Tag Archive: Denver Broncos


NFL Weekly Picks: Week 3

Hey guys, sorry I didn’t have time to get my weekly picks post up last week. I just moved back to Minnesota so now that I am settling in hopefully I will be able to get into a groove with all of these weekly posts that I want to do. So, without further ado, here are my NFL Weekly Picks!

Eagles over Chiefs- I think the Eagles’ offense will be too much for the Chiefs to slow down, but it may come down to whether or not the Eagles defense can stop anyone. Thus far the answer to that question is no. Still, I’m going with Chip Kelly and the home team Eagles in this match-up, especially since the Chiefs have Dunta Robinson on their roster.

Packers over Bengals- The Bengals got a solid win against the Steelers last week but the Packers offense looked borderline unstoppable last week against the Redskins. The Bengals defense is a significantly better unit, but I think the Packers will be able to put up enough points to win this one. If Andy Dalton plays well he could make things interesting though, and I’m not sold on the Packers defense yet. Still, it’s tough to bet against Aaron Rodgers in this match-up even on the road.

Rams over Cowboys- This might surprise some people, but the Rams are a good football team and they gave my Falcons a run for their money last week. The Cowboys couldn’t quite figure out the Kansas City Chiefs, and while the ‘Boys have a lot of talent on offense the Rams are a talented defensive football team that I think has a chance to match-up with the Cowboys on offense. Of course, if Dez Bryant goes off for 180 yards and a touchdown like Julio Jones did last week then I would be completely wrong on that. Still, I have a feeling the Rams will play well in this game and I think they can beat Tony Romo and the Cowboys on the road.

Chargers over Titans- I’m realizing I’m picking a lot of road teams here so far, but I think the Chargers are the better football team in this match-up and it’s tough not to go with Philip Rivers over Jake Locker here. If Locker can pass accurately and use his legs effectively they could give the Chargers defense some problems, but most of us know the likelihood of both of those things happening consistently for four quarters is not likely.

Vikings over Browns- This would have been a more interesting game prior to the Trent Richardson trade, and there is something funny about the Browns making this trade with the Colts just days before they travel up to Minnesota to play the Vikings given that the Vikings are the team that traded down with Cleveland to allow them to move up to number three overall and select Richardson in the first place. The Browns offense has been struggling even with Richardson in the lineup, and it’s hard to imagine them being better without him even with Josh Gordon returning from suspension. The Browns do have a good defense though, so I expect both teams to score less than 20 points. The Vikings have the offensive advantage in this match-up though thanks to Adrian Peterson and a solid game from Christian Ponder, Greg Jennings, Kyle Rudolph and Jerome Simpson should be enough to win this one for the purple. However, it is worth mentioning that this is the kind of game the Vikings traditionally find a way to inexplicably lose.

Patriots over Buccaneers- The Buccaneers aren’t in great shape right now and while the Patriots have barely managed to defeat two rookie quarterbacks in consecutive weeks I don’t think Tom Brady and that offense are going to stay out of synch for more than a couple weeks. That should play to the Bucs advantage this week, but I don’t think it will be enough to get them a victory.

Saints over Cardinals- Originally I had the Cardinals winning this game, but it’s tough to travel into the Superdome and get a victory, particularly since the Saints defense looks significantly better through two weeks than it ever did last season. Carson Palmer has reinvigorated the Cardinals offense, and their defense is still respectable despite the loss of defensive coordinator Ray Horton, but I don’t think it will be enough to go into the Saints’ house and beat Drew Brees on his home turf.

Redskins over Lions- The Lions have shown plenty of flashes through the first two weeks, but I think they are going to come up short against a Redskins team that will likely be very motivated and focused after starting 0-2. It remains to be seen if the ‘Skins defense can get on track, but going up against the Eagles and the Packers in the first two weeks isn’t exactly a fair barometer for a defense, especially since they were essentially the NFL’s guinea pigs against Chip Kelly and his up-tempo offensive scheme. I think the Redskins will be motivated and hungry this week, so I’m giving them the edge over the Lions.

Giants over Panthers- I definitely didn’t expect the Giants to start the season out 0-2, but if Eli Manning can’t stop throwing interceptions they may be in for a long year. However, I am well aware that not all of those turnovers are his fault and I expect he and the Giants to get back on track against the Panthers. It would be really nice if David Wilson would get his act together and stop fumbling the ball, but the addition of Brandon Jacobs back into the fold should help provide at least a little stability in the running game. Maybe Cam Newton and the Panthers will surprise me, but I think the Giants are going to be motivated after starting 0-2 just like the Redskins are. I’m not sure if I can say the same thing about the Panthers yet or not.

Texans over Ravens- The Ravens offense has been ineffective thus far this season and I don’t anticipate them getting back on track against the talented Texans defense. If Andre Johnson can play the Ravens will get to see the Texans explosive combination of Arian Foster, Ben Tate, Andre Johnson AND DeAndre Hopkins who was one of my favorite wide receivers in last year’s loaded draft class. He caught the game-winning touchdown last week against the Titans, so I think the Texans are ready to beat the Ravens on the road this week.

Dolphins over Falcons- It pains me to do this, but the Falcons got way too banged up last week to go on the road and beat the Dolphins in my opinion. I think Ryan Tannehill is about to go off, and Lamar Miller may have a big day as well. Not only that, but Brent Grimes is a sure bet to pick off Matt Ryan in this game and I just don’t think the Falcons will be able to overcome Roddy White not being at 100%, Steven Jackson being out (though Jason Snelling will hopefully get a lot of touches), Kroy Biermann being out for the year, Bradie Ewing being out for the year, AND Sean Weatherspoon being out until Week 11. That’s a lot to replace and account for in one week, and while I think they will be able to survive those set-backs long term I’m not sure they can get away with it this week, so I give the advantage to the Dolphins at home.

Bills over Jets- In the battle of rookie quarterbacks EJ Manuel and Geno Smith I’ve got to give Manuel and the Bills the edge in this one. The Jets defense is still a quality unit despite the departure of Darrelle Revis, but Geno Smith made some questionable decisions and poorly executed throws in the elements against New England last week, and I have been shocked by how well EJ Manuel has been playing thus far. The Bills coaching staff has done a great job managing him thus far, and I trust Nathaniel Hackett to gameplan well more than I trust Marty Mornhinweg to do the same, so I am going with the Bills in this one. May the best rookie QB win. I must say, I was shocked and critical of the Manuel pick at 16 overall, but defeating Geno Smith (who I expected to come off the board first of all the quarterbacks) would be a pretty big vindication for EJ Manuel and the entire Bills organization. It would also make me look stupid, so that’s probably why it will happen.

49ers over Colts- This is an interesting one and it will be worth monitoring just how involved Trent Richardson will be in this game given that he is unfamiliar with the system and has no chemistry with the team at all, but the 49ers are the better squad and are likely very pissed off after the way they lost that game to division rival and offseason Cold War opponent Seattle on Sunday Night. The 49ers should come out firing and it will take a terrific performance from Andrew Luck to leave Candlestick with a victory.

Seahawks over Jaguars- #BecauseJaguars and #AllRussellWilsonEverything

Bears over Steelers- I thought Marc Trestman might give the Bears offense a tune-up and he appears to have done just that, and it makes me happy to see Jay Cutler playing well. The Steelers offense is completely devoid of playmaking at this point and I don’t anticipate they will be able to take advantage of the Bears defense enough to come away with a victory even at home.

Broncos over Raiders- The Broncos are playing some terrific football right now and they are looking especially sharp on the offensive side of the ball so far. They simply have more talent than the Raiders do at this point, though I think Terrelle Pryor and Darren McFadden may give the Broncos defense a few headaches. It would be a truly fantastic upset if the Raiders were able to come away with a victory against the Broncos on the road, I just don’t see it happening.

Thanks for reading, hopefully I do better this week than I did during the openers. Enjoy the games this weekend!

–Tom

Current 2013 Pick Record: 9-6

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NFL Quick Hits

This is a feature I’m going to try every week where I post some hopefully brief thoughts on the past weekend of NFL games. I don’t know if I’ll have time to do the same with College Football games, but I will post them if I have time to write them all up. Hopefully you guys enjoy this segment.

1- The Falcons Are Who We Thought They Were- I’m sure most of you guys know I’m a Falcons fan by now, and that loss to the Saints was tough. The Falcons scored on their opening drives in both halves, but otherwise were very inconsistent on offense. I’m wondering why they ran the ball so infrequently despite Steven Jackson having solid success on the ground, and I’m also wondering how they managed to hold Drew Brees and the Saints to 23 points despite a lackluster pass rush. I’m not too worried about the offensive line yet, I think they will gel and become a stronger unit, but the amount of pressure in Matt Ryan’s face and the inexplicable avoidance of the run game and quick-hitting pass game to try to counter the pressure was frustrating. Brees was on point as always and I was impressed with the Saints dramatic improvement on defense. Rob Ryan has done a great job with them up to this point, and the pressure they got on Ryan and the looks they were showing him pre-snap stuck out to me. The Falcons will be fine, but I don’t think they are a 13-3 team like they were a year ago. Maybe I’m overreacting, but I think they are in the 10-6/11-5 area. We shall see.

2- Peyton Manning Needs To Stop Playing On Rookie- The way Manning was playing on Thursday night it is evident to me he was just playing Madden on a rookie setting, and a veteran with his resume should be playing on All-Madden at least, and preferably with a number of the sliders raised manually beyond that. Manning was obviously masterful, and that was despite having no running backs with a yard per carry average over 3.8 and only gaining 65 total yards on the ground. Joe Flacco came down to Earth after his fantastic playoff performances and it’s clear to me that he is missing Anquan Boldin and Dennis Pitta right now. Torrey Smith is a stud, but he can only do so much without a significant threat to take some pressure off of him. Dallas Clark surprised me with 7 catches for 87 yards, and if he can keep that up the loss of Pitta shouldn’t be quite as significant. I am a huge Demaryius Thomas fan and had a top 20 grade on him out of Georgia Tech and he has completely lived up to my expectations for him. I definitely expected Decker to be the #2 guy and Welker to be the 3rd option, but if the first week is any indication then Welker is going to get a lot of love from Manning this year. I don’t think 2 catches for 32 yards will be a typical week for Decker by any means, but I think I definitely underrated Welker’s potential impact coming into the year. I was also blown away by how well Duke Ihenacho and Shaun Phillips played. I liked Ihenacho out of San Jose State but realized some of his athletic limitations, however he had 12 tackles (including ELEVEN solo stops), 1 tackle for loss and 3 pass deflections as well as some pretty nice hits in this game. Phillips had 2.5 sacks and 3 QB hits on the night and definitely helped make up for the absence of Von Miller for at least one night. The Broncos looked like they were in mid-season form, but I don’t think the Ravens are going to have that much trouble on offense or defense for the entire season. They have lots of new faces on their roster and they need time to gel, and Manning took full advantage. Don’t hit the panic button yet Ravens fans.

3- EJ Manuel Is Making Me Look Stupid- I was pretty clear that I was not a fan of EJ Manuel at FSU and while it is still very early in his career my analysis of him is looking quite foolish right now. I have been very impressed with how Doug Marrone and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett have managed Manuel starting from his first pre-season snaps. They haven’t asked him to go out there and be Tom Brady, but much like Cam Newton his rookie season they will likely open up the playbook and let him attack more as he becomes more comfortable. I was happy to see Robert Woods get his first NFL catch and his first NFL touchdown, but Manuel got to see first hand that there’s almost nobody better than Tom Brady when the game is on the line. He may not have had a great day statistically, but when it counted he took the Pats down the field and got them in position to win the game. Danny Amendola predictably had a good game, I loved what Shane Vereen did and I was very sad to see that he is going to miss significant time due to a broken wrist (which he apparently suffered on the first play of the game!). I am hoping that Spiller was given limited touches because of his lost fumble, and not because he is inexplicably being mismanaged again in 2013. Regardless, Bills fans should be very encouraged by the early returns on EJ Manuel.

4- “Same Old Bungles”- That is for my good friend Ryan Koons who is now an active duty marine. He is a die hard Bengals fan and whenever they manage to lose a game like this that is what he would always say. I have to say I really thought those days were behind Cincinnati because on paper I thought they were ready to win the AFC North. However, Andy Dalton continues to make me wonder about just how far the Bengals can go with him as a quarterback even in spite of the absolutely fantastic play of AJ Green. The Bengals have tons of talent on defense, they’ve got weapons on offense, but if they are going to win close games and go deep in the playoffs they need Dalton to play better and limit his turnovers. The run game deserves some ire as well as the Bengals only averaged 3 yards per touch and totaled 63 yards on the ground. On the other side I thought Jay Cutler, overall, had a good game and Brandon Marshall was fantastic. The Bears running game was sluggish as well, and hopefully that offensive line will slowly gel and improve over the course of the season. I know that probably makes Bears fans nervous because they’ve been waiting for that offensive front to improve for years, but I’m hoping this is the year for their sake.

5- Reggie Bush Is Dangerous, Christian Ponder Is Not- The Lions put up 38 points on the Vikings defense and a lot of that is due to Reggie Bush totaling 90 yards on the ground (4.3 ypc) and 101 yards and one touchdown as a receiver (with a long of 77). That’s very impressive production, and it comes despite only hauling in four of his eight targets on the day. Matt Stafford had another high attempt, high yardage day and while it wasn’t the most efficient performance it certainly got the job done. I wouldn’t expect too many four catch, 37 yard days for Calvin Johnson, but Bush, Nate Burleson and Joique Bell took the pressure off of him this week. On the other side Christian Ponder continues to prove his doubters right as he threw 3 interceptions, got sacked three times and lost a fumble on the day. He also spoiled a fantastic game for Jerome Simpson who had 7 catches and 140 yards which I certainly didn’t expect from him. Adrian Peterson had a 78 yard touchdown run on his first carry but gained only 15 additional yards on his next 17 carries, but still managed 93 yards and two touchdowns rushing as well as 18 yards and another touchdown receiving. I will be the first to admit that I liked Ponder out of FSU (clearly I’m 0/2 on scouting Florida State quarterbacks right now) but he doesn’t have the same velocity he had prior to the injuries he sustained his senior year, he isn’t making good decisions and honestly I wouldn’t be surprised to see Matt Cassel start at some point this season for the Vikings. That’s not a good sign, and it likely means the Vikings will be looking to draft a quarterback early in the 2014 NFL Draft. I have been patient with Ponder and he occasionally shows signs of life, but unfortunately now that he’s in his 3rd year these kinds of struggles won’t be tolerated anymore. He’s got to step up his game and quick.

6- Pryor Makes Oakland Offense Almost Competent- I really feel like I am ruining any credibility I have as a quarterback scout but I liked Tyler Wilson a lot out of Arkansas and I didn’t like Terrelle Pryor out of Ohio State, but I am glad the Raiders elected to start Pryor over Matt Flynn. Pryor’s legs gave the Raiders life in this game and while I don’t think it will get them to the playoffs it should make them more competitive than they would have been with Flynn at the helm. I didn’t get to see as much of this game as I wanted to because the feed went out for it multiple times at the bar I was watching the games at (for some reason it was streaming online, not sure why), so outside of Pryor impressing me as a runner and Andrew Luck being a stud I don’t have too many thoughts on this game. Sorry guys.

7- Nolan Nawrocki Your Crow Is Ready- I know it’s early, and I know it’s only his first start, but it was fun to see Geno Smith rally the Jets to an unlikely win against Tampa Bay week one. I’m not going to say he made some unbelievable plays on that final drive to steal victory from the jaws of defeat, but if Sanchez was the QB on that final drive I don’t think the Jets would have won that game. Smith isn’t known for his scrambling, but his athleticism was obvious at the NFL combine and he gave the Jets a chance to get lucky thanks to his skill set. He wasn’t mind-blowingly efficient by any means, but it was definitely a solid first start based on what I was able to see. Unfortunately for Bucs fans Josh Freeman struggled (though the Jets do still have a good, well-coached defense) and despite 154 yards from Vincent Jackson he only managed 210 yards on 31 attempts, was sacked three times and threw one touchdown and one interception. I wasn’t a Freeman fan coming out and his first season it really looked like he might make me eat my words, but he seemed to plateau after that rookie season and hasn’t quite been the same since.

8- Kaepernick Is The Truth- I wasn’t wild about Kaepernick’s throwing motion or accuracy coming out of Nevada, but Jim Harbaugh has done a fantastic job with him and that offense is now tailor made for him. It certainly helps having weapons like Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis (even though Davis had a drop or two that he shouldn’t have) while Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham are injured, but his athleticism, pure arm strength and seemingly improving accuracy really stood out to me against the Packers. Green Bay had absolutely no answer for the Kaepernick-Boldin connection and while they managed to keep him bottled up as a runner he shredded them for 412 yards and three touchdowns as a passer. The Packers will have to go back to the drawing board now to try to figure out how to slow Kaepernick down if they meet again in the playoffs. I thought Aaron Rodgers was great as usual even if he did come up just short, I still love Randall Cobb, and I was happy Jermichael Finley bounced back from that drop that led to Rodgers only interception with some solid catches, good yards after the catch and that impressive touchdown. The Packers should be fine and I think they will be a playoff team, but I’m sure they and their fans are annoyed that another referee controversy led to a do-over for the 49ers that led to an Anquan Boldin touchdown. Maybe I’m alone here, but I think the NFL downgrading Bill Leavy for that mistake is ridiculous. Leavy is a veteran official and while he made a mistake this just reeks of an overreaction to me.

9- RGIII Was Rusty, The Eagles Offense Wasn’t- The Eagles defense made this interesting in the second half as RGIII and the Redskins started to knock some of the rust off, but in the first half RGIII had a lot of issues fading away from throws and not stepping into his passes. He still did some of that in the 2nd half, but he was definitely much more crisp and effective once his receivers stopped dropping passes and Kyle Shanahan adjusted to get him into a rhythm with quicker, easier throws. Michael Vick was impressive, though he’s still the same Michael Vick that will hold onto the ball too long and take unnecessary risks with his body at times. LeSean McCoy looks like an ideal fit for Chip Kelly’s offensive scheme and he should have a huge year. I was also happy to see that one of my favorites from a couple years ago Mychal Kendricks looked much better (based on what I saw live) and was pressuring RGIII pretty consistently. I’m not sure he’s great in coverage, but it was fun to see him rushing some of Griffin’s throws. Additionally, that interception Cary Williams made on that out route that Griffin threw was nothing short of fantastic. What a terrific play.

10- Oh Philip Rivers, You Poor Bastard- Rivers was absolutely fantastic in the 1st half and he started off the 2nd half in the same fashion. He had the Chargers up 28-7 and seemed poised for a statement victory in week one of the 2013 season. Unfortunately, much like he and the Bolts have in the past, they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Rivers and the offense began to sputter, the Texans woke up on offense, and the rally was complete once Brian Cushing read Rivers’ eyes beautifully and made a diving interception that he then returned for a game-tying touchdown. The Texans would go on to move the ball down the field and position Randy Bullock for a game winning 41 yard field goal. Andre Johnson continued to show why he is one of the best in the game with a 12 reception, 146 yard performance, Owen Daniels chipped in 67 yards and two touchdowns, and Deandre Hopkins added five receptions and 66 yards. I thought Arian Foster seemed determined to make a big play all game and didn’t seem focused on doing the little things. He was palming the ball and holding it away from his body, he dropped multiple catchable balls, and almost seemed to be showing off and looking to make someone look foolish. Maybe that’s just me over-extrapolating, but he seemed off tonight. I’d be surprised if Gary Kubiak doesn’t talk to him about how he’s holding the ball after he and the other coaches watch film.

Alright, so that was a LOT less brief than I expected it to be. I guess I had more to say than I anticipated, though I shouldn’t really be surprised since I am so long winded anyway. Sorry that was such a long post, hopefully you enjoyed it anyway!

Thanks for reading,

–Tom

Divisional Playoff Picks:

I’m going to be traveling on Sunday morning en route to the East-West Shrine Game so I am going to make all of my picks today. We’ve got four intriguing match-ups going on this weekend, so it will be interesting to see how they shake out.

Denver-Baltimore:

As much as I want to see Ray Lewis and Baltimore continue on this season I’m not convinced they are going to. It’s hard to bet against Peyton Manning and this Broncos team, especially since this Denver defense is much more complete than any defense Manning ever had in Indianapolis. They can really get after the passer but I think they’ll be able to slow down Ray Rice as well, and that’s what I’d be worried about most if I was a Ravens fan. The Broncos can match up with the Ravens on both sides of the ball, and I’m not sure they have the fire-power on offense or the talent on defense to take away Manning’s passing options. On top of that, I’m not a big Flacco fan and I’m not sure he’s going to be able to make the big throws the Ravens need to win this game. He made some last week, but this defense is a different animal. I’m hoping for a good game, but I think Denver is going to win by more than one score: 31-20.

Green Bay-San Francisco:

This is a tough match-up to pick, but I’m going to go with San Francisco. I think they match up ok with Green Bay’s bevy of weapons on offense and they should be able to get after Rodgers without blitzing which is a big no-no against him. If you can generate pressure with four or five rushers (like the Vikings did in Week 17) then you can knock him around a bit and not give him a lot of options and force him to make unbelievable throws. The 49ers should be able to do that, and I think they’ll be able to take away the semblance of a running game that Green Bay has. On the other side of the ball I think the 49ers will be able to run the ball how they want against the Packers, and Kaepernick’s mobility outside of the pocket should extend a couple drives for the 49ers that could prove to be critical. It’s risky to pick a young QB like Kaepernick against a seasoned veteran like Rodgers, but Kaepernick isn’t one to wilt under pressure. I’m going with the 49ers but I think it’s going to be close: 27-21

Houston-New England:

I have to pick the Patriots here. I just don’t think the Texans defense will be able to match up with the weapons that the Patriots have on offense, and if the Pats can get the run game going I think the Texans will struggle to slow Brady and the Pats offense down. The Pats aren’t a great team on defense, but I think they’ll be able to do enough to slow down the Texans offense. If they can bottle Foster up and not allow Schaub to suck their linebackers in with play action fakes I think the Pats will be able to win this game. I think it’s going to be a close game, but I’m not going to be able to bet against Tom Brady in a playoff game at home: 31-24

Atlanta-Seattle:

This is a hard game for me to pick. I mentioned last week that I think the Seahawks match up very well with the Falcons on defense and I still believe that. This game is going to come down to who wins the match-ups between the Falcons WR’s and the Seahawks corners and whether or not the Falcons can find a way to get Tony Gonzalez involved without forcing him the ball. And if Michael Turner finds a way to have a productive game the Falcons can definitely win. But if the Seahawks make the Falcons one dimensional I will be very nervous with Ryan trying to carry the Falcons to victory against a very talented Seahawks secondary. They are missing their top pass rusher, but their secondary is good enough that I’d still be concerned. The Seahawks will look to run the ball early and often and I think the Falcons have the advantage on this side of the ball. Their defense has been very good at coming up with clutch turnovers this year and even if they let Wilson and Lynch move the ball I have a feeling Wilson is going to end up with an interception in this game and Lynch needs to make sure he covers up the ball because the Falcons will be looking to strip it. It’s never a good idea to bet against Russell Wilson (I did it last week and we all know how that worked out) but I think the Falcons have the defense to match up with him and even though I’m very nervous for this game I’m picking the Falcons to win a close one: 27-20

Those are my picks, hopefully I can improve over my 2-2 record last week. Enjoy all the football guys and look out for my coverage of the East-West Shrine game this next week. I’ll be posting notes here and on The Football Standard.

–Tom

Playoff Prediction Post:

I realize I’m late on this, meant to post it earlier but lost track of time today. I had the Texans picked though, I swear!

Wild Card:

Texans over Bengals
Saints over Lions
Giants over Falcons
Pittsburgh over Denver

The Giants-Falcons game could be interesting depending on what Falcons team shows up. They have struggled against quality competition this year and have gotten to the playoffs largely because of a weak schedule (especially to finish the season). The Giants pass rush could give the Falcons offensive line fits, but if they can run the ball and keep Matt Ryan upright they could make things interesting. The Giants should be able to pass all over the Falcons if they want to, but may struggle to run the ball a bit. I’m picking the Giants because they know how to win in the playoffs and the Falcons haven’t proven that they can yet.

Divisional Round:

Ravens over Texans
Patriots over Pittsburgh
Saints over 49ers
Packers over Giants

The Texans have been an inspiring story winning without Matt Schaub and Mario Williams, but I don’t think T.J. Yates will be able to threaten downfield enough to keep the Ravens from working to take away Arian Foster. The Ravens offense is going against a quality defense but I think they will be able to move the ball. Joe Flacco may not have a ton of playoff experience, but he certainly has more than Yates. I’m not sold on Yates making critical plays in big games and I think the Ravens will expose his flaws for all to see.

The Patriots over Pittsburgh is a tough call for me. I think the Patriots are a good team but their secondary is a mess and I am not sold on their defense at all. Pittsburgh can move the ball and threaten teams vertically, so they could make New England pay if they bite on the run. It’s tough to bet against Tom Brady in the playoffs though, and even though the Patriots haven’t won a playoff game in a while I think they have a good chance to win one with Pittsburgh coming up to Foxboro.

The Saints over 49ers isn’t an automatic either, but I think the Saints might be the only team in the NFC that can beat the Packers. There’s just no way I can bet against Drew Brees, especially with Alex Smith starting opposite him.

The Giants are one of the few teams that is built to beat the Packers. The Packers can’t run the ball very well and rely on passing the ball quite a bit, and the Giants have shown that they have the blueprint to beat passing teams when they upset Tom Brady and the Patriots in the Super Bowl in 2007. This is an interesting match-up, especially since Aaron Rodgers didn’t play in week 17, but I expect the Packers to end up winning despite some of their struggles on defense.

Conference Championship Games:

Ravens over Patriots
Saints over Packers

The Ravens have a great defense that I think can slow down the Patriots offense enough for their offense to win the game. I don’t think the Patriots can slow down the Ravens enough to win this game personally. As I mentioned earlier, I don’t think much of the Patriots defense, especially their secondary, but I do love the Ravens defense. So I’m going with them to beat the Patriots!

Yes, I’m picking the Saints. I can’t stand the Saints for what they do to the Falcons every year, but I do respect them. Their defense certainly isn’t elite, but they will be able to pressure Rodgers a bit and won’t have to worry much about the running game I don’t think. The Packers defense has little chance of slowing down the Saints offense and I think this game will end up being a shoot-out, but despite it all I think the Saints can win. They are playing the best football in the NFC right now and as the Packers know it’s all about getting hot at the right time. The Saints are hot, the Packers are not.

Superbowl:

Ravens over Saints

I am a defense first guy even though I love slinging the ball around and scouting quarterbacks, so that has something to do with my pick here. The Saints are a great offense, but the Ravens defense can slow them down in my opinion. Do they match up perfectly? No, I don’t think so. But I think they can rattle Brees and knock him around enough to contain their offense when they need to. The Saints know how to manufacture pressure, but I think the Ravens can run the ball on them and extend drives that way. I am a closet Ravens fan so take that into consideration, but I believe defense wins championships so one of the few good defensive teams left has a great shot to win the title!

Thanks for reading, it’ll be interesting to see how I do!

–Tom

Give Tebow credit where credit is due: He wins games, and he can win ugly. But is he consistently accurate enough to be a quality NFL starter? I have my doubts.

Tim Tebow led a very surprising and impressive comeback by scoring 15 points in the last 2:44 of the 4th quarter against Miami Dolphins on Sunday which led to an eventual 18-15 win in overtime. As improbable as that was, that has come to be expected from Tebow. He has done it before both in college and in the NFL, and as many of his supporters say: He just wins.

Tebow isn’t quite the athlete that Mike Vick was, but he is one of the most polarizing figures that I have seen since Vick was an Atlanta Falcon. His supporters almost refuse to see fault in his performance and point to his win-loss record, and his detractors point out the competition he faces and how ugly some of the wins are (especially regarding his performance). Somehow Tebow managed to completely validate both sides of the argument by struggling with ball placement, not processing information quickly, struggling with timing a bit and throwing some pretty bad passes during the majority of the game. But he seemingly flicked a switch and put together some quality throws and led the Broncos back to an improbable victory against the woeful, win-less Miami Dolphins. He flashed his potential because of his mobility, his ability to throw on the run, and his ability to make quality NFL throws when his team needs it most.

However, I still don’t buy Tim Tebow as a quality NFL starter.

I think that an important part of being a NFL quarterback is consistency. I haven’t watched a lot of Tebow as a Broncos starter (talking about his playing time last season) but my impression of him from what I have seen is that he hasn’t been very consistent. He hasn’t always made great decisions, hasn’t always placed the ball well, and from what I saw of him yesterday he didn’t seem to react to pressure that well when he was forced to stay with-in the pocket. When he had to stay inside the pocket instead of scrambling outside the pocket he seemed to get sacked, but when he could escape he could make something interesting happen. At least that was my impression.

Tebow’s throwing motion is still a concern for me as well. In a clean pocket without pressure it is clear that his throwing motion has improved, but when he is flustered and under duress he tends to revert to a throwing motion that resembles what it was back when he came out of Florida. That is concerning, and comes back to his consistency issues. If he doesn’t have similar mechanics on each throw (especially pertaining to his throwing mechanics) it makes it more difficult to deliver consistently accurate passes.

I also don’t understand why this comeback is being so highly touted. Yes, it was very impressive to see him score 15 points in the last 2:44 and then to lead the team to a win in overtime. But it was against the DOLPHINS! This team has a legitimate chance at the #1 overall pick and if they don’t make a coaching change soon they have a slight chance of going completely win-less. They are a truly awful football team and that demeans the comeback to me. Yes, a win is a win, but I don’t think all comebacks are created equal. This comeback was only possible because of Tebow’s own inadequacy throughout the rest of the game, and while he turned it on when it mattered most he still put himself in that position with poor, inaccurate passing in the previous 57 minutes. You have to give him credit where credit is due for coming back and winning, but I think we need to pump the breaks when talking about the comeback because of the circumstances. Namely, why they were in that situation and who they were in that situation against.

That’s just my opinion obviously, feel free to comment with your own thoughts.

Thanks for reading!

–Tom

Overall Team Grades:

Carolina:

1st– Cam Newton, QB, Auburn: 7.0

3rd– Terrell McClain, DT, South Florida 7.0

3rd– Sione Fua, DT, Stanford 7.5

4th– Brandon Hogan, CB, West Virginia 7.0

5th– Kealoha Pilares, WR, Hawaii 7.0

6th– Lawrence Wilson, OLB, Connecticut 8.0

6th– Zachary Williams, C, Washington State 7.0

7th– Lee Ziemba, OT, Panthers 7.5

Overall Grade: C

Analysis: This is probably going to be the lowest grade that I give anyone in the top ten, and potentially in the entire draft, and a lot of that has to do with Cam Newton going #1 overall. Obviously I don’t agree with the pick, and I didn’t even have a first round grade on him. Obviously he has a ton of upside, but upside is worthless unless you have a realistic chance of living up to that upside, and I don’t think Newton will do that in the NFL. The Panthers did a solid job addressing their glaring need at defensive tackle, but I am not that high on McClain or Fua even though they got solid value with the pick. My favorite pick of theirs was actually Lawrence Wilson in round 6. I was very surprised he fell that far. Overall the Panthers had an ok draft, but it wasn’t anything special. They could have improved their team much more significantly if they picked Marcell Dareus #1 overall.

Denver:

1st– Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M 8.0

2nd– Rahim Moore, FS, UCLA 9.0

2nd– Orlando Franklin, OG, Miami 8.0

3rd– Nate Irving, ILB, NC State 8.0

4th– Quinton Carter, S, Oklahoma 8.0

4th– Julius Thomas, TE, Portland State 8.0

6th– Mike Mohamed, ILB, California 7.5

7th– Virgil Green, TE, Nevada 8.0

7th– Jeremy Beal, OLB, Oklahoma 6.0

Overall Grade: B+

Analysis: I really liked the Broncos draft. I don’t think Von Miller is the best fit in a 4-3 scheme, but as Brian Orakpo and the Redskins showed you can make it work. I think he will be an effective player in a 4-3, but I think his ideal fit is in a 3-4, hence my lower grade for him. I am very high on Rahim Moore and this was a great pick because they really needed safety help and he is far and away the best safety in this draft in my opinion and they got good value for him. Franklin will give them depth at either OG or RT, and Irving and Carter added more talent to need positions as well. I thought Carter might be a 2nd or 3rd rounder, so getting him in round 4 was a nice pick-up. Julius Thomas also has a ton of potential as another former basketball player turned tight end, and they picked up another versatile guy in Virgil Green in the 7th round. I don’t think Mike Mohamed has a lot of upside but he is a nice depth/special teams addition. Jeremy Beal will be out of the NFL in a couple years in my opinion, but until then I imagine he could provide value on special teams.

Buffalo:

1st– Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama 9.5

2nd– Aaron Williams, CB/FS, Texas 8.0

3rd– Kelvin Sheppard, ILB, LSU 8.5

4th– Da’Norris Searcy, S, North Carolina 7.5

4th– Chris Hairston, OT, Clemson 8.0

5th– Johnny White, RB, North Carolina 8.5

6th– Chris White, ILB, Mississippi State 7.0

7th– Justin Rogers, CB, Richmond 7.0

7th– Michael Jasper, DT, Bethel 6.5

Overall Grade: B

Analysis: The Dareus pick was one of the best in the draft because they so badly needed defensive help, especially up front, and they were able to address it with a great player at #3 overall. I’m not a huge Aaron Williams fan but he has the versatility to play corner and safety which gives him value and the Bills could use help at both CB and FS, so that helps. I like Kelvin Sheppard a lot and while he may not be an ideal ILB I think he will be alright in a 3-4 ILB alignment provided he has a couple defensive linemen who can eat up blocks at the point of attack. I’m not very high on Searcy and I don’t know how much upside he has, but Hairston has the potential to be a solid RT in the NFL. I love the Johnny White pick and I think he has the potential to be a quality RB in the NFL. I’m glad he didn’t go undrafted because of his injury. Justin Rogers showed me ability at the East-West Shrine Game so I think he might be able to stick on the Bills roster after camp.

Cincinnati:

1st– A.J. Green, WR, Georgia 9.5

2nd– Andy Dalton, QB, TCU 7.5

3rd– Dontay Moch, OLB, Nevada 7.5

4th– Clint Boling, OG, Georgia 8.0

5th– Robert Sands, S, West Virginia 6.0

6th– Ryan Whalen, WR, Stanford 8.0

7th– Korey Lindsey, CB, Southern Illinois 7.0

7th– Jay Finley, RB, Baylor 7.0

Overall Grade: B-

Analysis: This was a surprisingly solid draft for the Bengals. You obviously can’t go wrong with A.J. Green at #4 overall, and while I thought the 2nd round was too high for Andy Dalton the Bengals stayed patient and got a guy they liked without moving up for him like a lot of people thought they might. Dontay Moch has a ton of potential but at this point he is a great athlete, not a great football player. It will be interesting to see how he pans out in Cincy in their 3-4 alignment, because he could be a fierce 3-4 OLB if he gets coached up well. Boling in round 4 is a pretty good value and he should help add some depth to the OL and can eventually be a solid starter at guard. I’m not high on Robert Sands and I don’t think he will ever be a NFL starter, but I love the Ryan Whalen pick. This kid doesn’t drop anything, so while the Bengals have some talent at WR already Whalen could end up being a go-to guy on 3rd down because while he isn’t the biggest or the fastest he has some of the most reliable hands in this entire draft.

Arizona:

1st– Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU 9.5

2nd– Ryan Williams, RB, Virginia Tech 9.0

3rd– Robert Housler, TE, Florida Atlantic 8.0

4th– Sam Acho, DE, Texas 8.0

5th– Anthony Sherman, FB, Connecticut 8.0

6th– Quan Sturdivant, ILB, North Carolina 7.5

6th– David Carter, DT, UCLA 7.5

7th– Demarco Sampson, WR, San Diego State 7.0

Overall Grade: B+

Analysis: Again, tough to go wrong with Patrick Peterson at #5, and following that up with Ryan Williams, a guy who has top 20 ability, is a great start to your draft. Especially when Beanie Wells has done almost nothing in the NFL and Hightower is more of a rotational power back than an every down starter. Housler has a lot of potential so getting him to potentially open up your offense with an athletic tight end is a nice pick, and Acho in round 4 is a good value. I also like the Anthony Sherman pick, he impressed me in Orlando and he is a good pass catcher out of the backfield for a fullback. I also like both Quan Sturdivant and David Carter, and I think they will provide solid depth with some upside for the Cardinals in the future.

Cleveland:

1st– Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor 8.0

2nd– Jabaal Sheard, DE, Pittsburgh 7.5

2nd– Greg Little, WR, North Carolina 8.5

4th– Jordan Cameron, TE, Southern Cal 8.5

4th– Owen Marecic, FB, Stanford 9.0

5th– Buster Skrine, CB, Chattanooga 7.0

5th– Jason Pinkston, OT, Pittsburgh 8.0

7th– Eric Hagg, S, Nebraska 7.5

Overall Grade: B+

Analysis: Phil Taylor was a pretty good pick at 21, but I thought he was an ideal 3-4 NT. I don’t think he will live up to the hype at a 4-3 DT because he just won’t provide enough of a pass rush to be considered a good/great all around player in that scheme. I was not a big Jabaal Sheard fan as a 3-4 OLB but he could be a pretty effective 4-3 LE, especially if they can get a talented RE across from him. I am a big Greg Little fan and I think the Browns got a very nice value for him. He has first round ability and while he is raw I think he could absolutely burst onto the scene in a couple of years once he has some time to develop. His combination of size, leaping ability and his time spent running hard after getting the ball as a running back makes him a very intriguing player. Jordan Cameron has a ton of potential as a former basketball player and he could end up being an intriguing option at TE because of his ability to threaten defenses down the seam. Marecic is one of everyone’s favorite players in the draft because of his ability to play fullback but also be a special teams ace because of his experience at linebacker. I thought Jason Pinkston had the potential to be drafted in the 3rd round, maybe even higher, so grabbing him in round 5 is a pretty solid value. You also have to love all the draft picks they got out of Atlanta as a result of the trade down. Those picks should be very valuable as they work on rebuilding and transitioning to a 4-3 defense.

San Francisco:

1st– Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri 8.0

2nd– Colin Kaepernick, QB, Nevada 7.0

3rd– Chris Culliver, S, South Carolina 7.0

4th– Kendall Hunter, RB, Oklahoma State 9.0

5th– Daniel Kilgore, OG, Appalachian State 7.5

6th– Ronald Johnson, WR, Southern Cal 7.5

6th– Colin Jones, S, TCU 7.5

7th– Bruce Miller, DE/LB, Central Florida 7.5

7th– Michael Person, OT, Montana State 7.0

7th– Curtis Holcomb, CB, Florida A&M 7.0

Overall Grade: B-

Analysis: Again, I don’t like the fit for Aldon Smith in a 3-4 scheme because I thought he was a perfect fit as a 4-3 DE, but that is just my opinion. I was very surprised to see the 49ers draft Colin Kaepernick in the 2nd round, and I wonder if they have a bad season again and end up with a top three pick, or maybe the #1 pick, if drafting him will keep Harbaugh and company from drafting Andrew Luck. I don’t think it would, but you never know. Kaepernick is very much a long term developmental project who is probably two years away from being a starter, so drafting him here when you could have made your team better and gotten a QB next year was a very strange move in my opinion. Culliver has a lot of athletic ability but I don’t like his lack of instincts, but I loved the Kendall Hunter pick. He could be one of the best values in the draft at that spot. The rest of the 49ers draft added some solid depth and special teams help, and it’s hard to hate that.

Tennessee:

1st– Jake Locker, QB, Washington 8.0

2nd– Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA 7.0

3rd– Jurell Casey, DT, Southern Cal 8.5

4th– Colin McCarthy, ILB, Miami 8.0

4th– Jamie Harper, RB, Clemson 6.0

5th– Karl Klug, DE, Iowa 7.5

6th– Byron Stingily, OT, Louisville 8.0

7th– Zach Clayton, DT, Auburn 7.0

7th– Tommie Campbell, S, California (PA) 7.0

Overall Grade: C+

Analysis: I thought #8 overall was too high for Locker, but it’s not hard to see why the Titans went in that direction. They wanted a guy with great intangibles, great leadership ability and a great work ethic. Essentially, they wanted the opposite of Vince Young. They got that guy with Locker so it’s hard to totally hate the pick, especially since everyone was convinced he would have gone #1 overall ahead of Sam Bradford a year ago at this time. I am very much not an Akeem Ayers fan and I wouldn’t have picked him until round 3, but Jurell Casey and Colin McCarthy are both solid players and I like the value they got for them. They improved their DT rotation and added depth at LB. If Ayers pans out they will have really improved their front seven with this draft. I am not a Jamie Harper guy at all and I think that was their worst pick by far, but I like the depth additions of Karl Klug and Byron Stingily. Klug will be a versatile DL for them and Stingily, while very raw, has the upside to be a solid starter at LT at some point.

Dallas:

1st– Tyron Smith, OT, Southern Cal 8.5

2nd– Bruce Carter, OLB, North Carolina 8.0

3rd– DeMarco Murray, RB, Oklahoma 8.5

4th– David Arkin, OG, Missouri State 8.0

5th– Josh Thomas, CB, Buffalo 7.5

6th– Dwayne Harris, WR, East Carolina 8.5

7th– Shaun Chapas, FB, Georgia 7.5

7th– Bill Nagy, C, Wisconsin 7.0

Overall Grade: B

Analysis: Tyron Smith has the most potential of any LT in this draft class, so it’s hard to dislike that pick, but the Cowboys will have to wait a year at least before he is ready to start, so he won’t have an immediate impact on the team. If they are patient and coach him up it could be worth the wait though. The Cowboys definitely got an athletic specimen in Bruce Carter but I don’t know how well he will fit at 3-4 ILB, especially in the Cowboys scheme. They love athletes and they got one, but Carter doesn’t have great instincts and I don’t know how well he will do against the run when he has to shed blocks from big, powerful interior linemen. I love DeMarco Murray in round three even though they have Barber, Felix Jones and Tashard Choice, and David Arkin in round 4 should add more depth and an eventual starter to their offensive line. Josh Thomas is a solid depth addition at corner though I don’t think he will ever be a starter, and Dwayne Harris was one of the best values in the draft in round six. He has potential as a KR, PR and slot receiver, so it will be interesting to see if he sticks and plays well there.

Washington:

1st– Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue 7.5

2nd– Jarvis Jenkins, DT, Clemson 8.0

3rd– Leonard Hankerson, WR, Miami 8.5

4th– Roy Helu, RB, Nebraska 8.0

5th– Dejon Gomes, S, Nebraska 8.0

5th– Niles Paul, WR, Nebraska 8.0

6th– Evan Royster, RB, Penn State 5.0

6th– Aldrick Robinson, WR, SMU 7.5

7th– Brandyn Thompson, CB, Boise State 7.0

7th– Maurice Hurt, OG, Florida 7.0

7th– Markus White, DE, Florida State 7.0

7th– Christopher Neild, DT, West Virginia 7.0

Overall Grade: B-

Analysis: Again, Kerrigan doesn’t fit well in a 3-4 in my opinion. The Redskins seem to be a team that is in the wrong defensive scheme. If they used the same personnel but in a 4-3 scheme I think their defensive line would be extremely fierce. Orakpo at RE, Jenkins at NT, Haynesworth as the disrupting UT, and Kerrigan at LE? That would be as good of a defensive front as there is in the NFL if Haynesworth would get his act together. There would be zero room to run up the middle with Jenkins and Haynesworth plugging up the interior gaps, and Orakpo, Haynesworth and Kerrigan would be more than enough to get pressure on quarterbacks without having to blitz to consistently create pressure. But obviously that isn’t going to happen, I just thought I’d point that out because that occurred to me as the draft was going on even before they picked up Jenkins in round 2. Hankerson in round three is a nice value and I think he will prove to be a valuable pick-up. I wouldn’t have wanted him in the top 50 picks, but getting him there is a nice pick-up especially for a team desperate for WR help. Helu, Gomes and Paul are all solid depth additions, as is Aldrick Robinson, but I don’t think Royster will be in the NFL in 3-4 years. I was shocked that he was drafted at all.

Thanks for reading! Look out for the rest of my team grades in the next couple days as well as a preview for players that I expect to break out during the next college football season!

–Tom