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.

The Wonderlic Test: Football’s Most Puzzling Test of Players

872982892

The Wonderlic Test is something that the NFL has potential Draft prospects take in order to test their intelligence. We often hear about leaked scores and which players performed well and which didn’t. The test is 50 questions and you have 12 minutes to complete it. Well, I took a sample Wonderlic while I was taking a break from writing my papers and guess what?

I’m in the 97th percentile among NFL prospects. Put me in coach!

I got a 38 on the Wonderlic, which actually ranks pretty well. Only one prospect has ever scored a perfect 50 on it, that being former Harvard punter Pat McInally back in the 70’s. McInally was a 5th round pick by the Bengals in the 1975 NFL Draft and went on to be their punter for a decade. The worst was former LSU corner Morris Claiborne and former Iowa State running back Darren Davis, both of whom scored a 4. Davis went undrafted and ended up playing in the CFL while Claiborne was made the 6th overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys. Claiborne was overall a bust with Dallas but he started showing some signs of being a solid corner upon joining the Jets. Here are some notable players who did really well on the Wonderlic.

Ryan Fitzpatrick-48

Ben Watson-48

Eric Decker-43

Blaine Gabbert-42

Calvin Johnson-41

Carson Wentz-40

Here are some guys who compared with me. Mind you, my score was a 38.

Eli Manning-39

Matthew Stafford-38

Colin Kapernick-38

Andrew Luck-37 (Yes, I scored higher than the supposed “genius” Andrew Luck)

Josh Allen-37

Tony Romo-37

Joey Bosa-37

Jared Goff-37

Drew Bledsoe-36

Sam Bradford-36

Aaron Rodgers-35

Jonathan Ogden-35

Tom Brady-33

And here are some guys who did really poorly.

Morris Claiborne-4

Frank Gore-6

Vince Young-6

Kelvin Benjamin-7

Terrelle Pryor-7

Bobby Wagner-8

AJ Green-10

Darrelle Revis-10

Leonard Fournette-11

Keyshawn Johnson-11

Jamal Adams-11

The best Wonderlic score in this year’s Draft class that has been leaked is Josh Allen’s 37. Another thing for draft pundits to gush over. The worst? Lamar Jackson’s 13. Granted, hardly anybody in the recent classes have been leaked, so it’s probable that there are better and worse scores. But having taken the test myself and seen what others have scored, what do I think of the Wonderlic?

I think it’s a poor method of projecting success in the league. Typically quarterbacks do really well on it but even that can’t project who is going to be particularly good. Ryan Fitzpatrick got a 48 and he’s just a quality backup. Blaine Gabbert scored a 41 and he was awful as a starter. Donovan McNabb scored a 14 and he’s one of the greatest quarterbacks the Eagles have ever had and was one of the best of the 2000’s. Terry Bradshaw scored a 15 and he’s a 4-time Super Bowl champion and a Hall of Famer. Yet there are other quarterbacks who did pretty well at it, like Eli Manning’s 39 and Carson Wentz’s 40 that went on to have successful careers. A lot of the questions are word associations or recognizing patterns in sequences. Hell, I couldn’t even finish mine (my last two answers were not recorded because I ran out of time) because of the 12-minute time limit. There are also plenty of players who did poorly on the Wonderlic and had great careers. Frank Gore had one of the worst Wonderlics of all time (6) and he’s the 49ers all-time leading rusher and a future Hall of Famer. Bobby Wagner is arguably the best linebacker in the game today and he scored an 8. AJ Green is one of the best receivers in the game and he got a 10.

My point is, Draft analysts really shouldn’t take any stock into how a player does on the Wonderlic because it really doesn’t do a good job of projecting who’s going to be good. In fact, I’m not even sure why it’s even administered because none of the questions I answered had anything to do with football.

So I’m going to post two links. The first link is to the Wonderlic Test that I took. Granted it’s a sample but the questions are supposedly very similar to what the players have to take. There also may have been some improper coding done because a couple of questions I answered were repeats. The other link I’m posting is to a list of players and their Wonderlic scores so you can see how you did compared to some notable NFL players.

https://samplewonderlictest.com/

http://wonderlictestsample.com/nfl-wonderlic-scores/

So that’s going to do it for today’s blog. Let me know what you think of the Wonderlic in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10. Also be sure to let me know how you did!

 

The Martellus Bennett situation is a little…odd

5929f2eadf5ad.image

Martellus Bennet’s falling out in Green Bay has a lot of people scratching their heads (photo credit: Madison.com)

It was reported earlier last week that the Green Bay Packers had waived prize free agent tight end Martellus Bennett, which seemed to come out of nowhere at the time. Bennett had signed a 3-year $21 million deal with the Packers shortly after winning a Super Bowl with the New England Patriots, where he was an integral part of their success, especially after the team lost Rob Gronkowski for the season midway through the year. He hadn’t been having the same success this season as in years past, as prior to being waived by Green Bay he only had 21 catches for 195 yards in 7 games played, failing to score a single touchdown. Bennett also announced over an Instagram story that he was probably going to retire at the conclusion of this season. When Bennett was waived, the Packers cited “failure to disclose” as their reasoning because it turns out that Bennett’s rotator cuff required surgery. Shortly after, Bennett explained on another Instagram story that he had been having issues with his shoulder for a while, which came to a head in the Packers’ October 8th win over the Dallas Cowboys (which was actually his highest yardage output all season at 53 yards). Bennett claimed that Packers team physician Dr. Patrick McKenzie was pressuring him to play through the shoulder injury, something Bennett was wary of doing. He then said the Packers tried to “fuck (him) over” and tried to get out of his contract by waiving him because of the injury. He was then claimed by the Patriots and played in Sunday night’s game against the Denver Broncos, not even a week after his release. So what gives?

Bennett has never struck me as the type of guy who would fake an injury to get off a team. Quite the opposite. He’s a very moral dude who writes children’s books and is a big advocate for players using their platforms as professional athletes to do some good in the world. He’s been one of Colin Kaepernick’s most outspoken supporters and, from what I hear from teammates, is a pretty stand-up guy. But you have to admit, this does sound strange. As a Patriots fan, I am very excited to have Martysaurus Rex (that’s his Twitter handle, not a nickname I’m trying to invent) back on the team. He’s a world class tight end who was an integral part of the team’s championship run last season. Ignore his stats on the Packers, tight ends have never done great under Mike McCarthy, just look at the uber-talented JerMichael Finley, who was about as gifted a tight end as I have ever seen (short of Gronk) but never seemed to put it all together. Or Bubba Franks, who was a pro bowler before McCarthy and Rodgers got there and fizzled hard after their arrival. He can still contribute, and he had 3 catches for 38 yards in the Patriots 41-16 win over the Broncos.

But I still find it odd that this guy is playing for the Patriots right now after it was speculated that his season (and possibly career) was likely done. Hell, Dr. McKenzie, whom Bennett said was pressuring him to play through the injury, has a reputation for being overly cautious about letting players return from injury, often to the point of resentment from the players. Everyone in the Packers’ organization came to the defense of Dr. McKenzie after Bennett’s Instagram story, such as Aaron Rodgers and Jordy Nelson. Rodgers has had several injuries in his career and is currently nursing a broken collarbone and Jordy Nelson missed an entire season to a torn ACL a couple of years ago and both of these guys deny that Dr. McKenzie ever tried rushing them back. A lot of conspiracy theorists believe that Bennett and Patriots coach Bill Belichick colluded to get him back to Foxboro and if you didn’t know Bennett’s character, this would seem very possible, if not entirely probable. I’m not going to sit here and say I know Marty, all I really know about his character is through following him on social media and from what I hear from people who do know him. But if this is the case, some repercussions will be coming New England’s way.

636461332661969228-AP-PATRIOTS-BRONCOS-FOOTALL-95293087

Bennett was back contributing for the Patriots mere days after it was thought his career might be over (photo credit: USA Today)

The penalty for tampering, which is what this situation is, typically comes at the price of a mid-round draft pick and/or a fine. When the Jets were found guilty of tampering to sign Darrelle Revis away from the Patriots after the 2014 season, their punishment was a $100,000 fine. When the Chiefs were found guilty of tampering to sign Jeremy Maclin away from the Eagles in the 2016 offseason, their punishment was the loss of a third round pick in 2016 and a sixth rounder in 2017. Fines were also handed out to the Chiefs ($250,000), head coach Andy Reid ($75,000) and GM John Dorsey ($25,000). Not very consistent in their punishments, but that’s Roger Goodell’s NFL for you. The league has said they are not investigating the Bennett situation, but I wouldn’t be surprised if other owners try and force their hand. So if they do change their minds and find the Patriots guilty of tampering with Bennett, then I have to imagine the penalty will be on the severe side like it was with Kansas City, given the Patriots’ history of issues with the league (whether they were warranted or not).

So what do I think happened? I would find it surprising if Bennett actively forced his way out of Green Bay because that’s just not the type of person he is. However I do admit that there may be some elements of this story that haven’t been made public because this whole thing sounds rather suspect. It would be a real slimy move on Bennett’s part if he did fake an injury in order to get himself out of Green Bay to play for a Super Bowl contender in the Patriots, which the Packers no longer are after losing Rodgers for the season. Quite frankly, I don’t think we’ve heard the end of this saga.