Tag Archives: Vikings

NFC North Draft Needs

Minnesota Vikings:

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

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

Source: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images North America

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

Detroit Lions:

Draft Day needs: Linebacker, Defensive tackle and Running back

Pick in every round except for the 6th:

Source: Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America

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

Green Bay Packers:

Draft Day needs: Corner back, guard and tight end

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

Source: David Becker/Getty Images North America

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

Chicago Bears:

Draft Day needs: Offensive Line,  Linebacker, Corner back

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

Source: Scott Cunningham/Getty Images North America

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

 

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

Three Teams Taking Advantage in the Off-Season

When discussing the NFL Off-Season hype that comes around every year, some teams use this time to make  “splash” signings, while others hope to fill  holes in their roster and others just bolster what they already have.  These three teams have taken advantage of free agency and the trade-block as best as they could in 2018.

1. Philadelphia Eagles

Leon Halip/Getty Images North America

Sometimes, the rich, do indeed get richer.  That is the story with the reigning Super Bowl champions, the Philadelphia Eagles.  While some teams are scrambling to sign a free agent quarterback, or positioning themselves in the draft to get one – the Eagles, have both a Super Bowl winning quarterback in Nick Foles,  and a quarterback who was (with debate) on his way to winning league MVP in Carson Wentz.   Already having one of the more balanced rosters in the league, the Eagles went and signed defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (1 year, $2.6 million), re-signing their own linebacker, the versatile Nigel Bradham and trading with the Seahawks to land defensive end Michael Bennett.   All this did was bolster an already strong run defense that in 2017 allowed 4. 5 yards a rush, which was third best in the NFL and it will surely increase their sack number (which last year was at 36 for the season) and will add even more power to the league’s best defense in applying pressure.   When you’re already at the top of the mountain, you don’t have to jump any higher, just secure your footing, and that is just what the Eagles did.

2. Minnesota Vikings

Cindy Ord/Getty Images North America

The Vikings were thought to be the team that would represent the NFC in the Super Bowl until that NFC Championship game where they got thoroughly embarrassed by the Eagles.  The Vikings one issue was an obvious one.  When a team lets all three of their quarterbacks go and test the free agency market – it’s a telling sign.  The Vikings had just about every position on the field covered except for quarterback.  They did the only logical thing.  They went all in on the player who would demand the most money in free agency this year, former Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins.   They were willing to sign Cousins to a three year deal with $84 million guaranteed.  This is a gamble worth taking.  Cousins was working with a beaten up offensive line, and targets that were more often injured than capable of playing the game of football. Even then, he threw for over 4000 yards, 27 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.   Playing indoors for at least nine times a year (remember they have that one away game at Detroit which is also played indoors), playing for a smart organization and healthy/good players around him – is only going to make Cousins excel in Minnesota.  The offensive system will be something similar to what was run in Washington so the learning curve shouldn’t be a hurdle for him.  Aside from this signing, was also the ability to acquire defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson on a one year deal.  This is a low-risk, high reward type of deal for the Vikings who have a strong front and are hoping to get a season out of Richardson in which he can try to prove himself as a force in this league again.

3. Cleveland Browns

Chris Trotman/Getty Images North America

For all the excitement the Browns have generated this off-season, in my eyes this is more about the “hype” than actually making a difference.  Let’s be serious, after an 0-16 season, the only way to go is up, right?  The Browns realized quickly that they had no patience for DeShone Kizer at quarterback so they acquired former Bills QB, Tyrod Taylor.  Tyrod was used more as a scapegoat than anything else in Buffalo, and at least in Cleveland, everyone knows the problems come way before Tyrod had anything to do with it.  For Tyrod Taylor it’s a fresh start somewhere, where the expectations are low.   The Browns also traded for wide receiver Jarvis Landry.  Landry can get open, and he can catch.  What he does after the catch though, is usually get tackled.  Last year Landry racked up 112 receptions and could not get over the 1000 yard receiving mark.  That’s something that is hard to do while even trying to do it.  Pairing him up alongside a healthy Corey Coleman should go over well in Cleveland, if Tyrod Taylor gets the ball to them.  The Browns went all in on this offense as they signed right tackle Chris Hubbard to a five year $37.5 million dollar deal ($18 million guaranteed) to a guy who’s started 14 games in five seasons. . . The Browns also went a little nutty and signed running back Carlos Hyde, who was the 49ers starting running back for the last two seasons and has missed the 1000 yard rushing mark both times. . . but he was playing for the 49ers so we’ll give him a break on that.  It was just a weird signing because they already have Duke Johnson in their backfield and they could have drafted the more explosive, younger and versatile Saquon Barkley in this year’s upcoming draft.  If the Browns can follow these moves with a strong draft AND they are able to maximize the potential that is on this team – they can easily be the third best team in the AFC North. . .That’s an improvement at least.

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

Beating Vegas: Vikings of the North

Minnesota Vikings -8.5 at Green Bay Packers

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

The Pick: Vikings -8.5

Los Angeles Rams -6.5 at Tennessee Titans

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

The Pick: Rams -6.5

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

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

The Pick: The Under at 42

Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

Beating Vegas: 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: Give Thanks, Make Money

Houston Texans +7 at Baltimore Ravens

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

The Pick: The Under at 38

Minnesota Vikings -3 at Detroit Lions

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

The Pick: Vikings -3

Denver Broncos +5 at Oakland Raiders

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

The Pick: Raiders -5

Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

 

Beating Vegas: Houston Is A Problem

Houston Texans +5.5 at Seattle Seahawks

A lot of people wanted to jump ship when the Houston Texans lost J.J. Watt for the season, but the truth is: The Texans are kind of used to it by now.  What also has tempered the over-reaction of panic in Houston is the play of rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson.  Watson, who said he’s looking “forward” to playing against the Seattle secondary is completing passes at a rate of 61.5%, with a 3:1 TD to INT ratio.  Nobody can be happier than wide-out  DeAndre Hopkins.  Hopkins was almost “forgotten” among the NFL’s “elite receiver class” but this year has 6 touchdowns, averages 10 yards a catch and is the team- leader, by far, in receptions with 37.  Hopkins will go against a secondary in Seattle that is still living up to it’s legendary status.  The “Legion of Boom” is holding the opposition to 5.6 yards a completion and a completion percentage of 55%.  The rush defense has seen better times in recent years, as this year’s group is allowing 4.7 yards a carry.  Fortunately for them, they are seeing Lamar Miller across from them this week, who is averaging 3.8 yards a carry.  The Seahawks are 4-2 so far this season and it has ZERO to do with their offense.  Their wins so far have come off of inexperienced or putrid competition.  Usually the Texans win their division by default and although “default” will play a role again in them taking the AFC South, this is a more competitive team than we’ve seen under Bill O’Brien.  Houston doesn’t only cover the five and a half points – but wins this one outright.

The Pick: Houston +5.5

L.A. Raiders +2.5 at Buffalo Bills

The Buffalo Bills have been a part of the very confusing AFC East.  They currently stand at 4-2, and as long as quarterback Tyrod Taylor can stay healthy, the win total should only go higher.  Defensively, the Bills are holding the opposition to 3.4 rushing yards a game.  This of course forces teams to throw against them, but even then – the Bills are second in the league with nine interceptions.  Offensively, as mentioned before, this team goes as far as Tyrod Taylor will bring them.  Tyrod is a game manager who’s success is determined on his amount of turnovers.  So far he’s only got two interceptions and zero fumbles, so things are looking good, for the former Hokie.  The Raiders came into the season with high expectations and started out the season 2-0 looking to make all pre-season pundits look like genius’.  Then. . . they lost their next four.  Yes, Derek Carr got hurt during that, but even when he played it was nothing special.  Last week they got up for division rival, Kansas City and beat them 31-30, although some would say they netted that win due to help from the officials.  .  .Derek Carr has two viable targets in Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree but the chemistry hasn’t exactly been perfect. Cooper was in a real struggle but blew up last week with over 200 yards against a below average Kansas City secondary.   When it’s all said and done if this game was on the West Coast it would be a pick ’em.

The Pick: Buffalo -2.5

Minnesota Vikings -9.5 at Cleveland Browns

From the pre-season to early in the regular season,  this Vikings offense looked legit. And with their already stout defense, people were thinking they could take the NFC North crown this season.  Then after Sam Bradford gets hurt and then (the bigger blow) rookie running back Dalvin Cook got hurt – things started to change. Now with the Vikings having Case Keenum in at quarterback and rumors starting to mount about a Teddy Bridgewater return to the position – things may get weird to say the least. As long as they can, the Vikings will try to push Jerick McKinnon down the public’s throats, but that’ll be tough against a Browns defense that’s done at least one thing right this year: stop the run.  The pass defense is tied with the NY Giants for giving up the most TD’s through the air (15) and are letting opponents sit back and complete 70% of their passes.  What makes matters worse for Cleveland is that their starting quarterback is Deshone Kizer who is flat-out awful.  Expect the Vikes to win this one  24-7, which means you can take them -9.5 but the smarter play here is the “under.”

The Pick: The Under at 38

Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

Beating Vegas: Will The Pats Start 0-2?

New England Patriots -6 at New Orleans Saints

Last week’s 42-27 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs left Patriots fans feeling empty and it gave Vegas fat(ter) pockets.  Last week’s season opener was one of the biggest wins the wise-guys had on an opening day game.  The Patriots made losers out of anybody who took them straight up, second half, teasers, parlays etc. . . More so, the Patriots defense could not get their pass rush going and the offense seemed lack-luster.  Could this be the end of Tom Brady?  Most likely not.  Super Heroes go out as winners, usually.  Now, the public has to decide if the Pats reign over the NFL is coming to an end, or if the Pats will rectify this embarrassing loss.  The Saints on the other hand,  weren’t embarrassed by the Vikings last week, but they were definitely kept in check for all four quarters.  The Saints showed that their defense is still “bleh” and they also showed that the signing of running back Adrian Peterson is going to be a headache for most of the year.  Peterson is the least valuable back out of the three-man-rotation in the Saints backfield and that isn’t going to sit well with the future hall of famer.  Aside from that drama though, Drew Brees still completed 73% of his passes against a good pass rush, so just imagine what he’ll accomplish against this Patriots defense.  The Patriots are still winning the division, they can probably even win this game – but the Saints have the upper hand playing at home to avoid the 0-2 start.

The Pick: Saints +6

Minnesota Vikings +4.5 at Pittsburgh Steelers

Weren’t we just discussing the Vikings?  Yes, we were.  Quarterback Sam Bradford looked amazing carving up the Saints defense, and rookie running back Dalvin Cook, proved to be worth the first round pick running for 127 yards in his first game.  The Steelers opened as a 10 point favorite last week against AFC North doormat, the Cleveland Browns, but had to hold on tight for the entire ride to come out on top 21-18.  Really wasn’t an impressive win for the Steelers who people expect to have an almost unstoppable offense this year. Pats Pulpit on SB Nation wrote up a piece going in detail about how Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is a completely different player at home than he is on the road.  In the last three years he’s thrown 62 touchdowns at home compared to 24 on the road and has a quarterback rating of 109.5 compared to a traveling QB rate of 85.3.  This is another case of the public seeing Minnesota look great on national television and getting the points against a veteran team who struggled against the lowly Browns.  Don’t fall for the trap.

The Pick: Steelers -4.5

Arizona Cardinals -7 at the Indianapolis Colts

I’ve got issues with both of these teams.  First, the Colts. . . Chuck Pagano is the worst coach in the NFL.  And has been for years.  Why is he still the coach of the Colts?  Oh, because the Colts are one of the more poorly run franchises in the NFL.  They have failed to give Andrew Luck a competent coach or a decent team; and now it seems their medical staff may have failed Andrew Luck who is still sidelined.  Colts quarterback Scott Tolzien looked awful against the Rams last week and even if newly acquired Jacoby Brissett doesn’t know the playbook yet, he’s the better option.  Jacoby Brissett is a “Beating Vegas” favorite because he was the reason money was put on N.C. State when he was the one under center.  With that being said, the Colts are awful. . . And that leaves us with the Cardinals.  The most disappointing, under achieving team in the NFL.  Unlike the Colts’ Pagano, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians is actually a great coach – but something just isn’t clicking on this team.  Where it needs to click the most is the quarterback position but folks, remember you heard it hear first (said it last year too) – Carson Palmer is done.  He has nothing behind his throws and reminds me of the Cap Rooney character Dennis Quaid played in the movie “Any Given Sunday.”  This will be one of the most toughest games to watch this year.

The Pick: The Under at 44

Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

Lynch vs Peterson

The NFL off-season gets fans in a frenzy and for good reason.  It’s in the off-season where the draft happens and free-agency happens, and it’s because of these tools that fan-bases are given new hope.  Whether the hope is fabricated optimism or reality is to be revealed as the actual season unfolds, but until then it’s all open for debate.  This season, the Raiders went and acquired running back Marshawn Lynch and the New Orleans Saints signed free agent running back Adrian Peterson.

They are both products of the 2007 NFL draft, Lynch going number 12 to the Buffalo Bills, while Peterson went number 7 to the Vikings.   Comparing the numbers side by side, Peterson is clearly the better running back.  In some discussions, Peterson is looked upon as the best back to emerge out of college in the last decade.  His production, when healthy, is always league-best or close to it.  His last three seasons have been a sea-saw of consistency though. In 2014, he played one game and was suspended because of  child-abuse charges and in 2016 he tore his meniscus (right knee) and was limited to three games of action where he didn’t average over two yards a carry. . . 2015 though he led the NFL in rushing yards, yards per game, carries and rushing touchdowns. . .

Peterson found himself a free agent in this off-season and the only team he’s ever played for, the Minnesota Vikings were ready to let him go.  The New Orleans Saints signed Peterson to a two year, $7 million contract, with a signing bonus of two and a half million dollars. It was an interesting move for the Saints, whose running back Mark Ingram had a career high in rushing yards with 1043 and averaged over five yards a carry.  Considering the Saints, who led the NFL in passing yards last year, are team who’s offensive attack is concentrated around Drew Brees and the passing game – it was an interesting signing to say the least.  Maybe, the Saints will focus on a more “ball-control” oriented offense, to help preserve the health and stamina of their veteran quarterback?

Marshawn Lynch’s story is a bit different from Peterson’s.  Actually it’s a vastly different scenario.  After 2015, Lynch retired from the NFL altogether, sitting out the 2016 season but when the Oakland Raiders showed interest in the Oakland native, he was all about “the comeback.”  A year off might’ve been what “Beast Mode” needed as he had an injury plagued 2015 season, that saw him finish the season with a little over 400 yards at less then 4 yards a carry.  After Seattle traded his rights to the Raiders, Lynch was signed to a two-year contract worth $9 million with a $2 million signing bonus.  Lynch joins an Oakland Raiders team that some feel may be the only team to challenge the New England Patriots in the AFC.  Last season the Raiders had a very balanced offensive attack, finishing ninth in passing yards and fifth in rushing yards.  The rushing yardage total was more because of the offensive line than the actual ball-carriers though.  The Raiders worked with a running back by committee system, and it’s leading rusher was Latavius Murray who finished with less than 800 yards on the season (in a twist of irony, Murray signed with the Vikings this off-season).

So who got more bang for their buck?

Of course this is all built off of assumption, but everything points to Marshawn Lynch having more of a positive impact with the Raiders this season than Adrian Peterson will with the Saints.  Peterson, looked bad the last time we saw him – before he got hurt and he’ll be definitely splitting carries with Ingram in the backfield.  Drew Brees, might like the insurance policy that is Adrian Peterson, but the way this offense moves, and the language it uses, his comfort-level with Ingram will be hard to dethrone.  Lynch on the other hand, is on a team that truly believes with this offensive line, a well rested and newly motivated Marshawn Lynch will give them the consistency they need in the backfield.  Lynch retired from Seattle, because he wasn’t happy there anymore – let’s not get that twisted.  Lynch is looking forward to representing his hometown, especially on a team that is so focused on winning a championship like the Raiders.

For Peterson, it might be a season that we’ve seen once too many times for sports-greats.  Peterson is a lock to get into the hall of fame one day, but this might be a season that leaves his fans remembering him NOT as the dominant back he once was, but as a veteran hanging on to his glory days – and cashing out while he can.

G.W. Gras

@GeeSteelio

NFC North: First Round Mock

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

Green Bay Packers

Finished with a 10-6 record

Def Yards:22nd    Off Yards: 8th

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

Minnesota Vikings

Finished With an 8-8 Record

Def Yards: 3rd   Off Yards:28th

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

Detroit Lions

Finished With a 9-7 Record

Def Yards:18th    Off Yards: 21st

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

Chicago Bears

Finished With a 3-13 Record

Def Yards: 15th   Off Yards:  15th

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

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

NFC North Team Needs

Detroit Lions: WR, DT, OT

Calvin+Johnson+Detroit+Lions+v+Chicago+Bears+XyDCZiNuFP4l

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

Chicago Bears: OT, WR, CB

Danny+Trevathan+Divisional+Round+Pittsburgh+hPVPEwAkly7l

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

Green Bay Packers: DT, TE, DE

NFL+Combine+Day+5+k43-dZQItm9l

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

Minnesota Vikings: WR, SS, OG

Braxton+Miller+Maryland+v+Ohio+State+tm9TtZ4znjRl

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

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio