Raiders View: The AFC West Week 2 Preview

Only 3 games this week in the AFC West because we have our first divisional matchup the Chiefs @ Broncos. Even after the first week the division is starting to take shape. The Broncos are far and away the most powerful team. The Chargers are second but inconsistencies will stop them challenging the Broncos. A long way behind are the Raiders and Chiefs. I am giving the edge to the Raiders at the moment because the Chiefs looked terrible.
Houston Texans @ Oakland Raiders
Texans 3 point favourite.
Key Fantasy Players: Houston Defence and Derek Carr
JJ Watt meets Derek Carr. I am seriously worried about the health of Derek Carr in this matchup. Carr was injured in preseason by a hit by Lions DE Larry Webster. With all due respect to Mr Webster he isn’t JJ Watt. The offensive line really needs to pick its play up especially Austin Howard and Khalif Barnes who had poor games last week. If I were a Raiders coach I would be looking at triple teaming Watt somehow, instead of a running back put an extra lineman in the backfield. I am joking of course! Carr also had 2 passes batted down at the line of scrimmage against the Jets. This is another area Watt specialises in.
Carr does however have a very quick release and is a very mobile quarterback. I can see the coaches using a similar short quick pass attack against the Texans. I can see a lot of screen plays and some sideline passes like the James Jones touchdown pass. This will hopefully prevent Watt from getting to Carr as often as many people think he will. I am still worried that even if he doesn’t get sacked he will still suffer too many hits. It would be some story if Carr had to come out and Schaub took over against his former team!
I think the Raiders will win however. I just don’t see Ryan Fitzpatrick leading this team to two wins in a row. The offence only scored one touchdown against the Washington football team last weekend. It is time for Khalil Mack to have his NFL arrival party, what a time to have it the home opener. Dennis Allen needs a win in this game. Even this early in the season it’s a must win for the coaching staff.
Kansas City Chiefs @ Denver Broncos
Broncos 13.5 point favourite.
Key Fantasy Players: Jamaal Charles and Peyton Manning.
This has got disaster written all over it for the Chiefs. You lose your first game badly to the Tennessee Titans. You lose two of your defensive starters including your pro bowl linebacker Derrick Johnson. Then you have to face Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos at Mile High Stadium. The Broncos who will be looking to ensure they do not let the Chiefs come back like the Colts did last week. In Yahoo Sports fantasy pick’em 98% of people have picked the Broncos. The last time I saw a team favoured by that many points was when the 6-0 Broncos played the 0-6 Jaguars last year.
The Chiefs have problems all over the field. Even the usually dependable Jamaal Charles was held to only 19 yards. Alex Smith actually rushed for more yards but was intercepted 3 times. Many of the Chiefs offensive problems stem from a very poor offensive line. The possible return to the field of Dwayne Bowe gives the Chiefs something to cheer about.
Peyton Manning and friends will be way too powerful for the Chiefs. I am predicting a high score and a lot of offence from the Broncos. I am hoping Monte Ball has a great fantasy week for my team.
Seattle Seahawks @ San Diego Chargers
Seahawks 5 point favourite.
Key Fantasy Players: Marshawn Lynch and Philip Rivers
Thank you very much Seattle Seahawks! You have exposed my weaknesses as a pundit. I predicted that Green Bay would win the Super Bowl, so beating Seattle in the Clink would be easy. How wrong I was. It is early days but Seattle looked really good. I also listened to the so called fantasy experts who said that Marshawn Lynch would not have a good fantasy season. I even traded Marshawn for Matt Forte and felt guilty about it. I felt guilty because it was a trade offer from a newbie to our fantasy league. Marshawn Lynch is done I thought what a steal! Shows how much I know! I still believe it’s a trade that will work for us both.
Anyway that’s a long winded way of saying I think Seattle are very good and will win this game. Chargers are still a good team and will keep this game close. Last week they lost a very close game to the Cardinals. If it wasn’t for two silly errors late in that game the Chargers would be 1-0.
Of all the games this week Seattle @ San Diego might be the most interesting to watch.
Enjoy the games. Go Raiders!
Tim has been a Raiders fan for over 20 years. He can trace his obsession back to his Auntie from Canada who sent him a Marc Wilson LA Raiders jersey for Christmas in 1985.  He is still bitter about the Tuck Rule Game and spends far too much time worrying about where the Raiders will be playing in 2015. Tim is always happy to discuss football on twitter @raidertim34 (even if you don’t agree with him). He also writes for ukendzone.com. 

Raiders View: The AFC West Week 1 Review

It has been a long wait but Week 1 of the 2014 NFL Season is done. And what a week it was for the AFC West. I did not get the result I wanted from the Raiders Jets game but I got the result I expected. Overall I was 2-2 for my predictions which for the first week of the season is not too bad if I do say so myself. The AFC West stands at 1-3 against the rest of the NFL after week 1.

San Diego Chargers 17 Arizona Cardinals 18

Cardinals 3 point favourite.

Key Fantasy Players: Carson Palmer (21.06) and Philip Rivers (12.52).

I said last week that I thought this game would be the best of the week with plenty of points. When I saw the score this morning my first thought was I’m glad I have condensed on game pass. However I was wrong, this was a good game to watch despite the relatively low score. I should have known that it would be a low scoring game when the commentators, the ever annoying Chris Berman and actually really good Trent Dilfer, discussed how this would be a high scoring game.

First thing that stood out to me was the noise of the Arizona crowd. I have read previously that crowds are quiet at Cardinals games it didn’t seem that way to me.

Both teams were not afraid to fire the ball about the field which made for an entertaining game. There was however a lot of early season rustiness on display. This proved particularly costly for the Chargers on 2 occasions late in the game. With 8 minutes left in the game Philip Rivers missed a shotgun snap stopping a drive and taking them out of field goal range. Then with 1.53 left in the game a delay of game penalty on 4th down did not help their cause.

Overall a great game to watch with 2 teams that I still think will be wildcard teams at the end of the season.

Indianapolis Colts 24 Denver Broncos 31

Broncos 7 point favourite.

Key Fantasy Players: Andrew Luck (26.7) and Peyton Manning (22.46).

It must be good to be a Broncos fan right now. First you see your team go to the Super Bowl last year (okay yes we all know what happened there) then you sign a group of excellent free agents in the off season. If that wasn’t enough your team actually goes and plays well in its first game.

The score line slightly flatters the Colts and exaggerates how entertaining this game actually was. The Broncos seemed to take their foot off the gas after going up 24 – 0 in the 2nd quarter something I’m sure Peyton Manning wouldn’t let happen again.  Full credit to Andrew Luck he did what he does best and brought his team back and never gave up.

I do not think we learnt anything new from this game. Denver is a Super Bowl contender. Indianapolis is a good team with a great quarterback but is not a Super Bowl contender yet.

Tennessee Titans 26 Kansas City Chiefs 10

Chiefs 4 point favourite.

Key Fantasy Players: Jake Locker (20.04) and Jamaal Charles (3.4)

This game was a surprise to absolutely everyone I think. The surprise for me was not that the Chiefs had digressed from last year but how competitive the Titans were.  I feel I may have been overly dismissive of the Titans in my preview. As with every other team time will tell as to how much progress the Titans will make this season.  You can sum up the weirdness of this game by noting that Jamaal Charles had only 3.4 fantasy points (as always using NFL.com fantasy points) and Jake locker had 20.04. I would bet my International Series tickets there were far more people starting Charles than Locker.

The game itself was not a great watch.  The Titans dominated both lines of scrimmage for the majority of the game.

Oakland Raiders 14 NY Jets 19

 

 

Jets 5 point favourite.

Key Fantasy Players: Maurice Jones-Drew (2.30) and Geno Smith (12.64).

Not a great viewing for a Raider fan like me. The Raiders were outcoached and outplayed by the Jets. As I wrote my preview last week the Raiders had not announced who was starting as quarterback. Derek Carr started and played like a rookie. When I say played like I rookie I do not mean that as a complete dismissal of his performance. He had some highs some lows.

He has a quick release and has a strong arm that can really let the ball zip. He also did not make any major mistakes to hurt his team. He threw 2 touchdowns, the second being a thing of beauty to this Raider fan.

His stat line (20 -32 151 yards 2 Touchdowns 94.7 QBR) hide the fact that he quite often looked nervous at the line of scrimmage and when he dropped back as you would expect from a rookie. Carr was not the most worrying aspect of the Raiders game.

25 Yards total rushing! Seriously! I know the Jets have a top tier defensive front but come on. It is disappointing for me especially as the run game, MJD in particular showed promise in the preseason. Many Raider fans and writers have also criticised the conservative play calling on offence.

The defence could not contain the Jets rushing attack.  Geno Smith who is not known as a running quarterback had more yards than the entire Raider team. Chris Ivory’s 71 yard summed up the defence for me. He had time to celebrate with about 40 yards still to go. One of the few defensive highlights for me other than the play of Sio Moore was Charles Woodson’s 1st quarter interception of Geno Smith. It was a thing of beauty. It was not a bad throw just great anticipation and reaction from Woodson.

It was not the start that Raiders fans wanted. I hope things look better next week when we face the Texans. Dennis Allen’s already heated seat did not get any cooler after this performance.

Tim has been a Raiders fan for over 20 years.He can trace his obsession back to his Auntie from Canada who sent him a Marc Wilson LA Raiders jersey for Christmas in 1985.  He is still bitter about the Tuck Rule Game and spends far too much time worrying about where the Raiders will be playing in 2015. Tim is always happy to discuss football on twitter @raidertim34 (even if you don’t agree with him). He also writes for ukendzone.com

“And with the first pick of the 2015 NFL draft…” – Part I

Well it’s finally here! After what must be the longest off-season in the sporting calendar, the new NFL season is about to kick-off. This is traditionally the time of year when optimism in the NFL is probably at its highest point. Legions of fans, desperate for every crumb of information they can digest, have followed all the OTAs, read all the training camp reports, studied the veterans that have been newly recruited via free agency and got the low-down on all the rookies their team has taken in the draft.

Coaches, having added the players they believe are the missing pieces of their master plan, have finished installing the new plays that have been added to the playbook. Players, with all the distractions of contracts and dollars now shelved for the time being, are dreaming of big gold rings.

At the end of the day football is all about the fans, and they, no matter how much of a car-crash last season was, are similarly hoping against hope that their team will make the post-season to fight it out for the big prize.

But every year the season finishes early for a number of teams, who are left with nothing to play for going into November after a series of painful defeats. And one of those sides will find themselves bottom of the pile as the regular season ends, having barley troubled the ‘Win’ column all season long.

At least they’ll have the bonus of the first pick in next years draft and the opportunity to add one the best players in college football to their ranks, players that can make an immediate impact like Quarterback Marcus Mariota of Oregon, Defensive End Leonard Williams of USC or Wide Receiver Tyler Lockett of Kansas State.

So whilst everyone else is busy speculating as to who will win the Super Bowl next year, we thought it would be more fun to have a look at the long-shots for an appearance in Phoenix next February and see who may suck more than the rest.

Here Karl Hofer runs through some of the chief candidates for the NFL’s ‘wooden spoon’ and attempts to unearth the identity of the runt of the pro-football litter.

Jacksonville Jaguars (4-12 in 2013)

Let’s start with the team most people have pencilled-in as finishing dead last in the NFL; the Jacksonville Jaguars. Prior to the 2013 season the Jaguars hired Gus Bradley as their Head Coach. Bradley’s previous role was as coordinator of one of the most talked about groups in football, the Seattle Seahawks defense. Bradley spent 4 years at Seattle with head coach Pete Carroll putting together the great defense that recently snuffed out the offensive juggernaught that is Peyton Manning’s Broncos and lifted the Super Bowl.

The decision to hire Bradley could prove an inspired one. But the Jaguars flaws are obvious, and the problem is they are on the other side of the ball from where Bradley made his name.

The Jaguars already had a Top 10 defense before he arrived, but that didn’t stop Bradley overhauling things to mimic the Seahawks use of the ‘4-3 Over’ formation.

Simply employing an effective system that works well elsewhere does not guarantee success of course, you have to have the players to make it work. And, after a few additions through the draft and free agency, the Jaguars now do for the most part.

Bradley went back to Seattle to pick up Red Bryant to be that important 5 technique/2 gap anchorman needed for this system, thus freeing up Sen’Derrick Marks and Roy Miller to make plays on the inside. They also recruited Chris Clemons from Seattle to play the important ‘Leo’ role splitting time with Jason Babin to complete an impressive defensive line.

Paul Posluszny is the standout from a linebacker corps that does need improving, although they added some athleticism in the draft with Telvin Smith coming in.

The Jags secondary is a fluid and young crop of talented players that includes John Cyprien, Josh Evans, Dwayne Gratz and Winston Guy. All are still learning their trade but experience is there in the form of cornerback and captain Alan Ball. Many of these players can switch between cornerback and safety, and because of that flexibility coaches are able to get creative in how they line them up.

No doubt the Jaguars have a defense that will keep them competitive in games and is likely to continue to improve as the younger players develop.

The problem is the Jags will somehow need to score some points if they are to win any games. They have won only 11 over the past 3 seasons and if they are to improve on their total of 4 wins from last season they will need to perform significantly better on offense.

The Blaine Gabbert era is over at QB. Drafted 10th overall in 2011, Gabbert never got going in Jacksonville and a fresh start in San Francisco was the best option for both parties.

Former Dolphin Chad Henne is not the long term answer, but he finished last season with a 4-4 record and will hopefully buy some time for the Jags to develop the 3rd overall pick from the recent draft, Blake Bortles.

Lessons need to be learnt from Gabbert’s time in Jacksonville, meaning Bortles should to be kept off the field until the Jags can put together something that resembles an offensive line to protect him. Pro Football Focus (rather generously) had them ranked 31st of the 32 teams in 2013 in terms of OL performance. They have since added pro bowl guard Zane Beadles who will make a big difference. Luke Joeckel, a former 1st round pick, returns from injury to add more talent and they added right guard Brandon Linder in the draft in the hope he will be able to start right away. But as Bortles is likely to figure sooner rather than later after impressing in pre-season a lot will depend on how this group performs.

Elsewhere Mercedes Lewis is a decent Tight End but there’s little else behind him at that position.

What happens at wide receiver will be interesting to watch in Jacksonville. Justin Blackmon has been suspended by the NFL for his continued substance abuse. That leaves Cecil Shorts, who is recovering from a hernia injury, and second year playmaker Ace Sanders who impressed at times last season.  They did use the draft to bolster this group, picking up both Allen Robinson and the talented Marquise Lee, and they both will almost certainly be pressed into action this season.

The heavily relied upon running back Maurice Jones-Drew has joined the Oakland Raiders after eight years in Jacksonville. The departure of the three time pro-bowler means new acquisition Toby Gerhart will take the predicted heavy load of this offense in 2014, spelled occasionally by late round draft pick Storm Johnson.

All of which means a rather fragile offense will have to over-perform if the Jags are to bother the win column more than the 4 times they did last year. But with improved play from their defense they may not need to score too many to do that and playing in that weak AFC South division will also help.

Prediction: 6-10

Oakland Raiders (4-12 in 2013)

Some teams need to improve their offense, other teams need to focus on a broken defense. And then there’re the teams who don’t know where to begin; meet The Raiders.

The Raiders had three different starting quarterbacks last year with Terrelle Pryor, Matt Flynn and Matt McGloin, but they will have a different starter for the 2014 season with rookie Derek Carr surprisingly beating out Matt Schaub as the main man for the week one trip to Rex Ryan’s New York Jets.

Schaub may hold every passing record in Texans history but he played poorly last year, no two ways about it. In eight starts Schaub threw 14 interceptions – including an alarming run of pick-sixes in four straight games (an NFL record) at the start of the season – and only 10 touchdowns before suffering the indignity of getting benched.

Yes, it’s true that Schaub was a pro-bowler as recently as 2012, and he did have a problem with his ankle to contend with, but at the age of 33 the danger is he could be on an irreversible slide. Presumably the plan was to develop second round pick Carr behind Schaub, but with the Fresno State man winning the starting job Schaub’s slide may have just hit rock bottom.

The Raiders won just one road game all of last season, and Schaub was involved in that as it was against the Houston Texans, who finished with the worst record in football at 2-14 (more on them in part II). In that game Matt McGloin tore up the Texans secondary in his first NFL start throwing for three touchdowns. In response Case Keenum was doing OK for Houston but head coach Gary Kubiak, looking for a spark to ignite his stuttering offense, decided to bring in the more experienced Schaub in the 3rd quarter with underwhelming results and the Raiders held on for a 28-23 victory.

Luckily the Oakland offensive revamp went a lot further than just adding Schaub, with the additions of right tackle Austin Howard, running back Maurice Jones-Drew and wide receiver James Jones also. Jones-Drew is a three time Pro-Bowler while former Packer Jones is a Super Bowl winner. These guys were brought in to lift the Raiders offense and turn it into one of the NFL’s better performing units (for a change).

The Raiders have added a few pieces to their defense through free agency also, namely defensive tackle Antonio Smith, defensive end Justin Tuck and outside linebacker Lamarr Woodley, among others.

By adding these veterans the Raiders are building their defense through the trenches and hoping for significant strides forward after another year ranking in the bottom 10 defenses in the league for points against – the ninth time in the past eleven years they’ve languished down there.

They also picked up linebacker Khalil Mack with the 5th overall pick in the draft and big things are expected of him. Mack was the first of six defensive players picked up in the draft by the Raiders. No question, Oakland’s new recruits will have to hit the ground running if the predictions of new arrival Woodley that the Raiders are a playoff team are to come true.

Perhaps he should’ve taken a longer look at their schedule before making that bold statement. If he had he would have seen they face the Broncos twice, the Chiefs twice, the Chargers twice, the Seahawks, the 49ers, the Patriots, the Cardinals, the Rams, the Jets, the Bills, the Texans, the Dolphins and the Browns.

That’s a staggering 9 games against last season’s playoff teams plus a game against the 10 win Cardinals who just missed out. Sadly for the Raiders, despite the new faces and the depth that’s been missing for so long, this is the toughest schedule in football next season.

Yeah, there are some winnable games in there too, but no more than six, tops.

Prediction: 6-10

Buffalo Bills (6-10 in 2013)

The winds of change are swirling around Buffalo and the Bills enter their second year under head coach Doug Marrone with hopes of a playoff push and bettering their 6-10 record from 2013.

But while these changes have led to a rare sense of genuine optimism among Bills fans the upcoming season could yet be a problematic one, and change, while often needed, isn’t always good.

For a start the Bills lost their defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, the brains behind their defensive success last year, who left to become head coach of Cleveland. Under Pettine in 2013 the Bills defense finished second in the NFL in both sacks (57) and interceptions (23). True, they did have major problems stopping the run but a fierce pass rush made up for that for the most part.

In Pettine’s place they added former Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz and they have also made several high profile additions to their roster, not least linebackers Brandon Spikes and Keith Rivers.

This means an overhaul for the Bills linebacking corps as they move to a 4-3 scheme with Spikes in the middle and Rivers on the outside. Kiko Alonso was set to move to the outside, weak-side linebacker position but a torn ACL has put pay to his 2014 season, which is a blow.

Spikes isn’t the only ex-Patriot to arrive in Buffalo this offseason; defensive line coach Pepper Johnson will bring his New England know-how with him also.

He’s got a job on his hands however as defensive linemen Marcell Dareus and Jerry Hughes, both standouts last year, will be busy helping local law enforcement officers with their enquiries. The pair were racing their sports cars around the roads of New York state post season when Dareus crashed into a tree.

All of the above, coupled with the loss of Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd, means Buffalo’s defense – their main strength in 2013 remember – will be a very different unit next time around.

Certainly Schwartz has his work cut out for him if he is to confuse opponents as much as Buffalo did when Mike Pettine was calling the shots.

On offense a lot will hinge on second year QB EJ Manuel. Manuel had a very frustrating rookie season in 2013 struggling with injury and inconsistency all year long. This year Manuel, already named as starter by Marrone, has an improved group of receivers at his disposal, including 1st round draft choice Sammy Watkins of course.

But the biggest asset in his development may well be running back duo Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller. The Bills love to run the football – in 2013 they led the league with 546 rush attempts and their rushing attack was ranked second with 2,307 yards – so expect them to turn to C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson early and often.

If Manuel is to step up to the level of franchise quarterback then a solid running game will help take some of the pressure off his young shoulders. The problem for Manuel could be keeping his head on those young shoulders as the Bills’ biggest weakness is its interior offensive line – Improved play there is a must.

The theme of change continues unabated when we look at the Bills draft strategy, which was under general manager Doug Whaley’s stewardship for the first time in 2014.

The Bills made seven selections in this year’s draft and did a decent job of addressing areas of need and adding depth. The Bills filled their biggest holes by adding potential starters at wide receiver, right tackle and left guard. Whaley wheeled and dealed with a clear focus on the present and a playoff push, and whilst this may have energized the fanbase somewhat it also has the potential to blow up in his face.

The passing of owner and founder Ralph Wilson left a huge cloud of uncertainty hanging over the team. Rumours of relocation are a serious concern as a group from Toronto, led by Jon Bon Jovi, are the leading protagonists when it comes to purchasing the franchise.

All the changes to what was already a good defense, the questions at QB, the over-reliance on rookies and the uncertainty over the teams ownership and future mean Buffalo will be Living on a Prayer yet again sadly.

There will be an improvement, not least because of a favourable schedule, but it won’t be the kind of improvement the fans will be hoping for.

Prediction 7-9

Dallas Cowboys (8-8 in 2013)

On the face of it Dallas shouldn’t be featured in this article at all. But the Cowboys, a perennial .500 team going 8-8 each of the last three years, are on the precipice of disaster potentially, and here’s why…

Their defense is plain awful. It was staggeringly bad last year, not only the worst in the league but the third worst in the history of the league.

The Cowboys have naturally taken steps to address this problem; they added former Pro Bowl defensive tackle Henry Melton, defensive tackle Terrell McClain and defensive end Jeremy Mincey in free agency, drafted defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence and have 2012 second-round pick Tyrone Crawford, who tore his Achilles tendon and missed all of last season, back from injury.

But they also lost their pass rush with DeMarcus Ware (6 sacks) heading to Denver and Jason Hatcher (11 sacks) going to division rivals the Redskins – and then to compound matters talented inside linebacker Sean Lee tore his ACL on the opening day of organised team activities ruling him out for the 2014 season.

So you could say ‘three steps forward and three steps back’ as far as personnel on the defense goes, and that doesn’t bode well for massive improvements in 2014. We may even see an appearance from Michael Sam at some point if they promote him from the practice squad (and they could do a lot worse!).

But ‘so what?’ I hear you cry, after all, they were only one game away from winning their division last season (again) – and that was with an historically atrocious defense.

Well, having such a bed defense puts serious pressure on the offense and, of course, quarterback Tony Romo.

So, can the offense handle it? Well Romo threw 31 touchdown passes and was only intercepted 10 times last year. DeMarco Murray had his first 1,000-yard season and went to the Pro Bowl. Other shining lights Dez Bryant, Tyron Smith and Jason Witten also went to the Pro Bowl as well.

In the soap opera that is Dallas it is not head coach Jason Garrett who will be calling the plays next year, nor is it offensive coordinator Bill Callahan, it’s passing game coordinator Scott Linehan who’s running the offense. And Linehan has a dazzling arsenal at his disposal.

Everyone talks about Chip Kelly’s excellent offense in Philadelphia but the Cowboys only scored 3 points less than the Eagles last season.

I’m a firm believer in teams investing big in their offensive line and the Cowboys’ top pick this year was offensive tackle Zack Martin who becomes the third first-round pick on that line and will be a starter from day-one.

And it’s a good job for Dallas they have invested so much in protecting their quarterback, because everything – and I mean EVERYTHING – hinges on Tony Romo staying healthy.

It is feasible, if not quite likely, that the 34 year-old Romo is past his peak and his recovery from back surgery on a herniated intervertebral disc may accelerate his decline.

The surgery ended Romo’s season prematurely, preventing him from playing in the regular season finale loss to the Eagles that decided the NFC East champion.

A quarterback relies on their back more than perhaps any other position in the NFL, with constant twists, turns, ducks and dives, not to mention the action of throwing the ball. Romo put his back through all of that in training camp and some brief pre-season drives but it won’t be until the first games of the regular season that he’ll be a walking target for defensive lineman and linebackers to take shots at.

Romo could be one hit away from an extended period on the sidelines. That’s true of all quarterbacks of course, but more so in the case of Romo.

All of which puts increased importance on the role of backup quarterback, and in this case that’s former Cleveland Brown Brandon Weeden. Yeah, that’s what I thought…

And all was not perfect last year with Romo at the helm anyway. On third-down plays the offense was awful. They also had problems staying on the field for spells, especially at key times and the Cowboys did not run the ball enough when they had leads in games, like in the Green Bay game.

The Dallas defense looks so rotten that the Cowboys and Romo will be forced to play from behind and throw the ball a lot. If Romo is having issues with his back that impact on his ability to pass the ball as smoothly as usual then another 8-8 finish may be the stuff of dreams.

The key to beating Dallas is to get to Romo, everyone will know that and will be plotting ways to overrun and confuse his protection. To expect Romo to remain unscathed for a full season is optimism in the extreme.

And if he is out for an extended time with injury at any point then it’s unlikely Weeden can inspire the offense to the 30-odd points they are likely to need to win a game.

Prediction: Somewhere between 6-10 (with Romo) and 3-13 (without Romo).

Coming Soon: Part II

This OTI Piece was written by Karl Hofer. Karl is a Londoner now living in Ireland who has been obsessed with the Washington Redskins for over 30 years. A publisher by trade, he also supports Celtic & Chelsea and writes for a retro football site called www.BobbyFC.com. Catch him on twitter: @KGHof

Raiders View: The AFC West – Week 1

 

Raiders View: The AFC West – Week 1

Here we go! Week 1 of the 2014 NFL season is finally here. I know I am biased but I think the AFC West is going to be one of the strongest divisions in the NFL this season. My weekly previews will be written from a fans point of view. I will be writing about what I will watch out for and any fantasy implications that I can see. As I see it the AFC West this week has 3 good games and the Titans @ Chiefs, sorry Titans and Chiefs fans.

San Diego Chargers @ Arizona Cardinals

Cardinals 3 point favourite.

Key Fantasy Players: Carson Palmer and Philip Rivers.

This could be the best game of the week. With good reason this game has been chosen as the second game of the Monday night double header. There are 2 fantastic offenses on the field here, playmakers all over the field; Larry Fitzgerald, Keenan Allen, Malcolm Floyd to name but a few. As a neutral I am really looking forward to this game.

I really like Chargers and Cardinals this year and have both teams as wildcards in their respective conferences.  For this game I think Philip Rivers will start his season as he means to go on. This will be a high scoring encounter with Chargers winning.

Indianapolis Colts @ Denver Broncos

Broncos 7 point favourite.

Key Fantasy Players: Andrew Luck and Peyton Manning.

This is being billed as the old generation quarterback versus the new generation quarterback. This game is going to be a showcase for sublime quarterback play. It is not however going to be a close game. I had earlier in the summer thought the Colts might be my dark horse pick for the Super Bowl when discussing this with my former quarterback Simon “the Original Red Rifle” Williams . Then the more research I did the more I saw the gaps in the team. They have the quarterback but they haven’t got the weapons on offence or the defence that the Broncos do. NFL.com predicts Peyton to have 23.26 fantasy points this week. I am still unsure as to start Andrew Luck or Jay Cutler this week. NFL.com has Luck at a ridiculously high 23.68 which is more than they estimate for Peyton Manning.

Denver will over power Indianapolis just as they did Baltimore in the season opener last year.

 Tennessee Titans @ Kansas City Chiefs

Chiefs 4 point favourite.

Key Fantasy Players: Jake Locker? and Jamaal Charles

I’m sorry but the Titans are the least exciting team in the NFL. What is there to get excited about? Another year of Jake Locker? The Titans are a team without an identity. I am a jersey obsessive and believe that you can tell a lot about a team by its fans jerseys. A quick look on NFLUK store told me that of the 3 Titans jerseys sold 1 was for an Offensive lineman. Titans fans I feel your pain as a Raider fan we haven’t really had a “jersey player” for a few years.

Anyway this game should be a breeze for the Chiefs. Tennessee had the 22nd rated defence last year and in Jamal Charles the Chiefs have the best running back in the league. This will be a big fantasy game for Jamaal Charles. NFL.com have Charles at a predicted 16.70 fantasy points. I checked my fantasy league and I am afraid to say there is not a single Titan player on any of the teams (starting or bench).

This game will be an easy Chiefs win with Kansas City riding Jamaal Charles all the way home.

Oakland Raiders @ NY Jets

Jets 5 point favourite.

Key Fantasy Players: Maurice Jones-Drew and Geno Smith.

#starttheCarr.

Jets and Raiders fans have a lot in common. These are 2 franchises looking for an identity.As I write this on Monday night the Raiders have yet to announce their starting quarterback for this game. The American Medias belief is that Derek Carr earned the start after his superb showing in the final preseason game against Seattle. The path the Raiders season takes will depend on who they decide to start. If Reggie McKenzie sticks to the original plan of starting Matt Schaub then it’s a long season of losses and booing from a dwindling home support. If they start Derek Carr then there will be an entirely different energy from both the team and the fans.

I will be interested to see if Khalil Mack continues the development he showed through the preseason. Against the Seahawks although Mack did not trouble the statistician in any way his disruptive play allowed others to flourish.

Having said all that the Jets have a stronger all round team despite their own question marks at quarterback. Geno Smith is a much maligned quarterback, bringing in Mike Vick certainly has not had a stabilising effect on Smith. I am currently reading the excellent Collision Low Crossers by Nicholas Dawidoff   thus I have a soft spot for Rex Ryan and the Jets.

Jets and Raiders fans have a lot in common. These are 2 franchises looking for an identity and a solid starter at quarterback.

This game is a tough one for me to call but in a close game I see the Jets getting their first win of the season.

Enjoy the games.

This OTI Piece was written by Tim Morris. Tim has been a Raiders fan for over 20 years.He can trace his obsession back to his Auntie from Canada who sent him a Marc Wilson LA Raiders jersey for Christmas in 1985.  He is still bitter about the Tuck Rule Game and spends far too much time worrying about where the Raiders will be playing in 2015. Tim is always happy to discuss football on twitter @raidertim34 (even if you don’t agree with him). He also writes for ukendzone.com

The Brod View: AFC Preview

The Brod View: AFC Preview

The Brod View has returned to Overtime Ireland, something that is probably as well received as a Brett Favre comeback. In this edition, I shall preview all eight divisions and give predictions on who will get through to the playoffs. Whilst Super Bowl predictions are fun, it is too difficult to predict an outright winner straight away. Although, with that being said, the last Super Bowl winners Seattle Seahawks and losers Denver Broncos, were amongst the top five favourites to make the big game last season. These two teams are once again considered amongst the favourites to participate in Super Bowl XLIX in Arizona come February.

Here is the AFC preview.

AFC EAST

Last Year: 1st New England Patriots (AFC Championship game) 2nd New York Jets 3rd Miami Dolphins 4TH Buffalo Bills

Normal service is more than likely to resume in the AFC East with the New England Patriots looking set to comfortably top this division. Of course the entire team hinges on future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady, because if he does get injured then the entire division will be up for grabs. There really are no major concerns for the Patriots, but Brady would love to see a receiver that can be explosive and dynamic other than tight end Rob Gronkowski.

The rest of the division is literally a toss up to see who will end up with the best record. Neither of these teams are good enough to surpass 8-8; although 8-8 was nearly good enough to secure a playoff spot last season. The Dolphins look the most likely to finish second this time out. A new offensive coordinator in Bill Lazor should help maximise their offense’s potential. However a weak offensive line and a poor defense (other than superstar cornerback Brent Grimes) could spell problems for the Florida team.

The New York Jets have made some reasonable improvements to offense. Wide receiver Eric Decker and running back Chris Johnson should offer some options to second year QB Geno Smith. Head coach Rex Ryan can definitely implement a hard hitting defense and a strong defensive line needs to really perform at an elite level again this year to compensate for a weak secondary.

The Bills have also got a talented roster but QB EJ Manuel doesn’t look like an NFL starter. To make matters worse, last year’s star rookie linebacker Kiko Alonso is out for the entire season and safety Jairus Byrd has gone to New Orleans. These sort of losses will not help the Bills progress this season at all, especially when you consider that defense is an important part of their game.

PREDICTION: 1ST New England Patriots 2nd Miami Dolphins 3rd New York Jets 4th Buffalo Bills

AFC NORTH

Last Year: 1st Cincinnati Bengals (Wildcard) 2nd Pittsburgh Steelers 3rd Baltimore Ravens 4th Cleveland Browns

Apart from the Cleveland Browns, this division is up for grabs for the remaining three teams. Last year’s winners Cincinnati Bengals have a good chance of retaining their divisional championship and reaching the playoffs for the fourth consecutive year. Despite Andy Dalton’s inconsistencies, he has a wide range of weapons from AJ Green and Marvin Jones as recieverss to a backfield consisting of Giovani Bernard and rookie Jeremy Hill. They also have a top ten defense which can only help their cause.

Six time Super Bowl winners Pittsburgh Steelers may have an ageing defense, but rookie Ryan Shazier has the potential to rejuvenate the defense. The Steelers will be relying heavily on their offense, but with Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell (providing that his recent antics won’t get him suspended any time soon) emerging as top talents last season—the Steelers could be winning the AFC North.

The Ravens are slight outsiders in this three horse race but could still end up winning the AFC North. Yet General Manager Ozzie Newsome has drafted three talented rookies (LB CJ Mosley, DT Timmy Jernigan and S Terrence Brooks) to make the Ravens defense look incredibly strong. They will have problems on offense though; a bad run game, average options at receiving positions and a poor O-line, could spell another 8-8 season.

The Browns have some very talented players but will have huge issues this season. With superstar WR Josh Gordon suspended, Miles Austin has become the new number one receiver. Moreover, first round pick Johnny Manziel has looked awful in preseason, leaving the underwhelming Brian Hoyer as their starting QB. They do have a decent defense and Justin Gilbert looks an exciting prospect, but another losing season looks likely for Cleveland—which is a great shame considering they were looking good back in Spring.

PREDICTION: 1ST Pittsburgh Steelers 2nd Cincinnati Bengals (WILDCARD) 3rd Baltimore Ravens 4th Cleveland Browns

AFC SOUTH

Last Year: 1st Indianapolis Colts (Divisional) 2nd Tennessee Titans 3rd Jacksonville Jaguars 4th Houston Texans

The Indianapolis Colts have a free ride to the playoffs. Unless something tragic happened to QB Andrew Luck then the AFC South title is pretty much guaranteed to stay at the Lucas Oil Stadium. Ironically, the Colts don’t really have an outstanding team, despite many pundits believing that they could make a run for the Super Bowl. They have a poor run game, TY Hilton is the only real consistent and injury-free receiver they have on offense. Meanwhile, in defense they have no real superstar talents other than veteran LB Robert Mathis and CB Vontae Davis. It’s a good team, but they would struggle to get wins in the double digits if they were in a stronger division.

London’s favourite team, the Jacksonville Jaguars are aiming a lot higher this year, and they could be dark horses for the playoffs. Rookie QB Blake Bortles has arguably been the better of the three first round QBs from the draft this preseason, and head coach Gus Bradley has got a team busting full of young talents. Maybe they are a bit too young, but looking with what the Seahawks have done last year, that might be a blessing in disguise.

Houston’s problems lay at quarterback. They have Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Mallett, Case Keenum and rookie Tom Savage are all options for new head coach Bill O’Brien, but he will probably be hoping to draft a different QB come Spring. Apart from that the Texans do have a talented roster—who isn’t excited to see JJ Watt and Jadaveon Clowney blitz the hell out of offenses? But QB issues will be a massive problem and could prevent them from making the playoffs, or worse, making .500.

The Tennessee Titans are probably the least exciting side in the entire NFL. They may have finished second last season, but that’s only because Houston had a shocking season and Jacksonville had an awful start. A strong offensive line will help out QB Jake Locker (or Zach Mettenberger) and Kendall Wright is a decent weapon to have, but that’s not a lot considering how many teams in the AFC have good defenses. The Titans are destined to regress and could end up drafting the first pick in 2015.

PREDICTIONS: 1ST Indianapolis Colts 2nd Jacksonville Jaguars 3rd Houston Texans 4th Tennessee Titans

AFC WEST

Last year: 1st Denver Broncos (AFC Champion) 2nd Kansas City Chiefs (Wildcard) 3rd San Diego Chargers (Divisional) 4th Oakland Raiders

The Denver Broncos have the strongest team in the conference for the second year running. Peyton Manning might not be able to have the record breaking season like last year, but it will be pretty close. His weapons are vast in comparison to many teams in the NFL with Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Julius Thomas and Wes Welker to name a few. The defense has improved too with new recruits TJ Ward and Aqib Talib. Needless to say, GM John Elway has secured their divisional title.

San Diego have a good chance of making the playoffs once again. Lead by a resurgent Philip Rivers and the best rookie receiver last season in Keenan Allen, the Chargers offense can deliver good results. Their defense does need some work but signing veteran LB Donald Butler and drafting CB Jason Verrett will help address some of their issues. San Diego are a team that is improving and by making these right moves they could make the playoffs again, but with an even better record.

Unlike their Californian rivals, the Kansas City chiefs have serious issues on offense. Alex Smith is an underrated quarterback, whose life has been made difficult by the lack of options other than running back Jamaal Charles. They will rely on a defense that has three good linebackers in Tamba Hali, Justin Houston and Derrick Johnson doing most of the damage. The record of 11-5 will be too much for them to achieve again, but if their defense lives up to last year’s performances then they could potentially make a bid for the last playoff spot.

GM Reggie McKenzie has done some really unremarkable pieces of business over the offseason. Signing QB Matt Schaub, LT Donald Penn and WR James Jones to help their offense isn’t exactly fantastic considering they didn’t really have salary cap issues. With that being said, second round pick Derek Carr will challenge for Schaub’s role as starting QB and linebacker Khalil Mack could have the potential to improve their defense. Oakland are going to finish bottom of the division, but they are making some decent, if uninspiring moves. That could help them achieve a better record in 2014.

PREDICTION: 1ST Denver Broncos 2nd San Diego Chargers (Wildcard) 3rd Kansas City Chiefs 4th Oakland Raiders

This OTI Piece was written by Broderick Sutherland. Brod is from Bath, UK and is a massive New York Giants fan. He has recently started a blog that covers a variety of sports called “Armchair Analyst” and he also writes European football topics for our friends at lastwordonsports.com. He also supports Manchester City and Celtic football clubs. Follow him @BrodSutherland . And visit his armchairanalystblog.wordpress.com .

Preseason Power Rankings: Week 4

Preseason Power Rankings: Week 4

32 (32) – Oakland Raiders

In the preseason, Derek Carr looked like he is ready to start. With Matt Schaub not entirely healthy, I think it would definitely be the right decision to start him right away.

31 (31) – Minnesota Vikings

Teddy Bridgewater had a very solid preseason. I don’t think he’ll be sitting for too long.

30 (30) – Jacksonville Jaguars

Blake Bortles has shown throughout the preseason without a hitch that he should be given the chance to prove to the Jaguars that he’s their franchise quarterback. Despite his outstanding performance, Gus Bradley will still probably bring him up slowly and methodically, just like Russell Wilson from his days in Seattle, although he started Week 1.

29 (29) – Buffalo Bills

Sammy Watkins looked like he re-injured his ribs, but luckily came out of the game just fine, as the teams says. EJ Manuel hasn’t had the most encouraging preseason, so having a healthy Watkins is vital to avoid regression in his progress. They don’t really have any other weapons to do that job.

28 (28) – Cleveland Browns

Johnny Manziel was loads better against the Bears. He made much better throws, used is legs at the right time, and made good decisions. They Browns will put him in the second Brian Hoyer struggles. There should be a Johnny Benchwarmer for much longer.

27 (27) -Tennessee Titans

Zach Mettenberger made plenty of rookie mistakes this preseason. Ken Wisenhunt better think hard about moving on from Jake Locker if it comes to that.

26 (26) – New York Giants

You’d think the offense would be better by now, after five games, but it’s not. The receivers are still out of sync with Eli Manning, and guess what? The next game counts.

25 (24) – St. Louis Rams

The backup quarterback for this season, Austin Davis, was okay in the extra time he had in the final preseason game… against backups. The Rams are already down one quarterback, so if Davis has to come in during the regular season their up a creek anyway.

24 (25) – Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins may have to rely on a handful of rookies this season. There two who impressed me in the preseason: Jarvis Landry and Anthony Johnson. Landry made plenty of plays off shirt passes and in the slot, and he gives the receiving core some nice depth. Plus, he should be helpful on kick and punt returns. Johnson is a good rotational piece to the defensive line, the strongest part of their defense. He displayed good ability to get into to the backfield and attack the quarterback.

23 (23) – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Bucs were one of the teams that had very few starters in the game, and the backups didn’t shine. On to the regular season…

22 (22) – Houston Texans

Third year outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus has had a very good young career thus far and kept it rolling strong with a very solid preseason. This defense has so many good pieces and can be a top-10 defense this year.

21 (21) – Dallas Cowboys

The defensive line gave up a ton of very easy runs right up the middle. Just another worry for this defense.

20 (20) – Washington Redskins

Colt McCoy was fine in the full preseason game he played against the Buccaneers, Maybe it’s okay for the Redskins to trade Kirk Cousins, if they get the right deal. One eye-popper from the preseason is rookie wide receiver Ryan Grant. He should be a nice piece for this offense.

19 (19) – Baltimore Ravens

There’s only one thing to make of the last preseason game when nearly all of the key starters were sitting: sometimes kicker Justin Tucker is the star of this team.

18 (18) – Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons haven’t really had a solid option at backup quarterback for a while. The final preseason game was pretty much the audition for the job. TJ Yates had a strong game and looked more comfortable with the team, while Sean Renfree has shown some young promise. At this point they can’t go wrong with either guy, but keeping Yates on the 53-man roster shows that for the meantime he could be the second string quarterback.

17 (17) – Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles very much outplayed the Jets in the final preseason game. It’s great to see the coaches get everyone going like that, and I wouldn’t expect anything less from Chip Kelly.

16 (16) – Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers sat a lot of starters in the last preseason game against the Panthers and didn’t get anything special out of the backups. That showed us they don’t have such a deep roster, but we knew that already.

15 (15) – New York Jets

The Jets released Dimitri Patterson. Now their cornerback situation is very gloomy with Dee Milliner recovering from a high-ankle sprain and rookie Dexter McDougle out for the season with a torn ACL. The backups, who will get a lot of playing time, didn’t look so good in the fourth preseason game. It’s experiment time for Rex Ryan.

14 (14) – Detroit Lions

One advantage of sitting a lot of starters and putting the backups in the spotlight is to see who steps up and how strong those units are. The Lions’ backups had an excellent game and showed that they can step in and help out if they need to.

13 (13) – Carolina Panthers

The defense didn’t play against Ben Roethlisberger in the game against the Steelers, but a shutout on any level is still impressive. The string defense will have to carry this team through the season.

12 (12) – San Diego Chargers

The very last preseason game of 2014 was a game of field goals. Not much to see here.

11 (11) – Chicago Bears

The backup defense got eaten up by the Browns. They have plenty of old players on defense and had plenty of injuries on that side of the ball last year, so this could be problematic.

10 (10) – Arizona Cardinals

See Chargers.

9 (9) – Indianapolis Colts

The Colts special teams in the fourth preseason game was terrible. You would expect the players trying to make the roster step up and make some plays, but instead had bad pursuit and tackling — sometimes on defense as well. Hopefully the starters are coached better in the regular season.

8 (8) – Kansas City Chiefs

The performance of the backups left me worried. The Chiefs have a couple of positions at which they’re a little thin, so an injury bug this season could be deadly.

7 (7) – San Francisco 49ers

It’s sad that the backup quarterbacks made the offense look much better in the last preseason game then did Colin Kaepernick in the first three.

6 (6) – Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals made running back Benjarvis Green-Ellis one of their final cuts, which leaves room for rookie running back Jeremy Hill to step in. Hill was excellent in the final preseason game; he was able to make big plays and get good chunks of yards running up the middle. The dynamic and young backfield of he and Giovani Bernard is exactly what offensive coordinator Hue Jackson wants, and it should set him up for many years.

5 (5) – New Orleans Saints

Luke McCown had a decent preseason. The Saints could still stay on track of Brees were to miss a few games due to his oblique.

4 (4) – Green Bay Packers

Mike McCarthy should be happy with what he saw in the final preseason game. Their backup offense torched the opposition’s backup defense. If the Packers were to find themselves in a situation similar to last year, where backups had to step up due to injuries, barring another Aaron Rodgers injury, obviously, they should be just fine.

3 (3) – Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks probably had the best preseason of any team in the league, but now it’s time to defend a championship.

2 (2) – New England Patriots

Rookie quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo had an entire game for himself. He made his fair share of rookie mistakes, but he still showed promise. Tom Brady has been a durable QB on his career, so Garoppolo likely won’t be thrown into the heat.

1 (1) – Denver Broncos

Rookie wide receiver Cody Latimer had a pretty good preseason, headlined by last game against the Cowboys. Eric Decker, who?

Eli was born and raised in Silver Spring, Maryland. Naturally, he is a fan of America’s real Team, the Washington Redskins. Eli is a big fan of every American sport but the NFL is his favourite. He has strong opinions on many topics and therefore started to write about them. Every week, Eli writes a NFL power rankings article for OTI and “Bookie’s playbook” , where he breaks down different teams’ plays, formations, etc. You can always find his opinions and his shenanigans on Twitter @Ebookstaber. He welcomes any comments and feedback.

QB Focus with the Quarterback Sneak

QB Focus with the Quarterback Sneak

Welcome one and all to this new segment on the OTI website, solely dedicated to the most important people on the field. The Quarterback’s. During the season here at OTI I will give you the stats and numbers and rate the Quarterback’s that take to the field each week. Highlighting the touchdown plays and the pick sixes. This week I will focus on the new signal callers in the league and when we can expect to see them.

Rookie Quarterback Review

Johnny Manziel

It seems incredible that after all the hype surrounding “Johnny Football” throughout the entire offseason, he would start on the sidelines holding a clipboard, watching Hoyer out on the field. However, following training camp and after three pre season games, this is exactly what Head Coach of the Browns, Mike Pettine, has decided to do. Whilst earlier in the pre season he dropped the idea that Hoyer would be the starter, many in the footballing world believed that once training camp was over and pre season started, Manziel would be able to let his talent show. With Hoyer having little experience himself, it’s not like Manziel was competing with a ten year veteran, however it seems that the regular season has come too soon.

Both Hoyer and Manziel have struggled in the three pre season games so far, with Cleveland’s first touchdown from their first string coming against the Rams in pre season game 3. It isn’t Hoyer’s playmaking that has outshone Manziel, but better understanding of the playbook. Coming from a very simplified offense at Texas A and M, the Browns offense is much more complicated and others players are having to complete play calls inside the huddle when Manziel has been struggling. Cynics may point to Johnny Football’s off field shenanigans as to a reason he is underprepared but being the face of an organization, making them relevant and exciting, comes with its own pressures.

With the Browns starting fixtures playing away at Pittsburgh and hosting New Orleans and then the Baltimore Ravens, it makes sense to hold back Manziel until he is better prepared. With the bye week following I would feel confident we will see Manziel at some capacity in week 5.

Whilst Manziel is raw and has alot to learn, this is more than just a footballing decision. The fans want to see Manziel, the rest of the league wants to see Manziel and the best place to learn is on the football field.

Teddy Bridgewater

Bridgewater had a turbulent off season after failing to impress at his pro day. Viewed as the top ranked QB by many prior to his pro day, he almost fell out of the first round altogether, falling down the draft until picked at 32 by Minnesota. Since his arrivival at the Vikings camp, all we have heard from Norv Tuner is his excellent work ethic and how well he is picking up the offense. Whilst struggling in his first pre season game and being outplayed by Matt Cassel, he has gradually improved through the next two.  Feeling more settled and calm in the pocket, Bridgewater was able to land the game winning touchdown against the Cardinals with 18 seconds left on the clock. In Pre season game three, after entering in the third quarter he was able to secure two more touchdown throws, both to Tight end Allen Reisner. Whilst Bridgewater has improved and is looking more like the talent we saw at the Louisville Cardinals, the Vikings won’t rush to start him when Cassel is playing so well. Cassel has proven to be reliable during his career and spending time at the heel of Tom Brady, has had some effect. With Bridgewater in the wings ready to play when Cassel eventually has his blip, Bridgewater can taking his place as the Franchise QB. With a difficult start to the season we could expect to see him mid October.

Blake Bortles

Although picking Bortles at no.3, Jacksonville made the announcement that they were going to red shirt him. They were prepared for him to sit out the season and play behind Chad Henne, giving the player time to study the playbook and prepare him properly for the role as Franchise quarterback. However, whilst Chad Henne hasn’t played badly this pre season, Blake Bortles has been impressive. Through the 3 pre season games that have been played so far, Pro football focus have Bortles leading the league in QB rating and accuracy percentage. Making smart, deep throws, his agility, accuracy and arm strength are bringing comparisons to Ben Roethlisburger. With Henne under center, the Jaguars know their ceiling. They experienced it last year. Bortles is a new prospect and something to get excited about. So whilst Henne will start at QB, Bortles will be playing at some point and has the potential to be the Franchise QB every team wants.

Derek Carr

Derek Carr is one man who seems destined to take over the reigns in Oakland sooner rather then later. This is more down to the fact he is back up to Matt Schaub who upped sticks and moved to Oakland form Houston this off season.  Following a run of pick sixes last year, Schaub’s confidence has to be at an all time low. In pre season so far, Schaub has again looked shaky. Derek Carr has impressed coming off the bench but had to leave the game against the Detroit Lions with an apparent rib injury and concussion. His physical attributes and noticeable arm strength shine when compared to Schaub, who’s inability to throw the deep ball is now being picked up on by defense’s up and down the country. In fact, it was probably half the reason he was picked off with such regularity last season. Defenders anticipating short or intermediate passes are able to sit on these routes and are gambling more often, breaking up and intercepting more plays. Despite this coach Dennis Allen is adamant that Schaub will be under center come gameweek 1, although he will be sitting out the Raiders final pre season game with an elbow injury. Carr has an opportunity to make a statement playing against Seattle and the best defense in the league.

Zach Mettenburger

Whilst Mettenburger is the least likely to appear on our T.V screens this season, compared to the prior QB’s I have covered, he does deserve a mention. Jake Locker hasn’t played a full season since he was drafted with the 8th overall pick back in 2011. Whilst playing well so far this pre season, the Titans will be relieved that backup QB Zach Mettenburger has also managed to put some yards on the board, especially against the Saints. They will need him at some point this season if Locker’s injury curse strikes again.

This OTI piece was written by Alex Read aka The Quarterback Sneak. Alex lives in London and first got into American football after watching Superbowl XLII in Sydney, Australia, whilst travelling and has been hooked ever since. An avid New Orleans Saints fan he writes his own NFL blog which can be found at Thequarterbacksneakuk@blogspot.co.uk and runs a twitter feed @theQBsneak keeping you up to date with all things NFL.

A Raider Fan’s Preview of the AFC WEST

A Raider Fan’s Preview of the AFC WEST
I am very pleased to be writing about the AFC West for Overtime Ireland this season. In the interest of full disclosure I am a Raider Fan. I left out the Oakland part of the name because I do not think they will be in Oakland that much longer. So my coverage of the AFC West will have an obvious Raider bias. I am however a realist. This may come as a shock to some but I do not think that the Raiders are going to win the Super Bowl! I do think however that the AFC Champion will come from the AFC West as well as one  of the AFC Wildcard teams. Just like most people reading this article I am just a football fan. All my articles are written from a football fans point of view. I am never going to analysis the Xs and Os but would love to hear your predictions for the AFC West. So here goes from best to worst my AFC West Predictions.
Denver Broncos (14-2)
As much as it hurts to me to say this the Denver Broncos are going back to the Super Bowl. They have improved on the team that lost to the Seahawks last year. It is quite difficult to find an area of weakness on the team. John Elway has shown by his manipulation of the salary cap that he is a shrewd general manager.  He is still the general manager who drafted Tim Tebow in the first round of the draft though.
Peyton Manning throws one of the ugliest spirals of any quarterback in the NFL. That is all I can find to criticise him. I doubt he will have as good a season as last year 5477 yards and 55 Touchdowns (only 10 interceptions) is pretty incredible.  They lost Eric Decker to the Jets but still have Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders and Wes Welker catching passes. A word of caution though I think that Welker is one hit to the head from retirement and very serious injury. Welker has been a great player over the years but 3 concussions in 3 months should surely have him thinking about retirement. The loss of Knowshon  Moreno should be more than cushioned by Montee Ball who will have a breakout season. The defence is just as scary. They added 3 big name free agents in TJ Ward, Aqib Talib and DeMarcus Ware to an already fearsome unit. Also don’t forget that last year they were missing Von Miller for the first 6 games.
There is no one in the AFC that can compete with the Broncos that is why I have them as the AFC champions for this season.
San Diego Chargers (10-6)
Despite having the worst stadium in the NFL (with Raiders current situation I have become obsessed by stadiums) I actually like the Chargers. This may be down to spending a lot of time in the beautiful city of San Diego. Philip Rivers and his offense are extremely scary to watch. They look like they could take it to the house at any time. A lot of the credit for Philip Rivers’ great season last year must go to the offensive scheme they used. Rivers completed 69.5% of his passes last year and only threw 11 interceptions. He brings a fierce competitiveness onto the field that quite frankly borders on manic. His throwing action may be unorthodox but it is affective. Keenan Allen is a stud 1046 yards with 8 touchdowns last year. Ryan Matthews also had a pretty decent season with 1255 yards and 6 touchdowns.
The defense is not laden with superstars but will get the job done.  There is a lot of young talent on the defense and will benefit from the addition of Brandon Flowers from the Chiefs. Chargers will have a successful season culminating in a Wildcard spot this year.
Kansas City (5-11)
Here is a team that has taken big backward steps this off season. The Chiefs have lost 3 starters from last season’s Offensive Line and starting right tackle Donald Stephenson has been suspended for the first 4 games of the season. Eric fisher is starting to look like a bust. He was the number one overall pick in a weak overall draft class but has not played well. Dwayne Bowe is also suspended but only for one game. The free agents they did sign would not fill me with too much excitement if I were a Chief fan. I saw an article earlier in the preseason saying that Vance Walker was one of the Chiefs best free agent signings, get excited Kansas. I do however think they have a great coach in Andy Reid and possibly the best player in the NFL in Jamal Charles. Alex Smith is the perfect example of what pundits call a “game manager” which is code for unspectacular quarterback. I think being a game manger as a quarterback is a pretty important skill. I would be quite happy at the moment with Alex Smith as the Raiders starting quarterback.
Oakland Raiders (4-12)
Where do I start? At the beginning I guess. Let the quarterback controversy begin! One thing each of the other teams in the division has is an unquestioned starter at quarterback. I have now seen 3 Raider preseason games and I have changed my view on Matt Schaub. I had said that Schaub had the chance to be the best Raider Quarterback since Rich Gannon (this is more a reflection on the line of QBs that followed Gannon to be far). I now think that Schaub will barely last till the bye week. What are the alternatives? Derek Carr? It would be unfair to throw a rookie into the starting line-up. We all remember what happened last time a rookie called D Carr started. Matt McGloin? I love McGloin but just look what happened last year when he played first string defences. I actually have a feeling that given the right offer the Raiders will trade McGloin.  I do think Allen and McKenzie will stick will Schaub until injury or it becomes really obvious he is finished.
The rest of the offense is an enigma. Maurice Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden actually looked pretty good in preseason. The Offensive Line is completely rebuilt but has potential. Too many of the Wide Receivers have a habit of dropping the balls. The defense again for me is a really interesting area to watch. The Raiders could have a decent pass rush; Khalil Mack has got better with each preseason game. The rebuilt D Line is more than capable of stopping the run. But teams will be able to pick apart the Raiders through the air; the secondary is not at a level where it can compete with quarterbacks on the schedule.
Overall it is going to be an interesting season for Raider Fans. I don’t think Dennis Allen will make it to the end of the season and I think Reggie McKenzie’s job security is not high.
Overall the AFC West is a very strong division this year. A very tough schedule will help the strong teams prepare for the playoffs.
This OTI piece was written by Tim Morris, Tim has been a Raiders fan for over 20 years.He can trace his obsession back to his Auntie from Canada who sent him a Marc Wilson LA Raiders jersey for Christmas in 1985.  He is still bitter about the Tuck Rule Game and spends far too much time worrying about where the Raiders will be playing in 2015. Tim is always happy to discuss football on twitter @raidertim34 (even if you don’t agree with him). He also writes for ukendzone.com.
 

Eli’s Preseason Power Rankings:Week 3

Eli’s Preseason Power Rankings:Week 3

32 (32) – Oakland Raiders

Matt Schaub is still having trouble making things work with this Raiders offense, and it can’t be easy to fix due to the lack of playmakers. On the defensive side of the ball, they need to do some work in the red zone. They constantly have up touchdowns, so they have to find a way to turn those chances into field goals.

31 (31) – Minnesota Vikings

The defense had a strong outing this time around, which what I’ve been waiting to see under new head coach and former defensive coordinator Mile Zimmer. Teddy Bridgewater continued his solid preseason with accurate throws and stuffed his stat sheet once again.

30 (30) – Jacksonville Jaguars

I keep waiting for Blake Bortles to show us that he’s a rookie, but it’s not happening. He made things look easy versus the Lions and made some not-so-easy throws. Bortles was clicking with wide receiver Allen Hurns, who is making his way up the depth chart. It’s great to see Bortles have a good connection with one of his receivers.

29 (29) – Buffalo Bills

The offense had plenty if struggles amid an offensive line that couldn’t handle the opposition. The pressure came at EJ Manuel too quickly, not allowing him to make good throws. This shows that he still has a ways to go going into his second season.

28 (28) – Cleveland Browns

In the first game after being announced the starting quarterback, Brian Hoyer was still unable to prove Mike Pettine right. In fact, Johnny Manziel had a better game than Hoyer. This is not an easy start for the new Browns regime.

27 (27) – Tennessee Titans

The Titans were a little choppy in their third preseason game. That’s exactly what this team resembles. They have some nice pieces, but they don’t always make the best of them.

26 (25) – New York Giants

This offense just seems to get worse and worse every time they hit the field. And remember that 70% completion challenge for Eli Manning? Well, he’s at 43%, or 51% if you include the Hall of Fame game. On top of that, the Giants offensive line issues got worse. Starting guard Geoff Schwartz will be out for “a long time” after dislocating his toe. I’ve heard chatter that the Giants are playing so badly that they could finish last in the division instead of the Cowboys. The season hasn’t started yet, but if this is any indication of how they’ll play during the season, then I wouldn’t be surprised if it happens.

25 (26) – Miami Dolphins

It was very encouraging to see Knowshon Moreno have a big game for the Dolphins in his first action back after off-season arthroscopic knee surgery. The Dolphins need both Moreno and Miller to be effective for their offense to really make the leap.

24 (19) – St. Louis Rams

Sam Bradford re-tore his ACL and will be out for the entire season, leaving the Rams in jeopardy of another losing season. Shaun Hill is slated to be the quarterback this year, and Jeff Fisher has one more preseason game to tweak him and the offense.

23 (24) – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Doug Martin and the Bucs running game had a good day against the Bills. It was especially good to see that the offensive line was able to do enough to allow the running game to be effective. On defense, the line was a force and created pressure quickly, which is important for the Tampa 2 defense Lovie Smith is bringing back.

22 (22) – Houston Texans

It’s great that the Texans were able to cause the Broncos offense a lot of trouble, even though they fell off that wagon at the end if the first half.

21 (21) – Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys defense had a couple of interceptions, including a pick-6 in their preseason game against the Dolphins. It was a nice surprise since their defense should be the worst in the league. It would be nice if they can pull off games like this more often.

20 (20) – Washington Redskins

The Redskins offensive line made it very tough for anything to happen in offense. The pocket was collapsing so quickly that Robert Griffin III was hardly able to get rid of the ball when the Ravens defensive line didn’t bring him down.

19 (23) – Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens offense continued to roll in Saturday’s game against the Redskins. Not only did their offense play well, but the defense was also dominating. This is looking like a stronger team every game.

18 (18) – Atlanta Falcons

Julio Jones looked like his old self, making big plays and picking up a lot of yards after the catch. Devin Hester also had a big contribution on offense. That could be a snippet of how much he’ll be used on this team. Jake Matthews had a decent first start at left tackle. He had a few penalties but he should get that in check pretty quickly.

17 (17) – Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles secondary played much better against the Steelers. Hopefully they can keep up the good play because they are the weakest link of the defense. However, the defensive line was not good in the same game. They had trouble of getting leverage over the offensive line and were easily moved with the flow of the play, not being able to break through the blocks.

16 (16) – Pittsburgh Steelers

Troy Polamalu is playing at his natural safety position — in the box. He looked a lot better and much more comfortable, making plenty of plays. Also, another Steelers defensive back who was in danger of being a cap casualty in the off-season is Ike Taylor. He, too, made plenty of plays on the ball against the Eagles. Those two guys on the field will be big for the Steelers this season.

15 (15) – New York Jets

The game against the Giants is a wonderful example of what we needed to see from the Jets. The offense really got going and made plenty if explosive plays. Geno Smith consistently made good, accurate throws and proved that he is the team’s starting quarterback, and Rookie tight end Jace Amaro, who has been struggling in training camp, had a very nice game.

14 (14) – Detroit Lions

The running game was very explosive against the Jaguars, which is exactly what the Lions could use from this offense. However, Matthew Stafford made a few bad mistakes. He has to cut down on those for this team to be successful.

13 (13) – Carolina Panthers

It has been revealed that Cam Newton has a hairline fracture in his rib, although he should be good to go by Week 1. However, good is a relative term. When you pile on his ankle surgery and his stiff preseason performances to this rib news, you have to wonder how effective he can be for any part of the season.

12 (12) – San Diego Chargers

Philip Rivers and the Chargers offense are continuing to play spectacular football. They are definitely ready for the season.

11 (11) – Chicago Bears

The Bears have looked good this preseason, but it’s not inspiring to see them get flattened on every side by the defending Super Bowl champs. The Bears will have to face their fair share of elite teams this season, so they have to find a way to come through in those games as well.

10 (10) – Arizona Cardinals

The defense struggled a lot versus the Bengals. They have a bunch of missing pieces that they have to deal with, so hopefully defensive coordinator Todd Bowles can figure it

9 (9) – Indianapolis Colts

Trent Richardson has done less than nothing to show his worth to the Colts, but they’re still sticking with him. In all of the preseason game, Richardson has been Sloth-like slow once he gets the ball in his hands and he is very indecisive, which is leading to multiple defenders easily being able to get to him quickly.

8 (8) – Kansas City Chiefs

Unlike his usual self, Alex Smith made a bunch if mistakes, including two I’ll-thrown interceptions right at the defense. History would show that he doesn’t make too many mistakes too often, but let’s see if he bounces back next week against the Packers.

7 (7) – San Francisco 49ers

Mike Iupati has not looked so good in this preseason after coming back from a fractured ankle last season. Also, without Alex Boone, the offensive line is suffering and that is not helping out Colin Kaepernick and the offense get going at all.

6 (6) – Cincinnati Bengals

Mohammed Sanu had an incredible game against the Cardinals. He will be an important part if the offense for the Bengals in Marvin Jones’ absence, so it’s nice to see that they can count on him.

5 (5) – New Orleans Saints

Drew Brees made his way back on to the field and looked just as perfect as he always is. There’s one of the very few obstacles out if the way for the Saints.

4 (4) – Green Bay Packers

The Packers offense had another productive preseason outing, but the defense wasn’t as good. They did make some nice plays occasionally, but they had some problems tackling which led to big plays.

3 (3) – Seattle Seahawks

It’s great to see Percy Harvin be involved and have an effective game. Let’s just hope he can stay healthy so we can see what he can do over a full season with this team. Earl Thomas wanted to be the punt returner and he showed up with a monster punt return. All around it was a huge game for the Seahawks against the Bears.

2 (2) – New England Patriots

The Patriots pass rush got to Cam Newton early and often. They probably aren’t the better part of this defense, but if they can get going during the regular season, it will go a long way toward helping the very good secondary make some plays.

1 (1) – Denver Broncos

Peyton Manning and the Broncos offense had a lot of trouble making anything happen until the end of the first half. Emmanuel Sanders made a big contribution, catching two touchdowns. It’s good to see him have a strong day with his new team. There is some more bad news. Wes Welker suffered yet another concussion the the loss to the Texans. It would RB a huge loss for the team if he can’t stay healthy.

This piece was written by Eli Bookstaber. Eli is from Silver Spring, Maryland. Naturally, he is a fan of America’s real Team, the Washington Redskins. Eli is a big fan of every American sport but the NFL is his favourite. He has strong opinions on many topics and therefore started to write about them. Every week, Eli writes a NFL power rankings article for OTI and “Bookie’s Playbook” article, where he breaks down different teams’ plays, formations, etc. You can always find his opinions and his shenanigans on Twitter @Ebookstaber. He welcomes any comments and feedback.

Eli’s Preseason Power Rankings: Week 2

Listen to this weeks OTI Podcast with NFL Official Jim Daopoulos as our guest. Available here: Episode 69

32 (32) – Oakland Raiders

If the offensive line bad been better, the Raiders could’ve had something going in the passing game. On defense, the better players made some very good plays, but the rest got picked on. The Raiders may be able to get by against the lower-to-mid-tier tams, but the better teams will pick them apart.

Could Teddy start week 1?

31 (31) – Minnesota Vikings

What a great audition for Teddy Bridgewater! He made all the right throws and capped the game off with a game-winning touchdown drive. As one of my coaches as a kid would say: “It’s a beautiful thang!”

30 (30) – Jacksonville Jaguars

One of the main things I was looking for in the Jaguars’ second preseason game was for second round pick wide receiver Marquise Lee to step up — and that’s exactly what he did. With Justin Blackmon out for the foreseeable future the young receivers will have to be a big part of the offense. Blake Bortles had another wonderful game. It’s great to see consecutive great outings from a rookie quarterback in the preseason.

29 (29) – Buffalo Bills

EJ Manuel had a down game, and the defense was chasing the ball carriers all day. The Bills still have plenty of work to do.

28 (28) – Cleveland Browns

The Browns quarterbacks, both Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel, were horrible against the Redskins. They were never on the same page as the receivers, constantly making inaccurate or off-timed passes. That surely doesn’t help the quarterback battle.

27 (27) – Tennessee Titans

Jake Locker had a bounce-back game from last week’s rusty outing. In the second preseason game Locker was more poised in the pocket and his throws were much more accurate. It seems like he just needed to get used to live football action, and it juts took him one week. Let’s see if he can keep it up next week against the Falcons.

26 (26) – Miami Dolphins

I keep waiting for the running game to start to take effect in this new offense, especially with Lamar Miller because he can hit the outside runs, but it has still yet to happen. The passing game was strong, though, and the receivers are getting open quickly due to the open zones created from the run fakes. The strong part of the Dolphins defense is the defesenive line, which was able to punish the weak Bucs offensive line, getting five sacks — three of them from starters.

25 (23) – New York Giants

The Giants offense has been looking terrible, and they’re not getting better. You want to see teams making the adjustments by the third preseason game (the Giants already played three including the Hall of Fame game). The Giants play the Jets next week, so it won’t be an easy test.

24 (24) – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The offensive line didn’t give the quarterbacks a lot of time to make plays, but when they were able to get the ball out of their hands quick enough we saw just how good the big receivers can be.

Kubiak could be the perfect solution for the Ravens offense

23 (25) – Baltimore Ravens

Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense has been a thing of wonder under Gary Kubiak. They have the balance which keeps them effective, and it’s a perfect fit for what Joe Flacco can do. Kubiak’s offense is a run-first style, thus Joe Flacco doesn’t have to do too much taking command of everything.

22 (22) – Houston Texans

In the first preseason game Ryan Fitzpatrick was not good. In the second one he was able to lead the team and didn’t make mistakes. As for the defense, they came out forceful and hard-hitting. This is exactly how their regular season should play out.

21 (21) – Dallas Cowboys

This last preseason game was exactly what we should expect to see this season from the Cowboys; Tony Romo and the offense got things done, while the defense let the other team score a lot, forcing the offense to compensate.

20 (20) – Washington Redskins

DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon made their preseason debut for the Redskins on Monday night. With them in, and notedly facing one of the league’s best secondaries, Robert Griffin III was able to find an open receiver on nearly every passing play. So all of his weapons will definitely make things easier. What was bad about the game, though, is that the Redskins made so many little mistakes, like little things done wrong which caused turnovers and bone-headed penalties which gave away free first downs. When all of those little mistakes add up, they can be really costly is a game.

19 (19) – St. Louis Rams

The game against the Packers is exactly what we need to see from Sam Bradford to show the Rams that they should stick with him. He was completely in control of the offense and made it look easy.

18 (18) – Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons had a lot of trouble converting on third down last season, and they were just as bad in the second preseason game against the Texans. That has to be fixed for the offense to be effective again.

17 (17) – Philadelphia Eagles

Nick Foles was much better this week. He was able to hit the receiver with a perfect pass on nearly every attempt. One thing that I found interesting is that every time the Patriots put pressure on Foles (twice), he went down. Against the Bears, he panicked every time there was pressure on him. That’s just an observation right now.

16 (16) – Pittsburgh Steelers

The offense is playing much improved over last season, which is good to see in spite of the lack of weapons. On the defensive side of the ball, first round pick Ryan Shazier made his debut and he was all over the field making plays — the mark of a true Steelers linebacker.

15 (15) – New York Jets

Geno Smith had some good moments against the Bengals, but he had plenty of bad ones too. Going into his second year, you need to see improvement from Geno or else everyone will keep questioning whether or not he’s the definite starter.

14 (14) – Detroit Lions

I really like what the Lions defense can offer, but they seem to have trouble when the ball-carrier is in the open field; the pursuit isn’t collective and the first guy usually doesn’t make the tackle. Hopefully Jim Caldwell, an offensive-minded coach can realise that and focus on the necessary adjustments.

13 (13) – Carolina Panthers

Cam Newton made his preseason debut after his recovery from ankle surgery, and he didn’t look to great. He was very stiff throwing the ball, not shifting his weight, and when he did move around a little bit, he was moving a lot slower than usual. It’ll take him a little bit of time to get back in the swing of things.

12 (12) – San Diego Chargers

One thing the Chargers need to do is match their opponent’s intensity and physicality. They had a good, though test against the Seahawks, which may be asking too much, but get it done. In the regular season they can get by not being more vehement than their opponent, but that won’t work in the playoffs.

11 (11) – Chicago Bears

The Bears defense needs to get back to its more dominant ways. They had their moments against the Jaguars, but many times the linebackers in zone coverage left the cornerbacks out to dry, giving up wide open easy 10-ish-yard gains.

10 (10) – Arizona Cardinals

I was focusing on the defense in the second preseason game. What stood out to me is that when the defensive line would take too long to get to the quarterback, they would leave big running lanes in the line which allowed for big scrambles by the quarterback. That could be part in fault to the linebackers falling back too far downfield — someone has to stay in the middle. Also, the Cardinals aren’t very aggressive in blitzing, and their blitz packages aren’t dynamic at all, making it too easy for the opposing quarterback to read and get rid of the ball quickly. Playing in the defensively physically tough NFC West, I’d like to see the Cardinals find a way to put more pressure on the quarterback in other ways than simply from the defensive line.

9 (9) – Indianapolis Colts

The Colts didn’t show anything flashy or play any better in any aspect than I had expected, but they didn’t do any worse either. That’s okay for now.

8 (8) – Kansas City Chiefs

Eric Fisher is having a bit of a tough time at left tackle after the departure of Branden Albert, so they need to solidify the offensive line. Otherwise, they had a strong showing.

Levi’s stadium didnt get to see a point by the 49ers

7 (7) – San Francisco 49ers

The improved offense was very messy in the Levi Stadium grand opening. Plus, the many backups on defense who had to start in place of starters couldn’t get the job done, and you need to know that somebody can step up and help your team when a starter has to sit. You don’t want to see any of this from one of the top teams in the NFC.

6 (6) – Cincinnati Bengals

Andy Dalton continues to show why he deserves his new contract, and there seems to be no regression from the loss of their coordinators and a few impact starters sitting out.

5 (5) – New Orleans Saints

Offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael has taken over play-calling duties for the preseason, and even though it seems like a big change, it really isn’t. Carmichael and Sean Payton are familiar with each other and the offense, so I wouldn’t anticipate much of a difference, if at all, in the play-calling style. We saw in the second preseason game that they had the same offensive philosophy, headlined by seam routes with Jimmy Graham in the slot. Plus, there will be a lot of influence from Drew Brees at the line.

4 (4) – Green Bay Packers

You can see how dangerous the Packers will be when Aaron Rodgers is in charge. The Packers offense should arguably be the best in the league, and they’re already going strong.

3 (3) – Seattle Seahawks

It is important for the Seahawks offense to move toward matching their defence’s prowess in order to get the team to the next level. Russell Wilson is taking more responsibility and he is excelling, plus the backup running backs were running as well and as hard as Beast Mode. It was a great game by the Seahawks offense.

2 (2) – New England Patriots

That’s right, the Patriots have something they need to work on. In Friday’s preseason game against the Eagles, the Patriots linebackers and safeties had a lot of trouble covering tight ends — every single one of them down to the backup’s backup. They have the players to fix the issue, all they have to do is work on the communication. I mean, they should know they have to focus on that. They practice against arguably the best tight end in the game.

1 (1) – Denver Broncos

The Broncos offense played against a 49ers defense which was missing a chunk of starters, and the Broncos defense played against a 49ers offense that created its own problems (rather than the Broncos defense making the plays), so I won’t evaluate either of those units this week. Instead, I want to touch on the Broncos special teams, specifically the kick-off coverage. Last year the kick-off coverage was probably the worst part of this team, and it still is now. On the opening kick-off of the 49ers game, the Broncos did a terrible job of getting between the blockers and let one of the lead blockers, who caught the kick-off, get all the way to the 36-yard line. Allowing opposing offenses to have such a short field goes a long way to determine the result of the game.

This piece was written by Eli Bookstaber. Eli is from Silver Spring, Maryland. Naturally, he is a fan of America’s real Team, the Washington Redskins. Eli is a big fan of every American sport but the NFL is his favourite. He has strong opinions on many topics and therefore started to write about them. Every week, Eli writes a NFL power rankings article for OTI and “Bookie’s Playbook” article, where he breaks down different teams’ plays, formations, etc. You can always find his opinions and his shenanigans on Twitter @Ebookstaber. He welcomes any comments and feedback.