Every single person has that one song that gets them hyped. It's lurks deep within your iTunes library, coming out only on the rarest of shuffle occasions. You skip song after song, wondering why you keep them in your library since you "never listen to them", until that hype song comes on.
You listen to it two, five, maybe even ten times in a row if you can. You vow to put it on your device so that you can carry it with you wherever you go... safely in your pocket and a bluetooth connection away from letting loose.
That's how picking NFL games can be. You go through game after game, acknowledging the blowouts to come, and then that surprising little nugget catches your eye. Whether it's the Giants at Bills in a battle for New York, the Pack headed to San Francisco and the home of Aaron Rodgers, or the Vikings heading to Denver for what should be a rematch of Super Bowl XXXIII... the shuffle of NFL games gives you something you like.
DJ RJ is on the 1s and 2s today and I'm going to throw it all the way back to 2004. I'm going to "take that and rewind it back" with Usher's "Yeah!" as I pick each game from Week 4.
Thursday Night Football: Baltimore Ravens (0-3) at Pittsburgh Steelers (2-1)
There are people who claim that this is "the best division rivalry in the NFL" and I just cannot agree with that. The Baltimore Ravens will run out of the tunnel at Heinz Field tonight with patches on their jerseys that commemorate their 20th year of existence.
You seriously want to dub a 20-year-old rivalry the best one? In the entire NFL? Dude.
Now that I got that off my chest - this is an awesome rivalry. Pittsburgh and Baltimore always delivers on the hype, especially last year in the first round of the playoffs, and Thursday Night Football should be fun.
The Steelers are rolling into this game without their star quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, a feeling that Cowboys fans can certainly identify with, and might be turning on Usher's "Yeah!" to summon everything great from 2004... including Michael Vick.
The Vick-led version of the Steelers are going to have a tough time against these Ravens. I know that Baltimore is 0-3 (which amazingly is the first time in franchise history that they have started with such a record), but these Ravens are not about to fall to 0-4. Steve Smith almost carried the team to victory over the Cincinnati Bengals by himself last week, and I believe that he'll be successful against Pittsburgh.
Prediction: Ravens - 27, Steelers - 13
London Game: New York Jets (2-1) at Miami Dolphins (1-2)
Harry Potter might be at this game as it is happening all the way across the pond in London!
I made the mistake of not understanding who the Jets have been for their entire lives when I picked them to beat the Eagles last week. This is a team that, when on top of things and expected to win, always butt fumbles their way to doom. Chris Ivory should be a full-go though, and Brandon Marshall is going to be hungry to put on a show after a misguided lateral last week. Defense wins championships, and while there is certainly no Lombardi in their new future... the defense of the Jets is going to win a lot for them this season.
The Dolphins feel like that song in your iTunes library that you just put up with to get to the one you like. This team is a mess. They seem to build the core of their teams through free agency, a mistake in General Management 101, and are stuck in football purgatory right now. I don't expect them to put up much of a fight - they seem to have mentally quit. I wouldn't be shocked at all if they just got blown out and the status of Joe Philbin was a hot topic on their flight back to the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave.
Prediction: Jets - 33, Dolphins - 10
Houston Texans (1-2) at Atlanta Falcons (3-0)
This game is really interesting if Arian Foster plays, and by interesting I mean watchable. The Texans are a mess this season. Watching Hard Knocks I really thought that they'd put up a fight this year, but Ryan Mallett just cannot carry this offense. Think about this for a second. With the, easily, best defensive player in the NFL... the Texans barely beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week. Yikes.
Hotlanta is all ablaze these days as the Falcons are riding a 3-0 record. Are they a good team? Yes. Are they one of the best teams in the NFC? Hard to say no at this point. Are they going to sustain this success long-term? I don't think so.
The Falcons have caught a lot of breaks this season. If not for the brain of Eli Manning that we all know and love, they would have lost that game. But they beat the Cowboys!
Yes they did. They beat a Dallas Cowboys team absent of: Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, Greg Hardy, Randy Gregory, Jeremy Mincey, Terrell McClain, so on and so forth. The Atlanta Falcons had to summon all of their energy to beat a heavily depleted team. They do have some things to be proud of, but they're a one trick pony (a pony named Julio Jones). They will falter at some point this season, but as much as I don't believe in them they have a layup this week.
Prediction: Texans - 16, Falcons - 28
New York Giants (1-2) at Buffalo Bills (2-1)
This is a rematch of one of the greatest Super Bowls ever, Super Bowl XXV. This is also a battle for the state of New York (because the Jets don't matter obviously) and this is another chance for Rex Ryan to huff and puff.
The Giants are marching into this game 10 days off of earning their first win of the season, a victory against the helpless Washington Redskins. Odell Beckham Jr. had a nice game last Thursday Night, and Eli Manning looked to be on fire early on. The G-Men are going to play well in this game, but they are going to really need to protect Eli Manning. They're a dangerous team that could very well be 3-0, but they're going to need to hold off one of the best defenses in the NFL.
Circle the wagons! The Bills have a winning record and are looking to stake their claim in the state of New York against Tom Coughlin's Giants. Without the services of LeSean McCoy, Buffalo is going to lean heavily on new quarterback Tyrod Taylor and rookie running back Karlos Williams. And you know what? I like their odds. This team has a swagger about them. It's not a Rex Ryan swagger, those suck, but it's a cool one that makes you want to root for them.
Prediction: Giants - 27, Bills - 34
Oakland Raiders (2-1) at Chicago Bears (0-3)
What kind of world are we living in that the Oakland Raiders are actually favored to beat a professional football team?!
Da Raiders are favored to beat Da Bears at the legendary Soldier Field this Sunday. How sad of a day is that for the city of Chicago? Who knows what is going to happen with the Bears on Sunday when Jimmy Clausen takes the field. All that anyone does know is that it's probably going to be more like Pooh Bear than Da Bears.
Just win, baby! The NFL is a much better place when it's classic teams do well so count me in as one of the people rooting for the Raiders. Derek Carr has this young and talented team on the rise. Latavius Murray, Amari Cooper, oh my... what a group they've quietly built amidst recent failures (by recent I mean literally every season since losing Super Bowl XXXVII to the Buccaneers). Carr is going to put on an aerial show against the helpless Bears as the Raiders of the Lost Ark march to 3-1.
Prediction: Raiders - 31, Bears - 6
Kansas City Chiefs (1-2) at Cincinnati Bengals (3-0)
The Red Rifle is going to light up the red-uniformed Kansas City Chiefs come Sunday. After exorcising some of his "can't get it done" narratives against the Ravens last Sunday, Andy Dalton draws the Chiefs... a team who is on a short week, mentally devastated and down in the dumps, without the services of one of their starting cornerbacks. I've always associated Andy as the name on the bottom of Woody's boot, but Sunday it's going to be in the box score with 18 touchdowns.
Prediction: Chiefs - 20, Bengals - 38
Jacksonville Jaguars (1-2) at Indianapolis Colts (1-2)
Remember the days where this was an automatic 100-0 win for the Colts? It's pretty hard to believe that's not the case given the names on the Colts offense.
It took every bit of Andrew Luck's talent to push the Colts past the Tennessee Titans. Think about that.
The Colts seem to be in a downward spiral and while this could certainly be the game where they bounce back, I'm feeling frisky.
The Jaguars took it to a Dolphins team two weeks ago that is also very talented on offense. The Jacksonville defense is underrated across the NFL, and if it's true that Andrew Luck has some level of injury... that could be the break that the Jaguars need. Give me Blake Bortles and Co. in the shocking upset.
Prediction: Jaguars - 27, Colts -21
Philadelphia Eagles (1-2) at Washington Redskins (1-2)
This is the "we don't want to be last in the division" bowl.
Given that this game might not even happen thanks to Hurricane Joaquin, it might be a prediction for another day; nonetheless I will power through and give you one.
It's interesting how great the Eagles looked without the services of DeMarco Murray last week. They played pretty well against a Jets team with a very stout defense. Color me intrigued.
The Redskins actually made a game of what seemed to be a blowout last Thursday Night. Matt Jones is the real deal in that backfield, but unfortunately he's lining up behind Kirk Cousins.
All jokes aside here, this game comes down to DeMarco Murray for me. I feel very confident in the Eagles if he sits out (aka if Ryan Mathews gets the bulk of the work), but I feel like they'll force the issue if he's in there. I don't have a lot of confidence in Kirk, but with the game in Washington they could rally around the hometown vibes.
Prediction: Eagles - 23, Redskins - 13
Carolina Panthers (3-0) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-2)
Cam Newton is in the discussion for MVP in my book. He is absolutely carrying a group of wide receivers that is barely more talented than you and I.
I thought that the Bucs would be a little bit more dangerous than they seem to be this year. Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans are big weapons on the outside, but maybe it's taking Jameis Winston some time to realize that you should throw to the good guys. Even though they're at home, where the pirate ship or whatever fires off, I don't have a lot of faith in Tampa Bay.
Superman is flying south for the winer on Sunday. Give me Cam all day.
Prediction: Panthers - 27, Buccaneers - 10
Cleveland Browns (1-2) at San Diego Chargers (1-2)
How shocking that Josh McCown isn't the guy that is capable of leading the Cleveland Browns to victory. The Browns are in need of a miracle and until they get one, a miracle named Johnny Football, I don't have much faith that they can tie their shoes let alone win an NFL game.
San Diego...Super Chargers! I was a little surprised that they lost to the Vikings last week, but maybe Teddy Bridgewater and the gang are finally living up to their hype. Philip Rivers isn't about to let his team fall to 1-3, plus I think that Melvin Gordon is going to have a breakout game here and light up the Browns.
Prediction: Browns - 13, Chargers - 17
Minnesota Vikings (2-1) at Denver Broncos (3-0)
Welcome back to relevance, Adrian Peterson.
The 2012 league MVP seemed to return to his normal form last week against the Chargers, but he's got a pretty tough matchup this week. Adrian Peterson is going to have to, like he has throughout his entire career, absolutely carry the Vikings if they have any shot at winning. The Broncos have an incredible defense and are going to shut down Teddy Two Gloves fairly easily.
The days of Omaha have felt far away at certain points of the 2015 season. Peyton shocked us all last week in Detroit when on 4th and 1 he went up high to Demaryius Thomas for an incredible touchdown. Defensively the Broncos are a Super Bowl contender, but with a questionable Peyton and no run game at all... can they sustain this success all year? Or even this Sunday?
The Vikings don't post a big enough threat to expose this Broncos team. Give me Denver at Mile High.
Prediction: Vikings - 10, Broncos - 23
Green Bay Packers (3-0) at San Francisco 49ers (1-2)
I don't know if we'll hear more about how Aaron Rodgers grew up in California or that the Packers are hoping to return to Levi's Stadium for Super Bowl 50. You predict that one.
Don't look now, but Colin Kaepernick might have just thrown another pick six against the Arizona Cardinals. Yowza what a terrible game. This team is a dumpster fire right now, and it's hard to believe that they're going to get back on track against one of the most lethal offenses in the NFL.
I wonder how hard the Giants cry every time James Jones scores a touchdown. Seriously... James Jones, what's up? The Packers offense hasn't skipped a beat without the services of Jordy Nelson or Davante Adams, and that success should be contributed to Aaron Rodgers. We're watching one of the finest quarterbacks of this generation at work every Sunday and on this particular one he's going to make the 49ers cry pretty hard themselves.
Prediction: Packers - 38, 49ers - 14
St. Louis Rams (1-2) at Arizona Cardinals (3-0)
Remember when St. Louis beat Seattle on opening day and people were ready to send them to the playoffs? That was only three weeks ago, but it feels like so much longer. The Rams do have a very good defense, but man they are just so boring on offense. The days of the Greatest Show on Turf are so far gone that the Rams are resorting to doing new things to their turf... like lighting it on fire.
Carson Palmer has been listening to "Yeah!" too I can see. The dude is straight BALLIN right now throwing touchdowns like they're Colin Kaepernick Pick Sixes. Not to mention that this Arizona Cardinals defense is intimidating everybody that gets in their way. St. Louis better watch out or they themselves, not their turf, are going to get set on fire come Sunday.
Prediction: Rams - 13, Cardinals - 30
Sunday Night Football: Dallas Cowboys (2-1) at New Orleans Saints (0-3)
During Week 4 of 2014 the Dallas Cowboys squared off against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday Night Football. They had a huge win that set the tone for their season and after the game Jason Witten spoke about how they "wanted to win each quarter of the season" by getting to a 3-1 record.
The Saints, with or without Drew Brees, are a mess. Their offense is so stagnant and so unproductive that it is actually painful to watch. There seems to be a culture issue there as even Jimmy Graham thinks getting out of New Orleans is a blessing. It's hard to believe that these guys aren't about to come completely unraveled.
3-1 is the goal for Sunday Night. Getting there won't be easy as the Brandon Weeden-led offense of the Cowboys was somewhat exposed last week during the second half against the Atlanta Falcons. While there are talented players to dump the ball off to in Cole Beasley and Lance Dunbar, the Cowboys are going to have to push the ball downfield in the Superdome. I believe that they can, and they will. Brandon Weeden has a rocket for an arm and it's taking off in New Orleans on Sunday Night Football.
Prediction: Cowboys - 30, Saints - 13
Monday Night Football: Detroit Lions (0-3) at Seattle Seahawks (1-2)
You know the phrase "sacrificial lamb"? It's ironic that, since it's usually the hunter, the Lion is going to be sacrificed on Monday Night Football. The Lions will definitely be lacking in courage when they see the Seahawks run out of the tunnel on Monday Night. I have zero faith in them this season.
First name Russell. Last name Wilson. Marshawn Lynch is limited so the Seahawks are going to do what they do in times of need... lean on #3. Russell is going to have a big game in the final act of Week 4 as the Seahawks look to get to .500 on the season. You can bet that they're tired of hearing how the Packers and Cardinals run the conference. They're out to send a message. I'm scared for the Lions.
Prediction: Lions - 10, Seahawks - 41
The Dallas Cowboys WR Position Battle is Heating Up
Earning a spot on the Dallas Cowboys final 53-man roster is going to be a lot tougher in 2018 then it has been in years past. There is no shortage of position battles taking place right now to earn one of those coveted openings, but it's the battle taking place at receiver that's gaining steam and starting to heat up.
The ultimate unknown right now is how many wide receivers the Dallas Cowboys choose to carry on their 53-man roster this season. Last year they decided to carry six, but they have been known to carry just five. Unfortunately, this means they will have to release some talented players and risk losing them to another team.
As things stand right now there may just be one, possibly two, roster spots up for grabs. I think the only thing we know for sure right now is Cole Beasley, Allen Hurns, Michael Gallup, and Tavon Austin are the only WRs who can feel secure their jobs are safe for 2018. Everybody else is playing a game of Survivor, just hoping their name isn't the one written down and their torch isn't snuffed out.
Terrance Williams' flame may be safe due to his current contract. The Dallas Cowboys can't save anything by releasing him, but it doesn't cost them that much either. It's unlikely he has a future with the team, so if someone were to prove themselves more worthy, his flame could be extinguished.
Last season I thought Noah Brown was ready to unseat Williams, but that never really materialized. Unfortunately, Brown hasn't really shown up as much as I thought he would this offseason, and missing the game against the San Francisco 49ers last week didn't do him any favors either. This doesn't bode well for him moving forward.
Deonte Thompson was signed as a free agent to provide some veteran experience and speed to the passing game, but that in no way means his job is secure. He needs to do something to show up a little more because his age and salary means a younger up-and-coming WR could make him expendable.
Second-year WR Lance Lenoir Jr. might just be the receiver who has stirred things up the most. He has not only created a buzz for himself in offseason practices, but he was able to carry it over into the preseason last week against the 49ers. His arrow trajectory is definitely pointing upwards.
I'd definitely hate to be the one to decide who stays and who goes when final cuts are made. It's not going to be an easy decision to make, because the outcome will definitely have an impact on the team's success this year.
All of these players were brought into help Quarterback Dak Prescott and the passing game reach new heights, so making the wrong move could be detrimental. The number of wide receivers and who the Dallas Cowboys decide to keep might be the most important decision they make before the season starts.
How would you predict the Dallas Cowboys WR position battle turning out?
Any Concern About Dan Bailey Not Playing Against 49ers?
With all the excitement of the Dallas Cowboys finally playing in a game last week against the San Francisco 49ers, it may have escaped your attention that Dan Bailey remained on the sideline the entire time. He didn't attempt one field goal or kick off once last Thursday, which in my opinion is a little concerning.
Dan Bailey joined Ezekiel Elliott and Sean Lee on the sideline as a healthy scratch last week. The decision to sit both Zeke and Sean Lee makes sense due to the physical demands of their positions, but sitting Bailey was a bit of a head scratcher. After all, it's not like he plays a physically demanding position like the other two.
I know. I know. Dan Bailey is an integral part for the Cowboys success moving forward. I'm not arguing that he's not, but after sitting out the majority of the 2017 season with a groin injury and lingering concerns about his health this year, not playing him at all against the 49ers is a bit confusing.
I don't believe there is any kind of kicking competition between Dan Bailey and Brett Maher, who handled all of the kicking duties against the 49ers last Thursday. Bailey will be the Cowboys kicker when the 2018 season gets underway in just a few short weeks. But, the question remains… Why didn't he receive any playing time?
Dan Bailey was never quite the same last season once he returned from his injury. Something was off and I don't know if it was more mental or physical, maybe a little of both. He just wasn't splitting the uprights like his normal self.
Unfortunately, we have seen this kind of thing happen in the past with one of the Cowboys kickers. Nick Folk went through a similar situation with an injury and never really bounced back. I'm just hoping history doesn't repeat itself.
Obviously, the Dallas Cowboys know more about what's going on with Dan Bailey than I do. But, you would think they'd have allowed him to attempt a field goal or at least an extra point in a game situation to build up his confidence once again. It's what I would have done.
Hopefully I'm just being a little paranoid and I'm reading more into this than there actually is. But, the fact I haven't heard any reasoning as to why Dan Bailey was held out last week is sitting a little uneasy with me. I'm just hoping it was precautionary in order to keep him as healthy as possible for the upcoming season.
Should we be concerned Dan Bailey was a healthy scratch last week?
Week 1 NFC East Predictions and Cowboys Season Outlook
Let me start this article with a strong opening statement: The Cowboys will be better in 2018 than they were in 2017. There's been a lot of talk about the lack of a true No. 1 receiver. But when we break it down, the current setup will most likely play out better for Cowboys QB Dak Prescott.
The Dak Stats
Certain quarterbacks shine when they have that go-to playmaker. We're talking about guys like Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, Calvin Johnson, Ocho Cinco, Tim Brown, Jerry Rice, and Dez Bryant. But other QBs do better at reading the defense and quickly adapting to what is given. Dak Prescott is the latter breed of QB.
Let’s do a quick numbers exercise to prove this.
When Prescott is targeting 8 or more receivers throughout the game, his passer rating jumps from 86.1 (targeting less than 8) to 104.5. He passes for almost 50 yards more per game and his touchdown to interception ratio drastically improves from 21-13 to 24-4.
Most importantly, when he targets at least 8 different receivers, the Cowboys are 14-2. When he targets less than 8, the team is just .500 at 8-8.
Without a doubt, Prescott is much better at adjusting to what the defense is giving him. He just isn’t one of those guys who can successfully "force" the ball (like Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees). Not feeling the pressure of having to get the ball into the hands of the star playmaker will give this offense a new kind of depth in 2018.
Yes, losing Jason Witten hurts, much more so in my opinion than not having Dez.
Questions Still Loom
This is still the Cowboys' biggest concern on offense. There is some great depth. We have Rico Gathers, Blake Jarwin, Geoff Swaim, and the young stud out of Stanford, Dalton Schultz. But between the three who have any NFL experience, there are only 9 catches between them. I must say that Dalton, with his 4.75 40-yard dash, has a legitimate shot at seeing a lot of playing time in his rookie campaign and could become an impact player with his size (6’5”, 244-lbs) and speed.
But despite the battle for TE being wide open, and debates about whether or not the team needs a No. 1 receiver, the Cowboys are still expected to give the Eagles a run for their money in the NFC East. Here are the odds on the defending NFC East champions and how (although early) it is expected to shake out:
- Philadelphia Eagles -167
- Dallas Cowboys +350
- New York Giants +650
- Washington Redskins +750
NFC East Week 1 Predictions
The Cowboys open the season in a difficult road game against the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers have been listed as 2.5-point favorites (follow the Cowboys NFL Odds here all season long) which isn’t surprising considering they are a tough team playing at home. You might be thinking, "crap, we're opening up as underdogs?" Don’t worry too much; it actually bodes fairly well because the lines-makers generally give a 3-point advantage to the home team. This means that they actually handicap the Cowboys to be a half-point favorite on a neutral field and a 3.5-point favorite in Arlington.
The Redskins open their season in Arizona against the Cardinals. The line is set at a pick ‘em (meaning there is no point spread; it's anyone's game). But, looking at the 'Skins and Cardinals, I think Washington gets disappointed in Week 1 and starts their season with a loss.
The Giants get to test their new offensive line and see if they were right in continuing to place their faith in Eli Manning against the best defense in the league. The Jags are 3-point favorites at MetLife stadium. This means the Jags are actually 6-points better. I do think that the Giants will be vastly improved this season, but they are also going to open with a loss.
The Eagles don’t have it easy either, but they will probably pull out the win at home as 4-point favorites against the Dirty Birds on Thursday Night Football. Their defense is just too good. Atlanta's road offense scored just 21 points per game last year while Philly scores 28 on average at home. The Eagles' home defense has been downright nasty, only allowing 12 points per game in Philadelphia.
This will be a two-horse race for the division between the Eagles and Cowboys. And even if the Eagles win the East, the Cowboys will wildcard into the playoffs.
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