2018 AFC PROJECTIONS & ANALYSIS
New England Patriots
Did anyone think that NE would lose the SuperBowl they way they did? They went through the season like I thought they would and through the playoffs but, I didn’t think the NE DEF would give up points like they did in the SuperBowl. Anyway, with Tom Brady on the field and HC/DC Bill Belichick running the show, does anyone really think they will not be back for SuperBowl 53? AT QB, Tom Brady 16/16 is 41 yrs old and playing like he’s 28. He was just named All-PRO in 2017 and says he wants to play at least three more seasons. The way they are built around him, he shouldn’t have a problem. QB Brian Hoyer is the backup but probably carries a clip board more than a football. It was rumored that NE was seriously looking at Louisville’s QB Lamar Jackson in the draft but BALT moved up and picked him before NE had the chance. NE did select QB Danny Etling in the 7th round out of LSU but would surprise everyone if he ever saw the field as the NE QB. At RB, Dion Lewis 16/8 who was the leading rusher for NE in 2017, and caught 32 passes out of the backfield signed with TENN. RB Sony Michel who was drafted in the 1st round out of Georgia is penciled in as the starter. He can catch passes too and is not one dimensional. RB James White 14/4 didn’t see the ball running a lot in 2017 but catches a lot of balls out of the backfield. He also scored 4tds in the playoffs. RB Mike Gillislee 9/2 had some problems with fumbles which moved him down the depth chart. Now he has to fight to survive on the team. RB Rex Burkhead 10/3 who played sparingly scored 8tds with rushing and catching. RB Jeremy Hill 7/7 who became expendable in CINNCY when RB Joe Mixon played well, signed with NE. Jeremy Hill played sparingly in 2017 due to injuries but should be ready to go. FB James Develin 16/7 doesn’t run the ball but does occasionally catches passes. He is an old-school blocker that is very reliable. At WR, Malcolm Mitchell who was out all of 2017 with a knee injury is subject of trade talks and may not make it to wk 1 with NE. If no one trades for him, Mitchell may be waived. As expected, NE released Mitchell August 6th. He is now free to sign with anyone else. WR Julian Edelman who was also out all of 2017 with an injury will be out for the first four games of 2018 for PEDs and will return wk 5. He is Brady’s #1 target. WR Danny Amendola 15/8 signed with MIA and WR Brandin Cooks 16/15, who had a nice season with NE, was traded to LAR for draft picks. WR Chris Hogan 9/7 who has been with NE for two seasons has very good speed and should see more passes now that guys have moved on. WR Jordan Matthews 10/7 was signed from BUFF and then recently cut in training camp with a settlement after he injured his right hamstring. WR Eric Decker has signed a 1yr deal with NE. In 2017 Decker was with TENN and didn’t really find a home in the OFF. WR Braxton Berrios who was drafted in the 6th round out of MIA could work the slot routes. WR Kenny Britt who was traded for during the 2017 season from CLEVE saw little action down the stretch and currently is on the active PUP list due to a hamstring injury. It is unclear whether he will be available wk 1. WR Phillip Dorsett 15/2 didn’t see a lot of passes but should up his game to see more action in 2018. WR/KR Cordarrelle Patterson was traded for from OAK for draft picks could see passes thrown his way and in schemes to confuse DEFs. At TE, Rob Gronkowski 14/14 almost retired after last season but still had an ALL-PRO season. He gives opposing DEFs nightmares on matchups. He is great in the redzone. TE Martellus Bennett who was traded for during the season was cut after the season and retired. TE Dwayne Allen 16/8 who had a down season in 2017 needs to return to form that he had in INDY if he wants to stay with NE. TE Ryan Izzo who was drafted in the 7th round out of Florida State needs to impress to make it out of camp. TE Jacob Hollister 15/1 has a lot of talent but will he get the chance to show it off? TE Troy Niklas was signed from ARZ will be used more as a blocker than a catcher. The O-LINE allowed 35 sacks in 2017 as compared to 24 in 2016. Brady is not getting any younger and the pounding could take its toll. They need to do a better job at protection. LT Nate Solder 16/16 went for some big bucks and signed with NYG. LT LaAdrian Waddle 12/4 who has been with NE for a few seasons has the opportunity to start where Solder was. It’s his to lose. OT Trent Brown 10/10 was traded for from SF in the off-season to compete with Waddle but brings veteran experience and depth. LG Joe Thuney 16/16 has been solid at the position but may see competition from OG Isaiah Wynn who was drafted in the 1st round out of Georgia. C David Andrews 14/14 was originally brought in for depth but has been a starter his three years. Ted Karras G/C 16/2 brings valuable depth in that he can play both positions. OT Matt Tobin 15/0 was signed from SEA and gives more depth. RG Shaq Mason 16/16 has improved greatly in his three season with NE. RT Marcus Cannon 7/7 missed half of 2017 with injuries. OL Luke Bowanko 16/1 signed in the off season from BALT for depth. OT Cole Croston 3/0 hasn’t played much but could be in the mix for time in the rotation. LT/RT Cameron Fleming 12/6 signed with DAL. On DEF, in the secondary CB Malcolm Butler 16/15 with 2INTS & 1.0 sack, who played 98% of the defensive plays throughout the season and playoffs was held out of the SuperBowl. We will never know the true reason but, he signed a multi year deal with TENN after the season. CB Jason McCourty 14/14 with 3INTs and yes is Devin’s brother, was acquired in the off-season by NE in a trade with CLEVE and is penciled in as the starter replacing Butler. CB Stephon Gilmore 13/13 with 2INTS is solid on the other side. DB Eric Rowe 8/3 has speed but must get better to be in the rotation. CB Johnson Bademosi 16/3 signed in the off-season with HOU. CB Duke Dawson who was drafted in the 2nd round out of Clemson is being groomed to be a slot corner. DB Keion Crossen who was drafted in the 7th round out of Western Carolina impressed at a pro-day to be drafted and now needs to impress more to stick around. DB Jonathan Jones 16/4 with 1INT & 1.0 sack is on the PUP list with an ankle injury and it is undetermined if he will be ready for wk 1. S Duron Harmon 16/3 led the team with 4INTS. He always seems to be around where the action is. S Patrick Chung 16/11 with 1INT is a run stopper and plays like a LB. S Devin McCourty 16/16 with 1INT & 1.0 sack is the veteran leader of the secondary. On the D-LINE, DE Trey Flowers 14/14 with 6.5 sacks should see better numbers in 2018 as he only gets better. DE Derek Rivers was on IR all of 2017 with a torn ACL but should be ready for wk 1. DT Alan Branch 12/6 wasn’t re-signed by NE. DT Danny Shelton 14/13 was acquired from CLEVE in the off-season to fill the spot from Branch. DT Malcom Brown 13/12 with 2.5 sacks is a great run stuffer. DE/DT Lawrence Guy 16/15 with 1.0 sack had a very productive season and should see a lot of time in the rotation. DE Geneo Grissom 8/0 needs to show something in camp or he may be gone. DT Vincent Valentine missed all of 2017 with a knee injury but NE liked what they saw in 2016 and will get a chance to compete. DT Adam Butler 16/6 with 2.0 sacks made the team as an undrafted rookie and is very useful in sub packages. DE Adrian Clayborn 16/2 with 9.5 sacks was signed by NE in the off-season. Adrian needs to step up his game because aside from his six sack game vs DAL, he had 3.5 sacks the whole yr. DE/DT Deatrich Wise 16/3 with 5.0 sacks may be an up and comer and should definitely see time in the rotation behind Clayborn in 2018. DE/LB Eric Lee 6/5 1INT & 3.5 sacks made the most of his limited chances and looks like he will see more time in the rotation in 2018. In the LB crew, LB Kyle Van Noy 13/12 with 5.5 sacks has speed and stepped up after Dont’a Hightower went down in 2017. LB Dont’a Hightower 5/5 with 2.0 sacks season was cut short by a torn pectoral and knee problems. He should ready to go by wk 1. LB Marquis Flowers 16/2 with 3.5 sacks mostly plays on special teams but made the most of his opportunity late in the season. He could see more time in the rotation in 2018. LB Ja’Whaun Bentley who was drafted in the 5th round out of Purdue & LB Christian Sam who was drafted in the 6th round out of Arizona State will both probably see time on special teams before being worked into the rotation in sub packages. LB Harvey Langi 1/0 was in a car accident that ended his 2017 but NE is anxious to see what he’s got. LB Elandon Roberts 15/14 with 2.0 sacks is a good run stuffer but a liability in coverage. This team always has the next guy up mentality and right now no other team in the AFC EAST is ready to compete with NE. They will do their usual romp through the division. NE also finds guys that want to play even when they lose guys. The DEF will step up even though DC Matt Patricia moved on to be the HC at DET. Bill is running the DEF. This team will make it to the SuperBowl again because no other team in the AFC can match them. PITT can’t beat them and either can JAGS. Besides them, no other team in the AFC can do it as well as NE.
PROJECTED 2017 (14-2), ACTUAL 2017 (13-3), PROJECTED 2018 (13-3)
New York Jets
I definitely thought that HC Todd Bowles would be let go after the 2017 season. Instead, he gets an extension. Todd Bowles is again on the hotseat because he doesn’t make in game decisions that lead to wins. His time management is also terrible and he never has any answers at the press conferences about his moves. If the NYJ do not have a winning season, which I think they will not, he is out as HC. OC Jeremy Bates was upgraded from QB coach and Kacy Rodgers stays on as DC. QB is a carousel for the NYJ. At QB, Josh McCown is technically the starter going into the season. He had his best season of his career at age 38 in 2017 with NYJ. QB Sam Darnold who was drafted in the 1st round out of USC is projected as the future QB for the NYJ. But one of the drawbacks for Darnold is that he turns the ball over a lot. Since the NFL is quicker than college, those openings close a lot faster than in college, so Darnold’s movements have to be quicker if he wants to make it in the NFL. For backup, QB Teddy Bridgewater was signed but, we will see if his knee is fully covered after spending almost two years out of football working his way back. QB Bryce Petty was cut and signed with MIA and 2016 2nd round draft choice QB Christian Hackenberg who never played a down in the NFL, was cut as well. Hackenberg is looking for an NFL home. At RB, Matt Forte retired and NYJ signed RB Isaiah Crowell from CLEVE. In CLEVE Crowell proved he can run and catch, even on a very bad team. RB Bilal Powell 15/10 led the NYJ in rushing in 2017 and has shown that he can catch passes as well. RB Elijah McGuire 16/2 should see more action in 2018 after proving himself in his rookie season. RB Thomas Rawls was picked up from SEA as a situational back. Lawrence Thomas made the switch in 2017 from DE to FB and was productive. He will start at the FB position. At WR, Robbie Anderson & Jermaine Kearse established themselves as the go to guys for NYJ. WR Quincy Enunwa is expected back after missing all of 2017 with a neck injury. He had a breakout season in 2016. Let’s see if he can return to form. WR Terrelle Pryor was signed to a 1yr deal after struggling in 2017 with WASH. WR ArDarius Stewart is facing a two-game suspension for PEDs after having a quiet rookie season. WR Chad Hanson also had a quiet rookie season and is looking to see more action. After Chad Hanson, the WR situation for NYJ is luke warm at best with guys who have bounced around the league looking for a home. At TE, Austin Seferian-Jenkins had a breakout yr with 50 catches then signed with JACKSONVILLE. TE Jordan Leggett who missed his rookie season due to injury will be competing for the starting position with TE Chris Herndon who was drafted in the 4th round out of MIA. Looking to add depth to the TE position, Eric Tomlinson 14/12 & Clive Walford will be competing for backup. Tomlinson is mainly used as a blocking back so he may have the advantage here. Walford was signed from OAK. The O-LINE needs to do a better job. They allowed 47 sacks in 2017 as compared to 35 sacks in 2016. At LT, Kelvin Beachum 16/16 is solid at the position. OL Ben Ijalana 11/0 had his production fall off after starting thirteen games for NYJ in 2016. He needs to get back to form if he wants to see more time in the rotation. LG James Carpenter 16/16 has not missed a beat with NYJ but needs to keep the level high. OT Dakota Dozier 14/3 gives the O-LINE good depth. C Spencer Long 7/6 was signed from WASH to replace Wesley Johnson 15/15 who signed with DET. C Jonotthan Harrison 8/1 serves well as the backup. RT Brandon Shell 12/12 missed four games due to injury but proved himself nicely at the position in his rookie season. RT Brent Qvale 16/6 is a quality backup and can start when asked upon. On DEF in the secondary, CB Trumaine Johnson 16/15 with 2INTs was signed to a big deal from LAR. He becomes the #1 CB and takes over for CB Buster Skrine 15/15 & 1 INT who is better suited at playing nickel. CB Morris Claiborne 15/15 with 1 INT moves to #2 CB. CB Justin Burris 14/1 with 1 INT gets quality time in the rotation in a backup slot. CB Daryl Roberts 15/4 with 1 INT is also solid as a backup. CB Parry Nickerson who was drafted in the 6th round out of Tulane will probably find time on special teams. At SS, Jamal Adams 16/16 with 2.0 sacks had a nice rookie season and vowed to get better. At FS, Marcus Maye 16/16 with 2 INTs was impressive in his rookie season but should also only get better. Backup & special teamer FS Rontez Miles 13/0 is recovering from a torn MCL and his status for the 2018 season is unknown. FS Terrence Brooks 15/1 with 2 INTs serves well as a backup and had his two INTs vs MIA in Sept. On the D-LINE, DE Muhammad Wilkerson 13/12 with 3.5 sacks was cut and signed with GB. DE Leonard Williams 16/16 with 1 INT & 2.0 sacks has not missed a game in three seasons and is ready to take another step forward. DT Steve McLendon 16/14 with 1.5 sacks is a great run stuffer. DE Xavier Cooper 8/0 with 1 sack who was acquired during the 2017 season from SF is penciled in as the starter. DE Henry Anderson 9/8 with 2.0 sacks was traded from INDY on the final day of the 2018 draft and brings depth to the line. DT Mike Pennel 16/3 played well and signed a three yr deal. DE Nathan Shepherd who was drafted in the 3rd round out of Fort Hays State has had a long journey but should see time in the rotation. DE Foley Fatukasi who was drafted in the 6h round out of Connecticut should also see time in the rotation due to thinness in depth in the D-LINE. OLB Josh Martin 14/9 with 1.5 sacks was great filling in and is penciled in as the starter opposite OLB Jordan Jenkins. OLB Lorenzo Mauldin was on IR in 2017 but, needs to stay healthy to get a roster spot. ILB Darren Lee 15/15 with 3.0 sacks progressed nicely in 2017 and is looking for even better numbers in 2018. ILB Kevin Minter 9/7 was picked up from CINNCY for depth in the LB core. ILB Avery Williamson 16/16 with 3.0 sacks was signed from TENN and takes over for LB Demario Davis 16/16 with 5.0 sacks who signed with NO. LB Neville Hewitt 6/0 was signed from MIA to give depth. OLB Jordan Jenkins 16/15 with 3.0 sacks needs to up his game to be more effective. OLB David Bass 13/2 with 3.5 sacks was very effective in a backup role and adds quality depth. OLB Dylan Donohue 4/0 has too many problems off the field and needs to get his head straight if he wants a shot at making the team. LB Kony Ealy 15/4 with 1.0 sacks signed with DAL. There are a lot of question marks with this team starting with HC Todd Bowles. He makes a lot of blunders that have cost the NYJ wins. Then, will McCown hold up another season until Darnold is ready? Will Darnold be ready? How will the O-LINE hold up? Will the OFF get going? Big question at TE as Seferian-Jenkins left and what’s left doesn’t have any experience. On DEF, will the D-LINE put pressure on when needed? Will the secondary get burned? Do they have enough depth? Will the LB core hold up even though very productive guys left? Unfortunately for the NYJ, a lot of questions and not too many answers. This team is not making the playoffs as they will lose some games they should win.
PROJECTED 2017 (2-14), ACTUAL 2017 (5-11), PROJECTED 2018 (7-9)
BUFF would have been 10-6 and would have had a further run in the playoffs in 2017 had it not been for a moment of utter stupidity when HC Sean McDermott inserted QB Nathan Peterman as the starter at LAC. Peterman went 6/14 0tds & 5INTs in the first half before being lifted for Tyrod Taylor but, it was too late. LAC won 54-24 and it was a game that BUFF could have and should have won. Going into 2018 the BILLS may be taking a step backward. Instead of signing Tyrod Taylor to a fair and decent contract, they traded him to CLEVE. In the 2018 draft BUFF moved up to take QB Josh Allen in the 1st round out of Wyoming. He is not scheduled to start wk 1 unless he really blows the doors off in OTAs & training camp. In the meantime, AJ McCarron was signed from CINNCY to be a bridge until Josh Allen is ready to take over. Oh, Nathan Peterman is there too in case both of these guys get injured or leave. There is also a new OC for BUFF, Brian Daboll formerly of the University of Alabama takes over for Rick Dennison. At RB, LeSean McCoy does it all, He rushes, he catches and without him this would be nothing but an expansion team. However, at this time there is a domestic violence incident that is being investigated. If McCoy is suspended for any amount of games, this team will be devastated and their record will be worse than predicted, stay tuned. RB Chris Ivory was picked up as a backup from the JAGS. FB Mike Tolbert wasn’t retained but FB Patrick DiMarco should see more action after an unimpressive rookie season of 2017. FB Travaris Cadet’s 2017 season was shortened by a broken arm but, if he can come back strong, he would provide much needed depth to the position. At WR, Kelvin Benjamin was traded from CAR to BUFF during the season but, he needs to stay healthy and get more involved in the OFF. WR Zay Jones needs to have a better 2nd season as he rebounds from shoulder surgery. WR Jeremy Kerley was signed to a 1yr deal after being cut by NYJ. This is Kerley’s chance to shine because of the weakness of depth at the position. WR Deonte Thompson signed with DAL. WR Corey Coleman was acquired from CLEVE for a draft pick. He should see passes coming his way. AT TE, Charles Clay gets the bulk of the passes but Nick O’Leary gives him good competition. O’Leary has to stop dropping passes if he wants to be a viable option. The O-LINE needs to do a better job protecting the QB. In 2016 there were 46 sacks allowed. In 2017 there were 47 sacks allowed. The OFF can’t get going when the QB is constantly on the run and lying on the turf. Plus, this has been with a mobile QB, Tyrod Taylor. How will the O-LINE be when they have to protect a pocket QB? Adjustments need to be made. On the O-LINE, LT Cordy Glenn was traded to CINNCY after having signed a big contract in 2016 and not living up to it in 2017 and not staying healthy. LT Dion Dawkins 16/11 had a nice rookie yr in 2017 and is penciled in as the starter. De’Ondre Wesley, who hasn’t played since 2015 adds depth at T & G. At LG John Miller 4/4 lost his starting job at RG in 2017 and is switching to LG but, will be battling C/G Ryan Groy 16/1 at LG for the starting position. BUFF likes Groy because of his versatility to play two positions. OG Wyatt Teller who was drafted in the 5th round out of Virginia Tech will look to get into the rotation either on the left side or the right. LG Richie Incognito 16/16 who had been solid for three seasons in BUFF decided to retire. C Russell Bodine was signed from CINNCY where he hadn’t missed a game 64/64 in four years and is the FAV to start at the position. He replaces C Eric Wood who retired. C/G Adam Redmond was signed because he gives depth to both the Guard & Center positions. RG Vlad Ducasse 12/12 played the position for BUFF but has played LG for other teams but has settled in at RG. RT Jordan Mills 16/16 will be the starter in 2018 as T Conor McDermott has the inside track to win the backup job because he can play both Tackle positions. T Marshall Newhouse was signed because he gives veteran experience to both Tackle positions. On DEF in the secondary, CB Vontae Davis was signed from INDY to replace EJ Gaines who signed with CLEVE. Vontae is looking for a bounceback season after a groin injury slowed him down. CB Taron Johnson who was drafted in the 4th round out of Weber State is slotted to be the starter at the nickel spot. CB Phillip Gaines was signed from KC for depth at the position. CB Tre’Davious White 16/16 with 4 INTS had a great rookie yr and should be at the position for a while. Backup CB Shareece Wright signed with OAK. CB Leonard Johnson has not been re-signed and is currently not with any team. At SS Micah Hyde 16/16 with 5 INTS was a great signing in 2017 from GB and has become the leader in the secondary. FS Jordan Poyer 15/15 with 5 INTS had a great season after an injured filled season at CLEVE in 2016. DB Colt Anderson who has the past two seasons marred by injuries is currently not signed by anyone. S Kelcie McCray was signed for veteran backup experience but did not play in 2017. Also, S Rafael Bush was signed by way of NO for veteran depth at the position. S Siran Neal who was drafted in the 5th round out of Jacksonville State will look to find a spot in the rotation. On the D-LINE, DE Shaq Lawson 11/10 with 4.0 sacks, hasn’t lived up to his 2016 1st round draft selection & DE Trent Murphy, who signed from WASH, may supplant Lawson on the outside, if he is fully recovered from off-season knee surgery. DT Kyle Williams 16/16 with 3.0 sacks took a pay cut to return for his 13th season, all with BUFF. DT Harrison Phillips who was drafted in the 3rd round out of Stanford should be able to find a way into the rotation. DT Marcel Dareus was traded mid season to JAGS & DT Star Lotulelei who was signed from CAR will be penciled in as the starter. DT Adolphus Washington 15/10 played well after Dareus was traded and gives great depth to the position even if he ends up backing up Lotulelei. DE Jerry Hughes 16/16 with 4.0 sacks needs to put more pressure on opposing QBs. DE Eddie Yarborough 16/6 earned a spot on BUFF as a FA and adds quality depth to the D-LINE. DE Deandre Coleman 6/0 was cut and not retained. DT Jerel Worthy 5/0 played sparingly and was cut during the 2017 season. DE Ryan Davis 16/0 with 3.0 sacks was cut in the off-season. At OLB, Matt Milano 16/5 was a consistent contributor which landed him the starting position late in the 2017 season. He is penciled in as the starter for 2018. He replaced OLB Ramon Humber 13/9 who showed that he is better at a backup than a starter. Humber at least gives quality depth. OLB Deon Lacey 16/0 may have a tough time finding a roster spot in 2018. MLB Tremaine Edmunds who was drafted in the 1st round out of Virginia Tech is penciled in as the starter and will be given every chance to prove he is worthy of the starting position. Edmunds replaces MLB Preston Brown 16/16 who signed with CINNCY. OLB Lorenzo Alexander 16/11 had 12.5 sacks in 2016 but only 3.0 sacks in 2017. He will be relegated to more passing situations. LB Tanner Valejo 15/0 played on special teams as well as LB giving LB core depth. LB Xavier Woodson-Luster was signed to a contract via OAK to give more depth to the LB core. This team has a lot of questions going into 2018. They may have taken a step backwards and getting rid of Tyrod Taylor before someone else is ready to step up may bite BUFF hard in 2018. The O-LINE must come together to give time to whoever is throwing the ball and receivers must get open. The secondary is very good but even they can’t cover forever. The D-LINE & the LB crew must put pressure and make stops up front or this is going to be a long season for the team and their fans. I don’t see much in the way of winning because their schedule is very tough and they don’t have the weapons except RB LeSean McCoy, and even he can’t do it alone.
PROJECTED 2017 (8-8), ACTUAL 2017 (9-7), PROJECTED 2018 (6-10)
2017 was a down year when it was determined that QB Ryan Tannehill would be out for the year because of his knee. Jay Cutler came in and was his usual self. But when the team started out 4-2 it did look promising. Then, a five game losing streak basically sunk the season. Jay Cutler retired and Tannehill is on course to start the season. HC Adam Gase did a nice job in his first year with MIA in 2016 taking this team to the playoffs so now in his third season he needs to show that this team is on the way up with Tannehill back as the starter. MIA has invested big money in Tannehill and he isn’t going anywhere. However, Tannehill’s mechanics have always been in question. Brock Osweiler has been signed as the main backup. Bryce Petty was picked up from NYJ for a look see and David Fales continues to be #3. At RB Kenyan Drake is the #1 as Jay Ajayi was traded mid-season to PHILLY. #2 Damien Williams signed with KC & future HOF Frank Gore signed with MIA. Frank Gore can still get it done at age 35. RB Jeremy Langford who last played for CHI in 2016 and bounced around a couple of rosters since then signed with MIA for depth and to prove he still has it. At WR, Jarvis Landry was traded to CLEVE but, Danny Amendola was signed from NE. Albert Wilson was also signed from KC to go along with Kenny Stills, Jakeem Grant & Devante Parker. At TE, Julius Thomas was cut & Anthony Fasano was not retained. A.J. Derby who has bounced around the league in his two years and played 2/0 for MIA in 2017 will have to battle Mike Gesicki who was drafted in the 2nd round out of Penn State & Durham Smythe who was drafted in the 4th round out of Notre Dame for playing time. Rumor has it that Gesicki is the FAV to start. Tannehill and HC Gase should be able to spread out the OFF with the new additions and keep opposing defenses guessing. The O-LINE for MIA has always been a problem. Not many changes for the O-LINE going into 2018 but they need to play better as a group. C Mike Pouncey who has been solid and reliable 16/16 signed with LAC. In his place is Daniel Gilgore 16/16 who was picked up in a trade with SF. LT Laremy Tunsil 15/15 has been solid in his two years but needs to get better. LG Josh Sitton was signed from CHI where Ted Larsen 8/8 moves from LG to RG. OL Jesse Davis 16/10 is a solid backup and filled in nicely when injuries hampered the O-LINE. RT Ja’Wuan James 8/8 is slotted to start after missing eight games with a leg injury. OT Sam Young 10/6 is a quality backup and will see more action if inconsistencies continue on the O-LINE. On the D-LINE DE Cameron Wake 16/16 contributed 10.5 sacks. He will be getting some major help on the other side as MIA traded for DE Robert Quinn from LAR. Quinn bounced back in 2017 after two injury prone years and MIA is a 4-3 DEF as opposed to LAR’s 3-4. Quinn should have a big yr in MIA. DE Andre Branch 14/14 contributed 4.5 sacks and needs to bounce back from off-season knee surgery. DE William Hayes 10/0 was re-signed to a 1yr deal and needs to prove he belongs here longer. DE Charles Harris 16/2 contributed 2 sacks but must improve vs the pass. DT Ndamukong Suh 16/16 with 4.5 sacks was cut in the off-season and signed with LAR. DT Davon Godchaux 15/5 who was a rookie in 2017, is slotted to start, now has to prove he’s worthy. DT Jordan Phillips 13/11 needs to be more consistent. DT Vincent Taylor & DT Gabe Wright are backups but need to show more to stay in the rotation. OLB Kiko Alonso 16/16 is good vs the run but needs to improve vs the pass. MLB Lawrence Timmons 14/14 wasn’t re-signed & Raekwon McMillan who missed his rookie season with a knee injury is penciled in as the starter. OLB Stephen Anthony & LB Jerome Baker who was drafted in the 3rd round out of Ohio State will be battling for the starting position. Also, LBs Chase Allen & Mike Hull will be stepping up their game to see action in the rotation. In the secondary CB Byron Maxwell was cut during the season and rookie CB Cordrea Tankersley filled in nicely. Xavien Howard is the other CB but needs to show consistency. CB Bobby McCain is the nickel man and play in all games in 2017. CB Tony Lippett didn’t play in 2017 due to an Achilles injury but should see action in 2018 if he is healthy. At S, Minkah Fitzpatrick was drafted in the 1st round out of Alabama and is slotted to start taking over for Nate Allen who had an injury plagued season and wasn’t re-signed. SS Reshad Jones 16/16 had 2INTs & 1.5 sacks and probably will improve on those numbers in 2018. S T.J. McDonald had an injury plagued yr but should be a major contributor in 2018. This team needs to get better production from its O-LINE and better decision making from its QB Ryan Tannehill. Tannehill will have some nice weapons to work with but needs to stay focused and make good passes. Also, Tannehill’s left knee is the issue and we’ll see what happens when the season starts. Otherwise it will be Brock Osweiler at the helm. On DEF, Quinn’s presence will take pressure off Wake to put more pressure up front. More plays need to be made by the LBs and certainly vs the pass if they will do some damage. This team comes down to Tannehill. All around he has weapons and the DEF should make plays but the jury is still out.
PROJECTED 2017 (10-6), ACTUAL 2017 (6-10), PROJECTED 2018 (7-9)
As usual, PITT has a nice strong regular season but this time their nemesis was the JAGS. PITT lost to the JAGS in wk 5 @PITT and then lost a wild one vs the JAGS in the Divisional Playoffs. I saw both of these coming as history says that for some reason PITT does not match up well vs the JAGS no matter how the JAGS are playing. However, the main nemesis of the STEELERS is still NE. Mike Tomlin is still the HC but, they dumped OC Todd Haley and promoted their QB coach Randy Fitchner to OC. Keith Butler remains the DC. At QB, Ben Roethlisberger 15/15 danced around retirement talk again in the off-season but, decided that he would play in 2018. Considering that Big Ben is 36 yrs old, PITT drafted QB Mason Rudolph in the 3rd round out of Oklahoma State. He is a PITT prototype and could be groomed to be Ben’s replacement down the road. QB Joshua Dobbs who was drafted in 2017 did not get into a game but is looked at as a long term #2. QB Landry Jones 3/1 is currently the #2 and knows the system. AT RB, Le’Veon Bell 15/15 was ALL-PRO but again given the franchise tag. He wants a long term deal with guaranteed money and rightfully so. Without Bell, the OFF would not be so good and have so many weapons to choose from. Plus, after him at RB there really isn’t any depth. RB James Connor 14/0 was use sparingly as a rookie then place on IR after an MCL tear. RB Jaylen Samuels was drafted in the 5th round out of NC State has lined up as H-back, TE & RB in college. He caught 202 passes in college and could be used as a valuable weapon on OFF for PITT. RB Steven Ridley 2/1 was signed after the injury to Connor and was re-signed in the off-season to compete for the #2 or #3 RB spot. FB Roosevelt Nix 16/4 rarely touches the ball but is an excellent blocker. RB Fitzgerald Toussaint 6/0 plays mostly on special teams, was re-signed in the off-season. At WR, Antonio Brown 14/14 was ALL-PRO for the 4th straight yr. WR JuJu Smith-Schuster 14/7 is the #2 and a big part of the OFF and had a nice rookie season. WR Eli Rogers 14/4 is on the active PUP List while recovering from a torn ACL & his status for wk 1 is unclear. WR Justin Hunter 7/1 has decent speed but will be fighting for a roster spot. WR Darrius Heyward-Bey 16/0 plays a lot of special teams and is listed at #4 or #5 receiver. WR Martavis Bryant 15/8 was traded in the off-season to OAK for a draft choice. WR James Washington who was drafted in the 2nd round out of Oklahoma State will take Martavis Bryant’s role as the deep threat. TE Jesse James 16/14 is a great catcher but not a great blocker. TE Vance McDonald 10/7 showed his potential late in the season and playoff game. He should see more time in the rotation in 2018. TE Xavier Grimble 15/2 needs to show that he can be a good blocker if he wants to stick with the team. The O-LINE has been better in recent years and they only gave up 24 sacks in 2017 as opposed to 21 sacks allowed in 2016. Not too much movement with the O-LINE. At LT, Alejandro Villanueva 16/16 has been solid his three years as a starter. OL Chris Hubbard 16/10 signed with CLEVE in the off-season. OT Jerald Hawkins 5/1 spent his rookie season, 2016 on IR and saw little action in 2017. He is currently on IR due to off-season surgery to repair a torn quadriceps. LG Ramon Foster 14/14 is very dependable but, is recovering from a right knee bone bruise and his status for wk 1 is unclear. C/LG B.J. Finney 14/4 right now is the #1 backup and may have to start if Foster is not ready for wk 1. C Maurkice Pouncey 15/15 is solid in the middle. OL Parker Collins is an undrafted FA looking to add depth to the line. RG David DeCastro 15/15 was ALL-PRO in 2017 is excellent at run blocking and pass protection. RG Matt Feiler 5/1 is a backup and should continue to provide depth in 2018. RT Marcus Gilbert 7/7 was suspended in 2017 for PEDs. OT Chukwuma Okorafor was drafted in the 3rd round out of Western Michigan and should see time in the rotation. The DEF for PITT is always next man up and is solid and went from #12 TOT DEF in 2016 to #5 TOT DEF in 2017. In the secondary, CB Artie Burns 16/16 with 1INT had a rough second season, should see better numbers in 2018. CB Joe Haden 11/11 with 1INT & 1.0 sack is a leader in the secondary. CB Mike Hilton 16/4 with 2INTS & 4.0 sacks had a nice rookie season and is the slot corner. CB Cameron Sutton 5/1 was on short term IR in 2017 but came on strong and in 2018 will compete for #3 CB or slot corner. CB William Gay 16/1 with 1INT was cut in the off-season and signed with NYG. CB Brian Allen 10/0 is good for depth and CB packages. CB Coty Sensabaugh 14/4 with 1INT will be competing for a spot in a crowded secondary. DB Mike Mitchell 13/12 was cut in the off-season. FS JJ Wilcox 12/1 with 1INT was cut in the off-season and signed with NYJ. FS Robert Golden 16/2 with 1INT was cut in the off-season and signed with KC. At SS Sean Davis 16/16 with 3INTS & 1.0 sack can also play FS & slot. FS Morgan Burnett 12/12 was signed by PITT from GB & is penciled as the starter. S Terrell Edmunds who was drafted in the 1st round out of Virginia Tech should get a shot to play immediately in the rotation. S Marcus Allen who was drafted in the 5th round out of Penn State is a great tackler and should also see time in the rotation. S Nat Berhe 15/0 was signed by PITT from NYG mostly for special teams but is good for depth. The DEF is run as a 3-4. DE Cameron Heyward 15/15 with 12.0 sacks had an outstanding yr and was ALL-PRO in 2017. Cameron is a leader and PITT’s best pass rusher. DE Tyson Alualu 16/5 with 4.0 sacks is a valuable backup that fills in without missing a beat. NT Javon Hargrave 16/12 with 2.0 sacks is a starter and sees time in sub packages. DT Daniel McCullers 5/0 had been re-signed late in the season and played sparingly. DE Stephen Tuitt 12/12 with 3.0 sacks anchors the D-LINE. DE Leterrius Walton 16/0 with 2.0 sacks can play end or nose, made the most of his time in 2017. He should see more time in the rotation in 2018. DT Joshua Frazier was drafted in the 7th round out of Alabama may see time in the rotation due to depth issues. OLB Bud Dupree 15/15 with 6.0 sacks has not been what a 1st rounder should be. He needs to step it up a little more. LB Arthur Moats 14/0 signed with ARZ. OLB Anthony Chickillo 16/2 with 3.0 sacks is good fro depth. ILB Ryan Shazier suffered a back injury in the game @ CINNCY in 2017 that left him temporarily paralyzed but has been able to walk. Obviously he is not on the active roster but will be paid his 2018 salary. ILB Jonathan Bostic 14/14 with 1.0 sack was signed by PITT from INDY to start in Shazier’s spot. LB L.J. Fort 15/0 with 1.0 sack plays mostly on special teams but also plays ILB. He is fighting for a roster spot in 2018. ILB Vince Williams 16/16 with 1INT & 8.0 sacks is both a good run stopper and pass rusher. LB Tyler Matakevich 15/0 is good for depth on the inside but had off-season shoulder surgery and his status for wk 1 is uncertain. OLB James Harrison was cut mid season and signed with NE. OLB T.J. Watt 15/15 with 1INT & 7.0 sacks should get even better. LB Keion Adams was on IR in 2017 and is being converted from DE to OLB. This team is obsessed with beating NE. But NE finds new ways to beat PITT. Sometimes PITT loses their focus like they did in 2017 with the JAGS. PITT needs to take each game one at a time and concentrate on the game at hand. PITT will go deep into the playoffs but will have problems with NE & a new nemesis, the JAGS. Barring any major injuries PITT should go deep into the playoffs.
PROJECTED 2017 (11-5), ACTUAL 2017 (13-3), PROJECTED 2018 (12-4)
BALT has not made the playoffs since the 2014 season. That seems like a long time ago. HC John Harbaugh is definitely on the hot seat for 2018. He got a vote of confidence last season from owner Steve Bisciotti but Harbaugh seemed to sneak by. If BALT doesn’t make the playoffs, HC Harbaugh is gone. There may be some housecleaning as well with the coaching staff because in 2017 the PASS OFF was #29 in the NFL, not good. AT QB, Joe Flacco is in the last yr of a big contract he signed five years ago. Since he won the SuperBowl, he has been Average Joe. He has certainly been put on notice because BALT drafted QB Lamar Jackson in the 1st round out of Louisville. He is quietly being touted as the Ravens QB of the future. That future may be closer if Flacco doesn’t take it up a notch. BALT moved up in the draft to get Jackson because there was talk that NE was interested in him in the 2nd round. Robert Griffin III was signed for backup and in turn he would like to resurrect his career after not playing at all in 2017. QB Ryan Mallet was not re-signed by BALT and may be picked up by some other team down the road. At RB, Alex Collins 15/12 had a nice season after being the #4 RB at SEA in 2016. Alex made the most of his opportunities in 2017 and help take some pressure off of Flacco. Look for a bigger season from Alex in 2018 as the #1 RB. RB Javorius Allen 16/0 serves well as the backup and has a shown that he can catch passes out of the backfield. Patrick Ricard saw time in 2017 as a DE but will be used more as FB for his size in leading the running game. RB Kenneth Dixon missed all of 2017 with a torn meniscus and it is unknown if he will be ready for wk 1. RB Terrance West 5/4 signed with NO in the off-season. RB Danny Woodhead retired. At WR, there was a major shakeup at the position. FA WR Dez Bryant was offered a contract but didn’t sign. WR Mike Wallace 15/14 was not re-signed and signed with PHILLY. WR Breshad Perriman 11/3 will have to stay healthy if he wants to be a contributor. WR Michael Campanaro 13/0 signed with TENN. WR Jeremy Maclin 12/12 was cut in the off-season has not re-signed with another team. WR Michael Crabtree who was cut by OAK signed with BALT. WR John Brown was not re-signed by ARZ and signed by BALT. Brown gives BALT that deep speed threat. WR Willie Snead was signed to an offer sheet by BALT that NO refused to match and will likely be the slot receiver. WR Chris Moore caught 3tds but plays mostly on special teams. WR Jaleel Scott who was drafted in the 4th round out of New Mexico State is a big target who can play inside and outside. WR Jordan Lesley who was drafted in the 5th round out of UCLA may not even make the team due to off the field issues. WR Tim White was undrafted and spent all of 2017 on IR but will get a chance to impress in training camp. At TE, the position was a big question mark after Dennis Pitta was cut before the 2017 season. TE Ben Watson 16/12 signed back with NO after only one season with BALT. TE/WR Max Williams 11/8 needs to stay healthy if he wants a shot at more playing time. But, TE Hayden Hurst who was drafted in the 1st round out of South Carolina has the inside track at starting. TE Mark Andrews who was drafted in the 3rd round out of Oklahoma will likely be used mostly on 3rd downs. TE Nick Boyles 15/11 is a solid blocker and can catch passes. All of a sudden there is good depth at the TE position for BALT. The O-LINE actually reduced its number of sacks allowed from 33 in 2016 to 27 in 2017. At LT, Ronnie Stanley 15/15 is solid since being drafted in 2016. T/G Andrew Donnal 6/0 was acquired mid-season from LAR and provides depth at two positions. LG Alex Lewis was on IR in 2017 with a shoulder injury but is expected to return healthy. G Jermaine Eluemunor 8/2 could see more action due to uncertainties with O-LINE depth. Ryan Jensen 16/16 filled in nicely for John Urschel who retired before the 2017 training camp but, then Jensen signed a four year deal with TB in March 2018. Matt Skura 12/12 was solid at RG but is looked upon to fill the void left by Jensen at C. RG Marshal Yanda 2/2 hurt his shoulder and had off-season shoulder surgery but should be ready for wk 1. BALT needs Yanda to be healthy on the right side. C Bradley Bozeman who was drafted in the 6th round out of Alabama could see time in the rotation if depth is thin. RT James Hurst 16/16 is the anchor on the O-LINE and can play other LINE positions. OT Orlando Brown who was drafted in the 3rd round out of Oklahoma could compete for the starting job at RT. OT Greg Senat who was drafted in the 6th round out of Wagner adds depth to the LINE. G Maurquice Shakir was signed for depth. The DEF has consistently played a 3-4 alignment and that doesn’t look to change in 2018. DE Brent Urban 3/3 is currently on the PUP list and spent time on the disabled list with a significant Lisfranc injury in 2017. Whether or not he is available for wk 1 has yet to be determined. DE Bronson Kaufusi 3/1 has struggled with injuries but needs to play better and give BALT some depth. DE Chris Wormley 7/2 was activated late in the season but also looked at for depth. DT Brandon Williams 12/12 is a great run stopper but missed four games to a foot injury. DT/DE Carl Davis 15/9 with 0.5 sacks started games due to injuries and showed he can play. DT Michael Pierce 16/13 with 1.0 sack is another terrific run stopper. DE/DT Willie Henry 14/3 with 3.5 sacks, is also great vs the run. DE Zach Sieler who was drafted in the 7th round out of Ferris State will be fighting for a roster spot. OLB Terrell Suggs 16/16 with 11.0 sacks who is 35 yrs old may see less time on the field if one of the young guys steps up. LB Tim Williams 8/0 needs to improve his pass rushing skills if he wants to see more time in the rotation. Za’Darius Smith 14/4 with 3.5 sacks is solid as a pass rusher and could have a shot at a starting position. MLB CJ Mosely 16/16 with 2 INTs & 1.0 sack led the team in tackles and is solid as well. MLB Albert McClellan was on IR for 2017 with knee surgery and is looking to return. WLB Patrick Onwuasor 16/13 with 1.0 sack showed big improvements over his rookie season and is penciled in as the starter. LB Kamalei Correa 16/3 has struggled and must show improvement if he wants to see more time in the rotation. OLB Matthew Judon 16/12 with 8.0 sacks also greatly improved from his rookie season as a pass rusher and was second on BALT in sacks. OLB Tyus Bowser 16/0 had 1INT & 3.0 sacks had a nice rookie season and could see time as a starter. LB Kenny Young who was drafted in the 4th round out of UCLA will look to impress and try to work his way into the rotation. In the secondary, CB Jimmy Smith 12/12 with 3INTs suffered a torn Achilles during the season and may not be ready for wk 1. CB Tavon Young was out for 2017 with a knee injury suffered in training camp but was 16/11 with 2INTS in his rookie yr of 2016. He could be penciled in as the starter if Smith is not available. CB Brandon Carr 16/16 with 4INTs brings veteran leadership to the secondary and has shown that he hasn’t lost anything. CB Marlon Humphrey 16/5 with 2 INTS took over starting late in the season and was up to the task. Look for him to possibly start wk 1 as well. CB Anthony Averett who was drafted in the 4th round out of Alabama is solid in coverages and could end up as a slot CB or nickel back. CB Maurice Canady 8/1 battled a knee injury but brings good depth. At FE Eric Weddle 16/16 with 6INTS & 1.0 sack led the team with INTS and provides leadership. S Chuck Clark 15/0 had a learning rookie season and should show improvement in yr 2. SS Tony Jefferson 16/16 with 1 INT & 2.5 sacks had a great yr after signing from ARZ. S Lardarius Webb 16/3 with 2INTS was cut after the season and currently has not been re-signed by anyone. SS Anthony Levine 16/0 provides value depth. S Deshon Elliott who was drafted in the 6th round out of Texas should provide good depth and has a penchant for picking off passes. S Kai Nacua 16/3 was claimed off waivers from CLEVE May 1st to also give depth. There weren’t any big changes for BALT in the off-season and the roster is pretty much the same from 2017. However, guys need to step up and make plays at critical situations. There is a lot of talent on this team. BALT needs to make the playoffs and make some kind of a run or they will be bigger changes going into 2019 with a new coaching staff.
PROJECTED 2017 (10-6), ACTUAL 2017 (9-7), PROJECTED 2018 (10-6)
Marvin Lewis should not be the HC of CINNCY anymore. I definitely thought and others did too that after the 2017 season Lewis would be fired from the job. The last two wins of the season were a detriment to the players winning what should have been Lewis’s last home game and last game as CINNCY HC. Otherwise this team would have been 5-11 instead of 7-9. Lewis should not be the HC for two reasons. 1. He has never won a playoff game in 15 yrs as HC & 2. The team continues to have discipline problems that get in the way of focusing on winning. He’s too much of a player’s coach. Anyway, Andy Dalton continues to be the starting QB. He had a lackluster 2017 and seemed to drop off but, will be the starter come wk 1. A.J. McCarron is gone and Matt Barkley was signed as the backup QB. Barkley is strictly a backup so Dalton doesn’t have to look over his shoulder at any time. RB Jeremy Hill had an injury plagued yr and signed with NE. Rookie RB Joe Mixon showed he can run and catch and is slotted in as the starter for 2018 with veteran Giovani Bernard as the backup. Bernard catches a lot of passes out of the backfield so he is very useful to the CINNCY OFF, sort of a 1-2 punch. A.J. Green is the #1 WR & Brandon Lafell just waved their #2 WR. Big mistake there. Tyler Boyd will move up to #2. But past Boyd it is by committee with no one in particular standing out. At TE, Tyler Eifert has only played 10 games the past two seasons due to injuries. He is coming off multiple back surgeries so this yr is important to see if he can stay healthy. TE Tyler Kroft 16/16 had seven tds and was a reliable option that should see more passes if Eifert is not able to play. Could be a great 1-2 punch at TE if both are healthy. The O-LINE for the last two seasons has been inconsistent giving up 40 sacks each season. They made major changes to the O-LINE in 2017 due to free agent losses but to no avail. In 2018, LT Cordy Glenn was acquired from BUFF to replace Cedric Ogbuehi who struggled and will be used in a backup role. LG Clint Boling has been a consistent starter and will stay at the position. C Billy Price was drafted in the 1st round out Ohio State and is expected to start at the position as C Russell Bodine signed with BUFF. Slotted for RG could be either Tre Hopkins who was 13/12 in 2017 or & Alex Redmond who was a FA signing in 2017 & played in five games. RT Jake Fisher who is coming off an injury plagued season replaces RT Andre Smith who signed with ARZ. RT Bobby Hart 10/7 was waived by NYG and signed by CINNCY to provide more depth on the right side. The O-LINE must come together if CINNCY is going to have any kind of success on OFF. On DEF, WLB Vontaze Burfict will start the season with a four game suspension. The D-LINE for CINNCY is very good and works well together. DE Carlos Dunlap had his 4th straight season at 16/16 and had 7.5 sacks. NT Andrew Billings 15/7 needs to play better at the position. DT Geno Atkins is solid and added nine sacks. DE Michael Johnson 15/15 is also dependable and added five sacks. DE Carl Lawson, in his 1st yr 16/1 was all over the place and contributed 8.5 sacks. Look for him to be a starter and a fixture for CINNCY real fast. DE Jordan Willis also had a nice rookie season in which he developed very good pass rushing and run stopping skills. He also had one sack. DT Chris Baker signed with CINNCY from TB on a 1-yr deal to prove that he has stuff left in the tank. DE Sam Hubbard who was drafted in the 3rd round out of Ohio State & DT Andrew Brown who was drafted in the 5th round out of Virginia will serve as backups and try to get worked into the rotation. With WLB Vontaze Burfict not playing full seasons due to suspensions and being suspended in 2018 this gives opportunity to see what other LBs for CINNCY can do to be productive. Granted the LB core is better with Burfict on the field but other guys get playing time and a chance to prove themselves. SLB Nick Vigil 11/11 has talent but needs to finish. MLB Preston Brown was signed from BUFF where he will be a run stopper. He replaces MLB Kevin Minter who signed with NYJ. Vincent Rey 14/11 can play all three LB position and certainly will start while Burfict is out. Backing up and looking for playing time is LB Jordan Evans 15/4 & LB Malik Jefferson who was drafted in the 3rd round out of Texas. In the secondary CINNCY finally decided to cut ties with CB Adam “Pacman” Jones. William Jackson 15/5 who had a nice rookie season will likely take Jones’s starting CB spot. Dre Kirkpatrick 14/14 is solid at the other CB spot. CB Darqueze Dennard 16/6 is a fully implemented nickel back. FS George Iloka is the leader in the secondary and entering his sixth yr as a starter. SS Shawn Williams 11/11 was injured part of the yr but is still slotted to start. Backing up in the safety position, Jessie Bates who was drafted in the 2nd round out of Wake Forest, will see action when CINNCY goes to a three Safety look. S Clayton Fejedelem has played in all 32 games in his 2 yrs and is a capable backup. I don’t see big things from Marvin Lewis in way of a change of doing things. The DEF has never been a big problem for CINNCY. But, the OFF was #32 and lackluster in many games during the 2017 season. The only place the OFF can go is up. The NFC NORTH is a tough division and CINNCY is playing mostly with the same guys from 2017. They may have tweaked a few things but it is surface only. This team is not making the playoffs.
PROJECTED 2017 (8-8), ACTUAL 2017 (7-9), PROJECTED 2018 (8-8)
It’s safe to say the record in CLEVE can’t get any worse. I didn’t think CLEVE was going to somehow make the playoffs in 2017 but, I thought they would improve on 1-15, they didn’t. HC Hue Jackson retained his job barely and he is definitely on the hotseat for this season. If there isn’t any improvement during the course of the season, he will be gone. Todd Haley was hired as the OC and if things don’t go well for Hue, Todd may be the next HC. Look for a little payback to his old team, the STEELERS, wk 1. At QB in 2017, Deshone Kizer, Kevin Hogan & Cody Kessler combined for 0-16. Kizer was traded to GB, Hogan was traded to WASH & Kessler was traded to the JAGS. For 2018, QB Tyrod Taylor was acquired via a trade with BUFF. QB Drew Stanton was signed from ARZ and QB Baker Mayfield was drafted as the #1 Pick in the 2018 draft out of Oklahoma as the future of the franchise. Taylor will start the season as the starter and bridge to Mayfield but Taylor is also there to showcase his skills for something more permanent. Stanton is there strictly for backup. At RB, Isaiah Crowell 16/16 was CLEVE’s #1 rusher but signed with the NYJ. RB Carlos Hyde was signed from SF. He can catch as well as run and will be utilized significantly by OC Haley. RB Nick Chubb was drafted in the 2nd round out of Georgia and is an explosive runner. RB Duke Johnson may have a hard time getting touches in a now crowded backfield. He may line up in the slot as his sure hands make him a weapon as a WR. FB Danny Vitale 15/6 is a punishing blocker but may see some competition from FB Marquez Williams who is trying to make the team. At WR, Kenny Britt was cut and signed with NE. WR Jarvis Landry was acquired from MIA in a trade and will replace Britt. WR Josh Gordon was fully reinstated in November and showed that he has a lot left in the tank even though he had not played a down since 2014. He is still young and could become one of the best WRs in the NFL if he stays clean. He has a lot to prove and this is his last chance. WR Corey Coleman needs to show something in training camp if he wants the ball more during the season. I guess Corey did because he was traded to BUFF for a draft pick. WR Antonio Callaway who was drafted in the 4th round out of Florida has some off the field issues but could be worth the risk if he gets it together. WR Ricardo Louis is another one on the bubble and needs to be impressive in training camp just to stick around. TE Darren Fells was signed from DET and is more of a blocker than a catcher and that’s what CLEVE needs right now. TE David Njoku is very talented but has to get out of the habit of dropping easy passes. TE Seth Devalve 16/4 made a big jump in 2017 and should be a factor again this season. The O-LINE for CLEVE was terrible again in 2017 as they allowed 50 sacks on three different QBs. It was actually an improvement on the 66, yes 66 sacks allowed on six different QBs in 2016. Hopefully after some changes that were made last yr and this yr, the line will mesh and give better protection and open up some running lanes. At LT, Joe Thomas retired after eleven seasons. Next stop for him is the HOF. Shon Coleman 16/16 who was at RT in 2017 gets the first crack at replacing Thomas at LT. Chris Hubbard 16/10 who was signed from PITT will replace Coleman at RT. Backing up Hubbard is RT Donald Stephenson just signed over from DEN. Unfortunately for Stephenson and CLEVE, he will be suspended for the first two games of 2018 due to violation of the substance policy. OL Austin Corbett who was drafted in the 2nd round out of Nevada could work his way into the lineup as either a G or T. LG Joel Bitonio 16/16 is best suited for LG but could end up at LT. LG Spencer Drango 16/10 did not fair well at the LT position in 2017 but, is a reliable backup to the inside. C JC Tretter 16/16 is solid at the position, just needs everyone else to mesh. C Austin Reiter 16/0 is not a starter but a valuable backup. RG Kevin Zeitler 16/16 is another solid Linesman after coming over from CINNCY after 2016. OL Geoff Gray is a valuable backup because he can play multiple positions. OL Anthony Fabiano 5/1 was waived by INDY after the 2017 and signed by CLEVE. He brings added depth. On DEF, in the secondary CB TJ Carrie 16/15 was signed via OAK to fill the spot left open by trading CB Jason McCourty 14/14 with 3INTS to NE. CB Jamar Taylor 16/15 signed with ARZ so CLEVE is going with CB Denzel Ward who was drafted in the 1st round out of Ohio State. CLEVE is hoping that this guy plays as well in the NFL as he did in college. CB Terrance Mitchell 15/9 was signed from KC and should provide depth and speed to the secondary. DB Briean Boddy-Calhoun was the nickel back but needs to show improvement to stick around for 2018. CB EJ Gaines was signed from DAL because previously he played for DC Greg Williams. At FS Damarious Randall 14/12 with 4INTS was picked up in a trade with GB and is penciled as the starter. SS Jabrill Peppers 13/13 is a physical presence that has that LB mentality. S Derron Smith was signed off of CINNCY’s practice squad during the 2017 season and played seven games. Going into camp he knows what is expected and could find a roster spot at backup. On the D-LINE, DE Myles Garrett 11/9 with 7.0 sacks led the team in sacks but needs to stay healthy and get better numbers. DE Chris Smith 16/0 had 3.0 sacks with CINNCY and signed with CLEVE. The field is crowded but if he stays pumped could see a lot of time in the rotation. DT Trevon Coley 15/15 with 2.0 sacks came from the practice squad and earned starting honors. DT Jamie Medar 10/2 was sidelined by an ankle injury in 2017 but is ready to go this yr. DT Larry Ogunjobi 14/1 will be competing for this starting spot with DT Caleb Brantley 12/1 with 2.0 sacks. DT Danny Shelton 14/13 was traded to NE. DE Emmanuel Ogbah 10/10 with 4.0 sacks is great against the run but was injured in November that shortened his season. DE Carl Nassib 16/12 with 3.0 sacks usually comes off the bench and is great at pass rushing. DE Chad Thomas who was drafted in the 3rd round out of MIA(FL) will be starting out as a 3rd down rusher. DE Nate Orchard 16/1 with 2.0 sacks is great for depth and chasing QBs. OLB Jamie Collins 6/6 signed a big contract after being traded for during the 2016 season and the spent most of the 2017 season on IR with an injury. He needs to come back strong and show everyone why he deserved the big dollars. OLB James Burgess 14/9 with 4.0 sacks stepped in when Collins was injured. He should see more playing time in 2018. MLB Joe Schobert 16/16 with 3.0 sacks stepped up as the starter and never relinquished when Tank Carder went down with an injury in training camp 2017. Either way, there is nice depth at MLB. OLB Christian Kirksey 16/16 with 3.5 sacks would have better numbers on a better team but CLEVE is glad to have him. OLB Mychal Kendricks 15/13 with 2.0 sacks was cut by PHILLY in the off-season and signed with CLEVE. Kendricks brings experience and leadership and should do well in 2018. LB BJ Bello 16/0 is a fearless tackler. LB Genard Avery who was drafted in the 5th round out of Memphis will look to get noticed under DC Greg Williams. On paper CLEVE has really changed personnel for the better but in reality will it be the same ole CLEVE? HC Hue Jackson is certainly on the hotseat and the team got younger but they are not a playoff team yet. They will show improvement in 2018 and that is a good thing because the future at least looks better than it did a few years ago. Winning six games would be considered a winning season after going 1-31 the last two years.
PROJECTED 2017 (5-11), ACTUAL 2017 (0-16), PROJECTED 2018 (6-10)
In 2017 I said HC Bill O’Brien is on the hotseat. Having had three straight 9-7 records with HOU he needed show in 2017 that there would be improvement and a deeper run in the playoffs. In 2018, things started slow and the bottom fell out quickly. I’ve never been a big fan of O’Brien and you need to watch the last three minutes of the SEA game to see what I’m talking about. Plain and simple Bill O’Brien makes bad decision after bad decision. He got a pass in 2017 because Watson went down and so did J J Watt and a number of other starters but, he will not get a pass for 2018. Bill O’Brien is on the hot seat for 2018. QB Deshaun Watson was injured in practice leading up to the INDY game in wk 9 with a torn ACL. He is scheduled to come back in early November. QBs Brandon Weeden and Joe Web were picked up in the off-season to keep the position warm until Watson gets back. Neither are starters so the position is Watson’s when he gets back. At RB, Lamar Miller is the #1 guy but the O-LINE needs to do a better job opening up running lanes. #2 RB D’Onta Foreman showed great speed and power but his season was cut short by a torn Achilles. Alfred Blue is a dependable backup and gets yards when the team needs it most. Jay Prosch is the FB but is rarely used and plays mostly on special teams. At WR, DeAndre Hopkins is the #1 guy and was All-Pro in 2017. He seems to catch everything in his direction. Will Fuller is the #2 and is very fast but had an injury plagued yr. Bruce Ellington ended the yr on IR but will look to earn on the new contract. Braxton Miller was converted from QB and is still learning the position and the slot routes. WR Keke Coutee was drafted in the 4th round out of Texas Tech and could make the roster as a slot receiver and as a return man. At TE, C.J. Fiedorowicz retired due to multiple concussions. Ryan Griffin who has been with HOU since 2013 is looked at as the starter here. Looking for playing time in backup roles are Stephen Anderson & Jordan Akins who was drafted in the 3rd round out of UCF. The O-Line was terrible and gave up 54 sacks to four different QBs. You can’t get anything done when your QB is laying on his back. This O-LINE was one of the worst in the NFL in pass protection & run blocking. Major upgrades were made in the off-season. At LT, HOU traded Duane Brown during the season to SEA. Julie’n Davenport 11/4 is slotted to start at the position for 2018 but may see competition from OT Martinas Rankin who was drafted in the 3rd round out of Mississippi State. OT Kendall Lamm 10/4 has shown that he is not a starter but is a solid backup. LG Zach Fulton was signed from KC to take over for LG Xavier Su’a Filo who signed with TENN. OL Greg Mancz 10/7 plays either C or T in a backup role. C Nick Martin 14/14 is the only retuning starter slotted to start on the O-LINE in 2018. RG Senio Kelemente was signed from NO to battle Jeff Allen 12/12 for the start. Either one will give depth to the right side. RT Seantrel Henderson was signed from BUFF for a 1yr deal to prove he can dominate on the right side. On DEF, DE J J Watt is coming back from a second straight injury shortened season. He needs to stay healthy this season to help this team out. NT D.J. Reader 14/14 is solid in the middle. NT Brandon Dunn 16/8 was a valuable asset when injuries hit this line in 2017. DT Carlos Watkins 12/6 showed flashes in his rookie season but needs to improve his game to stay in the rotation. DE Christian Covington serves well in a backup role. DE Joel Heath 13/9 should challenge for the spot on the line. OLB Whitney Mercilus tore his pectoral and ended his 2017 season after five games. LB Brennan Scarlett 11/5 filled in nicely and contributed 2 sacks. ILB Benardrick McKinney 16/16 with 3 sacks is solid at the position. Long time TEXAN ILB Brian Cushing was not re-signed after a 10-game suspension for PEDs. ILB Zach Cunningham 16/13 had a nice rookie campaign and is slotted to start in 2018. ILBs Brian Peters 16/0 & Dylan Cole 12/1 serve as capable backups. DE Jadeveon Clowney 16/16 had a great yr and led the team with 9.5 sacks. OLB Duke Ejiofor who was drafted in the 6th round out of Wake Forest is coming off a labrum tear and will not be ready until training camp. OLB Peter Kalambayl was also drafted in the 6th round out of Stanford and has 4.5 speed. ILB Josh Keyes who’s bounced around to four teams in his three years in the NFL will serve needed backup. In the secondary, CB Aaron Colvin was picked up the JAGS and is slated to battle CB Kareem Jackson 16/14 on the outside. Colvin worked the slot but will help out in nickel coverages as Jackson is solid man-to-man. CB Kevin Johnson 12/4 needs to step up his durability if he wants a spot in the rotation. CB Jonathan Joseph 16/16 is in his eighth season with HOU and has lost a step but makes up for it with leadership. CB Johnson Bademosi who played with NE in 2017 plays mostly on special teams but should see CB action. At SS, Tyrann Mathieu was cut by ARZ and then signed to a 1yr deal by HOU. He brings hard hitting & leadership to the secondary. SS Corey Moore 14/3 is best suited for backup and is coming off a knee injury. At FS, Andre Hal 16/16 will be pushed by Justin Reid who was drafted in the 1st round out of Stanford. This team lives and dies on OFF as HC Bill O’Brien doubles as the OC. Unfortunately for HOU fans as long as O’Brien will call the plays, HOU will be conservative and not go anywhere. The DEF needs to stay healthy as they have some big players that are coming back from injury and looking to prove their worth. All of a sudden the AFC SOUTH has become a tougher division. I see improvement from this team but not dramatic over 2017. They do not make the playoffs and O’Brien is fired.
PROJECTED 2017 (9-7), ACTUAL 2017 (4-12) PROJECTED 2018 (7-9)
There were a lot of changes for this team after the 2017 season. As there were after the 2016 season but, is change so soon always good? HC Chuck Pagano was fired. I liked him as a person but his coaching skills and decision making were suspect and this team couldn’t go further with him at the helm. The new HC is Frank Reich who recently was the OC of PHILLY for the last two seasons. He is a former NFL QB and should help Luck and Brissett mightily. The OC is Nick Sirianni formerly the WR coach of the LAC. He replaces Rob Chudzinski. The new DC is Matt Eberflus. He was formerly the LB coach for DAL from 2011-2017. He replaces Ted Monachino. QB Andrew Luck is scheduled to return as the wk 1 starter for INDY. He did not play at all in 2017 and is working his way back from a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder. According to INDY, he is on pace to start wk 1. QB Jacoby Brissett 15/15 did a nice job in the absence of Andrew Luck in 2017. He will return but, as the backup to Andrew Luck. He will start if Luck is not ready. QB Scott Tolzien 1/1 was not retained. QB Brad Kaaya is the 3rd stringer. At RB, Frank Gore 16/16 signed with MIA in the off-season. RB Marlon Mack 14/0 moves up in the depth chart to #1 RB but suffered a hamstring injury in preseason and his status for wk 1 is up in the air. RB Robert Turbin 6/1 was on IR for most of 2017 and is great in short yardage but will begin 2018 with four-game suspension for PEDs. RB Nyheim Hines who was drafted in the 4th round out of NC State will look to make a name and can catch passes out of the backfield. RB Christine Michael was on IR all of 2017 but brings experience and will be competing for time in the rotation. RB Jordan Wilkins was drafted in the 5th round out of Ole Miss needs to impress to stay on the roster. RB Josh Ferguson 4/3 has spent a lot of time on the practice squad but needs to impress to stick around. RB Matt Jones was cut in the off-season and signed with PHILLY. At WR, TY Hilton 16/16 is the most consistent receiver for INDY. WR Donte Moncrief 12/8 signed with the JAGS. WR Kamar Aiken 15/7 signed with PHILLY. WR Chester Rogers 11/4 suffered through a foot injury but should see more action due to departures. WR Ryan Grant 16/7 signed with INDY from WASH. WR Daurice Fountain who was drafted in the 5th round out of Northern Iowa will look to get into the rotation. WR Deon Cain who was drafted in the 6th round out of Clemson has size that could put him in as a starter. WR Quan Bray 9/0 who mostly was PR/KR was cut in late DEC 2017. WR Tres Anderson has spent time with five teams but has not seen any playing time. He might have a shot with INDY. WR KJ Brent 5/0 didn’t see any passes and was with OAK & SEA before being signed by INDY late in the 2017 season. He needs to show something to stick around. WR Krishawn Hogan 2/0 was on IR for most of 2017 but may find a role in the OFF. WR James Wright was signed after 2017 by INDY and has the size that could do some damage. At TE, Jack Doyle 15/15 caught the most passes for INDY in 2017. Doyle has gotten better every year. TE Eric Ebron 16/9 was cut by DET in the off-season and signed with INDY. Ebron will be used in a variety of offensive schemes. TE/WR Brandon Williams 14/10 was not re-signed by INDY. TE Mo Allie-Cox was on IR for 2017 and needs to show something to get into the rotation. TE Eric Swoope was on IR for all of 2017 will be doing a lot of blocking. TE Darrell Daniels 12/3 is sometimes used in an H-Back role. TE Ross Travis 5/2 was acquired off waivers from KC late in the season and should see more time in the rotation. The O-LINE was atrocious in 2017. They allowed 56 QB sacks in 2017. They also allowed 44 QB sacks in 2016. Both are terrible numbers and must get much better if INDY is to do any damage against opponents. If Luck comes back he will be battered unless the O-LINE can get it together. At LT, Anthony Castonzo 16/16 has suffered a hamstring injury and his status for wk 1 is up in the air. OT Le’Raven Clark 15/5 gives good depth and can start when asked. OG Jack Mewhort 5/5 was on IR for most of 2017 and retired as of 8/1/2018. G Quenton Nelson who was drafted in the 1st round out of Notre Dame is penciled in as the starter after being named as the best available Lineman in this year’s draft. OG Braden Smith who was drafted in the 2nd round out of Auburn will be pushing for a starting position in 2018. C Ryan Kelly 7/7 was on IR for part of the season needs to stay healthy. C Anthony Fabiano 5/1 was waived after the season by INDY & signed by CLEVE. RG/RT Denzelle Good 6/5 is a natural T but, is on the IR/non-football injury list with a knee injury and his status for wk 1 is up in the air. OG Matt Slauson 7/7 was signed by INDY from LAC. He spent part of the yr on IR as well. RG/RT Joe Haeg 16/15 is very versatile and can play all three positions. C Deyshawn Bond 4/4 filled in nicely before going on IR. T Tyreek Burwell 1/0 should see time in the rotation if injuries mount up. OG Mark Glowinski 10/2 was acquired off waivers from SEA late in the 2017 season but should see action in 2018. LG Jeremy Vujnovich 16/16 is a utility Lineman but played well in 2017. He should see a lot of time in the rotation for 2018. On the DEF in the secondary, CB Rashaan Melvin 10/10 with 3INTS was not re-signed by INDY & signed with OAK. CB Vontae Davis 5/5 was cut during the season by INDY & signed by BUFF after the season. DB Darius Butler 15/4 was not re-signed by INDY. CB Quincy Wilson 7/5 with 1INT will contend for a starting position now that others are gone. CB Pierre Desir 9/6 with 1INT is the expected starter on the other side. CB Nate Hairston 14/4 with 1INT & 2.0 sacks plays well in the nickel. CB Kenneth Acker 16/1 with 1INT was signed & then cut by INDY. CB Kenny Moore 16/5 with 1INT played a lot on special teams and defensive packages. CB Christopher Milton 14/0 is good for depth. CB DJ White 2/0 was claimed off waivers late in the yr from KC but, needs to make an impression to stick around. FS Malik Hooker 7/6 with 3INTS ended up on IR with a knee injury. He should be ready to go for 2018. SS Clayton Geathers 5/1 missed most of 2017 with a neck injury but, should be ready to go for 2018. S TJ Green 16/7 got some starts due to injuries but will play mainly at S. S Matthias Farley 16/15 with 2INTS is very dependable and worked well when stepping into the starting role. He could compete in 2018. S Ronald Martin 2/0 was activated late from the practice squad but is there for depth. The DEF is moving to a 4-3 alignment after being a 3-4. This will open the positions to everyone. INDY needs as much help as they can get. On the D-LINE, DE Henry Anderson 9/8 with 2.0 sacks was traded to NYJ after the season for a draft pick. DE John Simon 9/9 with 1INT & 3.0 sacks formerly an LB was on IR but should do well in the new alignment. DE Margus Hunt 16/5 with 1.0 sack had a nice season in 2017 and should see better numbers in 2018. DT Johnathan Hankins 15/15 with 2.0 sacks was cut after the season. NT Al Woods 16/16 with 1.0 sack will transition to DT. DT Grover Stewart 15/0 is good for depth and may end up starting. DT Hassan Ridgeway 13/1 with 3.0 sacks could be the starter after posting good numbers in 2017. DT Caraun Reid 1/0 was signed late in 2017 and is good for depth. DE Jabaal Sheard 16/16 with 5.5 sacks had a strong season and should see good numbers again. DE Denico Autry 16/3 with 5.0 sacks was signed by INDY when OAK did not re-sign him. DL Anthony Johnson 4/0 was acquired late in the 2017 season but can play inside or outside. DE Tyquan Lewis was drafted in the 2nd round out of Ohio State & DE Kemoko Turay who was also drafted in the 2nd round out of Rutgers will both be tried as situational pass rushers which INDY is lacking. DE Chris McCain 15/0 with 5.0 sacks was not re-signed by LAC and signed by INDY for depth. The LB Corps have been rattled a little and some new faces may be in different positions. LB Najee Goode 16/3 was signed by INDY from PHILLY. He could end up starting. MLB Antonio Morrison 15/15 tackles well and should see better numbers in the 4-3. SLB Anthony Walker 10/2 right now has a groin issue and his status for wk 1 is uncertain. DE/LB Tarell Basham 15/0 with 2.0 sacks will push for special teams and whatever time in the rotation he could muster. LB Jonathan Bostic 14/14 with 1.0 sack was signed by PITT in the off-season. LB Barkevious Mingo 16/6 with 2.0 sacks was signed by SEA in the off-season. OLB Darius Leonard who was drafted in the 2nd round out of South Carolina State will see action in the rotation but will be looked upon as a potential starter. LB Matthew Adams was drafted in the 7th round out of Houston should see time in the rotation on the inside and the outside. LB Zaire Franklin who was drafted in the 7th round out of Syracuse will look to make an impact but will probably see time on special teams. LB Tyrell Adams 6/0 was signed after the 2017 for depth. MLB Jeremiah George 16/1 with 0.5 sack filled in nicely in 2017 but all of a sudden is in a crowded place of LBs. He may have to fight for a roster spot. How will the new coaching staff handle the pressure? Is Luck ready to go? Will he shake off the cobwebs? The WR corps are a little thin with guys with little or no experience. How will the O-LINE hold up? There are big questions for the O-LINE because no one is safe and they are not getting the job done. The secondary doesn’t have a lot of experience and could get burned a lot. The LB corps has a mixture of a lot of guys with very little experience and a lot of rookies. There are a lot of questions with this team and not a lot of answers. This will be a rebuilding yr for INDY.
PROJECTED 2017 (8-8), ACTUAL 2017 (4-12), PROJECTED 2018 (5-11)
This team looked strong to start off in 2017 then faltered. TENN should have lost in the first round of the playoffs at KC. TENN was down 21-3 and KC HC Andy Reid decided that he should give the game to TENN. TENN took advantage and won the game 22-21. So, TENN makes the playoffs for the first time since 2008 and HC Mike Mularkey gets fired. Not a smart move. There is also a new OC Matt LeFleur and a new DC Dean Press. The new HC is Mike Vrabel. Mike Vrabel was the DC @HOU in 2017. One fact of notoriety about Mike is that he was used as a goal line receiver with NE & KC and his 10 receptions accounted for 10tds. Anyway, Mike Vrabel could someday be a great HC but I think this yr will be a step back for TENN and a learning curve for Mike. At QB, Marcus Mariota took a step back in his progression as an NFL QB. This is Mariota’s job with no one pressing him but the pressure is on because if he has another bad season, TENN may decide to move on. Signed as the backup but, no real threat to Mariota is Blaine Gabbert, who has bounced around the NFL in search of a home. QB Luke Falk who was drafted in the 6th round out of Washington State is looked upon only as a developmental backup. QB Matt Cassel, who had been with TEN for 2016 & 2017 as the backup was cut in the off-season and signed by DET. At RB, DeMarco Murray 15/15 was cut in the off-season and ultimately retired when he didn’t find a new home. This means that RB Derrick Henry 16/2 will be the #1 RB and shower the load. RB Dion Lewis was signed from NE but, he is definitely the backup here and probably will be used more to catch passes than run the ball. FB Jalston Fowler 10/1 was cut during the season and ended up signing a contract with SEA. He has not been replaced. At WR, Eric Decker 16/8 wasn’t re-signed and signed with NE. WR Rishard Matthews 14/11 has good hands. He is currently on the PUP list & it is unknown if he will be available for wk 1. WR Corey Davis 11/9 was slowed down by injuries in 2017 but should see bigger numbers in 2018. WR Taywan Taylor 16/4 is a deep threat but needs to get more involved in the OFF. WR Tajae Sharpe was on IR for 2017 will be the #3 or #4 WR. WR/PR Michael Campanaro 13/0 signed with TENN from BALT. He established himself as a good punt returner in 2017 with BALT. He may compete for that position in TENN. At TE, Delani Walker 16/11 continues to be TENN’s favorite target. TE Jonnu Smith 16/13 played a lot in two TE scheme but used mostly as a blocker. TE Philip Supernaw 16/3 was mostly on special teams and behind Smith. He is also currently on the PUP list with availability for wk 1 up in the air. TE Luke Stocker 3/2 came over during the season after being let go by TB. Luke is great as a blocker but not for receiving. The O-LINE needs to do a better job protecting the QB. In 2016, the O-LINE gave up 28 sacks. In 2017 they allowed 35 sacks. At LT, Taylor Lewan 16/16 is solid at the position. OT Dennis Kelly 16/1 is great for depth and could be used as a starter if RT Jack Conklin 16/16 is not ready to go. Conklin is on the active PUP list recovering from a torn ACL and may not be ready for wk 1. G/T Kevin Pamphile 16/15 was signed by TENN after being with TB and could compete for a starting position. LG Quinton Spain 14/14 could have major competition from Pamphile and could see a drop to backup. OG Xavier Su’a Filo 16/16 who was signed from HOU will also be fighting for G position on the line. C Ben Jones 16/16 had a little bit of a down 2017 and needs to revert back to his 2016 form. OL Corey Levin didn’t play as a rookie in 2017 but will fight for a backup position in 2018. RG Josh Kline 16/16 will also be in competition with the added beef in the off-season. On DEF, in the secondary CB Malcolm Butler 16/15 was the big acquisition from NE that should take the secondary to a higher level. Why he didn’t play in the SuperBowl will always remain a mystery but, he adds another dimension to the DEF. On the other side CB Adoree Jackson 16/16 got better and better as the season went on. CB Logan Ryan 15/15 will probably move back to nickel now that Butler has arrived. CB Brice McCain 16/1 was not re-signed. CB LeShaun Sims 13/5 with 1INT gives quality depth to the position. CB Ty Smith 15/1 with 1INT made the most of his opportunities but is currently on the IR and isn’t clear if he will be ready for wk 9. At SS Jonathan Cyprien 10/10 suffered a torn ACL at the beginning of training camp and will be out all of 2018. SS Da’Norris Searcy 16/6 with 1INT was cut by TENN & signed with CAR. S Brynden Trawick 16/0 plays mostly on special teams but may see some action because of the injury to Cyprien. FS Kevin Byard 16/16 with 8INTS was ALL-PRO in 2017 after a so-so rookie yr in 2016. S Dane Cruikshank who was drafted in the 5th round out of Arizona played corner and nickel in college will play S and may see more time in the rotation due to Cyprien’s injury. S Kendrick Lewis is a veteran who didn’t play in 2017 but will be used for depth. The DEF runs a 3-4 but at times may line up in a 4-3. DE DeQuan Jones 12/12 with 3.5 sacks was playing well before injured, signed an extension in the off-season. DE/DT Karl Klug 15/0 was a long timer used for depth but was cut in the off-season and not re-signed. DE/DT David King 7/0 will move up on the depth chart where Klug was. DT Jurrell Casey 16/16 with 6.0 sacks is consistent and a leader of this group. DE/DT Bennie Logan 15/12 with 1.5 sacks was signed from KC may be in competition Casey for the starting job. NT Sylvester Williams 15/11 was cut in the off-season by TENN and signed by DET. NT Austin Johnson 16/3 with 1.0 sack is also looking to start but will see plenty of time in the rotation. In the LB crew, OLB Derrick Morgan 14/14 with 7.5 sacks is solid. OLB Harold Landry who was drafted in the 2nd round out of Boston College is great against the run and will see time in the rotation. OLB Aaron Wallace 2/0 was on IR for most of 2017 but can provide depth. ILB Wesley Woodyard 16/16 with 5.0 sacks led the team in tackles and is still going strong. ILB Jayon Brown 16/0 with 1.5 sacks usually plays nickel LB and provides depth. ILB Avery Williamson 16/16 with 3.0 sacks signed with NYJ in the off-season. ILB Rashaan Evans who was drafted in the 1st round out of Alabama is penciled in as the starter for the departing Williamson and should make an impact. ILB Will Compton 9/3 with 1INT spent part of the season on IR, was signed from WASH and will provide good depth. LB Nate Palmer 10/0 plays mostly on special teams but can play inside or outside LB. OLB Brian Orakpo 16/16 with 7.0 sacks has been very solid at TENN but is in the last year of his contract and may need to show more to get an extension. OLB Kevin Dodd 9/0 was cut in the off-season by TENN. DE/LB Gimel President 4/0 was acquired by TENN off waivers from HOU. He should be used for depth purposes. TENN took major steps backwards by bringing in a new coach right after they finally made the playoffs. Cutting RB DeMarco Murray is also a big chance because of the things he did off the field as well. Mariota is certainly on the hotseat as this yr will decide if he is the long term solution and 2017 was just a blip on the radar. Not much depth at RB is a big question mark. Not much depth at WR either. The secondary is definitely been upgraded but the injury to Cyprien will hurt. Hopefully other guys will step up. This team needs to beat the good teams as well as the bad. Mariota needs to step up.
PROJECTED 2017 (11-5), ACTUAL 2017 (9-7), PROJECTED 2018 (8-8)
Who would have expected the JAGS to be this good, this soon under EVP Tom Coughlin & HC Doug Marrone? I was expecting improvement in 2017 from this team but, this good? Now the hard part, to stay this good and get past the AFC Championship game and get into the SuperBowl. At QB, Blake Bortles had a decent season for Blake Bortles standards. He threw for his lowest INT total at 13 and had no INTS in the postseason. He was signed to a 2yr extension and had right wrist surgery in January. This is a make or break season for Bortles to see if he has matured and could carry a team deep into the playoffs. There is no real competition at the position vs Bortles, so it’s all his. Fortunately for Bortles JAGS were #1 in the NFL in rushing in 2017 and because of Bortles you will see more of the same. This actually takes less pressure off of Bortles because now it’s not totally on him to get the job done. RB Leonard Fournette 13/13 was a nice surprise as a rookie and took a lot of pressure off of Bortles. He also caught 36 passes as well. He will probably see over 300 carries if he stays healthy for the whole season. FB Tommy Bohanon 16/10 sees a lot of action in a run-first OFF and does a solid job at lead blocking. RB TJ Yeldon fills the backup role as a runner and pass catcher. RB Corey Grant sees limited action in a backup role. RB Chris Ivory who filled in nicely in a backup role for Fournette in 2017 was cut by JAGS and then signed with BUFF. At WR, Donte Montcrief was not re-signed by INDY and signed a make it or break it 1yr deal with the JAGS. WR Allen Hurns who had been limited in the last two seasons was cut by JAGS and signed with DAL. WR Allen Robinson who was injured in the first game of the season and didn’t play after that, signed with CHI. WR Marqise Lee 14/14 has become very dependable because he can block as well as catch. WR Keenan Cole 16/6 who was an undrafted FA led the JAGS in receiving yds. WR Dede Westbrook who was a rookie in 2017 missed the first nine games with an injury but finished the yr nicely with 27 catches. WR DJ Clark who was drafted in the 2nd round out of LSU will be looked at as the deep threat on the team because of his speed. WR Rashad Greene who spent 2017 on IR will look to add depth as he shows off his skills in training camp. At TE, Marcedes Lewis who had spent 12 seasons with the JAGS was cut and signed with GB. Lewis was mostly a blocking TE but will be missed on the O-LINE. Austin Seferian-Jenkins was signed from the NYJ to give Bortles another target and had a nice season with 50 catches in 2017. Ben Koyack and Niles Paul who was signed from WASH will backup and look to break into the rotation. The O-LINE has gotten much better in the last two years. Bortles was sacked 24x as opposed to 34x in 2016. This line knows that it is a run first, pass second team so holes need to be created. On the O-LINE, LT Cam Robinson 15/15 responded well as a rookie when Branden Albert suddenly retired at the beginning of training camp. Robinson was solid and is looked at as a long term solution at the position. T Josh Wells 15/4 is solid backup who can play either side of the line. At LG, Patrick Omameh 13/13 signed with NYG and Andrew Norwell was signed from CAR to a very rich contract. Now Norwell has to prove he was worth it. Norwell 16/16 was ALL-PRO in 2017 at CAR so the signing is looked at as an upgrade. At C, Brandon Linder 13/13 needs to play better after struggling at times. OG Tyler Shatley 16/4 is another solid backup who can play G or C. RG AJ Cann 15/15 may not be looked at as a long term solution, needs to have a good 2018. RG Chris Reed showed potential as a backup and may get into the rotation. RT Jermey Parnell 13/13 missed three games with a knee injury and will be pushed by Will Richardson who was drafted in the 4th round out of NC State. On DEF, the secondary is top notch. CB Jalen Ramsey 16/16 was All-Pro with 4INTs and right now may be the best. CB A.J. Bouye 16/16 had 6 INTs and is no slouch either. Together they make up the best CB tandem in the NFL. Nickel CB Aaron Colvin 16/5, left and signed with DAL and CB DJ Hayden was signed from DET to replace Colvin. At FS, Tashaun Gipson 16/16 had 4 INTs and is solid. SS Barry Church 16/16 with 4 INTS and 1.5 sacks may be challenged by S Ronnie Harrison who was drafted in the 3rd round out of Alabama. The D-LINE needs to stop the run more. They were #21 vs the run in 2017. DE Yannick Ngakoue 16/16 with 12.0 sacks was a great complement on the outside. DE Dante Fowler 16/0 had 8.0 sacks and this might be his last yr with JAGS. DT Malik Jackson 16/16 with 8.0 sacks is a force in the middle. But DT Taven Bryan who was drafted in the 1st round out of Florida may be groomed to replace Jackson. NT Abry Jones 15/15 is playing well and is sharing time with NT Marcell Dareus who was acquired mid-season from BUFF. DE Calais Campbell 16/16 with 14.5 sacks is All-Pro and a vocal leader on DEF. Did anyone think he would be this good after being signed from ARZ? DE Dawuane Smoot 16/0 is the backup to Campbell and gets to see action in the rotation. WLB Telvin Smith 14/14 had 3INTs and made the Pro-Bowl. MLB Myles Jack 16/16 can play inside or out and contributed 2.0 sacks. At SLB Paul Posluszny retired after eleven seasons and Blair Brown 13/2 is penciled in to start at the position. He may get competition from LB Leon Jacobs who was drafted in the 7th round out of Wisconsin. Twenty one of twenty two starters will be coming back in 2018 and expectations will be high for this team to be deep in the playoff mix. The organization has to show that this team is for real and they have turned the corner on losing. JAGS have the task of figuring out how to beat NE in the playoffs and get to the SuperBowl. They also must stay focused and win games they know they should win. QB Blake Bortles is the X factor here but with a healthy running game, the JAGS won’t have to rely heavily on him. Schedule has some rematch games from 2017 so nothing can be taken lightly. This team has a bright future. Should be rematch in the AFC Championship game with NE.
PROJECTED 2017 (5-11), ACTUAL 2017 (10-6), PROJECTED 2018 (12-4)
Kansas City Chiefs
If you have been an advent reader of my website you’ll know that I am not a big HC Andy Reid fan. He should have been fired after losing the wild card game @HOME vs Tennessee after leading at halftime 21-3. Why anyone thinks that this guy is a good coach is beyond me. Reid’s last 6x to the playoffs have resulted in 5, 1 and dones. Trading QB Alex Smith and going all in on QB Patrick Mahomes is a very risky move that will get Reid fired. In 2017, Mahomes started a mop up game vs DEN in wk 17 and barely won that game. What happens when this team starts out 1-5 or 0-6? They could be out of the playoff picture as early as October. However, QB Patrick Mahomes will have a full training camp as #1 QB but if he falters backup Chad Henne can fill in nicely but, he is not a long term solution. Matt McGloin was added to the roster but he is looking to boost his career after backing up Derek Carr in OAK. At RB, Kareem Hunt had a great rookie season as a rusher and a pass catcher and should be able to take some of the pressure off of Mahomes. Look for Hunt to be even more involved in the OFF if Mahomes is struggling. Anthony Sherman serves as the FB and has been successful at run block and pass protection and will continue to do so. No one else has stepped up as the FB and Sherman has been solid. Opposing defenses may key in on Kareem Hunt when Mahomes is struggling. WR Sammy Watkins was acquired from LAR after a disappointing 2017. Watkins is on his 3rd team in three years and has only played a full season in his rookie season of 2014 with BUFF. This may be Watkins last chance to show that he is worthy of playing in the NFL after being a huge disappointment. WR Tyreek Hill had a breakout 2017 as WR but still managed to return a punt for td as the team’s PR. He has blazing speed and should help Mahomes as a long threat when KC is looking for a bomb. TE Travis Kelce had another solid year in 2017 as a reliable receiver for KC and the 2nd leading receiver for KC. He may be needed as a safety net for Mahomes if needed. WR Albert Wilson who was a dependable 3rd receiver signed with MIA. Not much depth at receiver for KC so someone will need to step up when defenses tighten up. The O-Line is the same for 2018 as it was for 2017 but gave up eight more sacks in 2018 then in 2017 due to C Mitch Morse & RG Laurent Duvernay-Tardif missing games due to injuries. OT Cameron Erving steps up in the utility role as OT Zach Fulton signed with HOU. In 2017, on DEF KC was #28 in TOT DEF, #29 PASS DEF & #25 vs the RUSH. There is room for much improvement in all areas of the Defense. In the secondary KC traded CB Marcus Peters to the LAR & Terrence Mitchell who started nine games is now in CLEVE. CB Kendall Fuller who was acquired from WASH in the Alex Smith trade, will now fill the spot opposite CB Steve Nelson who started seven games in 2017. CB David Amerson was acquired from OAK should help shore up the CB woes. At S, Eric Berry is coming back from a torn Achilles in wk 1. How he responds back from his injury is important to the secondary. Ron Parker who started all sixteen games was cut in the off-season even though he was a leader in tackles & led the S position in INTS for KC. Leon McQuay who started one game and played one game in 2017 is slotted to start at the other S position. FS Robert Golden 16/2 with 1INT was cut by PITT in the off-season and signed by KC. He is a great tackler and strong special teamer and certainly will find time in the rotation. Both DEs will stay the same with Allen Bailey & Chris Jones who had a combined 8.5 sacks but, DT Bennie Logan is gone to TENN and NT Xavier Williams was acquired from ARZ. OLB Justin Houston continues to be the anchor of the LB crew. He bounced back from injury in 2016 to lead the team with 9.5 sacks in 15 games played in 2017. ILB Derrick Johnson who has been with KC since 2005 and started/played 15 games in 2017 was released and signed with OAK. Replacing him at the spot is ILB Anthony Hitchens who was with DAL in 2017. LB Reggie Ragland who played all LB positions and started 10 games for KC in 2017 will get the start at ILB. OLB Dee Ford who had a breakout yr in 2016 with 10 sacks and was limited to six games in 2017 due to injury will be back at the position for 2018. Other contributors to the LB crew who will be back are LB Frank Zombo 16/9 and contributed 1 sack, Tonah Kpassagnon 16/1 who contributed 2 sacks, Ukeme Eligwe 14/1 who contributed 1 sack & Terrence Smith who played in 15 games, starting 1 game. In the draft, KC didn’t have a 1st round draft choice due to the trade for moving up in 2017 draft to get QB Patrick Mahomes. However, in the 2nd round they took OLB Breeland Sparks from Ole Miss. Breeland will backup OLB Dee Ford who is coming off off-season back surgery. Breeland will get significant playing time and be used at other LB positions as well. This team has a very tough early schedule with weeks 1-6 being @LAC, @PITT, SF @DEN, JAGS & @NE. This team could be in a hole very early with rebuilding in mind and a different HC.
PROJECTED 2017 (11-5), ACTUAL 2017 (10-6) PROJECTED 2018 (6-10)
What a disaster 2017 turned out to be for the Silver & Black. HC Jack Del Rio’s player coach persona came out and OAK self destructed in so many ways. Hence Jack Del Rio was fired and Owner Mark Davis convinced Jon Gruden to step out of the broadcast booth and return to the sidelines. Jon Gruden signed a 10 year -$100 million dollar contract to be the HC of the RAIDERS. In my opinion he’ll coach maybe four or five years and call it quits from burnout. Anyway, he’s back. He cleaned out the coaching staff and Greg Olson is the OC & Paul Guenther is the DC. He also did some major house cleaning on the roster as we shall see. At QB, Derek Carr took a step backwards in his progression of leading the RAIDERS onward into the playoffs after 2016. He had a down season, even though he was rewarded with a monster contract right before training camp. Gruden will certainly get the most out of Carr and see if he can lead this team or hit the bricks. EJ Manuel was re-signed to be the backup QB as he did play in one game in 2017 but didn’t get team support as the team lost. QB Connor Cook is the third stringer but hasn’t progressed as well as OAK would have liked. At RB, Marshawn Lynch 15/15 was not the “Beast Mode” that everyone was hoping for and was suspended for one game and thrown out of another for running on the field and then touching an official. Gruden will certainly get the most out of him this season. RB Doug Martin was signed from TB to give Lynch a breather and possibly jump start his own career. RB Jalen Richard 16/1 can catch as well as run and will be utilized more in Gruden’s OFF. RB DeAndre Washington 15/0 had a big dropoff in his second season but then again everyone did for OAK in 2017. FB Jamize Olawale 12/0 signed with DAL. FB Keith Smith was picked up from DAL to replace Olawale. At WR, Michael Crabtree 14/14 was cut and then signed with BALT. He had a down yr and has something to prove in BALT. WR/KR Cordarrelle Patterson 16/2 was traded to NE. WR Amari Cooper 14/12 is known for dropped balls and that won’t fly under Gruden. Look for Cooper to have a much better yr. WR Jordy Nelson had a down yr in 2017 and was cut by GB and picked up right away by OAK. WR Martavis Bryant who himself has a lot to prove was traded from PITT to OAK on draft day and could do great things as long as he stays out of trouble. WR Seth Roberts 15/7 is the slot receiver and a good blocker but will see stiff competition at the position in 2018. WR Ryan Switzer was acquired in a trade with DAL as a slot receiver but has his best shot to make the team as a PR as he was in DAL. WR Marcell Ateman who was drafted in the 7th round out of Oklahoma State has abilities that Gruden loves. WR/KR Dwayne Harris was cut by NYG and signed with OAK. WR Griff Whalen was cut by BALT and signed by OAK for competition at slot receiver. At TE, Clive Wafford 13/0 was waived in the off-season by OAK and picked up by NYJ. TE Lee Smith’s main job is blocking. #1 TE Jared Cook had a nice season with OAK after coming over from GB and should see plenty more action in 2018. The O-LINE is solid and doesn’t give up too many sacks. They allowed 18 sacks in 2016 and 24 sacks in 2017. At LT Donald Penn 14/14 is solid but is recuperating from Lisframc surgery and is scheduled to play wk 1. OT Denver Kirkland who was on IR in 2017 was used in sub packaged blocking in 2016 and should be back in action in 2018. LT Brandon Parker who was drafted in the 3rd round out of North Carolina A&T will see time in the rotation as he gets up to speed with the pro game. LG Kelechi Osemele 16/16 is solid and went to his 2nd straight Pro Bowl. C/RG Rodney Hudson 16/16 is versatile and gets downfield in a hurry, another pro-bowler. RG Jon Feliciano 13/1 gives great depth but must fight for a spot on the crowded line. RG Gabe Jackson 15/15 is a great interior blocker. RT Vadal Alexander 15/4 will start the season off with a four game suspension for PEDs and will be available wk 5. RT Marshall Newhouse 14/14 signed with BUFF after being cut by OAK in the off-season. Marshall had filled in nicely after RT Austin Howard was cut in 2017 training camp. RT Kolton Miller who was drafted in the 1st round out of UCLA is penciled in as the starter at RT but was a LT in college. RT Breno Giacomini was signed in the off season from HOU to help out on the right side of the line. OT David Sharpe 5/2 started late in the season and showed ability. The DEF for OAK in 2017 was atrocious and didn’t scare anyone. They were ranked #23 in TOT DEF and didn’t have an INT until the 11th game of the season. OAK fared so badly in 2017, no one was afraid of the DEF. The DEF has gone through a major retooling in the off-season and may not be fine tuned completely. Look for even more shuffling in training camp and in the pre-season. On the D-LINE, it has not been determined whether DE Mario Edwards 14/14 with 3.5 sacks best position is either on the inside or outside. He certainly had a better 2017 than his first two seasons and takes pressure off of DE Khalil Mack on the other side. DE Khalil Mack 16/16 with 10.5 sacks still was an all-star even though at times he was double & triple teamed. Mack should see better numbers under Gruden as the D will be better all-around. However, Mack is looking for a better contract and may have some rufflings around training camp. LB Bruce Irvin 16/16 with 8.0 sacks will be used more as a DE and his days of pass coverage are probably over. Look for this guy to stay up front, stop the run and sack the QB. DE/DT Denico Autry 16/3 with 5.0 sacks signed in the off-season with INDY. He will be missed. DT PJ Hall who was drafted in the 2nd round out of Sam Houston State fills the need for an inside pass rusher but may see time on special teams due to his 14 blocked kicks in college. He will probably take the place of DT Eddie Vanderdoes 16/13 who sustained a torn ACL in his left knee in the last game of the season. Eddie’s expected return is up in the air. DT Maurice Hurst who was drafted in the 5th round out of Michigan should see action in the rotation and provides depth. DT Justin Ellis 16/14 with 0.5 sacks is a good run stopper and signed an extension in the off-season. DE Arden Key who was drafted in the 3rd round out of LSU will play behind Mack and has great abilities to rush the QB. DT Treyvon Hester 14/1 brings good depth to the D-LINE. DE Jihad Ward 5/1 with 1.0 sack was traded to DAL for return man Ryan Switzer. DE/LB Tank Carradine 8/7 with 1.5 sacks was signed from SF and gives added depth to the DEF with his versatility. The LB crew went through some substantial re-tooling as this group was invisible throughout 2017. OLB Tahir Whitehead 16/16 with 1.0 sack was signed from DET, he is there as the starter taking over for Bruce Irvin who moves from LB to DE. LB Shilique Calhoun 9/0 didn’t have a great yr and may be fighting for a roster spot. OLB Kyle Wilber 16/0 was picked up from DAL. He plays mostly on special teams but may see time in the rotation. MLB Derrick Johnson 15/15 was signed from KC to be a leader. MLB Marquel Lee 13/6 was the starter until MLB NaVorro Bowman was signed then was relegated to backup. Lee will get into the rotation early if Johnson has shown to have lost a step. MLB NaVorro Bowman 10/10 with 1.5 sacks was traded for from SF during the 2017 season but, was not re-signed by OAK. OLB Corey James 10/9 is on IR. OLB Nicholas Morrow 16/5 had a very good rookie campaign and should be even better in 2018. OLB Emmanuel Lamur 16/0 was signed from MINN and should provide depth on the outside and a boost to special teams. LB James Cowser 16/0 has ability on special teams which means he has a chance to stay and possibly see time in the rotation. LB Azeem Victor was drafted in the 6th round out of Washington needs to impress and stay cool to make the roster. In the secondary, this unit was terrible in 2017 creating only 4 INTS the whole season. No, that was not a misprint. CB David Amerson 6/6 was cut and signed with KC. TJ Carrie 16/15 was not re-signed and signed with CLEVE. CB Sean Smith 14/8 was cut in the off-season and hasn’t signed with anyone yet. CB Rashan Melvin 10/10 with 3 INTS was signed on a 1yr deal from INDY. CB Gareon Conley 2/0 wiped out in 2017 with a shin injury but is penciled in as the starter on the other side. OAK expects big things from this former #1 draft choice. CB Daryl Worley 15/14 was picked up in the off season and should see time in the rotation. CB Shareece Wright 12/5 with 1INT was picked up from BUFF but is injury prone. CB Nick Nelson was drafted in the 4th round out of Wisconsin tore a meniscus during a pre draft workout but should be ready for training camp. CB Antonio Hamilton 8/0 needs to show something or may not make the team. CB Dexter McDonald 15/6 also needs to assert himself as a cover corner to show that he has improved. At S Marcus Gilchrist 16/13 with 1 INT was signed from HOU and is certainly an upgrade from what was there in 2017. FS Reggie Nelson 16/16 with 1 INT looked a little slower but still brings veteran leadership. SS Karl Joseph 15/15 with 1 INT & 1 sack could see package play due to being overmatched in size. S Obi Melifonwu 5/1 is recovering from a hip injury and his return is in question. S Shalom Luani 16/1 plays mostly on special teams but brings depth to the S core. HC Jon Gruden has his hands full with this bunch and should have them playing better than they did in 2017. No players coach here. There may be some more personnel moves before wk 1but the DEF will certainly look different and be more aggressive. Don’t expect this team to go to the SuperBowl as they are still missing some pieces but are heading in the right direction.
PROJECTED 2017 (11-5), ACTUAL 2017 (6-10), PROJECTED 2018 (9-7)
Los Angeles Chargers
Ok, so the first season in L.A. is in the books. After an 0-4 start, LAC went 9-3 to end the season 9-7. However, if you look closer at the record, you will find that not one of their wins was against any team with a winning record. Their losses were against PHILLY, NE, JAGS & 2x vs KC. Their first two losses were against DEN & MIA. This team cannot beat quality teams. Anyway, they are moving in the right direction but as I have said before and I’ll say it again, the problem is QB Philip Rivers. But LAC is going with what they have. HC Anthony Lynn made a nice turnaround after the miserable start last season as some others would have already thrown in the towel. But he will be frustrated like any other coach that has worked with Rivers. DC Gus Bradley & OC Ken Whisenhurst remain and they are tested coaching veterans that have seen it all. LAC didn’t make too many moves in the off-season but did have a pretty good draft. At QB, Philip Rivers will turn 37 towards the end of the season so LAC should start thinking past Rivers. Geno Smith & Cardale Jones were signed as the backup QBs so LAC better prey that Rivers stays healthy. QB Kellen Clemens, the #2 QB was not re-signed. At RB, Melvin Gordon 16/16 is the workhorse running and catching passes. He takes a lot of pressure off of Rivers with his athleticism. RB Austin Ekeler 16/0 is the backup who gives Gordon a breather. Ekeler can also run and catch successfully. RB Brandon Oliver 8/0 was not re-signed. RB Justin Jackson was drafted in the 7th round out of Northwestern may have to play special teams to see any action. FB Derek Watt 16/4 is the lead blocker in short yardage and does the job. At WR, Keenan Allen 16/15 had a very nice 2017 after two injury plagued seasons. W Tyrell Williams 16/15 is a nice complement to Allen who sees a lot of coverage. WR Mike Williams 10/1 had a disappointing rookie season and should step it up in yr 2. WR/PR Travis Benjamin 16/3 is very fast but has a bad habit of dropping passes. He is a very good PR though and should continue to do so. He has 4tds for return in six seasons. WR Dylan Cantrell who was drafted in the 6th round out of Texas Tech could find his way into the rotation if he shows he can catch the ball in tough situations. At TE, longtime CHARGER Antonio Gates 16/4 retired. It has been rumored that LAC would like to bring him back because of the injury to TE Hunter Henry 14/13 who has suffered a season ending ACL torn and will miss the 2018 season. So far nothing has happened. Henry was up and coming and would have been a big part of the OFF. TE Virgil Green 16/16 was signed from DEN but, he’s more of a backup. TE Sean McGrath 15/6 a blocking TE signed with DET. TE Sean Culkin 1/0 will be asked to block if he stays with the team. The O-LINE has certainly gotten better in recent years as they allowed 36 sacks in 2016 but improved to only 18 sacks allowed in 2017. At LT, Russell Okung 15/15 is solid on the outside and helped cut down on sacks allowed. LT Sam Tevi 14/1 plays mostly special teams but did get a start and is great for depth. LG Dan Feeney 15/9 improved in his rookie season and should start at LG. OT Cole Toner has bounced around and didn’t get on the field during 2017 and is a long shot but could provide depth. C Mike Pouncey 16/16 was cut by MIA in the off-season and signed with LAC to shore up the position after OL Matt Slauson 7/7 signed with INDY. C Spencer Pulley 16/16 was the starter for 2017 but gives way to Pouncey. OL Scott Quessenberry who was drafted in the 6th round out of UCLA will provide depth while he is groomed for long term. RG Forrest Lamp was out all of 2017 with an ACL injury but LAC has him penciled in as the starter for wk 1, however, his status is unclear at the moment. Pulley could start at the position if Lamp is not able. RG Kenny Wiggins 16/16 signed with DET after his first full season as a starter for LAC. RT Joe Barksdale 11/11 had his injury shortened by a knee injury. RT Michael Schofield 15/5 should provide good depth now that the right side of the O-LINE is in doubt. On DEF in the secondary, CB Jason Verrett 1/1 who was on IR for most of 2017 landed on IR again for 2018 with a torn Achilles. CB Trevor Williams 16/15 with 2INTS is dealing with a left ankle injury and his status for wk 1 is uncertain. CB Casey Howard 16/16 with 4INTS is solid. CB Desmond King 16/4 with 1 INT & 4.0 sacks is the nickel back and returns kicks. CB Craig Mager 2/0 may see more playing time due to the injuries to Verrett & Williams. CB Jaylen Watkins 12/1 was signed from PHILLY and also could see more playing time due to injuries. At FS Tre Boston 16/15 with 5INTs signed with ARZ. FS Derwin James who was drafted in the 1st round out of Florida State is penciled in as the starter. At SS, Jahleel Addae 16/16 is a hard hitter. S Adrian Phillips 15/4 with 2INTS had his playing time increase as he is a great backup. S Rayshawn Jenkins 15/0 brings good depth to the position. On the D-LINE DE Joey Bosa 16/16 with 12.5 sacks can only get better. He is tough to contain and is all over the ball. DE/DT Damion Square 16/0 serves well in a backup role. DE Isaac Rochell 3/0 with 1.0 sack has potential and could see more time in the rotation. DT Brandon Mebane 16/16 may see a smaller role in 2018. DT Tenny Palepoi 15/0 signed with BUFF in the off season and was cut so there is a chance he might come back to LAC for depth. DT Corey Liuget 12/12 with 1.5 sacks is suspended for the first four games and should return wk 5 but may be in a fight for a starting job. DT Darius Philon 16/4 with 4.5 sacks excelled when asked and may see an opportunity with Liuget suspended. DT Justin Jones who was drafted in the 3rd round out of NC State will look to get into the rotation between Ingram & Bosa. DE Melvin Ingram 16/16 with 10.5 sacks has been more effective since Bosa started on the other side. DE Whitney Richardson who was on & off the practice squad for LAC in 2017 could see action if injuries mount up. DE Jeremiah Attaochu 4/0 signed with SF. OLB Kyle Emanuel 16/11 with 1 INT & 1.5 sacks was all over but may need to step it up to stay at the position. OLB Jatavis Brown 16/5 didn’t have any sacks but gets a lot of tackles. MLB Hayes Pullard 13/10 with 1INT made the most of his starts and also gets a lot of tackles. LB Korey Toomer 15/8 with 1INT & 1.0 sack signed with SF. LB Nick Dzubnar 13/0 plays mostly on special teams. OLB Denzel Perryman 7/6 is great against the run and needs to stay healthy. OLB Uchenna Nwosu who was drafted in the 2nd round out of USC should be a beast when he gets into the rotation. LB Kyzir White who was drafted in the 4th round out of West Virginia could be used in passing downs. LB Chris McCain 15/0 with 5.0 sacks signed with INDY. OLB James Onwualu 9/0 was active on special teams but could see time in the rotation. The problem with LAC is that Rivers can’t beat the good teams and always looks nervous when playing them. The DEF plays well but must do better against the run. The secondary has some issues now that Verrett is out and Willliams is nursing an injury. Also, good decisions by the coach are necessary. This team cannot get out to a slow start and expect to get hot and get into the playoffs. The OFF looks good except for TE, where they are almost non-existent due to Hunter Henry going down. LAC’s schedule is not the toughest but they seem to lose games they shouldn’t. The future is now because Rivers isn’t getting any younger. Also, they better hope that he doesn’t get hurt because there is certainly no depth at QB. PROJECTED 2017 (7-9), ACTUAL 2017 (9-7), PROJECTED 2018 (10-6)
Did anyone think that DEN would fall this low, this fast, after winning SB 50? DEN had an eight game losing streak and even lost to the lowly NYG on a Sunday night where they were completely outplayed. A revamping in the off-season was in order. HC Vance Joseph who himself is in the hotseast, cleaned out his coaching staff except for DC Joe Woods & OC Bill Musgrave who was brought in after the 10th game in 2017. At QB, Trevor Siemian is gone and so is Brock Osweiler. Case Keenum, who had a career resurgence in 2017 and led MINN to the NFC Championship game signed with DEN for two years. DEN is hoping that he can do for DEN what he did for MINN. Backing Keenum up is Paxton Lynch. Lynch has been played sparingly and DEN is hoping that he progresses as time goes by. Then there’s Chad Kelly who was on IR for 2017 but arrived at OTA in shape and ready to prove something. At RB, DEN cut CJ Anderson 16/16 who ran for over 1,000 yds in 2017. He later signed with CAR. That leaves a competition for RB with Devontae Booker who was the backup, Royce Freeman who was drafted in the 3rd round out of Oregon, David Williams who was drafted in the 7th round out of Arkansas and undrafted signee Phillip Lindsay. RB De’Angelo Henderson, who was used sparingly in 2017 will be looked at as a 3rd down back. FB Andy Janovich plays the part well no matter who he is blocking for. At WR, Demaryius Thomas & Emmanuel Sanders didn’t have the big numbers that they are accustomed to, probably due to the inconsistent play at QB. Keenum should provide the stability needed to get the ball to the receivers. WR Bennie Fowler signed with CHI. WR Cody Latimer signed with NYG. WR Jordan Taylor had surgery on both hips in the off-season and may not be ready for wk 1. WR Isaiah McKenzie has had a fumbling issue but will get a chance to prove he’s corrected it. WR Courtland Sutton who was drafted in the 2nd round out of SMU & DaeSean Hamilton who was drafted in the 4th round out of Penn State will get a chance to crack the rotation since DEN is certainly looking for a slot receiver and some depth. At TE, DEN has high hopes for Jake Butt to start after missing 2017 with a torn ACL. TE Virgil Green signed with LAC. TE Jeff Heuerman should move up in the depth chart and showed flashes in 2017. TE Austin Taylor is used mostly as a blocker and is dependable. TE Troy Fumagalli who was drafted in the 5th round out of Wisconsin is a good blocker and pass catcher and should see time in the rotation. At the O-LINE, the OFF starts here. They gave up a combined 52 sacks in 2017 as compared to 40 sacks in 2016. Passing stats were way down and RBs then got overworked and the OFF became predictable. You can’t get anything done when your QB is running for his life. LT Garett Boiles 16/16 as a rookie led the league in holding penalties in 2017. He needs to improve and cut them down to be effective. OT Donald Stephenson 7/4 who provided depth on the O-LINE signed with CLEVE. RG Ron Leary 11/11 moves to LG where he has played for most of his career. LG Max Garcia 16/16 will have to show that he can play swing backup just to stick around. C Matt Paradis 16/16 hasn’t missed a snap in three years, so he’s not going anywhere. C/G JJ Dielman was signed off the CINNCY practice squad and should provide depth. RG/C Connor McGovern 15/5 filled in at the position towards the end of 2017 and showed great promise. He’s penciled in as the starter and can play C too. OG/C Sam Jones who was drafted in the 6th round out of Arizona should provide some nice depth. RT Jared Veldheer was picked up from ARZ to replace RT Menelik Watson who only played seven games in 2017 due to injuries. Watson should provide great depth if healthy. G Billy Turner was re-signed to give good depth to the line. In the secondary, CB Aqib Talib was traded to the LAR. CB Bradley Roby moves from backup to starter. CB Chris Harris 16/15 with 2 INTs anchors the other side. CB Tramaine Brock 11/0 who was signed from MINN but didn’t play much will be the nickel and slot CB. CB Isaac Yiadom who was drafted in the 3rd round out of Boston College will try to make a name for himself. CB Marcus Rios 5/0 who was activated late from the practice squad impressed the coaching staff and will shoot for the #4 CB. At FS Darian Stewart 16/15 with 3INTs is a solid anchor in the secondary. S Su’a Cravens who was acquired from WASH and didn’t play in 2017 will be the #3 S to be used in sub packages and improve coverages vs RBs & TEs. SS Justin Simmons 13/13 with 2 INTS is solid at the position. On the D-LINE, DE Derek Wolfe 11/11 with 2.0 sacks missed five games with injuries in 2017. DE Zach Kerr 11/0 remains a stout backup. NT Domata Peko 14/14 with 1.0 sack is hoping he can stay competitive as he gets up in age. NT Kyle Peko 6/0 could see competition for backup from undrafted signee Lowell Lotulelei. DE Bradley Chubb who was drafted in the 1st round out of NC State is penciled in to start. He’s viewed as a future All-Pro. DE Adam Gotsis 16/13 with 2.0 sacks had been starting for Jared Crick who had spent all of 2017 on IR and wasn’t re-signed. DE Shelby Harris 16/6 with 5.5 sacks had a nice breakout season and should see more time in the rotation. DT Clinton McDonald 14/3 with 5.0 sacks, who was signed from TB brings great leadership and athleticism to the front line. DE DeMarcus Walker 10/0 with 1.0 sack needs to up his game after a disappointing rookie season. At OLB Von Miller 16/16 with 10.0 sacks should get more sacks now that Chubb will get more attention. ILB Brandon Marshall 16/16 with 3.0 sacks is very dependable and will work with MLB Josey Jewell who was drafted in the 4th round out of Iowa to sharpen his skills for the NFL game. ILB Todd Davis 14/14 with 1.0 sack signed a contract extension in the off-season and should have a big 2018. LB Keishawn Bierra who was drafted in the 6th round out of WASH probably will play on special teams to stick around. LB Zaire Anderson 16/2 will see a lot of competition from the rookies. He will have to up his game to get playing time in the rotation. OLB Shane Ray 8/7 with 1.0 sack had an injury prone yr and needs to prove it in 2018 to see an extension. LB Shaquil Barrett 16/9 with 4.0 sacks is looking to make a statement at the position as starter. If DEN doesn’t show some type of improvement, GM John Elway may have to do some rehiring at the HC position and look for ways to tweak this team and start to look to replace the aging veterans. The O-LINE needs to mesh and do their job by cutting down on penalties and sacks allowed. This is the only way that the OFF can get going. On DEF, staying healthy is the key because the personnel is there. Depth may be a problem in some areas but a lot of experience is there in the starters. HC Vance Joseph needs to make the right decisions in crunch time and this team will be fighting for a playoff spot. Keenum is the big key here and how he performs, otherwise it will be a long season for DEN & their fans.
PROJECTED 2017 (9-7), ACTUAL 2017 (5-11), PROJECTED 2018 (8-8)