Welcome to a New Year's Day edition of RJ's Weekly NFL Picks!
When the clock struck midnight last night the 2015 Cinderella Carriage officially turned into a pumpkin as the calendar flipped over to 2016. Can you believe it?
The same will hold true for 26 NFL teams on Sunday when their seasons come to a close as six lucky franchises chase Super Bowl glory.
The 2015 season has been one of the weirdest in recent memory with so many big stars missing significant time. For some teams, like our Cowboys, when the clock hits 0:00 there will be a sense of relief as we can finally move on to a new season, and a new year, of new hope.
Let's pick every NFL game for the first time in 2016. You and me. We'll do it together. Happy New Year!
New Orleans Saints (6-9) At Atlanta Falcons (8-7)
Long gone are the days where this matchup would produce almost 90 combined points. 2016 has brought about change to the calendar, but this rivalry has been different for quite some time.
Julio Jones is chasing history so the Falcons are going to air it to him a ton, but Drew Brees is falling apart from a health perspective so it's hard to imagine that New Orleans can hang with them.
New Orleans is going to be one of the more fascinating franchises to watch this offseason as we see what they're going to do with the aforementioned Brees and Head Coach Sean Payton. They've been such a successful pair for so long... with the end perhaps in sight I think they'll pull one more out for the Saints faithful.
Prediction: SAINTS - 31, Falcons - 27
New York Jets (10-5) At Buffalo Bills (7-8)
The New York Jets have a win-and-you're-in playoff scenario. Whether it's 2015, 2016, or any other year... something that optimistic is never safe in the hands of the Jets.
The Buffalo Rex Ryans will supposedly be getting up for their Head Coach and the opportunity to spoil his former team's chances at the Playoffs. Sorry Rexy, not buying it.
The Bills are pathetic. It actually saddens me.
I recently watched the 30 for 30 Four Falls Of Buffalo and if you didn't know... there is some deep NFL History circling those wagons (I highly recommend the documentary if you've got some time this weekend).
Buffalo already announced that they will not be bringing Mario Williams back next year, so perhaps it's not a far stretch to say that things aren't exactly super positive around that neck of the woods right now.
J-E-T-S take care of B-U-S-I-N-E-S-S on Sunday. Book it.
Prediction: JETS - 24, Bills - 13
Detroit Lions (6-9) At Chicago Bears (6-9)
This has the makings of a snooze-fest.
The super inept Lions against the hapless Bears in what will probably be a sludgy Soldier Field... yikes.
So that means this will be a wild and crazy shootout, right? That's how 2015 treated us all season long.
Prediction: LIONS - 41, Bears - 37
Baltimore Ravens (5-10) At Cincinnati Bengals (11-4)
Who would have ever said back in August that the Case Keenum-led Baltimore Ravens would take down the mighty Pittsburgh Steelers?
You can put your hand down, Mrs. Keenum.
The Ravens shocked the world last week with a win over their biggest rival, but they're out of gas when it comes to miracles.
The Bengals may have lost on the Monday Night Football finale, but they're not a bad team. They'll take care of business. On to the next one, please.
Prediction: Ravens - 10, BENGALS - 23
Pittsburgh Steelers (9-6) At Cleveland Browns (3-12)
The Steelers have to be just sick in their guts over last week's loss.
Good thing they've got the Browns up next.
While Mike Tomlin is actually 4-7 in his last 11 games versus below .500 teams, and even though he's lost to clumsy Cleveland teams before, this team is just too talented.
Big Ben, Antonio, and the crew will take care of business. They'll need a Jets loss to get into the dance, though. Things don't seem likely. The ghost of Case Keenum will haunt them forever. Ouchie.
Prediction: STEELERS - 34, Browns - 20
Washington Redskins (8-7) At Dallas Cowboys (4-11)
How the tides have turned.
A year ago the already-crowned NFC East Division Champions went on the road in the classic Cowboys/Redskins matchup and handed the home team a bitter loss in their own house.
Those Cowboys feel like so long ago.
The Redskins are officially this season's division winners and have nothing to play for - the exact same circumstances that we had last season. Ugh it hurts to type.
This game will finally put us out of the misery that we've endured all season long. Let's go out in style.
Prediction: REDSKINS - 24, Cowboys - 9
Tennessee Titans (3-12) At Indianapolis Colts (7-8)
Marcus Mariota has been ruled out of this game so it's hard to say that the Titans are even watchable.
The Colts enter this contest needing a win and eight other things to go there way to have any chance at the postseason. Things don't look so good, Indy.
If you weren't snoozing after Detroit and Chicago this one will make your eyelids heavy. God knows who is playing quarterback for the Colts, but he's probably still better than Zach Mettenberger.
Give me the Colts.
Prediction: Titans - 10, COLTS - 16
New England Patriots (12-3) At Miami Dolphins (5-10)
The Patriots are coming off of a loss against their hated rivals - the New York Jets.
The Miami Dolphins are the Miami Dolphins.
The Patriots have Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.
The Dolphins have Ryan Tannehill and Dan Campbell.
Candy from a baby, man.
Prediction: PATRIOTS - 27, Dolphins - 17
Philadelphia Eagles (6-9) At New York Giants (6-9)
Tuesday, December 29th was a dark day for Cowboys, Redskins, and Giants fans everywhere as the Eagles officially released Chip Kelly of his Head Coaching duties.
The good news for Giants fans is that Odell Beckham Jr. will get to play for their officially eliminated from playoff contention team, but he'll probably make some nice catch and everything will be ok.
The loser of this game will have to play in London next year as they will finish third in the division... and as the Rams are playing that team in London next year it would appear as if the loser has to leave the country.
Enjoy your trip across the pond, Giants.
Prediction: EAGLES - 23, Giants - 16
Jacksonville Jaguars (5-10) At Houston Texans (8-7)
I've been a deep believer of the Jacksonville Jaguars this season.
I legitimately believe that in a few years they are going to be one of the AFC's top teams should their offensive playmakers all stay there. They've got something special going on.
It's not enough right now, though.
The Houston Texans sneakily have one of the league's best defenses and they understand one of the most fundamental things about football that evades most teams: get the ball to your best players.
The Texans throw it to DeAndre Hopkins even if he's covered by 12 guys. I love that. He's the best guy on the field - give him a chance.
Prediction: Jaguars - 24, TEXANS - 30
San Diego Chargers (4-11) At Denver Broncos (11-4)
I can't be the only one that's annoyed with the Broncos this season.
It seems like Denver has caught break after break. I mean, how is the fact that Peyton Manning (one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time) not starting one of the biggest stories each and every week?
The Broncos' luck is bound to run out at some point, but it won't be against the Chargers. These guys have completely quit and now they've lost touch with reality.
Confused? Let me tell you what's up. San Diego fined Eric Weddle, one of their best players, ten thousand dollars for watching his daughter dance at halftime last week. Then they put him on IR this week.
Considering that they might be leaving San Diego the Chargers could've gone out a lot more classy, they deserve to lose.
Prediction: Chargers - 13, BRONCOS - 23
Oakland Raiders (7-8) At Kansas City Chiefs (10-5)
Nine nine nine nine! The Kansas City Chiefs have won nine games in a row!
The Raiders played perhaps, although I seriously doubt it, their last game in Oakland last week. This game will be the last time that we ever see Charles Woodson. That's a lot of history going on there.
History is nice and makes our hearts full, but the Chiefs are going to fill up the scoreboard. Boo-ya.
Prediction: Raiders - 17, CHIEFS - 30
St. Louis Rams (7-8) At San Francisco 49ers (4-11)
Jeff Fisher's Rams beat the Seahawks? Color me surprised.
The Rams have a rule. They are one of the worst teams on earth outside of the NFC West, but inside of that division they are kings. Hi, 49ers.
One of the national predictions for the season that's reached fruition seems to be that San Francisco would be flaming hot garbage. The Rams will win this one and we'll be stuck with Jeff Fisher for another year. Hooray.
Prediction: RAMS - 16, 49ers - 9
Seattle Seahawks (9-6) At Arizona Cardinals (13-2)
Now here is a game!
There isn't too much drama as both of these teams have already clinched playoff spots, the Cardinals the division, but we're looking at a potential playoff matchup in the making here.
I don't expect Seattle to show everything that they've got against Arizona considering that they might be re-visiting the University of Phoenix Stadium in a few weeks. There isn't a whole lot to gain for Seattle as they seem to be in prime position to travel to Washington during the wildcard round of the playoffs. They'll "like that."
Give me the Cardinals. It's their house and they want that #1 seed.
Prediction: Seahawks - 23, CARDINALS - 33
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-9) At Carolina Panthers (14-1)
The Panthers are one of the most dangerous teams in the NFL right now, even though they lost last week.
I don't totally subscribe to "good losses," but the Panthers have a lot more mental toughness than most teams. The Buccaneers do not.
Cam and Co. will get back to their winning ways with a nice layup against the Bucs before they take a week off to get ready for the real deal. Swish.
Prediction: Buccaneers - 13, PANTHERS - 37
Sunday Night Football: Minnesota Vikings (10-5) At Green Bay Packers (10-5)
NBC traditionally flexes the most exciting game of the regular season finale into this spot. There's a sense of calm over Cowboys Nation as it does not feature us with our lives on the line against a division foe.
Neither the Vikings nor Packers are fearing for their playoff lives in this game as they've both already clinched, but the rights to the NFC North are up for grabs. This game also has an interesting twist in that, under some permutations of playoff scenarios, the loser could be visiting the winner a week from now in the wildcard round.
If you follow me on Twitter then you know how hard I've pounded the table that the Green Bay Packers are massively overrated. Think about it... who have they beaten this year?
Of course the easy answer is the team they're playing in this game - the Minnesota Vikings. I trust those Vikings more, though. They flexed some serious muscle last week on Sunday Night Football and I expect that they'll do it again with the division on the line.
Look out for Adrian Peterson to have one of the games of his life.
Prediction: VIKINGS - 23, Packers - 20
Cowboys en Español: 3 Escenarios Para el Futuro de David Irving
En la NFL, la falta de noticias en Junio generalmente significa buenas noticias. Los aficionados de los Dallas Cowboys saben esto mejor que nadie y en caso de que lo hayan olvidado, David Irving se aseguró de recordarle a Cowboys Nation el porque de esta frase.
La semana pasada, se anunció que David Irving recibirá una suspensión de cuatro partidos por haber violado la política de abuso de substancias de la liga. Es la segunda suspensión que Irving recibe en años consecutivos y lógicamente, esto es preocupante para el equipo de los Dallas Cowboys.
Las últimas dos temporadas hemos visto a Irving convertirse en una pieza de suma importancia para la defensiva. El año pasado, Irving consiguió siete sacks (capturas) en sólo ocho juegos y se convirtió en un caza cabezas muy efectivo.
Demostrando ser uno de los jugadores más talentosos de su posición en la NFL, es difícil imaginar el futuro del #95 en la liga. Tras recibir un tender de segunda ronda hace unos meses (explico que es eso aquí), el futuro de Irving es muy incierto. Por eso, esta semana en Cowboys en Español, exploraremos tres escenarios posibles para el defensivo de 24 años.
#1 David Irving se va de Dallas prematuramente
Hace unos días, me dediqué a defender mi posición de que los Cowboys estarían cometiendo un error al cortar a David Irving. A pesar de que realmente despedirse de un defensivo como Irving parece muy poco probable, es un escenario que debemos discutir.
Irving ha sido un dolor de cabeza para el equipo en más de una ocasión. Dos suspensiones en años consecutivos no es una buena imagen para un jugador que busca un contrato jugoso al terminar el año.
Si Jason Garrett y la administración quieren "dar un mensaje" cortando a David Irving, ¿qué tanto serviría? Esta idea de enviar un mensaje, a la hora de pensarlo fríamente, parece una idea romántica de parte de nosotros los fans. Al final de cuentas, estamos hablando de un locker room lleno de jugadores adultos y profesionales, no de un grupo de niños.
Además, bien sabemos todos que Irving no es el único Cowboy que ha tenido problemas. ¿Será el hecho de que ha ocurrido dos años seguidos razón suficiente para dejarlo ir? Personalmente, no lo creo. Los Cowboys dejarían ir a un jugador muy bueno en una posición de necesidad.
Datone Jones, Jihad Ward y Maliek Collins podrán ser suficiente. Pero David Irving es especial en el campo. Mejor tenerlo por 12 juegos a tenerlo cero.
#2 Irving se queda para el 2018, pero no más allá
David Irving recibió un contrato de un año que le pagaba (antes de ser suspendido) 2.91 millones de dólares. Si hubiera demostrado que no era problemático y que podía mantenerse al 100% toda la temporada, probablemente hubiera recibido un gran contrato de los Cowboys o de otro equipo en la NFL.
Sin embargo, el dicho lo dice todo. "En la NFL, la disponibilidad es la mejor habilidad." Irving no se ha terminado de ganar la confianza necesaria para una gran extensión.
En este punto, Dallas puede esperar a que su tackle defensivo regrese de su suspensión, juegue doce juegos con ellos y les consiga un sack por juego por menos de tres millones de dólares. Después de eso, el equipo pude darse el lujo de dejarlo ir sin una extensión y verlo convertirse en un agente libre.
#3 Irving se queda por más de un año
En este caso, hay dos "sub-escenarios." Suponiendo que, efectivamente, Irving regresa y juega como sabemos que puede hacerlo, no será tan fácil dejarlo ir. Si llega a sorprender y demuestra que realmente es quien creemos que es y consigue diez capturas en sólo doce juegos, ¿realmente no le dará el equipo una oportunidad?
La primera opción sería asignarle la etiqueta franquicia y obligarlo a jugar un año más para un equipo que busca desesperadamente un Super Bowl.
Si se sienten cómodos dándole el salario de una etiqueta franquicia para evitar perderlo, ¿podríamos culparlos después de que les dio por ejemplo, diez capturas? Yo, personalmente, no podría hacerlo.
La otra opción, y una que podría ser la más realista, es más simple. La inmadurez y los problemas de Irving le costarán la confianza y el interés de otros equipos y es posible que en un punto, Dallas sea el único equipo que le pueda brindar seguridad de trabajo.
De esta manera, Dallas podría ofrecerle una extensión de dos, tres o más años a un precio mucho más barato que el de cualquier DT que consiga dos dígitos de sacks.
David Irving sin duda tiene un futuro incierto delante de él. Realmente sería una sorpresa verlo fuera de Dallas en el 2018, pero más allá, quien sabe lo que pueda pasar. Por ahora, esperemos que una vez que vuelva de la suspensión, esté en forma para ir detrás de los quarterbacks oponentes.
Con un poco de suerte, quizá nos olvidaremos de esto en Noviembre.
Is Kris Richard Actually Jason Garrett’s Replacement, Not Rod Marinelli’s?
Much has already been made about the Dallas Cowboys hiring of Kris Richard. He was brought in to be this year's defensive backs coach and passing game coordinator, but it's a title I don't think he will hold for long.
It has already been speculated that Kris Richard will become Rod Marinelli's successor to become the Dallas Cowboys next defensive coordinator. Marinelli in fact contemplated retirement after the completion of the 2017 season, but decided to give it another go in 2018. But, anything beyond that is unknown at this point.
It isn't that hard to believe that Kris Richard will be the Dallas Cowboys next defensive coordinator. He already has a pretty good track record as a DC from his time with the Seattle Seahawks (2015-2017). During that time, the Seahawks had one of the better defenses in the league, which is why a lot of Cowboys fans are excited about what he can do in Dallas.
This was a terrific hire by the Dallas Cowboys. Richard is one of the top up-and-coming coaches in the league today and is highly respected around the league. For him to take a step back from defensive coordinator to become the DB coach/passing game coordinator in Dallas is a little confusing.
Why would he take a step back in his coaching career to come to the Dallas Cowboys?
Before he agreed to come to Dallas, Richard interviewed for the head-coaching job with the Indianapolis Colts. To already be considered a head-coaching candidate tells you all you need to know about the trajectory of Richard's career. Again, why take a step back with the Cowboys?
We all know that Jerry Jones is a fantastic salesman. He must've been able to convince Richard that he has a chance at a big promotion sometime soon. But, would a promotion to defensive coordinator be enough for Richard? Does he have his eyes set on something bigger?
I know that I'm not alone, but Jason Garrett is on thin ice this season. If he doesn't at least get the Dallas Cowboys into the playoffs this year, he could be looking for a new job, which would create a vacancy at head coach. This could be the kind of opportunity Kris Richard is looking for.
I find it a little hard to believe that Kris Richard would be willingly to come coach in Dallas knowing that the entire coaching staff could be dismissed after the season if Jason Garrett isn't successful. That's not typically the kind of job security you look for, so something has to have been promised to him behind closed doors.
I know it's a lot of speculation right now, but I don't think it's completely out of the realm of possibility. Someone is going to have to replace Jason Garrett if he falters this season and Kris Richard is a logical choice. After all, it's kind of the way Garrett became the head coach of the Cowboys when he replaced Wade Phillips. Could history repeat itself?
Do you think Kris Richard is Jason Garrett's eventual replacement?
NFC East Position Rankings: The Quarterbacks
The long NFL offseason is finally beginning to come to a close, with teams participating in mandatory mini-camps and training camps just a month away. Still, though, there is a lot of time left before the 2018 NFL season really begins.
With that time it's always fun to rank things and put together lists. I mean, who doesn't love a good article ranking players? Over the next few weeks I'll be ranking position groups in the NFC East to see which team comes out on top.
Today we begin with the NFC East quarterbacks, arguably the most scrutinized position group in all of sports.
4. New York Giants QB Eli Manning
Though he is the most accomplished quarterback in this division, Giants QB Eli Manning comes in last in our current rankings. Manning has seen his play decline throughout the years, even being benched in favor of Geno Smith late in 2017.
With a healthy cast of pass catchers and rookie running back Saquon Barkley surrounding him, however, Manning could be poised for improvement in 2018.
The Giants offense might be the best in the league if each game was a 7 on 7 tournament, so it will be interesting to see how Eli Manning performs this season.
3. Washington Redskins QB Alex Smith
The newest starting quarterback in the NFC East is Washington's Alex Smith, and he comes in third in our rankings. Smith has gotten the reputation as a check-down artist throughout his career thus far, but when surrounded by the right talent he can be very effective.
Smith had arguably his best season to date in 2017 with the Kansas City Chiefs, but I just don't see Washington's offense being nearly as dangerous as those Chiefs were a year ago.
To me, Smith is at best a marginal upgrade over former starter Kirk Cousins, and won't bring too much of a difference over the long haul in Washington.
2. Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott
Second on our list is Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott. The now third year quarterback is coming off a bit of a "sophomore slump" to end his 2017 campaign, though his first season and a half warrant him our number two spot.
I expect Prescott to look like himself in 2018, especially with the improvements the Cowboys made to their offensive line. Ezekiel Elliott should be available for all 16 games, and the turnover in the receiver group gives some cause for optimism as well.
Prescott is the former Rookie of the Year and has had a good start to his career thus far, but sorry, Cowboys fans, we can all admit Dak Prescott doesn't deserve the top spot as of now.
1. Philadelphia Eagles QB Carson Wentz
The top quarterback in the NFC East right now is Eagles QB Carson Wentz. Wentz was a legitimate MVP candidate in 2017 prior to his injury, and once returning to full health Wentz should be able to impress once again.
The Eagles offense was downright dominant while Wentz was healthy, and though they did win the Super Bowl without him, Wentz brings their productivity to another level.
And with arguably the best supporting cast of the entire division, Carson Wentz is poised for success going forward.
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