Tag Archives: Panthers

Beating Vegas: Playoff Positioning

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

Cleveland Browns +10.5 at Pittsburgh Steelers

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

The Pick:  Pittsburgh -10.5

Carolina Panthers +4  at Atlanta Falcons

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

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

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

The Pick: Atlanta Falcons -4

Cincinnati Bengals +9.5 at the Baltimore Ravens

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

The Pick: Bengals +9.5

Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio





Beating Vegas: Follow the Road

Minnesota Vikings -2.5 at Carolina Panthers

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

The Pick: Vikings -2.5

New Orleans Saints -1.5 at Atlanta Falcons

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

The Pick: Saints -1.5

Seattle Seahawks +2.5 at Jacksonville Jaguars

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

The Pick: Under 40

Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

Beating Vegas: 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

NFC South: First Round Mock

This is a division that has represented the NFC Conference in the last two Super Bowls.  Unfortunately for the Falcons and Panthers, they ended up on the wrong side of memorable losses.  The Saints are trying to give coach Sean Payton and veteran QB Drew Brees “one more run” and the Buccaneers are a team definitely on the come up.  . .

Carolina Panthers

Finished 2016 with a 6-10 record

Def Yards: 21st  Off Yards: 19th

When you’re below average in offense and below average in defense, it’s easy to see you’re a team that has issues.   In Free-Agency they brought back defensive end Julius Peppers, who is somewhere in the range of 55-65 years old, second year man Devin Funchess’ supposed break-through season, ended up being a bust and Cam Newton was the NFL’s punching bag, literally and figuratively last season.

This is a situation in which you try to figure are you better off giving Cam Newton a chance out there, or do you start to rebuild a defense?  If you’re Ron Rivera and the Panthers brass, you’ve got to hitch your ride on Cam Newton.  Cam was the league two seasons ago and they’ve got to rebuild that confidence, because the entire team goes off of his vibes.  This is why with the 8th pick in this draft the Panthers should select Clemson wide-receiver Mike Williams.  We already mentioned the disappointing season had by Devin Funchess, but the number one option Kelvin Benjamin couldn’t record 1,000 receiving yards (that went to the tight end of the team, Greg Olsen).  Williams is a 6’3″ 205 pound man-child, who is a strong receiver who out-muscles defenders and is an excellent red-zone target.  The Panthers offense isn’t too difficult which is a perfect situation for any rookie wide-out, but Williams has the potential to be a top-10 receiver in the league, some where down the line, and he could end up being Cam’s new number one by the end of the season.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Finished With a 9-7 Record

Def Yards: 23rd  Off Yards: 18th

When your starting safety is Chris Conte, it’s pretty obvious where you should go in the first round.  Bad news is, the top three safeties might be gone by the time the clock starts ticking on the Bucs’ 19th overall pick.  Adams, Hooker and Peppers might very well be gone, which leaves the Bucs to choose from UConn’s Obi Melifonwu and Utah’s Marcus Williams.  Melifonwu is more of the physical type, while Williams is the more skill-base-type of safety.  Williams might be a bit of a stretch this early, so if this is who the Bucs want, they might try to trade further back into the first round and take him, but Williams is a player who came out of a very good defensive school, in a division that has high-powered offenses.  The Pac-12 is a conference that loves to throw the ball around and he did exceptionally well against that.  He has a great knack for being around the ball and can help a defense that gave up 250 passing yards a game last year.

Atlanta Falcons

Finished with a 11-5 Record

Def Yards:25th   Off Yards:2nd

Without depressing Falcons fans (and Patriots haters) on how the Falcons blew a 28-3 lead in the Super Bowl. . . ugh, how can we ignore that?  What a debacle.  Bad play-calling, decision-making and effort all rolled into one of the most classical “choke-jobs” in professional sports history. . . but ANYWAY. . . the Falcons have no use for drafting anything offensively, and although their defense finished 25th in total yardage, towards the end of the season, this unit seemed to be getting it altogether. . .until the end of the Super Bowl.  Getting to the quarterback is what the Falcons needed to do more of against Tom Brady and they failed.  Vic Beasley is the only consistent pass rusher on this defense and with the 31st pick of the NFL Draft, the Falcons might luck in and be able to grab Takkarist McKinley, of UCLA.  McKinley is an outside linebacker who can also play as a defensive end if needed.  He has a good burst off the line and has the ability to become a nuisance off the edge and through the gut.

New Orleans Saints

Finished With a 7-9 Record

Def Yards:27th     Off Yards: 1st

When looking at the defensive and offensive yardage rankings between the Falcons and the Saints, it’s hard to believe that one team was dominant during last season, and the other was the Saints.  Of the Saints 9 losses, only two of those games were determined by double digits, and six of those games were determined by five or less points. The Saints are painfully mediocre with a stellar offense – it’s a tough place to be. . .or even end up at, if we’re being honest.  With Brandin Cooks now in New England (where he will be an amazing addition) it only makes sense that the Saints go after the speedster out of Washington, John Ross.   Ross was the talk of the NFL Combine for running a 4.22 forty-yard-dash and he is the natural comparison to Brandin Cooks.  A small, shifty receiver, with good route running skills and the ability to stretch the field.  The Saints know that with their veteran quarterback Drew Brees, they can’t have him lack a weapon he used as often as he did last season.  If all goes well, it should be a perfect fit and the Saints would not lose a step in their offensive attack.

G.W. Gras


2016 NFC South Preview

1. Carolina Panthers – It almost seems to easy to pick the Panthers to win this division.  How can you bet against a team that’s the reigning NFC Champs and return with the reigning MVP?  Cam Newton made the leap many of us have been waiting for and was a force all on his own last year.  Cam finished the season with 45 total touchdowns and he will need to continue this dominance for the Panthers to repeat as division champs this year.  Last year Cam was without wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin and it was a blessing in disguise.  Cam was able to spread the ball around and make decent players out of dumpster fires like Ted Ginn Jr.  Expect former Michigan Wolverine, Devin Funchess to take over as the number one wide-out.  Tight-end Greg Olson, when it’s all said and done, is the most consistent and reliable target. . . Jonathan Stewart was eleven yards short of a thousand and was better than expected.  To expect anything more than eight-hundred yards out of Stewart would be lofty.  Head coach Ron Rivera’s bread and butter is the defense.   The Panthers could not agree on a contract with corner-back Josh Norman so he’ll be gone and there is a definite lack of support in that secondary.  Roman Harper took his leadership and salt and pepper hair back to New Orleans but it’s the front seven that is still the most athletic and dominant in football.  Teams will still struggle to run the ball against them, as they did last year as this defense yielded less than four yards a carry.  It will be a tougher road, but this is literally a black and blue team, who can take it as well as they can dish it out.


Prediction: 10-6

2. Atlanta Falcons – The story here is that Atlanta actually has better talent on their roster than most of the teams they play this season.  Matt Ryan wasn’t as sharp as we’re used to seeing him, but let’s just put it on learning a new system.  Ryan is a bright and dedicated player, he will only get better a year into this system.  The Falcons were able to run the ball last year with Davonta Freeman and the funny thing about that is he wasn’t even supposed to be the starter.  Tevin Coleman had beat him out as the starter but got hurt.  The running game and offensive line as a whole should get a lot better with the free agent acquisition of center Alex Mack who decided to not waste away his talents in Cleveland anymore. . .Defensively the Falcons should see some improvements.  Vic Beasley struggled during the year, but that’s mostly because the defense around him was pretty shaky.  Courtney Upshaw and Sean Witherspoon are some nice additions to the squad.  Ra’Shede Hageman was  dominant player in 2013 playing in the Big 10 conference and he needs to be more consistent with his play.  Hageman plays with a chip on his shoulder and fits the mold of a Dan Quinn defense.  The Falcons drafted Keanu Neal, the safety out of Florida, in the first round and that will turn out to be a nice pick for them as he plays behind one of the leagues best corners in Desmond Trufant.   Atlanta has the tools to become more dominant in this division than Carolina – but their time is not now.


Prediction: 9-7

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Okay everyone, you no longer need to hold your breath.  Jameis Winston seems to have taken life at the NFL seriously and is washing away the troubled image that followed him in college (somebody tell Johnny Manziel that it is possible to shape up . . .).  Tampa decided to part ways with head coach Lovie Smith, but didn’t want to shake things up too much and they promoted offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter to the position.  The Bucs must have all the faith in the world in Winston because they did little  in the off season to upgrade this offense.  Although the “little” they did was add J.R. Sweezy to an offensive line that is young and on the come up thanks to the likes of Hastings, New York product Ali Marpet who was taken in the second round of last year’s draft as a Division Three standout at guard.  Doug Martin proved that when healthy he is a top five back in the league as he finished last year with over 1400 rushing yards.  Vincent Jackson is still the veteran wide out on the team that generally goes un-noticed and forgotten in the league and if Mike Evans can stay healthy and produce, it may be Jackson’s last year in Tampa.  The Bucs drafted corner Vernon Hargreaves in the first round and he is a cover guy, always looking to force turnovers – he should show immediate impact from week one as he’s paired up with Brent Grimes in the secondary.  As long as Grimes keeps his wife off of twitter things should be okay.  Hard to have a lot of faith in the back end of that secondary when the horrible Chris Conte is there and amazingly still finds himself employed in the league.  The Bucs will have a losing record but fight until the final possession in a hand full of these games.


Prediction: 6-10

4. New Orleans Saints – Expect a lot of 35-32 losses by this team.  They can sling it with the best of them, but they’re defense is just horrendous.  The Saints are the NFL’s version of what a Big 12 conference team is.  Sheldin Rankins, the defensive tackle out of Louisville, was a smart pick in the first round of the draft but outside of him and defensive end Cameron Jenkins, there really isn’t much to see in this front seven.  Dannell Ellerbee keeps tricking people into paying him for his “athleticism” and Nick Fairley has a good motor but zero in-game focus. Drew Brees has lost a little bit of the zip on his passes but he’ll have some nice young targets to fling the rock to.  Rookie Micheal Thomas and the game-breaker Brandin Cooks figure to be the one and two – but Willie Snead had a nice breakout season last year and gelled well with the veteran QB.   The Saints are a great team to collect guys for your fantasy football team but to see them as a contender is just a “fantasy.”


Prediction: 5-11

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

NFC South Team Needs

New Orleans Saints: DE, LB, TE, WR


It seems that the Saints are going to continue to milk this head coach/quarterback combo of Sean Payton and Drew Brees for at least another year but it won’t matter, because this duo is a far cry from what it once was.  While the offense does need help, it’s the 27th ranked defense that will get most of the attention.  The secondary was flamed last year, but mostly because the pass rush was pitiful.  With the number 12 draft pick in the first round this year, the Saints will probably have to choose between the likes of Alabama’s A’Shawn Robinson and Clemson’s Kevin Dodd.  Robinson is the bigger of the two and has some range being able to play defensive tackle and defensive end.  Having that kind of versatility might be key for them, and if not, they can get Dodd, who is a “straight up” edge rusher.  Due to his character issues, defensive end Robert Nkemdiche of Ole Miss, may be available to them in the second round.  Sure, he’s a head case, but he’s also an amazing athlete, and if he can keep his head on straight, Nkemdiche can be an All-Pro in the NFL.   Keeping this focus in the first two rounds is a step in the right direction for the Saints defense.  New Orleans lost tight end Ben Watson in free agency to the Ravens, but they signed a younger tighter end in Coby Fleener.  Fleener, surprisingly didn’t max out his potential playing with his college quarterback Andrew Luck in Indianapolis and maybe a fresh start in a tight end friendly system is what he needs.  The Saints have two good, young receivers in Willie Snead and Brandin Cooks, but neither of them are “big” receivers.  The Saints can look to get some bigger, veteran wide-outs at a cheap price like Nate Washinton or a Hakeem Nicks.  The Saints needs a viable red-zone target at that position – even a late round gamble on Tennessee’s Marquez North (6’2″, 223) might be worth the risk.


Atlanta Falcons: LB, DE, S, TE


The Atlanta Falcons were pretty much in the middle of the pack on defense and slightly below average offensively.  Put that together and you get a collective “shrug” from NFL fans who barely noticed the Falcons all year.  Head coach Dan Quinn is a defensive minded coach who knows he has mainstays at the quarterback, wide receiver and running back spots, which may be enough for him to go big on defense in free agency and in the draft.  Many were surprised to see former Seahawk  Bruce Irvin not sign with Quinn and the Falcons but since he didn’t, this means Alabama linebacker, Reggie Ragland – could be the seventeenth pick of the draft.  Emmanuel Ogbah, defensive end of Oklahoma State, could slide into Atlanta’s favor as well, but Ogbah might need time to develop where Ragland is more good to go, now.   If the Falcons get lucky they can use their second round pick on Ohio State safety Vonn Bell, who plays well against the run and good-enough in the secondary.  Free agent safties James Ihedigbo and Bacarri Rambo just sound like less than stellar signings were used to the Falcons making, but let’s just hope this is a new regime/new method under Dan Quinn. . . The Falcons have had a void in that tight end position since the retirement of Tony Gonzalez and with what’s left in free agency and late round picks – it looks like it might be another year to struggle at that spot.  Western Kentucky tight end Tyler Higbee might be a sneaky fifth round selection for Altanta – Higbee had 563 yards and 8 touchdowns for the Hilltoppers last season and offers some nice size at 6’6″, 250 pounds.
Carolina Panthers:  WR, RB,


If Cam Newton is truly Super-Man, than the Super Bowl proved that Super-Man needs a Justice League.  Sure the Panthers defense was tremendous this season, but the offense went as far as Cam Newton could carry them.  Enough is enough already – give the league’s MVP some help out there!   The Panthers had the built in excuse at the start of last season that their number one wide out – sophomore receiver Kelvin Benjamin – was out due to injury.  Be cautious of Benjamin though.  It seemed that by the second half of his rookie season, defenses in the league started making life difficult for him.  The problem is, the Panthers have the next to last pick in the first round and might miss out on the stud receivers in this draft.  If the football gods favor the Panthers, TCU’s Josh Doctson will be there, but with the Vikings, Steelers and Packers all drafting before the Panthers, it’s highly doubtful.  In truth, they may find some value in signing veteran wide outs like Marques Colston or Anquan Boldin – even if just on one year deals.  A nice sleeper pick for the Panthers could be the wide receiver out of UMass, Tajae Sharpe.  Sharpe provides nice size at 6’2″, 194 – but more importantly has impressed scouts with his route running and his good hands (aren’t we all tired of Tedd Ginn getting wide open and dropping perfectly placed passes from Cam Newton?).   Jonathan Stewart had a nice season, but to expect that kind of production from him again is almost insane.  There are more than enough free agent veteran backs that can fit into the mix – Tim Hightower, Ronnie Hillman and LeGarrette Blount to name a few.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: CB, DE, WR, OT


Dirk Koetter (who?) has taken the place of former head coach Lovie Smith to lead a team that, for the most part doesn’t look terrible on paper but on the field – different story.   With the ninth pick in the first round of the draft, the Bucs have a good shot at fulfilling any of their team needs immediately.  Florida’s cornerback Vernon Hargreaves is the  popular “can’t miss” prospect and it would help shore up a secondary that desperately needs it.  Yes, it’s understood that Alterraun Verner and Brent Grimes are there. . . it’s understood so much in fact that drafting Hargreaves at this spot is a must if he is available.  They might want to address this position again later in the draft by taking Oklahoma’s Zack Sanchez or Mississippi State’s Will Redmond.  Aside from the corner spot, the defensive end needs an upgrade as well.  Acquiring Robert Ayers in free agency was a nice move and it also might have included a little bit of brain washing on the part of the Bucs. . . Corey Wooten has been on Chicago and Detroit and has been pretty average at best, but he might serve well as a rotational piece if just for his size and athletic combination.  Quarterback Jameis Winston is going to need more around him and they should just toss a veteran receiver and a few late round picks for him to work with.  Former Green Bay Packer James Jones might be worth a look.  After being cut by the Giants last season, he was instantly signed by the Packers and had a surprisingly productive season.   Stamford wide receiver Devon Cajuste, can be a nice fifth or sixth round pick for Tampa.  He adds more size to this receiving core at 6’3″, 233 and is a smart route running wide out.  Even a late round pick in Baylor’s Jay Lee might be a nice investment.  Remember this is a receiving core that will have wide out Mike Evans and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins to grow with, it could work out nice for the Bucs.

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

NFL 2015: What We Learned and What We Can Expect

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

What We Learned:

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


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

Adrian Peterson isn’t human.

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

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


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

The Dolphins Are Awful:

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

What to Expect:

Kirk Cousins gets franchised by the Redskins.


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

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

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

NFL Starts Losing Faith in Andrew Luck.


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

Panthers Trying To Get Cute.

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

The Browns Will Blow Another First Round Pick:


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

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio



Beating Vegas: Super Bowl Deluxe Edition

It’s been fun here at “Beating Vegas” all football season.  We finished about 10 games over 50% so all in all, not a bad season.  Now it all comes to the end with the biggest sporting event of the year – the Super Bowl.  The NFL’s most valuable and exciting player, Cam Newton on one side and one of the NFL’s most recognizable celebrities, Peyton Manning, on the other.   Vegas knows that this is their last chance to bank on football action for at least six months and they like to throw EVERYTHING at you.  The trick is to not bet all over the place, but to use your head and think logically – eh, forget logic, it’s the Super Bowl – it’s a time to let loose, drink, eat and have fun – BUT, here is my advice to you on those prop-bets and the game itself.

Total Receptions By Ronnie Hillman:


Yeah, this is a weird and random place to start but it could  be easy money come Super Bowl Sunday.  Ronnie Hillman is the smaller speed back, that shares the Broncos back field with the more physical CJ Anderson.  Hillman has more of the game breaker speed in him, but he is prone to injury and is known to fumble.  Anderson though will have his hands full trying to run the ball all day against a Panthers defense that allows less than four yards a carry.  The Broncos will look for ways to get the ball out of Peyton Manning’s hands quickly all game and they will look to slow down the Panthers’ blitz attacks.  Screen passes and check downs in the direction of Ronnie Hillman will help the Broncos in achieving that.  The over/under for total receptions by Ronnie Hillman is set at 1.5.  Hillman is dangerous in open space and his speed is deadly once he takes off.  Take the over – it’s probably the easiest bet of the day and the payout is at +155. 


Total Field Goals Scored By Broncos:


The Denver Broncos have a three and out percentage of 26.13% and that number should be there or even worse against one of the NFL’s best defenses in Carolina.  The Broncos are not a high octane offense anymore due to Manning’s declining ability as a quarterback and Kubiak’s predictable, conservative offense.  The Broncos won’t get cute on fourth down when in the Panthers territory and they have a lot of faith in their kicker Brandon McManus who was perfect kicking from 20-39 yards this season.  From 40-49 yards out he was 5-8 and from 50 yards are more he was 5-7.  Points will be hard to come by for Denver but getting at least three field goals should be possible.  The over/under is 2.5 with a payout of +340 and that’s definitely worth the shot, at least for a small dime, for more than three times the payout.

What color will Beyonce’s footwear be when she comes on stage for the halftime show?


If your “guy” has this prop bet, consider these lines: Black: 3/2, Gold/Brown: 5/2, White: 11/14, Silver/Grey: 19/4 and any other color: 7/1.   Beyonce is a diva.  Beyonce is a trendsetter and (much like myself) a “walking fashion statement.”  Last time she performed at the Super Bowl, she had on black boots.  She wouldn’t be caught dead wearing something similar at the same function a few years later, so scratch that.  She probably won’t match up with Coldplay’s bland attire and she might want to separate herself from Bruno Mars, who is pretty unpredictable.   To prove her “queen” like ways, I expect her to go with something flashy and at the same time classy which is why the Silver/Grey line is more to my liking here.

How many times will “dab” or “dabbing” be said by the announcers during the broadcast?


The over/under for this line is 2.   Phil Simms and Jim Nantz are probably the most out of touch guys to ever call a football game.  Sometimes they don’t even know what’s going on during a football game so do you really think they have a chance to know about anything in pop-culture?  If it wasn’t for the commercials, I’d watch this game with the mute button on.  Take the under and good luck to us all having to deal with these two lame asses. . .

Super Bowl MVP:


There are only two names to look at here, Cam Newton who is the favorite at -145 and Luke Kuechly who is a long shot at +1400.  Cam is the obvious choice because the offense runs through him, he is dynamic and the NFL is more likely to give quarterbacks the credit for a win, than anyone else.  Luke Kuechly is an interesting name though, especially considering the payout.  This game has a slight chance of being a low scoring defensive battle or a high chance of being a blowout in favor of the Panthers.  Either way, Kuechly is a player who finds himself around the action and the football often.  If the defense is all the way dominant, it will be mostly because of his doing.  Eight tackles, coupled with a forced fumble, recovered fumble or interception might be enough for a defensive player to become MVP of this game, and who would be more likely to achieve that than Kuechly?

The Super Bowl Line:


The Carolina Panthers are a six point favorite in this game against the Denver Broncos and if you’ve read this article, you can guess where this paragraph will lean. . . Peyton Manning is a fraction of what he once was and against this secondary, he might be in for one of his worst performances since.  . . the last time he played in a Super Bowl.  Manning has never been a “big game” quarterback, even in his prime, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone to see him struggle in this one.  Denver’s defense will be on the field for most of the game and have their back’s up against the wall a lot.  This works in favor for a Carolina offense that likes to be physical.  Cam is a difference maker, and there is really no way to coach how to stop him, because even he has no idea what he’s set to do at any given moment.  Carolina and Denver may be close in the first half, but in the second half Carolina pulls away and wins by at least 15 points.

The Pick: Carolina -6


Hope you guys have enjoyed “Beating Vegas” this football season.  We’ll be back next year and continue our winning ways here.  Thank you for checking back each week and as always: “GOOD LUCK AND WAGER WISELY!”

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio








5 Reasons Bears Fans Should Be Rooting for The Panthers

When your team doesn’t make it to the Super Bowl, you ultimately still have to take a side.  It’s the biggest sports event of the year, why would you just watch it emotionless or even not watch it at all?  As football fans we wait all year for the football season to start and whether or not your team made it to the big show or not, you put in a season’s worth of debates, views and emotion – you have to find a place and ultimately pick a side in the Super Bowl.

For Bears fans, the expectations were low entering this season.  It’s a rebuild.  You accept the team for what they are, hope they put up a fight week to week and pull off an upset or two.  We knew as Bears fans we wouldn’t be gearing up for a Super Bowl in February, but here are five reasons why Bears fans everywhere should be excited for and rooting for the Carolina Panthers to destroy the Denver Broncos on February 7th 2016 . . .


  1. Ron Rivera – This one is the most obvious.  Rivera was part of the one Super Bowl winning team the Bears ever had.  He one that Super Bowl under the great Mike Ditka, who at the time is one of two players to have coached and played for a Super Bowl winning team (the other being Tony Dungy).  Rivera can join that group as only the third to accomplish that feat with a win against Denver.  During the season, Rivera compared this team to his ’85 Bears team and saw the similarities through and through in terms of character and playing style.  He even mentioned how going undefeated meant something to him because the Bears missed that opportunity in their Super Bowl year.  Although this Panthers team didn’t go undefeated, they do stand a chance to win the biggest game of the year.


2 . Charles “Peanut” Tillman –     Very few Bears players in recent years have been more appreciated and adored than Tillman.  In his prime he was one of the NFL’s toughest and best cornerbacks, he terrorized defenses with his “Peanut Punch” tactic in forcing fumbles, his charity work is recognized year to year and he is a true leader on and off the field.  Due to an ACL injury in week 17, Tillman will not be playing in the Super Bowl, but he was definitely a reason why they’ve gotten to this point.  Bears fans everywhere should rejoice and be in the corner of Tillman to be on a Super Bowl winning team – even if it isn’t for the Bears.


3. Greg Olsen – The Chicago Bears drafted Olsen in the first round of the 2007 draft (31st pick).  When Mike Martz became the offensive coordinator for the  Bears, he deemed that Olsen would not fit into the offensive scheme.  Fans of the Bears argued that when you have a talent like Olsen, you make sure you fit your system around his talent.   In an article for 247 Sports, Brian Jones writes about this and has an interesting quote from Olsen: “There’s no worse feeling then not being able to play up to your potential.”   Olsen, even after his departure with the Bears has appeared a class act and always recognizes that the Bears ultimately gave him his first shot in the league.  Much like Peanut Tillman, Olsen is one of the NFL’s “good guys” and it’s hard to root against him.  He has excelled in Carolina and become a Pro Bowl player working with his quarterback Cam Newton.  He’ll definitely be a key in the Panthers winning the Championship come Super Bowl Sunday.


4. Jared Allen – Allen’s time with the Bears was short.  He signed with the Bears in 2014 after being a pain the Bears side for years as a division rival with Minnesota.  Allen signed on because he fell for the “okey doke” just like Bears loyalist did.  He felt that in 2014, he was signing with a team headed in the right direction for a Super Bowl run.  .  . Then the roof caved in on what was one of the most embarrassing seasons in Chicago Bears history.  Early this season, under new head coach John Fox, the Bears asked Allen to move to outside linebacker in their 3-4 scheme and Allen tried his best to fit in, but it just wasn’t working.  The Bears did Allen a solid and traded him to Carolina for a conditional sixth round pick.   Nobody was sure how his foot injury would hold up going into the Super Bowl, but in recent reports he has been a full participant in practices and will surely be seeing snaps as an edge rusher.  His time was short, but he believed in the Bears and he was with us to help bring himself and Chicago a championship.



5. Peyton Manning – Obviously, never was a Chicago Bear BUT — it was his Indianapolis Colts team that beat us in Super Bowl XLI.   If Manning wins this Super Bowl against Carolina, he becomes the only quarterback to start and win a Super Bowl for two different teams.  That means the Bears will be tied to this for eternity.  The MVP of that game was Manning and for all things considered when looking at his stats (25-38, 247, 1td 1int) it wasn’t as if he killed the Bears defense.  The Bears had a 100 yard effort by running back Thomas Jones, and an opening kick off by Devin Hester – but we all know that ultimately that game was decided by arguably the worst quarterback to ever start in a Super Bowl – our man, Rex Grossman.  Peyton already has a Hall of Fame career, and when his playing days are done, he’ll be on TV for the rest of our lives – he ultimately already won at the game of life – no need for us to cheer on the guy, who beat us when we last had a chance to win it all. . . .

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

Cam Newton: More Than Just a Road to the Super Bowl

At 26 years of age, Cam Newton has come into his prime in his professional football career.  When he was drafted as the first overall pick in the 2011 draft, the Carolina Panthers were hoping they cashed in on their “franchise quarterback” and they definitely did.  This season is a special season for Cam Newton though.  In all areas of life, Cam has certainly come of age, professionally and personally.


This season Cam has established himself as the NFL’s most valuable and entertaining player in the league.  During this campaign he has led the Carolina Panthers to their second ever Super Bowl appearance and he has also witnessed the birth of his first child, a son he named “Chosen.”  This is a fairy tale like season for Cam and the Panthers but the road to getting here has had many ups and downs for Newton.

After being recruited by the University of Florida as a five-star recruit, he won the role of back up quarterback job behind Tim Tebow and when he got his chance to start the 2008 season, he suffered an ankle injury that sidelined him (medical redshirt).  In that same year Cam was arrested for the purchase of another student’s stolen laptop computer.  Cam didn’t make himself look  innocent in the situation considering he tossed the computer out of his window in his attempt to not get caught with it.  After that, Cam found himself at Blinn University, a junior college where he led Blinn to the Junior College National Championship and put himself back into the focus of the recruiting plans for division one schools.  This is when the University of Auburn stepped in to win the services of Cam Newton.

Once at Auburn, he lit the world on fire.  He was destroying SEC defenses week to week.  The most memorable performance of his  was being down 24-0 to the mighty Alabama Crimson Tide defense, and he willed a comeback victory to seal the SEC Championship.  Even then, when things seemed to be approaching an undeniable climax, there was a cloud that hovered over Newton’s head.  Talk came about that his father was trying to talk Mississippi State into “buying” his son’s services for a certain price (rumored over $120,000).  In a weird turn of events Cam Newton was suspended for the National Championship Game by the NCAA but soon after called off the suspension.  .  . Cam won the Heisman Trophy (beating out Andrew Luck) and won the National Championship with Auburn.


Cam had a ridiculous start to his professional career, breaking 9 rookie records and earning himself a Pro Bowl bid.   It was at that Pro Bowl though, where players and NFL personnel alike were turned off by Cam Newton’s pri-madonna like ways.  This was only assumed to an even greater scale in his second season, where the sophomore jinx was evident and Cam appeared more like an isolated brat on the sidelines then the man-child the NFL wanted him to represent.

The following three seasons showed a maturity in Cam Newton though.  He helped lead the Panthers to three straight playoff appearances and instead of relying purely on his athletic ability to win games, he put in the work and became better as a quarterback.  This season was the apex of him putting together his abilities as a quarterback and one of the NFL’s most gifted athletes.


He has embodied what the NFL’s future should become.  A leader with a grin from ear to ear that can light up a stadium.  A player who can entertain the fans with gestures (whether to cheers or jeers) but at the same time will bear down and sacrifice his own body if needed just to get that extra yard.  The NFL playing field has become Cam’s personal playground and keeping that “playground” mentality as a focus for his brand, the younger fans are captivated by him.  That captivation is a product of what  he’s doing on the field or even how he engages with the kids in the stands and how he embraces every moment with open arms.


Cam Newton has taken on a lot of criticism, some was deserved and some wasn’t.  He has made it easy for him to be hated and at the same time made himself out to be loved.  Cam has taken his game to the next level and raised the bar for the future of the NFL.  Now he is set to play against the best defense in the NFL with the Denver Broncos and set to go against another quarterback who in his prime, raised the bar for the future of quarterbacks in the league in Peyton Manning.  Everything about these two quarterbacks is different – except for the fact they both possess commercial appeal to sell anything from pizza to yogurt.  This is a shining moment for Cam Newton to continue his path to football immortality and more importantly to do it his way.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio