jordan Reed proved to be the the second best tight end in the league last year (behind New England’s Rob Gronkowski) when healthy and the receiving core goes four-deep with Desean Jackson, Jamison Crowder, Pierre Garcon and rookie Josh Doctson. This is a group that supplies a nice blend of size and speed that can and will wreck havoc on NFL secondaries.  Defensively, while everyone is high on the Josh Norman signing, the truth is, he isn’t even the best corner on his team.  Seriously.  Bashaud Breeland proved last year he can be a number one corner and now moving him to number two just means, the oppositions number two receiver becomes non-existent.   Second rounder Su’a Cravens out of USC is a defensive Swiss army-knife who can morph from safety to linebacker in a second and the Skins have already talked about exploiting his versatility.  Games against Dallas will determine this division – as they should.Prediction: 10-6

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  2. Dallas Cowboys –  This piece was originally written predicting Dallas to finish in first place.   Naturally, I jinxed things and Romo will miss a chunk to the start of the season.  It may be over for Romo as he just can’t take a hit anymore.  This makes way for rookie QB, Dak Prescott.   In front of him is arguably the best offensive line in football, although last year their pass-protection seemed a bit too relaxed, the unit still provided holes for the run game.   The additions of former Redskins running back Alfred Morris and first round rookie Ezekiel Elliot will make this a very aggressive and versatile back-field.  Dez Bryant is still one of the league’s premier playmakers at the wide receiver position and it’s because of his presence, things open up for the very average Terrence Williams on the other side of the field.  Cole Beasley is actually a better wide out but he can’t be moved out of the slot because of his miniature stature.  .  . The Cowboys didn’t do much to help themselves out on defense, but the fourth round pick out of Oklahoma, Charles Tapper is an interesting piece to keep an eye on.  He needs to get over his lower back issues in this pre-season though because the Cowboys need all the help they can get.  When you’re defense enters the season with three of it’s players serving a suspension, every little bit helps.   With Romo, the points come a bit easier – Prescott will have a leash on him but they should be able to control the line of scrimmage with their rush attack.

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Prediction: 9-7

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3. New York Giants – The Giants offensive line will hamper a lot of what this team can do.  There is not much of a rushing threat in the form of Rashard Jennings, and although Giants fans are excited about Odell Beckham Jr being joined in the receiving core by rookie Sterling Shepard – Eli may not have time to deliver the deep ball much.   General manager Jerry Reese is on the hot seat and the way he threw money around this off-season proves it.  Reese shelled out a five year eighty-five million dollar contract to ensure the services of defensive end Olivier Vernon.  Reese also tried to shore up the secondary by signing Janoris Jenkins to a five year, sixty-two million dollar contract.  The issue with Jenkins is that he is not as good as advertised and already has shown struggle in training camps.   The Giants always seem to have Lady-Luck on their side although last year she seemed to stray away a little.   The Giants need to do what they can to court that dame back into their lives if they want to compete for the NFC East.

Prediction: 8-8

4.  Philadelphia Eagles – The Eagles wanted to rid themselves of anything having to do with the Chip Kelly era after ONE bad year and now they are primed to be a bottom feeder in the league.  The Eagles had a below average draft this year in which they selected quarterback Carson Wentz out of North Dakota State.  They hope that Wentz’ raw talents will carry him to become the franchise player this team needs at quarterback.  Hard to imagine a guy who’s toughest opponent in college was either Jacksonville State or Northern Iowa – to become some great quarterback in the NFL, but . . .whatever. . .  Jordan Matthews is the team’s best receiver option, but he isn’t the type of number-one option that secondary’s lose sleep over.   The tight end tandem of Zach Ertz and Brent Celek is pretty impressive but this isn’t exactly Rob Gronkowski and “he who shall not be named. . .”    Ryan Matthews was been a disappointment in San Diego, probably a disappointment to his parents and will continue this pattern here in Philly.

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Prediction: 3-13

 

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

NFC East Team Needs

Philadelphia Eagles: OL, DE, LB, CB,QB

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Philly just seems like the most interesting place to start because, well – in all honesty, they are a complete mess.  They have holes all over the place and are shedding themselves of anything that reminds them of former head coach, Chip Kelly.   They might have to go offensive line in the first round of the draft to at least show a dedication to reconstructing something in the positive direction.  They signed former Houston Texans guard Brandon Brooks, to a five year deal which will pretty much wrap up the 26 year old guard in the prime of his career.  In the first round Ohio State’s tackle Taylor Decker should be available for them at pick number fourteen.  There are some pretty good prospects at guard that might’ve been available to them in the second round, but the Eagles’ next pick is in round three of the draft.  Since this is the case, they may want to grab what they can at the corner position here.  If they are lucky they’d be able to grab Miami’s Artie Burns – but Burns is an intriguing man with a strong story behind him and may go earlier than expected – but Minnesota’s Eric Murray might prove to be a strong pick in the third.  A physical corner with a nice feel for zone coverage.  With their second pick in the third round, they should look at  in-state favorite Carl Nassib, defensive end out of Penn State – or they may want to go with the better athlete in the third round like Charles Tapper out of Oklahoma.  Tapper forces turnovers and can get to the ball quickly – might be able to transition from defensive end to linebacker if need be . . .  No matter the guaranteed money or what coaches say, Sam Bradford has had his time to do something in this league and it’s evident he is not the “future” for any team.  Taking a quarterback late is never a promising look for a future “team leader,” but if the Eagles take a shot at Bowling Green’s Matt Johnson either late or as an undrafted free agent – it might turn out better than starting Bradford.  He’s got some mobility and a strong arm.   The Eagles really can go anywhere in the draft so it’s difficult to pin point exactly what they should do – best player available might be the way they go – this year and next year.

 

Washington Redskins: CB, RB, QB

Right off the bat, people will see “QB” in there and say “Why would they need a quarterback?  Especially after retaining the services of Kirk Cousins?!”  Well for starters, they franchised Cousins which means they are paying him a lot of money to see if he is worth the big time contract and secondly – before the season started, we were all questioning the abilities of Cousins.  With that being said – Cousins could’ve just gotten “lucky” last year or maybe just “figured out how to play above average in this league.”  Whichever it is, the Skins need some kind of insurance at that position next season. Colt McCoy is still there as a back up and that might be just as good as the names that are currently available like T.J. Yates and Tavaris Jackson.  If they want to take a gamble in the third round, NC State’s Jacoby Brisset could be a nice look and if they wait later – maybe a wild card like Oregon’s small – yet strong armed and athletic quarterback – Vernon Adams Jr might deserve some consideration.  The Skins have  a quality corner in Brashard Breeland, but they need to give him help on the opposite side of the field.  William Jackson, the corner back out of Houston ran a 4.37 at the combine, and even beforehand was considered to be a steal, even at the late first round spots. If Cousins plays as well as he did last year, the Redskins have more than enough talent to win the NFC East in back to back seasons.  .  .Do the Skins really have enough trust in running back Matt Jones to be “the guy” though?  Much like Cousins at quarterback, it wouldn’t hurt the skins to get some kind of “insurance” at that position.  There are always decent names in free agency at that position like Ronnie Hillman or Bobby Rainey.  It would be interesting to see the price tag that comes with Arian Foster though.  If healthy (that’s a big “IF”) he could be a huge impact on this roster as a whole and it might be worth it for the Skins to make that kind of play right now.

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New York Giants:RB, DE, LB, CB, WR

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The Giants are a team reeking of the word “desperate” right now.  General manager Jerry Reese hasn’t been too impressive with his mid to late round draft picks and he’s spending money left and right trying to rectify those mistakes.  The Giants have given a little over $100 million  in guaranteed money to Olivier Vernon, Janoris Jenkins and Damon Harrison.  All three got five year deals and all three have expectations to hit that they never had to measure up to previously.  With that said, when a team breaks bank like that in free agency it almost always is a recipe for disaster.   With the tenth pick overall the Giants may have a shot at the best running back in the draft in Ezekiel Elliot.  Elliot would be the dynamo half back they’ve been looking for for nearly a decade.  The combo backfield of Shane Vereen and Rashard Jennings was less-than-amusing to watch and Elliot would actually fit in perfectly with this offense.  Afterwards, the Giants should be looking to stock up on defensive talent wherever they can get it.  Yannick Ngakoue of Maryland is an outside linbacker/defensive end hybrid that is going mostly under the radar but he could be an instant starter and that kind of quality on a bad defense is worth the second round pick.  He’s got length, speed and size – three things that most the Giants defensive players don’t have a combination of. . . Jaylon Smith of Notre Dame is scaring teams off because of his medical issues and slow recovery – but before this was being touted as a sure fire first-round pick.  The Giants usually have luck with players of this talent falling to them and if he’s there in the third they will definitely not pass on him.   The Giants’ secondary needs help in a big way.  Landon Collins played well as the physical safety they needed him to be and them paying Janoris Jenkins the big bucks, proves that they need help in a big way.  Maurice Canady out of Virginia is a pretty physical corner who might be a nice compliment on the outside – while a later round pick (fifth-round maybe) would be Florida’s Brian Poole, who might be able to rotate as a fill in spot-number-two corner while being a mainstay in the nickel spot.  Victor Cruz came back at a discount to be the number two wide-out but the truth is, he’s garbage now and won’t go over the middle.  A veteran free agent signing like Marques Colston might be a nice way to try to mentor the young hot head wide-out Odell Beckham Jr.  Beckham seemingly answers to nobody and although his talents conceal his mental lapses – it’s becoming a tired act that should finally be controlled by this team.

 

Dallas Cowboys: LB, DE, QB, RB

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The Cowboys have the fourth pick overall in this year’s draft.  Not bad for a team many projected to be one of the NFL’s best in 2015 and failed miserably at achieving that.  The Cowboys are in a tough spot though.  When quarterback Tony Romo plays – he looks like an MVP candidate and everyone loves the Cowboys, BUT when Romo goes out with an injury, they play horribly and become the butt of everyone’s jokes.  The Cowboys won’t be spending a first round pick on a quarterback but maybe the second round wouldn’t (and shouldn’t) be that far fetched.  Ohio State’s Cardalle Jones might fit in well here.  Behind a strong offensive line and a capable receiving group, the athletic Jones, won’t have to “do too much” but learn how to be coach-able through it all.  Dak Prescott out of Mississippi State may be the more polished version of Cardalle Jones and in a time of “Greg Hardy and Dez Bryant” in the Cowboys’ locker room, a natural leader with a level head, might help out as a building block for Dallas’ future.  Back to the fourth overall pick though. . . The Cowboys should have their choice between some great linebacker prospects: UCLA Myles Jack, Georgia’s Leonard Floyd and Alabama’s Reggie Ragland.  Ragland might be a reach at number four as he is mainly projected to go in the “teens” of the first round and the choice of Floyd or Jack depends on how well Dallas can trust Jack coming off of a knee injury that ended his 2015 campaign.  Floyd on the other hand is a 6’6″ 244 pound man-child who played extremely well this year and enters the draft as one who can start right away and impact the game right away.  The Cowboys need an answer behind Romo so they can utilize their best strength which is running behind the offensive line.  While folks were enamored with Alabama’s Derrick Henry running the ball, it may be Kenyan Drake who turns out to be a  steal for any team in the third or fourth round.  He has decent hands and is a strong runner who is more elusive than advertised.   Drake would easily beat out the backfield on the Cowboys as is, and would be a rookie of the year candidate behind this offensive line.

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G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

NFL 2015: What We Learned and What We Can Expect

Every NFL season brings it’s own brand of drama.  It’s own brand of heroics.  And unfortunately for some of us, it’s own brand of heartbreak.  Now that the Denver Broncos have been crowned champions of the league, the ever important off-season is in effect.  Contract talks, free agent signings and rookie hype all start now and before we know it – Boom –  we’re back into a whole new swing of weekly heart-attacks.  Here are a few things we learned from the 2015 season, and a few things we can expect from teams in it’s aftermath.

What We Learned:

It didn’t matter who the Broncos had at quarterback this year.

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Let’s be honest, if the money that was spent on Manning was given to a better running back, their season would’ve had the same outcome, but without any controversy.  Broncos kept old-school traditionalist smiling by winning the Super Bowl, just so that crowd can say “Defense wins championships.”

Adrian Peterson isn’t human.

Whether he’s returning from a terrible injury or returning after being ripped apart by the media for a year – nothing can stop Adrian Peterson.  In his ninth NFL season, Peterson ran for over 1400 yards and doesn’t seem to have slowed down a bit.  One would think that his bruising style would slow him down but he seems just as fit as he did in 2012 when he ran for over 2000 yards.  Too bad the Vikings are continually in a rebuild.  They had a once in a lifetime player and came up with nuggets during his tenure there. . . so far.

The Eagles and the Browns Have No Idea What They’re Doing.

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So let me get this straight.  The Eagles fired Andy Reid, who in 14 years at Philly gave them six division titles and brought them to five NFC Championship games; to hire Chip Kelly who went 10-6 in his first two seasons and then fired him when he went 6-9; to ultimately hire Doug Peterson, who was offensive coordinator in Kansas City.  Oh, who was he the coordinator under?  None other than Andy Reid.  You can’t make this stuff up.  The term “ass-clowns” comes to mind when discussing the Eagles.  The Browns aren’t all that better.  Since 2001 they’ve had seven different head coaches and six different general managers.  They’ve whiffed on numerous first round picks, the recent being the “in the media for all the wrong reasons quarterback” Johnny Manziel.  Both of these teams have loyal fan bases who at any given moment might just rush the main offices in the same fashion as Black Friday shoppers rush a Wallmart.

The Dolphins Are Awful:

Their quarterback, Ryan Tannehill’s numbers should really be looked into because the majority of his damage is done in garbage time.  And when it comes to the Miami Dolphins, their whole season is garbage time.  They spent big money on Mike Wallace some time back – got nothing in return.  Now they spent big money on Ndamakong Suh – and they’ll get nothing in return from that as well.  They had building blocks for a good defense but had to let a lot of that go to sign Suh.  Does Marc Anthony still own a part of this team?  If so he needs to bounce on this team quicker than he bounced from J-Lo (or as quickly as he bounced on to J- ah, never mind.)

What to Expect:

Kirk Cousins gets franchised by the Redskins.

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Kirk Cousins is a free agent and after his ridiculously good second half of the season, he may have played himself into the sights of NFL teams needing a starting quarterback.  Jay Gruden has believed in him and the Skins can’t be stupid enough to let Cousins walk.  I’d hope. . .  Just to make sure it isn’t fool’s gold though, a smart move would be to pay cousins a big salary for this season and see if they can get more of the same.  It’s worth the gamble if he turns out to be their guy for the next 5 years or so.

Matt Forte Finds Life On a Contender and For A Bargain Price.

Forte is 30 and has a very flashy skill set.  He’ll continue to avoid contact to stretch out his career and he’ll have to find a system where he’s either well protected or will play in space.   The Bears have been overpaying him for years, so he’ll look less for a payday and more for a winner.   Expect  New England or Denver to be the most intriguing plays with Dallas not too far behind.

NFL Starts Losing Faith in Andrew Luck.

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It won’t be his fault either.  They re-signed arguably the worst coach in the NFL in Chuck Pagano and they continue to draft badly and sign free agents that make no sense.  The offensive line will continue to be a mess and Luck, feeling the weight of every game on his shoulders, will start to lose confidence as he’s throwing picks trying to play “catch-up” every week.

Panthers Trying To Get Cute.

The Panthers have been a gritty team under head coach Ron Rivera, but expect them to franchise or straight up re-sign cornerback Josh Norman, and expect them to sign a couple of flashy free-agents in what will appear to be an upgrade in offense.  The truth is, this is a tight knit group that works more on the chemistry around their super star Cam Newton.  Although with a healthy Cam Newton, the Panthers win this division by default it’s still not a smart move to stir this pot too much.

The Browns Will Blow Another First Round Pick:

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Poor Cleveland.  They just don’t get it.  If and when they draft either Carson Wentz or Jared Goff, it’s just a matter of time before they realized they just reached for another quarterback that will NOT lead this wretched franchise to the promised land.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

 

 

Beating Vegas: Entry Fourteen

Every week during the football season, “The Heartthrob” G.W. Gras will be giving out his college and professional football “best bets” against the spread.  The wise guys in Vegas live comfortably – it’s time we all get on their level.

Judging Last Week: Blessed you all with the double whammy of Army and the Under last week – and also told you guys there was NO way New England was going to NOT cover against the Texans.  This week starts the college bowl season, which is a tricky time.  Some teams want to show the world how good they are on a bigger stage, while others are disappointed to not be in a “premier” bowl game.  Some teams/coaches are motivated and others aren’t – these games go beyond just the talent on the field.

The Cure Bowl: San Jose State (-3) vs Georgia State

Games like this are the reason people say “there are too many bowl games.”  San Jose State has five wins this year while Georgia State has only one more than the Spartans.  Things looked grim from week one when Georgia State lost to Charlotte University.  Charlotte is a school in it’s first year transitioning to an FBS school. . . ugh.   Regardless of how it started, Georgia State put together a pretty decent offense led by quarterback Nick Arbuckle, who threw for 26 touchdowns and over 4000 yards.  Georgia State makes sure every one on their depth chart gets touches it seems, so there is no way to “isolate” their best weapon.  That isn’t the case for San Jose State’s offense.  They are a one trick pony who keeps the ball in the hands of their running back Tyler Ervin.  Ervin has racked up over 1400 rushing yards and he’s taken it across the end zone 13 times.   Believe it or not though, Ervin has managed that 1400 yard feat over a year of inconsistent run totals.  One week he’ll manage 50 yards, another week 200, then 22 and then 160 – it’s seriously one of the more bizarre outputs you’ll see this season.  Georgia State knows in order to stand a chance in this game they will have to sell out to stop the run.  It’s worth the gamble.  San Jose State has a good secondary, but they will be spread thin throughout this game.

The Pick: Georgia State +3

The Camellia Bowl: Ohio University (+7.5) vs Appalachian State

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It’s always interesting when conferences like the MAC and the Sun Belt square off.  These are the conferences fighting for some respect among the “big boys” and the bowl games are a perfect platform to square off against each other.  For the Sun Belt stands Appalachian State who has a 10-2 record and won six of those match ups by twenty or more points.  Appalachian State finished the season with the Sun Belt’s best defensive unit, letting opponents only average about 18 points a game.  Representing the MAC Conference is the Ohio Bobcats who surprised some folks this year with an upset win at Northern Illinois and nearly stealing a win at (then) ranked Minnesota.   Both teams will be playing this one for some respect and taking home a bowl win of any magnitude would be huge for either school.  Appalachian State has drawn a .500 record against the spread this year and this spread might be too big to cover against a school that can score and get up for any game like the Ohio Bobcats.

The Pick: Ohio +7.5

The N.Y. Jets (-3) at Dallas Cowboys

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Don’t look now, but the New York Jets may actually be the hottest team in the AFC right now.  The most suspect part of Gang Green’s ensemble is their quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and right now he is playing some of the best football of his career.  The wide receiver duo of Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker are playing as good as any one-two punch in the league.  Decker is 125 receiving yards short of 1000 and Marshall is 13 yards short of 1200.  The Jets have balanced out their attack which has opened up the field more for running back Chris Ivory who is on pace to break the thousand yard mark this week.  The Cowboys are a complete disaster and although that Monday Night Football win against the Redskins keeps them in the running for the NFC East, the truth is, they are horrible.  Or at least Matt Cassel is horrible.  You have to almost feel bad for Cassel.  He didn’t think he was this bad either.   The Cowboys aren’t able to do anything with Dez Bryant, and even when they do get him the ball, he’s at times so frustrated he tries to do too much and ends up yelling incoherently about something. . . The Cowboys’ defense has actually not been given enough credit this year – that unit has played pretty well, but they are usually put in bad situations or are on the field for too long.  Darren McFadden has been a surprising source of offense for the one dimensional Cowboys approach but he’s going up against the best rush defense in the league.  Not only is it the best rush defense in the league, it is also a defense that keeps opponents at an NFL’s best, 56% completion percentage against them.

The Pick: The Jets -3

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If You Must:  The Steelers are at home and are a six point favorite against the Denver Broncos.  It looks wrong.  It looks weird.  Looks like Vegas wants everyone to ride with the Broncos getting the points.  Just play against the majority this week and see what it gets you.  There are few offenses that can square up against Denver and this Steelers offense just might stand in that pack of a few.  Denver will rely on Osweiler in this game more than in any previous game so it should be a telling game.  Take the Steelers -6.

Tease of the Week: (four gamer) Falcons/Jaguars Over 37; Jets +9; Patriots -2; Seahawks -2.5

 

Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio