Cleat Geeks

Monday Night Football Showdown

Photo from espnmediazone.com

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are 2-0 for the first time since 2010. After defeating the Superbowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles 27-21, the Bucs are sitting alone atop the NFC South division. On the first play of the game, Fitzpatrick connected to former Eagle Desean Jackson on a 75 yard touchdown pass. That would also become the longest play to begin a game in Buccaneer history. The Tampa passing offense would continue to stay on fire with touchdown passes to Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, and OJ Howard.

Let’s not forget about the defense as well. Kwon Alexander (last week’s player profile) strip sacked Nick Foles. Linebacker Lavonte David made a critical 4th down stop on Zach Ertz to force an Eagle turnover. The defensive line came up huge with sacks by Jason Pierre Paul and Gerald McCoy. The Tampa secondary also came up big. With injuries to Brent Grimes and Vernon Hargreaves, third year player Ryan Smith and rookie Carlton Davis got the start. Coach Koetter praised Smith saying “I thought that was Ryan Smith’s, easily his best game of his career,” Koetter said. “I thought he was aggressive all day. Not only that, but he made two really big plays on punt cover. And I’m just so, man, I’m so proud of him. Very proud of him. Because that kid’s taken some abuse. You know, for him to hang in there and keep battling.”

Up next, a Monday Night Football home match-up against the Pittsburgh Steelers (0-1-1). Pittsburgh leads the all-time series against Tampa bay 8-2. However, in the last meeting (2014) between the two teams, Tampa Bay defeated Pittsburgh 27-24. Tampa Bay should be welcoming back Pro Bowl cornerback Brent Grimes and it couldn’t come at a better time. Grimes first assignment will be to slow down the NFL’s best wide receiver in Antonio Brown. The Tampa secondary will also have their hands full with second year wide receiver Juju Smith-Schuster. The man throwing to these receivers will be 6 time pro bowler Ben Roethlisberger who has posted 5 touchdowns to 1 interception against the Bucs. However, a fact that cannot be ignored is Big Ben’s record on the road. Over the past 3 years, Ben is 17-6 while throwing 65 touchdowns compared to 20 interceptions at home. On the road, he is 15-10-1 while throwing 25 touchdowns to 27 interceptions. The Steelers will also be missing stud running back Le’veon Bell who continues his holdout over his contract.

Tampa Bay has a chance to make a statement Monday in front of a national television audience that they are a team on the rise. One thing is for certain, Raymond James Stadium will be rocking Monday night. GO BUCS!!!

Meet the Bucs

Photo from deadspin.com

Would it be anyone else? Ryan Fitzpatrick was drafted in the 7th round of the 2005 NFL Draft by the St. Louis Rams. Drafted out of Harvard University, the journeyman quarterback would go on to play for 5 more teams before signing as a backup in 2017. His Harvard intelligence was on full display when Fitzpatrick scored a 48 out of a possible 50 points on the Wonderlic test. That record is the highest ever score for a quarterback. Fitzpatrick would take over starting duties for an injured Jameis Winston and would finish the Tampa Bay season with a 2-1 record. Fitzpatrick has started his 2018 season for a suspended Winston with a bang becoming NFC Offensive Player of the Week in week 1 and week 2. He also became the first QB to pass for 400 yards and throw 4 touchdowns in first two games of the season. If “Fitzmagic” continues on Monday night and Tampa Bay is 3-0, head coach Dirk Koetter is going to have a tough decision on his hands with Winston available to return from his suspension.

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Sunday Night Football Preview: Lions vs Patriots

Week 3 of Sunday Night Football will see the New England Patriots (1-1) come to Michigan to face the Detroit Lions (0-2). Both teams are coming off of Week 2 losses and be looking to right the ship in this one. This will be New England’s 2nd straight road game. Last week, they lost to the Jaguars 31-20. The Lions return home, where they got thoroughly beaten by the Jets 2 weeks ago, after dropping a road game to the Niners 30-27 in Week 2.

As usual, kickoff will be 8:20 EST. This will be another dome game so weather will play no factor. Let’s dig into the match-up.

New England Patriots

The Patriots come into this game with an offense that falls in the middle of the league in points, passing yards, and rushing yards. However, this will be the easiest defense they’ve faced after tough matchups against Houston and Jacksonville. Tom Brady looks solid so far with over 500 yards, 5 TDs and only 1 interception. The Patriots committee of RBs; Sony Michel, James White, and Rex Burkhead, should be at full strength. It would appear that Michel and White will split the passing down work and Burkhead will be the goalline back. White has been a team leader for 3 years as the pass-catching RB so expect to see him get the most work. New England will be without Julian Edelman for 2 more games but made a splash addition of Joh Gordon from the Cleveland Browns. It remains to be seen if Gordon will be ready to suit in this game, both from a comprehension and injury standpoint. If Gordon is a no go, this corps will be led again by Philip Dorsett, who has 110 yards on the year, and Chris Hogan, who caught 2 TDs last week. The focal point of the offense, outside of Brady, is Rob Gronkowski. He was a monster in Week 1, snagging 7 balls for 123 yards and a TD in the Patriots win, but was held to 2 catches in their loss last week to the Jaguars. It would seem the success of this team truly rides on Gronks shoulders.

On defense, injuries are the story for the Pats. New England may be missing 3 starters on a defense that already ranks in the bottom 5 as far as yards allowed. In fact, they are among the worst 3rd of the league in both passing and rushing defense. They do have 4 takeaways over the opening 2 games and will be facing a QB that is showing turnover tendencies. If Tom Brady and the offense can get ahead early, it should be able to cover up some warts on the defense.

Key Injuries: T Marcus Cannon (Calf) – S Patrick Chung (Concussion) – DB Eric Rowe (Groin) – DL Trey Flowers (Concussion)

Detroit Lions

Kids, this is what a train wreck looks like. The hopes were high for this Lions offense heading into 2018 and so far those hopes have been dashed. Matt Stafford has thrown 4 interceptions already and the Lions offense hasn’t done much until the 4th quarter in both of their losses. Those gameplay trends tell the story of a team that ranks in the top 10 in passing but the bottom 3 in rushing on the season so far. Expect that to continue. The RB committee consists of LeGarrette Blount, Theo Riddick, and rookie Kerryon Johnson…none of them has more than 45 yards in a game this season. Riddick is however tied for the team lead in receptions at 14. Golden Tate leads the WRs with 14 receptions but has done so on 28 targets and a 50% catch rate isn’t getting it done for one of the better possession WRs in the NFL. Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay are the outside WRs. They each have 1 TD already but Golladay has outpaced Jones in yards 203-108. Golladay is actually the teams leading WR in yards. A large concern for the Lions is going to be missing players along their offensive line. Starting guard TJ Lang missed some practice time with a back injury and starting tackle Taylor Decker unexpectedly missed Friday’s practice. This is a big issue, as Decker’s backup is also likely to miss the game.

Again, injuries are the story on defense, as the Lions best pass-rusher, Ezekiel Ansah, and best cornerback, Darius Slay, both appear on the injury report.  Both have a chance to play but after a week of no practice, it’s tough to trust them against one of the league’s best offenses. Detroit is actually ranking dead last against the run but has a top 5 passing defense. This is probably a product of teams playing ahead on the Lions and just running the ball to kill the clock. An interesting note is that new Lions Head Coach Matt Patricia was the New England defensive coordinator last season. He and Bill Belichick are going to know each other very well and it could make for some interesting play calls to attempt to throw each other off. In that type of game, I’m betting on Belichick 10 times out of 10.

Key Injuries: WR Marvin Jones (Ankle) – G TJ Lang (Back) – Ezekiel Ansah (Shoulder) – CB Darius Slay (Concussion)

Match-ups to Watch

Matt Stafford vs Patriots Secondary
Matthew Stafford has played 6 quarters of ugly football and 2 quarters of garbage time gold in the Lions 2 losses this season. He has 4 touchdowns and 4 interceptions this year and the Patriots will look to keep him out of the former and add to latter. New England is allowing 267 passing yards per game and has 2 interceptions so far in 2018.

Gronk vs Detroit Linebackers and Safeties
Putting bluntly. I don’t think anyone of this Giants defense can cover Rob Gronkowski. The guys that are fast enough aren’t big enough and the guys that are big enough can’t keep up with him. Gronk was bottled up by the Jaguars defense after a huge Week 1 performance. Look for a bounce-back against a shaky Lions defense.

James White vs Theo Riddick
While they won’t actually face each other on the field, both of these RBs play similar roles for their respective offenses. These are 2 of the league’s premier pass-catching RBs. Both are currently in the top 10 of RB targets in the passing game and we should see both of them heavily involved on Sunday night.

Fantasy Focus

Which Detroit Lions deep threat WR will benefit from the game script? As you’ll see soon, I think the Pats will run away with this one and that could be mean a lot of deep shots by the Lions. This should mean either Kenny Golladay or Marvin Jones or both will have the opportunity for garbage time TDs. Jones is hurt and Golladay has almost 100 more yards so far this season, so my money will be on a big day for “Babytron” Kenny Golladay.

Prediction

This may be the most predictable of the Sunday night games so far in 2018. The Lions are reeling and the Patriots are a good team looking to rebound. I expect 2 quick TDs from New England and Detroit will spend the rest of the game playing catch-up.

Patriots 31 – Lions 21

Bradford’s Last Hoorah?

It’s safe to say that the Sam Bradford experiment has gone so poorly for the Cardinals that Valley sports fans should miss the days of the ‘Fernando Rodney Experience’. By now, everyone knows how historically anemic the Arizona Cardinals have been through the first two games of the 2018 season. Sure, the Cards are 0-2 for the first time since 2005, but it’s how they’ve gotten to 0-2 than just the record itself that has the fans and everyone else around the organization at a loss for words.

The six points through two games is the lowest total for the Red Birds since 1945, when the Chicago Cardinals got shutout in their first two games of the season. If they get shutout against the Chicago Bears (1-1), the 2018 Cardinals will share the worst offensive point per game mark through three games in the franchises 99-year NFL existence with that World War ll era team at 2.0 ppg.

Offensively, the current Cardinals rank dead last in the NFL in points per game, plays, rush attempts, longest run, pass yards, pass yards per attempt, pass TD’s, total yards, 1st downs, 3rd down conversions, 3rd down conversion percentage & time of possession. Entering Week-3, they are also second worst in penalties & rush yards.

Defensively, Arizona ranks bottom ten in rushing and passing yards & total yards. They are also the second worst in getting off the field during 3rd downs at 50%, as opponents have converted half of their 28 attempts.

Things have gone sideways so quickly that in an unheard of move, head coach Steve Wilks started piping in fan noise during practice this week. And no, not because the Bears are in town and he’s expecting their fans to take over the stadium – which in all likelihood will happen if the Cards fall behind early – Wilks piped in booing during practice, just in case the Sam Bradford led offense can’t get out of their own way for the third week in a row.

Before delving back into the bad, there has been a couple bright spots. Per Pro Football Focus’ analytic grades, Larry Fitzgerald has graded out as the 18th best WR through two games, while Patrick Peterson ranks as the 9th overall CB & 7th in pass coverage, even though he has the second best passer rating allowed when the man he’s guarding is targeted.

There’s also two backups who are filling in as starters due to injuries that are making their case for more playing times, even when said starters are healthy. Since replacing Andre Smith (elbow) during the first game of the season at right tackle, John Wetzel is tied for second in allowing QB pressures (1 pressure) in 70 pass blocking plays. He also has the second best grade on the whole offense, only trailing Fitzgerald. Filling in for an injured Olsen Pierre (toe; hasn’t played this season yet) & Markus Golden (ACL) on the defensive line, Benson Mayowa has been playing well enough to garner some attention. Mayowa recorded his first two sacks of the season on Sunday against the Rams and currently has 9 tackles through two games at left defensive end.

For the first time since their major injuries last season, LDE Markus Golden and TE Jermaine Gresham (Achilles) were full participants during latter half of this weeks practice. Both Golden and Gresham are questionable against the Bears, as is Larry Fitzgerald (hamstring), but the assumption is that all will play. Olsen Pierre and Andre Smith are both ruled out, meaning Wetzel is going to have his hands full with the Bears’ Khalil Mack. Mack has a sack in each of the first two games and has the second highest ranked edge pass-rusher, with a grade of 90.8. New England’s Trey Flowers is at 90.9.

While the offensive line has kept Bradford off the ground for the most part – 3 sacks (T-9); hit 11 times (T-16th) – there haven’t been very many holes opening for David Johnson to do much on the ground, even though the Cardinals are 14th in the league with a 4.1 avg/carry, as backed up by the longest run of the year being 11 yards. The grades through two games aren’t very pretty to say the least, for not just Sam Bradford, but the entire offense. The Cardinals are certainly going to have their hands full if they expect to come a way a winner for the first time in 2018.

On the outside, Kirk and Fitz are the two receivers to catch a pass so far this year. 2nd-yr WR Chad Williams has yet to reel in any of his 6 targets and ranks 98th of 101 eligible receivers this season. With David Johnson being ineffective and looking to have missed a couple assignments in pass blocking, he’s also seen his grade dip in this offense.

Head coach Steve Wilks turned some heads early in the week when he said the offensive playbook will likely be ‘scaled back’ due to too many mistakes. It’s not just the fact that the offense is tied for last, with three other teams, on plays of 20+ yards (2X), or that they’re one of nine teams to not have a 40+ play thus far as too why Wilks’ comments were a head-scratcher, it’s also because of the usage of their star RB David Johnson.

DJ caught 1 pass last week & is on pace to finish with 48 receptions, after coming off an 80 catch season in 2016. This David Johnson play tree from last week shows no innovation as offensive coordinator Mike McCoy has continuously called run plays between the tackles instead of trying to get David in open space where he’s most dangerous.

While it might feel like the offense has enough of the blame to go around for the whole team, the defense which finished 6th in yards/game and 19th in PPG allowed, are currently 30th and 25th respectively.

One reason being Jamar Taylor. After starting poorly last season, the defense clamped down and became a much better unit once Tramon Williams was inserted into the starting lineup around mid-season. The Cardinals better hope that Bene Benwikere can provide that same boost, because Jamar should be hanging onto the starting gig by a thread. Not only has he been penalized with four defensive holdings in two games, he also ranks 102nd of 103 eligible players by PFF.

Taylor isn’t the only Cardinal defensive player though.The Cards have been playing a lot of three-safety sets (Baker, Bethea & Boston), even though Bethea is the highest rated of the three and he only has a grade of 61.6. Even safety turned linebacker, Deone Bucannon, has seemingly lost his spot as a starter, as he played 25 snaps Sunday (35%). For good reason too, as Deone has been graded out as the 4th worst LB, 3rd worst against the run & 5th worst in coverage in the NFL.

Haason Reddick, who seems to be in Wilks’ doghouse as well, played on only three defensive snaps against the Rams. While the 1st-round pick from a year ago has played only 17 snaps this season, he’s been graded out as the best defensive player on the team & would be ranked top-13 in the league in rush & coverage grades, as well as an overall grade if he had enough snaps under his belt. Josh Bynes also grades out as the 10th best overall linebacker thanks in large part to his 84.5 grade against the rush, which puts him at third in the league for that category.

 

What Steve Wilks should’ve done instead of piping in boo’s during practice this week, was have “ROOOSSSEEENNN” chants filtering through the loud speakers. Because if the Cardinals drop to a third consecutive big first half deficit, and after fans watched Baker Mayfield come off the bench down 21-3 to lead the Cleveland Browns to their first win in nearly two seasons on Thursday, everyone in attendance will surely be waiting for the first opportunity to let their voices be heard. After all, inserting the 10th overall pick in this years draft can’t break this offense anymore than it already is.

The Roar: Sunday Night Football in Motown

Game Information:

The New England Patriots (1-1) visit the Motor City to face the Detroit Lions (0-2) on Sunday Night Football @ Ford Field.

You can catch the action on NBC and/or on WJR-AM 760 in Detroit.

Kickoff is set for 8:20 PM ET.

Briefing:

Image result for matt patricia detroit lionsLions’ Head Coach Matt Patricia knows Tom Brady and Patriots’ Head Coach Bill Belichick from time spent in New England, but they also know him.

Regardless, nobody on either sideline is happy coming into this game as both teams lost last Sunday.

New England dropped a 31-20 decision to the Jaguars in Jacksonville while the Lions dropped to the 49ers in San Francisco, 30-27.

Brady and his offense put up 302 total yards, 82 of them on the ground while the other 220 went through the air.

23-year-old rookie Sony Michel led the running attack for the Patriots with 10 carries for 34 yards. James White was the leading receiver with seven grabs for 73 yards.

Defensively, the Patriots allowed 480 total yards. 104 of those were rushing yards and 376 passing yards.

27 first downs were yielded, 10 came on third down.

Matthew Stafford and company made a late push on the West Coast, but to no avail.

No. 9’s offense collected 427 total yards, 98 on the ground and 329 through the air.

The presences of Golden Tate and Kenny Golladay loomed large as they collectively snatched 13 passes for 198 yards. 21-year-old rookie Kerryon Johnson rumbled for 43 yards on eight carries. LeGarrette Blount, prior to his ejection, ran for 38 yards on eight attempts.

Detroit’s defense allowed 346 total yards, an astounding 190 went on the ground as 156 of them were passing yards.

Injury Report:

Image result for ziggy ansah detroit lionsOL Marcus Cannon (calf), newcomer WR Josh Gordon (hamstring), DB Keion Crossen (hamstring), DB Nate Ebner (hip) and DB Eric Rowe (groin) are questionable for New England.

S Patrick Chung and DE Trey Flowers are doubtful with concussions.

TE Jacob Hollister is out with a chest injury.

DE Ziggy Ansah (shoulder), CB Darius Slay (concussion), LB Eli Harold (hip), G T.J. Lang (back), WR Marvin Jones Jr. (ankle) and TE Michael Roberts (knee) are all listed as questionable for the matchup.

Ansah and Lang were out last week, but lightly practiced this week.

Prediction:

An offensive shootout ends in favor of New England, 42-35.

Saints Facing Early Marque NFC South Match-Up Vs Falcons

Even for a long NFL season, each game is extremely important for 32 teams in the league. This Sunday will be an early marque NFC South rivalry matchup between the Atlanta Falcons (1-1) hosting the New Orleans Saints (1-1). Both teams are looking to continue their rebound losses from week 1 and make that push for the NFC South divisional title that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are currently on top of. The New Orleans Saints are usually efficient all-across the board on offense and defense. In week 1’s loss at home to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Saints defense to stop backup Quarterback Ryan Fitzgerald from scoring. The Saints would lose to the Bucs with a 48-40 score. The Saints almost lost to the Cleveland Browns because their offense couldn’t ignite a spark. The Saints were spared of an upset with a 21-18 victory because the Browns’ Kicker in Zane Gonzalez was horrendous with two field goals and two missed extra-points.

For the 5th straight season, the Saints have started out with an opening season loss including the last four seasons starting out at least 0-2. Last year, New Orleans did finish out the regular season with an 11-5 record including an NFC South divisional title. This Sunday, the Saints will need to have their entire team from the offense, defense, and special teams all play efficiently against this highly-talented Falcons team. There are many areas where the Saints must match systematically so they do not face a 0-2 record in the NFC South division race.

 

The Saints’ passing game must be the sole provider of points against this Falcons defense

With Running Back Mark Ingram still suspended for two more games due to PED substance abuse violations, the Saints are last (32nd) in the league in rushing yards per game (52.5). This isn’t a nod that RB Alvin Kamara isn’t ready for 1st string reps, but the Saints are trying out Kamara as an extra Receiver in the backfield. The Saints offense is ranked 6th in the league in points per game (30.5) and 4th in passing yards per game (322.5) but last week was a step back against the Browns defense. New Orleans is looking for more consistency in their passing game outside of WR Michael Thomas. In just two games this season, Thomas has accounted for 269 yards and 3 touchdowns on 28 receptions (an NFL record in two games). Despite Thomas being an elite Receiver in the league with elite Quarterback Drew Brees leading the helm, the Saints will need more impact from their other Receivers.

Image result for michael thomas saints

Photo by; 247Sports

Falcons CB Robert Alford will try to lockdown Thomas along with a Linebacker or Safety in zone coverage. RB Alvin Kamara is the Saints’ 2nd top Receiver with 15 receptions for 165 yards and a touchdown. WR Ted Ginn Jr. has accounted for 9 receptions for 123 yards and a touchdown but experiencing issues with his knee. Tommylee Lewis is listed on IR due to a knee injury and may not be back until week 11 against the Philadelphia Eagles. This will leave TE Benjamin Watson, WR Austin Carr, and rookie WR Tre’Quan Smith not creating much of an impact. With Alford and a zone player in double-coverage on Michael Thomas and a talented Falcons D-Line and Linebackers reading Kamara in the backfield, the Saints other Receivers will need to step up to create or continue consistency for the Saints passing game. This is a Falcons defense that ranks 10th in the league in passing yards allowed per game (218.5).

 

Saints Offensive Line must play a huge part to create a high-power passing game

One of the biggest reasons for the Saints’ high-power offense, besides Brees and Thomas, is their consistent and efficient Offensive Line. Pro Football Focus ranked the Saints O-Line as the top performing Offensive Line unit in the league after only two weeks. 2nd year Ryan Ramczyk has been a solid blocker for the Saints since he was drafted in the 1st round (32nd selection) of the 2017 NFL Draft. This season, however, has been a huge boost for the Saints’ blindside pass protector in LT Terron Armstead has been incredible for the offense. Last week against the Browns was one of his best performances so far this season as he was graded 86.3 against DE Myles Garrett in pass protection.

Image result for ryan ramczyk saints

Photo By; Saints News Network

The Saints Offensive Line will have a huge task ahead of them against this Falcons defense that is looking for more pass rush. The Falcons defense is tied for 19th in the league in sacks accounted for with 4 total sacks. Falcons DE Takkarist McKinley has accounted for 2 total sacks so far this season but he hungry to put his name into the category of the top pass rushers in the league. The Saints also need to watch out for DE/OLB Vic Beasley Jr. and DT Grady Jarrett, who will be lined up over Saints G Andrus Peat.

 

The Saints Secondary will need to focus on the Falcons multi-talented Receiver Corp.

The Atlanta Falcons have a talented Receiving Corp of their own led by WR Julio Jones. The Falcons also made the addition of former Alabama Crimson Tide WR in Calvin Ridley, who was drafted in the 1st round (23rd pick) in the 2018 NFL Draft. Jones and Ridley, along with Mohamed Sanu and Austin Hooper makes a great set of targets for Quarterback Matt Ryan. This Falcons offense has not reached their full potential since they played two aggressive defenses in the Philadelphia Eagles and the Carolina Panthers so far this season. The Falcons are currently ranked 16th in passing yards per game (248.5) and 20th in points per game (21.5). In two games this season, Jones has accounted for 233 yards on 15 receptions (28 targets) but no touchdowns. This is likely to change as the Falcons Offensive Coordinator Steve Sarkisian is still looking to have Jones create more of an impact in the red zone.

Image result for marshon lattimore saints

The Saints star Cornerback Marshon Lattimore is performing like one of the most talented coverage players in the league after winning NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year last season. Lattimore can lockdown Jones without extra help, the problem when facing the Falcons passing game is the other tools they have. On the opposite side of the line of scrimmage, Ridley can set up long-yard receptions and Sanu is an excellent provider of yards and first-downs as an inside receiver. The Saints will need consistent coverage from all their Defensive Backs and Linebackers in coverage.

This season, the Saints have not accounted for the same impact as they did last season. In two games, the Saints defense is ranked 30th in points allowed per game (33) and 29th in passing yards allowed per game (325.1). Last year through the first two games of the season, the Saints were dead last in passing defense and fixed it’s to be an above average defense. There will be time for the Saints defense to fix itself in the passing game, but it starts with the deep game with the Saints other Cornerback in Ken Crawley. Lattimore is a great Cornerback because he can cover in any range of yardage, but Crawley is mostly efficient in short-yardage. He is a Corner who can get beat deep through fast and explosive Receivers in the Vertical route. If the Saints want more efficiency in defending the pass, the Saints will either need better deep coverage from Crawley as the sole coverage player or put a Safety like Marcus Williams in support for a Falcons Receiver like Calvin Ridley.

Titans Week 2 Recap and Week 3 Preview

In a game where the Texans led in every way except the scoreboard, Tennessee pulled off the win with a few trick plays and creative play calling. Missing both of Tennessee’s starting tackles as well as Mariota not playing due to being injured, it was expected that the Texans defense led by JJ Watt would get to Gabbert often, however Tennessee was able to hold them off well enough to get the win.

Tennessee’s defense started the game strong getting a sack on Watson on the first drive, starting off getting to the quarterback much better than last week as they didn’t get a sack until the second half week one. The Titans then had a three and out against the Texans, however, on fourth down the Titans did a fake punt pass where Kevin Byard threw a 66 yard touchdown pass to Dane Cruikshank, for Tennessee to take an early 7-0 lead. Houston followed this by driving down the field but missed 54 yard field goal. After the missed field goal the Titans then drove down the field and threw a screen pass to Taywan Taylor who juked through defenders to score a touchdown with 35 seconds left in the first. On that drive, Tennessee mixed it up with Derrick Henry taking multiple snaps from the shotgun and handing off the ball in run options as well as taking multiple of the snaps as carries, helping Tennessee driving down the field. Throughout the first quarter Tennessee’s offense looked much more creative than week one while also looking much better getting to the quarterback on defense having two sacks in the first quarter.

Image result for Kevin Byard, Dane Cruikshank

In the second quarter both teams struggled to move the ball for a majority of the quarter, with Adoree Jackson getting his first career interception on a deep pass that was intended for Deandre Hopkins in the end zone. The rest of the quarter was multiple defensive stops with Tennessee’s defense shutting down Houston’s offense until about three minutes left in the second quarter. Houston ended the half with a touchdown drive that ended with a pass to Hopkins from Watson making it 14-7 heading into halftime.

The Titans start the 3rd Quarter struggling on both sides of the ball, as they had three straight punts. The Texans however moved the ball down the field well, having a field goal followed by touchdown from Watson to Will Fuller. On that touchdown, Fuller burned Malcolm Butler, this is the 2nd time in as many games that Butler got burnt for a deep touchdown, as he was burnt by Kenny Stills in Week 1. To start the 4th quarter Tennessee is finally able to move the ball down the field, using some no huddle play calls to help them out, ending the drive with a field goal to tie the game 17-17. Houston the next drive drove the ball 38 yards down the field, however Tennessee’s defense came up strong ending the drive with a punt just outside of field goal range. Then, with just 6:41 left in the 4th, Gabbert leads a drive that lasts five minutes and 41 seconds that results in a field goal, giving Houston the ball left with just a minute left in the 4th and no timeouts. Houston moved the ball down the field well, however, they continued to have three straight passes down the middle of the field, running out of time in field goal range before they could have gotten another snap off.

Tennessee looked much better than Week 1 on both sides of the ball against a tougher team without some key offensive starters, however, it was Houston’s mistakes that helped Tennessee win this game as well as some good play calling from the Titans on risky plays. Derrick Henry looked much better than Week 1, as he wasn’t just running into players and he was playing more patient than the week prior. Malcolm Butler getting torched for the second week in a row is worrisome as the Titans signed him to solidify their secondary, although he does have an interception on the season.

The Titans face the Jacksonville Jaguars in week 3, who are coming off a strong game of beating the New England Patriots. Tennessee did beat the Jaguars both times last season, however it is uncertain whether Mariota will be under center, which hurts the Titans offense against a stout Jacksonville defense. Taylor Lewan is probable and Jack Conklin is questionable for the Titans as for the Jaguars have Fournette and Jalen Ramsey that are questionable, depending on who plays can make a huge impact on this game. Titans must rely on the run game is Mariota is unable to play once again, as their defense needs to have a repeat of this past week getting to Bortles early and often if they plan on winning this game.

Buffalo Bills Blitz: Week 3 Preview

It’s a sad state of affairs when a team — a team full of professionals that are among the one percent of the best in the world at their jobs — losing by double-digits can still be considered an improvement. But here we are. And only one guy retired at half time.

But after getting blasted in week 1 by the Baltimore Ravens to the tune of 47-3, the week 2 31-20 loss at the hands of the Los Angeles Chargers doesn’t seem so bad (unless of course you remember that the Bills were down 28-6 at half and one of Phillip Rivers’ 42 children could have led a scoring drive on the Bills defense).

So what lay ahead in week 3? Unfortunately, more pain. But this is a Buffalo sports franchise, after all. All we feel is pain. So heading north to face the 1-0-1 Minnesota Vikings, things seem dreadful. Dreadful enough that the Bills are a 16.5-point underdog heading into Sunday. That’s a college football spread for an NFL game. Your 2018 Buffalo Bills, everyone!

So what are some things to look out for this week? What match-ups are important? Here we go.

Can the offense build positive momentum?

Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

It’s really hard to judge Josh Allen by his stat line through a game and a half. He’s 24-of-40 (50%) for 319 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. Not mind-blowing, but not catastrophic either, especially considering the talent level of this team. Granted, some of those stats are also because the team was in a 22-point hole heading into the second half last week, so passing was the game plan out of sheer necessity.

But Allen shows flashes. The Minnesota defense isn’t bad and it isn’t good — they are pretty much dead smack in the middle in passing defense, rushing defense and points allowed per game. Baltimore has a top-five defense and, despite giving up a lot of points in week 1, the Chargers boast a top-ten defense in terms of yards allowed. So the Bills didn’t exactly face an easy road the first two weeks.

Getting LeSean McCoy involved more heavily will be key. He has just 21 touches through two games for a grand total of 89 yards. The offense was pretty much built to run through him and hasn’t through two games. Getting him going would alleviate some of the pressure put on Allen to succeed. But if he can’t establish himself, it would allow the Vikings to pin their ears back and pressure Allen, which can’t be good for the Bills with this offensive line.

Can the defense step up?

Here’s something sort of surprising: the Bills aren’t universally dead last in defensive categories. Because of the blowout in week 1, they are tied with Detroit for the worst in the league in terms of points per game. But in terms of yardage per game, they’re not far into the bottom half of the league. Meaning they aren’t allowing long drives every possession. The atrocious offense has definitely contributed to their struggles.

But they are facing, statistically, one of the best quarterbacks in the league so far this year. Kirk Cousins is sixth in yardage (669), sixth in QBR (108.7) and tied for third in touchdowns (6) with just one interception to show for it. He’s found a rapport with Adam Thielen and the offense has been able to put up points despite the fact that Dalvin Cook has just 78 rushing yards through two weeks. That won’t last.

If the Bills defense wants to get going, forcing some turnovers are absolutely necessary and they have just one through two games. The forecast does not look promising against a good offensive team.

Who will call plays on defense?

Heading into the locker room down 28-6 to the Chargers last week, head coach Sean McDermott assumed play-calling responsibilities on defense from coordinator Leslie Frazier and the Bills yielded under 100 yards and just three points in the second half. Will Frazier get the chance again in week 3 or will McDermott ride that little bit of momentum into Minnesota?

Not to entirely blame Frazier here, as the offense has put the defense into tough situations repeatedly, but it’s pretty clear that the defense has struggled under Frazier thus far. A change could damage the relationship between the two, but with the team struggling as a whole, something new is needed and the worst-case scenario is that it is a failure like the first two efforts.

So what’s the damage?

On paper, there aren’t many teams the Bills can match up with. The Minnesota Vikings are one of those teams the Bills definitely can’t match up with. The Vikings are Super Bowl contenders; the Bills are first-overall contenders. The only hope to stay competitive is that the run game can get going and the defense, under McDermott’s play calling, can stifle a strong Minnesota offense. Then again, we learn not to hope in Buffalo.

Prediction: Vikings 27, Bills 10

Ranking The 2-0 Teams

Seven NFL teams stand at 2-0. and while you may not think that is a huge accomplishment in a long NFL season, it might be. You see, since 1990, 62.3% of teams who start 2-0 have made the play-offs. Yes, we realise that 2 games are a small sample size, and the road to the play-offs seems to be getting more narrow. Why would we say that? Last season 8 teams started off the season 2-0, but only 4 of them (Falcons, Panthers, Chiefs and Steelers) made the play-offs last season.

Therefore, I thought it might be a good exercise to rank the 2-0 teams from 7 to 1 and try to predict which ones would actually make the play-offs this season. So, here we go!

7) Miami Dolphins:  The 2-0 start seems to be mostly attributed to quarterback Ryan Tannehill. While the seventh-year veteran has been admirably efficient (73.9% completion rate), the passing attack simply lacks the firepower to overcome rough patches or top-tier defenses. Plus, with us throwing all these accolades at the Dolphins, someone tell them to pass the ball more, since they average the least amount of passes so far in the league. They have beat the Titans and the Jets with passing efficiency and a good rushing attack. But, they are still getting beat when it comes to total net yards 599 to 698. That will catch up to them if it continues.

Will They Make The Play-offs?

They do have a forgiving schedule with several winable games. They play the Bengals in Cincy, November they travel to Green Bay week 4 at New England and 3 of their last 4 weeks of the season see them play the Patriots and Jags at home while traveling to Minnesota. Even if they lose all 6 of those games, the other 10 are very winable. So I am going to say they make the play-offs as a Wild Card team.

6) Denver Broncos: Rookies Royce Freeman and Philip Lindsay have helped revive the second-ranked rushing attack. Lindsay, in fact, actually leads all rookies with 178 yards. He had a 53 yard scamper in week 2 that helped them to that victory. That run was 13 yards more than any 1 run the Broncos had last year. But, the much-improved offensive line might be the biggest difference of all.

Will They Make The Play-offs?

Denver started 2-0 in each of the last two seasons before crumbling down the stretch. But, for them to make any noise Kase Keenum must improve. He has a completion percentage of under 60%. And unlike the Dolphins, the Broncos schedule is difficult. I do not think they make the play-offs.

5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: I am sure that I am going to get a few people going crazy on Twitter for the next 3 selections. But, when you are last in the league at a very important category, you do not deserve to be in the top 3 of any ranking. The Bucs have been a great story, I honestly can’t believe they are on this list. But they have been fun to watch and they are. But, they are here because they have the worst run game (averaging a league-worst 2.7 yards per carry) and 31st-ranked defense. And in the hyper-competitive NFC South, the Buccaneers likely won’t have much margin for error.

Will They Make The Play-offs?

No. This has been a great story for 2 games, but they will not go 3-0 with the Steelers on Monday Night Football. Their luck will run out and they will become one of the 2-0 teams to not make the play-offs.

4) Kansas City Chiefs: Patrick Mahomes is setting opponents ablaze and taking advantage of what might be the league’s best collection of skill-position players in wide receivers Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins, tight end Travis Kelce and running back Kareem Hunt. He is also the 2 week MVP, but when you read that you chuckled, because it sounds and it is so ridiculous. But, they are at #4 because they have the 32nd ranked defense in the entire league. They can’t continue to score 35 points per game every game.

 Will They Make The Play-offs?

The return of safety Eric Berry (Achilles) should elevate the pass defense to a tolerable level. Upcoming match-ups with the Jaguars (Week 5) and Patriots (Week 6) should serve as good measuring sticks, but as mentioned above, the Chiefs have the best overall offensive weapons in football. Yes, they will make the play-offs. Yes, they will win their division.

3) Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals are the ultimate run the ball team and stop the run team. They run for over 100 yards per game, and their opponents only run for 70. They also out sack their opponents 8 to 5 and they win the turnover battle only throwing 1 interception so far in 2 games. That is why I have them at #3, they don’t do anything spectacular, but they seem to do most everything well. But, that running game just took a big hit with Joe Mixon now expected to be sidelined a few weeks with a knee injury.

Will They Make The Play-offs?

The AFC North is looking like they are evening out. The steelers and Browns tied, and the Bengals beat the Ravens in Cincinnati.  But the upcoming slate is brutal, as the next seven games all come against 2017 playoff teams (Panthers, Falcons, Steelers, Chiefs and Saints) or fellow 2-0 squads (Dolphins and Buccaneers). The entire division has a rough schedule, so that should equal out. Circle December 30th on your football calendar, it is the final regular season game and it pits the Steelers against the Bengals in Cincinnati. I think a play-off berth will come down to that game, and since it is in Cincinnati and the Steelers play the Patriots and the Saints in the 2 weeks leading up to that game, I will say the Bengals will make the play-offs.

2) Los Angeles Rams: The defense hasn’t allowed a point for the last six quarters. That sounds good until you look at the two teams they have beaten Oakland and Arizona. The Rams have the least impressive 2 week resume of all the 2-0 teams. Meanwhile, new receiver Brandin Cooks is already providing the deep threat (12 catches, 246 yards) that could help take Jared Goff to the next level.

Will They Make The Play-offs?

Being in the division they are in, I think there is little doubt. But will they really be tested? They play Minnesota on Thursday night September 27th. They also have Green Bay and Philly, but all 3 of those games are home.

1) Jacksonville Jaguars: If there were any questions about their legitimacy after last season’s run to the AFC Championship Game, a commanding win Sunday over the Patriots should have eradicated them. With perhaps the most talented collection of defenders in the league, the Jags could be in position to improve upon a formula that’s already proven successful.

Will They Make The Play-offs?

But while Blake Bortles delivered the best game of his career by throwing for 377 yards and four touchdowns against New England, he will still be the wild card until he proves that he can be a top ten quarterback in this league. He can be number 10, but he has to be that all season and through the play-offs.That could become an even greater problem after left tackle Cam Robinson, also one of Jacksonville’s best run blockers, was lost to a season-ending torn anterior cruciate ligament.

So, there they are, the 7 2-0 teams ranked. What do you think? Did I get it right, or did I make a couple mistakes? Let me know your opinion in the comments below, and why you have that opinion.

Which Team Is The Most Valued NFL Franchise?

Forbes Magazine releases a yearly list of the most valuable NFL franchises.They have just released the new list and the same team is not only still on top, but they have increased their lead over the second most valuable team. They actually increased in value 4% from last season.The Dallas Cowboys organization is worth an estimated $5 billion value while continuing its lead over the rest of the league for the 12th consecutive year.

Image result for jerry jones nflOwner Jerry Jones’ Cowboys are the first sports team to eclipse the estimated $5 billion mark, according to Forbes. Which is kind of funny knowing that the Cowboys have not been to the Super Bowl in 23 years. Maybe the Big Game is not all that important. The second place team has been to quite a few Super Bowls lately. the New England Patriots came in at second place, valued at an estimated $3.8 billion.

The largest increase from last season to this season was enough to place the Los Angeles Rams at number 3, jumping 7% to be valued at an estimated $3.2 billion It is worth noting that values for both the Rams and Oakland Raiders are based on estimates of revenue for their yet-to-be-finished new stadiums. The Rams are expected to be playing in a new Inglewood, California, stadium for the start of the 2020 season, while the Raiders are expected to play in a new stadium in Las Vegas by 2020.

Three other NFL franchises were valued at over 3 Billion dollars. The New York Giants (estimated $3.3 billion), Washington Redskins (estimated $3.1 billion)and the sixth-place San Francisco 49ers also reached the $3 billion mark at $3.05 billion.

As a whole, NFL team values increased by 2 percent, the slowest yearly growth since 2010, according to Forbes. The average NFL team is worth an estimated $2.57 billion.

Where Did The Rest Of The Teams End Up?

You already know the first 6 so, we will start with the 7th team. The two numbers that follow each team will be current value and 2018 revenue.

7) Chicago Bears   $2.9 B   $431 MImage result for NFL Logo, money

8) New York Jets   $2.85B   $443 M

9) Houston Texans   $2.8 B   $464 M

10) Philadelphia Eagles   $2.75 B   $458 M

11) Denver Broncos   $2.65 B   $427 M

12) Green Bay Packers   $2.625 B   $434 M

13) Atlanta Falcons   $2.6 B   $451 M

14) Baltimore Ravens   $2.59 B   $417 M

15) Pittsburgh Steelers   $2.585 B   $415 M

16) Seattle Seahawks   $2.58 B   $413 M

17) Miami Dolphins   $2.575 B   $414 M

18) Oakland Raiders   $2.42 B   $335 M

19) Minnesota Vikings   $2.4 B   $408 M

20) Indianapolis Colts   $2.38 B   $373 M

21) Carolina Panthers   $2.8 B   $396 M

22) San Diego Chargers   $2.275 B   $346 M

23) Arizona Cardinals   $2.15 B   $380 M

24) Kansas City Chiefs   $2.1 B   $380 M

25) Jacksonville Jaguars   $2.08 B   $391 M

26) New Orleans Saints   $2.075 B   $413 M

27) Tennessee Titans   $2.05 B   $371 M

28) Tampa Bay Buccaneers   $2 B   $383 M

29) Cleveland Browns   $1.95 B   $375 M

30) Cincinnati Bengals   $1.8 B   $359 M

31) Detroit Lions   $1.7 B   $351 M

32) Buffalo Bills   $1.6 B   $364 M

Complete College Football Weekend Television Schedule

No more chanell surfing to try and find your favorite team, or a game in your conference, or the best game on at any particular time. Below is a list of every game that is on television, what time, and what network. Now, how easy was that?

Friday, Sept. 21
Florida Atlantic at Central Florida, ESPN, 7

Image result for penn state at illinois 2018
Penn State at Illinois, FS1, 9
Washington State at Southern California, ESPN, 10:30

Saturday, Sept. 22
Boston College at Purdue, ESPN2, noon
Buffalo at Rutgers, BTN, noon
Georgia at Missouri, ESPN, noon
Kent State at Mississippi, SEC, noon
Minnesota at Maryland, BTN, noon
Navy at SMU, ESPNews, noon

Image result for nebraska at michigan 2018
Nebraska at Michigan, FS1, noon
Nevada at Toledo, CBSSN, noon
Notre Dame at Wake Forest, ABC, noon
Ohio at Cincinnati, ESPNU, noon
Florida International at Miami (Fla.), ESPN2, 3:30
Kansas at Baylor, FS1, 3:30
Kansas State at West Virginia, ESPN, 3:30
Northern Illinois at Florida State, ESPNU, 3:30

Image result for texas a&m at alabama
Texas A&M at Alabama, CBS, 3:30
Tulane at Ohio State, BTN, 3:30
Virginia Tech at Old Dominion, CBSSN, 3:30
Arizona at Oregon State, Pac-12, 4
Connecticut at Syracuse, ESPNews, 4
South Carolina at Vanderbilt, SEC, 4
TCU at Texas, Fox, 4:30
Florida at Tennessee, ESPN, 7
Louisiana Tech at LSU, ESPNU, 7
Mississippi State at Kentucky, ESPN2, 7
North Carolina State at Marshall, CBSSN, 7

Image result for texas tech at oklahoma state
Texas Tech at Oklahoma State, FS1, 7
Arkansas at Auburn, SEC, 7:30
Michigan State at Indiana, BTN, 7:30
East Carolina at South Florida, ESPNews, 8
Stanford at Oregon, ABC, 8
Wisconsin at Iowa, Fox, 8:30
Air Force at Utah State, ESPN2, 10:15
Arizona State at Washington, ESPN, 10:30
Eastern Michigan at San Diego State, CBSSN, 10:30

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