NFL Week 3 Picks

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At some point during last night’s unexpectedly exciting Rams-49ers game, I realized that I was failing all of you. During last year’s NFL playoffs, right after I started this site, I’m sure many of you became reliant on my picks to boost your income a little bit. But through the first two weeks of the NFL season, my picks were nowhere to be found. Any coincidence it was arguably the worst two weeks of football since the merger? Not likely. I’ll raise my hand and take the blame for that, but much like the effectiveness of Color Rush, my NFL picks are officially Back. These game breakdowns will be a lot shorter than the playoff ones because I don’t hate myself enough to write 1,000 words about 15 week 3 games, but the fact remains that these are all stone cold locks and, if you were smart, you’d take these and bet the house on all of them. Lines taken from Bovada.

(Side rant coming out of last night’s broadcast that I’m not sure really belongs here, but whatever: after he made the game-clinching sack, Cris Collinsworth said that Aaron Donald was already a Hall of Famer. I saw a couple people grumbling about it on twitter.com, but didn’t do much research to find out if there were a lot of people who A. noticed it and B. had an issue with it, because I’m fine with just using a straw man. Do people really think Aaron Donald isn’t a Hall of Famer? Have these people watched him play? Have these people watched other defensive linemen play? I know there’s a valid narrative that there is a huge dearth of offensive line talent, but, in my mind, that’s partly because we’re currently in a golden era of defensive linemen. Literally the two greatest defensive linemen to ever play the game are in the league right now, and Donald is one of them. Maybe I just have a different standard, but I value someone’s prime years over stats accumulated over a million seasons, and I’m not sure Donald has even hit his prime yet. If you don’t think Aaron Donald is in already, how do you feel about Joe Namath, Harry Carson, Terry Bradshaw, and a million other players who are currently in the Hall of Fame who were all worse than Aaron Donald is at age 26? He’s a slam dunk Hall of Famer.)

Baltimore Ravens (-4) vs. Jacksonville Jaguars

Seems like the Jags have played a thousand games in London, but this is only their fifth game, and, don’t look now, they’re riding a two game London winning streak. That’s like the Patriots winning 25 straight games. So you know they’re red hot, but they may run into trouble if eliteness travels across the pond.

Pick: Ravens -4

New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles (-6)

Wait, an NFC East divisional game isn’t on national TV? What the hell is that about? Who can I complain to? Anyway, while the thought of this Eagles’ d-line going against the Giants’ woeful offensive line is enough to get my d-line loving blood flowing, but are the Giants really going to go 0-3? And are the Eagles really going to win an important game by 7 points? I don’t really think so, either.

Pick: Giants +6

Houston Texans at New England Patriots (-14)

While my default is always to bet the Pats, this line is too high. The Pats have a billion injuries on offense going against one of the best defenses in the NFL. This is going to be boring, so if you’re not a diehard Pats fan like me, I would probably say don’t watch this no matter what. (If you couldn’t figure it out, J.J. Watt is the other one of the greatest d-linemen ever, btw)

Pick: Texans +14

Pittsburgh Steelers (-7.5) at Chicago Bears

Steelers are trash on the road. The Bears are wearing their awesome throwbacks. I have no data to back this up, but the Bears have never failed to cover while wearing those.

Pick: Bears +7.5

New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers (-6)

Remember what happened when the Patriots played the Saints last week? Yeah.

Pick: Panthers -6

Atlanta Falcons (-3) at Detroit Lions

I know the Lions are somehow impossible to kill, but they kinda suck. Falcons are officially on a “this 40 point lead will drag us out of the pit of despair the Patriots sentenced us to until we blow it in the fourth quarter” tour, which would seem like they’re perfect prey for the “be terrible until the fourth quarter” Lions, but the Lions defense is too bad. The Lions will come back, but not far enough.

Pick: Falcons -3

Cleveland Browns (-1.5) at Indianapolis Colts

Just a little word of advice: stay as far away from this game as humanly possible. If any game could ever finish as a 0-0 tie, it’d be this one.

Pick: Browns -1.5

Tampa Bay Bucs at Minnesota Vikings

Well, this is awkward. There’s no line for this game! I’m assuming it’s because no one knows if Sam Bradford is still alive or not. I’m gonna improvise here and say the line would be Bucs -2.5 just so I can give something. This game is either going to be terrible or great, really depending on Sam Bradford’s health (never a good thing).

Pick: Bucs -whatever

Miami Dolphins (-6) at New York Jets

AFC East bitches!!!! Why don’t our games get put on national TV all the time? Oh, right, because every team is terrible. Seeing the Niners come close to winning a game might breathe new life into the Jets’ tanking efforts, so they’ll probably lose by a lot.

Pick: Dolphins -6

Denver Broncos (-3.5) at Buffalo Bills

You know what this has made me realize? There’s too many blue teams. There needs to be more green, more purple. Someone needs to have the guts to go pink. Too much blue.

Pick: Broncos -3.5

Seattle Seahawks at Tennessee Titans (-3)

For the last few years, I’ve had my finger on the pulse of the Seahawks. I’ve gotten their games right more than pretty much any other team in the league. This is one of the easiest ones I’ve ever seen. Any time they look terrible and get people talking about how bad they are, they start stomping on people again.

Pick: Seahawks +3

Cincinnati Bengals at Green Bay Packers (-9)

Can the Bengals really be this bad? Yes, yes they can.

Pick: Packers -9

Kansas City Chiefs (-3.5) at Los Angeles Chargers

The amount of different ways the Chargers have found to go down multiple scores in the first half only to come storming back with five minutes left and lose by three is truly astounding.

Pick: Chargers +3.5

Oakland Raiders (-3.5) at Washington Redskins

I don’t know why (maybe because the Raiders have been really good and the Redskins haven’t), but I’m really feeling a Raiders blowout here. Just a gut feeling.

Pick: Raiders -3.5

Dallas Cowboys (-3.5) at Arizona Cardinals

Yuck. I have no interest watching this game whatsoever. Cardinals stink. Cowboys are (surprise) overrated as hell. I’ll watch it, because, as Thursday Night Football tells us, when it’s on, it’s on, but I’ll be unhappy about it.

Pick: Cowboys -3.5

SPECIAL BONUS COLLEGE PICKS

Betting college football is easier, more enjoyable, and less stressful than betting NFL. I highly recommend it. Here are some of my favorite bets for tomorrow:

  • Pitt vs. Georgia Tech over 56
  • TCU +14 vs. Oklahoma State
  • Rutgers +12 vs. Nebraska
  • Michigan vs. Perdue over 56
  • Oklahoma -28 vs. Baylor
  • Missouri -18 vs. Auburn
  • Oregon vs. Arizona State over 76
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Madden Needs to Come Out Earlier

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I play a lot of video games. Like, a lot. The majority of my free time is spent playing video games. Surprising, I know. And, considering my devotion in all things sports-related, it should go without saying that I play a ton of sports games. They’re what I spend most of my gaming energy on. Whenever a new non-sport game I want comes out, I just marathon it until I’m come as close to 100% completion as I deem realistically possible, then go right back to whatever sport is in season at the time. It’s been this way for as long as I can remember. So when I start to criticize the Madden franchise, one of the longtime pillars of my life and an important part of my personal development from child to older, larger child, I come to you from a place not just of experience and expertise, but also a place of deep passion and commitment.

Madden needs to come out way earlier. That’s just a fact. August 22nd is too late in the year for the only football game on the market to be released. It’s only been out for three weeks now, but I was pleasantly surprised to learn that NBA 2K18 is coming out next week. NBA 2K is an objectively better game franchise than Madden. How am I supposed to pour hours upon hours of my life into Madden when I could be playing MyCareer? It’s an impossible thing to ask of someone, and, frankly, I’m sick of being put in that position.

It didn’t used to be this way. Long ago in the Age of Heroes, NCAA Football would come out at the beginning of July, then Madden in August. It was the perfect setup: give me a taste of football at the start of training camp then give me another bite right before the season. It felt like a natural progression, and it kept me more invested in the college game, which only fueled my love for the NFL. Now, you have to go cold turkey all throughout training camp and the start of the college season, unless you feel like playing last year’s game, which, so close to the release of a shiny new version, only makes the cravings worse (once a game becomes 5+ years old, though, then it gains new life as an entertaining look into the past). I don’t want to be blasted in the face with a full load of football in late August, I want to ease my way in at my own pace.

Another problem is, of course, the demise of the NCAA franchise. I’m not the first and won’t be the last one to say that the NCAA games were more fun than Madden. The play was faster paced, there were distinct differences in play styles, not just slight variations of the same playbook like in Madden, and the career and dynasty modes were both better than any game mode Madden has ever had. I was legitimately addicted to recruiting computer generated high-school football players. Although I would never trust the computer to execute my gameplan the right way, I would always at least think about simming every game just so I could do more recruiting. Starting off as a random MAC or WAC (RIP) school and building them up to an improbable national powerhouse was awesome, and getting that first five star recruit was a unique joy that I’ve yet to replicate (if you started a dynasty as a blue blood school you’re a coward). That pursuit of developing fictional young players is probably what drove me to Fifa in the years since the last NCAA. Creating the most stacked youth academy in the world in my manager careers is pretty much my new favorite pastime. Sure, Madden still has the draft, and I do love scouting and angling to get better picks and young stars, but it’s not the same. At some point, I’ll lose interest in my franchise, mostly because they refuse to add any new features to it. Once that happens, I’m pretty much out. I mean, NBA has MyCareer, MyGM, even MyTeam (which, to me, is much better than Madden Ultimate Team since it’s possible to build a decent team way easier), then I can go online when I’m feeling myself. Fifa’s career mode is way better and more in-depth, has a better Ultimate Team, and is far more enjoyable to play online. Have you ever played Madden online? It stinks! The games are too long, there’s too many glitches, and I’m just not as good as I used to be. Not fun!

Lastly, and this really isn’t Madden’s fault, but the real-life product on the field is just so bad now. Listen, I’m a football junkie. I’ll watch any game at any time if you put it in front of me. But I’m convinced that the Patriots are the only NFL team capable of playing entertaining games at this point. They got completely dominated on Thursday night, but if they gave that same performance against the other 30 teams in the league on Sunday, they’d still win at least 24 games. Every team stinks, there’s only ten quarterbacks worth anything, and 95% of coaches and front offices don’t have the first clue what they’re doing. It’s comical how bad the NFL is right now. Compare that to the NBA, which tips off next month, and it’s night and day. The NBA has never been better or more interesting. Almost every team is run by smart people who understand the direction the league is going. Sure, there’s super teams, but there’s also more great players currently in the league than there has been in a long time. Almost everyone plays a visually appealing style. Bengals-Texans on Thursday night isn’t going to leave me dying to run to my PS4 and recreate the scintillating action. Bucks-Suns on a random Wednesday might. In addition to having the better video game, the NBA just has a better product than the NFL has. When 2K comes out, all I’m going to want to do is play MyCareer, start up a franchise mode to earn VC and explore different play styles, play MyTeam for a week before losing interest, and play the odd online game. Then Fifa comes out the week after. Before you know it, I’ve gone three weeks without playing Madden. What about the NFL as it currently is would make me want to run back to it, other than a base need to play fictional football games? EA needs to take a look in the mirror and realize that it’s time for a change. NCAA may be dead and gone, and I know they can’t really do anything about it until the NCAA itself changes (fat chance), but at least borrow it’s release date. If you offered Madden to me at the beginning of July, I would pay whatever amount you asked for. The start of training camp is when my football fever is at its highest point, not late August when I’ve actually seen how bad most teams are in the preseason. You might have to work a little harder, but putting Madden out in July would make everything better. My football fix is satisfied in a slower, more fulfilling way. I get more out of a game I paid good money for. It feels like a natural progression from one game to the next, rather that a huge cluster of release after release. And maybe, just maybe, you can help the NFL gain some momentum back from the NBA. I just fixed the NFL and EA Sports. I don’t always give out advice for free, so next time your company needs help, I’ll expect some sort of payment.

NFL Preview 2017: NFC

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In case you missed it, I covered the AFC on Sunday. I’ll keep the intro brief, since I’m currently fighting off a debilitating illness. NFC time, spoiler alert, it’s much better than the AFC.

NFC EAST

dallas_cowboysDallas Cowboys– Just what everyone wants, more Cowboys talk! Did you know the Cowboys stylize themselves as America’s Team? I just learned that the other day! What an odd bit of trivia. In fact, I feel like I haven’t heard much about the Cowboys for years. If only they were on national TV more often so I could get to know them better.

Where to actually start with the Boyz? The psychopath running back? The second-year QB who will still face criticism if he isn’t perfect despite an historic rookie season? The collection of all-powerful cosmic beings known only as the Cowboys Offensive Line? The shitty defense? The fact that they played in 10 one score games last year and were probably lucky to win 7 of them? The fact that they haven’t won a playoff game since 1995? The fact that they went from playing a last place team’s schedule to playing a first place team’s? The fact that the extremely rare genuinely fun Cowboys story (the emergence of former basketball player Rico Gathers as a beastly tight end) was cut short when he was put on IR? I don’t know, I think I’m out on the Cowboys.

Over/Under 9.5 Wins: Under

Key Offseason Move: Zeke getting suspended (maybe?)

Burning Question: When’s Romo coming back?

Bold Prediction: They’ll come in to week 17 in a do or die scenario for the playoffs and lose controversially so the entire offseason will be dominated by debates about if the Cowboys were cheated and how much damage they could have done in the playoffs.

 

new_york_giantsNew York Giants– Gotta tell you, I’m a little nervous. This Giants team looks legit as hell. Their defense is completely stacked. Receiving weapons out the ass. They’re looking like a very real Super Bowl contender, where they’d almost certainly face the Pats. I never want to experience another Pats-Giants Super Bowl as long as Tom Brady is in the league. If the Giants make the Super Bowl, I’d rather the Pats lose first round. Since the first two Giants teams that beat the Pats really weren’t very good in the regular season, I might be inclined to think this year’s Giants squad would be too good to make their signature crazy run, but they’re still flawed enough to lose some games they shouldn’t. Their o-line and running game suck. Eli is still Eli. They could out play every single team they play all year, but actually winning more than 11 games isn’t in their DNA. If they win their last 3 games, though, I’m going to be officially scared.

Over/Under 9 Wins: Over

Key Offseason Move: Signing Brandon Marshall

Burning Question: Is the only way to get Odell to show up for a playoff game to make sure it takes place on a boat?

Bold Prediction: They’ll probably beat the Pats to win the Super Bowl

 

philadelphia_eaglesPhiladelphia Eagles– The Eagles are kind of like Titans Lite. I’ve seen plenty of people saying the Eagles could surprise. Saying reckless things like Carson Wentz is the best young QB. They’ve got a late-2000s Giants defensive line. Philadelphia is suddenly the center of the sports world. And, honestly, I’m kinda sorta buying the hype.

This team is built on their defense, which was one of the very best in the league last year. Now add Timmy Jernigan, Chris Long, and first round pick Derek Barnett to the defensive line, which already had standouts Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham? This team could cause some serious havoc up front. Carson Wentz hit the rookie wall hard last year, but he showed some serious signs of the possible things to come at the beginning of the season. If he can put together a consistent 16 games (and doesn’t try to be Tom Brady in his second year in the league), the offense could be pretty good. They’re not going to win the Super Bowl (obviously, they still play in Philly), but don’t be shocked to see them in the playoffs.

Over/Under 8 Wins: Over

Key Offseason Move: Adding to the d-line

Burning Question: What does your favorite cheesesteak place say about the inner workings of your subconscious? My column:

Bold Prediction: Everyone will overreact to every single game

 

washington_redskinsWashington Redskins– I know everyone was waiting to find out, and the answer is yes: I am brave enough to say Washington. It was easily the most (only) anticipated part of this blog. I won’t let the media scare me from calling a team by its proper name. Impressive, I know.

A distant cousin (get it?) of my love of brown jerseys is my love of maroon jerseys. Love Virginia Tech jerseys, sometimes love the Cavs jerseys, love the Skins set. Burgundy and gold is just a prime time combination. Might be the best color scheme in the league, honestly. Top five at worst. So even when they give up 45 points per game, they’ll still look great doing it.

Over/Under 7.5 Wins: Under

Key Offseason Move: Signing Terrelle Pryor

Burning Question: What’s the relationship between the number of Redskins losses and the amount of change the name columns?

Bold Prediction: They’ll be top five in points scored and points allowed

 

NFC NORTH

green_bay_packersGreen Bay Packers– Feels like the Packers have been essentially the same team ever since Aaron Rodgers took over, and, stop me if you’ve heard this before, are once again a popular pick to make the Super Bowl in the NFC. And, once again, it’s easy to see why. No matter who’s there, who’s healthy, who’s hurt, who the running back is, as long as Aaron Rodgers is under center there won’t be five better offenses in the league. He’s one of the most physically gifted quarterbacks of all time, and, even though he’s somehow 33, is somehow getting better. They’ll score at will (in the regular season, at least).

The only problem is their middling defense. They finished in the bottom half of the league in just about everything, including 3rd down conversion percentage allowed. Hard to torch opposing defenses from the sidelines. Regardless of what Rodgers does, the defense is what typically fails the Packers at the worst possible moment. They got completely run off the field by Atlanta, and they didn’t really do a whole lot to address it. One dimensional teams can only go so far in pro sports, and the Packers may find themselves at a crossroads if they disappoint again.

Over/Under 10 Wins: Over

Key Offseason Move: Signing Martellus Bennett

Burning Question: Will Aaron Rodgers spend more time planning his next photo bomb than studying film?

Bold Prediction: Every Packers owner you meet will tell you about it within seconds of talking to them.

 

minnesota_vikingsMinnesota Vikings– Could a home team finally play in the Super Bowl? Honestly, it’s not all that far fetched. This is a pretty interesting roster. Sammy Sleeves was….kind of good last year? Sure, he operated at an Alex Smithian-level of conservative play, but he still set the record for completion percentage in a season. People forget he was traded two weeks before the season started. Now that he’s got a full year in the system under his belt he might actually try throwing the ball more than five yards downfield. Rookie Dalvin Cook might give them a semblance of a running game, something they sorely lacked with the absence of team legend Adrian Peterson. Only problem is, their offensive line is complete ass. They might have the worst tackles in the league. It could easily submarine their season barring some sort of unexpected improvement.

The defense faded badly down the stretch, but they were terrifying in the first half of the season, and they certainly have the talent to dominate on that side of the ball. They’re deep at every position and, with a stronger finish and a bounce back from linebacker Anthony Barr, could finish as a top five defense. If they can avoid adding to the never-ending list of Vikings-related examples of Murphy’s Law, they might actually have a chance to make a run in the postseason.

Over/Under 8.5 Wins: Over

Key Offseason Move: Releasing Adrian Peterson

Burning Question: Does Bradford have it in him to captain Sex Boat 2?

Bold Prediction: The Super Bowl will take place in Minnesota

 

largeDetroit Lions– In some strange, parallel universe, the Lions are a perennial powerhouse and a multi-time Super Bowl champion. Where everything always goes right for them, they win big games, and their great players don’t retire early to escape the unending hell that is playing for the Lions. We do not live in that reality.

Over/Under 8 Wins: Under

Key Offseason Move: Locking up Matt Stafford (side note, if you don’t think the Lions were 100% right to do this, you’re a fool. There’s 15 good quarterbacks in the league and he’s one of them. They had no choice whatsoever, and that’s the price you pay for good QBs)

Burning Question: Will slightly changing their jerseys reverse close to a century of luck so bad it can only be explained by the supernatural?

Bold Prediction: The Lions will not win the Super Bowl

 

chicago_bearsChicago Bears– Hope is always high when you draft a quarterback second overall, but there’s usually a reason a team is picking second overall. For the Bears, that reason honestly seems to be the front office. It’s been a head-scratching few seasons for them, and this offseason was just a microcosm of how self-inflicted most of their wounds are. Trading three valuable picks just to move up one spot when the 49ers weren’t going to take Trubisky, anyway. Bidding against absolutely no one to sign Mike Glennon to a huge deal. Bidding against absolutely no one to claim kicker Roberto Aguayo off waivers then waiving him. Keeping John Fox for this year when they’re almost definitely firing him after the season, killing the chance for some early continuity for their prize QB. There’s actually some interesting pieces on this roster, particularly on defense, but their own front office might hold them back from ever moving forward.

Over/Under 5.5 Wins: Over

Key Offseason Move: Bulls trading Jimmy Butler

Burning Question: How big of a grace period did the Cubs give every Chicago team before the fans actually expect them to win again?

Bold Prediction: Someone will reenact the “Da Bears” skit every time the Bears win

 

NFC SOUTH

atlanta_falconsAtlanta Falcons– I know it’s a long shot, but if any Falcons fans are reading this, I’ll give you a moment to look away…… Just kidding. There are no more Falcons fans left. The Patriots killed all of them. Just like they killed the Falcons. Kyle Shanahan skipped town. Matt Ryan is completely shattered. Devonta Freeman is seeing ghosts and mirages as he trudges through the desert he finds himself in. The entire defense has PTSD. The Falcons are dead. They might not win a game for three years.

Over/Under 9.5 Wins: Under

Key Offseason Move: Went six months without blowing a 28-3 lead

Burning Question: If you open a stadium and no one comes to see it, did you open a new stadium at all?

Bold Prediction: Matt Ryan won’t throw a touchdown pass all season

 

tampa_bay_buccaneersTampa Bay Buccaneers– The third in 2017’s Trendy Team Triumvirate, the Bucs bought a one-way ticket on the Hype Express when they parlayed an offseason where they spent a bunch of money and brought in some fancy offensive toys with and appearance on Hard Knocks. But this isn’t this first time the Bucs have been the hot team. Seemingly every year the Bucs are the popular pick to be the surprise playoff team. And it never comes to fruition. Why should this year be any different? Well, for starters, everyone has faith in Jameis Winston.

Their passing game should be dynamic this year. Jameis will make the odd terrible decision, but it’s a lot harder to make those bad decisions when you’ve got Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, O.J. Howard, and Cameron Brate on the field. They don’t have a run game and their o-line isn’t great, but at least they can throw it all over the yard, right? The defense is good, not great. I don’t know if that’s good enough to make the playoffs in the NFC. They won’t win the division, so odds are they’ll be fighting with the Vikings, Cowboys, Eagles, Falcons, and Cardinals for the two Wild Card spots. While the truly great defenses still win games, offense is what really matters in 2017. Is the Bucs’ offense better than the Falcons’? No. Better than the Cowboys? If everyone’s playing, probably not. I think the Bucs are probably out of the playoffs once again.

Over/Under 8.5 Wins: Under

Key Offseason Move: Signing DeSean Jackson

Burning Question: Did you know Ryan Fitzpatrick went to Harvard?

Bold Prediction: Dirk Koetter will walk the plank after this season (get it? Because they’re named after pirates?)

 

carolina_panthersCarolina Panthers– I don’t know if I’m just higher on the Panthers than everyone else or what, but any time you put a team that was in the Super Bowl two years ago (that still has the majority of their key contributors) on a last place team’s schedule, I’m one to assume they’ll win a lot of games. I’m particularly high on their defense, which finished top five in weighted DVOA, which gives more value to how team play in the second half of the season. That means that they figured out whatever was going on in the early part of the season and fixed it, and, barring injury or Thomas Davis finally realizing how old he, should continue to play at a high level this season.

If the defense is a known quantity, the offense is the great mystery that will decide this team’s future. Was Cam Newton hurt all of last year, or did he really regress that badly? Was it all a product of poor offensive line play? A lack of reliable receiving options outside Greg Olsen? A subpar running game? Pretty much every facet of the offense struggled last year, and they seem to be placing a lot faith in everyone who played poorly last year turning it around. Rookie Christian McCaffrey should help. If reports are to be believed, he’ll have 100 catches and over 1,000 rushing yards. Regardless of what he actually does, he may be better in the abstract for now. If defenses have to react to the idea of McCaffrey, it opens things up for everyone else. Literally anything that takes some pressure off Cam is a good thing. I’m betting on the Panthers to bounce back, and bounce back big.

Over/Under 8.5 Wins: Over

Key Offseason Move: Drafting McCaffrey

Burning Question: What new way will Cam invent to have fun playing football that gets people riled up?

Bold Prediction: They’ll make the NFC Championship Game

 

new_orleans_saintsNew Orleans Saints– I love the Saints for a variety of reasons. I love offense, and theirs is the gold standard over the past decade. I love the SuperDome and the energy that comes with it. I love their jerseys. I love that they’re brothers in arms with the Patriots, franchises who were unfairly railroaded by Roger Goodell. I love their unwavering commitment to having a bottom five defense every year, regardless of the personnel and coaching staff. Unfortunately, that last point will probably sink them yet again this season.

Over/Under 8 Wins: Under

Key Offseason Move: Signing Adrian Peterson

Burning Question: Can you still be accused of putting bounties on players if you never tackle anybody?

Bold Prediction: Drew Brees will throw for 5,000 yards again and no one will care despite the fact that it’s amazing he keeps doing it

 

NFC WEST

seattle_seahawksSeattle Seahawks– You can keep your Packers and Cowboys and Giants, for me this is the team to beat in the NFC. They were one of the best defenses in the league for the millionth straight year despite Earl Thomas getting injured at the end of the season. Now they get him back and add Sheldon Richardson to what was already arguably the game’s best defensive line. They’ll be the best defense in football this year, and every score against them should be treated as a major achievement.

The offense needs some serious improvement, though. They were one of the very best offensive units in 2015, but their dismal offensive line really killed any chance of repeating that. And not much has changed, in that regard. This is still one of the absolute worst offensive lines in the league. Luckily, though, Russell Wilson is the league’s best escape artist, and his skills on the field cover up a lot of the o-line’s faults. The passing game will be fine, just like it was a season ago. But when the Seahawks were at their very best, when they instilled fear into the hearts of anyone who lined up against them, they ran it and ran it and ran it some more. Can this team recapture that Beast Mode magic? Eddy Lacy is skinny now, but he’s sucked the last few years. The rest of their running backs are okay, but not especially dynamic. And, again, a lot of the blame falls on the o-line. Seattle is like a much better version of the Colts in a way. They just kind of keep ignoring the problems they have up front hoping they go away. If they don’t, it’ll be the only thing holding them back.

Over/Under 10.5 Wins: Over

Key Offseason Move: Acquiring Sheldon Richardson for absolutely nothing

Burning Question: Can jet fuel melt steel beams?

Bold Prediction: They’ll make the Super Bowl, where they’ll be on the goalline with a chance to win….and throw another interception instead of running it

 

arizona_cardinalsArizona Cardinals– I’m kind of running out of steam a little bit here, but luckily the rest of the NFC West is pretty simple. The Cardinals lost a bunch of guys on defense, but they’ll still be a top 5-top 10 unit. Their offense will be okay, I guess? Palmer’s another year older and wasn’t good last year, but they really have no contingency plan in place if he goes down again. David Johnson’s still a beast, though, and should cover up a lot of the mistakes Palmer might make. They’ll throw deep a lot, as Bruce Arians is wont to do, but there’s kind of no one to throw deep to. They’ll benefit from playing the Rams and Niners twice.

Over/Under 8 Wins: Over

Key Offseason Move: Signing living legend Blaine Gabbert

Burning Question: Will any amount of inaccurate passes finally make Larry Fitzgerald angry?

Bold Prediction: Only a random game against the Jaguars will save them from having the worst jerseys in every game they play

 

1024px-los_angeles_rams_logo-svgLos Angeles Rams– The Rams are going to be bad this year. Nothing will change that. Aaron Donald, possibly the best player in the NFL, refuses to suit up until he gets paid. They were by far the worst offense in the league last year and all they added was Sammy Watkins, who I think is vastly overrated. I’m not a Goff guy whatsoever. New Cool Head Coach on the block Sean McVay could turn out to be an excellent coach, but, as they say, it’s hard to make chicken salad out of chicken shit.

Over/Under 5.5 Wins: Under

Key Offseason Move: Changing their helmets, but not the rest of their jerseys for some reason

Burning Question: Has Jared Goff learned where the sun rises yet?

Bold Prediction: With the number one pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, the Los Angeles Rams select…

 

san_francisco_49ersSan Francisco 49ers– This is a terrible, terrible roster, but they’re on the right track. Don’t be surprised if they have a top 10 defense within the next two years.

Over/Under 4.5 Wins: Under

Key Offseason Move: Bringing in strategic mastermind Kyle Shanahan

Burning Question: Will they have the guts to take a knee at the end of games?

Bold Prediction: The Warriors will win the 2018 NBA Finals

 

Special Bonus Predictions

AFC ChampionshipPatriots over Ravens

NFC ChampionshipSeahawks over Giants

SUPER BOWLPatriots over Seahawks

NFL Preview: AFC

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Can you feel it? The air is crisper. The heat is breaking. The leaves are thinking about changing colors. Grocery stores are getting the first wave of pumpkin and apple flavored food. Football season’s here, folks. And what a season it promises to be. College football’s had a few weekends all to its own, but the NFL is looming. Just a few short days from now, the defending Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots will open their season against the Kansas City Chiefs, and then every weekend from now until Valentine’s Day will have pro football. Don’t blow all your excitement on the opening week, though. We’ve only got a finite amount of football before it goes away again. Appreciate and savor every moment. Embrace the 49ers-Rams games and the Jets-Bills games. Even bad football is better than no football.

With the NFL season so close, I knew it was finally time to break out my NFL Preview. If you were foolish enough to read my MLB previews, you might be wondering where my NFL thoughts have been. Well, because I didn’t feel like doing it want to reward everyone’s patience, I decided that, instead of breaking it down by division, I’d just do each conference all at once. You’re welcome. We’ll start with the only division that actually matters, the AFC East. All win totals taken from OddsShark.com.

AFC EAST

new_england_patriotsNew England Patriots- The Pats (my Pats, I should say. Full disclosure and all that) start the season as, you’ll never believe this, the overwhelming favorites to win both the division and the Super Bowl. And for good reason. This is the best team in the NFL, and they just had the most aggressive offseason of the Belichick Regime. They spent big money on corner Stephon Gilmore, traded for receiver Brandin Cooks and tight end Dwayne Allen (and defensive end Kony Ealy, who they head-scratchingly released), and picked up running back Mike Gillislee, who lead the NFL in yards per carry last year. Normally, such a stark departure from the norm would be cause for concern, but I’d trust Belichick with my life (he probably also thinks Brady doesn’t have a ton left in the tank). Losing Julian Edelman for the season sucks, but this team is so stacked that they can survive and thrive without him. Sorry everyone, the Pats are still great, and they’re still going to win the Super Bowl.

Over/Under 12.5 Wins: Over

Key Offseason Move: Trading for Brandin Cooks

Burning Question: Will they get bored beating every team by 50?

Bold Prediction: It’d honestly be bolder to say they won’t win the Super Bowl than to say that they will.

 

miami_dolphinsMiami Dolphins– In my years on this earth, I’ve only learned a few iron clad truths. The sun will rise in the east every morning. Bees are dying at an alarming rate. Video games will charge you $30 for DLC after you paid $60 for the game. And no matter where you go, there will always be at least one random ass Dolphins fan there. It’s invariable. Everywhere I’ve lived, I’ve known a Dolphins fan. I’ve never lived south of New York City, by the way. There’s just always a Dolphins fan wherever you go, and they’ll always be willing to tell you they’re a Dolphins fan. They’re mostly harmless. After all, tough to really be too obnoxious when your team hasn’t won a title in over 40 years.

As for the actual team, I have mixed feeling about them. I really like their jerseys and a lot of their players, but I despise Ryan Tannehill with the passion of a thousand suns and, just kind of instinctively, I dislike the team as a whole. Maybe because they’re the only team in the AFC East that comes close to posing a threat to the Pats. But their unprecedented streak of consecutive Offseason Super Bowls was broken by the very Patriots the Dolphins are always gearing up to beat. The irony is overwhelming.

It’s tough to really project anything for the Dolphins after Tannehill went down for the season. Any continuity they had from last year is gone, and the receiver-turned-quarterback was robbed of the chance to finally, finally, take that next step and become something other than a cowardly bum. Their defense was pretty bad last year (29th in total yards allowed) and they responded by adding a bunch of wicked old guys. I’m sure they’ll beat up the bad teams because, as every analyst will tell you, there’s a lot of talent here, but they still stink.

Over/Under 7.5 Wins: Over

Key Offseason Addition: Signing Jay Cutler

Burning Question: Will the Dolphins actually be totally comfortable with Cutler since they’re used to a quarterback with terrible body language?

Bold Prediction: They’ll win week one and everyone will say Cutler’s finally figured it out.

 

buffalo_billsBuffalo Bills– Another team with strong jerseys and a stronger fanbase, the Bills are the perpetually forgotten team of the AFC East. They’re bad, but not as bad as the Jets. They have distinctive uniforms and mascot, but not as distinctive as the Dolphins. They have a fun and effective play style, but it’s not as good as the Patriots’ McOffense. No matter what, they’re always second rate, which suits the city just fine.

What wasn’t second rate was their run game last year. They lead the league in yards per game, yards per carry, rushing touchdowns, and rushing DVOA. They have an elite offensive line, LeSean McCoy is still one of the most elusive and explosive runners in the league, and Tyrod Taylor is one of the premier running quarterbacks in the league. Losing Mike Gillislee hurts, but the new coaching staff is creative enough to overcome that. The passing game might be better than expected, honestly. I still like Jordan Matthews and think Zay Jones could be a good slot guy in the league. The defense wasn’t good, but maybe they can take a step forward in the post-Rex-Ryan-hype era.

Over/Under 6 Wins: Over

Key Offseason Move: New Coach Sean McDermott

Burning Question: Who will be the first Bills’ lineman to miss a game because of heartburn from too many buffalo wings?

Bold Prediction: They won’t beat the Pats either time.

 

new_york_jetsNew York Jets– Jets suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck. Still, it would be the most Jets thing ever if they won 6 or 7 games this year to ruin their chance at getting the number one pick.

Over/Under 4.5 Wins: Under

Key Offseason Move: Trading away Sheldon Richardson

Burning Question: Will this season increase or decrease Jets’ fans’ inherent self-loathing?

Bold Prediction: They will play 16 games this season.

 

AFC NORTH

pittsburgh_steelersPittsburgh Steelers– The eternal heir to the AFC Iron Throne, the Steelers boast the NFL’s most theoretically explosive offense, so long as they’re playing the Browns at home. They’re totally stacked on offense. Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell are both arguably the best players at their positions in the league. Martavis Bryant is back from his year-long murder weed suspension and is ready to beat people deep again. Big Ben is tough as nails and one of the most clutch quarterbacks ever, but he’s always hurt and complete trash on the road. They’ll score points. They’ll have a couple games where they score 50 or so to keep the hype going. But everyone but Antonio Brown is also likely to miss multiple games.

The defense could take a big step forward this year. Considering how tightly the Steelers are associated with defense, it’s actually amazing that the current version of the defense is underrated. They finished in the top 11 or 12 in a lot of major categories, including total yards allowed, sacks, and points allowed. Their biggest weakness was the secondary, but signing Joe Haden should help shore up the back line. This team’s gonna be good. Just as long as they’re not playing the Patriots.

Over/Under 10.5 Wins: Over

Key Offseason Move: Signing Joe Haden

Burning Question: Will Big Ben contemplate retirement before or after the bye week?

Bold Prediction: They’ll lose the AFC Championship game to the Pats

 

baltimore_ravensBaltimore Ravens– Listen, I’m biased against the Ravens. I hate them and everything they stand for. I would die before giving them any legitimate praise. But they’ve been dormant for far too long. Most deep Ravens runs haven’t been logical. They spend most of the regular season looking like shit only to win three in a row to close out the year and then make the AFC Championship Game somehow.

This is pretty much the exact same team as last year, and last year they weren’t all that good. Their defense is good, but not earth-shatteringly so. They pass a ton (like, more than anyone), but are trash at passing. The running game is abysmal. But all of that is going to add up to like an 8-1 record in one score games and yet another bullshit playoff run.

Over/Under 9 Wins: Push

Key Offseason Move: No one was arrested

Burning Question: Has John Harbaugh actually learned the rules of football yet?

Bold Prediction: There will be no love lost this season between the Steelers and Ravens.

 

cincinnati_bengalsCincinnati Bengals It’s so hard to muster any kind of strong opinion about the Bengals. They’re just so blah. Their offense is good, not great. Their defense is alright at best. Actually, you know what? Piling on the Bengals is one of the easiest things to do in sports, so I’ll say some good things about them: I think they have a top five helmet in the league. I might be the world’s only Andy Dalton guy. A.J. Green is a beast. John Ross is really fast. Vontaze Burfict is a scumbag but it’s fun watching him melt down. It’s fun to watch the whole team melt down, really. You never know how the Bengals will blow a big game, but you know they will. I’m looking forward to a season where they’re not good enough to beat any of the top teams but not bad enough to get a good draft pick. Great times in Cincy!

Over/Under 8.5 Wins: Under

Key Offseason Move: Honestly don’t even know

Burning Question: Will Joe Mixon upset the balance of the NFL’s most clean-cut locker room?

Bold Prediction: Aforementioned Joe Mixon will rush for over 1,000 yards and it will spawn infinite think pieces about how you should feel about it.

 

cleveland_brownsCleveland Browns– Of all the controversial stances, the one I’m most committed to and am most comfortable standing alone on is my love of brown jerseys. Wyoming has the best unis in college football, don’t @ me. The Padres died the day they abandoned the brown and yellow. Luckily for me, the Browns name pretty much dictates that they’ll never go away from their noble earthen tones. I had a crisis of faith last year when the Browns went through a redesign. After all, I thought the Browns previous jerseys were by far the best in the league, and this new-fangled set was an eye sore! But something clicked and I’m back in. They’re a little clunky, but I love the Browns jerseys again. I’m sure this puts all of you at ease.

Oh, yeah, the actual team is going to stink, but they had a big time draft.

Over/Under 4.5 Wins: Under

Key Offseason Move: Willingly inviting (then wisely reconsidering) the creature known as Brock Osweiler into their facilities.

Burning Question: How will the Browns add to the Cavs’ desperate attempt to keep LeBron in town?

Bold Prediction: They’ll still be more relevant than the Jags.

 

AFC SOUTH

indianapolis_coltsIndianapolis Colts– I don’t understand this projection at all. The Colts, who finished last year at 8-8 and enter the season with a mysteriously injured franchise quarterback, are set at 9 wins. Did I miss something? They ended last year with one of the worst offensive and defensive lines again, and responded by doing absolutely nothing about it for the millionth year in a row. They’re baby-soft and, to quote the greatest wordsmith of the 21st century, couldn’t stop a nosebleed. Sure, they just traded for the third-best quarterback in the AFC East, but that won’t help much after both he and Andrew Luck get hurt since the sieve masquerading as an offensive line will let pressure in every single play. I just can’t look at this roster and envision a good team.

Over/Under 9 Wins: Under

Key Offseason Move: Signing Jabaal Sheard

Burning Question: Will they hang a “finished 7-9 in 2017-18” banner?

Bold Prediction: Andrew Luck will play less than 10 games and refuse to blame his inept front office for torpedoing his career because he’s too nice.

 

houston_texansHouston Texans– A week ago, I would have said this Texans season was going to be easy to predict: Like last year, a great defense is let down by an inept offense and their own inevitable destiny, culminating in a disappointing playoff loss. But now I’m not so sure. Far be it from me to trivialize a hurricane that displaced millions of people, but natural disasters typically give teams an extra bit of mojo. Whatever the line is for the first game in Houston, they’ll double it. They deserve to have a lot of luck in close games, and you should feel bad about yourself if you resent them for it.

Butttttttttttttttt, this is still a flawed team. Yes, it’ll be one of the two or three best defenses in the league. But the options at quarterback are Tom Savage, who sucks, and DeShaun Watson, who’s a rookie. Obviously any offensive numbers are going to be skewed when you start Brock Osweiler, but this was undoubtedly one of the three worst offenses in the entire league last year. This defense is good, but it’s not 2000-Ravens-Level good. In the coming years, if Watson can develop, they’ll become more dynamic on O, but for now, it’s going to hold them back. I guess this season was easy to predict, after all.

Over/Under 8.5 Wins: Over

Key Offseason Move: https://www.youcaring.com/victimsofhurricaneharvey-915053

Burning Question: Does my snark have limits? Turns out yes.

Bold Prediction: They will somehow find a way to win this juggernaut division.

 

tennessee_titansTennessee Titans– The Titans are this year’s stock “hot team on the rise,” and it’s easy to see why. They finished last year as the 11th-best offense in yards per game, and third in rushing yards per game. Marcus Mariota looked like the truth before his injury. Now he’s back, and they add Eric Decker and first round pick Corey Davis to a previously uninspiring receiving corps and you’ve got a recipe for a lot of points. Then add in their second first round pick, corner Adoree’ Jackson, former Patriot Logan Ryan, and safety Jonathan Cyprien to one of the league’s most leaky pass defenses and you’ve got the full Trendy Sleeper. I’m sure you’ve heard all about them from the guy who’ll bring Game of Thrones jokes to the water cooler three weeks from now. The Titans arrow is pointed squarely up, so is the time now in Nashville?

No, it’s not. At least not this year. This budding empire may be built on pillars of sand. Assuming Derrick Henry becomes more involved this season, the majority of the Titans’ offensive playmakers have played three years or less, quarterback included. That doesn’t always work. Is Logan Ryan going to be the first player to thrive long-term after leaving Belichick’s warm embrace? Cyprien had one good season and got a big payday. That’s never backfired. The defense is still kind of stinky, even with three shiny new pieces. The Titans are coming, just not yet.

Over/Under 8.5 Wins: Over

Key Offseason Move: See Above

Burning Question: How has there not been more backlash that the quarterback for the NFL team in the heart of country music territory is a Hawaiian guy?

Bold Prediction: They’ll be the most used team in Madden online this year.

 

jacksonville_jaguarsJacksonville Jaguars– Don’t look now but the Jags have been runners up for the coveted Offseason Super Bowl two of the last three years. Florida teams love spending recklessly in free agency and building impossible-to-live-up-to hype. This year they bring in Calais Campbell and corner A.J. Bouye to a very underrated defense that was top five in passing yards allowed. They’ll be stout on that side of the ball, no denying it. The problems for them are on offense.

They have a talented group of skill guys, and 4th overall pick Leonard Fournette could be an immediate force. But the success of their entire team rests on Blake Bortles taking a massive step forward. I’m sorry, but that’s not a sentence conducive to winning football games.

Over/Under 6.5 Wins: Under

Key Offseason Move: Not finding a way to circumvent NFL uniform rules and change their godawful jerseys

Burning Question: If they just stopped playing, would anyone notice or care?

Bold Prediction: There will be multiple salacious shots of the pool every game.

 

AFC WEST

oakland_raidersOakland Raiders– Last year’s Trendy Sleeper actually lived up to the hype until MVP-candidate Derek Carr’s season-ending injury in week 16. They had the 4th most efficient passing attack last season, and could, by combining a fresh Marshawn Lynch with their elite offensive line, balance out their offense and become unstoppable. Or maybe Marshawn is old and rusty. If that’s the case, the sledding will obviously get a lot tougher for the suddenly one-dimensional offense.

The defense is….not good outside Khalil Mack. They had the fewest sacks in the entire league and struggled against the pass. Still, it was good enough to win 12 games, but I wonder if they can sustain the magic they had last year. They won 9 games by 8 points or less last year. Records in close games are largely random year to year, so regression in that area is nearly inevitable. They also recovered the second most fumbles in the league, another essentially random stat that is impossible to duplicate. The Raiders may be in for a rude awakening in the luck department.

Over/Under 10 Wins: Under

Key Offseason Move: Signing Oakland native Beast Mode

Burning Question: If the Autumn Wind is a Raider, is that why they’re so bad in winter?

Bold Prediction: The Raiders will continue to be the most popular team in L.A.

 

kansas_city_chiefsKansas City Chiefs– Another team on my list of top five helmets, the Chiefs might also be the team that scared me the most in the AFC if Andy Reid showed some balls and started Pat Mahomes. They’ve got everything else: a swarming, playmaking defense that can stop anyone when it’s right. No matter who’s running the ball, it seems like they always get five yards a carry. They don’t really have any receivers, but that flaw is only magnified by the continued reliance on Alex Smith. On some level, I get it. You know what you’re getting with him. He’s smart, he’s steady, and he takes care of the ball. But he’s also overly cautious and a limited passer. Pat Mahomes is anything but limited when it comes to throwing the ball. He’s got an Aaron Rodgers-level arm. Yeah, he’s a rookie, but I’d rather roll the dice trying to be great than stick with the hyper-conservative Smith. The good people of Kansas City can only see so many 6 yard completions on 3rd & 8 before all that barbecue takes its toll on their hearts.

Over/Under 9 Wins: Over

Key Offseason Move: Trading for linebacker Reggie Ragland

Burning Question: Will Alex Smith finally set the record for career check-down passes?

Bold Prediction: They’ll go on a nine-game winning streak at some point in the season.

 

denver_broncosDenver Broncos– Speaking of teams I’d be terrified of if they had a competent QB. Alex Smith is miles (get it? Because Denver is a mile high) better than anyone on the Broncos roster. They just brought Brock Osweiler back they’re so desperate! This is the best defense in the AFC, they have two receivers with multiple 1,000 yard seasons, signed Jamal Charles, who I think still has plenty left in the tank if he can stay healthy, and they’re trotting Trevor Siemian out at quarterback. That’s terrible. I’d feel bad for the rest of the roster if I didn’t know they’d wind up with home field advantage and beat the Pats in the playoffs if they had anyone better calling signals. They won’t allow more than 17 points per game and they’ll still be outscored on the season.  Makes me question who’s really running things in Denver.

Over/Under 8.5 Wins: Over

Key Offseason Move: Signing Jamal Charles

Burning Question: “Burning” Question, get it? Because weed is legal in Colorado. Get it? You got it, don’t lie, man.

Bold Prediction: Aqib Talib will shoot Siemian, Osweiler, and Paxton Lynch on the sideline.

 

los_angeles_chargersSan Diego Los Angeles Chargers– The ultimate “if they could stay healthy” team, the Chargers’ first two draft picks have already been cursed with the Charger injury bug before the season even started. This is actually a pretty good team if everyone actually plays. The problem is, that literally never happens. Keenan Allen plays two games a year. Every snap and offensive lineman blows their knee out. Their post-Tomlinson running backs go down like flies. The U.S. Government needs to create our own knighting system just so we can knight Phil Rivers for what he did last year. Throwing for almost 4,400 yards and 33 TD’s with Tyrell Williams as his number one receiver and the most makeshift of makeshift offensive lines is a minor miracle. If, if, Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, and Melvin Gordon can stay healthy for most, not even all, just most, of the season, they’ll dramatically improve on their generally lackluster offense from last year. With their underrated, top ten in DVOA defense lead by stud D-End Joey Bosa, the Chargers could make a surprise playoff appearance. This is the post-post-post-post hype Chargers, and they’re finally ready to take a step forward. Unless they get hurt.

Over/Under 7.5 Wins: Over

Key Offseason Move: Trading for the immortal Cardale Jones

Burning Question: Why the hell did they move to Los Angeles?

Bold Prediction: The Arnold clip will survive the move to L.A.

NFC Preview Coming Thursday

Fantasy Football Tips 2017

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You play fantasy football. I play fantasy football. Everyone in America plays fantasy football. And, now that preseason week 3 is officially #done, it’s prime drafting SZN. If you already had your draft, well, you’re stupid and I hope you drafted Julian Edelman and Cameron Meredith. Never draft before preseason week 3. That’s tip #1.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “There’s 5 million other fantasy football draft advice columns out there, and every single one is more reputable than this one. Why should I read it?” Good question. I’m sure you’ve already consumed an infinite amount of fantasy football material in preparation for your draft. You’ve got your strategy all lined up, you’re feeling good, you can practically taste that trophy, it’s so close. But then you choke and take Justin Tucker 3rd round. It happens to everyone. Everyone except me, that is.

You see, I’m something of a fantasy football savant. I think I’ve been playing legitimately since my freshman year of high school, so about ten years (yikes). In that decade, there are more years where I’ve won more than one league than years where I’ve won zero. There’s no evidence of this, so you’ll have to take my word for it. Tip #2 is that my word is law when it comes to fantasy football. But again, despite establishing my bona fides, why should you care about my advice? After all, why not go to ESPN or NFL.com or Yahoo and have eight different guys tell you that Isaiah Crowell and Ryan Tanehill Jameis Winston are the hot fantasy names this year that you just have to have on your team? And listen, I get it. Those other places are safe. You know what you’ll get from them, and if you follow their instructions to a T, you won’t come in last. Cool. I’d rather swing for the fences. Despite what annoying people who talk trash about week to week fantasy results will tell you, the only skill involved in succeeding in fantasy football is research and making educated guesses. The rest is all luck. So if you go into your draft with the same research and gameplan as everyone else, where’s your edge? You don’t have one anymore. That’s where I come in. Want to win in fantasy? Zig when everyone zags. Think outside the box. Most importantly, follow my leadership. I’ll steer you in the right direction. Tip #3 is that this is the only draft kit you’ll ever need.

Basic Draft Advice

  • Wait as long as possible to take a quarterback. Or don’t. It’s your team.
  • Spot positional deficiencies. Are there only five good running backs in the league? If you draft all of them, everyone’s going to have to come to you to get one.
  • Switch things up and take a kicker in the third to last round. It’ll get everyone else scrambling and now you can pick up that late round sleeper you thought would be gone.
  • Don’t use a player’s name as a pun for your team name. No one thinks it’s funny and everyone hates you.
  • Line it up so every player on your team has their bye week at the same time. If you come out with an empty roster that week, your opponent won’t know what to do and might panic. It’s a mental game, folks.
  • Every defense is the same and the level of week to week variance is astronomical. It literally doesn’t matter who you have.
  • If your league is drafting in-person, stay silent the entire time. Everyone will think you’re sick and underestimate you, or they’ll think you’re up to something and get all their precious sleepers way too early, leaving all the players who will actually be good to you.
  • Even if you know who you’re going to pick, switch up the amount of time it takes to submit your pick. It’ll keep everyone else on their toes and might frustrate some.

Sleepers

  • Tom Brady- Thanks to his patented sleep ware line, no one gets a better, more fulfilling night’s sleep than Tom Brady.
  • Randy Moss- People forget that Randy Moss set the single season record for most touchdown receptions. And now he’s going undrafted in most leagues? Scoop him up late and reap the rewards.
  • Chad Henne- Blake Bortles is going to get benched this season. You’ll thank me when that happens and you have the Henn-meister on your squad.
  • Joe Mixon, Ezekiel Elliot, Josh Gordon, Martavis Bryant, Michael Floyd, Doug Martin- Want to win in fantasy football? Leave your morals at the door. Become the guy with enough courage to take the suspended guys and scumbags.
  • Tyrod Taylor- He gets like, three points per game less than Aaron Rodgers.

Busts

  • Brock Osweiler- He is bad at football. Don’t draft him.
  • Odell Beckham- Sure, he’s had the most prolific start to a career in NFL history, but can he handle the bright lights of New York? I don’t think so. Stay away.
  • Ryan Tannehill- Hard to finally take that next step when he can’t walk anymore. Because he blew out his knee. And won’t play this season. Get it?
  • Russell Wilson- screen-shot-2017-08-28-at-5-29-39-pm-2-640x6011screen-shot-2017-08-28-at-5-29-39-pm-2-640x601screen-shot-2017-08-28-at-5-29-39-pm-2-640x6012
  • Any Jet- If you wind up with someone from the Jets on your roster, you probably did something wrong.

Hot Rookies

  • Leonard Fournette- Word on the street is this guy might have some potential.
  • Austin Carr- One white Patriots receiver out, one white Patriots receiver in.
  • O.J. Howard- Hey, this guy was on Hard Knocks! He must be good!
  • Stacy Coley- He’s a receiver for the Vikings. Just kind of picked a random guy.
  • Kevin White- With Kevin White coming back from injury (again) it’s like the Bears had another first round pick this year!

Punter Ranking Because the True Players Add in Punting Points

  1. Marquette King
  2. Johnny Hekker
  3. Bryan Anger
  4. Bradley Pinnion
  5. Sam Martin

Top Guys to Take Early If You Want an Excuse Ready for Why Your Team Stinks

  • Ben Roethlisberger
  • Darren McFadden
  • Keenan Allen
  • Rob Gronkowski
  • Sammy Watkins

I think that’s all you need. Follow your gut for the rest. Let me know if you followed my instructions and how badly you dominated your league. Actually, whether or not you used this, don’t tell me. Because even though I’m a fantasy savant, I still don’t care about your fantasy team.

I Would Like to Wish Everyone a Merry Hawaiian Christmas!

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Mele Kalikimaka, everybody! What a beautiful day to celebrate one of the most important days on the calendar. Hawaiian Christmas. What’s that? You’ve never heard of it? That’s a shame. It’s a truly wonderful holiday. A joyous occasion where we, the faithful public, celebrate the birth of the White Kahuna. The one sent from above to dazzle us with pinpoint accuracy and a mastery of the Run and Shoot offense. Today, we celebrate the birth of the greatest college football player of all time, Colt Brennan.

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Now, a short trip down Google Lane will tell you that his true birthday is August 16th. Well, what holiday worth it’s salt takes place in the middle of the week? That’s why Hawaiian Christmas takes place on the closest Friday to August 16th, so you’ll always have a long weekend spent living on Island Time, to go with the quiet midweek vigil you hold for the true date. And if the 16th falls on a Friday, Saturday, Sunday, or Monday? Well, that’s grounds to take the whole week off, friend. Hawaiian Christmas is a time for leisure, merriment, and goodwill towards men. Your boss will understand.

The most important question facing a Hawaiian Christmas neophyte is, of course, how to celebrate. It’s quite simple really. The first step is to put on your finest Hawaiian linens. The more complex the pattern, the more bold the color scheme, the better. I’m partial to tropical flowers, birds of paradise, sea turtles, and perhaps fruit, myself, but Hawaiian Christmas is not a time for criticism. Wear what you will, as long as it’s in the spirit of things. Grab yourself a mai tai or two (more on that later), and settle in on your most relaxing beach chair for the most important part of any Hawaiian Christmas, watching a ton of Colt Brennan highlights. Don’t forget to apply sunscreen first.

You might need to take a cold shower if you get too deep into the rabbit hole, but hopefully you have access to a beach and can take a quick dip in the water. While his highlight videos are undoubtedly mesmerizing, don’t get so engrossed you lose track of time. Hawaiian Christmas dinner takes a while to cook when done right, and you certainly don’t want to lose track of time. While our savior typically feasted on helpless WAC opponents, cannibalism is unfortunately frowned upon during Hawaiian Christmas. So, instead, prepare a traditional Kalua pig. You’ll need a full pig and a pretty big pit and a bunch of hot stones, and you’ll need to learn a difficult and very specific cooking method that you’ll probably never use in any other scenario, but it’s worth it to impress your friends. Gather your family and any neighbors too lazy to cook their own pig and sit around the fire pit telling tales of gridiron glory. Traditionally, this is also where you engage in the ceremonial Hair Bleaching, so you too can look like the Heisman Finalist himself.tumblr_lmkx4zlahb1qapl86o1_500

Most pigs are probably going to be about 260 pounds, so when you add in all the tropical-themed side dishes, you’ll have plenty of leftovers! The White Kahuna isn’t an advocate for moderation.

Speaking of moderation, the most controversial part of the holiday comes at night. Here at the Brian’s Den, we would never dream of condoning drinking and driving. It’s a reckless, dangerous, and foolhardy decision. But, as with all great heroes, Colt Brennan is a flawed man. His DUI arrest is a dark mark on his otherwise spotless record. To walk in his path is to admit your own weaknesses and faults, which is the first step to personal growth. A true celebrator of Hawaiian Christmas knows how to honor the White Kahuna and keep the non believers safe, so find an abandoned patch of beach, woods, field, anywhere where you won’t have any company. Get a golf cart and your closest friends, and just drive around. If you’ve been observing Hawaiian Christmas customs all day, you should be sufficiently impaired. It’s a great time that I officially condemn, but it’s better than driving your actual car. Feel free to engage in golf-cart centric shenanigans into the wee hours of the morning, just make sure to be wearing your Hawaiian Christmas garb, so any passing law enforcement officers will know you’re merely recognizing the significance of the day.

The last part of any good Hawaiian Christmas comes the next morning. All you need to do is fail to make the NFL. Easy enough on paper, but you’d be surprised how many people mess it up. Now, go out there and have the best Hawaiian Christmas you’ve ever had. Mele Kalikimaka, indeed.