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NFL Picks…

…starting a new feature here at the Blowhard…picking NFL games.  Why?  Cuz it keeps me engaged and…everyone else does it!  Besides, it keeps my mind off the fact that both of my fantasy baseball teams are massively imploding in the first round of their respective playoffs and will leave me short of collecting the pot.  And, it takes me away from the fact that the Yankees are yet again whining about something.  This time about the Red Sox stealing signs.  Ok, so maybe the Sox were cheating a little by using technology when they shouldn’t have been.  But you can’t tell me that other teams, including, most assuredly, the Yankees, aren’t doing something similar.

Of course, all I can hear now is non-Sox/Pats fans saying that Boston is a bunch of cheaters and strip their titles and all that.  When really their biggest crime is being stupid enough to get caught.

But that’s a topic for another day.

Since the season opens tonight, it’s time to make the first pick.  I also want to issue a disclaimer:  I stink at gambling.  Sure, I have had success in various fantasy leagues over the years.  And I actually won a season long NFL picks pool several years ago with about 200 people in it.  A blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while, as the saying goes…

But in general, picking against spreads?  Not my forte.  Ask a couple of buddies of mine from several years ago.  Used to watch 12 hours of football with them every Sunday at a local establishment back in the day.  They used to ask me who I “liked”.  I told them, they knew some…ummmm…”professionals” and then placed some “units” down on the team I did not like.  Good buddies, eh?!  But valid strategy, I do hate to admit.

Anyway, let’s get to it:

Kansas City at New England (-8.5)

Of course being a Patriots fan, I am hoping for a 45-10 win, or something along those lines.

But it’s not going to happen.

I expect the Pats to have a huge year of course, but there are still some holes…or perceived holes…on this team at the current time.  And it’s not just losing Julian Edelman.  Although Edelman is clutch, I think they can and will still score a boatload of points without him.

The Patriots often treat September as an “extension of the preseason”.  Of course they try to win, but now that the roster has been shaved to 53, it’s time to find out about some of the guys that are still on it.

In my mind, and in a lot of other people’s as well, the defensive front seven is a huge question mark.  Trey Flowers and Dont’a Hightower are the big names there.  But Flowers has done it for only one year…three quarters of a year pretty much.  And Dont’a is probably still on the mend and in all likelihood won’t play a full complement of snaps tonight.  Alan Branch is solid.  But the rest?  Who the hell knows?

Since no one expects Alex Smith to be throwing bombs downfield all night, the front 7 will be challenged by the likes of Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill and Kareem Hunt.  And Hunt is a rookie, so no one in New England surely knows what to expect.  It may take forever for the Chiefs to drive downfield.  But it will keep the ball away from Brady and the Pats offense.  And should keep this game close.

The Pats always keep games close…it seems anyway.  And despite all the pomp and circumstance in Foxborough tonight with celebrating the Super Bowl Championship last year and raising the banners and the crowd being fired up and all that, I still expect a close game.

Look to a couple of years ago on Opening Night the season after the Pats beat Seattle in the previous Super Bowl.  28-21 Pats over Steelers.  Sure, the game really wasn’t as close as the final score indicated.  I was there and never felt like Pittsburgh had a chance.  And the Steelers’ Antonio Brown scored with 2 seconds left to provide the final margin of victory.  But still…

One more area of concern for me is the Chiefs D, led by Justin Houston, against the Pats O-line.  Nate Solder hasn’t played much this preseason, is he ready to go?  The rest of the Pats OL is solid, but not necessarily spectacular.  So we will see.

At least the Patriots will have a faster running back out there, no matter who it is, instead of the plodding LeGarrette Blount.  And we can always count on Andy Reid completely mismanaging the clock.  But we also have to worry about Stephen Gostkowski shanking extra point and field goal attempts.

Ok, that’s enough.  The pick?

New England 30, Kansas City 23.  4 TDs, a FG and missed XP for the Pats.  2 TD’s and 3 FGs for KC.  Thus, a KC cover.  Feels about right.

Week (against the spread):  0-0

Week (straight up):  0-0

Season (against the spread):  0-0

Season (straight up):  0-0

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Patriots Roster Projection, v3

4th preseason game means zero.  For the most part.  Actually, for the full part.  In fact, not even waiting for the end of the game to get this thing going…

Offense:

QB (3):

Locks:  Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo, Jacoby Brissett

In:  None

Out:  None

Way Out:  None

Comments:  Still don’t see Brissett losing his spot.  Regardless of how many yards he threw for yesterday.

RB (6):

Locks:  Mike Gillislee, Rex Burkhead, James White, Dion Lewis, James Develin, Brandon Bolden

In:  None

Out:  D.J. Foster, Glenn Gronkowski

Way Out:  LeShun Daniels

Comments:  None of the top six played in the last game.  That tells me everyone is in…including, yes, Bolden.  Foster has some skill, but there is no room.

WR (4):

Locks:  Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola, Malcolm Mitchell

In:  None

Out:  Austin Carr, Devin Lucien

Way Out:  Cody Hollister, K.J. Maye, Tony Washington

Injured Reserve:  Julian Edelman (out for the season)

Comments:  Thought maybe Mitchell would end up on IR, but he came back to practice this week.  So let’s put him back on the squad.  Carr is a sleeper, but still see him ending up on the practice squad…or another team.

TE (2):

Locks:  Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen

In:  None

Out:  James O’Shaughnessy, Jacob Hollister

Way Out:  Sam Cotton

Comments:  No reason to think a third TE breaks camp with the team…still…especially seeing O’Shaughnessy playing in the fourth quarter of the final preseason game.

OL (9):

Locks:  Nate Solder (LT), Joe Thuney (LG), David Andrews (C), Shaq Mason (RG), Marcus Cannon (RT)

In:  Ted Karras (G/C), Conor McDermott (T), Cameron Fleming (T), LaAdrian Waddle (T)

Out:  Jamil Douglas (G), James Ferentz (C)

Way Out:  Cole Croston (T), Andrew Jelks (T), Jason King (G), Max Rich (T)

Injured Reserve:  Antonio Garcia (T) (out for the season)

Comments:  No changes.  I can’t say I have a ton of insight into the offensive line anyway.  Though I am guessing Garcia may have run out of time now.

DE (3):

Locks:  Trey Flowers, Deatrich Wise

In: Geneo Grissom

Out:  None

Way Out:  Michael Bart

Injured Reserve:  Derek Rivers (out for the season)

Comments:  Grissom goes back a spot, but still think he makes it.  He did play a ton in the last preseason game…not usually a good sign.  But…another guy whose main contribution is on special teams.  And we know how Bill feels about special teams guys.

DT (5):

Locks:  Alan Branch, Malcom Brown, Lawrence Guy, Vincent Valentine, Adam Butler

In:  None

Out: Woodrow Hamilton, Darius Kilgo

Way Out:  Josh Augusta

Comments:  Butler apparently didn’t play in this last game.  He’s also apparently on the squad because of that.  Hamilton got a little banged up.  Maybe that gets him on IR.

LB (6):

Locks:  Dont’a Hightower, David Harris, Elandon Roberts, Kyle Van Noy

In:  Harvey Langhi, Marquis Flowers

Out:  Jonathan Freeny, Trevor Bates

Way Out:  Brooks Ellis, Nick Usher

Injured Reserve:  Shea McClellin (designated to return)

Released:  Christian Kuntz

Comments:  Top 4 did not play from what I could see in the last game.  Seem like locks.  Langhi was hurt they say.  I say he’s in.  I can’t even say if Flowers played, but they just traded for him, so he’s gotta be in, right?  Freeny played a ton last night…and right until the final whistle…not a good sign.  Kuntz lasted a day, but good for him.  McClellin?  Who knows?  Another guess.

CB (6):

Locks:  Stephon Gilmore, Malcolm Butler, Eric Rowe, Jonathan Jones

In:  Justin Coleman, Cyrus Jones

Out:  D.J. Killings

Way Out:  William Likely, Dwayne Thomas

Comments:  I don’t remember seeing Coleman playing at all last night.  Kind of tells me he made it.  But maybe not.  If Cyrus’ injury is serious, maybe Coleman makes it regardless.

S (4):

Locks:  Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Jordan Richards

In:  None

Out: Kenny Moore

Way Out:  Jason Thompson, Damarius Travis, David Jones

Comments:  I don’t think Richards played either.  So looks like he gets his third year here after all.

Specialists (5):

Locks:  Stephen Gostkowski (K), Ryan Allen (P), Joe Cardona (LS), Matthew Slater (ST), Nate Ebner (ST)

In:  None

Out:  None

Way Out:  None

Injured Reserve:  Brandon King (ST) (designated to return)

Comments:  King hasn’t been around a while.  I’ll just give him the 2nd IR-return spot.  For the hell of it.

Practice squad?  Sticking with the same 10 as last time:  Foster, Carr, Lucien, Jacob Hollister, Douglas, Ferentz, Hamilton, Augusta, Killings, Moore.  No reason to change.  Because it won’t be these 10 anyway…

Patriots Roster Projection, v2

The “all-important” third preseason game has been played.  Great time to make another projection, since no regulars will really play in the fourth preseason game.  No regulars that count anyway.  A new wrinkle this year though is that there is no cut down to 75 players.  The entire 90 man roster of each NFL team will be able to play in those teams’ final preseason game on Thursday night.  Then a day and a half later, the rosters will be slashed to the regular season limit of 53.  It’ll be a crowded waiver wire on Saturday afternoon.  Good thing I don’t have to sift through all those names.  Anyway, here goes:

Offense:

QB (3):

Locks:  Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo, Jacoby Brissett

In:  None

Out:  None

Way Out:  None

Comments:  Haven’t heard much lately about Brissett’s roster spot being in jeopardy.  I still don’t see that being the case anyway.  I suppose if he stinks Thursday night…

RB (6):

Locks:  Mike Gillislee, Rex Burkhead, James White, Dion Lewis

In:  James Develin, Brandon Bolden

Out:  D.J. Foster, Glenn Gronkowski

Way Out:  LeShun Daniels

Comments:  Six running backs is pretty steep.  But I think they will find room for Bolden, as much as that pains me.  They love him too much on special teams.  And in a pinch they think he can play a little RB.  People seem to be throwing Lewis’ name out there for trade consideration, and although that wouldn’t surprise me, I don’t know if that’s realistic.  I mean, he has talent, but is injury-prone.  So who’s going to give the Pats anything for him?  And he can fill a nice role here anyway.  Side note:  it was great seeing White get tripped up by the yard lines in the last game again.  I know, he was awesome in the Super Bowl.  All the props in the world to him for that.  But has anyone seen the rest of the games in his career?

WR (3):

Locks:  Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola

In:  None

Out:  Austin Carr, Devin Lucien

Way Out:  Cody Hollister, K.J. Maye, Tony Washington

Injured Reserve:  Malcolm Mitchell (designated to return), Julian Edelman (out for the season)

Comments:  In the original projection I said this position was pretty much set in stone.  Oops.  Tough deal with Edelman.  He was flying out of the gate in that last game.  Looked primed for another big year, even with the addition of Cooks.  He is Brady’s main man, after all.  Going to be a tough loss on third downs especially.  But…every team has key injuries, so what can ya do?  Hope that opens the door for Cooks to really light it up.  But it’s a good thing that Amendola is back.  Makes him a lock now.  Mitchell was brought along slowly in camp because of a knee injury.  Then it looked to me that he aggravated it in the second preseason game.  No one is really talking about it, but he didn’t play in the last game.  I feel like he is a candidate for one of the two IR-designated to return spots that NFL teams have this year.  Get that thing fully healthy for the stretch drive.

That leave three guys there…obviously kind of lean.  People may say that guarantees a spot for Carr or Lucien, but I’m not there yet.  These guys seem to be perfect practice squad guys…if they clear waivers at cut downs that is.  The Pats dressed only 3 receivers in several games last year.  I think they may do it again early on if Mitchell ends up on IR.  Matthew Slater can play WR in a pinch, though I don’t really want to see him there.  But more importantly, one of the extra backs could always line up there too.  Then it allows the team to carry a third TE or extra lineman or someone at another spot.

TE (2):

Locks:  Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen

In:  None

Out:  James O’Shaughnessy, Jacob Hollister

Way Out:  Sam Cotton

Released:  Matt Lengel

Comments:  Still feel like the Pats start with 2 tight ends.  Develin could play there in a pinch as well as an offensive lineman, likely Cameron Fleming, who they have put there repeatedly…though not necessarily with positive results.  They are probably hoping Hollister gets to the practice squad.  But when Lengel heals (out for several more weeks with injury they are saying), they could always pick him back up.  Possibly O’Shaughnessy as well.  Not really worth talking about the third TE much more.

OL (9):

Locks:  Nate Solder (LT), Joe Thuney (LG), David Andrews (C), Shaq Mason (RG), Marcus Cannon (RT)

In:  Ted Karras (G/C), Conor McDermott (T), Cameron Fleming (T), LaAdrian Waddle (T)

Out:  Jamil Douglas (G), James Ferentz (C)

Way Out:  Cole Croston (T), Andrew Jelks (T), Jason King (G), Max Rich (T)

Injured Reserve:  Antonio Garcia (T) (designated to return?)

Comments:  The starters are set in stone, though Solder has been managing an injury.  Which forces me to put both Fleming and Waddle back on at the start of the season, for insurance.  As well as Fleming’s experience at TE.  Again, feel like they want to hang on to McDermott, so the thinking is they need to keep him initially before trying to waive him to the practice squad after teams have their rosters set the first week.  I have no idea if he can play, but I feel like Dante Scarnecchia will want to try to take those physical tools and try to develop him into something.  Douglas was the last guy I cut and I really know nothing about him…other than that they could use an extra guard probably.  I suppose it’s not life or death…especially if he lands on the practice squad.  Garcia has been a ghost…but as a third round pick, I believe he may be the other candidate for the “IR-return” spot.  Dante may want to work on developing him as well…and not lose practice time by having him go on long-term IR.  But maybe they save the IR-return spot for someone who gets a long-term injury early in the year…and will actually be a factor at some point THIS year…and put Garcia on ice for the year.  He won’t be able to practice, but at least he can study the playbook.

DE (3):

Locks:  Trey Flowers, Deatrich Wise, Geneo Grissom

In:  None

Out:  None

Way Out:  Michael Bart

Injured Reserve:  Derek Rivers (out for the season)

Released:  Kony Ealy, Caleb Kidder

Comments:  Welp, I suppose those early in camp rumors about Ealy were spot on.  Guess I should listen more.  But just…wow.  The guy can’t get his act together to play for the Patriots?  In a contract year?  Inexplicable.  I suppose he got what he “asked” for.  Getting claimed by the New York Jets after he was waived.  I wonder how he feels now?  Probably still doesn’t care.

Losing Rivers is a blow.  No idea how good he is or can be.  But now the team is down to three defensive ends…and one is essentially a special teamer in Grissom.  Some people are clamoring for a Rob Ninkovich return.  Not me.  With all due respect, he is probably close to done.  Even though some of the linebackers here can pretty much cover some of the depth issues here, I expect the team to look hard through the cuts this upcoming weekend and nab a guy or two.  I would think they have to.  And I’m not counting on big things from Michael Bart, who was just signed yesterday.

DT (5):

Locks:  Alan Branch, Malcom Brown, Lawrence Guy, Vincent Valentine

In: Adam Butler

Out: Woodrow Hamilton, Darius Kilgo

Way Out:  Josh Augusta

Comments:  Elevated Butler from “way out” in version #1 to “In” now.  Why?  Seemed like a good idea at the time.  He’s gotten some buzz and Belichick does love his fat guys.  Maybe he’s a guy they keep on the initial 53 and then try to slide to the practice squad after teams set their rosters.  Either way, there’s no need to talk about it more.  The rest is still cut and dried here, as noted in the first projection.

LB (7):

Locks:  Dont’a Hightower

In:  David Harris, Shea McClellin, Elandon Roberts, Kyle Van Noy, Harvey Langhi, Jonathan Freeny

Out:  Trevor Bates

Way Out:  Brooks Ellis, Christian Kuntz, Nick Usher

Comments:  Dropped Harris to where I initially was going to put him.  Some people have not been enamored with his play thus far.  Freeny gets back on cuz, yup, Bill loves his special teamers too.  Langhi has shown some skills, but just like all six in the “In” section he has been up and down.  Kuntz and Usher were just signed yesterday, hope they enjoy playing Thursday night.  Not sure we can expect much else from them.

CB (5):

Locks:  Stephon Gilmore, Malcolm Butler, Eric Rowe, Jonathan Jones

In:  Cyrus Jones

Out:  Justin Coleman, D.J. Killings

Way Out:  William Likely, Dwayne Thomas

Comments:  Cyrus has not “flashed” in any way, shape or form.  But I have to believe he still gets that second year here, at a minimum.  The rest is kind of obvious and the whole lot hasn’t changed from the first projection.

S (4):

Locks:  Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon

In:  Jordan Richards

Out:  None

Way Out:  Jason Thompson, Damarius Travis, David Jones, Kenny Moore

Comments:  I said the last time that Richards probably gets one more chance and seemed to squeak on my roster here.  Got a lot of run in the last preseason game with mixed results.  Hey, another questionable second round pick at safety in Tavon Wilson got four years here, why can’t Richards get three?

Specialists (6):

Locks:  Stephen Gostkowski (K), Ryan Allen (P), Joe Cardona (LS), Matthew Slater (ST), Nate Ebner (ST), Brandon King (ST)

In:  None

Out:  None

Way Out:  None

Comments:  Same ol’, same ol’.

Bonus?  Practice squad shot in the dark:  Foster, Carr, Lucien, Jacob Hollister, Douglas, Ferentz, Hamilton, Augusta, Killings, Moore.  Though half those dudes may get claimed and Bill will want to bring in five other young guys he sees on the wire anyway…

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