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Off To The Races…

…now that Game One of Week One is in the books for the 2018 NFL Season, it’s time to get the rest of the league rolling on Sunday.  Per usual, Week One is always hard to predict…seeing that we really cannot take a whole lot from the preseason games.  Sure, we know the players and what teams should be good and all that.  But one never knows once the curtain goes up.  So let us take our wild stab on Opening Week and see how the chips may fall:

Pittsburgh (-5.5) at Cleveland

No Le’Veon?  Who cares?  He may show up anyway, but does it matter?  Hue Jackson is 1-31 in 2 years.  Is Tyrod Taylor going to make a big difference?  Or any of their other additions?  Doubtful.  Especially not in Week One.

Pittsburgh 27, Cleveland 13.

Tennessee (-1.5) at Miami

Two teams seemingly getting a lot of love.  The Titans I guess because they have a new coach in Mike Vrabel and the Dolphins I guess because…I don’t know…Ryan Tannehill is back?  Jay Cutler, Ryan Tannehill…what’s the difference?

Tennessee 20, Miami 17.

Buffalo at Baltimore (-6.5) 

Nathan Peterman everyone!  Joey Flacco is supposedly rejuvenated because he was pissed the Ravens drafted Lamar Jackson.  What, he wasn’t threatened by Robert Griffin III?  Oh and wait…Patriot fans…does this scenario sound familiar?

Baltimore 27, Buffalo 17.

Houston at New England (-6.5)

Pundits, fans, opponents and everyone around the world is predicting the demise of the New England Patriots.  Local sportswriters think the team will start 0-2.  The team has no wide receivers.  The defense cannot stop anyone, no less Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins.  We’ll see.

New England 30, Houston 27.

Jacksonville (-3.5) at New York Giants

The Jags had a great year last year.  The D is apparently still strong.  But they still have Blake Bortles…and will have him for some time now.  I’m betting they are going to regret that contract extension.  The G-Men stunk last year.  But that clown head coach is gone.  That’s worth at least a win right there.

New York Giants 24, Jacksonville 21.

San Francisco at Minnesota (-5.5)

The Jimmy G era is really kind of starting now.  Welcome to Minnesota.

Minnesota 34, San Francisco 17.

Tampa Bay at New Orleans (-9.5)

Fitzy!!  He just won’t go away.  But that’s not necessarily a good thing.

New Orleans 41, Tampa Bay 13.

Cincinnati at Indianapolis (-2.5) 

Somehow Marvin Lewis remains.  Andrew Luck is back.  I really don’t have much more to add.

Indianapolis 24, Cincinnati 21.

Kansas City at Los Angeles Chargers (-3.5) 

The Chargers are another team I hear a lot of positive chatter about in the AFC.  We will see about that, though they should have been a playoff team last year.  Hopefully, they got themselves a good kicker this year.  The Chiefs are handing the reins to Patrick Mahomes.  Expect some inconsistency there.

Los Angeles Chargers 23, Kansas City 17.

Dallas at Carolina (-2.5) 

Go with the home team here.  Unfortunately, that’s really all I can tell you on this one.

Carolina 31, Dallas 20.  

Washington at Arizona (-0.5) 

Yaaaaaaaaaawn.

Washington 13, Arizona 10.

Seattle at Denver (-2.5) 

I’m not rooting for it, but I’d almost bet my house that Case Keenum comes crashing back to earth this year.  Seattle isn’t the same team they were when they were going to Super Bowls.  But they still scare me for whatever reason.

Seattle 27, Denver 16.  

Chicago at Green Bay (-8.5)  

I don’t think Khalil Mack is going to make much of a difference.

Green Bay 34, Chicago 10.

New York Jets at Detroit (-6.5)

I’ll be rooting for Matty Patricia to succeed.  Seems like a nice guy.  Even though that defensive game plan in the last Super Bowl may have been the worst one I have ever seen.  And that includes any Cleveland Browns game plan…ever.  Don’t we have to blame Patricia at least a little bit for that, instead of heaping all the blame on Belichick?  And for the record, I have never rooted for the J-E-T-S to succeed.  And never will.

Detroit 27, New York Jets 9.

Los Angeles Rams (-2.5) at Oakland

Jon Gruden is back on the sidelines!  This should be fun.  Maybe not this week though.

Los Angeles Rams 45, Oakland 13.

Week (against the spread):  0-1

Week (straight up):  0-1

Season (against the spread):  0-1

Season (straight up):  0-1

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Football Is BACK!!

Although the Blowhard did their normal three roster projections for the Patriots, in all truthfulness, the NFL season still kind of snuck up on him.  Yup, sounds stupid.  But the truth.  Their focus on the 2018 NFL preseason was seriously lacking…though since the preseason really doesn’t matter, will that really affect any of our analysis?

Probably.

But then again, no one really knows what the hell is going to happen in Week One of the NFL season.  Always a crapshoot picking games for this week.  That’s why, again, the Blowhard does not gamble.

However, since we did such a bang-up job picking games for the 2017 season, the beat must go on.  So let’s just do it:

Atlanta at Philadelphia (-2.5)

Am I still bitter about the Eagles beating the Patriots in last years’ Super Bowl?  You betcha!!  Will I pick against the Iggles all this year out of spite?  No, but I will do so in Week One.  Well, not because of spite, but because I think they will lose.  Yup, even at home, even after the impressive Super Bowl (offensively, anyway…wait, was it impressive, or did the Pats D just really suck so bad?  Sigh…), even though the immortal Nick Foles will be back behind center (cough)…ok, enough of the sarcasm.

The Eagles are a good team.  Atlanta ain’t so bad, or shouldn’t be anyway.  Even though both teams went a combined 1-7 in the preseason.  Again, preseason doesn’t matter, but I thought that was a fun stat!

Should be a decent game to open the season…unless there are too many “leading with the helmet” penalties.  I really don’t have any other analysis at this point.

So the bottom line?  No idea on this first game of the first week.  Just a hunch…

Atlanta 27, Philadelphia 23.

2017 Season (against the spread):  143-124 

2017 Season (straight up):  180-87 

Patriot Free Agency (in)action, Defense…and…The End…

Continuing on…defense AND specialists, that is.  Can’t forget how important the special teamers are to the Patriot organization!!

And, in case you forgot, there’s this:  For the record, we will say where the player came from if they are an addition and where they went if they jumped ship.  We will also note if they finished last season on the Patriots injured list (IR) or on the Patriot practice squad (PS).

DE:

Holdovers:  Keionta Davis (IR), Trey Flowers, Eric Lee, Derek Rivers (IR), Deatrich Wise

Arrivals:  Adrian Clayborn (Atlanta)

Departures:  None

In limbo:  None

Comments:  Seems a little bizarre we start this section with someone named Keionta Davis, eh?  The danger of going in alphabetical order I suppose.  Anyway, it would seem that even with the addition of Clayborn, the expected return of Rivers and the hope of growth from Year One to Year Two for Wise, this group still may not be saved.  Lee had spurts at the end of last season.  But there’s also probably a good reason he spent the year on the Buffalo Bills practice squad.

In addition to not really knowing if Rivers can actually play, or whether Wise will get better, I cannot say I am too bullish on the Clayborn move.  I mean, it appears this won’t cost the team much, per usual.  But on the surface, it’s fair to question how a player can get 6 sacks in one game and then 3.5 total in the other 15.  Maybe he didn’t play all 16, but I’m not even going to look it up.  You get the point.  Clayborn certainly cannot hurt.  But there still needs to be an infusion of talent here this offseason.  And I’m not sure where they are going to get it.  The free agent list I am looking at is…weak.  The draft?  Sure, but any studs here will be long gone by the time the Pats even pick in the first round.

Let’s hope they figure out something here as well.  Oh, and Flowers is a free agent after this season.  He may not necessarily be a stud, but he is the best they have.  May want to figure something out with him too, while they are at it.

DT:

Holdovers:  Malcom Brown, Adam Butler, Lawrence Guy, Vincent Valentine (IR)

Arrivals:  Danny Shelton (Cleveland)

Departures:  Alan Branch (released)

In limbo:  Ricky Jean Francois

Comments:  There’s a lot of NFL bodies here now, but how good really are they?  Shelton apparently can play the run, but not the pass.  I’m still not sure what to make of Brown, and he’s been around a few years now.  I’m not exactly sure what Guy did last year, after signing that fat free agent contract last year.  Butler still likely remains a project and we probably can say the same thing about Valentine, to be honest.

Branch would help…well, the 2016 Branch and not the one that loitered around last year.  I suppose that’s the risk you take with guys like that though.  Francois really isn’t in limbo, as he said he wasn’t re-signing with the Pats.  I think he was babbling about going to a team with a better scheme fit like Chris Long did after the 2016 season.  Francois isn’t even as good as Long, so I am not sure what he was talking about.  He was lucky to have a job.  He was only here because Branch didn’t feel like playing.  Whatever…best of luck Ricky Jean.

Here’s hoping they do some more work here too.  But not as much as the place that needs the most work…

LB:

Holdovers:  Dont’a Hightower (IR), Harvey Langi (IR), Elandon Roberts, Kyle Van Noy

Arrivals:  None

Departures:  Shea McClellin (IR-released), Trevor Reilly (PS-not re-signed)

In limbo:  Marquis Flowers, James Harrison

Comments:  If only Hightower could ever stay healthy, this group would…still suck badly.  Holy crap.  I haven’t seen a worse collection of stiffs at one position…maybe ever.  Ok, that’s hyperbole.  I’m sure if I just analyzed the position groups of the Cleveland Browns over the last two years I would find worse.  But the message is clear:  This is the area of greatest need.

The team loves Van Noy and that’s really kind of inexplicable.  Roberts is terrible and everyone else listed may be worse than terrible.  I’m not sure what the Patriots’ plan is here.  This should have been the first thing addressed.  And they haven’t added anyone.  The draft?  Sure.  But again, picking late in each round and having several needs…how many impact players can they get from there?

I don’t know if Preston Brown made a gazillion tackles for the Bills over the years because there were simply too many players running free past their defensive line.  But that would have seemed to have been a guy to target.  Especially after he publicly said he would love to come here like some other former Bills (Hogan, Gilmore, Gillislee).  And the fact that he signed with the Bengals for a mere 4 million for 1 year.  25 years old too.  I’m not sure why the Pats didn’t sniff him out a bit and why he signed for next to nothing.  I guess I am missing something, but on the surface, I don’t understand the lack of interest.  No one is really talking about it locally, so maybe it’s just me.

But the fact remains that they need several capable bodies here.  And there is no way Brown would have hurt.  At this point, can adding anyone hurt?

CB:

Holdovers:  Stephon Gilmore, Cyrus Jones (IR), Jonathan Jones (IR), Ryan Lewis (PS), Eric Rowe, Jomal Wiltz (PS)

Arrivals:  Jason McCourty (Cleveland)

Departures:  Johnson Bademosi (Houston), Malcolm Butler (Tennessee)

In limbo:  None

Comments:  Believe it or not, the Pats may be all set here.  Gilmore came on later in the year.  McCourty may not be an All-Pro, or even technically as good as Butler, but he should be solid, by all accounts.  I can probably live with Rowe and Jonathan Jones as backups.  And as much as I hate to say it, let’s give Cyrus one more chance.  I’m not expecting much, but you never know.  Lewis has been getting some love here as well, but I have no idea about him.  Adding a body here, of course, would not hurt.  But the needs are more pressing elsewhere.

S:

Holdovers:  Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, David Jones (PS), Devin McCourty, Jordan Richards, Damarius Travis (PS)

Arrivals:  None

Departures:  None

In limbo:  None

Comments:  Same here as the cornerbacks I would say.  Devin struggled some and likely isn’t worth the money he gets paid.  But you could do a lot worse than the trio of him, Chung and Harmon.  I would be very disappointed to see Richards on the team next year.  He is flat-out awful.  But we are splitting hairs if we are complaining about the 4th safety.

Specialists:

Holdovers:  Ryan Allen (P), Brandon Bolden (re-signed), Joe Cardona (LS), Nate Ebner (ST, re-signed), Stephen Gostkowski (K), Nicholas Grigsby (ST), Geneo Grissom (ST), Brandon King (ST, re-signed), Matthew Slater (ST, re-signed)

Arrivals:  None

Departures:  None

In limbo:  None

My favorite group!  Once again, the Pats carry more special-teams only guys than anyone else.  This HAS to be a fact, right?  Slater apparently re-signed as I write this and with the team bringing back Ebner, Bolden and King, well, the gang’s all here!  Cardona had a bad snap and Allen a worse hold in the Super Bowl, but I cannot complain too much about those two otherwise.

The key question here is:  Is this the year they bring in competition for Gostkowski?  One year left on his deal, with a 5 mil cap hit, which I think is all guaranteed.  But although he seemed to get back on track last year during the regular season, his playoff performance left a lot to be desired…again.  Even with the aforementioned bad snap, he still should have hit that 26-yarder…blindfolded.  And another stray extra point.  I don’t know, maybe make him fight for his job this training camp?

It won’t happen, but we can hope, right?  I suppose that since kickers generally are all of a sudden pretty average in the NFL, especially since they moved the extra point back, they may as well hang on to Gostkowski.  But how about even attempting an upgrade?

That pretty much sums everything up.  I’m not anticipating many more moves before the draft.  We can all be somewhat disappointed at that.  But looking at the free agent list, there does appear to be plenty of swill out there, so how many more of those guys can really help?  Guess we gotta hope the draft class is strong…

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