Last week we bounced back and at least reached the Mendoza line going 2-2. As we get deeper into the season, it gets harder to bet against the line as Vegas gets a better feel for each club.
Miami vs New York Jets (-1) in London
After a strong start in the first two weeks, the Jets played a hungry Philadelphia team and lost 24-17. While the Jets have a strong defense, they have to play perfectly on offense in order to secure a win.
This week they play a struggling Miami team and it is being reported that if the Dolphins don’t win, Head Coach Joe Philbin could be replaced. Situations like that can make a team either play harder or tank. My feeling is that the players want to keep Philbin but that won’t be enough to overcome the strong Jets defense. I like the Jets by 3. That said, give the single point and take the Jets.
Philadelphia (-2.5) at Washington
With this game being played in Washington the weather will have an effect on playing conditions. The field will be sloppy and that may keep the score down.
After losing their first two games, Philadelphia finally got their act together last week in their win over the Jets. They still aren’t getting good quarterback play from Sam Bradford and their running game has been inconsistent.
Washington has been similar with quarterback Kirk Cousins having struggles similar to Bradford. Both have thrown 3 touchdown passes to four interceptions.
I feel this game will get down to who has the better defense and in this case I have to go with the Eagles. Take the visitors and give the points.
New York Giants at Buffalo (-5)
In the Giants first two losses, the games were relatively close, one was on the road while the other was at home. Last week they beat a hapless Washington team- but is that really saying much?
Buffalo is one of the better teams in the AFC, the defense is outstanding and quarterback Tyrod Taylor is just beginning to come into his own. The Bills may be without LeSean McCoy, but rookie Karlos Williams is playing like he should have been a much higher draft pick.
Eli Manning has played very inconsistently for the past three seasons and you almost don’t know which Manning will show up. Because of that and the strength of the Buffalo defense I like the Bills. Give the 5 points.
Carolina (-3) at Tampa Bay
Carolina has gone 3-0 because of one main thing: they are one of the best coached teams in the NFL. Because of injuries they don’t have the manpower that some other clubs have but they don’t let themselves get beat.
Tampa Bay, on the other hand, plays sloppy football. Jameis Winston has played like the rookie he is and makes too many mistakes. He also doesn’t have a great feel for pass rushers yet.
On paper, Tampa Bay may have a bit more talent but Carolina’s consistency will win out in the end. Give the 3 points and take the Panthers.
Follow Greg on Twitter @greggabe
We are now in Week 4 of the NFL season and are starting to have a better understanding of how teams and players will perform or be utilized in their respective game plans.
Before we begin to break down the best plays for each respective positions, lets identify the teams that are on a Bye Week.
Week 4 Byes: Tennessee Titans and New England Patriots
Below you will see some of the players I will be targeting at specific positions due to match ups, Vegas predictions, and the value they provide due to their price. These players listed below are players I am identifying as possible targets for my cash game lineups. To reiterate, cash games are best suited for consistent players with high floors. In Cash Games you want to purchase players that will at least hit 2X their value. For example, Rodgers needs to hit at least 16 points to hit value for his $7,900 price tag.
The quarterback position offers plenty of intriguing options this week that vary in price.
Aaron Rodgers ($7,900) @ San Francisco 49ers will be the top play out of the higher priced quarterbacks. Hard to argue, when he is coming off a 335 yard and 5 TD performance. The 49ers are giving up over 300 passing yards per game and are returning home after getting shredded back to back weeks by the Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals. He is a near lock for at least 2-3 touchdowns and offers a high floor with huge upside.
Cam Newton ($7,000) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers is a great option if you are trying to save some money at the QB position this week. Newton gets another division foe that has struggled collectively as a defense. Newton was one of the top QB plays last week and I expect more of the same this week. The Panthers don’t possess many offensive weapons so a lot of that burden will fall on Newton. He should be active running against the 30th ranked run defense.
Andy Dalton ($5,900) vs. Kansas City Chiefs presents a lot of upside with his price this week. Dalton is coming off a 394 yard 3 TD performance and is playing a defense that just got picked apart for 5 TDs vs. Aaron Rodgers last week. I expect the Bengals to continue the trend with a more a pass heavy approach this week against a defense that is allowing over 287 yards per game.
Tyrod Taylor ($5,800) vs. New York Giants offers plenty of value at his current price range. The Bills are projected to score over 25 points and Taylor has been one of the best value plays over the first 3 weeks of the season scoring 15, 29 and 24. The Giants are one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL allowing over 335 passing yards per game.
Derek Carr ($5,300) @ Chicago Bears offers tremendous value this week and will be one QB I use often while creating lineups. He was able to throw for 314 passing yards and 2 TD’s (23.5 points on DK) last week vs. a very good Cleveland secondary on the road. The Bears are looking like prime contenders for the 1st pick in 2016 draft and just traded away John Bostic and Jared Allen.
Running Backs Plays:
This week I will avoid paying up for the higher priced running backs. The only one I would consider is Jamaal Charles ($7,600) @ Cincinnati Bengals simply because he is very active in the passing game thanks to “Check Down King” Alex Smith. Furthermore the Bengals have allowed over 9 catches per game to running backs.
Frank Gore ($4,700) vs. Jacksonville Jaguars is another intriguing match-up. Despite struggling the first two weeks, Gore showed up big with 22 points in week 3. At home in a game projected to be won by a high margin, I fully expect Gore to find the End Zone at least once.
Karlos Williams ($3,400) vs. New York Giants will be probably one of the highest owned players this week if LeSean McCoy does in fact sit out. This will be one to monitor, but even if McCoy does suit up, Williams should be able to reach value given his price.
Devonta Freeman ($5,200) vs. Houston Texans should be another great play this week simply due to sheer volume, targets and his current price. While I don’t think he will come close to repeating his 4 TD performance from last week, I think he should easily reach his value.
Other RB’s I will look to target: Lance Dunbar ($3,600) vs. New Orleans Saints, Danny Woodhead ($4,600) vs. Cleveland Browns, Giovani Bernard ($5,000) vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Wide Receiver Plays:
Julio Jones ($9,300) vs. Houston Texans is a very high price to play but no one has played better or been more consistent this year than Julio. Pay up, he’s worth it.
Randall Cobb ($7,300) @ San Francisco 49ers is probably one of the best values at the WR position this week given his insulting $7,300 price tag. He is the #1 option in a high powered offense led by the best QB in the NFL and is also facing a defense that has been getting lit up through the air and struggling to defend slot WR’s.
Larry Fitzgerald ($6,500) @ St. Louis Rams has been on absolute tear this year scoring 14, 40 and 37 points respectively the first 3 weeks of the season. The Rams have been struggling as a passing defense and I am not missing out on Fitz’s price while it is still under $7k.
Armani Cooper ($6,300) @ Chicago Bears is another great option at a great price. Cooper looks well beyond his years scoring 26 and 24 points the last two weeks after a slow week 1. As mentioned above the Bears defense is a mess, feel confident going with the rookie who has over 31 targets so far this year.
Donte Moncrief ($5,000) vs. Jacksonville Jaguars is a steal at his $5k price range this week. He has quickly become the defacto #2 WR in Indianapolis and is playing a weak Jacksonville secondary and should easily reach value.
Other WR’s I will Target: James Jones ($5,500) @ San Francisco 49ers, Ted Ginn ($3,400) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Mike Evans ($6,400) vs. Carolina Panthers.
Tight End Plays:
No Gronk this week means I will be going for a low priced option this week.
Jordan Reed ($4,500) vs. Philadelphia Eagles should be able to hit value this week. Starting ILB’s Kiko Alonso is out for the next month and Mychael Kendricks is questionable for this game. Reed lines up wide and in the slot a good portion of the time and seems to be a check down favorite for the struggling Kirk Cousins.
Charles Clay ($3,300) vs. New York Giants is a great low priced option that should certainly hit value. He went off 19 points last week and hasn’t scored less than 8 points all season. Add that to the fact that Sammy Watkins is out this week and has a match up vs. a defense that has struggled vs. the Tight End this year.
Seattle Seahawks ($3,700) vs. Detroit Lions
Denver Broncos ($3,3oo) vs. Minnesotta Vikings
Carolina Panthers ($3,300) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Green Bay Packers ($2,700) @ San Francisco 49ers
In the past few days there has been much discussion on whether or not Leonard Fournette should challenge the NFL rule about being three years out of high school to enter the NFL Draft. There also been discussion about whether or not Fournette should sit out the 2016 season if he can’t enter the Draft. By playing he risks injury, therefore some think he should sit out until he is ready to be drafted and sign an NFL contract.
It is my opinion that both of those thoughts are ludicrous. I have mentioned in a few other articles that in the last two years, close to 200 underclassmen have declared for the NFL Draft and close to 40% of those players did not get drafted. Many didn’t get drafted because they aren’t emotionally and physically ready to play in the NFL.
The NFL is far more demanding from a physical viewpoint than any other professional team sport. Most 19 and 20 year olds are not close to being ready to compete against men in a sport like football.
Fournette has all the physical traits desired in a top flight running back. He has size, speed, instincts and strength but just because he is a very productive running back at LSU it doesn’t mean that he will be just as productive in the NFL. It is a far different game.
When you study a running back, it is best to view the player from the end zone tape. There you get a much better idea of the player’s vision and instincts as well as his strength and power. When watching from the end zone view, the thing that sticks out the most is that college holes are much larger than NFL holes. In college games we see holes at schools like LSU and Alabama that are about three to four yards wide at times. You never see that in the NFL because the players are so much better. An NFL back is lucky to see a two foot hole let alone three to four yards.
The college back can often run free without being touched for several yards, while the NFL back has to “create” and make his own holes. Instincts and vision are much more important to an NFL back than they are to a college back.
Over the years there have been a number of backs who have put up huge numbers in college and did nothing once they got to the NFL. The most recent example is Alabama’s Trent Richardson, who was the third pick of the 2012 draft and did nothing once he got to the league. There are also a high number of running backs who got drafted later and have been very productive NFL players.
I am by no means evaluating Fournette, he is a true sophomore and cannot enter the league until at least the 2017 Draft. There will be plenty of time to do the evaluating next year, if he plays. There are people out there who feel he should sit out the 2016 college season. In the eyes of a scout and other front office executives that would be the dumbest thing he could do.
Football is a tough, competitive game played by tough, competitive people. Every time you set foot on the field there is a risk of injury. It is violent and hard hitting. People who play the game know this and partake in the game regardless. If you are afraid of getting hurt, don’t play the game…it’s not for you. As a scout if we saw a player sit out to avoid injury we would question his competitive nature and his ability to be a good teammate. We would also question his passion for the game and desire to be great, which are two important components in evaluating football character.
Part of the evaluation process is durability, if a player isn’t durable, he won’t last in the big leagues. Being durable while playing in college is very important in the overall evaluation process.
As for trying to challenge the existing rules in court, it’s been tried and the courts ruled in favor of the NFL and the draft process. The last time the rules were challenged was in 2004. Both Maurice Clarett and Mike Williams wanted to leave Ohio State and USC respectively before they were three years out of high school. The ruling came down just about a week before the 2004 draft. The thing I remember most about the ruling is that Lovie Smith and I were in Tampa that day meeting with Mike Williams. The Court’s decision was announced about 30 minutes after we left Williams.
The NFL as part of the collective bargaining agreement with the NFLPA has that three year rule in place. The NFLPA has no reason to try and change it. For every Leonard Fournette who may be physically ready to play two years out of high school, there are hundreds more who would try and enter the draft and aren’t close to being ready to compete. The rule is in place for the good of the game, the good of the players and the good of college football. One player isn’t going to bring about that change.
Follow Greg on Twitter @greggabe
We’re three weeks into the NFL season, and more than two thirds of all teams have already been beaten. Only seven teams are left with an undefeated record. Which one is the best? Here is my ranking of every 3-0 team.
Are the Panthers really this good? Here’s a hint: their first three games were against the Jaguars, Texans, and Saints. Those teams are a combined 2-7. The Panthers aren’t going to be bad, and they should contend for their division, but they’re a definite step below the other undefeated teams.
Don’t look now, but the NFC South isn’t so bad this year. The Falcons are one of two undefeated teams from the NFC South, and no other division in football can count more than one. The Falcons are the class of the NFC South thanks to a coaching change that has revitalized star QB Matt Ryan, who was always being held back by his poor teams. He’s on the loose now, mounting thrilling comebacks in New York and Dallas. The Falcons are the third-ranked offense in football, and their schedule is only going to get easier. Some will argue that the Falcons are more like the Panthers than they are like the rest of the teams on this list, but I’m on Atlanta’s bandwagon.
Believe the hype: the Bengals are great this year. They’re ranked second in total offense, just ahead of the aforementioned Falcons. Things were a little close for comfort against the Chargers, but San Diego has a good team. The Bengals should win the AFC North, and with Big Ben missing from the Steelers, they should do so with ease.
The Cardinals are 3-0 right now, but with their schedule, who wouldn’t be? They’ve only played the Saints, Bears, and 49ers. Those teams are a combined 1-8. Still, the Cardinals have impressed with the way in which they’ve finished off their victims. They put up 47 points on San Francisco, and they lead the league in interceptions. That kind of offense is going to come in handy down the road.
A couple of the Broncos’ games have been a little too close for comfort, which is why they’re only third on my list. But of all the teams here, the Broncos may have the most exciting future. They’re headed into a cakewalk portion of the schedule and seem to have just cracked the code on offense, their only weak point this year, by beginning to utilize the shotgun and pistol formations more often. Watch out for this team.
The Patriots look incredible on offense, which was expected. Nothing I’ve seen has assuaged my fears about the weakened secondary, but who needs a secondary when you’re averaging nearly 40 points a game? The Patriots look formidable enough to defend their crown as world champs.
The Packers are at the top primarily because they have one marquee win (over the Seahawks at Lambeau) that nobody else can top. The Patriots’ win over the Steelers was impressive, but could they have pulled that off if Le’Veon Bell hadn’t been suspended? Besides, the Steelers are not as good of a team as the Seahawks are (don’t believe Seattle’s 1-2 record). The teams on this list have all proven they can beat three teams, but the Packers have proven that they can beat any team.
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Over the last few weeks, college football and NFL Draft fans have seen California quarterback Jared Goff’s name more than Donald Trumps. Following the Texas game 10 days ago, Goff was being heralded by the amateur scouting world as the second coming. They were saying he was a lock top five selection and possibly the first pick in the draft!
It wasn’t that many years ago that ESPN’s Todd McShay lauded Mississippi’s Jevon Snead as a top five pick in the draft. Snead left school early believing the hype and he never got drafted. He was signed as an undrafted free agent and spent a minimal amount of time in a training camp before he was cut.
The draftniks are not real NFL scouts. They never have and never will work for an NFL club and they have absolutely no accountability when it comes to hyping a player. They change their mind on a player sometimes on a weekly basis. NFL scouts can’t do that because they are held accountable on every report they write.
I’ll also add that I am against true junior quarterbacks entering the draft. Far more fail to live up to expectations than succeed once they get to the NFL level. Why? Mainly because they aren’t as good as people thought and they aren’t physically and emotionally ready to compete against men at the NFL level.
I strongly feel a quarterback needs to be in college a minimum of four years before he even thinks about the NFL.
Jared Goff is a talented football player but from what I have seen he is not ready to be an NFL player. He is a true junior and can’t even legally buy a beer.
When you look at his frame he is tall and long but very lean. Cal lists him as being 215, but I think that is a stretch. I would be surprised if he was over 210. He has fairly good but not great overall athleticism. He has quick feet and shows the ability to move around in the pocket. While I have seen him run some, he is not a true threat to make a lot of plays with his feet. Can he extend a play? Yes at the college level, it would be questionable of he can extend at the NFL level.
Goff has good but not great arm strength. He doesn’t drive the ball the way the top quarterbacks do. While he shows he can throw a tight ball, he also has too many throws that lack quality spin.
When you look at Goff’s stats, they are impressive. He has completed 69% of his throws this year. His completion percentage is a very misleading stat. In one game I charted, he threw 37 passes. Of those 37 throws, only 8 went further than 10 yards downfield. Most of his throws are within five yards of the line of scrimmage. When you look closely at those throws, his ball placement on them is average. He often throws behind a wide open receiver who is no further than 10 yards away from him. He can get away with that because of the offense Cal runs, but he won’t get away with it in the NFL. The main reason is he won’t be making those types of throws in the NFL. Remember, the window to complete a pass in the NFL is much smaller than it is in college. Successful NFL quarterbacks must have pinpoint accuracy. Goff isn’t there yet.
Cal plays in a dink and dunk spread offense. They have a strong run game and that helps the pass game. The run game and the short pass game help set up the occasional deeper throws. This style offense is not in any way similar to an NFL style offense. While they are some plays that require a full field read, the majority of the passes are half field quick passes.
From a mechanical viewpoint, there is a lot to like. Goff carries the ball high and has a quick and tight delivery. When he makes the decision to throw, the ball comes out of his hand very quickly. There are times when he doesn’t set his feet properly and is not in balance but again he can get away with that because of their style of offense.
To evaluate a quarterback properly a scout needs to see every play of at least 8 games and that is at a minimum. My look here is after seeing three of his first four games. In those games, Goff has yet to face a strong defense. Next month Cal has to face Utah, UCLA and USC in consecutive weeks. We will be able to get a much better and truer evaluation after watching those games.
For now, I would be against Goff even considering entering the draft. He is in no way ready to play at that level. Right now he is a good college quarterback in a gimmick offense and it ends there. He needs to not only finish this year but come back and play in 2016. He isn’t close to having the talent of an Andrew Luck or even a Derek Carr.
Follow Greg on Twitter @greggabe