Tag Archives: Atlanta Falcons

2017 NFC South Draft Grades

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Atlanta Falcons

First-Round Pick: Takkarist McKinley-Outside Linebacker-UCLA

Best Pick: Takkarist McKinley

Grade: B-

The sting of the Super Bowl loss is still fresh for the Atlanta Falcons, but nobody is going to feel sorry for them in the National Football League. The Falcons have been attempting to put it all together this off-season in regards to getting back to the Super Bowl and this year’s draft saw them find an impact player early on.

Takkarist McKinley

The Falcons traded up in the first round of the draft with the Seattle Seahawks to select UCLA Bruins outside linebacker Takkarist McKinley. We all know about McKinley’s passionate speech that he gave following being drafted, but he plays with that same desire on the football field.

Last year McKinley led UCLA in sacks with 10 and he joins a Falcons team that needs a bookend edge rusher to offset outside linebacker Vic Beasley Jr. who led the National Football League in sacks last year with 15.5.

Other than getting McKinley, the draft process was rather pedestrian for the Falcons. But if McKinley can come in and have a strong impact for the Falcons defense, it will be a big positive.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

First-Round Pick: O.J. Howard-Tight End-Alabama

Best Pick: Round Five-Jeremy McNichols-Running Back-Boise State

Grade: B+

After barely missing out on making the playoffs last season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are looking to build off of that, and a solid showing at the 2017 National Football League Draft was just what the doctor ordered for them.

In the first round I expected the Buccaneers to focus on either the offensive line or defensive line. However Tampa Bay instead opted to give quarterback Jameis Winston another play maker to get the football to.

O.J. Howard

The Bucs drafted Alabama Crimson Tide tight end O.J. Howard who over the last two years emerged as a solid pass catching tight end. Howard has the ability to stretch the field from the tight end position and his presence in Tampa will mean less double teams on wide receivers Mike Evans and the recently acquired DeSean Jackson.

It’s too bad that the City of Tampa does not have an NBA franchise due to the fact that some of the Bucs players could suit up for them. The Buccaneers continued to bring more big and physical play makers in the third round of the draft when they selected Penn State Nittany Lions wide receiver Chris Godwin who will give Winston another solid option to get the football to in the red zone.

Tampa Bay has needed a leader on the defensive side of the football for some time now and they may have found one with a compensatory pick in the third round when they selected LSU Tigers middle linebacker Kendell Beckwith. Beckwith was LSU’s second leading tackler last year with 91, and he will provide the Bucs with knowledge and athleticism.

Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht continued to add talent in the fifth round when he selected Boise State Broncos running back Jeremy McNichols. All McNichols did last year was to rush for 1,709 yards and score 23 rushing touchdowns. At 5’9″, McNichols gives the Bucs another undersized running running back to team with Doug Martin in their backfield, and he should be able to have an immediate impact.

The Bucs will enter next season as a trendy pick to make the playoffs and this draft class should be able to provide solid production for them.

New Orleans Saints

First-Round Pick: Marshon Lattimore-Cornerback-Ohio State, Ryan Ramczyk-Offensive Tackle-Wisconsin

Best Pick: Marshon Lattimore

Grade: C+

With a pair of first round picks heading into the 2017 National Football League Draft, the New Orleans Saints had a solid chance to upgrade their roster, but unfortunately for the folks on the bayou, they missed the boat.

The Saints need all the help that they can get on the defense as they were 27th in the National Football League last season in total defense, while they were last in the league versus the pass. The Saints would use the 11th overall selection on Ohio State Buckeyes cornerback Marshon Lattimore. And although that Lattimore’s arrival in New Orleans does fill a need, the Saints had other pressing issues which they failed to address.

The Saints need players that can rush the quarterback as defensive end Cameron Jordan led the team in sacks last season with just 7.5. The Saints would have been better served drafting Tennessee Volunteers defensive end Derek Barnett who ended up being taken by the Philadelphia Eagles a few spots later.

The selection of Lattimore could have also been used on Alabama Crimson Tide tight end O.J. Howard as Saints quarterback Drew Bress has missed having a reliable go-to-guy in the passing game since tight end Jimmy Graham was traded to the Seattle Seahawks.

And when the run on cornerbacks began later in the first round, the Saints had already selected one as they would use their second pick of the round on Wisconsin Badgers offensive tackle Ryan Ramczyk who might be better served playing the right tackle position as opposed to the left.

The Saints would draft a defensive end, but not until their compensatory pick in the third round when they selected Florida Atlantic Owls defensive end Trey Hendrickson. And when it is all said and done, Saints general manager Mickey Loomis will look back and see an opportunity that was missed as in a division with Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston, and Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, New Orleans needs players that can rush the passer and put consistent pressure on these Pro Bowl caliber quarterbacks.

Carolina Panthers

First-Round Pick: Christian McCaffrey-Running Back-Stanford

Best Pick: Christian McCaffrey

Grade: B

When the Carolina Panthers went 15-1 during the 2015 National Football League season en route to winning the NFC Championship, they were the bullies of the league. The Panthers were a very physical team on both sides of the football which showed up in their record. But when the Panthers sputtered last season as they went 6-10, they got away from their formula for success which started with a power rushing attack. But hope springs eternal and this off-season the Panthers are getting back to their bread and butter.

Christian McCaffrey

I expected the Panthers to select a running back early during the 2017 National Football League Draft, and with LSU Tigers running back Leonard Fournette off of the board, Carolina set their sights on Stanford Cardinal running back Christian McCaffrey. McCaffrey comes to the Panthers as a very talented athlete which included him being named as the Pac-12 Conference’s Offensive Player of the Year in 2015 when he set a Football Bowl Subdivision record with 3,864 all-purpose yards. McCaffrey can do it all as he can be a running back, wide receiver, and kick/punt returner as he should have an immediate impact on the Panthers offense.

The second round saw the Panthers select Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Curtis Samuel who has breakout performer written all over him. Samuel led the Buckeyes in receptions (74) and receiving yards (865) last season in an offense that wasn’t pass oriented. And now with Samuel on the receiving end of passes from a former National Football League MVP in Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, along with playing alongside wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin and tight end Greg Olsen, Samuel could be ready to make a big contribution in Charlotte.

Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman would use the rest of the draft to add depth which included taking Texas A&M Aggies defensive end Daeshon Hall in the third round. And after finishing last in the NFC South in 2016, this draft class could help the Panthers get back to the postseason this year.

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Shocker Bowl 51

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It’s been a few hours since we witnessed Super Bowl 51, and it’s still hard to digest. Prior to last night, no team in Super Bowl history had overcome a deficit of more than 10 points to win, but someone forgot to mention that to the New England Patriots.

The Patriots took the field at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texans led by a head coach in Bill Belichick and a quarterback in Tom Brady who combined to win four Super Bowl Titles together as they faced the upstart Atlanta Falcons who were looking for the franchise’s first title.

The Patriots were able to move the football in the first half, but they couldn’t get to the end zone as the Falcons defense forced two turnovers which led to 14 points. Defensively the Patriots didn’t have an answer for Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan who appeared well on his way to winning the Super Bowl MVP after being named as the MVP of the National Football League on Saturday night. The Patriots defense also did not have answer for Falcons running back Devonta Freeman and wide receiver Julio Jones whose play making ability was on display for the world to see.

Robert Alford

Late in the second quarter, Brady was intercepted by Falcons cornerback Robert Alford who returned it 82 yards for the touchdown to give Atlanta a 21-0 lead. Alford would take his time getting to the end zone as he was “hot dogging” it for the final 20 yards as he like most people though that the game was over.

Patriots kicker Stephen Gostowski would connect on a 41-yard field goal just before the first half ended to get New England on the scoreboard. But even with the longer halftime at the Super Bowl, it appeared that the Patriots weren’t going to be able to make enough adjustments in order to combat the speed of the Falcons.

Midway through the third quarter Ryan connected with running back Tevin Coleman on an eight-yard touchdown pass to give the Falcons the 28-3 lead. And at this point the Super Bowl all but appeared to be over as you began to wonder how a team that was led by Belichick with Brady at quarterback could be dominated in the fashion that they were.

Brady would finally get it going late in the third quarter when he led the Patriots on their first touchdown drive of the game as he found running back James White on a five-yard touchdown pass. But when Gostowski missed the ensuing extra point, it appeared to be another sign from the football gods that it wasn’t going to be in the cards to Patriots to claim the Vince Lombardi Trophy as Super Bowl Champions for a fifth time.

The Patriots defense would stiffen as their offense would continue to chip away. And with just under 10 minutes left in the game, Gostowski connected on his second field goal of the game to cut the Patriots deficit to 16 as the score was now 28-12. However the Patriots would still need to score two touchdowns, along with getting a pair of two-point conversions, while also needing to stop the Falcons explosive offense. All of these aspects seemed a bit unlikely for New England which led Falcons owner Arthur Blank to make the trek from his luxury box at NRG Stadium to the field in order to be with his team as it only seemed to be a matter of time before his team would be crowned as champions.

But with just under 9 minutes left in the game, Patriots linebacker Donta Hightower sacked Ryan and forced a fumble that was recovered by defensive tackle Alan Branch which gave New England life. All of a sudden Brady was locked in and he was no longer missing wide open receivers. Brady’s passes were crisp and on target as the Patriots offensive line was able sure up their blocking, while his receivers were doing everything necessary in order for New England to succeed. And with just under six minutes left in the game, Brady connected with wide receiver Danny Amendola on a five-yard touchdown pass, while White scored on the two-point conversion to cut the Patriots deficit to 28-20.

However the Patriots defense would have to step up once more. The Falcons would begin to drive the football as they went back to the combo of Freeman and Jones as they moved the football to the Patriots 22-yard line. And at this point a field goal would have more than likely iced the game for Atlanta. But the Falcons drive would stall when Ryan was sacked by Patriots defensive end Trey Flowers, and a holding call was assessed on offensive tackle Jake Mattews. Now instead of the Falcons making plans to celebrate their first Super Bowl Championship, the butterflies began to rumble in their stomachs as they had to punt the football back to Brady.

Brady had 91 yards to go with under four minutes left in the game in order to lead New England on a game-tying drive, and if he did it, his legacy as the greatest quarterback ever would be cemented. Brady would continue to be locked in against the Falcons defense which at this point was running on fumes. And when wide receiver Julian Edelman made a spectacular catch on a pass that was initially deflected, you knew that the momentum had completely shifted to the Patriots. Brady would lead the Patriots down the field with precision and with 85 seconds remaining, White would score on a one-yard run to make it 28-26. However with New England needing to score another two-point conversion, the odds were in favor of the Falcons defense. But Brady would spread his receivers out in the formation which paved the way for him to find Amendola on a screen pass which knotted the score at 28.

Matt Ryan

Ryan and the Falcons would get one more chance in order to attempt a game-winning drive. But at this point Mr. Momentum was wearing a white jersey as Blank had a front row seat to watch his team completely come apart at the seams.

Thus we would be treated to the first overtime game in Super Bowl history, and when the Patriots won the coin toss, they and the Falcons alike knew that the game was over.

Like a surgeon, Brady would continue to slice up the Falcons defense as he drove the Patriots down the field. And when a pass interference was called on Falcons outside linebacker De’Vondre Campbell for his coverage of Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett which put the football at the Atlanta two-yard line, the final nail was being hammered in their coffin.

Two plays later White would score the game-winning touchdown, and even a booth review could not save the Falcons as they were ready to go into the history books as the team that blew a 25-point lead in the Super Bowl.

For three quarters Falcons head coach Dan Quinn had done everything right as he appeared to be the man who was putting an end to the Patriots dynasty while turning Belichick into a mere mortal in the process. But by the fourth quarter Quinn’s defense had run out of gas. For the game the Patriots offense ran 93 plays compared to just 46 for Atlanta as New England possessed the football for more than 40 minutes. And as the Falcons defense was all over Brady for the first three quarters like ugly on an ape, he was made of teflon in the fourth quarter and overtime.

The Falcons will head into the off-season in a fashion that will be extremely tough. Getting over this Super Bowl loss will be more excruciating than their 34-19 loss to the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 33, or their 28-24 loss at home to the San Francisco 49ers in the 2012 NFC Championship Game as this game was all but over. This will not only sit with the Falcons for the next seven months, but for the rest of their lives as this will indeed be difficult to rebound from. Ryan spent this entire National Football League season washing away the ills of his reputation of being unable to win the big game, but now he’ll be remembered as the quarterback that was unable to hold a 25-point lead in the Super Bowl. Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan is set to become the new head coach of the 49ers, and he was looked at as one of the up and coming bright minds on offense in the NFL. However Shanahan will now have to answer questions as to why Jones only had 4 receptions in the Super Bowl, along the fact that he stopped going to Freeman.

The Falcons had a front row seat to see why many people regard Belichick as the best head coach in National Football League history with Brady being the best signal caller to have ever done it as Atlanta’s attempts to stop them were the equivalent of bailing out water on the Titanic once it struck the iceberg.

Even when things were extremely bleak for the Pats, the mood never changed on their sidelines as they simply continued to do everything possible in order to win. And as the Patriots pass rush could not get to Ryan in the first half, they all of a sudden got into a rhythm which led to him hurrying his passes while he was being introduced to the turf which paved the way for New England’s epic comeback.

So once National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell handed the Vince Lombardi Trophy to Patriots owner Robert Kraft, it all but solidified the legacies of Belichick and Brady. After the Spygate and Deflategate scandals, the legacies of Belichick and Brady were tarnished. But each time that the NFL comes down on the Patriots, they emerge smelling like a rose.

This Super Bowl Championship wasn’t supposed to happen after Brady was suspended for the first four games of the season, while the Pats were stripped of their first-round pick in 2016. Tight end Rob Gronkowski only appeared in nine games due to a back injury, but New England continued to chug along. The Patriots would go 3-1 without Brady and 11-1 with him. And as Belichick attempted to down play Brady having extra motivation this season, it was hard for anyone to deny after what we saw last night.

Now the Patriots have joined the 49ers and Dallas Cowboys with five Super Bowl Championships which barely trails the six of the Pittsburgh Steelers. But Brady and Belichick are each in a class of their own as no head coach or quarterback were able to win five Super Bowl Titles prior to last night. Brady and Belichick have changed the game as it will be hard for anyone to duplicate what they’ve accomplished.

At the age of 39, the timing is perfect for Brady to walk away from the National Football League as he could exit stage right just like quarterback Peyton Manning did last February as a Super Bowl Champ. But unlike Manning, Brady’s physical skills have not diminished as he could continue to rewrite the record books which has already seen him become the only four-time Super Bowl MVP.

And for all of those folks that may have kept watching the Super Bowl for the sole purpose of seeing the Patriots be taken behind the woodshed, it was not to be as they gave the Falcons a brutal lesson in perseverance while giving us a Super Bowl that people will remember for a very long time.

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Super Bowl 51 Projections

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In these National Football League Playoffs, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has defeated a pair of Super Bowl winning quarterbacks. But does Ryan have enough in his arsenal to get past the maestro in New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in order to win Super Bowl 51?

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Ten Years In The Making

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The 2007 National Football League season was as forgettable as can be for the Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons saw their franchise quarterback Michael Vick arrested for his role in a dog fighting ring. 13 games into the season, Bobby Petrino would resign as the head coach of the Falcons before even finishing a year on the job in order to go to the collegiate ranks and become the head football coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks. The Falcons would finish the season with a record of 4-12 as they had to face the reality that they were now rebuilding.

After the season Falcons team president and general manager Rich McKay would rescind his post as the team’s GM. The Falcons would then hire Thomas Dimitroff who was the New England Patriots director of college scouting to be their new general manager as he would join McKay and team owner Arthur Blank to form the brain trust that would work towards turning Atlanta into a contender.

The Falcons first order of business was to find a head coach as they hired Mike Smith who had spent the previous five years as the defensive coordinator of the Jacksonville Jaguars. The next order of business for the Falcons was to find a new franchise quarterback. And on the heels of the Falcons 4-12 campaign, they entered the 2008 National Football League Draft owning the third overall selection. The Falcons would promptly select quarterback Matt Ryan who entered the NFL as the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Player of the Year after he helped the Boston College Eagles reach the conference title game for the first time in school history. And Ryan would provide immediate dividends for the Falcons at the quarterback position as he provided them with leadership.

Matt Ryan

Ryan was named as the Falcons starting quarterback coming out training camp and his first pass in the National Football League went for a touchdown as he connected with wide receiver Michael Jenkins for a 62-yard TD. Ryan would be named the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year as he helped Atlanta reach the playoffs for the first time since 2004.

In four of Ryan’s first five seasons with the Falcons, the team would make the postseason which included them having home-field advantage on two separate occasions. But over that stretch the Falcons were only able to win one playoff game while they were unable to advance to the Super Bowl. Ryan and Smith had developed the moniker of not being able to win the big game. And after the Falcons had consecutive losing seasons in 2013 and 2014, Smith was fired.

Dan Quinn

The Falcons would head to the Pacific Northwest in order to find their next head as they hired Seattle Seahakws defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. The Falcons were hopeful that Quinn could bring some of the magic that led to the Seahawks winning Super Bowl 48 as Atlanta was looking to get back on track.

In 2015, the Falcons would begin the season with a record of 5-0, but they would falter down the stretch as they finished 8-8 and missed out on the playoffs. However where some of the right buttons weren’t pushed for the Falcons last season, the same cannot be said this time around.

After the Falcons lost their season opener at home to the Bucs, they would reel off four consecutive wins before they lost their next two. The writing was on the wall for the Falcons to take another dive when they were 4-3, but they would win seven of their final eight games to win the NFC South for the first time since 2012, while also securing a first-round bye. And even though that the Falcons had a new head coach, the moniker of being unable to win the big game hung over their heads heading into the playoffs.

In the divisional round the Falcons would welcome the Seahawks to town as this was the only team that Ryan had a playoff victory over. The Seahawks would take the opening kickoff and march down the field for a touchdown to give them the early lead on the road. However the Falcons would immediately respond as Ryan orchestrated a touchdown drive that ate up more than seven minutes of game clock. And when Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson was tackled in his own end zone for a safety in the second quarter, the flood gates opened up for the Falcons at the Georgia Dome.

Atlanta would rattle of 19 consecutive points which included scoring a touchdown to end the first half along with one to begin the third quarter. And before you knew it the Seahawks were getting the brakes beaten off of them as they would lose 36-20.

But when the Green Bay Packers would knock off the Dallas Cowboys last Sunday, it meant that there would be one final football game at the Georgia Dome as the Falcons would host the NFC Championship Game for just the second time in franchise history. And the Falcons would have to do it against the Packers and quarterback Aaron Rodgers who entered the NFC Championship Game as the hottest quarterback in football, while he got the best of Ryan and Atlanta in a decisive 48-21 victory over Atlanta in the divisional round en route to winning Super Bowl 45. However this time around Rodgers and the Packers would have to face a different Falcons team.

In Sunday’s NFC Championship Game, the Falcons received the opening kickoff and Ryan immediately led them down the field on an 80-yard touchdown drive that was capped off when he found wide receiver Mohamed Sanu on a two-yard touchdown pass to give them the early 7-0 lead.

Rodgers would get his chance to respond, but the Falcons defense was all over him like ugly on an ape, and before you knew it, Ryan was getting into a rhythm. Ryan led the Falcons on three touchdown drives in the first half as he connected on a pair of TD passes while calling his own number on another. But even with Ryan’s stellar first-half performance, the big shocker was that Atlanta’s defense had stifled Rodgers as the Falcons took a 24-0 lead to the dressing room.

And just when you expected the Falcons to falter in the second half while Rodgers would once again rise to the occasion to orchestrate another thrilling Packers comeback, that wasn’t the case as Atlanta would dictate the pace and easily win the game 44-21 for their second NFC Championship in franchise history.

For Ryan, he is in the midst of having an MVP caliber season as during the regular season he passed for 4,944 yards, while throwing 38 touchdowns to just 7 interceptions. But all that Ryan had done in the regular season would not have mattered if he hadn’t been able to lead his team to the Super Bowl, while also erasing the moniker of his inability of being unable to win the big game.

And for McKay and Dimitroff, they are finally vindicated for moving up 21 spots in the first round of the 2011 National Football League Draft in order to select wide receiver Julio Jones sixth overall. Jones has been a stud for the Falcons which included him leading the NFL in receiving yards in 2015 with 1,871 which is the second most in a single-season in league history. But Jones really showed his grit this season as he battled through a turf toe injury while he stilled managed to have 83 receptions and 1,409 receiving yards.

Julio Jones

Jones did this primarily in the face of double and triple coverage which opened things up for other Falcons receivers such as Sanu who in his first year in Atlanta after being a member of the Cincinnati Bengals for the last five years, had a career-high in receptions with 59.

But the biggest thing for the Falcons this season is that they are a complete team which is credit to their brain trust in the front office. Running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman are one of the best tandems at the position in the league as they combined for 1,599 rushing yards  and 19 yards this season. The Falcons offensive line was solidified last off-season when the signed center Alex Mack. In seven years with the Cleveland Browns, Mack was a four-time Pro Bowl selection as he was one of the best centers in the National Football League, and his addition in Atlanta gave the Falcons something that they have lacked for a very long time which is an anchor on their offensive line.

The Falcons selected outside linebacker Vic Beasley Jr. in the first round of last year’s draft. And after Beasley had a disappointing rookie campaign as he only tallied 4 sacks, Quinn switched him from defensive end to outside linebacker. All Beasley did this season was to lead the National Football League in sacks with 15.5 sacks as every opposing offensive coordinator in the league must now account for his skills as an edge rusher.

The Falcons still have to get one more victory this season in order for them to claim their first Super Bowl Championship in franchise history, and it won’t be easy as they’ll the New England Patriots and quarterback Tom Brady. Ryan has already defeated a pair of Super Bowl winning quarterbacks in the playoffs, and he’ll need to get a victory over another in Brady if wants to bring the Vince Lombardi Trophy to Atlanta. But Ryan and his teammates have now taken their place alongside “The Dirty Birds” who came out of nowhere to win the NFC Championship in 1998.

Brick by brick Blank, McKay, and Dimitroff have put this Falcons team together that has become a band of brothers and as people continues to write them off, they are simply doing it against all odds.

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2016-2017 Conference Championship Picks

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In the final football game at the Georgia Dome, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has a date with destiny.

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2016 Week 17 NFL Picks

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Week 17’s showdown against the Green Bay Packers could be a defining moment for Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford.

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2016 Week 16 NFL Picks

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The New England Patriots can see the finish line in regards to getting home-field advantage in the playoffs.

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2016 Week 4 NFL Picks

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The New York Jets need quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to get back on track.

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2016 Week 3 NFL Picks

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Is Trevor Siemian ready for his first road test as the starting quarterback of the Denver Broncos?

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