Welcome to Week 3 of the NFL season!
This is a weird place.
Tony Romo is hurt, the Redskins are watchable, and the Jaguars won a game! The only thing about this week that feels like the NFL we know and love is that the Browns continue to make terrible decisions.
If you knew one thing about RJ Ochoa you would know that Back To The Future is his favorite movie ever. Lucky for me I know that guy pretty well (he's pretty charming from what I hear) so I know what he's thinking.
Today I, like Doc and Marty, have returned from the future. I traveled out to next Tuesday morning and saw who won all of the Week 3 NFL games (Also saw that I wear the same shirt every day between now and then. I need to get it together.). Even though I traveled through time, not distance, I still managed to gain more yards than DeMarco Murray and the Eagles running backs.
Hop in my DeLorean and allow me to tell you who is winning each and every game from Week 3. No sports almanacs allowed, Biff.
Thursday Night Football: Washington Redskins (1-1) At New York Giants (0-2)
The future is a weird place. The Redskins are... above .500? That's right!
The Washington Redskins head into East Rutherford Thursday night to face off against a G-Men squad that can't get out of their own way. Crushing losses to America's Team (who are still America's Team in the future, no worries) and the new-look Atlanta Falcons have this bunch feeling blue (no pun intended).
Kirk Cousins seems to be playing well enough, or at least not like RGIII, for Washington to find ways to win. Bill Callahan has had an incredible impact on their team and it shows in just two games. Rookie running back sensation Matt Jones ran ALL OVER the defensive unit of the St. Louis Rams (like everyone else has in the history of the world) last week. Jeff Fisher went as far as to say that this Washington team is "this year's Cowboys" in terms of how much they ran the ball.
These 'Skins are going to emulate the 2014 Cowboys and run, run, run. They're going to do what they can to control the pace of the game and time of possession. A short week after the way that the Giants lost to the Falcons was welcomed in terms of not having to deal with it for too long, but I just don't think the Giants are prepared enough for this. I'll take the sneaky Redskins on TNF.
Prediction: Redskins - 23, Giants - 16
Atlanta Falcons (2-0) At Dallas Cowboys (2-0)
Fun little tidbit about this game... both teams are not only 2-0, but were fortunate enough to get both of their victories against the same two teams: the Giants and Eagles.
Unfortunately you're going to have to leave your Tony Romo and Dez Bryant jerseys in your closet for this one. #9 and #88 will be on the sidelines in sweats as Brandon Weeden squares off against Matt Ryan in a battle of undefeated teams.
The Falcons have been a nice surprise this season. Rookie Head Coach Dan Quinn (aka Captain Falcon aka Falcon Punch! aka if you got that reference then we are best friends) has this team playing some solid football. Julio Jones looks unstoppable and Matty Ice seems to be regaining the form that has put him in the discussion of elite quarterbacks in this league.
The hopes and dreams of Cowboys fans laid on the ground in Philadelphia last week when Tony Romo went down with a fractured clavicle. Fortunately this unit plays like a total team all the time and found a way to take down the division rival Eagles. Brandon Weeden will be in control Sunday, and last time that happened things did not go so well for #3.
Atlanta is not without injury as their rookie running back Tevin Coleman fractured his rib and is going to miss some time. I'm not going to lie or sugar coat it - Julio Jones is a monster. The Cowboys are going to need to devote some serious attention his way, but if they can eliminate him then there's not much else from Atlanta that terrifies me. Look for the Cowboys to lean heavily on the run and rely on guys like Lance Dunbar and Cole Beasley for those short dink-and-dunk type plays.
The Cowboy defense will come to play and will do their best to carry the team without Romo. Get ready for some shocked media members on Monday morning!
Prediction: Falcons - 6, Cowboys - 20
Cincinnati Bengals (2-0) At Baltimore Ravens (0-2)
Ahhh I love the smell of division rival clashes in the morning (that and bacon - bacon over everything).
The Baltimore Ravens are in trouble. They're 0-2 after a loss to the Raiders (which should actually count for more than one loss in my opinion...) with division clashes against the Bengals and Steelers coming up. If a guy named Crockett Gilmore is your most potent offensive weapon than you need help. Justin Forsett had a solid 2014, and while he gained more than 2 yards like a certain notable 2014 running back... he really needs to get it going for the sake of the Ravens.
Andy Dalton did me a personal favor and threw a touchdown to my fantasy diamond AJ Green, so I am appreciative. The Bengals always look stout this time of year so no one is really shocked. Their roster is really impressive from top to bottom and you would think that they'd be one of the premiere AFC teams. They'll fall off in early January, but for now they're for real. I'll take the Bengals.
Prediction: Bengals - 30, Ravens - 17
Oakland Raiders (1-1) At Cleveland Browns (1-1)
The black and silver of the Oakland Raiders make up one of the most beautiful uniforms in the NFL. It is a shame that lining up across from them will be the atrocity that the Cleveland Browns put together this year.
Oakland looked, dare I say, good against the Baltimore Ravens. I really like Derek Carr and think he has a future in this league (imagine the AFC West in 5 years... no Peyton, no Rivers, it's Carr's world and we're all living in it). Amari Cooper is the perfect weapon to compliment the young quarterback and these guys are actually semi-fun to watch!
The legend of Johnny Football will have to wait at least one more week to grow even larger. For reasons that I cannot explain the Browns think that Josh McCown is a more serviceable starter this week. Poor Johnny, poor Travis Benjamin, poor everybody (especially our eyes against those uniforms).
Look for the Browns to get waxed and Cleveland to turn to Johnny as their hero for Week 4.
Prediction: Raiders - 27, Browns - 9
Indianapolis Colts (0-2) At Tennessee Titans (1-1)
Who would have thought that the Titans would have more wins entering this contest than the division rival Colts? Maybe those 28 Titans fans - MAYBE.
The Colts looked like a mess on Monday Night Football against the Jets in a Super Bowl III re-match. New York got after Luck and flustered him early and often... leaving all of us to wonder where this elite Colts offense is.
Marcus Mariota came back down to earth a little when the Cleveland Browns had their way with him last Sunday, and he suffered the first loss of his NFL career. One of the brighter spots for the Titans last week was when #8 found fellow rookie Dorial Green-Beckham for a touchdown. Look for that trend to continue as 2015 progresses.
It's hard not to believe that the Colts will finally get something together offensively, and that'll be a little much for the Titans defense to handle. I don't think Luck is going to look super impressive, but he's not about to let his team fall to 0-3.
Prediction: Colts - 16, Titans - 10
Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1) At St. Louis Rams (1-1)
I legitimately thought that San Francisco was going to ride a wave of positive momentum into Pittsburgh last week. Obviously I upset the likes of Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, and DeAngelo Williams - my bad, guys. The Steelers took care of business easily last week, and unlike the Colts their offense seems to be as real as advertised.
If anyone came crashing down to earth last week it was Jeff Fisher's St. Louis Rams. After a huge win over the division rival Seahawks his team went up to DC and got embarrassed by the Redskins. That elite defensive line they're supposed to have? Yea, didn't make a difference. And they won't again this week either.
Pittsburgh is going to come out and flex their Le'Veon Bell shaped muscle during #26's first 2015 action in St. Louis. Get him in your fantasy lineups now!
Prediction: Steelers - 32, Rams - 14
San Diego Chargers (1-1) At Minnesota Vikings (1-1)
Last time that the San Diego Chargers were in Minnesota (granted it was the Metrodome) there were a lot of fireworks. Antonio Cromartie tied the record for the longest play in NFL History when he returned a missed field goal 109 yards for a touchdown. Oh and Adrian Peterson ran for more yards (296... with 3 TDs to boot) in a game than anyone in the history of ever. No big deal.
The Chargers ran into some trouble against the Bengals last week, but I have a lot of faith in them. Philip Rivers is a borderline elite quarterback who is going to find ways to make plays. Keenan Allen regressed last week, but he is going to return to Week 1 form against these Vikes... oh and Melvin Gordon is going to have an impressive day, too.
Minnesota picked up their first dubayoo of the season last week against the Lions. While that's a little impressive, it's hard to forget what we saw from this team against the 49ers. Give me San Diego.
Prediction: Chargers - 24, Vikings - 13
Jacksonville Jaguars (1-1) At New England Patriots (2-0)
Seriously? You really need me to pick this for you?
I know, I know... the Jaguars beat the Dolphins. That'd adorable. To be perfectly honest they were actually a little impressive. They are just out of their league on this one.
New England is on a mission to beat opponents by thousands of points this season. Even if they weren't they would still beat the Jaguars by 1,000 points. They stormed into Buffalo, despite Rex Ryan's constant chirping, and snatched the heart out of Bills fans. They are going to massacre the Jags.
Prediction: Jaguars - 6, Patriots - 38
New Orleans Saints (0-2) At Carolina Panthers (2-0)
The Superdome is about to be Supersad. These Saints look terrible - and that's with Drew Brees. #9 may or may not suit up on Sunday when the Saints hit the field in Carolina. Sean Payton and Co. were looked at like the kid who brings vegetables for lunch when they traded away Jimmy Graham, and they're really going to miss him this week.
The Panthers have done what you're supposed to do - they've won against bad teams. With wins against Jacksonville and Houston under their belt, the Panthers get another serving of yuck with this Saints team marching into town. Superman returns on Sunday (Cam, not the terrible movie).
Prediction: Saints - 13, Panthers - 23
Philadelphia Eagles (0-2) At New York Jets (2-0)
There is a lot of green going on in this game.
There has been very little flying done by the Eagles this season as all of Chip Kelly's new toys have come with instructions that he just refuses to read. DeMarco Murray has a hamstring issue, and probably some bruised pride, so he might not suit up on Sunday. Those two yards will have to be run by someone else.
J-E-T-S YES YES YES! Holy guacamole (another green thing) did the Jets look good on Monday Night Football! This defensive unit is no joke, and the Amish Rifle looks capable of managing the game for the offense. I really like this team and think they're going to be in the discussion for a wildcard spot late in the season.
"Are we clear for takeoff? Did you get rid of those Eagles in the sky? Let's go." The Jets are taking off on Sunday.
Prediction: Eagles - 16, Jets - 24
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-1) At Houston Texans (0-2)
Famous Jameis got his first win of his young career over Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints. Wow. The Bucs shocked the world last week when they went into the Superdome and stunned the Saints, and I think they can do it again. The real Mike Evans has to stand up at some point, and he's going to make a significant impact for this team.
Houston we have 10 million problems. This team is a mess... all over. Sure Ryan Mallett looked a little better than Brian Hoyer, but that's like saying that Sam Bradford is a little better than Tim Tebow. It's all terrible. Houston has issues everywhere and until Arian Foster returns they don't have much of a shot against anyone. I like the Bucs in this one.
Prediction: Buccaneers - 17, Texans - 10
San Francisco 49ers (1-1) At Arizona Cardinals (2-0)
Train has a really great album called something like "Save Me, San Francisco." I hope that the 49ers have been listening to it because they really need someone to save them. Sure they got off to a nice start against Minnesota, but they got waxed against a real opponent... and Arizona is for real.
The Cardinals took care of the Chicago Bears quite easily thanks to Carson Palmer. This is the best version of Palmer that we have seen in quite some time, and I haven't seen any indication that things are going to slow down for him. Bruce Arians has this team going and they are going to roll over San Francisco. Book it.
Prediction: 49ers - 13, Cardinals - 30
Buffalo Bills (1-1) At Miami Dolphins (1-1)
We haven't heard that much from Rex Ryan this week, right? I wonder why... oh maybe it's because last week when he barked Bill Belichick put him in his place. Ryan seems to have learned his lesson and got back down to business this week. Look for the Bills Mafia to come out very strong after Rex was humiliated. They're good for 7-10 sacks this week, I'm feeling it.
Losing to the Jacksonville Jaguars should be automatic grounds for removal from the NFL. Seriously dude, the Jaguars?! The Dolphins had a lot of hype coming into 2015 and so far they have massively disappointed. I have a very hard time believing that a team who has to "go back to the drawing board" is going to be ready for what Rex is cooking.
Prediction: Bills - 27, Dolphins - 14
Chicago Bears (0-2) At Seattle Seahawks (0-2)
The battle of the winless.
It's hard not to feel really sorry for the Bears. They're 0-2, they've lost Jay Cutler, and now they have to go up to Seattle (for the Seahawks' home debut) and play an 0-2 team. They're in for a rough day. Good luck to Jimmy Clausen, you're gonna need it.
Seattle is angry. Very angry. They're 0-2 and out to show that they are way better than that. Kam Chancellor returned to them this week and you have to imagine that his influence is going to be felt... specifically by the Chicago ball carriers. Seattle is out to send a message on Sunday, and I wouldn't dare get in their way.
Prediction: Bears - 9, Seahawks - 31
Sunday Night Football: Denver Broncos (2-0) At Detroit Lions (0-2)
Great teams win ugly games. Two weeks into the season we've seen it a few times already. Cowboy fans will never forget Tony Romo snatching victory from the jaws of defeat during Week 1, and the Broncos snatched their own victory last week on Thursday Night Football. The Broncos are coming into this game feeling good and well-rested after a 10 day break. Peyton is going to silence some critics with this performance.
As excited as I am for a Sunday Night game in Detroit, I'm equally less excited to have to watch the Lions play football. They haven't looked good at all this season, and it's hard to believe that things are going to get better against a defense like Denver's. Matthew Stafford needs to just close his eyes and throw to Megatron every play and maybe the Lions won't be totally humiliated.
Prediction: Broncos - 23, Lions - 10
Monday Night Football: Kansas City Chiefs (1-1) At Green Bay Packers (2-0)
Monday Night Football at Lambeau Field! Hot tamale I am excited!
Kansas City is anxiously waiting for another chance to hit the gridiron after the last game they played when they narrowly lost, in heartbreaking fashion, to the division rival Broncos. They're going to be out to make a statement against one of the NFL's elite teams, and Jamaal Charles is going to be out to avenge his late-game fumble from Week 2. I just don't think it'll be enough.
I don't necessarily subscribe to the theory that Aaron Rodgers can turn anyone into an All-Pro wide receiver, but he can beat teams by himself. The Packers are feeling good after venting some of 2014's frustration out on the Seahawks last week, and I just think that they're on a streak that can't be stopped by a team like the Chiefs. Give me the cheeseheads, pepper jack preferably.
Prediction: Chiefs - 13, Packers - 30
If You Could Only Pay One: Ezekiel Elliott Vs. Byron Jones
But last week a couple of Twitter polls got me very interested in this topic, and I wanted to expand on my thoughts.
It all started when longtime Cowboys reporter Mike Fisher wrote that as the Cowboys look to sign their own free agents, Byron Jones will likely be the one who gets squeezed out. So while Elliott, Dak Prescott, DeMarcus Lawrence, Amari Cooper, and Jaylon Smith remain with the team, Jones will likely be off to find a new home.
if you can only pay one it should be
I put up this poll, pitting Jones against Elliott, and Jones came out as the winner. My colleague John Williams put out the same poll, but with Elliott running away for the victory.
Inspired by my teammate @KevinBrady88, if you can only pay one, which would it be?
His had many more votes, which likely makes his poll a bit more representative of the fan base's feelings (which reminds me, follow me on Twitter @KevinBrady88.) Plus, I have been carrying the Byron Jones flag for quite some time, so it's possible my followers are biased towards Jones.
Either way, let's examine the situation here.
On one hand is Ezekiel Elliott. The former fourth overall selection in 2016, Elliott has led the league in rushing two of his first three seasons in the NFL. While this is true, his ability (and usage) as a receiver deserves to be questioned, and his lack of touchdown production in comparison to some other elite-level backs is concerning as well.
Yes, this is not totally his fault, as Scott Linehan and an overall lack of offensive weapons outside of Elliott have handcuffed him a bit. But if we are going to place the blame for his faults onto others, then we should at least attribute some of his excellent raw rushing totals simply to opportunities.
Elliott carried the ball 304 times in 15 games, averaging 20.3 rush attempts per game. The next closet player in terms of total carries? Saquon Barkley, who carried it 261 times in 16 games, averaging 16.3 rushes per game. That's a massive gap.
No individual running back is taking the wear and tear that Elliott is on a per game basis. And while it helps make his raw rushing totals look outstanding, it is also likely hurting his shelf life as an elite runner in the NFL.
The main argument I received supporting paying Elliott over Byron Jones was that while cornerback is more important than running back in a vacuum, Elliott is such a special player that his importance is greater than that of a normal running back.
Maybe. But let's talk about how special Byron Jones is and can be.
Jones' spider chart puts him in elite company, with the likes of Jalen Ramsey, Antonio Cromartie, and Terence Newman. Except, Jones was even more athletic that each of these Pro Bowl caliber cornerbacks.
Cornerbacks with the athletic profile that Byron Jones has rarely ever miss, and most of the time they reach an All Pro level. This is exactly what Jones did in 2018, getting named second team All Pro and to his first Pro Bowl in the same season. Both these honors also came during his first season as a full-time cornerback. Imagine what his ceiling can look like as he continues to work with Kris Richard and get more comfortable in his permanent home.
There's no doubt that Jones struggled a bit more in December last year than he did in September, but he was playing at a pace few players ever have played at or kept up over a long period of time. Even accounting for these "struggles," Jones was graded as the sixth best cornerback in all of football by Pro Football Focus. Elliott, on the other hand, had his overall value questioned by PFF.
Of course PFF is not the be-all-end-all here, but it's certainly a piece of the argument. Both Elliott and Jones will command top money at their position whenever it is their turn to get signed. The Cowboys have struggled for years to find themselves a number one cornerback. Despite paying Brandon Carr big money and trading up for Morris Claiborne, it simply hasn't worked. Really since Newman began aging, they haven't gotten that guy.
On the other hand, Dallas produced two 1,000 yard rushers back-to-back seasons before Elliott even became a Cowboy. Running back is a more replaceable position at the top than cornerback is, and if Dallas believes that Jones should be considered "at the top" of his position group, than the choice between the two becomes clear.
I will say, however, that there is a human element to this as well. Elliott is a clear leader on this team, and if the Cowboys strong-armed him out of town, it could have serious implications across the roster. Jason Garett loves Zeke, Jerry Jones loves Zeke, and quarterback Dak Prescott loves Zeke.
Zeke is going to get paid by the Cowboys, I have no doubts or issues with that, but if all these guys getting paid squeezes an All Pro corner out of town, that could bite this franchise in the butt down the line.
Jason Garrett Has Hard Road Ahead in Contract Year
It seems like every year we talk about how hot is Jason Garrett's seat. This year though, it will be one of the biggest storylines surrounding the Dallas Cowboys. Garrett will enter the 2019 season without an extension. However you feel about the Cowboys head coach, being in a contract year automatically means dealing with low job security.
What is clear though is that Garrett's contract year might be a difficult one.
First of all, the Dallas Cowboys haven't managed to get their superstar 26-year old pass rusher signed to a long term deal. DeMarcus Lawrence has made it clear that he will not play under the tag and until a contract is signed, he'll even postpone his pending shoulder surgery.
Cowboys Nation is hoping to see D-Law get his long term deal before it's too late, and as we know, the Cowboys want to sign him. Who wouldn't? But there's a reason it hasn't happened yet and if this drags out, it won't be good for the team. Jason Garrett can't be happy about not having his best defensive player ready to work.
Rather than an unfortunate situation, this feels more like a bold approach by Garrett. After firing Scott Linehan, the Cowboys promoted Kellen Moore to offensive coordinator. Moore's potential has since been praised by players and coaches around the country and I'm actually excited about what he can bring to the table. But he's still a rookie OC. Young coaches like Sean McVay have taken the league by storm but it still feels like a bold move by Garrett to put Moore in this position. This was undoubtedly a Jason Garrett move and it only makes sense for the Cowboys to let him put together his own staff before the season.
Under the "Cowboys are one player away" narrative, many believed a big free agency signing was bound to happen in Dallas. Specifically, the discussion revolved around one of the newest members of the Baltimore Ravens, Safety Earl Thomas. So far, though, it's been same old, same old for the Cowboys during the start of free agency. Top free agents are off the shelves and Dallas has been pretty quiet so far.
Also worth noting is that the Cowboys will not have a first round pick during the 2019 NFL Draft. Now granted, that first round pick they don't have was worth it thanks to Amari Cooper's arrival but it's still a difficult situation for a football team that has many needs, including one at wide receiver after letting Cole Beasley leave for the Buffalo Bills.
A potential holdout by DeMarcus Lawrence, a rookie offensive coordinator, no splash in free agency and no first round pick... Jason Garrett's approach to his contract year certainly seems like a risky one. Not to mention this is only what we're talking about now. What if Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott or Cooper decide to holdout (even if it's just for a while and eventually come back)? Hopefully this isn't the case, but with the way things go in the NFL today it wouldn't be a surprise.
The Dallas Cowboys will play in an NFC East that might sound like an easy division but surprises happen every single year. If Jason Garrett manages to lead his team to a successful season under such circumstances, he should earn the respect of many fans that want him out of the picture. The question will of course be: "How much does he needs to accomplish to keep his job?" Will making it to the playoffs be enough? Or will he need to make a bigger statement?
Would Cowboys Trade Joe Looney if the Saints Came Calling?
The hits keep coming for the New Orleans Saints. Not only are their fans extremely disappointed in the way the Saints 2018 season ended, and rightfully so, but now they have to deal with the fact that one of their best offensive players has decided to retire. Ouch!
Source: Saints C Max Unger has retired. Wow.
No matter how you slice it, Max Unger's decision to retire is a huge blow to the Saints offense. The three-time Pro Bowl center is still one of the best in the game at his position and he's a huge reason why New Orleans has been so successful on the offensive side of the ball since he joined the team in 2015.
Unger's ability to keep the middle of the pocket from collapsing on Quarterback Drew Brees, while also blocking for Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram in the running game is the lifeblood of the Saints offense. Without him, the entire offense could be in trouble. Finding someone to step in and fill those huge shoes won't be easy.
As luck would have it, the Dallas Cowboys may have the answer to their problems. Joe Looney had to step in and replace Travis Frederick, another one of the top centers in the NFL, and filled in admirably during his absence. He could do the same thing for the New Orleans Saints.
With Frederick set to return to the Cowboys starting lineup in 2019, Looney suddenly becomes nothing more than a backup C/G once again. Because of that, he could become expendable, making him an intriguing tradable asset for teams looking for a starting caliber offensive lineman with versatility to play any interior position. This could be exactly the kind of player the Saints are targeting.
Unfortunately for New Orleans, they don't have a lot of draft capital in the 2019 NFL Draft to find a starting caliber center. Like the Cowboys, they don't have a first-round pick this year and don't make their first selection until the second-round. After that, they don't have another draft pick until the fifth-round. This further complicates replacing Unger as well as trading for anyone, such as Joe Looney.
It's highly unlikely the Saints are willing to part ways with their second-round pick and the Cowboys would probably want more for Joe Looney than a fifth-rounder. Looney after all has proven to be a serviceable starter, which is probably more valuable for Dallas considering the unknown about Travis Frederick's health moving forward.
So, even if the New Orleans Saints picked up the phone and called the Dallas Cowboys to acquire about trading for Joe Looney, I just don't think the two teams would be able to come together on trade compensation. I guess that means we can put this potential trade rumor to bed.
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