Tag Archives: Rams

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: 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 West: First Round Mock

It was just less than five years ago that the NFC West was thought to be the toughest division in football.  Every team had a tough defense, and the division games were grueling matches, usually decided at the line of scrimmage.  Now a days, it’s more like a Seahawks team with a lot of bark, an under achieving Cardinals team and two of the most poorly run franchises in the league in the Rams and the 49ers.

Here we will discuss the best option for these squads and what they should do with their first round pick.

San Francisco 49ers: 2nd Overall Pick
Finished 2016 with a 2-14 record
Def Yards: 32nd Off yards: 31st

Talk about a complete disaster.  The San Francisco 49ers were once considered one of the most cherished franchises in the league, but last year further cemented the “bottom feeder” persona that they really are.  The team’s best player is an above average running back in Carlos Hyde and a veteran left tackle in Joe Staley.  They went out and signed wide receiver Pierre Garcon but at quarterback they are looking at Matt Barkley and Brian Hoyer.  The “woes” don’t stop there either.  Defensively they are led by two veteran linebackers Ahmad Brooks and Navorro Bowman – but as 2016 showed, that isn’t scaring anybody. . .


Automatically, people may say: “You need to build this team around a quarterback,” and if that’s the case, have your pick with these “maybe-average-at-best” options, in Deshaun Watson and Mitchel Trubisky.   But just what can a rookie quarterback do with this team?  Exactly.  The only real option for the 49ers here is to auction off this pick to the highest bidder.  There is no shame in trading back and getting more picks, when you have one of the worse rosters in the NFL.  Since nobody has been able to get a clear feel on how teams feel about these quarterbacks, trading back may still ensure the Niners securing Watson or even maybe a Pat Mahomes or Brad Kaaya (Kaaya in maybe the 4th round).  But aside from the quarterback position, the Niners can benefit by getting multiple picks in rounds as last as the 4th or 5th and start plugging in players in positions of need. . . which will be easy because the 49ers need everything.

Los Angeles Rams: 5th Overall Pick
Finished with a 4-12 record
Def Yards: 9th    Off Yards:32nd

The draft helps bad teams like the Rams, get a good early pick to bolster areas needed.  Defensively, they were in the NFL’s top ten of yards given up, but finished dead last in offensive yardage.  They have a potential bust in their quarterback selection last year, have a weak offensive line and no real receiving threat.  .  . They most likely would’ve went on the offensive side of the ball, but unfortunately this pick is owned by the Tennessee Titans, so. . . that’s it for the Rams, who will continue to be a brutal on the offensive side of the ball.

Arizona Cardinals: 13th Overall Pick
Finished with a 7-8-1 record
Def Yards: 2nd    Off Yards: 9th

This Arizona team confused just about everybody.  Even I touted them as the best team in the league last year and was left looking as if I had no business talking football ever again. . . keeping that in mind, let me continue to talk about this sport of football. . .  The Cardinals lost two safeties in the off-season, but at the start of 2017 they’ll have a healthy Tyrann Mathieu back there, and he is possibly the best at the position.  Patrick Peterson is the lone corner on this team, so expect the Cardinals to go after Alabama’s Marlon Humphrey. BleedingGreenNation.com referred to him as “a tone setter in the secondary,” and his aggressiveness proves this to be true.  The issue is, he’ll probably be scooped up by Buffalo with the tenth pick, because they just lost Stephon Gilmore to the Patriots in free agency.  This leaves them with options though at corner, and the versatile  Adoree’ Jackson of USC comes to mind.  Not only is he a great athlete at the position (11 passes defensed and five interceptions) – his versatility as a kick returner and a wide receiver can open the door for a mad-scientist-head-coach like Bruce Arians.

The Cardinals, lacked a “spark” or “energy” last season, Jackson is the kind of electric player who can provide that to this franchise. It may be a bit of a stretch at the 13th spot, but I just believe he’s a better corner than Ohio State’s Marshon Lattimore and way better than Washington’s Sidney Jones.  Jackson is a player, who loves the spotlight and his kind of attitude would fit in great with Mathieu and Peterson.

Seattle Seahawks: 26th Overall Pick
Finished with a 10-5 record
Def Yards: 5th  Off Yards: 12th

The Seahawks are the one team in this division that seem to take winning seriously.  Even with that being understood, their franchise quarterback Russell Wilson has a tough go the last few years when it comes to not being sacked.  Some of it may be attributed to his inability at times of trying to do more than he can, but the sack numbers since 2013 to 2016 are: 44, 42, 45 and 41 — and last year he coupled that forty-one with his lowest number of touchdown passes, 21.  Seattle “helped” Wilson by signing tackle Luke Joeckel to a one year deal. . . Joeckel has been more of a “joke-el” after being selected with second pick overall in the 2013 draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars.


Seattle will most likely address this offensive line issue, although this draft doesn’t really have any standouts – at least not too many ‘first-round’ standouts.  The minds at Pro Football Focus ranked this unit as the worst in the league, and although my pick for them is somewhat of a gamble, the selection here is LSU guard Ethan Pocic. He can play both center and guard, but it is likely when drafted he would start out at guard.  LSU’s offensive line is one of the more dominant in college football, it didn’t matter if Leonard Fournette or Derrius Guice ran the ball – the ground game was able to pick up yards in chunks.  He is a patient player, who was trusted to make adjustments from the line.  He finished 2016 as a First-Team All American and SEC player. Some folks have him as a late second round talent, but I have him as one of my top three offensive linemen in the draft.

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.

czbltyawiaa2vih

The Pick: the under at 47

cy7zmvsxgaakd2_

Denver Broncos +1 at Tennessee Titans

demarcomurraytennesseetitansvindianapolisn9zdefquryel

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

kansascitychiefsvatlantafalconsiedhjjxqtfll

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

carolinapanthersvseattleseahawksbzlgucwqxt1l

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

The Hollywood Rams

Reality television is usually seen for actors and/or musicians who have seemingly “lost their way” and are vying for a moment in the spotlight.  These are the folks that see this route as a last ditch-effort in re-acquiring the fame that has escaped them.

So why does the NFL need reality television?  It’s already the most dominant sport in America.  The sports-hubs of the nation revolve their workdays around it – even in the off-season.   The NFL does it because until we all collectively say out loud “enough is enough” – the league will continue to pursue ways to keep itself in the public’s eye all year long.

Jared+Goff+Los+Angeles+Rams+Introduce+Jared+N--1wRdByp1l

Since 2001, the NFL has stayed true to putting a team’s pre-season on display on HBO’s “Hard Knocks.”  All in all, the show has proven to be a success.  It helps put a face to the names of players and puts the fans “in” the locker room.  This year the newly-moved Los Angeles Rams are the team that will be nationally viewed on Hard Knocks.  Oh, and the Rams will also be on the E! Network series “Hollywood & Football.”  Because two reality shows about the same team is exactly what football fans want to see.

“Hollywood & Football” focuses on some of the Rams players and their wives.  Kenny Britt and his wife Sabrina are one of the six couples that will be followed around.  One has to wonder if during a heated argument Sabrina spits fire at Kenny like “How does it feel to always fall short of your potential!?”  Riveting, must-see T.V. . .

Kenny+Britt+Sabrina+Britt+Draft+Day+Premieres+k8nQNs6c2ljl

To be fair though, this move makes perfect sense for the Rams.  This is a team that has been mostly forgotten since the days of Kurt Warner and Marshall Faulk.  They play in a division which has the league’s current “it” team in the Seattle Seahawks; a team that might be the best in the NFC and might have the league’s best head coach in the Cardinals and a team, that although they are serious flaming bags of trash – the 49ers are still the 49ers and their name carries more weight than most in the league.  The Rams, are looking for a new identity.  This is why they’ve moved back to Los Angeles and are now trying to take up the spotlight any way they can.

The Rams drafted Jared Goff with the number one pick of the draft this year – a product of California University with a Hollywood smile.  This was not just a move for a team looking for a new quarterback, but a team looking for a new beginning.  This is exactly why people move.  To start over.  Do things differently.  Right now the Rams are tired of being “under-the-radar.”  They want to be noticed.  With a rookie quarterback and a second year back that the league fell in love with last season in Todd Gurley, the Rams think they are putting the right pieces together.

Flavor+Flav+Focus+Flavor+Flav+Arrested+Las+olrRqKnJOc6l

So maybe the NFL is not the forgotten celebrity trying to re-brand itself in our world.  It’s just the Rams trying to re-brand itself in the world of football.  Just like Bret Michaels and Flavor Flav, the Rams are just looking for love. . .exposure and prove to the world that they still exist.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

Three Potential First-Round Busts

It’s never nice to predict which of these kids will become a “bust.”  It’s a harsh title to bequeath upon a youngster who has his entire future/career ahead of him, BUT – it happens.  Some are noticeably horrendous like Jamarcus Russell, while others suffer injuries and personal setbacks like Brian Bosworth.  Whatever happens in the future, let’s just make it clear – I’m not wishing for the worse, just predicting it.

DeForest Buckner, DE,49ers, Seventh Overall Pick:

DeForest+Buckner+Oregon+v+Ohio+State+duAaYh_rk4Ol

This isn’t even Buckner’s fault as much as it where he came from (Oregon) and where he landed (San Francisco).   There are only two names that come to mind when one thinks of successful Oregon Ducks selected in the first round, Haloti Ngata and Kyle Long (and Long, at the time, was a real reach for Chicago in the first round. . .).  Dion Jordan proved to be a bust in Miami and the 49ers drafted Arik Armstead out of Oregon last year . . .  it’s apparent they were so impressed by Armstead’s mediocrity that they decided to roll the dice on another Oregon Duck in DeForest Buckner.  Buckner is a “stiff” player with very little fluidity in his game.  He lacks that aggressive nature you’d want from the edge and his instincts are a second too slow or just wrong altogether.  His potential will rot away on a team that is currently a sinking ship.

Eli Apple, CB, New York Giants, Tenth Pick Overall:

Eli+Apple+NFL+Draft+gckO4GwLDrol

The Giants appeared to be a mess on the first day of the draft.  They acted as if they didn’t have time to plan, or the date just “snuck up on them.”  The Bears jumped in front of the Giants and took OLB Leonard Floyd from Georgia, who was someone the Giants had their eyes on and then something weird happened.  The Giants decided to draft a corner back and instead of going for Florida’s Vernon Hargreaves, they went with Ohio State’s Eli Apple.  I get it, from a public relations standpoint it’s cute to say things like “Another Eli in the Big Apple” but in the football world, this was a confusing pick.  Eli Apple was second-team all conference.  He plays in the Big Ten.  He went up against maybe 3 good quarterbacks all year and plays on one of the best defensive units in college football. . . and with all that, this first round pick was “second-team” all conference.   He has slow reaction times, and gets beat a lot.  He’ll have his hands full with the Redskins and Cowboys receiving cores — he’ll even struggle with the likes of Jordan Matthews of Philadelphia.  This is a situation where the Giants went for need and not best player available.  Although the best player available was probably Vernon Hargreaves who plays the same position.  There is a good chance that on the night of the draft, general manager Jerry Reese was drunk.

Jared Goff, QB, Los Angeles Rams, First Pick Overall:

Jared+Goff+Los+Angeles+Rams+Rookie+Camp+e97s3QUYtYjl

First pick overall Jared Goff has some interesting foot-notes on his resume: In the 2015 season he struggled against Washington, struggled against USC and looked pitiful against Utah.  What do those three teams have in common?  They all have athletic, talented defenses with NFL-ready guys on them.  Something else that hits a nerve when looking at Goff’s resume – he never beat Stanford.  Now, I’m far from the guy who puts wins and losses on a quarterback, but the bottom line is, Stanford is a very blue collar and aggressive team – and he couldn’t figure them out.  He holds the ball for too long if you watch his tape;  and he benefited from the world of college football where you can zip a pass right off the snap from the shotgun/pistol.  He has “the look”, has the strong arm and talks a good game but the Rams didn’t draft their franchise quarterback this time around.  They drafted a guy who can “fill in” at best – until a better option comes along.  Having Todd Gurley in the backfield should help him out, but teams are going to stack the box all year and force him to come out from under center and deliver passes to, what is, a below average receiving core in Los Angeles.  Truth be told, his best option may be fellow rookie Tyler Higabee out of Western Kentucky – but he’s a rookie, who’s off the field decision making is a huge question and will have to prove himself against veteran tight end Lance Hendricks.

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

 

 

St. Louis Rams 2015 Preview

Jeff Fisher is now in his fourth year coaching the St. Louis Rams.  Fisher is one of the more respected coaches in the league, who holds on to a lot of old school values that he’s able to implement onto younger teams.  One has to wonder how long the leash is going to be on Fisher though after this season.  He has twenty wins and twenty seven losses along with one tie, since he’s coached the Rams, who are one of the teams rumored to be leaving for Los Angeles.  Fisher had been a big supporter of often injured quarterback Sam Bradford, but now his quarterback is Nick Foles.  In 2013, Foles shocked the world by finishing the season with twenty seven touchdowns and two interceptions but in 2014 injuries and reality set in as Foles finished with thirteen touchdowns and ten interceptions.  Chances are Fisher might be quick on the trigger to pull Foles if he struggles early to go back to his guy Austin Davis who filled in admirably last year for an injured Bradford.  Rams also went and drafted Sean Mannion of Oregon State who has some pro potential but is still a project.

Jeff+Fisher+St+Louis+Rams+v+Arizona+Cardinals+zhab0gjOx-Rl

If rookie running back Todd Gurley has a successful return from his torn ACL, Tre Mason may find himself in a back up role more sooner than later.  Gurley has the blend of speed and power that some are comparing to Adrian Peterson.  In a tough division and with questions at quarterback, a healthy Gurley may see north of twenty five touches a game if he’s at full health.

It’s not a stretch to say the passing game had it’s struggles last year when the leading receiver was your tight end with 52 catches and 634 yards.  Jared Cook is a good, big bodied tight end who would probably flourish in a better system, but there has to be little belief that this offense will turn high-flying anytime soon.  Kenny Britt led the team in receiving yards with 748, but Britt is undependable off-the field and seems to be uninterested in football most of the time.  The Rams drafted West Virginia wide outs Tavon Austin and Steman Bailey in 2013 and both have been underwhelming.  Bailey has shown flares of being a better wide receiver than Austin, who is more of a Percy Harvin type of player, but with a small frame.   Austin just hasn’t gotten his footing in the pro game.  Brian Quick might be the best option for the team at wide out, but there is not number one corner in the league who is scared of him.

Tavon+Austin+St+Louis+Rams+v+Arizona+Cardinals+LQ9uazIimZgl

The offensive line looked as if it was on its way to being one of the best in the league, but with Joe Barksdale now in San Diego and Jake Long looking for a new team (at present time, Atlanta is the favorite) things are looking shaky.  Young Greg Robinson is their starting left tackle for the next decade or so, if things go according to plan but it’ll be a tough season as he’s the only formidable member of this offensive line.

This defensive line must eat this offensive line for lunch when they practice though. . .

The Rams added free agent Nick Fairley to a mix that already has reigning defensive rookie of the year Aaron Donald who finished the season with nine sacks and proved from day one to have unnatural power at his disposal.  Robert Quinn’s sack numbers were down last year, but one might equate that to the fact that Chris Long was sidelined due to injury.  At full health this is a pass attack that makes offensive tackles lose sleep.   At the linebacker spot it seems that James Laurinattis and Alec Ogletree have a friendly competition as to who is the best linebacker on the team.  Laurinattis has the better instincts where Ogletree is the better athlete.

Aaron+Donald+New+Orleans+Saints+v+St+Louis+3kwGCZ2NrMXl

Mark Barron is an aggressive safety that gives defensive coordinator Gregg Williams flexibility in his blitzing packages.  When considering those packages though, corner Janoris Jenkins needs to become more disciplined.  He bites on pump fakes and jumps on double moves to often.

The Rams are a team people keep saying will make a leap, but where and when?  Sure, the 49ers will have a down season, but Arizona and Seattle are still viable opponents in their division.  Asking this defense to keep their team in games week after week is a tall order especially when the offense will be generally predictable throughout the year.

Predicted Record: 7-9

Predicted Pro Bowlers: Aaron Donald, Chris Long, Todd Gurley

G.W. Gras

@GeeSteelio

Who’s Left to Challenge the Seahawks?

Pound for pound, the Seattle Seahawks have been viewed as  the most balanced and deepest team in the NFL.  It’s rare to see a team get built from the ground up and have more than formidable depth on both sides of the ball.  The Seahawks get the best out of every team that they face every week, but no team has been a bigger thorn to their side than the San Francisco 49ers.

Colin+Kaepernick+Arizona+Cardinals+v+San+Francisco+Wojb5OGqK9fl

The NFC West used to be decided by these two squads who basically were mirror images of each other.  They both had offenses that lived off the running game, while their defenses were aggressive and in some ways paid tribute to the style of defenses played in the NFL of yesterday.

For the 49ers it was almost literally yesterday that they were a team that could go toe to toe with Seattle.   After the much publicized breakup between head coach Jim Harbaugh and the San Francisco 49ers – things started to fall apart with this roster.  Running back Frank Gore signed an off-season deal with the Indianapolis Colts and with that the 49ers all time leader in rushing yards and attempts is gone.  Long time defensive linemen Justin Smith retired from the game of football,  linebacker Patrick Willis retired at age 30 and that loss wouldn’t be too bad if it wasn’t for the following retirement by much heralded rookie linebacker Chris Borland announcing his retirement for fear of long term brain damage.  For the same reasons, 25 year old right tackle Anthony Davis has retired as well.

Add to the fact that last season tight end Vernon Davis didn’t look the part of the pro-bowl caliber tight end he is paid to be and that now there are trade rumors circulating quarterback Colin Kapernick – the 49ers are simply not the same.  And won’t be for a while.

So who in this division will step up and challenge the Seahawks?

The options are the St. Louis Rams and the Arizona Cardinals.  Let’s start with the Rams.

Head coach Jeff Fisher knows how to coach teams well enough to hang around in games they have no reason hanging around in.  That’s a testament to his coaching ability and how he tends to get players to play for him.  Fisher will most likely look to protect newly acquired quarterback Nick Foles with a punishing running attack from rookie Todd Gurley and second year man Tre Mason.  They have a head case at wide receiver in Kenny Britt and the two West Virginia wideouts who can’t seem to get anything right on the field in Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin – defensively though – they are solid. With Chris Long and Robert Quinn applying pressure from the end positions and second year defensive tackle Aaron Donald coming through the middle – it makes life easier for this talented secondary and linebacker group.   Their secondary isn’t as talented as Seattle’s but they are talented enough for Seattle’s wideout group.  St. Louis needs to put this all together though.  With all of this talent they have on the defensive side of the ball the Rams were still “middle of the pack” in terms of rushing and passing yards given up per game.

Todd+Gurley+NFL+Draft+An9AQLVOWCWl

Everyone’s darlings of last year, the Arizona Cardinals are a team that’s easy to like because they don’t come with the “rah-rah” mentality that the rest of their division opponents have.  They also have (arguably) the best coach in the NFL in Bruce Arians.  One can make an easy argument that Arians has been the best coach in the NFL in the last three years.  He seemingly resurrected Carson Palmer’s career – then Palmer got hurt.  No problem, the team and Arians were confident with Drew Stanton under center. . . then came the injury to Stanton and even the amazing coaching of Arians couldn’t lift the below average talents of Ryan Lindley and Logan Thomas at quarterback.  Never-the-less, at full strength the Cardinals are a team that can put up 10 wins in a season AND give Seattle trouble for the division.

Defensively Calais Campbell is one of the best defensive ends in the league that nobody talks about but it’s their hybrid-like 3-4 defensive scheme that drives offensive coordinators crazy.  Arizona’s defense only averaged about 18 points a game to opponents and a lot of that was based more on a bend and don’t break (before the 20 yard line) mentality.

So when the question is posed : “Who will challenge the Seahawks in the NFC West?,” — there is one obvious answer: The Arizona Cardinals.

Bruce+Arians+Kansas+City+Chiefs+v+Arizona+v-JiqRjSIlpl

They have the talent on offense to at least spread out the Seattle defensive attack and minimize their blitzing abilities.   With Harbaugh out of this division and with Jeff Fisher’s best coaching days seemingly behind him – Bruce Arians is the one in this division with the savvy and intellect to top Seahawks coach Pete Carroll in a game of X’s and O’s.

Let’s be honest, if Bruce Arians was coaching the Seahawks in the Super Bowl – he would’ve handed the ball off to Marshawn Lynch. . .

 

G.W. Gras

twitter GeeSteelio