Tag Archives: Indianapolis Colts

2017 Week 12 NFL Picks

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With the injuries to the Seattle Seahawks secondary, quarterback Russell Wilson will have to shoulder more of the load.

 

 

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2017 Week Nine NFL Picks

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Will quarterback Derek Carr be able to lead the Oakland Raiders to a road win over the Miami Dolphins?

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2017 Week Seven NFL Picks

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The loss of Super Bowl 51 still stings for the Atlanta Falcons.

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2017 Week Six NFL Picks

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You throw the rule book out of the window when the New York Jets face the New England Patriots.

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2017 AFC South Projections

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X-Houston Texans 10-6

Four of the last six years have seen the Houston Texans make the playoffs, but they’ve been unable to get past the second round. And the two biggest reasons why the Texans have been unable to advance are the New England Patriots who have eliminated them in two of those years as well as their issues at the most important position on the football field. Each of the last four years has seen the Texans have a different starting quarterback on opening day and this year will mark five consecutive seasons in which that is the case.

The Brock Osweiler experiment is over for the Texans after just one season as Houston has decided to move on from him. Tom Savage will enter the new season with the most experience at quarterback for the Texans, but he only started two games for Houston last year. The Texans used a first-round pick this year on quarterback Deshaun Watson as he is looked at as the future of the franchise, but he could also be the present.

After Watson lost his first start for the Clemson Tigers in 2014, he would only lose twice more for his collegiate career. Watson led Clemson to consecutive 14-1 seasons and this past January saw the Tigers claim their first national championship since 1981. Watson might not be familiar with taking snaps under center, but he is a winner which is something that the Texans need at the position.

Bill O’Brien

For Texans head coach Bill O’Brien, he has a solid commitment to running the football which is a lost art in today’s game. Last year the Texans were eighth in the National Football League in rushing and you can expect another healthy dose of the rushing attack this season. Lamar Miller will once again be the feature ball carrier for the Titans, and he once again has the potential to gain at least 1,000 yards on the ground. But Houston has depth behind him in the form of Alfred Blue as well as D’Onta Foreman as this rushing attack will be important to a young quarterback in Watson who I expect to get his feet wet sooner rather than later.

It has not taken wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins that long to morph into one of the better pass catchers in the National Football League, and he has been able to accomplish this in spite of not having consistency at the quarterback position. Like Watson, Hopkins is a Clemson alum, and if these two former Tigers are able to get on the same page, Houston’s offense should be a force.

J.J. Watt

Defensive end J.J. Watt has been at the forefront of the relief efforts in the Houston area following the devastation that was caused by Hurricane Harvey, and the icing on that cake is that he is a darn good football player. Watt is a three-time National Football League Defensive Player of the Year, but he is attempting to bounce back after an injury plagued 2016. Last season Watt was limited to just three games as he underwent surgery to repair a herniated disc in his back. Watt is a physical specimen, but it’ll be interesting to see how is body will be able to respond to the wear and tear that comes with paying in the NFL.

However Watt’s return along with the emergence of outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney as well as the consistency of outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus and inside linebacker Brian Cushing will once again make Houston’s defense tough. And whereas that the Texans will be unable to replace the experience of nose tackle Vince Wilfork who retired after 13 years in the National Football League, the return of Watt will be able to remedy some of that.

The Texans will face their old nemesis in the Patriots in Week 3, however with the competition in the AFC South expected to once again be light, Houston should once again be the team to beat in that division.

Tennessee Titans 9-7

The 2016 National Football League season saw the Tennessee Titans possibly barreling to their first playoff appearance since 2008. However things would change in Week 16 when quarterback Marcus Mariota would suffer a fractured right fibula. The Titans would go on to lose that game to the Jacksonville Jaguars, but they would rebound to defeat the Houston Texans to end the regular season. The Titans would finish 9-7 for their first winning season since 2011, while they tied the Texans for the top spot in the AFC South. However the Titans would lose the tiebreaker with Houston due to the fact that Tennessee was only able to go 2-4 within the division, while the Texans were 5-1. But now as a new season is set to begin, are the young Titans poised to take that next step in 2017 in order to become a playoff team?

Marcus Mariota

After the Titans made Mariota the second overall pick of the 2015 National Football League Draft, he is rapidly developing into a franchise player as well as a leader in Nashville. The biggest knock on Mariota coming out of college was whether or not that he would be able to make the transition to the pro game which meant adjusting to a pro-style system as opposed to the spread offense that he played in during his collegiate days.

Mariota has been able to make the transition which has included him completing more than 62% of his passes in the National Football League. Titans head coach Mike Mularkey has done a solid job of putting Mariota in situations where he can succeed which means an emphasis on featuring his running ability.

The Titans were third in the National Football League season in rushing as this is a team that is a throwback to a different era of football. Running back DeMarco Murray enjoyed his first season in Nashville as his 1,287 yards were third in the NFL. Murray did carry the football 293 times last season, but Tennessee won’t have an issue in regards to keeping him fresh due to his understudy.

In 2015, running back Derrick Henry won the Heisman Trophy en route to helping the Alabama Crimson Tide win the national title. Henry was used sparingly last year as a rookie; mainly to give Murray a breather. However I see Mularkey and Titans offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie using Henry more this season. Henry checks in at 6’3″, while he weighs 247 lbs., and he has solid speed on that frame which means that he runs like an 18-wheeler that is barreling down the interstate. And aside from being a good runner at the goal line, Henry could team with Murray and Mariota to give the Titans a running game reminiscent of that of the Miami Dolphins from the early 1970s which featured running backs Jim Kiick, Larry Csonka, and Mercury Morris.

Mike Mularkey

Once upon a time Mularkey was a tight end in the National Football League and he’s bringing that physical mentality to his team. The Titans have a pair of bookend studs in left tackle Taylor Lewan and right tackle Jack Conklin who help to give Tennessee one of the best offensive lines in the NFL which will be important with Mariota returning from the injury.

But as much as the Titans can run the football, they are going to need some production through the air. The Titans used a first-round pick on wide receiver Corey Davis, while they also signed free agent wide receiver Eric Decker. Decker has proven throughout his career that he can be a solid slot receiver in the right offense. And as effective as the Titans can run the football, Decker should be able to benefit from consistent play-action passing.

For Titans defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, he operates a 3-4 defensive scheme where the strength of the unit comes from the linebackers. However the Titans were 20th in the National Football League in total defense last season, while they lack a disruptive force on the defensive line as well as at linebacker who can consistently get to the quarterback. Outside linebacker Brian Orakpo was able to tally 10.5 sacks in 2016 which led the team, but as he is 31, while also having several severe injuries during career, can he be counted on to have another productive season?

The Titans do have several weapons on special teams who could be game changers. The Titans entered the National Football League last spring owners of a pair of first-round picks with one of those being used on cornerback Adoree Jackson. The Titans not only drafted Jackson for his coverage skills on defense, but also for his ability to return kicks and punts, while he could also be used in special packages on offense. And then there is kicker Ryan Succop who made 11 field goals from beyond 40 yards last year as his leg will be important in 2017 if Tennessee wants to end their playoff drought.

The mental strength of the Titans will be tested during the early stages of their schedule as four of their first five games will be against playoff teams from last season. But if the Titans want to take the next step, these are the games that they must find a way to win.

Indianapolis Colts 6-10

The names have changed for the Indianapolis Colts, but the results are still the same as this is an organization that has too much reliance solely on their quarterback. The Colts made quarterback Andrew Luck the first overall pick of the 2012 National Football League Draft, but they have failed to put a quality team around which was also the case of his predecessor in Peyton Manning. Grant it that Luck has worked under a different general manager than Manning did, but during Ryan Grigson’s time as Colts GM, he never did right by Luck which led to his termination last season. Now former Kansas City Chiefs director of football operations Chris Ballard has begun his tenure as Colts general manager by picking up right where Grigson left off from which included having a lackluster draft class come to Indianapolis. However for Ballard, his dilemma is a little bit bigger than initially thought.

Andrew Luck

The Colts inability to put a quality team around Luck which includes having a lackluster offensive line has led to injuries for him. Over the last two years Luck has missed a combined 10 games. And as the injuries are catching up to Luck, he underwent shoulder surgery during off-season which prevented him from participating in the team’s training camp. Now the Colts must deal with the reality that Luck will not be ready for start of the upcoming season. And even when Luck returns to action, how effective will he be coming off of the mend?

In order to offset Luck’s absence, the Colts acquired quarterback Jacoby Brissett from the New England Patriots this summer. Brissett was a third-round pick of the Patriots last year, and in two starts with the team he was able to complete nearly 62% of his passes. However now that Brissett won’t have the luxury of having the talent around him on offense like he was accustomed to with the Patriots, how productive will he be in Indy?

Chuck Pagano

For Colts head coach Chuck Pagano, his offense was tenth in the National Football League in total offense in 2016. But with Luck on the shelf and a veteran running back in Frank Gore, how productive will the Colts offense be this year? Gore is coming off of a productive first year with the Colts as he was able to surpass the 1,000-yard mark for the ninth time in his National Football League career. Gore is 935 yards shy of becoming only the fifth player in NFL history to rush for 14,000 career yards, but he is a 34-years of age, and at some point the other show has to drop.

The Colts passing offense which was fifth in the National Football League will more than likely take a hit without the services of Luck for all 16 games which means that wide receiver T.Y. Hilton won’t be as productive. Hilton has become one of the biggest deep threats in the NFL which included him leading the league in receiving yards last year with 1,448. And in spite of the fact that Hilton was able to lead the NFL in receiving last year, he is not a player who is considered as a typical top receiver which goes back to my point about Indianapolis failing to put talent around Luck.

Prior to Pagano becoming a head coach, his specialty was defensive football, however that has not transferred over to his time with the Colts. Last year Indianapolis was 30th in the National Football League in total defense And like the Colts offense, this organization has failed to find play makers on the defensive side of the football which has greatly inhibited their ability to stop opponents. Last season Colts opponents were able to convert on 41.5% of their third down conversions which was 25th in the National Football League and I expect that trend to continue here in 2017.

Only one of the Colts first eight opponents made the playoffs last year. But even an easy schedule to begin the season won’t prevent Indianapolis from struggling this year.

Jacksonville Jaguars 4-12

The names on the back of the jerseys as well as that on the offices of the head coach and general manager may change, but the losing has continued for the Jacksonville Jaguars. You have to go back to the 2007 National Football League season to find the last time that the Jaguars had a winning season, while they’ve won no more than five games in a campaign since 2011. What has hurt the Jaguars the most is the ineptitude in their front office which has seen the organization consistently miss on their first-round picks as this is never a recipe for success.

After leading Jacksonville to a playoff appearance in four of the team’s first five years of existence as their head coach, Tom Coughlin has returned to the organization. This past January, Coughlin was named as the Jaguars executive vice president of football operations and he hopes to return the team to prominence, while brining with him some of the winning formula that helped him attain a pair of Super Bowl Championships as the head coach of the New York Giants. Coughlin is a staunch disciplinarian who pays attention to detail. And if the young Jaguars won’t buy into what Coughlin is selling, he won’t have a problem helping them pack their bags to get out of town.

After replacing Gus Bradley who was fired as the Jags head coach with two games remaining in 2016, Doug Marrone was retained to be the Jaguars head coach. Prior to joining the Jaguars, Marrone was the head coach of the Buffalo Bills from 2013-2014, and he appeared to be on the track to success until he opted out of his deal due to issues within the front office. But only time will tell if things will work out differently for Marrone in Jacksonville.

Blake Bortles

For the past three years Blake Bortles has been the Jaguars starting quarterback and it has not gone well for him. In three years as the Jags starting quarterback, Bortles has led the National Football League in sacks twice and interceptions once. In total Bortles has been sacked 140 times, while also throwing 51 interceptions. And most importantly Bortles’ record as a starting quarterback with Jacksonville is only 11-34. Bortles does have solid wide receivers to get the football to in Allen Hurns, Allen Robinson, and Marquise Lee, but he appears to be lacking the “it” factor. Bortles has heard his fair share of criticism in Northern Florida, and as the Jaguars have talent around him on offense, 2017 will be a make or break year for him.

During Coughlin’s time as the head coach of the Jaguars and Giants respectively, his teams always had a commitment to running the football which goes back to his days as a collegiate running back for the Syracuse Orangemen. And Coughlin’s first pick upon returning to the Jaguars organization was used on running back Leonard Fournette.

Leonard Fournette

Fournette comes into the National Football League with plenty of hype as he was the first running back that was selected from a very deep class of running backs this year. At 6’0″, 228 lbs., Fournette is a bruising runner who combines size with speed and he now gets an opportunity to shine on the big stage as he is an immediate upgrade to a Jaguars running attack that did not have one ball carrier tally at least 500 yards in 2016.

Jacksonville must get more competitive defensively and it begins with some of their recent early round draft picks stepping up. In 2015, defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. was the third overall pick of the National Football League Draft. However Fowler would suffer a torn ACL in his first practice with the Jaguars and he has yet to become the impact player that he was expected to be. Last year Jacksonville would use a second-round pick on middle linebacker Myles Jack who entered the NFL with knee issues. And any turnaround that Jacksonville wants to have defensively in 2017 begins with Fowler and Jack being able to live up the hype which was bestowed upon team heading into the NFL.

For Coughlin and Marrone, they are attempting to change the culture in the Jaguars locker room which isn’t a quick fix. There is a deep culture in regards to losing in Jacksonville, and until it is fixed which also includes making better draft decisions, this team will continue to finish near the bottom of the AFC South.

X-Division Winner

Source: Pro-football-reference.com

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2017 AFC South Draft Grades

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Houston Texans

First-Round Pick: Deshaun Watson-Quarterback-Clemson

Best Pick: Deshaun Watson

Grade: A

Each of the last two years has seen the Houston Texans with the AFC South, and their productivity at the 2017 National Football League Draft could make them the team to beat in this division for years to come. In a bold move the Texans moved up 13 spots in the first round in order to select Clemson Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson.

Deshaun Watson

The Texans made a trade with the Cleveland Browns in order to move up to select Watson and it could be well worth it. Watson’s record as a starter in college was 32-3 which included leading Clemson to the national championship last year. And that ability to win games caught the eye of the Texans who may have found their franchise quarterback.

In the second round the Texans got a steal when they drafted Vanderbilt Commodores outside linebacker Zach Cunningham. Cunningham had the potential to be a mid first-round selection, but surprisingly he fell to the second round and he is going into a great situation. At Vanderbilt, Cunningham tackled everything that moved as he led the team in tackles last year with 125. Now Cunningham will join an already strong linebacking core where he can learn from the likes of outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney and inside linebacker Brian Cushing.

D’Onta Foreman

Last year the Texans were eighth in the National Football League in rushing and that trend should continue after drafting Texas Longhorns running back D’Onta Foreman in the third round. Foreman was a workhorse for the Longhorns as he carried the football 323 times last year for 2,208 yards and 15 rushing touchdowns to earn the Doak Walker Award as the nation’s top running back. The Texans already had plenty of talent in their backfield which features Lamar Miller, but now the addition of Foreman will allow head coach Bill O’Brien to keep fresh tailbacks throughout the season.

The Texans would then beef up in the trenches as they pegged Bucknell Bison offensive tackle Julien Davenport and Clemson Tigers defensive tackle Carlos Watkins in the fourth round, while nabbing Baylor Bears center Kyle Fuller in the seventh.

Of the coaches who have worked under New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, O’Brien probably possesses the best pedigree of knowing how to put a quality team together as this draft illustrated that.

Tennessee Titans

First-Round Pick: Corey Davis-Wide Receiver-Western Michigan, Adoree’ Jackson-Cornerback-USC

Best Pick: Adoree’ Jackson

Grade: C

The Tennessee Titans had a solid showing at the 2017 National Football League Draft, but things could have been much better for them. Last year the Titans traded the first overall pick to the Los Angeles Rams with part of their compensation seeing them receive an additional first round pick this year. The Titans entered this year’s draft with the fifth as well 18th overall selections, and instead of hitting home runs, they reached with their choices.

First, the Titans would select Western Michigan Broncos wide receiver Corey Davis who was a lock to go in the first round, but if Tennessee was that focused on him, they could’ve traded down a little bit and still gotten him. Davis does fill a hole for the Titans who need a presence at the wide receiver position to off-set their power running game, but the pressure will be on him to live up to the expectations as far as where he was drafted.

Adoree Jackson

Later on in the first round the Titans would peg USC Trojans cornerback Adoree’ Jackson. And like Davis, Jackson can come in and have an impact for the Titans; it’s just that it was a reach to select him where they did. Jackson’s initial impact with the Titans could come on special teams where they need a play maker, and don’t be surprised to see Titans head coach Mike Mularkey implement some plays for him on offense.

After the first round the Titans would add seven more players in the draft. But with none of those players showing the ability to stand out, Tennessee missed a golden opportunity to load up on impact players in the draft.

Indianapolis Colts

First-Round Pick: Malik Hooker-Safety-Ohio State

Best Pick: Malik Hooker

Grade: D

After quarterback Andrew Luck helped the Indianapolis Colts reach the AFC Championship Game during the 2014 National Football League season, he has taken a football beating. In each of the last two years the Colts have gone 8-8 and failed to make the playoffs. A big reason for the Colts struggles is that the team has failed to put talent around Luck which begins with their inability at the draft. The Colts have a new general manager in Chris Ballard, but his first draft with the Colts wasn’t be a memorable one.

The Colts entered the 2017 National Football League Draft with multiple needs on both sides of the football. In the first round the Colts selected Ohio State Buckeyes safety Malik Hooker whom they are hopeful can solve some of their coverage issues. The second round would see the Colts select Florida Gators cornerback Quincy Wilson, but I am not sure if either he or Hooker will be able to come in an have an immediate impact in Indianapolis.

In Luck’s last 22 games he has been sacked 56 times, but the Colts only used one draft pick on an offensive lineman in the fourth round when they selected USC Trojans offensive tackle Zach Banner. The Colts were 23rd last year in rushing which saw them use another fourth-round selection on South Florida Bulls running back Marlon Mack, but with their issues on the offensive line who is going to block for him?

The Colts also needed to improve the wide receiver position, but in failing to do so this could be a very long season in Indianapolis for Luck and Colts head coach Chuck Pagano.

Jacksonville Jaguars

First-Round Pick: Leonard Fournette-Running Back-LSU

Best Pick: Round Two-Cam Robinson-Offensive Tackle-Alabama

Grade: B+

It’s been ten years since the Jacksonville Jaguars had a winning record or made the playoffs which can be traced back to their inability to find and develop talent in the first round of the National Football League Draft. But with former Jaguars and New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin now as the executive vice president of football operations in Jacksonville, there may finally be some law and order there.

The Jags have let it be known that they are committed to Blake Bortles as their franchise quarterback. And since that is the case it means that Jacksonville must put more talent around Bortles.

Coughlin attended Syracuse University as a running back which saw him in the same backfield with Hall of Fame running backs Larry Csonka and Floyd Little. Coughlin’s dedication to the run followed him throughout his head coaching career in the National Football League and he has brought that same game plan with him to the Jaguars front office.

Leonard Fournette

The first round of the draft saw the Jags select LSU Tigers running back Leonard Fournette. At 6’1″, 235 lbs., Fournette can be like a runaway freight train with the football in his possession and he will have every opportunity to have an impact in Jacksonville. And if you want to run the football while also protecting Bortles, why not select a proven offensive tackle early which is what the Jaguars did.

With the second pick of the second round Jacksonville selected Alabama Crimson Tide offensive tackle Cam Robinson. Robinson has the potential to be a solid player for the Jaguars and the fact that he slipped to the second round could mean that he’ll be extra motivated when he puts the pads on.

The fourth round saw the Jags select Oklahoma Sooners wide receiver Dede Westbrook who despite the baggage that he brings due to his off-the-field issues while in college, he could add to an already talented receiving unit in Jacksonville. Westbrook could be a very valuable slot receiver; especially on third down which will be important for a Jaguars team that is seeking to not get lost in the shuffle in the AFC South.

We’ve heard this before, but things appear to be finally turning around in Jacksonville.

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Appreciating Frank Gore

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The running back position is arguably the most underrated position right now in the National Football League as players take a ton of pounding on their bodies while the career expectancy isn’t that long. And as the NFL has become a more pass happy league in recent years, it’s safe to say that Emmitt Smith’s total of 18,355 rushing yards will stand for a very long time as the league’s all-time gold standard for running the football. But that hasn’t stopped a player such as Indianapolis Colts running back Frank Gore from giving it all that he has and then some.

Gore was a third-round pick by the San Francisco 49ers in 2005. Knee injuries that Gore sustained at the University of Miami saw his stock fall upon initially coming to the National Football League, but it didn’t take him that long to show that he was one of the better running backs in the game.

In Gore’s rookie season he only managed to rush for 608 yards as he only started one game. But by 2006, Gore rushed for a career-high 1,695 yards. Gore continued to put up solid numbers for the 49ers in spite of the fact that he was playing on bad teams. And that losing was something new to Gore as he came from a winning culture at Miami.

In 2011, Gore would get his first taste of the postseason as a new head coach in Jim Harbaugh would change the culture in San Francisco. By 2012, Gore reached the game’s biggest stage in the Super Bowl, but his Niners lost that evening to the Baltimore Ravens.

Gore’s last season in San Francisco would come in 2014, but not before he would become the 49ers all-time leading rusher with 11,073 yards as eight of his 12 years in the National Football League have seen him gain at least 1,000 yards. Gore is closing in on another 1,000-yard campaign on the ground as he is just 36 yards away from reaching the holy grail for running backs once more. Gore’s 13,004 career rushing yards are good for eighth on the NFL’s all-time list as he has passed six Pro Football Hall of Fame running backs which includes Jim Brown and Tony Dorsett this season in yardage.

This season Gore has a pair of 100-yard games which includes getting 101 rushing yards in the Colts Week 15 victory over the Minnesota Vikings. And even at the age of 33 which is ancient for running backs in the National Football League, Gore appears to be getting better just like a fine wine.

What has kept Gore around in the National Football League is the fact that he has the same hunger which he had upon entering the league in 2005. When Gore is toting the rock, his legs never stop churning as he is a testament to hard work and determination, while also being an inspiration to young running backs that are entering the league. Gore is playing for a Colts team that will miss the playoffs for a second consecutive year, but that has not stopped him from producing on the field as well as in the locker room where his experience can help the younger players.

Gore has one year left on his contract with the Colts as he is set to earn $3.5 million in 2017. But you never know what tomorrow will bring, and if Gore chooses to continue his career next year, he will undoubtedly be an asset to whichever team that he plays for. Gore has gone about his business in the National Football League very quietly. However his strong legs will carry him to the Pro Football Hall of Fame where he’ll take his rightful place among the other great running backs that the game has seen.

Source: Spotrac.com

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