NFL Picks: Week 1

Last Season: 144-81

After a slow start, I thought I recovered nicely last season to come up with a pretty solid season winning percentage. And now I can use PFF stats. So yeah, since nobody donated to my Patreon (except one, thanks Dad), I couldn’t pay for a PFF account to better analyze these picks, so I just went and got a job with them. Go figure. But anyway, picks are back and I’m off to a slow start, as I picked the Falcons to beat the Eagles on Thursday night, which didn’t happen so let’s hope this goes better.

Pittsburgh Steelers vs Cleveland Browns

This season of Hard Knocks may have been the best ever. It was funny, interesting, and eye-opening. It really makes me root for this Cleveland Browns team. However it also showed me another thing: Hue Jackson is a shitty head coach (great guy, though, would not mind having a beer with him). That coaches meeting from the first episode was all I needed to see to know why the Browns are 1-31 under Jackson. So despite the fact that the Steelers won’t have Le’Veon Bell, I still think they beat the Browns, though the influx of talent will make this a close game.

Projected Score: Steelers 31 Browns 24

Cincinnati Bengals vs Indianapolis Colts

San Francisco 49ers v Indianapolis Colts

Frank Reich’s debut as an NFL head coach comes at a perfect time as Andrew Luck is back from a shoulder injury that many believed could derail his career. We have yet to see whether that holds true, but Colts quarterbacks (Jacoby Brissett and Scott Tolzien) carried the 6th worst PFF grade in his absence. In 2016, the last time we saw Luck, Colts passers carried the 4th best¬†PFF grade. So Luck makes a huge difference. It’ll be a challenge against the Bengals, who I think will quietly have one of the NFL’s best defenses. It’ll be interesting to see how Andrew Luck is protected against that vaunted defensive line. I think the Bengals come away with this one.

Projected Score: Bengals 24 Colts 17

Tennessee Titans vs Miami Dolphins

Another head coaching debut, Mike Vrabel now has the reins of the Titans and will begin his tenure in South Beach against the Dolphins. A lot has been made of the Titans trying to become the Patriots 2.0 by acquiring all their old players (Logan Ryan, Dion Lewis, Malcolm Butler, even Vrabel himself played 8 years there), but obviously they’re not going to replicate the same results. Marcus Mariota had a weird season last year, as he appeared to struggle with 13 touchdowns and 15 picks, but PFF actually graded him pretty well at 76.2 (for comparison, Kirk Cousins was a 70.0 and Cam Newton was 66.5). I think they get the win against the Dolphins, who are returning Ryan Tannehill but seemingly nothing else.

Projected Score: Titans 27 Dolphins 21

San Francisco 49ers vs Minnesota Vikings

I probably should abstain from this one like I did Clemson-Texas A&M yesterday because I’m working this one for PFF, but my work doesn’t start until well after the game ends so I think I’m okay to pick this. The Vikings are my pick to win the Super Bowl this year and they go up against Jimmy Garoppolo and his unbeaten record as a starting quarterback. Something has to give. I think I’m going to go with the Vikings, as I think they’re much more well-rounded.

Projected Score: Vikings 31 49ers 17

Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs New Orleans Saints

Divisional Round - New Orleans Saints v Minnesota Vikings

Jameis Winston’s 3 game suspension for groping an uber driver begins and it’ll be Ryan Fitzpatrick taking on the Saints. I’m not going to lie, this game is going to get ugly. Yes the Bucs have a revamped defensive line, but the Saints have one of the best offensive lines in football and loads of weapons like Michael Thomas and last year’s rookie of the year Alvin Kamara. They’re going to be fine even without Mark Ingram, who is serving a 4-game suspension for PED’s.¬† Saints win easily.

Projected Score: Saints 38 Buccaneers 14

Houston Texans vs New England Patriots

The Texans are getting a LOT of key contributors back from a season that was lost due to injury so I think this will be a fun game as they take on the Patriots. But it’s still the Patriots, even with all the players they lost from last season. So I think they still win, but I think the Texans will make them sweat.

Projected Score: Patriots 28 Texans 24

Jacksonville Jaguars vs New York Giants

The Jaguars had a fantastic season on defense last year and basically everyone from that unit is back. The Giants are getting ODell Beckham back and Saquon Barkley will be making his debut but it won’t be enough as Jacksonville’s defense suffocates them and leads them to a victory. It won’t be a bloodbath like their opener against the Texans last year, but it will still be a relatively easy win.

Projected Score: Jaguars 34 Giants 17

Buffalo Bills vs Baltimore Ravens

It’s going to be a long season for the Bills, especially if they think Nathan Peterman was the best option at quarterback. I get not starting Josh Allen right away, because based on his up-and-down preseason, he could use some time on the bench, but did you have to trade AJ McCarron? I don’t know, man. The defense should be solid but the offense is going to struggle and I think the Ravens will win easily.

Projected Score: Ravens 28 Bills 10

Kansas City Chiefs vs Los Angeles Chargers

Los Angeles Chargers v Kansas City Chiefs

The Pat Mahomes era has officially begun and it comes against a very tough Chargers defense. Cornerbacks Casey Hayward and Trevor Williams will have their hands full with Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins running under Pat Mahomes’ passes, but he’s only going to be able to get the ball down there if the offensive line holds up, which is going to be tough with Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram coming off the edge. I think the Chargers win a fun back-and-forth affair.

Projected Score: Chargers 31 Chiefs 28

Dallas Cowboys vs Carolina Panthers

It’s the end of an era, as the Cowboys will play a game without both Jason Witten (retired) and Dez Bryant (released) for the first time since 2003. They take on the Panthers, who remain mostly unchanged from the team that made the playoffs last season. I think it’s going to be a low-scoring game, as both teams bring strong defenses to the table, but I think Carolina is going to come out on top.

Projected Score: Panthers 20 Cowboys 17

Washington Redskins vs Arizona Cardinals

Alex Smith debuts for the Redskins after a career year in Kansas City against the Cardinals, who get David Johnson back from a wrist injury. The Cardinals are a tough team to place this season. Sam Bradford is the new quarterback after Carson Palmer retired and while he is an accurate passer and has played well when on the field, his problem is he can’t stay on the field. There’s also a lot of talent on the Arizona defense but they did lose a BIG piece in Tyrann Mathieu this offseason. I think I’m going to go with Washington this week.

Projected Score: Redskins 24 Cardinals 20

Seattle Seahawks vs Denver Broncos

This is a Super Bowl XLVIII rematch but both teams could not look more different. The Legion of Boom has pretty much completely dissolved while Denver is starting Case Keenum at quarterback. Seattle still doesn’t have an offensive line so I think I’m going to pick a Von Miller-led defense to take apart this Seahawks offense and lead the Broncos to victory.

Projected Score: Broncos 23 Seahawks 17

Chicago Bears vs Green Bay Packers

Pittsburgh Steelers v Green Bay Packers

The oldest rivalry in the NFL is renewed with some new faces in Chicago. Matt Nagy is at the helm and he has a brand new toy after the team sent to first rounders to Oakland for Khalil Mack. All of a sudden this Bears defense looks formidable for the first time since 2012. But the Packers are also getting Aaron Rodgers back and their young secondary looks like it could have a similar effect on this year’s team as it did for the Saints last year and I think I’m going to take Green Bay.

Projected Score: Packers 28 Bears 20

New York Jets vs Detroit Lions

The first Monday Night game of the year features a couple debuts. Sam Darnold is the new rookie quarterback getting the start for the Jets while Matt Patricia is making his head coaching debut for the Lions. Darnold looked really sharp in the preseason and was doing things you don’t see 30 year-olds do. The Lions are in a similar position to the Cardinals in that they have some talent with a rookie head coach but I have no idea what to make of them. So I think I’m going to pick the Jets to come away with the win.

Projected Score: Jets 23 Lions 14

Los Angeles Rams vs Oakland Raiders

The other Monday Night game, this is going to be a blowout. I’m picking Oakland to pick first in the 2019 NFL draft as they have absolutely no defense, especially now that they’ve traded Mack. Meanwhile the Rams stocked up on talent in the offseason. This won’t be close, Rams win.

Projected Score: Rams 42 Raiders 14

So that’s it for my picks this week. Like I’ve said many times, I’m going to keep trying to do this every week, but I can’t promise I’ll be able to. Let me know what you think of my picks in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

Kansas City Chiefs Trade QB Alex Smith to the Washington Redskins

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The NFL offseason hasn’t even started yet and it’s already more interesting than MLB’s. There probably wasn’t a trade in the world with more implications to it than this one. The Kansas City Chiefs trade quarterback Alex Smith to the Washington Redskins for cornerback Kendall Fuller and a third round pick. The Redskins followed that up by signing Smith to a 4-year $94M extension, $71M guaranteed to add on to the one year left on his deal that he already had with KC. Smith is coming off a career year in Kansas City as he finished with 4042 yards passing with 26 TD’s and 5 INT’s and was the highest-rated QB in the NFL with a rating of 104.7 in 15 games played. Smith now becomes the quarterback of a Redskins team that disappointed in 2017, going 7-9 and missing the playoffs.

The Chiefs look to be all in on Pat Mahomes, it seems. Mahomes was the 10th pick in the 2017 Draft out of Texas Tech and a guy the Chiefs forfeited their 2018 first rounder to the Bills in order to acquire. Mahomes got to start in Week 17 and he was pretty solid, going 22-35 with 284 yards with no TD’s and 1 INT, as he led the Chiefs to a 27-24 victory over the Broncos. Mahomes has probably the most talented arm I’ve ever seen but he came out of a college system at Texas Tech that translates about as poorly to the NFL as humanly possible. He didn’t appear in an NFL game until that Week 17 matchup against the Broncos and while he still does have some things to work on, he did a lot of things to be excited about.

But if I’m Kirk Cousins, I am PISSED OFF. Cousins had been the constantly franchise-tagged starting quarterback for the last few years now, even leading the Redskins to a playoff berth in 2015. He kept trying to get a contract extension to be in DC long-term but the Redskins refused to give it to him, instead opting to franchise tag him every year and basically make every year a contract year for him. Then the Redskins go and trade for a guy to replace you that has one year left on his deal and he immediately gets a huge extension despite not having taken a snap for the team yet. Kind of a dick move, Snyder. If there is a silver lining to all of this it’s that now Cousins can get out of this toxic relationship and play for a team that will be more than willing to give him the extension that he’s earned (because let’s face it, Cousins is in the discussion for top 10 quarterbacks in the league right now).

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So who are some teams that should make a run at Cousins? Well for starters the Cleveland Browns. Now yes, Cleveland is a place where quarterbacks go to die, but Cousins is a far better quarterback than anybody that has passed through Cleveland since their revival in 1999. If anybody can break the streak of horrendousness, it’d be Cousins. Plus this draft class is not very Browns-friendly so perhaps Cousins would be the safer route to go. He’ll command a lot of money, sure, but the Browns don’t really have any big contracts and are expected to have over $100M in cap space this offseason.

Another team that should consider Cousins is the Broncos. There’s a lot of talent on this team but they’re being held back by poor quarterback play. They’ve gotten the most out of Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch hasn’t developed the way they’d hoped. Kirk Cousins could be just what they need to get back into not only playoff contention, but maybe even Super Bowl contention. They’re expected to have about $28M in cap space this offseason so they’ll probably have to shed a contract or two before they’ll have the space to sign Cousins, but it’d definitely be a sacrifice worth making in order to return the team to its former glory. Plus the Broncos pick 5th and the two best quarterbacks in this year’s class, Josh Rosen and Sam Darnold, will both likely be gone by then so free agency may be the safest route.

The Jets are another team that should be in on Cousins. They pick after the Broncos at #6 in the 2018 Draft so they’re just as unlikely to land Rosen and Darnold as Denver is. Plus the Jets will have the cap space, as they’re expected to have about $79M in available funds this offseason. The Jets got the most out of the 38 year-old Josh McCown and it’s high time they got younger at the position because Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg are definitely not the answers for the future.

The Arizona Cardinals could also be a team that could take interest in Cousins. After Carson Palmer’s retirement, there’s a huge hole at the quarterback position that will need to be filled if they want to contend in the very difficult NFC West. They’ve got about as much cap space as the Broncos so they will likely need to cut some dead weight to be able to afford Cousins, but again, like with Denver, it’d be worth it. The need is also greater for Arizona because they’re picking 15th this year and not only will Rosen and Darnold be gone by then, but probably Josh Allen and Baker Mayfield, too.

The Bills ought to be interested in Cousins because they pick 21st and 22nd thanks to a trade with the Chiefs and unless they use that package to trade up into the top 5, there’s no way they’re landing any of the top quarterback prospects. They’ve got about $31M in space so if they signed Cousins, they probably wouldn’t be able to get anybody else without shedding some contracts. The Bills made the playoffs for the first time in the 21st century last season but poor quarterback play from Tyrod Taylor buried them in the Wild Card Game against the Jaguars. Speaking of segues…

The Jaguars are the last team that I think should be in on Cousins. Their lack of faith in Blake Bortles was a big factor in their losing the AFC Championship game to the Patriots despite the fact that Bortles was playing some of his best football in that game. Signing Cousins could be the difference in blowing a 10-point 4th quarter lead in the AFC Championship game to not only going to the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history, but winning it. They’ve only got about $25M in free space so they’re going to have to lose a few deals before they’re able to make a run at Cousins.

So with the trade of Alex Smith, this offseason just got a Hell of a lot more interesting, especially as it pertains to Kirk Cousins. Let me know what you think of this trade in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.