Week 2 NFL GotW: Indianapolis Colts @ Tennessee Titans (-3)

Indy Colts Logo     Welcome to Week 2 of the NFL season.  The excitement of a fresh season is beginning to wear off and it is time to get to the nitty-gritty of hard-nosed football!  The Elldee Sports Game of the Week for the NFL is the Indianapolis Colts at the Tennessee Titans.  After the Titans dismantled the Browns last week 43-13, the Las Vegas book makers are backing Tennessee to win this divisional matchup.

None of the experts knew exactly what they would get with the Colts this season after the shocking retirement announcement from All-Pro Quarterback, Andrew Luck, just days before the season began.  While watching the first half of last week’s game, I am not sure if the Colts themselves knew what to expect.  They started slow against the LA Chargers before coming alive in the second half but ultimately losing in Overtime.  Once Indianapolis settled in they didn’t look all that bad.  Jacoby Brissett looks like he can lead this team to the playoffs going 21-27, 190 yards, and 2 TDs.  Not bad for a player who didn’t expect to play until 2 weeks ago.

One of the most hyped teams in the offseason was the Cleveland Browns and all of their young talent.  The Tennessee Titans didn’t care what the newpapers had said and proceeded to thoroughly handle the young team by 30 points.  Looks can be deceiving though, statistically speaking, as the Titans are 22nd in passing and barely cracked the top 10 in rushing.  Derrick Henry did not break 100 yards last week and QB Marcus Mariota finished the day with a 53 QBR.

Regardless of stats or surprise starts, this is a divisional game and the competition will be fierce.  The Elldee Sports Formula is calling for a 16-7 Indianapolis victory.  Many times, recency bias can create a fog when thinking about who will win from week to week.  The fact that the Colts lost and are without a star QB while the Tennessee Titans hammered a team that was a pick to be much improved has caused the public to believe that Tennessee is better than they are and worthy of being 3-point favorites.  Don’t count on it.  Until next time, good luck!

Indianapolis Colts 16 – Tennessee Titans 7

Colts (+3) and Under 44

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Green Bay @ Chicago

NFC Logo     It’s finally here…the NFL season kickoff!  The first game is a Thursday night doozy between the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears.  Divisional matchups are always hotly contested and this one will be no different as both of these squads have their eyes on the playoffs.  Although it is only Week One, this game may have enormous implications by season’s end.

Green Bay will have it’s passing game rolling behind the offensive IQ of Aaron Rodgers but do not have much of a running game to keep the defense honest.  The threat of the pass may open running lanes but if the Bears can contain the run without committing too many defenders to the box, this could turn into a laugher.  The Bears have an average offense that plays with good balance, making them unpredictable when the coaches call a good game.  Luckily for the Packers, their defense is serviceable as well giving neither team a real advantage when Chicago has the ball.

This should be a matchup of strength vs. strength.  The high-powered passing attack of the Green Bay Packers against the salty defense of the Chicago Bears.  Elldee Sports believes that the Chicago “D” can force the Pack into becoming one-dimensional.  A team that is predictable is easier to slow.  Tack that on to the fact that the Bears will be playing in front of a raucous crowd at Soldier Field and it all spells doom for Green Bay.  Take the Bears at -3 and under 46 in the season opener.

Chicago -3 and Under 46

Final:  Chicago 17 – GB 6

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AFC North: Will the Old Guard Finally Pass the Torch?

Baltimore Ravens Logo     In the AFC North, there is a good combination of Veteran leaders and youthful potential.  The Pittsburgh Steelers are led by Mike Tomlin and Ben Roethlisberger, two men who have lifted this rich franchise to the top of the mountain twice.  The Cincinnati Bengals are a proud franchise that has fallen on hard times yet still harbor championship aspirations.  The Cleveland Browns, a perennial laughing stock since the turn of the century believes they have finally found a leader at quarterback and an innovative young coach to take the reins.  Finally, the Baltimore Ravens, are a mix of young and old, fresh faces and experience, and may have what it takes to raise the Lombardi Trophy.  Will any of this come to fruition?

The Cincinnati Bengals have had the dynamic duo of Andy Dalton and AJ Green carrying the flag for the last several seasons.  While the pair has been admirable, the Bengals have struggled to gain serious traction in the regular season or the playoffs.  Much of that appears to have been due to the ownership’s loyalty to recently released Head Coach Marvin Lewis who underachieved for most of the past 16 years.  They have brought in new coach Zac Taylor and currently have the youngest team in the NFL.  It may also be time to move on from An aging Dalton and Green.  The Elldee Sports Formula is not kind to Cincinnati and projects only two wins this season.

One of the hottest teams in the offseason was the Cleveland Browns.  They have a young stud quarterback in Baker Mayfield, a workhorse running back in Nick Chubb, and added depth to an impressive receiving corps by picking up Odell Beckham Jr..  The defense has star power names but will need to build some chemistry and maybe a new coach to bring a new mentality.  The talent is there yet the team finished last year in 30th for overall defense.  New Coach Freddie Kitchens has come to breath life into Cleveland and was one of the most sought after names this offseason.  Talent alone can only take you so far and the schedule doesn’t do the Browns many favors, either.  The Cleveland Browns will finish the year 7-9, good enough for a 3rd place finish in the division.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are one of the most storied franchises in the NFL.  “Big Ben” Roethlisberger is an all-time great and will eventually end up in the NFL Hall of Fame.  The offense and defense both finished inside of the top 6 in the league last season.  Inevitably, this team is going to suffer, though, as the offense has lost their top RB and top WR in back to back seasons.  The defense has done a solid job of reloading and replacing old players with fresh faces.  Even though the defense expects to be top notch, they won’t be good enough to carry the offense this year.  Compound that with the rising expectations of the Browns and Baltimore Ravens means that the Steelers will finish 2nd in the North with a 10-6 record, scraping out a #6 seed in the playoffs.

The AFC North Division Championship will run through Baltimore.  The Ravens have a proven coach in John Harbaugh.  He has shown the confidence to adjust his offense to a run first, run second, pass third type of system with electric playmaker Lamar Jackson at the helm.  Mark Ingram was brought in at running back which gives this team a one-two Heisman punch in the backfield.  The defense led the league last year in total yards per game and Harbaugh has shown the ability to consistently produce a top defensive squad.  In fact, this may be Harbaugh’s most talented team and the Elldee Sports Formula is calling for a 15-1 record to go with a #1 Overall seed in the playoffs.

The AFC North should be an exciting race this year with the Baltimore Ravens finishing at the top.  The Pittsburgh Steelers will finish 2nd and earn a wildcard spot.  The continuity of the coaches on these two is what will ultimately push them over the top.  Cleveland has a lot to be hopeful for but will fall short of the playoffs for one more season.  By next year, they may be one of the top teams in the league, though.  Lastly, the Cincinnati Bengals will struggle.  A new coach (also first time NFL Head Coach) and the NFL’s youngest team will prove too much to overcome.  Especially when facing this loaded division.  Until next time, good luck!

 

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AFC West: Is the West Coast the Best Coast?

LA Chargers Logo     The AFC West had an argument last season that they were the best division in the NFL, with the Los Angeles Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs both finishing 12-4.  In fact, the 12-4 records were the two best in all of the AFC.  When you have two teams finish so well, though, that generally means the other two weren’t so hot.  That was definitely the case in the West last year as the Denver Broncos finished at 6-10 and the Oakland Raiders finished a paltry 4-12.  Will we see the same outcome this year or is a shakeup in store?

As much as I like Jon Gruden and respect him as a coach, he is playing the long game for the Oakland Raiders.  Mark Davis, son of legendary owner Al Davis, has given the keys to the kingdom to Gruden along with a 10-year contract to rebuild this once fearsome franchise!  He immediately made big moves last year by releasing stars Amari Cooper and Khalil Mack.  It showed on the field as there were no playmakers and their record took a beating.  Gruden has turned around and picked up Antonio Brown and Vontaze Burfict along with a strong draft class to begin the rebuild.  Expect the Las Vegas Raiders to be strong but the Oakland Raiders of this year will struggle once again.  The Elldee Sports Formula is predicting a 2-win season, much to the dismay of the Black Hole.

The Denver Broncos are hoping to regain their Super Bowl form from 4 years ago.  Their one major problem that is preventing them from achieving that is QB play.  They hoped that Case Keenum would be the answer but that clearly did not work out and have parted ways after only one season.  They have decided to bring in Joe Flacco from the Baltimore Ravens but Joe hasn’t been much more than a game manager for the past few seasons and I don’t know if he is really going to bring much change in the Mile High City.  Outside of the quarterback, this team didn’t make any earth shattering moves from a 6-win squad and the Elldee Sports Formula is predicting only a one game increase from last year.  At 7-9, the Broncos will once again miss the playoffs.

Kansas City and Coach Andy Reid have been on fire as of late.  Led by sensational quarterback Patrick Mahomes, the Chiefs hope to continue to improve offensively.  They led the league in points per game last year as they were able to effectively balance the passing attack with a strong rushing game.  In fact, over the last three seasons, this offense has consistently climbed the statistical rankings.  The other side of the ball has not fared as well, though, as the defense has fallen in the rankings just as fast as the offense has risen.  The overall defense has dropped from 24th to 28th and finally to 31st last year.  After finishing tops in the division last year, they now get a much more difficult schedule and that porous defense will be exposed even more during the regular season.  Elldee Sports is predicting a 9-7 record this year and also predicting the Chiefs to miss the playoffs.

Things are looking sunny in California for the Los Angeles Chargers.  Unlike their rivals in Kansas City, the Chargers have an offense and defense that are both ranked in the top 10 of the NFL.  Phillip Rivers and Keenan Allen lead an all-star cast on offense.  The running game may take a ding if management and Melvin Gordon cannot come to an agreement but I wouldn’t worry too much about that as negotiations appear to be moving forward.  The defense will be anchored by a monster D-line consisting of Melvin Ingram, Joey Bosa, and Brandon Mebane.  The schedule sets up nicely for this crew and they will win the AFC West with a 13-3 record.

The AFC West will be represented by the LA Chargers as the #4 seed.  Kansas City, coming off of a 12-win season will fail to make the playoffs but still finish 2nd in the division.  The Denver Broncos will improve and finish one game better than last year at 7-9.  Oakland will round out the West with a 2-win season but expect a bright future once they get to Vegas.  Until next time, good luck.

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AFC South: Has Luck Run Out For the Colts?

Houston Texans Logo     Will the AFC South have a repeat of last season?  Only two games separated the first place Houston Texans and the third place Tennessee Titans, with the Indianapolis Colts sandwiched right in the middle.  The Jacksonville Jaguars would also like to force their way into that conversation instead of floundering at the bottom of the division.  Who will represent the AFC South in the playoffs this year?

Jacksonville Jaguar fans believe that their team should be competitive year in and year out, especially in the football crazed state of Florida.  Ownership agrees and they are doing their part in boosting the talent level of the Jags.  This offseason, management decided to part ways with Blake Bortles, a man they had hoped would be a franchise quarterback, went out, and picked up Former Eagle Nick Foles.  Foles has been a perennial backup but oddly seems to play for teams that lose starting QBs to injury, forcing him into a lot of playing time.  The playing time eventually culminated in him becoming a Super Bowl MVP two seasons ago.  The defense is stingy and a healthy Leonard Fournette is as good a back as there is in the NFL.  The running game and defense will finally be accompanied by a veteran quarterback with talent.  Foles will face something he is not familiar with this season, though…pressure.  As a backup, Foles always came in with no expectations and played care-free.  The pressure will take it’s toll and the young players will not gel fast enough, leaving this team with a 4-win finish and another wasted year.

In Nashville, the Tennessee Titans are hoping to get over the hump and make the playoffs this year.  Following three consecutive 9-win seasons, only making the playoffs in one of them and failing to win the division, the Titans think this may be their year.  Marcus Mariota appears to have the potential to be special but each year he fails to live up to the hype.  This year will be no different as Mariota will slowly backslide on his development, hurting the organization.  The offense has been in the lower third of the league and even though the defense plays well, they are not good enough to carry the offense.  The Elldee Sports Formula is predicting a 7-9 record at the end of the year, a 2-game slide from the last 3 seasons.

The biggest news in the NFL has just come out of Indianapolis, home of the Colts.  All-Pro Quarterback, Andrew Luck, has announced his retirement after injury concerns forced him to re-evaluate his life’s decisions.  The fans in Indy don’t need to be that worried though, as Luck has been questionable or out for much of his last few seasons so the team and organization are prepared to play without him.  Jacoby Brissett is no Andrew Luck but he is a serviceable stand-in and may even grow to be an outstanding player.  The defense is strong and will keep this team competitive in most games, providing a legitimate chance to win them.  The formula is actually predicting a 13-win season.  Now, Luck is a difference maker so it is possible that the ceiling of 13 may be a game or two high but I can only work with information I have.  If the Colts can finish the year at 13-3, they will earn a #5 seed and a road playoff match in sunny Los Angeles.

The cream of the crop in the AFC South are the Houston Texans.  Deshaun Watson is a young quarterback that has played tremendously well when healthy.  The biggest problem so far in his career is the injury bug.  The Texans cannot afford to lose him this year as starting RB Lamar Miller tore his ACL and will miss this season.  In fact, despite above average offensive and defensive stats, this team has struggled to keep it’s stars healthy.  It seems that each year, they lose a key starter just prior to the season beginning.  Although Miller is a starter, running backs are much easier to replace.  Their luck cannot be that bad for another year so I believe they will go into the season with minimal additional injuries.  The star power and schedule line up for the Texans, enabling them to finish the year 15-1, garner a #2 playoff seed, and hold a serious shot at reaching the Super Bowl.

The AFC South will be strong again and will send two teams to the playoffs for the second straight season.  The Houston Texans will finish the regular season with a historical best 15 wins and a divisional championship.  The Indianapolis Colts will fight through the shocking retirement of Andrew Luck and prove to be more than just a one-man show.  They will finish second in the South with 13 wins and receive an invitation to the playoffs.  The Tennessee Titans will slide this season, miss the playoffs, and finish with a losing record for the first time since only winning three games in 2015.  The Jacksonville Jaguars will continue to struggle and lose support of the local community, potentially forcing this team to eventually move to a friendlier city.  Until next time, good luck!

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AFC East: Beast of the Least

New England Patriots Logo     Things are not bright in the AFC East.  This division has the unenviable position of being the worst group in all of the NFL.  The lone bright spot in New England still shines but there’s not much after them.  The Miami Dolphins, NY Jets, and (to a lesser extent) Buffalo Bills are pitiful.  There isn’t a whole lot of mystery when it comes to who will win this division.  The biggest question is just how bad will the rest of the AFC East be!

In this preview we will start with the, projected divisional winner, New England Patriots.  There just isn’t that much suspense to build up to when looking for the winner of the division.  Bill Belichick has built a system that can beat you with offense, ask the Kansas City Chiefs.  Additionally, with time to game-plan, the defense can stymie anybody, ask the LA Rams.  This organization has been built where almost any part is replaceable and interchangeable which makes the Patriots a team to be reckoned with year in and year out.  This season is no different as the Elldee Sports Formula is predicting a 14-2 finish, good enough for a #3 seed in the AFC Playoffs.

Next up, the Buffalo Bills are finally rounding the corner.  Let’s just say that it’s a LONG corner.  While this team is on the rise, they have a long way to go before they are competitive on a weekly basis.  Josh Allen is showing promise at quarterback and LeSean McCoy provides veteran leadership but if this team wants to continue to improve, they will have to increase passing yards per game.  The Bills are one of only eight teams in the NFL who pass for less than 200 yards per game in a league that is built for passing.  The defense has buoyed this team but the offense has ensured that Buffalo will snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.  A -5 turnover margin hurt last season and will need to improve as well.  The formula is projecting a paltry four-win season.  Better luck next year, Buffalo.

The Miami Dolphins are trying their luck with a new head coach in Brian Flores.  Flores is a defensive coach who has spent his entire career under Bill Belichick, learning the defensive nuances of the legendary coach.  When he wasn’t coaching, he was a scout for New England.  That means he knows defense and he knows how to find diamonds in the rough when it comes to players.  That is great news because he has taken over a team that needs a complete overhaul.  Miami ownership has already started making moves, going out and trading for Josh Rosen from the Arizona Cardinals.  They needed to do something as the Dolphins finished last season ranked 29th on Offense and 31st on Defense.  It shows in the predictions as well, as Miami is only projected to win 2 games this year and finish 3rd in the East.

If you think that the Miami Dolphins are lousy, you haven’t met the New York Jets.  Led by 2nd year QB, Sam Darnold, the Jets are another team that hopes to improve this year.  You may think that should be easy given that they only won four last season.  You would be wrong.  New York has added LeVeon Bell, one of the best all-around backs, to help take the pressure of opposing defenses off of Darnold.  The development will continue and the Jets will eventually get better but this isn’t the year to expect that.  Elldee Sports is predicting a 2-win season and a last place finish in the division.

So there it is.  The AFC East in all of it’s glory.  One great team and three others with 2nd year quarterbacks and boat loads of potential.  The New England Patriots, AFC champions for 4 of the past 5 years, are once again on top.  A familiar spot as they have won 10 straight and 16 of the past 18 divisional championships.  The Buffalo Bills trying to right the ship, the Miami Dolphins and their new coach, and the NY Jets forming the core of a future champion.  Until next time, good luck!

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