Tag Archives: packers

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

Beating Vegas: Vikings of the North

Minnesota Vikings -8.5 at Green Bay Packers

The Minnesota Vikings are positioning themselves for a deep and serious playoff run, while the division rival Packers , have pretty much packed it in for the season.  After last week’s jolt from reality that Aaron Rodgers returning from injury was not going to propel the Packers into a magical playoff run, they have now shut down Aaron Rodgers for the rest of the season.  The Vikings are the most balanced team in the NFL on offense and defense it seems that both units are cohesive and working in harmony.  Quarterback Case Keenum has been quite the story for the Vikings though.  If people aren’t talking about him being mentioned in the MVP race, they are talking about how he could be the next “big contract quarterback” – because that’s just the climate of today’s game when speaking of starting QB’s.  A lot of his success is due to the underrated receiving duo of Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs who are averaging 14.3 and 13.7 yards per reception respectively.   That doesn’t bode well for a Green Bay secondary that is already allowing 11.4 yards per reception which puts them in the bottom half of the league.    Green Bay back up quarterback Brett Hundley will be facing one of the NFL’s best defensive units while not having the services of Davonte Adams the team’s reception leader.  With the Packers fans and players all knowing this season is a wrap, it’s going to be hard for them to get up for this game on the holiday weekend.

The Pick: Vikings -8.5

Los Angeles Rams -6.5 at Tennessee Titans

The Los Angeles Rams are tied for most points per game in the NFL with 31.3.  They bring that ridiculous average over to Tennessee against a Titans defense holding opponents to 22 points per game.  That’s not too shabby, but when you’re only averaging 21 points a game – things shouldn’t line up in your favor.  For reasons that go far beyond anyone’s comprehension though, the Titans have an 8-6 record and are in the playoff hunt.  The good news for the Titans is that they are playing at home this week.  That’s generally good news for anybody, but more so in the case of the Titan’s who’s starting quarterback Marcus Mariota, is pound-for-pound the worst road QB in football today.  The bad news for the Titans is that. . .Mariota hasn’t been that great across the board.  The former Heisman winner has 12 touchdowns against his 14 interceptions and has been sacked 23 times so far this year.  This Ram’s defense has been impressive against the pass this year holding the opposition to a completion percentage of 58% but against the run, they have shown at times to get worn down.  This is the type of game where Tennessee will have to rely on running back Derrick Henry to move the chains.  This Tennessee defense is pretty good, but this offense isn’t the type to be bottled up for four quarters – especially when considering the Titans offensive attack will be pretty predictable in the early going.

The Pick: Rams -6.5

Indianapolis Colts +14 at Baltimore Ravens (over/under 42)

Whenever the Colts are on television – I pass.  Whenever the Ravens are on television – I pass.  When the Colts play the Ravens, let’s be clear – nobody wins.  According to ESPN’s Total QBR Rankings, the Raven’s Joe Flacco stands at 26 with a QBR of 40.9; and the Colts’ Jacoby Brissett is 29th with a QBR of 38.9.   To make things a little more interesting – Joe Flacco is dead last in the NFL when it comes to yards-per-pass (5.8) and Jacoby Brissett is 30th in league completion percentage with 59.6.  Both teams rely on the running attack, where Baltimore’s Alex Collins is having a great year and averaging 4.9 yards a carry and Indy’s Frank Gore is averaging a sad 3.6.  Much like the previously mentioned Titans, one look at the Ravens’ record will make you scratch your head as they too have an 8-6 record.  This will be one of the worse games of the week – nay – the year.

The Pick: The Under at 42

Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

Beating Vegas: Beardown

Green Bay Packers +5.5 at Chicago Bears

As a die hard Chicago Bears fan, I entered this season with very minimal hopes and realistic expectations.  At the mid-point of this season, all isn’t awful for the Bears, but they sure do have a lot more work to do.  Currently the Bears offense is – predictable, to say the least.  With rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky being handcuffed by play-calling and a lack of options to throw the ball to, the Bears are attacking via the rushing game. Running back Jordan Howard is third in the NFL in total carries (behind Zeke Elliot and LeVeon Bell) and is fifth in the NFL in rushing yards (662).  He is the bell cow for this offense and with Mitchell Trubisky throwing for less than 50% of his completions, expect this trend to continue.  The strength of this Bears team lies in their top ten defense.  This is a great thing for fans of the Bears to see as they know the key to any success this franchise has ever had – stems from a strong defense.  This week the Monsters of the Midway face their hated rival, the Green Bay Packers.  Quarterback Brett Hundley has been more underwhelming than Trubisky and although his completion percentage is 1.2 points below sixty-percent – don’t be fooled.  He’s averaging five yards a pass and has a touchdown/interception ratio of 1:4.  Yikes.  Defensively, the Packers are allowing 357 yards a game, which puts them in the bottom twenty-five percent of the NFL.  Both teams will run very vanilla offenses, the Bears may try to open things up more than the Packers actually.  Regardless, this is the first time since 2008 that the Bears are actually favored to win over the Packers.  Five and half points (with the trending arrow moving upwards) is just a weird number, but 38 as the over and under is a good one.  This game will see a lot of three and outs and a lot of kicks.  Bears may pull it off, modestly.

The Pick: The Under 38.5

Houston Texans +11 at Los Angeles Rams

One thing we all can agree on is this:  The Houston Texans are pathetic without Deshaun Watson under center.  The Texans options are quarterback are Tom Savage, who’s awful; Josh Johnson, who we vaguely remember as awful and TJ Yates, who is “eh.” It’s not even about the Texans losing their quarterback, the whole organization seems to have lost any inspiration, and that is not ALL on coach Bill O’ Brien.  O’Brien is in the middle of a firestorm that involves his players not being happy with remarks made by the team’s owner.  This is the total opposite of what’s going on in L.A. with the Rams.  For years, the Rams have pretty much been a door-mat in the NFL.  First year coach Sean McVay has transformed this team into the league’s number one scoring offense, averaging 32.9 points per contest.  Houston’s defense may struggle with the Rams’ aerial attack and their run defense will get their best challenge of the season going up against running back Todd Gurley.  Gurley has the fourth most rushing yards in the NFL with 686.  The total balance on offense will be too much for Houston to keep up with for four quarters especially because the Texans offense will most likely throw up uneventful three-and-out drives and turn over the ball at least twice.

The Pick: Rams -11

New Orleans Saints -3 at Buffalo Bills

Buffalo at home is always a tough sell on the sharpest of betters.  The weather is miserable and visiting teams are bored because there is nothing to do there.  This year’s Bills team is in the middle of the debate of “contenders or pretenders” especially after getting smacked up by the Jets on national television last week.  The Bills don’t run the ball exceptionally well but they also don’t throw the ball exceptionally well – but they force the issue with the run as their 250 attempts, with an average of 3.7 yards a carry, prove.  NFL pundits have been drooling over the defense of the New Orleans Saints, saying that this defense is the reason why they have a record of 6-2.  When you look at the numbers though, you ask yourself: Really?  A defense that gives up 4.7 yards a rush and a completion percentage of 60% sounds pretty average. . .even to some below-average. For the Saints though, it’s all about one defensive stat: Points Per Game.  This defense is only allowing teams to average 19 points per contest which goes really well when you have an offense that is constructed so perfectly.  Head coach Sean Payton has leaned on a two-running-back attack where Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram are relied on heavily throughout the game.  The Saints have an offense that is top ten in rushing and passing and going against the Bills defense on the road will be one of their tougher test this year.  A final score of 27-18 is totally believable in the favor of the Saints.

The Pick: Saints -3

Good Luck and Wager Wisely

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: Are the Rams Good?

Green Bay Packers +2 at Dallas Cowboys

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

The Pick: Cowboys -2

 

Seattle Seahawks +1.5 at Los Angeles Rams

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

The Pick: Rams -1.5

 

Arizona Cardinals +6.5 at Philadelphia Eagles

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

The Pick: Cardinals +6.5

Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

 

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

How The Falcons Will Beat Green Bay

For the Atlanta Falcons and the Green Bay Packers, this weekend’s game either sends them to the Super Bowl or sends them home.

Coach Mike McCarthy’s Green Bay Packers have made it to the playoffs for the last eight seasons.  They have been a model of consistency in the NFL and for all their accomplishments and double win seasons (seven of the last eight) they’ve only netted one Super Bowl win.  Nobody is saying it’s “easy” to win the Super Bowl, but a team like the Packers has set a precedent for themselves that anything less – would be a disappointment.

On the Atlanta side of things, head coach Dan Quinn has a Super Bowl win as well, but as a defensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks.  He, along with offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan have helped to coach up the leagues number one offensive, ringing in 33.8 points per game.  Quinn was on thin ice coming into the year, and as a defensive minded coach, fans of the dirty-birds expected something a little more south than the 25 points a game this defense gives up.  The defense has gotten noticeably better late in the year, but that includes games against Colin Kapernick and Jared Goff, so hold a torch for those numbers as much as you’d like. . .

Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers brings along with him, his 40 touchdown passes on the year, but as earlier reported by Ed Werder “Jordy Nelson and Davonte Adams responsible for 26 of Aaron Rodgers 40 TD passes. Both uncertain for Sunday.”  This would be  huge blow to the Packers (Captain Obvious, reporting for duty!) but chances are, Rodgers will at least have one of the two.  Jordy is by far the better receiver who has the better chemistry with Rodgers though.   The truth is, the Packers offensive line has led the late season charge for the Packers, as Rodgers seems like he has all day to make passes lately – and even when he doesn’t – he’s in such a groove right now it doesn’t even matter. . .

Matt Ryan is having, without a doubt, the best season of his nine year career.  Posting career bests in touchdown passes, quarterback rating, completion percentage and total yardage.  The Falcons offense has been too much for anyone to handle as virtually every member of this offense is a threat to break open a big play or be a threat in the red zone (13 players in total have been on the receiving end of a Matt Ryan touchdown pass).

Both teams have been on a roll, but while the Packers are healing from the thrilling shoot-out-style victory they had last week in Dallas – the Falcons are sitting pretty after shutting down one of the most loud-mouthed teams in the NFL in the Seahawks.

The wise-guys at Vegas are treating this game like a Big12 Conference match-up and have set the over/under at 61 (ridiculous for an NFL game).

There is no doubting the firepower of both offenses, it’s all about which defense will make more stops. . .

As talented as Aaron Rodgers is, Matt Ryan is gifted in his own right and has more talent to work with.  The running back tandem of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman are true dual-threats from the half-back position, while Robinson, Sanu and Gabriel have done well for themselves being on the field with (and even at times without) the great Julio Jones at wide receiver.  Rodgers has a wide-receiver turned running back as his best player in the back field, and last week he relied on an undrafted wide-out named Geronimo Allison and Jared Cook, a veteran tight end who was released by. . . the Rams. . .yuck.

With Rodgers simply having to do everything, it will be too much to handle.  This Atlanta offense – will not – and I repeat – will not stumble against a defense like Green Bay’s that allows 4 yards a rush and allows opposing QB’s to throw at a 65% completion rate.  Not saying the Falcons defensive stats are much better – – they are just all around, a more talented team.  And that’s what it’s all about at this time in the season: the better team, not the better player. . .

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

Beating Vegas: Army-Navy

Last week “Beating Vegas” went two out of three – still above 60% for the year.  This week, with only one college game, the classic “Army-Navy Game,” we’re going to have to try our hand with some NFL action as well.  The system has been working all year at “Beating Vegas” – keep winning with us!

 

Army +6.5 vs  Navy (game played in Baltimore)

At 60-49-7, Navy is the all time leader in this rivalry, which has them owning the Black Knights since 2002. Yikes.  Last season, Beating Vegas won this game by telling folks to take the under and this year the over/under is  set at 47.  In the last four years, the highest the point total has gone up to is 41 (we should note, that the two years prior total was at 48).   The reason for this is that these two programs run similar offenses and the playbook for these teams haven’t changed for, maybe, decades.  There is also “honor” in this rivalry, so “running up the score” won’t occur much either.  The rushing statistics for both of these squads are impressive and nearly identical, except in touchdowns where Navy has scored 54 on the ground, compared to Army’s 37.  Statistically, it would appear that Army’s defense is superior to Navy’s but let’s chill out for a second – Navy has a REAL college football schedule.  Navy is in an AAC Conference that was quite impressive this year.  The Midshipmen had  impressive back to back wins against two bowl eligible teams in Houston and Memphis.  Navy has had to rely on their offense to pull them through some tough competition, while Army beat up on Morgan State and Lafayette.  They both lost in similar fashion to Air Force, Army beat Temple, Temple beat Navy, Navy beat Notre Dame and Notre Dame beat Army — what does this tell you?  Nothing.  There are no stats to help gauge where to go with this one.  Smart money has Navy still winning this game and keeping the streak alive.  On a side note, both teams will be sporting some really sick jerseys for the game.  Seriously.

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The Pick: the under at 47

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Denver Broncos +1 at Tennessee Titans

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What is this?  An NFL game?  How’d this happen?  This one has Marcus Mariota squaring off against one of the best defenses in the NFL, in the Denver Broncos.  If you’re expecting excitement – don’t.  Although, Marcus Mariota is having an impressive season so far, IF the Titans win this game, it will have very little to do with the former Oregon Duck.  The only way to beat tough defenses like this is to run the ball.  The Titans have the means to do it behind this offensive line and Demarco Murray. Murray has cracked the one-thousand yard rushing mark this year and is doing it at a rate of 4.6 yards per carry.  His back up Derrick Henry, hasn’t been used as much as many thought he’d be used this year, but when he comes in the yards per carry only drop by a tenth. . . For all the talk of Denver’s defense, they are giving up 4.2 yards a rush, pretty average by NFL standards; but they’ve allowed the fewest passing yards this year and they hold teams to a 55.3% completion rate which is best in the league.  Considering that the Titans don’t have the most elite wide outs in the world, as mentioned earlier, Mariota will have his struggles.   The Broncos offense has talent but is a struggle due to their quarterback position, regardless if it’s Trevor Siemian or Paxton Lynch.

The Pick: the under at 43.5

Atlanta Falcons -6 at L.A. Rams

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The Falcons had a taste of one of the NFL’s best teams last week (yes, the Chiefs ARE legit) and it was two Matt Ryan interceptions that ultimately costed them the game.   Even with that, Ryan has the best QB Rating in the league (among those who played more than 8 games. . .) and is having an MVP caliber season so far.  The Los Angeles Rams. . . are pretty much awful.  They have the NFL’s worst offense and have a rookie starting at quarterback who looks like one of the worse rookies we’ve seen start at quarterback.  Jared Goff may get lucky this week though as he’s squaring off against the worst pass defense in the league.  Teams have figured out the Rams though.  Stack the box, force their rookie quarterback to make throws to his average receivers.  Atlanta has a lot to prove and this is a soft landing spot after a tough loss.  Take this spread now before it finds it’s way to -9 before kickoff.

The Pick: The Falcons -6

Seattle Seahawks -2.5 at Green Bay Packers

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Admittedly, these are two teams and two quarterbacks I personally do-not-like – BUT – for the sake of making some coin, let’s take a look here.  Both team’s have no offense line and both defenses like to blitz.  Both quarterbacks like to throw on the run, and both offenses are plugging different guys at the running back position.  Seattle won’t get the calls they usually get in Green Bay, Green Bay gets calls everywhere they go – and surprisingly enough the defenses aren’t that much different except in one category – passing touchdowns.  The Seahawks have only allowed 11, where the Packers have allowed 24.  Things may change drastically for Seattle’s “Legion of Boom” now that All-World-Safety Earl Thomas is out for the season though. . . This is a tricky game, and Beating Vegas usually doesn’t like “tricky” but what we do love this week are overs/unders.  Aaron Rodgers will without a doubt test the middle of this secondary without the presence of Earl Thomas and Russell Wilson, who always finds pay-dirt (someway. . .somehow) will find holes against a secondary, who’s back end won’t keep up with the speedy wide-outs the Seahawks package out there.  Enjoy the fireworks.

The Pick: the over at 46.5

Four Game Teaser of the Week: Titans/Broncos under 55.5; Seahawks +9.5; Falcons +6 and Bucs/Saints over 39

 

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

 

Beating Vegas: Entry Eighteen

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

Judging Last Week: If not for a backdoor touchdown scored by Clemson, we would’ve split the games last week.  Instead we got our first losing week in about a month and a half.  Although, I will say this: The playoffs will not count against my winnings for the entire football season.  There was a healthy plethora of games to pick from week to week, and now with the NFL playoffs, it’s slim pickings on how you want to wager your money. . .

 

Green Bay Packers (+7) at the Arizona Cardinals

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Last week, the Packers made fools of everyone who believed that the Washington Redskins would skate away with a convincing win.  Now a Packers team that feels good about itself is going back to a place where they felt their worst all season long.  Back in week 16 of the season, the Packers visited Arizona and were destroyed by the  Cardinals 38-8.  The Packers were sacked 9 times in the meeting and to say their offense was suffocated by the Cardinals defense is an understatement.  Carson Palmer and the Cardinals offense found themselves in prime field position for most of the game.  It was 31-0 in the third quarter and the game was over.  This time around, Green Bay’s offensive line has a renewed brand of confidence after handling the Redksins defensive front (albeit after giving up a safety) and revenge will be key for the Packers in this one.   The thing about the Cardinals is that they are coached by a man who some say is the smartest/best coach in the NFL in Bruce Arians.  Arians saw how his defense dominated in that last meeting and will find different ways to attack.  Green Bay’s quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, has abandoned the pocket frequently this season and one should expect that trend to continue.  Green Bay will stick around in this one with Arizona pulling it off in the end.

The Pick: Arizona -7

Kansas City Chiefs (+4.5) at the New England Patriots

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Kansas City pretty much had an unofficial bye-week in the first round of the playoffs and now they go against Tom Brady and the Patriots.  The Patriots and the NFL Playoffs go together like Bill Cosby and . . . nah, I won’t go there – The Patriots and the NFL Playoffs go together like peanut butter and jelly (boring, yet safe).  New England has an ambiance about them which many perceive as arrogance but if you’re the Patriots, you’ve earned the right to be arrogant . . . and hated.  The Kansas City Chiefs are allergic to losing as they have knocked out 11 straight victories since last losing to the Vikings on October 18th.  The Patriots needed the bye-week in the Playoffs after suffering back to back loses to division rivals the Jets and the Dolphins.  Both of those games should raise flags for the New England faithful because both of those teams they lost to, play a physical brand of defense  – and one team, in the Dolphins, doesn’t blow you away offensively and against the Pats, they seemed to do enough to win.   The Patriots are hurting offensively, with an offensive line that is underwhelming and outside of Rob Gronkowski, no real threat to worry about for an opposing secondary.   Tom Brady is a legend and it’s hard to count against him, especially in the playoffs – but the Chiefs are on a tremendous winning streak and are getting points against a New England team that is favored because of their legacy and not of what they presently represent.

The Pick: Kansas City +4.5

 

The Pittsburgh Steelers (+7) at the Denver Broncos

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It was only four weeks ago, that the Steelers were a seven point dog to the Broncos, except last time it was the Steelers that were home, and it was the Steelers who not only covered the spread but won the game outright (as predicted by yours truly here).  Things are different this time around.  Steelers’ running back Deangelo Williams is highly unlikely to play due to injury, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is day-to-day with a shoulder injury and wide receiver Antonio Brown is under the NFL’s concussion protocol.  With those three weapons in doubt, things look very grim for the Steelers.  The Steelers’ best-case-scenario would be Brown being cleared to play, Roethlisberger playing through discomfort and Williams still being sidelined.  That even seems tough to swallow, especially when going against this Denver Broncos defense.  The offense of the Broncos will be led by Peyton Manning, but this isn’t the Manning we’re used to seeing, this version of Manning still spends a half hour calling audibles at the line of scrimmage, but to ultimately throw a duck towards the sideline or check it down to the nearest receiver.   Safe to say, Rothlisberger  will force himself out on that field and he may not look much better than the previously mentioned Manning.  .  .  this is how we’re doing the pick for this one:

The Pick(s):  If Antonio Brown and Rothlisberger play, take the Steelers +7; If either one of them are not available, they won’t move the ball against Denver, so take Denver -7.

Hope you guys got that!  And as always, Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio