Posts by Bowser

Second Sunday of NFL season brings more surprises

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Gotta love the NFL. After the first Sunday of action brought plenty of surprises, week 2 followed suit with it’s own shocking results and impressive performances. Where do I even start? The logical direction is to just go through the more notable games in the order in which they happened, but i’d to discuss them in most expected to least expected.

Although these games were closer than expected, we knew that the Broncos would beat the Chiefs, the Packers would beat the Jets. More lopsided victories include the Redskins over the Jaguars, Texans over Raiders (back to them a little later) and the Patriots over the Vikings. My Cowboys, with running and defense, got an impressive victory on the road but they aren’t even the toughest team to figure out. The Bills, with two impressive victories to start the season, rolled over the Dolphins and are leading the division. Or even the Panthers, one of the two hot picks for a regression year, shut down a potent Detroit offense and won convincingly at home. In the end, i’m torn between three games for most impressive victory of the day. Cleveland rallied to beat the Saints at home, getting their first win of the season and the first win for new head coach Mike Pettine. But we all know that the Saints can be very shaky on the road, and yesterday proved that home field will matter a lot to their success. The same goes for Seattle, who haven’t been world-beaters when it comes to their road tendencies. The Chargers, who always seem poised for a big win, scored all over the Seahawks defense and probably had the biggest win of the day. Then I remember last night’s final game between the Bears and 49ers. And how deep the Chicago had to dig in order to get a gritty, 4th quarter comeback victory in San Francisco on opening night of their shiny new stadium. The Bears get this round slightly over the Chargers. After their stunning lost to the Bills last week, Jay Cutler and co had no choice but to bounce back in incredible fashion. Success for them as the standings get more and more interesting to start the season off.

So now that we’ve quickly gone through the most impressive win of the game, what about individual players themselves? Well I talked about how impressive Jay Cutler (23-34, 167, 4 TDs) was, especially in the 4th quarter where he showed plenty of poise and leadership. Fellow NFC North quarterback Aaron Rodgers (346 yds, 3 TDs, 38 yds rush) was also impressive, most of his big plays going to Jordy Nelson (209 yds, 1 TD) and most of them coming in the second half. What other pairing could challenge them? Philip Rivers (284 yds, 3 TDs, 17 yds rush) making it rain all over the Seahawks, with the touchdown catches going to his TE Antonio Gates (96 yds, 3 TDs) is strong candidate. Because of how many pure yards he got, partnered with his big 80-yard touchdown reception, Jordy Nelson gets performance of the day but play of the day clearly goes to J.J. Watt. If anyone has ever read  about my favorite plays that happen in the NFL, they know that obscure or bizarre plays are my absolute favorite. Fake field goals, fake punts, reverses, direct snaps etc. And although my number one favorite play is a TD pass by a half-back or running back, i’m also a big fan of when a defensive player scores a touchdown on offense. Sure, it was an easy wide-open catch by Watt, but when’s the next time we’re going to see something like that? Big ups to the Texans for that play.

For a couple of different reasons, i’ll be watching tonight’s game between the Eagles and Colts pretty closely. I expect for Philadelphia, who can be deadly inside of a dome, to race out to an early lead before Andrew Luck does his thing and makes it close late. Close game that either team could win. Should be a fun one.

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Ravens win big over Steelers; previewing Sunday’s games

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The Ravens have been in a non-stop spotlight for several days now. The cameras, the reporters and the unwanted attention stemmed from Monday, and i’m sure that I don’t need to talk about why. But interestingly enough, none of the attention that the pro football team in Baltimore has received involves football. Only in the sense that the “How will the Ravens respond?” questions became endless. Theories and predictions about whether or not this would be a bad thing were hot topics in most sports circles. Pointless in my opinion. It was going to be Baltimore, and them only, who would ultimately decide how they would perform after a circus-like week. The Ravens put distractions aside last night and with their rout over the Steelers, they let everyone know that football is the only thing on their minds. After losing their opening game to the Bengals, the Ravens were in need of a division win and they got one last night, controlling the game in the second half and putting a Steelers’ comeback out of reach. Joe Flacco had a couple of touchdown passes to TE Owen Daniels (pictured above) and the rest was left to the foot of kicker Justin Tucker. Baltimore didn’t jump off the page with lots of spectacular plays (Steve Smith had a couple) but they didn’t make any mistakes. That’s something the Steelers can’t say, who doomed three drives with costly turnovers. Just as Ben Roethlisberger was mounting another drive, either he or one of his teammates turned the ball over. Now both teams are 1-1 and looking up at Cincinnati. Baltimore has the upper hand right now but I have a feeling these two teams will be battling pretty close to each other for most of the season.

So what’s in store for Sunday? Plenty of interesting games and things to watch out for. What sticks out at me is that there are several good teams who have a good chance of starting their season off with two losses. The Patriots are in Minnesota this weekend, and I could very much see the Vikings taking that game after how good they looked last weekend. But was it more that the Rams are bad? That’s the thing about week 2: there’s no need to overreact to a week 1 peformance. Still, the Vikings-Patriots game should be a good one. The Saints are Cleveland as Drew Brees and co try and bounce back. And for the Browns, the Johnny Football watch continues. The Chargers are getting the Seahawks at home, should be a nice battle for both teams. The Packers are getting the Jets and all signs point to a massive game from Green Bay, who are on 10 days rest and very eager to get their first win. The day ends with the Bears in San Francisco in what should be a pretty great game. It’s impossible to tell how good the 49ers are after going against my Cowboys and their defense. But the game of the day goes to, well, there are two games that stand out to me. I really want to pay attention to the Falcons in Cincinnati and the Lions in Carolina. Particularly, two good offenses (Det and Atl) against two good defenses (Cin and Car) as all these teams will try and make a statement on Sunday. Game to avoid on Sunday? Without a doubt, the Jaguars in Washington.

If betting were legal here where I live, I’d take the Packers (-8.5) against the Jets and the Falcons (+5.5) against the Bengals.

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Lions and Cardinals victorious in Monday Night Football’s opening night

New York Giants v Detroit Lions

For those who didn’t get enough football on Sunday, last night provided a big helping of dessert with two games on ESPN for their first edition of Monday Night Football. I’ve always enjoyed having a second game on the opening night, even if it is a pretty late start for the second game. Not just because it’s more NFL but also because the second game always seems to be worth (remember this game?) staying up for. Last night was no different as the game, after a very slow start, came down to the final quarter. But first, we have to take care of discussion the lopsided game between the Lions and Giants.

For a second there, I thought that Calvin Johnson (164 yds, 2 TDs) would end up with something like 400 yards and 5 touchdowns after what we saw in the first quarter last night. The Lions struck early against the Giants who, for whatever reason, decided to leave Johnson open for two scores. Megatron is actually the last receiver on the planet that one would want to give space to. That’s just the way the night went for the Giants. Because they fell into an early deficit, the Giants were trying to fix their mistakes and at the same time, make some sort of comeback. The Giants managed to hang around after a good 2nd quarter but after the third quarter was dominated by the Lions, the game was out of reach. My favorite play of the night goes to Matt Stafford and his 5-yard run for the score in the 3rd quarter. The play essentially put the game out of reach and Detroit was on their way to getting their first victory of the season. New York has plenty to work on after yesterday’s game. Eli Manning couldn’t avoid getting another multi-interception game, and now the questions about his status as a Giant begin early. On thing is for sure after this weekend: the NFC East can officially be named as the worst division in the league. Detroit, on the other hand, finds itself in tied for first place along with the Vikings in the North. Crazy!

Another Monday night game and another 4th quarter meltdown by the Chargers. Maybe San Diego should just say “no” to all games that feature them in front of a national audience. But in all honesty, the Chargers were a bit fortunate to be ahead in this game when the 4th quarter rolled around. They had some nice plays here and there, but when one looks back at the game a little bit, one can clearly see that “fortunate bounces” went their way. Every team has those nights and the luck stopped in the 4th quarter. The Chargers were mounting a nice drive, with at least a field goal in their pocket (to put them up by 8) but a botched snapped forced them to punt. Arizona gets the ball back, mounts an impressive drive from their own 9-yard line, and eventually scores with only a few minutes left. San Diego was charging to try and win the game but fell short on a 4th down attempt. Props to the Cardinals defense. They weren’t great by any means last night but made some nice plays when they needed it. It was a sloppy, but entertaining game. The early win for Arizona is key if they want to compete with the rest of the NFC West. And meanwhile, San Diego stumbles in their opening game before they get the Seahawks at home next week.

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NFL’s first Sunday filled with surprises and drama

NFL: Buffalo Bills at Chicago Bears

The ritual on Sunday morning was different yesterday. Whether you were trying to get rid of your hangover or trying to get rid of those pesky weeds in the backyard, NFL fans finished their chores post-haste. Because they, like myself, knew that the rest of the day would be dedicated to watching football. But what kind of day would the league produce? The NFL season is a roller coaster, a very long one, filled with plenty of turns, twists and loops. Depending on which team one is supporting will determine what kind of ride is expected. The highs will be high, and the lows will be low. Despite those risks, fans of the NFL know what they’re getting themselves into and Sunday morning was filled with aspirations and anxiousness. So, what went down yesterday in the National Football League?

Since CBS decided to dedicate part of their afternoon to the US Open, the early slate of NFL games was pretty massive. Ten games going on and there was plenty of drama early. Some of the games turned into lopsided affairs (Vikings-Rams, Eagles-Jaguars, Dolphins-Patriots) but some nice finishes kept the watchers on the edge of their seats. Which team was most impressive yesterday? I’m torn between a few teams. Initially I thought to go with the Vikings, who were on the road in St. Louis and completely destroyed a stout Rams’ defense. With respect to anyone else who made some magic happen yesterday, Cordarrelle Patterson had my favorite play of day with his 67-yard run. Then I remembered the Rams offense will be mediocre at best this season. What about the Dolphins? At home, going up against the untouchable Tom Brady is no easy task for any team. Miami dominated the second half with their running game, using a nice combination of Lamar Miller and Knowshon Moreno to control the pace of the game. But as I’ve said in the past, weird stuff happens when the Patriots are in Miami every season. So that leaves me with the Bills (pictured above) in Chicago, impressing the hell out of everyone and beating the Bears in overtime. I think the line for that game was Bears by 8 or something close to it. So it’s safe to say that nobody had Buffalo winning that game and because of what they showed me, they were the most impressive team yesterday.

Unfortunately for fans of other teams (myself included) it can’t all be rainbows and sunshine. Half of the teams participating in yesterday’s games saw their game finish in a loss. Fans of those on the losing side will overreact today, pointing fingers and looking for someone to blame for their misery. Fair enough, but for anyone who has been following this league knows that the first game of the season won’t determine that team’s fate. Or does it? The stats can prove part of the argument but after watching a losing side, which are the teams that are in real trouble? There are three obvious candidates. We can go ahead and start things off with my Dallas Cowboys, who were on the wrong end of a spanking at home against the 49ers. The Cowboys went away from what was working and that result in three picks from Tony Romo. Let’s also add that the Niners offense did what they wanted with their passing game. But we knew the Cowboys and their defense would be bad. What about their division rival Washington? The Redskins were victims of one JJ Watt, who lived up to his massive contract and hounded RG3 and his offensive line. But we knew that Watt is a beast and we knew that the Redskins questions on offense. Now we have the Chiefs, with the biggest opportunity to silence there doubters, they fell flat in Tennessee. The Chiefs are in for a really, really long season and their season debut might have indicated exactly how their season will go.

What’s better than football on Monday night? Even more football on Monday night. That’s right, we’re getting two games tonight ladies and gentlemen. The Giants are in Detroit (7:10 ET) and then we have the late night game that will feature the Chargers in Arizona (10:20 ET) to finish things off. Plan on staying up nice and late!

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Seahawks take care of Packers in NFL’s opening night

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It feels good to write the sentence “opening night” and have it be about the NFL. It means that we have twenty-two (22!) Sundays that will feature at least one professional football game on our television. As much I want to discuss Sunday’s massive 1pm (ET) slate, let’s have some manners and leave the main course until after the appetizer. And by appetizer, i’m clearly referring to last night’s opening game that squared off with the Packers in Seattle. One thing is for sure: the Seahawks are still in their championship form. After a fairly balanced first half, the Seahawks dominated the Packers in the 3rd quarter, putting the game out of reach and taking home the first win of the NFL season. Quick shout out to Ariana Grande, who looked pretty cute and did a nice job singing the national anthem before the game. But we’re here to talk about football and we got some solid football last night. At least, if you’re talking to Seattle fans, who probably were anxious to see their team’s championship banner go up before starting their back-to-back campaign. Remember when “experts” like myself were picking the Packers as a possible contender for the best team in the NFC? Well, the Seahawks quickly reminded everyone why they’re the big boys on the block. Seattle played big boy football, smashing the ball through the tackles with an impressive game by Marshawn Lynch (110 yds, 2 TDs) from start to finish. Let’s also remember that Percy Harvin, the x-factor of all x-factors, combined for 100 yards in a barrage of impressive running and passing plays. It’s just a shame that we’re all thinking the same thing about Harvin when we’re watching him play and hoping that this is the year he stays healthy.

With all of the praise for the offense, let’s not forget that Seattle prides itself with their defense and as the game went on, the better the defense looked. I thought that once the Seahawks forced a Packers safety, the game was over and it was only a matter of time before the game was out of reach. Even with Rodgers making some nice plays and putting together a couple of nice drives, the Packers’ offense never looked comfortable. Green Bay put themselves in too many 3rd and long situations that are nearly impossible to complete when you’re playing in Seattle. So what’s the Packers gameplan heading forward into the season? Well, for one they must improve their defense overall. The Seahawks were able to execute their plays with almost no resistance at all. There’s also wondering how serious Eddy Lacy’s exit in the 3rd quarter (concussion) will affect him and the Packers running game heading forward. And the Seahawks, well, just more of the same in all honesty. A couple of pretty big games coming up as they head into San Diego in week 2 and then get Denver at home the following week.

Alright, now let’s get ready for main course. For those who are wondering, yes, get the NFL’s Red Zone channel and just leave it on there for your entire Sunday afternoon. Unless you want to focus on your team’s game specifically. Luckily for me, the Cowboys aren’t going to disappoint me until later on in the day, so i’m just focused on the red zone action for the ten (10!) game slate in the 1 pm (ET) slot. Plenty of good games too. The Saints in Atlanta should feature plenty of points and big plays. The Bengals in Baltimore is a nice divisional rivalry that could help decide a tie-breaker at the end of the season. The Redskins in Houston is exciting to think about solely just to see RG3 against the Texans’ pass rush. The Patriots in Miami always seems to have some of weird play or breakout performance. Because for whatever silly reason, CBS is choosing to show the US Open instead of football. Their loss. We’ll be enjoying the 49ers in Dallas, a game that could go in a hundred different directions and the Panthers in Tampa Bay, a game that is impossible to predict. Things wrap up with the Colts in Denver, for what could be a super-early playoff match preview. Can Peyton Manning duplicate last season’s historic-level season? Can Andrew Luck out-Andrew Luck himself? Grab a seat, grab a cold drink and ignore your responsibilities for a little white. The NFL is back and the first Sunday is always the sweetest. Good luck to everyone’s team this season but as always, go Cowboys!

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2014 NFL season preview: NFC North

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Along with the NFC West, I think this will be the best division in football this year. Just having a healthy Aaron Rodgers on the Packers boosts the stock of any team and the games that they’re participating in. Lots of history with these teams and the rivalries seem to brood more hate than most around the league. But despite this being one of the better divisions in the league, there are still plenty of questions lingering for each of the teams. Can the Packers offense have more balance to offset their questionable defense? The Bears have lived off defense in years past but now with two big weapons on the outside, can the Bears make a return to the playoffs? Can the Lions, with a new head coach, turn their fortunes around and actually close out games when they need it most? I’m a bit hesitant to agree but I can certainly see why many think that the Vikings are a threat to challenge for the division title.

Green Bay Packers: This season is going to depend on the team’s health and more specifically, the health of all-pro quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Because Rodgers missed so much of last season due to a broken collarbone, I think people have forgotten how good #12 on the Packers really is. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to draft him for any of my fantasy teams this season but I was able to get Eddy Lacy, who will look to continue to carry Green Bay’s running game. With Rodgers and Lacy leading the way, the offense looks set to do very well and potentially be the best in the league. So that leaves the big question marks on the defense. Julius Peppers should help the defense but it’s still going to take the effort (and health) of the entire defensive unit. If the defense can hold it’s own, the Packers will win the division and possibly compete for NFC’s best record.

Chicago Bears: Much like the Packers, a lot of the success they’re hoping to see this season will depend on whether or not their quarterback can stay healthy to coincide with better production on defense. Seems pretty simple, no? Can Jay Cutler, with two big weapons to throw to and a great running back behind him, be the type of QB that Chicago hopes for? The offense will put up big numbers but i’m waiting to see how much the defense will improve. Chicago recognized their problems on that side of the ball and went out during the offseason to aggressively fix things. I’m still worried about what is going on with their defensive backs and how they’re going to be able to stop the big-time receivers that they’re going to face in their divisional games. I can see them being very good but several reasons keep from picking anything but slightly over a .500 record.

Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings have been getting some attention in the weeks prior to the start of the season as candidates to potentially crash the division’s party. I see it, and I don’t. Minnesota has some big weapons to try and compliment as much as possible. Of course, we’re talking about Adrian Peterson, who is still the best running back (slightly over McCoy) in the NFL. But do people realize how good Cordarrelle Patterson can be? I’m all-in with him with my fantasy teams. Anyways, these are the biggest questions for the Vikings this season: 1. Can their secondary continue to improve? Yes, they were bad last season but were even worse the season before that! Baby steps everyone. 2. When will we see Teddy Bridgewater? I loved him coming out of college and I love him to come in during the season and make an impact. In the end, Not enough complementary pieces for success this season.

Detroit Lions: I left the Lions last for a reason. They’re such a mystery to me. Possibly the hardest to figure out of any of the NFL teams. Let’s not forget that this team had the NFC North in complete control last season before having a meltdown of massive proportions, losing six of their last seven games. Most of those games were close and the losses came because of some bonehead errors. How will new coach Jim Caldwell fix their discipline issues and make the team better in crunch time? Can Matthew Stafford bounce back from a disappointing season? He only has Megatron, the league’s best receiver, to throw to. Their defensive front will always pose a threat to other team’s quarterbacks but again, it comes to down the “intangibles” or whatever one would like to call them. Biggest potential, but a bigger mystery. Slightly above .500 until proven otherwise.

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2014 NFL season preview: AFC North

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A division, once dominated by the clashes between the Steelers and Ravens, now belongs to the Bengals and their one-and-done status in the playoffs. Can Cincinnati finally get over that bump they have faced for three straight seasons? The Ravens are the most recent of the teams to see success but multiple on (and off) the field issues have plagued them since their Super Bowl run just two seasons ago. Pittsburgh is usually the model franchise around the league but health and questions about whether or not their defense needs to revamp will determine a lot for them. What about the Browns? Cleveland will always be the butt of jokes when it comes to the AFC North but with some new changes and a fresh head coach, can the Browns make big improvements? Interesting division to try and figure out.

Cincinnati Bengals: Another year for the Bengals and another year where the franchise will be solely judged on how well they do once they reach the playoffs. Barring a drastic injury to one of the big players, Cincinnati will once again end up around 10 or 11 wins and reach the postseason. The only difference this season is that the pressure has mounted in a big way now that quarterback Andy Dalton got his big extension. But can the young QB step his game up? Dalton has a big weapon (AJ Green) and a rising RB (Giovanni Bernard) to help continue his solid performance, but nothing will matter unless he improves his play when it matters most. That’s really what it’s going to come down to for the Bengals this season. Get through the regular season in the similar fashion of years past. I expect them to win the division but it will forgotten if they don’t win at least one playoff game.

Pittsburgh Steelers: The Steelers’ season will hinge on a few big factors. First of all, how will the defense adapt to the changes that have been made both this season and last season? Troy Polamalu can’t continue to be the deciding factor this far into his career. The next two factors go hand-in-hand but are separate. How well will the offensive line protect Ben Roethlisberger? Injuries always occur but more specifically, the offensive line of the Steelers seems to lose a man every single weekend. The next factor is who, aside from Antonio Brown and Big Ben, will step up on offense. The running backs (Bell and Blount) dealt with off the field issues not too long ago but seem to have moved past it. Here’s a nice tip for the Steelers: don’t start the season 0-4 if you plan on making the playoffs this season. Adapting to changes will determine how well above .500 this team finishes.

Baltimore Ravens: The term “Super Bowl hangover” was said over and over last season with the Ravens. But how accurate of a description was it for Baltimore? Well, the way they start this season is going to give everyone a look at what this team is about. The Ravens revolve around their big-money elite quarterback Joe Flacco, who has been wildly disappointing since signing his big contract. I really like the signing of Steve Smith and their “all in” approach with various other acquisitions. If the passing game can carry the offense under their new coordinator, then the stink coming off their running game won’t be as much of an issue. Once Ray Rice gets back from his suspension (an absurd length) then they continue to figure out what’s going on with the run game. Cautiously optimistic about this Ravens team and I feel that they can compete for the division title.

Cleveland Browns: The Browns are the Browns. Every season they seem to catch news for the wrong reasons and this year is no different. Their star receiver Josh Gordon is appealing his season-long suspension and that will hang over the team for pretty much the entire season. Another big moment came when Brian Hoyer was named the starting quarterback with none other Johnny “money dance” Manziel holding the clipboard right behind him. This isn’t the boldest of predictions but don’t worry, Johnny Football will play this season and will eventually be the starter before week 17 rolls around. Just wait until the Browns’ underrated defense isn’t able to bail them out of a below-.500 record and the fans start chanting Manziel’s name over and over. Growing pains for this team but, despite their record, Cleveland will be a solid team this season.

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2014 NFL season preview: AFC South

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What a downgrade from most of the divisions in the NFL. Other divisions look forward to facing these four teams but can they manage to do better this season? This division revolves around the Colts, and more specifically, Andew Luck, who matters more to the Indy’s success than any other QB. Can the Colts once again win the division virtually by default? Jacksonville has always been sort of a laughing stock due to their lack of success as of late but have they acquired the tools to turn things around? Tennessee is the biggest mystery in the division but flying low on everyone’s radar could be the best scenario for them. Then we have the Houston Texans, who after their worst season in the NFL last year, are shelling out a nice tandem in their pass rush.

Indianapolis Colts: This team might as well named the Indianapolis Lucks. Lucky to be in this division and lucky to have Andrew Luck behind center. Indy did a nice job of getting some new weapons for their young quarterback but it’s going to take some time for them to completely gel into their offensive system. But the “gelling” of their offense won’t get going unless they can keep the pressure off Luck, something that the Colts’ offensive line hasn’t been able to do since #12 started playing there. Let’s also throw in that several arrests, including their owner, have occurred in the offseason and could prove to be more critical than normal. Despite their problems, the Colts are still the best team in a bad division. No reason to think they won’t repeat as AFC South champions.

Houston Texans: But if a team could take the throne from the Colts, it has to be the Texans. All signs point to a complete turnaround this season for Houston: no more Matt Schaub; the addition for Jadaveon Clowney; new head coach looking to shake things up and finally, quite possibly the easiest schedule of all time. What else am I missing here? Did I mention that Schaub won’t be around the break his “pick-6” record anymore? Oh yeah, a healthy Andre Johnson who just might stay healthy for once in his life. But this team still has burdens. Mostly Arian Foster and whatever he has left in the tank partnered with the insecurity of what QB Ryan Fitzpatrick can do in his first year there. They can give the Colts some pressure but I still expect them to finish right around a .500 record.

Tennessee Titans: As I stated above, the Titans are a mystery because their offense is a mystery. Their quarterback can’t stay healthy and who knows what will happen with their running game. If Jake Locker wants to prove that he can play QB in the NFL, this needs to be the season. Tennessee has not picked up his option for 2015 so as of right now, Locker is playing for a job. Now that they’re without Chris Johnson, will another running back pick up the slack? They have several options but we have yet to see which RB will show that he deserves the most touches. The improvements in coaching should be evident right away but I can’t expect them to do well unless some unexpected talent produces a breakout performance. Until I see a healthy Locker, they linger around .500 once again.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Aside from the Browns and Raiders, this is everyone’s favorite team to pick on. For all of you who have only been watching the NFL for a few years, the Jaguars used to finish above .500 and used to make the playoffs. But that hasn’t happened in what feels like forever when it reality it’s been since ’07 since they participated in the postseason. They just never have an identity anymore. Their defense has been decent, during this stretch that they’re in, but the offense has been mediocre, at best, for a long time now. Can Blake Bortles change that? They have done a nice job of building through the draft but it’s time for those pieces to come together and produce some victories. The Jags will be improved from last season but will continue to hold the “one year away” tag once again this season.

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