Tag Archives: Lions

NFC North Draft Needs

Minnesota Vikings:

Draft Day needs in the Draft: Defensive Tackle and Guard.

Picks in rounds 1, 2, 3, 5, (three in 6) and 7

Source: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images North America

When you look pretty dominant all season long and then get embarrassed in the NFC Championship game, the disappointment will be pretty tough to brush off your shoulders for the coming months.  The Vikings showed no faith in any quarterback that was on their roster last year and let them all go in free agency.  Luckily for them, they won “the Kirk Cousins sweepstakes” so that is one less position to worry about in the draft. Having the 30th overall pick isn’t too sexy of a first round pick, but it also shows that you’re a good team that needs “just a little more” to push them to that next level.  There are some pretty good guards in this draft but they’d need a miracle to land  Quenton Nelson and some of luck for either Will Hernandez or Isaiah Wynn to fall to them at 30.  Texas tackle Connor Williams seems like someone who just may fall to them though.  In the second round, they may land a talent like USC Rasheem Green, who is  a versatile and athletic defensive linemen who can line up at defensive tackle but would probably be best suited attacking from the outsides.  When you’re a good team, you can also afford to be a little cute in the third round, like getting a wide-receiver/special teams threat like Dante Pettis or a guy who is a nice polished receiver like Daesean Hamilton out of Penn State.  Either one of these guys can go in the third or fourth, and with no fourth round pick, the Vikes would have to make up their mind quickly here.  Later in the draft, watch for another sleeper pick in the receiving core like South Florida’s Marquez Valdes-Scantling, or someone to add to their defensive rotation like Ohio State’s Chris Worling.

Detroit Lions:

Draft Day needs: Linebacker, Defensive tackle and Running back

Pick in every round except for the 6th:

Source: Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America

Let’s just be honest when it comes to the Lions: they are mediocre at best.  Sure with a new head coach, comes a newfound optimism, but we all know what Matthew Stafford is (a stat filler, who is praised by the Fantasy Football geeks) and we all know the limitations of their roster.  With the twentieth pick in the first round, their best bet is to go “best player available.” If they are lucky they should be able to get one of tho Alabama alums on their front seven.  Linebacker Rashaan Evans or defensive tackle Da’ron Payne could fill right in and be a day one starter. In the second round they could find themselves an athletic linebacker in South Carolina State’s Darius Leonard.  Offensively they’ve needed a running back since Barry Sanders, and this draft has plenty of them.  The Lions, could maybe hold out until the third or fourth and get themselves a quality back.  Arizona State’s Kalen Ballage is a nice sleeper who could go in that third or fourth round area.  Ballage is a big back (6’2″, 228 lbs) with power, speed and good hands who can prove to be a sleeper for any team in need of a back.  With a defensive minded coach though, he may look at some sleepers on defense in the sixth and seventh rounds like Tre Flowers, safety out of Oklahoma State, Garret Dooley, linebacker out of Wisconsin or Troy Apke, a safety out of Penn State, projected to go late in the draft, but adds some top level speed to the position.

Green Bay Packers:

Draft Day needs: Corner back, guard and tight end

Packers have 12 overall picks (one in each of the first three rounds, two in the fourth, three in the fifth, two in the sixth and two in the seventh)

Source: David Becker/Getty Images North America

The NFL is just dying to help out Aaron Rodgers, so they gave them four compensatory draft picks this season.  Rodgers doesn’t like his organization or his coach much and at this point the two sides seem like a marriage who will stick it out “for the kids.”  With that being said they are, as of now, the second best team in the division and need to compete with top tier teams in this league.  Although the goal with the 14th overall pick should be to take a corner, it might be hard for them to pass up a pass rusher like Marcus Davenport if he is around – but luck may be on their side and they’ll be able to nab the corner out of UCF Mike Hughes or even the safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, who’s versatility all over the secondary and tackling ability would help them from day one.  This is another team that can go running back crazy in the third, fourth or maybe even fifth rounds.  Jimmy Graham has been added to a list of targets for Aaron Rodgers which includes Davante Adams and Randall Cobb, but Cobb at this point is just an overpaid part of this puzzle and adding a wide-out.  The sleeper wide receiver that I see fitting in well with Green Bay is Boise State’s Cedrick Wilson.  He’s a hard worker, with good hands and route running ability.  He’s also a tall receiver with speed who can be a red zone guy AND a deep threat.  The Packers have so many picks, their scouting team must be looking at players like Wilson and even more players like him who are on an even smaller raider with a high upside. . .

Chicago Bears:

Draft Day needs: Offensive Line,  Linebacker, Corner back

Draft Picks: 1, 2, two in round 4, 5, 6 and 7

Source: Scott Cunningham/Getty Images North America

The Bears were the talk of last year’s draft who moved up to get “their guy,” quarterback Mitch Trubisky of UNC.  Mitch didn’t look like a franchise guy last year, but the Bears barely resembled much of a football team in general in 2017.  The Bears addressed their wide-receiver issue by signing Allen Robinson as their new number-one wide-out and they even added Taylor Gabriel and tight end Trey Burton for good measure.  The offensive line seems to always be an issue with the Bears, even when they get it right personnel wise – an injury or two wreck all kinds of havoc. The Bears are hoping and praying they land Quenton Nelson, the Notre Dame guard, who might not only be the best offensive lineman in the draft but one of the drafts best players, over all.  If the Bears don’t land him in the first, they may try to trade back to land either Georgia guard Isaiah Wynn or another Notre Dame talent, the tackle Mike McGlinchey.  Chicago kept themselves busy in the offseason and even signed linebacker Aaron Lynch from the 49ers, but that’s not the “umph” that will help to put this linebacker rotation into the next level.  Much like what was mentioned earlier with the Detroit Lions, Chicago may find themselves looking at South Carolina State’s Darius Leonard or maybe even the freakishly athletic linebacker out of Georgia, Lorenzo Carter.   The Bears will look to get some depth and hopefully some sleeper talent with the corner position, and they may be able to find that in  later rounds with Arizona’s Dane Cruikshank or they may look in their state, Illinois State product Davontae Harris to be more specific.

 

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

Who Will Get Mad in March?

March Madness is usually all about College Basketball.  The Bracket Challenge.  The hype, the dramatics, etc, etc. . .  March is also the time when NFL fan-bases get over-hyped or overly depressed because NFL free agency has begun.

It’s usually fan-bases of bad teams that freak out.  If you’re a fan of the Jets, Bears, Browns, Giants or any other team that has a top-ten draft pick – it’s a nervous time.

But is it, really?

Source: Wesley Hitt/Getty Images North America

Every team enters the off-season with holes.  Whether it be because of lack of talent on the roster or someone is being paid too much.  Regardless of what it may be, free agency – in some people’s eyes – is the “quick-fix” to all their problems.  In truth free agency can be just what a team needs to get over a hump or take them to the promised land – for example, Peyton Manning signing with the Denver Broncos in 2012 (jeez, that was already SIX years ago. . .).  Or even in 2014 when the Patriots signed corner back DOn the other hand, free-agency can be the equivalent of a broken water pipe being fixed with some duct-tape.  For examples of bad free agent signings just look up any of these Redskins signings: Albert Haynesworth in 2009, Adam Archuletta in 2006 or even Jeremiah Trotter in 2004.  .  .Oh those Redskins. . .

This season, there were names that every bad franchise’s fan base wanted them to throw money at.  So far some players have agreed to terms with teams wanting their services.  This includes “house hold names” like Albert Wilson, who has agreed to go to Miami for three-year $24 million dollar contract and Trey Burton who has agreed to a four-year, $32 million dollar contract.  Now, one isn’t saying that these men aren’t “good” and I could care less about the money they’re getting – BUT – fan bases all start to follow these type of guys on twitter and “all of a sudden” become experts on the “hidden talents” that players like these possess.

Source: Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Come on, man. . .

Burton was the third best tight end in Philadelphia and Albert Wilson was probably a three or four guy in Kansas City.   If these are the caliber of players that will get fans in a frenzy because they “missed out” on these guys – then maybe, just maybe – you’ve lost it a little.

It’s easy for fans to say, get this guy – spend this money and fill that hole.  But the NFL is all about the right guys who fit in the right systems.  This is why an intelligent player like Richard Sherman, who’s only worked in one defensive system in his career, chose to sign with the 49ers who run a similar defensive scheme.   This is why teams like the Jets and Vikings are looking at Kirk Cousins to be their next quarterback.  Cousins just ran a west-coast style offense in Washington, and the Vikings and Jets (if we are to judge by their offensive coordinator hires) will be doing something of the same ilk.  Meanwhile, former Bears linebacker Christian Jones who played in a 3-4 defensive scheme is now going to play for the Lions who typically run a 4-3 defensive scheme, so if this signing turns out to be a bad one – there’s your first big clue as to why.

Listen, everyone loves free agency.  But when it comes to cursing out a general manager because he didn’t fill “a hole” with some over-priced shiny new object, there is no reason to throw a fit or curse your general manager’s family from now till eternity.  Oh, and it definitely doesn’t call for burning players’ jerseys.  That’s just stupid.  If we’ve learned anything it’s that winning teams are put together by smart people.  The New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers pretty much get it.  They never want to over-pay for talent – they’d rather find those who can fit in their systems.

Source: Jared Wickerham/Getty Images North America

So if you’re team is sitting on millions upon millions of dollars and not spending it like crazy in free agency, don’t flip out.  There’s a draft and there is also a coaching staff in place that is there to make players better – imagine that. . .

I mean, if you’re a Jets fan though.  Yeah, I’d be mad as all hell, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

 

The NFL’s Quarterback Problem

So in old news,  NFL quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo signed a five-year deal with the San Francisco 49ers for $137.5 million, with about $74 million of that guaranteed.  In the quarterback “free agency” market, Garoppolo was the most attractive option (pun-intended) because of his age and ceiling.  The 49ers decided to tie up a big chunk of their money to the quarterback they believe is going to be the key to their success because that’s what you’re “supposed to do.”

Right?

Eh. Who knows really.  In the case of Garoppolo he went 5-0 in the five games he played.  He also threw seven touchdowns and five interceptions in those five games – but, for what it’s worth – the 49ers were convinced that was their guy to give this massive contract too.

For the record, I like Garoppolo and hold no ill-regard toward the 49ers organization. I really don’t care what they do, and if Garoppolo can get paid – props to him.  This isn’t even about Garoppolo, it’s about the quarterback position and how ridiculous the pay-grade is for that position.

Everyone will tell you until they are blue in the face – you need a quarterback in today’s league.  Sure. Who can argue that? The league has changed in ways that they want you to throw the ball more.  What has over-paying a quarterback really gotten anybody though?

Ask the Detroit Lions, who paid “their guy” Matthew Stafford a five year deal amounting up to about $27 million a year. That contract was given to him in August of 2017 and in July of 2017 Stafford’s record against winning teams was 5-46.  That’s not a typo – FIVE and FORTY-SIX.  Stafford has been the starting quarterback for the Lions since 2009 and they’ve had three playoff games with three playoff game losses.  Sure he puts up great garbage time stats for fantasy football geeks – but all in all, it hasn’t worked.

Ask the Seattle Seahawks, who were loving life when they found a diamond in the rough who they drafted in the third round of the 2012 draft.  Most teams don’t find their starting QB in the third round.  They did.  They rode it out – made him a star, he performed well and they even won a championship out of it.  After 2014 and a new contract the Seahawks realized they needed to trim corners.  They couldn’t keep offensive linemen, secondary players etc — and because of that the team has suffered.

Ask the Baltimore Ravens, who were the greatest victim of the “okie-doke” as Joe Flacco played the best stretch of games in his life when he was nearly perfect on the Ravens playoff / Super Bowl run in 2012.  Lucky for him he was in a contract year and the Ravens “HAD TO” keep their Super Bowl QB.  So they paid him $120 million over the next six years.  That $120 million has gotten them average to below average play from the QB position since then. (Side Note: It’s difficult to even watch Ravens games with him at quarterback).

There are a whole list of others – just look around the league.  Eli, Cutler, Romo, Cam, Luck, Matty Ice, Dalton – all aren’t terrible – some are actually the reason for any success that their team has had – BUT – was the money that was tied into that position really worth it for the teams mentioned?  Eli kept getting paid when he was passed his prime, Cam might’ve already peaked – as well as Matty Ice and Luck. . .

Folks, we just saw a back-up quarterback, who was nearly done with the game of football – win the Super Bowl.  And for all things considered – the injured starter, Carson Wentz, probably would’ve had the same results and he is in his second year of his rookie contract.

General managers have collectively shown that they do not care for long contracts with running backs. . . and often with wide-receivers and corner backs they tell the player “test the market and come back to us.”  With quarterbacks though, it’s always “What do you want?  Here it is.  Sign this.” (Unless you’re Kirk Cousins, of course)

Maybe I’m old fashioned but these games are always won in the trenches.  If you are not stocking up an above average offensive line, or an above average defensive line, then what are you – as a G.M. really doing?

Nick Foles showed in the Super Bowl, if you’re a competent quarterback who is comfortable with the system you’re in – you should be fine — especially if the pieces around the offense have bought into the system.  This is what you see every year from the Saints, Patriots, Kansas City and L.A. (Rams) – we also saw it for two of three years with Kirk Cousins in Washington.

The truth is, until a general manager and coach have the “you-know-whats” to tell a “star” quarterback “no” and that they believe in their system and finding a player who can run the system as effectively – these ridiculous contracts will never stop.  Fans will complain and you’ll get killed by the talking-heads on sports television but financially it’s a great move, if you really know you’re job.   Finding a starting quarterback is hard  – yes – but these quarterbacks have to realize how fortunate they are to find systems that are working for them.  Look at “great” wide receivers, corner backs, running backs – even line backers – who leave for a pay-day, find themselves in a system that doesn’t fit into their skill set and are released.  What usually happens to those players?  They look to find the system that got them that big money deal and try to prove they are still “great.”

Quarterbacks are special, but not special enough to hamper a team moving forward, financially.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

Beating Vegas: Give Thanks, Make Money

Houston Texans +7 at Baltimore Ravens

We’re going to kick off this week’s NFL edition of Beating Vegas by telling you to ignore the the line of seven points and take a look at the points total number which is 38.  Nobody would blame you for not wanting to view this Monday Night Football match-up.  The Houston Texans without DeShawn Watson at quarterback are pretty unwatchable and the Ravens have the leagues second worse offense in the NFL.  The Ravens deserve some kind of award for having Joe Flacco under center for the last three years and acting as if he is something special.  Flacco is one of the most underwhelming quarterbacks in the NFL and it’s been that way for a while. . . Running back Alex Collins has been a welcomed surprise, averaging five yards a rush and being the teams one true source of consistency on offense. Collins will have a tough challenge going up against a Texans defense that holds runners to an average of 3.7 yards a rush.  Last week this defense held the Cardinals’ Adrian Peterson to 26 yards on fourteen carries. . . This Baltimore team though is hard to gauge; this defense has “pitched” three shut outs but also lost 44-17 to the Jags, 26-9 to the Steelers and actually figured out a way to lose to the Chicago Bears 27-24.  Baltimore will most likely win this game because they will be at home and the Texans are still putting Tom Savage out there to play quarterback. . . who is probably one of the three starting quarterbacks worse than Joe Flacco.

The Pick: The Under at 38

Minnesota Vikings -3 at Detroit Lions

Thanksgiving Day always gives us the Lions and the Cowboys.  The world always understands the Cowboys – but why – oh why, the Lions?  Why won’t the football gods let us enjoy our festive day filled with family and food by viewing a team that the world can at least pretend to care about?  The Lions are currently riding a three-game win streak and are at least beating the teams they are supposed to be beat during this streak.  The Lions do one thing, but at least they do it pretty well – pass the ball.  The receiving core (which was mentioned on Beating Vegas last week) is a dangerous one, that averages 12 yards a catch.  But being a one dimensional team against a defense like the Vikings is a recipe for disaster.  The Vikings are currently in the top five for total offense and total defense, but it’s their defense that has become their calling card.  Last week the Vikings defense put the clamps on the leagues number one offense, the L.A. Rams.  As much as people want to push quarterback Case Keenum out for Teddy Bridgewater; the Vikings can’t and more importantly – they shouldn’t.  Keenum has jelled well with his wide-outs Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs and is doing with a completion percentage of 65% and averaging over 240 passing yards a game.   Last time these two teams played, the Lions won 14-7 in a boring game in which it was evident, both teams were working out the “kinks.”  Minnesota by 10 is more than realistic.

The Pick: Vikings -3

Denver Broncos +5 at Oakland Raiders

The Raiders enter this week with a new defensive coordinator, John Pagano and the Broncos enter this week with a new offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave. Obviously, this is proof that both organizations are disappointed with themselves, and they should be.  Last week we were all over the Patriots destroying the Raiders (your welcome) but this week they go up against an offense that is putrid.  The Raiders pass defense might get a break after getting scorched by Tom Brady last week, because Broncos quarterback Brock Osweiler’s 53% completion percentage isn’t enough to scare even a pee-wee-football team’s secondary. (*DISCLAIMER: It was announced after this article was posted that the Broncos have benched Osweiler in favor of Paxton Lynch to start the game at quarterback.  This doesn’t change the line for me at all. . .)  For as much as we are told that this Broncos defense is one of the best in the NFL, they are on a six-game losing streak and in this mess, the secondary has been toyed with  – and because of the inefficiency of this offense – the defense is on the field a lot.  The Raiders were just embarrassed on national television and are looking to gain some kind of redemption.  This is a good week for a  defensive coordinator to start his new job, because it should be easy to prep against this Broncos offensive attack.

The Pick: Raiders -5

Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

 

Beating Vegas: Patriots;Whenever, Wherever

New England Patriots -6.5 versus Oakland Raiders

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

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

The Pick: New England -6.5

 

Detroit Lions -3 at Chicago Bears

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

The Pick: Detroit -3

Jacksonville Jaguars -7.5 at Cleveland Browns

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

The Pick: Jacksonville -7.5

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

Beating Vegas: Gonna Fly Now

Denver Broncos +7 at Philadelphia Eagles

The Denver Broncos trot cross country into the City of Brotherly Love, where the Eagles have been flying high this season.   The Eagles’ offense is one of the NFL’s best and Carson Wentz is the reason why. Only in his second season under center and Wentz’ name  is on the short list of those being mentioned in the MVP race.   The Eagle’s leading rusher is LaGarrette Blount who is averaging 4.7 yards a carry, but things may be changing now that they’ve acquired former Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi this week via trade.   One wouldn’t be “reaching” by saying maybe Ajayi was acquired for this match up against Denver because the Broncos rush defense is the best in the league, holding to opponents to 3 yards a rush and 73 yards on the ground per contest.  Things don’t get much easier tryin to air it out against the Broncos either.  When a secondary has Chris Harris Jr and Aquib Talib it’s no surprise to see they’ve allowed the second fewest receiving yards in the NFL, behind Jacksonville.   The issue for Denver will be the offense as this will be Brock Osweiler’s first start of the season.  The last three years have been a roller coaster of sorts for Osweiler: 2015, was the back up in Denver when the team won the Super Bowl; 2016 signed with the Texans for a contract that guaranteed him over $35 million; 2017 was traded to the Browns, who released him before the season started and was picked up by the Broncos to be the back up quarterback to Trevor Siemian.  Siemian had to be benched but make no mistake Osweiler is awful and if he’s “better” than Siemian that’s like saying you’d rather be “nicked” than “scratched.”  The Eagles pass defense isn’t terrific, but their play up front will put unwanted pressure on Osweiler who will be forced to make throws.  Eagles edge out a close cover 17-7.

The Pick: Philadelphia -7

Detroit Lions -2 at Green Bay Packers

I have a tradition on Monday Night Football.  Pretty much the tradition is, I have a couple of beers with my dad and we watch the game.  Yes, we flip to Monday Night Raw during commercial breaks, but that’s neither here nor there.  I look forward to watching Monday Night Football because just for that night I pick one of the two teams and become a fan of theirs for the next three hours.  This week, two teams I detest in the NFL are playing against each other:  The Lions and the Packers.  Terrific. . . All of trends point in Green Bay’s direction: Lions have lost 25 of their last 26 at Lambeau Field;  straight up and ATS the Lions are 1-4 in their last 5 games and Green Bay is 6-2 ATS in their last 8 games at home.  61% of the public’s money is going on the Detroit Lions, mostly because people have given up on an Aaron Rodgers-less Packers squad.  That’s understandable but why would anyone be confident putting their money on an entirely healthy Detroit Lions squad?  Three of Detroit’s four losses came at under 5 points; and two of their three wins came against two trash-cans disguised as football teams in the Giants and Cardinals.  Bottom line is – when something good is expected out of Detroit, they don’t carry through.  We all know Matt Stafford doesn’t beat teams with a winning record and for what it’s worth the Packers are 4-3, with a head coach you can put in the top five of the league every year against a coach in Jim Caldwell who looks like he’s waiting for a bus to pick him up on the sideline.  Home underdog, with a smart coach, after a bye week.  Gimmie dat.

The Pick: Green Bay +2

Atlanta Falcons -1.5 at Carolina Panthers

Here is one of those games where the actual line means nothing because we are looking at the point total, which Vegas has set at 42 total points for this NFC South match-up.  The Falcons offense is a shell of what it was last year.  When you factor in that the personnel is the same, it comes to the departure of offensive coordinator  Kyle Shanahan who left to take the head coaching job at San Francisco.  Falcons coordinator Steve Sarkisian came with some baggage and it looks like by the end of this season, he’ll be packing those same bags when he gets shipped out of town.  Last season this Falcons team was number two in the league in total offense.  At the mid-point of the 2017 season they are currently ranked 9th.  Now this offense will go up against the Carolina Panthers defense which is the second best against the pass and against the run is allowing an impressive 3.8 yards a rush.  The Panthers offense lives and dies with quarterback Cam Newton who is a freak of nature and a once in a lifetime kind of athlete but he is also an emotional diva.   Chances are we’ll see more of the latter this week because the team was apparently shocked that the Panthers front office decided to trade wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin to the Buffalo Bills earlier this week.  This is a team already short on receiving targets and although Benjamin wasn’t great he was someone Newton had developed a chemistry with over the years.  The Falcons defense isn’t terrible and that might be just enough for this low scoring affair.  Falcons will probably edge out the Panthers 17-13.

The Pick: The Under at 42

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

NFC North: First Round Mock

This is a division that just tears at my soul. . . as a Chicago Bears fan, it hurts to see all other three teams in this division have some kind of potential or hope.  All the while, the Bears fumble through their seasons as if they have just learned the sport. . .

Green Bay Packers

Finished with a 10-6 record

Def Yards:22nd    Off Yards: 8th

The Packers pass defense ranked 28th in the league giving up 248 yards a game, but that stat is misleading because the Packers rush defense was so good, teams usually had no other option but to throw the ball against them.  Their 17 interceptions on the year proves that their defense was up to the challenge and their 40 sacks last season were the sixth highest total by any team in the league.  Green Bay might just fine tune this defense up a bit and do it with some home good cooking.  Wisconsin’s T.J. Watt is another one of these athletic linebackers who can play in or out.  He has his brother’s knack for swatting passes if he can’t get to the quarterback and is playing to make a name for himself.  The in-state talent would fit in great here and there is no “becoming accustomed to the weather” type of scenario for this former Badger.

Minnesota Vikings

Finished With an 8-8 Record

Def Yards: 3rd   Off Yards:28th

No team was smacked back down to reality faster than the Minnesota Vikings last season (eh, maybe the Eagles too. . .).  They started the season 5-0 and only managed to win 3 more games after their bye-week.  Adrian Peterson is gone so they signed Latavius Murray to the squad, who is mediocre at best.  Unfortunately, the Vikings traded their first-round pick for quarterback Sam Bradford last season.  It looked like a thing of genius early, but then it just looked like Sam Bradford. . .

Detroit Lions

Finished With a 9-7 Record

Def Yards:18th    Off Yards: 21st

For quarterback Matthew Stafford, he had his first taste of life without Calvin Johnson.  He threw 8 fewer touchdowns, but he made the playoffs – so it depends on what you’re looking for, I guess.  Maybe a running game would’ve helped out – because the two-headed monster of Theo Riddick and Ameer Abdullah is more like a sleeping dragon. . .that sleeps. . . and sleeps. Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey may be exactly what this team needs to get a ground game going. McCaffrey is a true dual-threat back, who has the ability to break a big play from anywhere on the field.  He is a smart player, who is patient in waiting for his blocks.  He should amount up to what Abdullah was supposed to be. . .

Chicago Bears

Finished With a 3-13 Record

Def Yards: 15th   Off Yards:  15th

The Bears did a good job drafting last year.  They scooped up Leonard Floyd in the first round and he showed flashes of his pass rushing ability frequently last year.  Cody Whitehair proved to be a starting offensive lineman in this league, drafted to be a guard and became the day one center for the Bears; and Jordan Howard, the fifth round running back out of Indiana ran for over 1300 yards in his rookie campaign.  The Bears won 3 games though. . . if the Bears enter next season healthy they actually do have some skill and size on both sides of the line of scrimmage – receivers and secondary players though . . .they might be the worst in the league at both of those positions.   The Bears haven’t had a good safety since Mark Carrier left the team in 1996 (sorry, Mike Brown fans) – LSU’s Jamal Adams is a safety that can be an All-Pro for many years to come.  Besides having excellent instinct on the ball, he is an aggressive player, who can line up in the box and also cover down the field in man coverage.  If the Bears are ever going to make strides in this secondary, getting a player like Adams is the perfect place to start.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

Beating Vegas: Let’s Not Over-React

About Last Week:  Oh Seattle. . . Russell Wilson seemed out of sorts last week and that Cincinnati / Purdue game made us sweat it out, but we got that “under.”  When it came to Louisville clearing sixteen at Syracuse – it really doesn’t get much easier than that. . . Seriously, keep checking this column and mybookie.ag every week so you can beat the NCAA and NFL Lines. . .

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Tennessee Titans +6.5 at Detroit Lions

After being up 21-3 and  then having to edge out a win 39-35 against the Colts, the Lions should be counting their blessings.  The Colts don’t have much depth, neither do the Lions, so on paper it should have been a close game anyway.  Vegas has the Lions as a one touchdown favorite against a team that should be making strides this season.  Minnesota’s offense didn’t do much against Tennessee’s defense (the Titans even held the unstoppable Adrian Peterson to an abysmal 1.9 yards a carry) as the offense had to settle for four Blair Walsh field goals.  Marcus Mariota’s costly two interceptions turned into defensive touchdowns which made the difference in the game.  This time around, Mariota plays against an easier defensive opponent and a team, in the Lions who never knows how to put anybody away.  Expect the Titans to mix in Derrick Henry a little more with Demarco Murray early to see if they can have the same amount of success that Frank Gore had last week (4.2 yards a carry) against Detroit.  They may want to ease Mariota into the game and keep an overly anxious Matt Stafford on the sidelines.

The Pick: Tennessee Titans +6.5

 

Atlanta Falcons +4.5 at Oakland Raiders

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The Oakland Raiders gave us a gutsy and exciting game last week against the New Orleans Saints, but all was not to be celebrated.  The Raiders came into this season ranting and raving about a defense that was ready to take on the world, but Drew Brees and the Saints threw the ball all over the field on them, leaving it up to Derek Carr and the Raiders offense to carry the load.  The good news is, Carr looks totally in-sync with Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree – the chemistry from last year, just seems to have gotten better.  The Falcons have a top flight wide-out in Julio Jones there is no doubting that, and they even have two talented backs in Coleman and Freeman – but that offensive line is still an issue.  Matt Ryan has slid down to  be the fourth best quarterback in the NFC South (remember class there are only four teams in the division).   If the Oakland Raiders are truly back in the picture as a team that matters, beating an average at best team at home by a touchdown should be a requirement on their resume.

The Pick: The Raiders -4.5

 

Houston Cougars -9 at Cincinnati Bearcats

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To be honest, there was some wavering on this one.  And the golden rule should be – if you’re not sure, stay away – but it’s a Thursday night game and we all can’t avoid a little college football action in the middle of the week. . .  The Bearcats have found a better look in their offense with Hayden Moore at quarterback but the competition has been way below average.  The Ohio-Valley Conference was represented by Tenn-Martin and the Bearcats struggled for a half and couldn’t stop the run.  Then they beat the worst team in the Big 10 by 18 points. . .  Meanwhile, Houston has showed off a tough defense in both of their wins, one of those wins was the season opener in which they were in control against Baker Mayfield and that Oklahoma Sooner offense.  In just two games, the Bearcats have three 100 yard rushers (and one 80 yard rusher) and will be able to eat the Bearcats offensive line all day.  History shows that in the last three years the winner of this game has been decided by 7 points or less, but this is a huge year for Houston and they are looking to make examples out of teams that are clearly not in their league.  This game has a lot of the Louisville / Syracuse feeling from last week and we saw what the better team did in that one. . .

The Pick: Houston -9

Western Mich  -3.5 at Illinois

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Year in and year out, Western Michigan has an impressive and very un-noticed team.  Welcome to the glory of the MAC Conference.  Western Michigan comes complete in their passing attack and their ground game. Senior wide receiver Corey Davis is having a nice start to the season snatching seven catches a game and already racking up 220 yards in his two games.  This will prove to be a problem on the Illinois defense as Lovie Smith still hasn’t learned that the Cover-2 base defense just isn’t a good idea anymore.  Watching Illinois, they leave the middle of the field open all day long – this is what helped get Lovie fired as head coach of the Chicago Bears.  The Illini are giving up 440 passing yards a game and expect that trend to continue.

The Pick: Western Michigan -3.5

South Florida Bulls -14.5 at Syracuse Orange

Syracuse was just embarrassed on national television last week (as was predicted here on Beating Vegas) and now they are a double digit home dog.  The Regular-Joes will ride the favorite in this game because of what they saw.  But it’s all about what they don’t see.  South Florida was able to open the season to beat up on Towson and Northern Illinois, while Syracuse had one cup cake opponent and then a monster in Louisville.   Syracuse’s problem isn’t moving the ball, it’s finishing drives and they are going up against a defense that hasn’t been tested yet.  Syracuse has a fast paced offense led by quarterback Erik Dungey, who is flying under the radar now, but is one of the more exciting quarterbacks to watch play.  Syracuse may not win this game, but they definitely won’t get blown out either.  The Bulls may get winded early and have to muscle a win out of this one.

The Pick: Syracuse +14.5

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If You Must: Take Memphis at home -20 against the visiting Kansas Jayhawks.  If this was basketball, Kansas would be  a road favorite by at least 7 or 8, but in the world of football, Kansas has won six road games since 2011 and haven’t really been trending upwards in the last two years.

Four Game Teaser: Saints/Giants Over 40.5;  Cardinals +5.5; Panthers -1.5 and Ohio State +10

 

Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

NFC North Team Needs

Detroit Lions: WR, DT, OT

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The Lions were blindsided by the sudden retirement of stud wide receiver Calvin Johnson.  He figured that being healthy and rich at his age was better than the stress of being a member of the Detroit Lions.  With that, the Lions had a gaping hole in the wide receiver department.  One day after Johnson’s announcement the Lions signed free agent Marvin Jones to a five year, $40 million contract.  Pairing Jones up with Golden Tate is nice, but it’s a far cry from any wide receiver duo who just lost the likes of Calvin Johnson.  . . Quarterback Matthew Stafford was sacked 44 times last season and the Lions had the NFL’s worst rushing attack at 83.4 yards a game.  The Lions also have issues on the defensive side of the ball.  The acquisition of Haloti Ngnata was “underwhelming” to say the least and the hole left in the departure of N’Dmakong Suh is evident.  The Lions need to not overpay for anymore talent, as they did with Jones and in the draft go with the credo of “best talent available.”   It might be tempting to go with a wide receiver pick early in the draft but with so many holes at both sides of the line of scrimmage they would be better off trying to get veterans like Anquan Boldin and Marques Coltson for “the cheap.”  The Lions would be ecstatic if they acquired Louisville defensive tackle Sheldon Rankings in the first round, but that’s if he lasts to the 16th pick – Detroit may be looking at Alabama lineman Jarran Reed or Louisiana Tech’s Vernon Butler.

Chicago Bears: OT, WR, CB

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The Bears addressed their linebacker needs in free agency.  More impressive was how general manger Adam Pace didn’t overpay for the likes of Danny Trevathian (the 25 year old linebacker signed for four years, $24.5 million) and Jerrell Freeman at 3 years, $12 million.  They even added to their pass rush by acquiring the talents of former New England Patriot defensive end,  Akiem Hicks.  If the Bears are looking to add to this 3-4 defense and if Shaq Lawson from Clemson is still there, he’ll be hard to pass up on.  At the eleventh pic of the draft, the Bears will most definitely miss out on the top two corner backs in the nation in Vernon Hargreaves and Jalen Ramsey, but picking up one of the “second level” corners at this spot may be a reach.  The Bears can cross their fingers that in round two that University of Houston’s, William Jackson III will be around but they might have to wait for the fourth round  on a sleeper like Will Redmond out of Mississippi State.  While all the attention is on the Bears trying to re-create the “Monster of the Midway,” this team still has to answer the call on their offensive line.  The Bears released Jermon Bushrod and would like to move Kyle Long back inside, where he is dominant at the guard position.  Tackles  Ronnie Staley of Notre Dame, Jason Spriggs of Indiana and Germain Ifedi of Texas A&M could be getting looks from the Bears if they decide on the tackle position early – if not, the Stamford product, Kyle Murphy might be someone they look at in the later rounds.

Green Bay Packers: DT, TE, DE

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If Shaq Lawson doesn’t go to Chicago early in the draft (which he most likely won’t, the Bears will surely go tackle) the Green Bay Packers might make that pick later in the first round to wreck havoc on the Bears down the line.  The Packers front seven was worked last year and was bailed out more times than not by their aggressive secondary.  It’s not in the Packers DNA to spend bucks in free agency, they usually do their damage in the draft.  Tight end is a spot they tried to fill in last year with Richard Rogers, but if Alabama tight end O.J. Howard is available it will be an easy decision for Green Bay who saw last year they needed to get more weapons for Aaron Rodgers.   The Packers surprisingly have more holes than people care to talk about as defensive tackle is a position they may have to look at in the later rounds which means a guy like Anthony Zeddle of Penn State or DJ Reader, another Clemson defensive player, could be a pick for them in the fifth or sixth round.  And hey, what about the big-fat-elephant in the room?  Yeah, saying Eddy Lacy disappointed the Packers last year would be an understatement.  Still the Packers won’t give up on him but they should look to do something in terms of depth at the running back position.  James Starks – is what he is.  A free agent signing of Joique Bell might be what this team could be looking for.  He won’t come with a high price tag and he has proven his worth in the league.

Minnesota Vikings: WR, SS, OG

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The Vikings are everyone’s “sleeper” team or the team someone you knew said to “watch out for.”  Whatever, nonsensical notion one wants to compound with the Vikings, the truth is they have a solid roster and just need to fine tune some of their points.  With the 23rd pick in the first round, the Vikings may have to look at the wide receiver spot.  They really don’t have a threat at receiver (calm down Jarius Wright and Stefon Diggs fans. . .) and Cordarrelle Patterson has proven to be nothing but a disgraceful first round bust.  The Vikings can do something interesting here though.  They can go after TCU’s Josh Doctson who has the looks to be a number one receiver in the league, or they can pull the rug out from under everyone and draft Braxton Miller, who brings the versatility they had in Percy Harvin and they thought they could attain in Cordarrelle Patterson.   The Vikings may use two or three picks in this draft to bulk up their offensive line.  If they get lucky they can land a stud like the big guard out of Stanford Joshua Garnett.  Alex Redmund out of UCLA is a late round guard who is a little bit of a project but could work out well, even as a rotational guy in his rookie year for the Vikes.  If free saftey Harrison Smith could get a running mate with him in the secondary it could prove to make this defense even better.  In the third or fourth round the Vikings can look at a guy like LSU’s Jalen Mills.  If for no other reason, he’s used to be a grown man wearing purple. . .

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio