NFL

Seahawks go defense, select Malik McDowell with their first pick

Seahawks go defense, select Malik McDowell with their first pick

Eight months ago, the thought of Malik McDowell being available in the second round of the NFL Draft would have been ludicrous. However, that's the exact scenario that played out, much to the liking of the Seattle Seahawks.

After making two first round trades, eventually taking themselves out of the round altogether, the Seahawks wasted no time on Friday in bolstering their defense, adding the defensive lineman from Michigan State with the #35 pick, which they acquired from the San Francisco 49ers yesterday.

From ESPNs Mel Kiper, Jr., on McDowell: "...the defensive tackle Malik McDowell has top-10 talent, but he needs the right coaching staff in order to realize his full potential."

Odds are he found that in the Seahawks, a perennial top-5 defense. McDowell provides both bulk (295) to his long frame (6'6"), and should be able to hold his own internally on the line, or split out as an edge rusher. Adding him to the line, which already includes stalwarts like Michael Bennett, should help bolster a defense that was susceptible to big plays towards the end of the season. 

Seattle (at the moment) will also have the 58th pick, taking place later tonight. 

Trades with Atlanta, San Francisco keep Seahawks quiet on Day One

Trades with Atlanta, San Francisco keep Seahawks quiet on Day One

Needing immediate help at nearly every position on the offensive line, the Seahawks entered Thursday's NFL Draft holding the 26th pick. Staring down at a weak draft from the OL perspective, Seattle traded down not once, but twice, stockpiling picks for later in the draft.

The Seahawks first traded with the Atlanta Falcons, who owned the 31st pick. Their second move was swapping that pick with San Francisco; Seattle received a second round pick (#34) and the #111 pick in the deal.

The 49ers took Alabama linebacker Rueben Foster, who was projected by some to go as high as five, with the pick. 

Myles Garrett went #1 overall to the Cleveland Browns, who also got Jabrill Peppers and David Njoku in the opening round. Mitchell Trubisky went to the Chicago Bears, and Deshaun Watson was picked up by the Texans, who traded Brock Osweiler to the Browns.

Rounds two and three are Friday; the draft concludes on Saturday. 

2017 NFL Mock Draft – who’s going number one?

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USA Today

2017 NFL Mock Draft – who’s going number one?

By 

I love the NFL Draft. How many other sports can dominate the news cycle for weeks leading up to an off-season event? The intrigue in the draft has only increased in the social media age, with the increase in draft related content. And that is so great.

This is the time of year that every team is undefeated. Every team is selling hope for a brighter future. So many of these college kids are fulfilling a lifelong dream.

The thing that differentiates the NFL Draft and other major league sports drafts is just how many difference makers can be found in the draft. The NBA Draft feature 60 picks. Each year, only about 6-8 of those will turn into game changers for their teams, 2-4 will likely become All-Stars.

There are 253 picks in this year’s NFL Draft, nearly half of them will be called upon to start at some point during their rookie year. These are true franchise changing draft picks.

While it is impossible to correctly project all 253 draft picks in this weekends draft, I give my take on the top 32 selections in the first round.

1 – Cleveland Browns – DE Myles Garrett, Texas A&M

Cleveland has the first pick of the draft for a reason, they are a dreadful football team. One of their lone bright spots last year was the development of wide receiver Terrelle Pryor; well he left in free agency. This team needs an infusion of talent. Garrett is the best player in the draft. The Browns could go QB here, but would likely regret that by mid season.

2 – San Francisco 49ers – QB Mitchell Trubisky, North Carolina

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. New General Manager John Lynch needs to put his stamp on this team in the draft, no better way than by swinging for the fences and finding your franchise quarterback. Trubisky is raw but has all the tools. The 49ers need talent in a lot of places, but you can’t win in this league without an elite quarterback. I am not sold Brian Hoyer is the answer in the bay.

3 – Chicago Bears – CB Marshon Lattimore, Ohio State

This is another spot that Trubisky had been rumored but the Bears just gave Mike Glennon a 3-year, $45 million contract. That would be a terrible use of resources for a team that is so deplete in talent in such a tough division. The Bears have to play Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford, and Sam Bradford two times each season. Getting a cornerback that can help hold those guys under control is huge.

4 – Jacksonville Jaguars – RB Leonard Fournette, LSU

The Jaguars love power backs. They already have Chris Ivory on the roster, but that won’t stop them from drafting a guy that a lot of scouts think is a generational talent. Ezekiel Elliott really changed the way running backs are looked at in the first round. Fournette could, and should be great, unfortunately no one has much faith in the Jaguars organization when it comes to developing offensive talent.

5 – Tennessee Titans – S Malik Hooker, Ohio State

Hooker is a guy that not only will play right away, he will change the entire defense. Hooker has incredible ball skills and instincts, he can cover a ton of ground, and he will anchor this defense for years to come. To draft a safety in the top 5, a team has to know that the player will be a game changer, Hooker is that guy. Honestly in the discussion for best prospect in the whole draft.

6 – New York Jets – QB DeShaun Watson, Clemson

Trubisky is all about the upside and the tools that he has. Watson is all about the intangibles, experience, and leadership that he brings to a team. The way that Watson has played on the biggest stage the past couple years against Alabama has thrust him into the spotlight. I love a guy that has an edge, and leading up to the draft Watson has been quoted by saying that teams that draft Trubisky ahead of him will regret it. That’s confidence.

7 – Los Angeles Chargers – DE Solomon Thomas, Stanford

Joey Bosa was a great pick at #3 last year. This year the Chargers will look to continue to add defensive talent. The defensive bookends of Bosa and Thomas could be nasty for years to come. What Thomas brings to the table is a great football mind, a non-stop motor, and position flexibility. The Chargers would be lucky to have him fall to 7.

8 – Carolina Panthers – RB Christian McCaffrey, Stanford

If Fournette was here, I think that the Panthers would jump all over it. But the consolation prize is not a bad one at all. McCaffery is such a weapon. He can be a Pro Bowl running back, a very dynamic slot receiver, and an explosive return man. McCaffery matched up with Cam Newton in the Panthers scheme is nasty.

9 – Cincinnati Bengals – DL Jonathan Allen, Alabama

A lot of draft experts have connected the Bengals with some of the more high risk prospects of the draft. I just don’t know that a top 10 pick is going for some of the bigger question marks. Jonathan Allen is a mean defensive lineman. While his shoulders have taken him off of some teams’ draft boards, rumor has it that the Bengals don’t have the same concerns. This would be a great match.

10 – Buffalo Bills – WR Mike Williams, Clemson

Sammy Watkins has been great, and then hurt, and then pretty good, and then hurt, and then average. Now the team has questions whether they are going to take the 5th year option on his rookie contract. That puts his future with the team in future. Williams can be a #2 to Watkins if Watkins can stay healthy, or take over as the primary target.

11 – New Orleans Saints – DE Derek Barnett, Tennessee

The Saints have the luxury of having two 1st round draft picks. That gives them the ability to go best player available. They need to draft a cornerback early, but can do that with the 32nd pick. Here they go with a disruptive pass rusher that can dominate from both end positions. The Saints need to generate some quarterback pressure to cover other defensive inefficiencies.

12 – Cleveland Browns – TE O.J. Howard, Alabama

Garrett at #1, and the best tight end to come into the draft in years. Not a bad first round for the Browns. Howard has the rare ability to play inline as a blocker, and get down field as a receiver. The comparison has been to Greg Olsen, who is only one of the most reliable and consistent tight end targets in the league.

13 – Arizona Cardinals – QB Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech

Carson Palmer has maybe a couple good years left. Mahomes is a project that would be well suited to sit behind a veteran quarterback like Palmer. Mahomes has all the tools that you hope for in a quarterback; huge arm, leadership, ability to make any throw on the field. The Cardinals make a pick that will pay off in the next few years.

14 – Philadelphia Eagles – S Jamal Adams, LSU

The Eagles would love a running back or wide receiver here that could change their offense, and help the development of their second year quarterback. If Adams were to slip to 14, the Eagles would sprint to turn their card in. Adams is a big time playmaker and will help anchor the secondary for years to come.

15 – Indianapolis Colts – OT Ryan Ramczyk, Wisconsin

Andrew Luck is an elite quarterback. The biggest problem is that he can’t stay on the field for 16 games because he is constantly beat on. The offensive line has been terrible the past few years and the Colts will look to stop the bleeding a bit by going with a high upside tackle in the first round.

16 – Baltimore Ravens – WR Corey Davis, Western Michigan

Mike Wallace, Michael Campanaro, and Breshad Perriman are the Ravens top receivers. That just won’t get it done. Davis can be a number one receiver that can dominate possessions and demand attention from the defense which will open it up for the run game.

17 – Washington Redskins – LB Haason Reddick, Temple

Haason Reddick is one of the most versatile prospects in this draft, and the Redskins would be shocked and excited if he were available at #17. Reddick could be a rush end, a stand up linebacker, or a hybrid pass rusher that can disrupt every play. The Redskins need playmakers in the front seven and Reddick would make an impact Week One.

18 – Tennessee Titans – WR John Ross, Washington

Marcus Mariota is emerging as a quality NFL quarterback. The next step for this franchise is to surround him with weapons. Ross broke the 40-yard dash record at the combine and can stretch the field. If Ross can stay healthy after multiple knee injuries, he will be a steal mid way through the first round.

19 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – RB Dalvin Cook, Florida State

Unfortunately for the Bucs, Doug Martin has flashed brilliance, but then a few weeks later looked like a backup. He is currently serving a suspension and will miss the first three games of the season. Cook would step in Week one and be a feature back. This is a great situation for Cook and the Bucs.

20 – Denver Broncos – OT Garett Bolles, Utah

You can’t analyze the needs in this draft without realizing just how badly the Broncos need offensive line help. Bolles has some questions off the field, and is 25 years old, but he would be a day one starter for a line that desperately needs his athleticism and technique.

21 – Detroit Lions – CB Marlon Humphrey, Alabama

The Lions could go in a lot of different direction with this pick but I think they would be intrigued with adding a cornerback with the size and skill that Humphrey has. The Lions have Slay and Hayden, but they play in a division that is very pass heavy. Humphrey would carve out a very nice role for himself in Detroit.

22 – Miami Dolphins – OL Forrest Lamp, Western Kentucky

Lamp was a relative unknown before the Senior Bowl, where he was the standout offensive lineman of the group. Lamp played left tackle at Western Kentucky, but projects to be an interior offensive lineman in the NFL. Jay Ajayi broke out as a quality running back in 2016 and would be well serve to have a more solid offensive line.

23 – New York Giants – TE David Njoku, Miami

I really don’t think that Njoku falls this far, just so happens to be the way that my draft falls. Njoku would be a great fit in a pass-heavy offense in the Big Apple. Eli Manning would be incredibly happy with a receiving corps of Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard, Brandon Marshall, and Njoku.

24 – Oakland Raiders – LB Jarrad Davis, Florida

Davis is a guy that has started to shoot up draft boards. This is a linebacker that will make his impact felt early in his career. The Raiders look to be heading to an agreement to bring in Marshawn Lynch as their running back, so they will go defense in the first round on Thursday.

25 – Houston Texans – QB DeShone Kizer, Notre Dame

So many people are talking about how there may only be 1 or 2 quarterbacks taken in the first round. That is ludicrous. The quarterback position has never been more valuable and there are so many teams in the league that need a boost at that position. The Texans take a boom-or-bust prospect in Kizer for one simple reason, they need a quarterback.

26 – Seattle Seahawks – CB Kevin King, Washington

King played his college ball in Seattle, now he will play his professional ball in Seattle as well. King was the second best corner for the Huskies, but he is healthy and will be drafted a round or two sooner than Sydney Jones. King would be a huge addition to the Legion of Boom.

27 – Kansas City Chiefs – DL Malik McDowell, Michigan State

Kansas City has been rumored to have interest in a quarterback but with the top 4 off the board, they won’t go that direction. The Chiefs could trade out of the first round, but if they stay put they should take a swing for the fences. McDowell is big time talent, but has had some effort issues in his time at Michigan State. This would be one of the ideal landing spots for McDowell.

28 – Dallas Cowboys – DE Takkarist McKinley, UCLA

The Cowboys need secondary and pass rush help more than anything else in this draft. With cornerbacks Marlon Humphrey and Kevin King still on the board, I was tempted to go that way. In the end, I think cornerback is a deeper position and the Cowboys could get a quality starter in Round 2. Takk had an impressive combine, running a 4.59 40-yard dash. In comparison, that was faster than top wide receiver prospect Mike Williams, and faster than any top QB prospect in the draft. McKinley may not be ready Week One after a shoulder surgery post-combine, but will be a disruptive pass rusher as a rookie.

29 – Green Bay Packers – DE T.J. Watt, Wisconsin

The brother of J.J. Watt, T.J., is about to be drafted and the Packers would be an outstanding spot for Watt to land. The question a lot of people have is, would T.J. Watt be a first round draft pick if his last name were Johnson, or Smith? I’m not sure. His combine workout was good, and he is a talented rush end, but we’ll see if he can live up to his last name.

 

30 – Pittsburgh Steelers – LB Rueben Foster, Alabama

There are two major questions surrounding Foster. The first is his injury history. His shoulders have chronic issues, and he plays at 100% all of the time which leaves him open to injuries. The second question is the dilute drug test that is being reported. It isn’t technically a “failed” drug test, but it puts him into the NFL Drug program, and it raises major questions. Pittsburgh has a veteran defense that can take Foster under their wing and help him succeed.

31 – Atlanta Falcons – DE Charles Harris, Missouri

In my opinion, Harris is one of the safest picks in this draft. While he does not have the elite speed or the physical traits that some of the top prospects have, but he is consistent and can be dominant. Harris will make a team in the first round very happy with his addition.

32 – New Orleans Saints – QB Davis Webb, California

A 5th quarterback in the first round?? Crazy, right? Not really. Webb doesn’t deserve to be a first round draft pick but he may be a first round selection. The 5th year on the rookie contract is worth something to teams and someone may try to trade up into this spot to ensure that they could draft a project quarterback that is under contract for 5 years.

REPORT: Raiders agree to terms with Marshawn Lynch

REPORT: Raiders agree to terms with Marshawn Lynch

Multiple outlets are reporting that retired running back Marshawn Lynch to the Oakland Raiders, meaning a trade with the Seattle Seahawks could be close behind.

Lynch, 30, who was born in Oakland, played his college ball for the Cal Bears, was granted permission from Seahawks last week to explore his options. The Raiders, just a couple years from their historic move to Las Vegas, were often thought of as his first choice. 

 

And THAT's why you probably shouldn't bet big $ on sports events

And THAT's why you probably shouldn't bet big $ on sports events

I cannot remember being more certain of a Super Bowl winner than I was last week. I just KNEW that Atlanta would beat New England. They had a better team, played in a better conference and should have been the favorite but for all the sentiment about the coach and quarterback for the Patriots.

And if I had it to predict all over again, I'd say the same thing. But I'd hope the Atlanta coaching staff would come to its senses late in the game. Come on, guys -- a first down at the New England 22 with about four minutes to play and you pass? You pass?

I didn't get it at the time. Just run the ball three times, get the ball in the middle of the field for your kicker -- who is one of the best in the business -- run the clock down and boot a field goal that would have sealed the game for you. That's all they had to do.

But no, what followed was a disaster. A franchise-changing disaster. By the time the Falcons were finished with that series they'd taken themselves out of field-goal position, Tom Brady was the greatest quaarterback of all time and Atlanta was a bettor's nightmare.

The Falcons were getting three points. A steal. And I would have lost a fortune.

Except that I've seen these things happen so many times before that I don't bet on sports events -- other than an occasional dinner wager or five bucks here and there. You can have these things figured out ahead of time and then somebody does something stupid or there's a power failure on the field or maybe a garbage-time cheap score destroys your point-spread cushion.

No matter how certain you are about a game's outcome, my advice is be careful. Stupid stuff happens.

Playoff Preview, Round Two: Seahawks head south

Playoff Preview, Round Two: Seahawks head south

Depending on your criteria for superstition – or simply which side you choose to follow – Saturday’s matchup against the Atlanta Falcons is either a slam-dunk victory for the Seahawks or a sure-fire loss.

The reason for optimism: The Seahawks have won 10 of their past 15 playoff games, including a 7-2 mark starting with their Super Bowl run in 2014.

The reason for panic: Seattle has lost their past eight matchups in the playoffs when they’ve entered as a road underdog.

On Saturday, the Falcons are favored by five.

On paper, however, there’s a lot to like if you’re a Seahawks fan. For starters – after his 161-yard performance in the Wild Card round against the Detroit Lions, it appears as if – and stop me if you’ve heard this before – Thomas Rawls and the running game may be clicking. Rawls’ running style (bone-crushing, relentless) is only effective if the offensive line is capable of opening up clear running lanes for him. He’s not going to out-shift anyone. Against the Lions, who put out a pretty good defensive line, they were able to do just that.

Because of that, the Falcons have an extra wrinkle to think about.

But perhaps the biggest reason for optimism is the Falcons’ secondary, which surrendered 267 yards per game through the air, putting them 28th in the league. That bodes well for Russell Wilson, Jimmy Graham, Doug Baldwin, and Co., who combined for 210 yards passing and two touchdowns against the Lions - not astronomical numbers, but efficient.

On the other side of the ball, NFL MVP-hopeful Matt Ryan goes up against a Seattle secondary that allowed just 226 yards per game, despite missing Earl Thomas the past few weeks. Ryan has been a revelation this season, shedding the somewhat overblown label he was beginning to accrue as a guy who couldn’t lead his team when it mattered. The Falcons – albeit while playing in a weak NFC South – snatched the #2-seed, earned their Bye Week, and could potentially not leave the state of Georgia until the Super Bowl if everything break right.

But in this Seahawks team, they’re facing an unknown sqyad, one that appears to be (potentially?) turning the corner.

It’s only been two games, and the opponents (San Francisco and Detroit) weren’t world-beaters, but Seattle has won two in a row, and already owns a victory over Atlanta this season, a 26-24 triumph back in October. The run game, maybe, is intact; Wilson is having a banner year; and they could welcome back rookie-sensation C.J. Prosise, who burst onto the scene earlier in the season before injuring his shoulder and missing the past seven games.

But despite the loss this season, perhaps the Falcons can take something away from their narrow defeat in October.

From Pro Football Focus:

“To go into Seattle and not just run the Seahawks close, but actually require some controversial officiating late in the game to prevent them coming back to win the game, made the point that this Falcons offense is very much legit and a force to be reckoned with. They, of course, proved that to be true for the remainder of the season, scoring 540 points on the year, 99 more than any other team in the league and the seventh-best figure in NFL history.”

The big key for the Seahawks could be simply getting pressure on Matt Ryan. When teams have failed to do so, he’s been nearly un-human in his abilities.

This also from PFF:

“When Ryan has been kept clean this season he has been virtually unstoppable, with a passer rating of 128.9, 5.9 points better than any other QB. He has completed 77.3 percent of his passes (best in the NFL), been accurate on 82.2 percent adjusted for drops (best in the NFL), and has thrown a touchdown on 8.6 percent of his pass attempts (by far the best in the NFL). Putting him under pressure this season isn’t having the same effect it has typically had over the rest of his career, but it does at least make him human.”

In a matchup this close, one or two plays could make the difference. Experience, poise, and confidence will go a long way. With their two Super Bowl appearances in the past three years, a veteran roster, and a victory over the Falcons already, despite their underdog status, all signs point to a Seahawks win.

 

Prediction

Seattle 24, Atlanta 23

Los Angeles Chargers? A big move for the other NFL owners

Los Angeles Chargers? A big move for the other NFL owners

This, of course, is the way owners of sports teams have always operated. And if you don't want to pay their price, you're often out of the game.

Dean Spanos announced that he's moving his NFL Chargers out of San Diego and into Los Angeles. No surprise. There had been very heated negotiations between the Chargers and the city of San Diego for quite a while about building a new stadium for the team. You might think that zillionaires who own teams ought to build their own stadiums, but the fact is, it usually doesn't work that way. Portland got lucky with the Trail Blazers and San Francisco was fortunate with the Giants but for the most part, if you want in the big-league game you have to pay to play.

Is it worth it? Many cities would tell you that it's worth every penny because those teams have become such a part of the culture of the area. The Chargers, for example, were well supported in San Diego for 56 years. Is any of this, by the way, beginning to sound familiar to fans of the former Seattle Sonics?

I've always felt all the leagues love it when a team actually backs up its threat to move by actually leaving for another market. The Chargers vacating San Diego and Sonics leaving Seattle provides leverage for every other pro team seeking civic aid in constructing a new venue. Other NFL owners had to appreciate that their threats will now be taken more seriously. And it's always seemed that one franchise actually has to make good on a threat to move in order for all the rest to be taken seriously.

The lesson is, "Teams Will Leave." Even well-supported ones who have been in the area for decades. Is that fair? Of course not. But it's always been the way it works. The Dodgers and Giants left for the west coast in the 1950s and hearts were broken. And it continues to happen.

If you want to be a big-league town, you have to pay up.

A look ahead, should Seattle advance

A look ahead, should Seattle advance

With one round of the playoffs down, the Seahawks find themselves in a familiar position: Playing deep into January, with a Super Bowl slot on the line.

But before they can have visions of the Lombardi Trophy in their minds, there are two landmines that remain. First up is the Atlanta Falcons – and we’ll preview that game on Thursday – and if they survive the showdown in Hotlanta, either the Green Bay Packers or the Dallas Cowboys.

So, let’s have a little fun. Let’s assume, for just a moment, that Seattle puts it all together on Saturday; the run game clicks, Russell Wilson is sharp, and the defense channels their inner-2014 and shuts down the high-flying attack of Matt Ryan and Co.

Should Seattle advance, regardless of the outcome of the other game, it would set up an incredible NFC Championship showdown.

Since we’re not playing in the game, and are afforded the right to look ahead, let’s scout the potential matchups for the Seahawks (again, SHOULD they advance).

 

Dallas

The story of the 2016 Cowboys has been written so many times during the past six months that it’s almost impossible to find a new avenue to explore. By now you know the arc: Underachieving franchise spends three years building an elite offensive line; their star quarterback gets broken in half, derailing their 2015 season; they draft two rookies (Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott) who ride into the gates of Jerry World on golden horses; team takes a time machine back to 1992, wins 13 games, and everybody in the country hates them again.

And they've been a fascinating team to watch.

Perhaps no owner in sports (dials into Mark Cuban’s office; no answer) incites hatred and discomfort more than Jerry Jones, billionaire-owner of the Cowboys. It’s this man who pulls those emotions out of fans more than anyone. Because through some shrewd maneuvers, steady coaching, and smart, forward-thinking draft logic, the Cowboys are (gasp!) mostly likable, and win the tried-and-true way: in the words of Shea in Irving, they run the damn ball.

But despite their 13-3 record, and invincible feeling, the Cowboys would appear to be a better matchup for the Seahawks. As good as Dak Prescott has been, he would still be a rookie quarterback with an average receiving corp.; that plays into the hands of the Seahawks, who have been vulnerable against the pass since mid-November. Elliott and the offensive line would be a problem, and the game would be in Dallas, but the Seahawks would take their chances stopping the run, and facing a young and inexperienced team.

Because…

 

Green Bay

No words should strike fear in the hearts of Seahawks' fans (again, with all due respect to Atlanta) more than “Green Bay.” The Packers are the hottest team in the league, led by the best player, and absolutely obliterated the Seahawks not long ago.

Earlier this season, when his Packers were in danger of missing the playoffs, and he was one playing like a rookie, Aaron Rodgers said he and his team - despite numerous reports of in-fighting - would win out.

So far, they have. And they're not showing any signs of slowing down.

The saving grace for Seattle would be that they would get the Packers at home; outside of that, not much else would sit in their favor. Green Bay’s passing attack is lethal: Rodgers finished 4th in the NFL in passer rating, despite his overhyped slow start; he then threw for 362 yards, four touchdowns, and no interceptions last week. Even without Jordy Nelson, who may be out with injured ribs, the Packers’ passing attack is enough to beat anyone.

On top of that, Green Bay wouldn’t be intimidated by the Seahawks, or the 12th Man, or the pressures of the potential Super Bowl appearance.

If Seattle is to advance this weekend, as crazy as it sounds, they may be rooting for a date on the road with the best team in football. That sounds better than the alternative.

Breaking Vegas with Garrett Thornton – Wild Card Round

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USA Today

Breaking Vegas with Garrett Thornton – Wild Card Round

BY 

Last year I was better than 53% in my Breaking Vegas picks and I aimed for 60% this year. As the regular season comes to a close I finish slightly over 50%.

While this might not be the best way to “Break Vegas”, I look to the Playoffs to keep up my late-season momentum.

I will pick all 11 games of the Playoffs and also have prop bet picks before the Super Bowl.

This Wild Card Round is completely bi-polar. The games are either must-watch television or they are matchups that fans of the teams don’t even have interest in.

Let’s see who I pick this week…

Oakland Raiders +4 @ Houston Texans

Let me start with one of the most lackluster Playoff matchups in NFL history. If you polled the 100+ players on these two teams, I doubt 50 of them would even watch this game if they weren’t in it.

The Texans are a bad team that won the worst division in the AFC. Even though they won the division, I would much rather watch Andrew Luck and the Colts or Marcus Mariota and the Titans. This Texans team has underwhelmed all year but is hosting a game in the Wild Card Round. The worst investment in the NFL was the contract given to Brock Osweiler. He can earn some of that contract with a home Playoff win.

On the other hand, the Raiders were one of the feel-good stories of the NFL season. A late-season injury to Derek Carr brought that to a screeching halt. Carr is one of the good guys of the NFL and was really developing into the franchise quarterback that the Raiders so desperately needed for so long. All of that is in the past and not the Raiders are starting fourth round pick Conner Cook under center. It will be the first time ever that a rookie quarterback made his first start in a Playoff game. Not a lot of precedence here, but let me give you a hint, it won’t go well.

Neither team can score enough points to run away with it, but the Texans find a way to win.

Texans 16 – Raiders 14

Detroit Lions +8 @ Seattle Seahawks

Seattle is one of the toughest places to play in the NFL. That only gets intensified entering the Playoffs. Home field advantage is absolutely crucial for the Seahawks this year because this is not the team that people are accustomed to. Without Earl Thomas, this defense is missing their captain. The passing game has been hot and cold. The offensive line and running game have been abysmal at points. If the Seahawks want to make a run, they need major efforts from Russell Wilson and Jimmy Graham.

The Lions are a sleeper in my opinion. If Matthew Stafford can adjust to his finger injury on his throwing hand, this team has the offensive firepower to play with anybody. The last two weeks of the regular season the Lions lost to the Cowboys and the Packers. Those two teams just so happen to be two of the best teams in the league. There isn’t a lot of belief in this Detroit team right now and that has driven this line. Bet the Lions in this one.

Seahawks 24 – Lions 20

Miami Dolphins @ Pittsburgh Steelers -10

This is the line that I have the least faith in. This is also the first time that the Steelers will play a Playoff game with Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, and LeVeon Bell on the field at the same time. That will be the difference.

Pittsburgh can score 50 any given night. In the Playoffs, with a little bit more motivation, I expect their best performance of the year.

Steelers 38 – Dolphins 27

New York Giants @ Green Bay Packers -4.5

I fully admit that I am a Cowboys fan and I am hoping they can go to and win the Super Bowl this year. If I take my biased lenses off, I don’t know that there is a hotter team in the NFL than the Green Bay Packers.

Despite several flaws, the Packers have won 7 games in a row and have a healthy Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers is, arguably, the most talented quarterback to play the game. He is playing at the top of his abilities and has the team around him believing in him. He is the rare quarterback and leader that has every other person on that team bought in. This is a dangerous Packers team heading into January.

Although the Giants have some very quality victories this season, and have a track record of success in the Playoffs, I just don’t see this team a legitimate contender. This team is not a great offensive team, despite having Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. The Giants only scored 310 points this season, good for only 26th in the NFL. The other NFC Playoff teams…

Atlanta Falcons scored 540 (1st)

Green Bay Packers scored 432 (4th)

Dallas Cowboys scored 421 (5th)

Seattle Seahawks scored 354 (18th)

Detroit Lions scored 346 (20th)

While you can make the case that defense wins championships, you still have to score points to win games. This Giants team just hasn’t scored enough points for anyone to have much faith in them. The stakes get bigger and the opponents tighten down their defenses come January. Giants just won’t have enough to make a dent in the NFC Playoffs.

Packers 28 – Giants 21

  Wins Losses Push Percentage
Week One 1 3 1 30%
Week Two 1 4 0 20%
Week Three 2 3 0 40%
Week Four 2 3 0 40%
Week Five 3 2 0 60%
Week Six 2 2 1 50%
Week Seven 3 2 0 60%
Week Eight 2 3 0 40%
Week Nine 3 1 1 70%
Week Ten 3 2 0 60%
Week Eleven 3 2 0 60%
Week Twelve 2 2 1 50%
Week Thirteen 1 4 0 20%
Week Fourteen 3 2 0 60%
Week Fifteen 4 1 0 80%
Week Sixteen 3 2 0 60%
Week Seventeen 3 2 0 60%
OVERALL 41 40 4 50.6%

*All betting lines provided by Bovada.LV on the Thursday preceding particular NFL week.

Playoff Preview: 12th Man, Run Defense Will Propel Seahawks To Win

Playoff Preview: 12th Man, Run Defense Will Propel Seahawks To Win

I’m not sure Jim Caldwell, head coach of the Detroit Lions, understands the full magnitude what he’s getting into on Saturday.

Diplomatic as always, Caldwell’s response, when asked about the challenge of playing at CenturyLink Field, was flattering, if not a bit eschewing of the dominance the Seahawks have portrayed.

“It’s always rowdy. It’s always a lot of noise. I remember a few years back there was a visiting team that went in with six false starts in the game, maybe it was more than that, but it was six at a minimum. Those kinds of things stick out in your mind, but it’s difficult to hear. It’s certainly a team that you have to prepare for in that regard. We’ve been in some noisy stadiums, but this is a little different deal. It’s loud and a lot of electricity. I know it’ll be an exciting time.”

For Jim’s sake, let’s offer some reality into just how good the Seahawks have been at home in the playoffs:

  • Since 2005, they’re undefeated (9-0).
  • They’ve won those games by an average of 8.2 points, giving up just 18 points per game.
  • Since Russell Wilson arrived, they’re 4-0, and are averaging over 26 points per game.

When Seattle (10-5-1) hosts the Lions (9-7) on Saturday night (5:15 PT, NBC), it may be as simple as that: The Seahawks, for as much as they have bumbled the last part of their season, still get the Lions at home; right where they want them – and, realistically, where they need them.

For as much as Seattle has skidded into the postseason, the Lions are that much worse. Losers of their past three, Detroit not only squandered an opportunity to enter their third playoff appearance since 1999 in style, they blew their NFC North crown in the process.

For his part, quarterback Matthew Stafford is taking it all in stride.

“It’s a total restart. You see teams that lose three of four or lose four or five and go win the Super Bowl,” he said. “You see teams get hot at the end of the season and go win it. Can’t really tell, it’s all matchups and a new season pretty much.”

Detroit has had one of the most inexplicable years on record: They’ve trailed in the fourth quarter in 15 of their 16 games; their first eight wins were late, come-from-behind.

But a fourth quarter rally is unlikely on the road against this experienced, if not a bit dinged-up, Seahawks squad. Seattle enters their fifth-straight postseason appearance confident, even if their play as of late (3-3 in the final six games) suggests otherwise.

“The voices that are really the strongest in the locker room are sending a message and helping guys understand how we’re going to get through it and how we approach it,” head coach Pete Carroll said. “That’s just the leadership that comes from within that really helps us the most.”

Leadership will get you so far; play on the field will dictate the rest. And there is one matchup above all that could determine the outcome: Seattle’s suddenly sunken secondary against the right arm of Stafford.

With Earl Thomas roaming the outfield, Seattle’s defense was in-line with their past successes, holding QBs to a passer rating of 77.8; since Thomas went down for the season, that number has ballooned to 99.5.

Stafford finished the season with a rating of 93.3; when he gets rolling, however, there are few better. In a five-week stretch earlier in the season, Stafford's rating was 109, despite a horrendous outing at Chicago thrown in there.

If Seattle can keep Stafford in check – while moving the ball enough to keep their defense off the field – a combination of home-field advantage, experience, and a ferocious run defense (Seattle’s cornerbacks have 33 tackles against the run, most in the league) should be enough to advance to the second round for the fifth-straight year.

 

Prediction

Seattle 24, Detroit 21