Tag Archives: Jaguars

Tom Brady, Earning His Seat

A weird thing happened on January 21st 2018.  Did you happen to witness it?  There isn’t really a word for what happened on the Gridiron that day.  The New England Patriots were home favorites against a Jacksonville Jaguars team, that was young, cocky and talented.   We all saw what happened on the field, there is no need to get into the details of how the New England Patriots came from behind in the fourth quarter to pull off the victory against – for all things considered – the best defense in the NFL today.  We won’t go into those details because that is not the topic of discussion at hand.  For there are levels to this game of football.

There is the beginning, where young men delve into this rugged sport.  Some from the start know they aren’t cut out for it, but those that feel they are, endure the pain, the disappointment, the glory – all of it – that may or may not lie ahead. . .  then after they’ve gone through what they think is the hard part – they realize that there is a a shot at being a legend.  They realize there are moments that are immortalized in this sport, and they want to partake in one of those moments.  For others though, they strive for greatness, they strive for that bronze-busts which cements them forever in the Hall of Fame. Then there is a final level of football.  This is more a realm than a level, actually.  Very few people get to garner this respect and most do not even think about getting to this level because the bar is so high, some men have contracted vertigo even imagining themselves up on such a perch.  That level – this realm – is that of the Football Gods.

Brown, Payton, Unitas, Taylor, Munoz, Hannah, Rice. . . there are maybe ten names which fill out this realm.  Some have clouded vision when declaring who these gods really are – but if one is to be honest with themselves, these names are the sure fire ones that fit “the gold standard.”

Not many realized what happened on January 21st 2018.  If you blinked, you may have missed it.

With about nine minutes left in the fourth quarter, the skies opened up.  Clouds separated among themselves, as if scurrying away from the light which would soon push through the marvelous and great blue which caresses the Earth, like wings, carrying it through the cosmos.  There was a loud noise, which pushed against the winds of fortune.  It was more like a dragging sound, if one is to tell this tale correctly. . . the sound of a chair’s legs, brushing along the floor.  A seat was being pulled out and then it happened – Tom Brady passed the football to Danny Amendola down the middle of the red-zone and scored a touchdown.

The Football Gods, looked to each other – now certain that their debating among themselves was all for not.  Unitas looks to Hannah and smirks.  Brown’s hand still at the back of the chair with a look on his face that says “I’m not standing here all day.”

A light shone upon the red-zone about six minutes later and with a wave of his finger, Rice makes sure that both of Amendola’s feet stay in bounds as Brady delivers a thing of beauty to him at the back of the end-zone.  Sealing the come from behind victory.

All of who become Football Gods deliver more pain and anguish to the on-lookers than they do joy to their followers – to be hated only feeds the hunger of the Gods.  Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Jr. lives off of that hate like no other of the Football Gods.  Brady laughs at the hate.  Brady mocks the hate.  He sits at his dinner table, sees the hate in front of him, sprinkles animosity on top for flavor and washes it all down with a twenty ounce glass of water infused with electrolytes.  He has eaten this hate for over 10 years.

The Football Gods have noticed.  They even tried tripping him up.  They threw the obstacle of the New York Giants at him twice – only to watch him fail – consume more hate – and climb back on top of that mountain called Greatness (which now is looking to physically plant itself in Foxborough, Massachusetts just so the walk up and down the hill is a little easier for the man who is now forty years of age.)

The Football Gods thought they had him when they threw the best defense they could put together in years with the Seattle Seahawks – only to see him raise the trophy.  Then they pitted him up against a ‘hopefully newer’ and younger version of himself – who was surrounded by more talent than him in Matt Ryan — only to see Brady lead the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history.

Brown has taken a seat next to the one he pulled out, as Payton tells him “it’s not over, yet.”

Brady, in two weeks will get his chance at yet another Super Bowl victory.  Win or lose though, his seat will be waiting for him.  He will be sitting at the same table with the Football Gods by the end of this season.

Deservedly so.

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

Beating Vegas: Beginning of the End

It’s that time of the year where the college football season ends and the NFL season is coming close to it’s own end.  For some who’s teams had a horrible season, or for those who chose to ignore the advice from “Beating Vegas” you’re glad the season has come to and end.  For those on the other side of the spectrum though . . .

Buffalo Bills +9 at Jacksonville Jaguars; Points Total: 39

I found myself cheering for the Buffalo Bills to get into the playoffs last weekend.  I remember when I was a kid, how amazing those teams were with Bruce Smith, Thurman Thomas and Jim Kelly – albeit they never won a Super Bowl together. . .and the last time the Bill were in the playoffs – Doug Flutie was their starting quarterback (easy to see why they came up empty with a Super Bowl championship in that effort).   Now the Bills, after a quarterback controversy and fans of the NFL not knowing what to quite make of them – are in the NFL playoffs.  They find themselves up against a team that is foreign to the playoffs as well – the Jacksonville Jaguars.  It’s been a 10 year drought for the Jaguars and this year they have the NFL’s number one ranked defense.  If it’s true that defense wins championships, the Jaguars should have it made – but we all know it’s never that easy.  The Jaguars have been steadily forcing a rushing attack on offense, led by rookie running back  Leonard Fournette.  Fournette has seen most defenses stack the box against him this year, so his rushing average of 3.9 yards a carry and his total rushing yards of 1040 may not blow people away, but if he’s anything – he’s reliable.  The pressure is all on Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles.  His 21 touchdown passes are easily forgotten by the fact he’s had 13 interceptions and 3 lost fumbles on the year.  Bortles just never has amounted to the hype he had when he came out of college in 2014.  He should have some decent looks when going against a secondary that has allowed quarterbacks to complete 65% of their passes.  Buffalo as an offense though only has more total yardage than three other teams in the league (Bears, Colts and Bengals).  This is another team who’s offensive focus is the run, and their leading rusher LeSean McCoy averages just at 4 yards a carry – and is a game time decision as of now (January 2nd).  The Bills do not have the receiving talent to challenge the best secondary in the league, so this one should be a tough go for Tyrod Taylor and the Bills.  Expect the Jags to win this game, but don’t expect a lot of fireworks.

The Pick: The Under at 39

Tennessee Titans +9 at Kansas City Chiefs; Points Total: 45

It happens every year.  One team does it, every year.  One team slips into the playoffs and nobody has a clue as to “why.”  This year, that team is the Tennessee Titans.  The Kansas City Chiefs on the other hand started the season looking like the best team in football. . .and then they looked like a totally different squad who could miss the playoffs.  As fate would have it though, the Chiefs finished off the season with four wins in a row, and seem to resemble more of what we saw earlier in the season.  Kansas City’s pass defense should have a walk in the park, considering they hold the opposition to a 57% completion percentage (second best in the league) and are going up against Marcus Mariota who is one of the worst road-quarterbacks in the NFL.  Forget about “the road” though, Mariota has been flat out bad for the better part of the 2017 season. The Titans are relying on a rushing attack led by Derrick Henry, and his success will be determined by how much of a threat Mariota is – the problem is – he won’t be.  There is no reason to believe Mariota will revive any of his Oregon Duck majestics to come away with a win here.  The only thing about laying down this many points with the Chiefs is that Andy Reid forgets how to coach once he gets to the playoffs.  Kansas City is 6-2 at home and they are going up against a quarterback who has a rating of 69.1 on the road with five touchdowns and eleven interceptions.

The Pick:  The Under at 45 points and the Chiefs -9

The College Football National Championship:

Alabama Crimson Tide -4 versus Georgia Bulldogs; Points Total: 45

We had another successful year in college football here at Beating Vegas, and this game is being spoken of here, just because it must be.  This is in no way a “lock” but just a “lean” at the moment.  For all the talk of the Big 10 or ACC being the best division in College Football – the SEC seems to stand above all conferences again.   Offensively they both want to run it down the opposition’s throats and defensively, they are just suffocating offenses.  This time around it’s Nick Saban going up against Kirby Smart, a former Saban assistant.  Both know each other well and one can expect this one to be an old school grudge match.  The issue here in this grudge match is that, although both programs perform and are run similarly – Bama is just a little better as a run defense and a little less prone to turning over the ball.  It’s those slight differences that can prove to do Georgia’s undoing.   The world may be in love with Georgia freshman quarterback Jake Fromm but typically the non-mobile quarterbacks with average arm strength don’t fare well against Saban’s defensive schemes.  Expect Saban to stack the box and challenge Fromm, who will have to see his wideouts matched up against some of the toughest secondary players in the nation.  Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts isn’t the most prolific passer in the nation, but he knows all he has to do is NOT turn the ball over as his 15 touchdowns and 1 interception on the season prove.  Hurts is part of a three headed monster that runs the ball, along with running backs Bo Scarborough and Damien Harris.  This Bama defense holds opponents to less than three yards a carry but Georgia’s running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel average 6.2 and 7.2 yards per carry, respectively.  Much like the Jaguars / Bills game we mentioned earlier, expect this one to be a smash mouth low scoring game but in the end, the student does NOT surpass the teacher.

The Pick: Alabama -4

Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

 

Beating Vegas: Follow the Road

Minnesota Vikings -2.5 at Carolina Panthers

The Vikings are still top five in the NFL when it comes to total offense and total defense.  Quarterback Case Keenum has seen his popularity go from “he should be benched when Teddy Bridgewater is healthy” to “MVP candidate.”  Although the last claim may be a reach, the first one is definitely just words put together to make an incoherent sentence at this point.  Keenum is completing passes at a rate of 67.5% – his 16 touchdowns and 5 interceptions show a competency at the quarterback position but doesn’t tell the whole story about just how affected he’s been under center.  The running backs Murray and McKinnon aren’t making defensive linemen lose sleep but they do help to maintain a balance to this offense which has helped the likes of Adam Thielen who has over 1000 receiving yards this season.  The Vikings defense is one of two who have not let opponents gain 1000 yards on the ground against them yet this season.  The Carolina Panthers though, are fifth in the NFL with 1533 yards aren’t going shy away from their offensive philosophy though. Although running back Jonathan Stewart leads the Panthers with 531 rushing yards, it’s quarterback Cam Newton’s 515 yards at a clip of 5.8 yards a carry that is the real threat in the backfield.  Cam Newton lost his favorite target, wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin to Buffalo via trade, but it seems that move has pushed the talents of Devin Funchess foward, which is what the Panthers franchise has been waiting for. The Vikings though are second in the NFL in touchdowns allowed by receivers with 12 and although this Vikings team hasn’t faced a quarterback like Cam Newton -who brings the package of “unpredictability” to the table – in the last three weeks they took care of Jared Goff and Matt Ryan pretty easily.

The Pick: Vikings -2.5

New Orleans Saints -1.5 at Atlanta Falcons

Keeping it in the NFC South, this Thursday night is a good one between the Falcons and the Saints.  The Falcons are 7-5 and in the next four weeks they must play the Saints, the Bucs, the Saints again and then the Panthers.  Getting back into the playoff picture won’t be an easy task for the reigning NFC Champs.  Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian seemed to finally have things on a roll for a few weeks but then hit a roadblock against Minnesota last week.  This week they play against a Saints defense that isn’t as good as the Vikings, but is miles ahead of what they were last year.  The Saints are holding quarterbacks to a completion percentage of 61% which isn’t too bad,  but Atlanta has been humming away at a 66% completion rate and have finally found ways to get the ball to stud wide out Julio Jones.  The story in this game will be about one thing:  which running back duo will outperform the other.  it is the Saints’ rookie Alvin Kamara (over 600 rushing yards and over 600 receiving yards)  and Mark Ingram (over 900 rushing yards) versus the Falcons’ Devonta Freeman 589 rushing yards and Tevin Coleman with 561 rushing yards.  Now, by just looking at the numbers you can tell which tandem has caused more panic to defenses throughout the league but the Saints rush defense is allowing five yards a carry while the Falcons are allowing 4.4 yards a carry.  Watch the line on this game as it gets closer to game time, if the Falcons are getting three points before kickoff, take Matty Ice and the boys, but until then. . .

The Pick: Saints -1.5

Seattle Seahawks +2.5 at Jacksonville Jaguars

Both of these teams have very one dimensional offenses;  the Jaguars try do do any and everything in their power so that quarterback Blake Bortles won’t have to throw the ball, while the Seahawks offense is – Russell Wilson.  That’s not being cute either.  They struggle to run, have no real threat in the receiving game (calm down Doug Baldwin groupies. . .) and it seems that the majority of their big plays are never scripted – they are just Wilson creating while on the run.  The Jaguars will just run the ball, and run the ball and run the ball. . . rookie running back Leonard Fournette has carried the ball more than 200 times and is averaging 4 yards a carry.  This is a testament to his ability and the offensive line because defenses are stacking the box against Bortles every single week.  Last week the stout offensive attack of the Eagles was able to take advantage of the banged up Seahawks secondary but could not get anything done on the ground.  That doesn’t bode well for the Jaguars.  The Jaguars defensively though, are one of the best units in the league and that is much due to pass defense that is as stingy as they come.  Nobody will get much done in this game.  Expect a score of 20-13.

The Pick: Under 40

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

Pessimism in Jacksonville

Let’s look at back at the 2014 Draft Profile of Blake Bortles written by Nolan Nawrocki “Possesses ideal size, athletic ability, intangibles and enough arm strength to develop into an upper-echelon quarterback. . .his arrow is very clearly ascending.”  Fast forward to today and Blake Bortles looks like he may lose his starting job to 32 year old veteran Chad Henne.

Yikes.

Many of us were on the “Blake Bortles Train,” and how could we not be?  He  looked like what you would want at quarterback.  In year two of Bortles’ young career he put up promising numbers for a team that went 5-11. He threw for 4428 passing yards and 35 touchdown passes – sure he had eighteen interceptions, but that’s because the team is so bad right?  Eh, last season proved that although the team is far from where people thought they’d be at right now – Bortles has shown zero improvement.  He makes bad decisions and more times than not just looks overwhelmed.  The Jags front office has done an “okay” job helping out Bortles – and for all things considered, in the short time they have had Bortles, they’ve done more than the Chargers have done for Philip Rivers’ whole career – but ANYHOW –

The Jags drafted two starting offensive linemen in Brandon Linder and AJ Cann and right off the bat in 2014 they drafted two wideouts Marquise Lee and Allen Robinson to grown with Bortles.  Robinson has emerged as the clear number one, but his frustrations with Bortles are becoming evident as his numbers declined from 2015 to 2016 as well. This season they’ve added two guys who many think can play in this league for a long, long time : Alabama left tackle Cam Robinson and LSU running back Leonard Fourtnette.  This is supposed to be Bortles’ year to “put up or shut up” but the Jags are considering to shut him down completely in favor of veteran Chad Henne.

This move would destroy the Jags season and the hope of all Jags fans right at the start of week one.

With no disrespect to Chad Henne, this move means the Jags are no where near having their franchise quarterback and this season will be another four or five win (at best) campaign for Jacksonville.  The AFC South is a win-able division by most standards.  Houston is the “best” team in the division but nobody in their right mind would think they’d win 10 games or have a deep playoff run; the Titans are on the “come-up” but so were the Jags a year ago; and the Colts are Andrew Luck, surrounded by a squad of “guys who would get cut else-where.”

On paper Bortles should not lose the starting job to Henne.  To be honest, Henne’s only job in Jacksonville was to serve as a veteran quarterback to help mentor Bortles.  He’s supposed to be someone who solidifies the fact that Bortles is the number one guy in Jacksonville.  Instead, Bortles is looking over his shoulder and right at Henne.

Bortles has failed to impress so far this pre-season, and as ESPN pointed out “The Jaguars punted on all 4 drives with Blake Bortles at QB tonight, and have 3 points in 6 series with him on the field this preseason.”

Bortles has pre-season match-ups against the Panthers and the Falcons.  The Panthers game is the most important of the two because it’s usually the third preseason game of the season where coaches let their starters play a full half.  If that’s the case, that’s a pretty aggressive defense for Bortles to play for his life against.

And they say the pre-season is meaningless.

Well, it is pretty meaningless, but when you’re a perennial bottom feeder like the Jaguars – it’s a different story.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

Beating Vegas: The Juke Move

About last week:  The Raiders were the one team that made us look bad here at Beating Vegas.  Some teams are just hard to read  and the Raiders look like they are one of them – at least for the moment.  We’re doing good things here at Beating Vegas, so keep checking for this column weekly and visit mybookie.ag so you can beat the NCAA and NFL odds. . .

Baltimore Ravens -1 at  Jacksonville Jaguars

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The San Diego Chargers made the Jaguars look like the Jaguars we’re more familiar with.  The Jags looked over-matched and over-whelmed for most of the contest.  It was over quickly and this Jaguars team that has wildcard hopes, looked awful.  The truth is, the Chargers have games like these during the year, where they look like world beaters, but then are sent back down to reality.  The Jags are not a franchise that knows how to handle expectations, but this familiar taste of being blown out will not sit well with this unit.  They are back home and playing the role of host to an underwhelming Ravens team that is 2-0.  The Ravens barely beat Buffalo and barely beat Cleveland.  Cleveland was actually up by twenty points until a questionable taunting call turned the tides of the game. . . Those are two below average teams and one can argue that their kicker Justin Tucker is probably their best weapon on offense.  The Jaguars are a legit wildcard team this year and smart folks love a home underdog after a road blow-out loss.

The Pick: Jaguars +1

Oakland Raiders +1 at Tennessee Titans

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Ironically, these two teams were “locks” in last week’s “Beating Vegas” article.  The Titans covered fairly easily in their victory over Detroit, but as mentioned in the opening – the Raiders are just undependable at this point.  So why are the Raiders still featured here, if they are “undependable?”  Because, the Raiders defense looks awful.  The Saints and Falcons were able to ride up and down the field at ease against this re-vamped Raiders defense – and although we’re not knocking the abilities of those two offenses, it’s the fact that the defense looks lost.  There is an obvious lack of communication with some of the new pieces and this is something that won’t change overnight.  Marcus Mariota showed in the second half last week what this offense can look like.  His ability to escape pressure is key, because the Raiders will most likely blitz early – Detroit did that late last week and Mariota took what defenses were giving him.  The backfield of Murray and Henry hasn’t blown up yet, but they’ve been consistent.  The emergence of Tajae Sharpe at wide receiver has been a nice surprise too.  The Raiders should win this game, but we’re not worried about that for the most part.  Points will be scored, that’s for certain.

The Pick: The Over 46.5

 

Wisconsin +5.5 at Michigan State

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Classic trap game.  Michigan State less than a touchdown favorite after a huge nationally televised game against the most recognizable name in college football Notre Dame.   Last week Wisconsin struggled against Georgia State but came through with an ugly 23-17 victory.  THAT’S the game that is fresh in everyone’s head, but let’s not forget how Michigan State struggled against Furman to open the season with a sloppy 28-13 victory.   Michigan State has been protecting their quarterback Tyler O’Conner for the most part and they don’t have him throw too much during games so it’s nice to see  him throw at a completion percentage of 73% but it doesn’t tell the whole story. . . Wisconsin’s offense is basic as well, but they are going to keep true to what they do.  They have three talented running backs running behind an above average offensive line.  The Wisconsin defense allows about seven less points a game than Michigan State does and with Michigan giving five and a half points in this game, it just seems like this one will be a blue collar game played at the line of scrimmage.

The Pick: Wisconsin +5.5

 

Air Force -3 at Utah State

The Air Force offense is picking up this year where it left off last year – one dimensional and nearly unstoppable.  They are on top of the college football world averaging 432 rushing yards a game.  Couple that with the fact that their defense allows only 17.5 points a game (best in the Mountain West) this is a team that should own most of their competition this year.  Utah State has a more balanced offensive attack and defensively aren’t terrible, but in their one true test this season against USC (if that’s even a “test” at this point anymore in college football) when they gave up an average of 4.8 yards a carry to USC’s best backs Aca’Cedric Ware and Justin Davis.   Sure Air Force hasn’t played much competition, but 400 plus yards a game against anyone is impressive – AND this is just what we’ve come to expect from the road favorite.

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The Pick: Air Force -3

 

Houston -34.5 at Texas State

It may seem a bit foolish and even naive to pick Houston two weeks in a row, but THIS Houston defense against THIS Texas State offense – it’s kind of hard to ignore this.  Texas State allows five yards a rush and their defensive front just doesn’t have the talent to stay with Houston’s offensive line.  Houston’s defense is allowing only 13 points a game and don’t think they don’t see what Louisville is doing this year.  If Louisville doesn’t slip up next week against Clemson, then the November meeting between Houston and Clemson might decide a playoff birth.   Houston needs to make short work of teams like Texas State to prove a point.  The first half might be a smart wager here as well, but just like last week, don’t think too much about it.  Houston should win this win 49-13.   Yeah, of course you’ll have to sweat it out, that’s just the way it is.

The Pick: Houston -34.5

Four Game Tease of the Week: Dolphins +2.5; Western Kentucky +4.5; Michigan -7; Pitt +19

 

Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

 

Jacksonville Jaguars 2015 Preview

It seems that there was more optimism surrounding the Jaguars last year than there is this year.   That’s not a good thing for head coach, Gus Bradley who is entering his third year in what was supposed to be a culture change for the franchise.  There is a lot of youth on this team and there is frustration spread throughout management and the fan base.

The Jaguars went “all in” when they took Blake Bortles with the number-three over-all pick last year in the draft.  At 6’5″ 230, the Jaguars want him to become their version of the Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger.  His 17 interceptions can be looked over as part of his “growing pains” in a rookie season, but his completion percentage, which was below 60% last year and his yards per pass, which was barely over six – both need to improve.

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The going will be tough for Bortles because as of right now (mid-August) two of his receivers are dealing with hamstring injuries.  Allen Robinson and Marqise Lee were drafted in the same year with Bortles, in the hopes that they could all grow together.  Robinson looked good last season, and Lee flashed some signs but in order for the trio of Bortles, Lee and Robinson to become something special – they need to be on the field together.  Allen Hurns led the team with 677 receiving yards, which is not a mark that will keep someone as a number one or number two receiver.

Bortles will need time to get the ball to these receivers, which he had little of last year.  That’s why the Jaguars signed free agent Stefen Wisinewkski who adds depth (and competition) for the guard and center positions. They also signed tackle Jermey Parnell who was on that stellar Dallas Cowboys line last season.  The Jaguars got lucky finding a starter for their line last year in Brandon Linder and are expecting Luke Joeckel to take a step up this season in being one of the better tackles in the league.

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Running behind that line will most likely be the rookie running back out of Alabama, T.J. Yeldon.   In his three seasons playing for the Crimson Tide, Yeldon never averaged less than five yards a carry and is a tough back to bring down.  Former Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson filled in admirably last year at the running back position, but he is not a long term solution.  Robinson is a nice “gadget” player, who the offensive coordinator Greg Olson should learn to get creative with.  Toby Gerhart seemed lost as a starter and will ultimately end up as a “bust” free agent signing.

The defensive line has been decimated even before the season started.  Their first-round pick Dante Fowler tore his ACL in camp and will be out for the year while defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks is still recovering from a torn ACL he suffered at the end of last season.   The Jags did sign former Dolphin Jared Odrick to the team, which went under the radar in the off-season, but could prove to be a great signing.  The success of the front line will ultimately be on the shoulders of veteran Chris Clemons.

There isn’t much to talk about at the linebacker spot except for Paul Posluszny.  He missed nine games last season due to injury.  Posluszny is entering his ninth season and the Jags are just hoping he isn’t slipping.  Posluszny has been one of the best middle linebackers in the league throughout his career, his only fault is playing in Buffalo and Jacksonville, two places that aren’t high on the media’s radar.

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Johnathan Cyprien has played his college and pro career in the state of Florida.  He played safety at Florida International and for the last two years have played the same position in Jacksonville.  Cyprien is a “safe play” at the position, who is more of a hitter than a cover guy.  A sure tackler in the secondary though, where unfortunately for Jacksonville – a lot of ball carriers get to. . . The Jaguars signed Davon House to man one of the corner slots.  House will get a chance to reboot his career after being a nice rotation guy for Green Bay for some time, but last year couldn’t find his way onto the field.

It’s easy to root for a guy like coach Gus Bradley, and the players all seem to want to play for him.  If Gus plans on keeping this job though, they are going to need more than three wins and that seems like an arduous task all in itself.

Predicted Record: 4-12

Predicted Pro Bowlers:  T.J. Yeldon, Paul Posluszny

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

Grading Free Agency, Pt. 2

*You can find Part 1, here: http://geesteelio.com/?p=369 – detailing the free agent signings of Ndamukong Suh, Frank Gore and Byron Maxwell, Rodney Hudson, Stephen Paea and Jeremy Maclin.

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Ryan Matthews – Philadelphia Eagles

Naturally, we start with Chip Kelly’s Philadelphia Eagles.  It seemed as if the Eagles were locked in with Frank Gore at running back until Frank Gore backed out to sign with the Colts.  Ryan Matthews seems to be the guy who will replace the void left by Lesean McCoy.  Matthews’ history shows that he doesn’t fair well when replacing a fan favorite – as he was supposed to be the one to carry the load in San Diego after Ladanian Tomilson.  Matthews has shown flares of being a capable back, but injuries have derailed his career for the most part.  Questionable signing here by Chip Kelly considering the rigorous practices and uptempo play-style of this Eagles offense.  It will be a miracle if Matthews lasts 10 games this year.

Grade: C-

Torrey Smith – San Francisco 49ers

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While most are looking to leave San Fran, Torrey Smith has decided to sign a 5 year, $40 million contract to play for the Niners.  Smith has incredible speed and good size at 6’0″, 200 pounds.  While in Baltimore, Smith totaled over 1000 yards once in four seasons which was also his highest reception total in his career at 65.  He makes the most with every catch and is able to average about 16 yards per catch each season – which is the stat that makes him attractive to the 49ers.  Nobody really knows if Colin Kaepernick will take another step in the positive direction, but Smith can only help.  This move also reunites Smith to play alongside Anquan Boldin (Ravens teammates in 2011).

Grade: B

Julius Thomas – Jacksonville Jaguars

Jacksonville, for as bad of a football team as they are, somehow they pulled off a free agent surprise by netting a deal with Thomas.  This is a risky move on both parts.  Thomas is entering a situation with an unproven quarterback entering his second year in Blake Bortles and the Jacksonville Jaguars are paying a guy who’s toughness has been questioned and who’s stats can be mostly attributed to playing in a great offense with one of the best ever throwing him the ball. . .  Playing with Peyton Manning makes any wideout / tight end, more in tune to route running and communication but is Jacksonville really the place where that can be exhibited?  Denver also wasn’t too happy with Thomas only wanting to play at 100% and never wanting to “give it a try” when coming back from injury.   Jacksonville could’ve spent the money they spent here on an offensive linemen.

Grade: C

Jeremy Parnell – Jacksonville Jaguars

Oh, excuse me Jacksonville – you are putting money to the offensive line.  Nice to see.  Jacksonville has money and they probably over-paid for a guy who split time in Dallas on the offensive line, but considering the success of the that O-Line, Jacksonville figured they had to make a move at some point to bolster this unit. Five years and for $32 million might seem a bit high for a guy nearly 30 years old who’s been a part-time starter but hey – guess you gotta start somewhere. . .

Grade: C-

Derrelle Revis AND Buster Skrine – New York Jets

The Jets were an absolute joke in the secondary last year as every young corner on the roster never panned out and every signing appeared to be the wrong one.  Buster Skrine was signed to a 4 year $25 million dollar contract and there is no doubt he is elated to leave the mess that is the Cleveland Browns.  Skrine is a heavily penalized corner, but the Jets like his aggressiveness and figure him to be a perfect nickel man for this defense.  Although the Skrine signing is okay , the crown-jewel is the Jets getting back their guy in Darrelle Revis.  When the Jets traded Revis in 2013, the fan-base couldn’t comprehend how it could trade away it’s best player in years.  It was business. . . and nobody conducts business better than Revis, who signed back to the Jets for a five year, $70 million contract with nearly $40 million guaranteed.  The Jets front line is still a force in the league and having bolstered their corner position will only help.  Safety is still a question-mark and there is still a possibility of them signing  Antonio Cromartie as the number two corner.  Sure they over-paid for Revis, but Revis makes sure that everybody does. 

Grade: A

Andre Johnson – Indianapolis Colts

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In Part One, the Colts were given an “A” for bringing Frank Gore on board and now the Colts have gone out and acquired former Texans wideout Andre Johnson.  Johnson is the Texans all time receiving leader but now leaving on bad terms with the team, the veteran has decided to pony-up with the division rival Colts.  On paper this looks like a massive upgrade to the Colts receiving core and although Reggie Wayne showed last year he wasn’t the Wayne of yesterday, Johnson is almost in the same boat.  Wayne had to make way for T.Y. Hilton, while Johnson had to make way for Deandre Hopkins.  Three years and $21 million seems a bit too steep for a team that has an intriguing young wideout in Donte Moncrief to go along with T.Y. Hilton.  This team has a stud in Andrew Luck, the running game help should’ve been enough.  They need to focus on defense or it will be the same story as last year.

Grade: D

Orlando Franklin – San Diego Chargers

The Chargers are now acting like a shark smelling blood in the water.  Maybe the Chargers see that the Broncos are vulnerable and they can still make enough moves to be better than the Chiefs and Raiders.  If Peyton Manning’s late season performance was a preview to how he’ll play this up-coming season, that would make Rivers the best quarterback in the division.  The Chargers decided to protect one of the least mobile QB’s in the league by acquiring former Bronco, Orlando Franklin.  Franklin plays guard but is versatile all through the line of scrimmage and in his four seasons with Denver he has only missed one game.  The Chargers also re-signed King Dunlap so it seems that protecting Rivers for this year and beyond is (and should be) a team priority.

Grade: B+

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio