If you've read my work before, hi Mom, then you know that I used to have a collection of mini helmets for all of the NFL teams.
There was a gum ball machine at my school while I was growing up that dispensed one for a quarter, and each day I would beg my parents for another chance at securing the missing teams from my set. Finally, like Ash Ketchum, I caught them all.
I have since upgraded to a new set that I use for extremely important football purposes. What's that exactly? Well whenever there's a game going on I set the helmets of the active teams up facing each other in front of my tv.
After each week of the NFL season I update my helmets to reflect the current standings within the NFL. So welcome one and all, to the tradition of RJ's Mini Helmets.
NFL standings through Week 4 -- according to my mini helmet display.
In the spirit of gameday traditions, please allow me to gather some help from my mini friends throughout this week's game picks. Let's roll.
Thursday Night Football: Indianapolis Colts (2-2) At Houston Texans (1-3)
The swashbucklin' Matt Hasselbeck will be the Colts QB as Indy takes on the helpless Texans. It's really too bad that JJ Watt can't play all 11 positions because then Houston might have at least a 75% chance at being relatively competitive.
I expect Bill O'Brien to run Arian Foster as much as he can in this game, but the Texans are a long ways away from being able to beat a team like the Colts... even without Andrew Luck. This will be a snoozer as far as primetime games are concerned, but look for the Colts to rally around Matty and his bunch.
Prediction: COLTS - 20, Texans - 10
Washington Redskins (2-2) At Atlanta Falcons (4-0)
Welcome to relevance, Washington. The Redskins have surprised folks this season by not turning the ball over on each possession. Kirk Cousins played well last week, but it just feels like he's due for a 19 turnover game.
The Atlanta Falcons are one of the few undefeated teams in the NFL, even though Roddy White wants more targets. Julio Jones is going to feast on the Washington secondary that allowed Sam Bradford of all people to have a decent stat line last week. Look out for Matty Ice to Julio all day long.
Prediction: Redskins - 13, FALCONS - 33
Buffalo Bills (2-2) At Tennessee Titans (1-2)
Oh Rexy, the one moment that Cowboys Nation needed you and you couldn't even beat the Giants? For shame. The Bills shot themselves in the foot last week with what seemed like 400 penalties. No LeSean McCoy or Karlos Williams isn't exactly a recipe for success this week, especially as the Titans are coming off of their bye.
Super Mario has shown that he has a bright future in the NFL through his first three weeks. I'm very curious how he's going to come out of his first bye week, but he struggled against Cleveland when they threw pressure at him. The Bills have arguably the best defensive front in the NFL, and I think they're going to simply overwhelm the rookie. Circle the wagons.
Predictoin: BILLS - 27, Titans - 21
Chicago Bears (1-3) At Kansas City Chiefs (1-3)
The poor Bears finally earned their first victory of the season last week... over the mighty Oakland Raiders. Jay Cutler actually looked like an NFL quarterback again, and Martellus Bennett had himself a day. Alshon Jeffery might play, but even if he doesn't I think Eddie Royal is going to go off against a depleted Chiefs secondary.
Three straight losses against the Broncos, Packers, and Bengals aren't exactly anything to be ashamed of, but the Chiefs are in a downward spiral. I really thought they had a chance to challenge for the AFC West title this year, but they just don't have any offense outside of Jamaal Charles. I fear that they will find a way to continue their losing ways, even if it is against the Bears.
Prediction: BEARS - 20, Chiefs - 16
Seattle Seahawks (2-2) At Cincinnati Bengals (4-0)
The Seahawks are coming off of a narrow victory aided by a controversial call from their home stadium on Monday Night Football. Raise your hand if you've heard that one before! Really though, the Seahawks haven't looked like the elite team we're accustomed to seeing in a while, arguably in all of 2015. The Jimmy Graham experiment has yet to take off, and Russell Wilson is running for his life... without Skittles by his side.
I am a believer in the Cincinnati Bengals. Outside of the quarterback position, is there one portion of their roster that the Seahawks are more talented in? The answer is no. The Bengals might not have the same pass rush that the Lions gave to Seattle last week, but they're going to cause havoc. Coupled with an elite offense and a, surprisingly, lethal Andy Dalton... Cincinnati is going to stay undefeated.
Prediction: Seahawks - 16, BENGALS - 28
Cleveland Browns (1-3) At Baltimore Ravens (1-3)
The Brownies put up more of a fight against the Chargers last week than I think any of us anticipated. Josh McCown has them in this weird state of not terrible, but not even above average, so it's kind of football purgatory for Cleveland fans. I don't believe in them long term and at some point they will revert back to their classic, and terrible, Brown-ish ways.
No team has ever tried harder to give away a game than the Steelers did to the Ravens last Thursday Night. Baltimore has a much needed breath of life on the 2015 season. Even though Steve Smith Sr. is banged up I believe that they're going to come out on fire and ready to recapture some momentum for this season. They know they've been given a new lease on life and they're not going to waste it.
Prediction: Browns - 13, RAVENS - 24
St. Louis Rams (2-2) At Green Bay Packers (4-0)
Jeff Fisher has a weird ability to get his team up for big games and come out totally flat in small ones. At 2-2 the Rams have victories over the Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals. Can they do it again? I say yes! Their pass rush is going to stifle Aaron Rodgers at Lambeau Field, and Todd Gurley is going to justify all of his pre-draft hype.
As great as the Packers are, they are undefeated after all, I'm not totally convinced that they're an elite team. They've beaten the Bears (yawn), Seahawks (who aren't what we expected), Chiefs (yawn again), and the Niners (stop yawning). The combined record of those four teams this year? 5-11. St. Louis, and their epic pass rush, are just the type of trap game to bring them down to earth.
Prediction: RAMS - 23, Packers - 20
New Orleans Saints (1-3) At Philadelphia Eagles (1-3)
If it weren't for a few things here and there the New Orleans Saints would still have yet to record a win this season. Nevertheless they beat the Cowboys and kept their playoff hopes (relax, I know it's Week 5) alive. Drew Brees will surely have regained even more form than he had last week, and I expect him and his Saints to have a lot of confidence heading into Philly.
Losing to the Falcons and Cowboys was somewhat justified, but dropping a game to the Redskins was the ultimate low point for the Eagles last week. They haven't shown anything through their first four games that instills confidence in them as a team, and if anything they have shown that they are on the path to complete and total disaster. Not touching the Eagles this week or any.
Prediction: SAINTS - 19, Eagles - 13
Jacksonville Jaguars (1-3) At Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-3)
The Battle for Florida aka the battle of the ugliest uniforms in the NFL. I boldly picked the Jaguars to win in Indianapolis last week, and that was a missed field goal or two away from becoming a reality. These Jaguars aren't the total catastrophe of years past, and I think Blake Bortles is going to take advantage of a terrible Buccaneer defense on his way to a nice stat line.
I really believed that Lovie Smith had a chance to turn the Bucs around, but even if he does it's not happening anytime soon. Growing pains are expected with a rookie quarterback, and the Bucs are going to continue to have them. I don't think that the Bucs can go blow-for-blow with the Jags so in the leading candidate for game that you're most likely to nap during, give me Jacksonville.
Prediction: JAGUARS - 26, Buccaneers - 17
Arizona Cardinals (3-1) At Detroit Lions (0-4)
Despite wearing their super awesome black uniforms last week, the Cardinals fell to the division rival St. Louis Rams. Bruce Arians has undoubtedly lamented over this all week and told his Cardinals that they are never allowed to lose again. This team is far more loaded offensively than they were a year ago, and I don't see any way that they drop two in a row.
The Detroit Lions should join the Cowardly Lion in his search for bravery or a win or whatever it was. They suffered one of the more heartbreaking losses that we've seen this season last week on Monday Night Football, and it's hard to imagine that a date with one of the NFL's best is going to make things any better. Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson have yet to show us the explosiveness that we're accustomed to seeing from them, and I don't think that they start to this week.
Prediction: CARDINALS - 33, Lions - 13
New England Patriots (3-0) At Dallas Cowboys (2-2)
Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are on a mission in 2015: Humiliate EVERYONE. Coming off of a bye, an extra week of preparation, it's hard to imagine that momentum coming to a stop... or even slowing down. Rob Gronkowski is going to have a big day as the Patriots deflate yet another team's dreams.
The Cowboys could very easily be 4-0 or 1-3. They've had breaks go both directions for them this season, and they are going to need the biggest ones this week. I expect Morris Claiborne to do a great job on Julian Edelman, like he did with Brandin Cooks, but it's going to be difficult for them to contain Rob Gronkowski. If they have any chance to win it'll be predicated around generating a pass rush and disrupting Tom Brady all day, but that's one big if.
Prediction: PATRIOTS - 34, Cowboys - 16
Denver Broncos (4-0) At Oakland Raiders (2-2)
The Orange Crush might be on its way back. The defense of the Denver Broncos is ferocious, and something that opposing quarterbacks aren't looking forward to dealing with this season. It's a strange world to see Peyton Manning merely manage a game, but at some point the lack of run game behind him is going to plague them. This could be that week.
I believe that the Oakland Raiders are going to be extremely hyped for this game. They're 2-2 and have a legitimate level of hope for their season (a rarity for the Raider faithful in October). Given the NFL's growing likelihood of a team returning to Los Angeles, and that team potentially being the Raiders, the Oakland fans are going to want to send a message. My bold predictions for the Cowboys and Patriots game will debut Saturday, but here's an appetizer for you. Raiders win, baby.
Prediction: Broncos - 19, RAIDERS - 20
Sunday Night Football: San Francisco 49ers (1-3) At New York Giants (2-2)
The 49ers have fallen a long way since beating the Minnesota Vikings on Monday Night Football in Week 1. They've looked unorganized, confused, and just terrible all around. Colin Kaepernick really needs to find his 2012/2013 form or this team has no shot of even finishing .500. I expect them to try to get their ground game going with Carlos Hyde, it just won't be enough.
The New York Football Giants have clawed their way back from an 0-2 record to sit nicely at 2-2. They have what seems to be a layup in front of them in San Francisco, but their prized possession Odell Beckham Jr. has caused quite a distraction this week. As big of a prima donna that OBJ might be, the Giants could easily be 4-0 this season. I expect them to handle the Niners easily and get above .500 for the first time this year.
Prediction: 49ers - 13, GIANTS - 27
Monday Night Football: Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2) At San Diego Chargers (2-2)
Hopefully the Steelers have learned by now that when the game is on the line Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown are far better options to explore than Michael Vick. Pittsburgh has had a long time to sit and stew about their Week 4 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, and they're probably not too happy. Even though Martavis Bryant is coming back, I don't believe they have the offensive competence to beat a team like San Diego. They're in trouble.
Who would have thought that the Chargers would have to summon all of their strength to beat the Browns? San Diego is a quiet 2-2 this season, but Philip Rivers is balling right now. Antonio Gates is coming back and that's great, but Keenan Allen is the Charger that's really going to light it up on Monday Night Football. This is a chance for San Diego to show on a national level that they're for real and they're going to take it. Give me the Bolts.
Prediction: Steelers - 14, CHARGERS - 32
NFC East QB Picture Could Look Very Different After the Draft
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Draft Day. One of the most wild days in the NFL calendar that surprises us year after year. Fake storylines and rumors fill our social media feeds, surprising trades ruin every Mock Draft available, and things that we believe to be true change at the last second. Of course, one of the most intriguing things to watch during the Draft is the search from a handful of teams for a franchise quarterback.
While the Dallas Cowboys are worried about paying their guy, a couple of teams in their division are concerned about getting a quarterback for the future. The New York Giants should be ready to prepare for life after Eli Manning and the Washington Redskins need to find an exciting young player if they don't want to depend on Case Keenum and/or Colt McCoy.
This year's QB class doesn't look as good as last year's, but there are a few intriguing prospects worth considering. Kyler Murray (Oklahoma) is expected to go to Arizona at the first pick but he isn't the only QB expected to be drafted in the first round. Dwayne Haskins (Ohio State), Drew Lock (Missouri) and Daniel Jones (Duke) have all made appearances in many first round mock drafts.
So what could the Redskins and Giants do to change how the four starting quarterbacks of the division look like?
New York Giants
Holding the sixth overall pick in today's NFL Draft, the Giants look like the perfect candidate to draft a quarterback. Last year, they had a similar opportunity sitting at number two but decided to go for the surefire prospect in RB Saquon Barkley. A year later, fans and analysts still question whether that was the right call or not. They took a top-tier player but didn't address the most important position in football. The bottom line is Barkley killed it in his first year in the NFL and even won the Offensive Rookie of the Year award.
This year though, it could be time for them to stop passing on quarterbacks and take advantage of their position in the Draft. The name that's been the most linked to the Giants is Dwayne Haskins. Matt Miller from Bleacher Report has even said the Giants have done more work on him than any other team out there. A big surprise in the mock draft universe came a few days ago when Daniel Jeremiah mocked Daniel Jones at #6 to the Giants instead of Haskins.
The Giants could not have an easy task ahead of them if they do want Haskins. The Oakland Raiders at #4 are a threat to draft a QB along with many other teams that could be willing to trade up for the Ohio Sate product. Don't be surprised if the Giants need to move up to secure their guy.
The question remains: Does Giants GM Dave Gettleman want to be aggressive and draft a signal-caller even with Eli Manning still playing? Some say he will, some say he won't. We'll have to wait and see.
The Redskins are far more intriguing than the Giants. First of all, they hold the 15th pick. If they want to draft a first round quarterback, chances are they'll be forced to trade up. Although every year we think quarterbacks won't go early, there's a reason why most are taken by teams that traded up to get in position.
Just talked to a Redskins source who told me Dan Snyder has "taken over the first round of the draft." The last time that happened the Redskins traded two future No. 1's and a No. 2 to move up for Robert Griffin.
If the Raiders end up pulling a big-time trade during the Draft to get into the Top 5, we know what position they'll be looking at. Whether it's Haskins at the top of the round or Lock or Jones a bit later, make no mistake about it. The Redskins could be searching for a QB. Keenum isn't the answer and neither is McCoy. With Alex Smith's playing career being in question, looking for a quarterback only makes sense.
Then there's Josh Rosen. Assuming the Cardinals do what has been expected all along and take Murray, Rosen is going to get traded. Both the Giants and the Redskins could be among the potential destinations for the 2018 first-round pick.
The Philadelphia Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys are the favorites to be the contenders within the NFC East division. However, we can't ignore the fact that the Redskins were doing pretty well prior to Alex Smith's injury in 2018. The Giants didn't do well, but they've gone a long way in improving their offensive line and count with a great running back in Saquon. Both teams could look very different with a change at QB.
If they do end up drafting a rookie QB or going after Josh Rosen, the NFC East QB picture could become one of the most intriguing and promising ones in the entire NFL. Then we'd be talking about one of the most competitive divisions in the league.
The Cowboys Don’t Pick In Tonight’s 1st Round, And They’re Fine With That
The first round of the 2019 NFL Draft gets underway tonight. On ABC primetime this year, the draft is as popular and flashy as it ever has been. Thousands will watch the commissioner read names from a card Thursday night, but the Dallas Cowboys likely won't be involved whatsoever.
And they're totally ok with that.
The Cowboys, of course, used their 2019 first round pick on former Raiders wide receiver Amari Cooper. Cooper helped to awake an offense which had been abysmal prior to his arrival, opening up the passing offense and unlocking quarterback Dak Prescott's best abilities.
Stephen Jones spoke to the Dallas Morning News this week, giving his reasoning for why he is comfortable with not having a first round pick this year.
"I think you’d be hard-pressed to find anybody that would’ve made a difference on our roster like Amari made last year and like we feel like he’s going to make as me move forward" - Stephen Jones
Of course, he's correct. At least partially. Dallas went 7-2 after the Amari Cooper trade, winning a home playoff game while Cooper put up dominating statistics. Cooper quickly became the Cowboys' most prolific target in the passing game and added an element they so dearly missed during the first half of 2018.
Still, though, not having four (plus one) years of a first round pick on a rookie deal is never ideal. You'd like to have the chance to add that young talent on the cheap. Instead, the Cowboys will need to give Amari Cooper a big payday quickly.
There's no debating that the Amari Cooper trade has been a success for the Dallas Cowboys, however. He's the undisputed WR1 in Dallas, and had instant chemistry with young quarterback Dak Prescott.
You can't help but be excited to see how those two grow together moving forward.
Are Ezekiel Elliott And Dak Prescott A Package-Deal?
Dak and Zeke went viral again this week. Once again, together.
It was yet another fun Twitter moment from the Cowboys' star backfield duo, as they have enjoyed more success in their first three seasons together than most fans ever could have imagined back in 2016.
The honeymoon is just about over, though. It's year four for both Prescott and Elliott. Time to take the next step in the postseason and start competing for championships. This also means it's nearing contract time as well.
Elliott knows he'll be a Cowboy for at least two more seasons. The front office picked up his fifth year option earlier this week, ensuring they'd have the elite-level running back through the 2020 season. Prescott's contract, on the other hand, currently expires after 2019. And despite all of the success he's had at quarterback during his young career, he's still on that fourth round salary.
Both Jerry and Stephen Jones has made it known the Cowboys believe in Prescott moving forward. Both have repeatedly said he will be extended in the near future. And if all goes according to plan, Prescott will be the starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys for a very long time.
They've also fully backed Elliott. And while just about no one would argue that Prescott is better at his position than Elliott is at his, his position is much less valuable to the offense. Yes, even to this offense. One which is predicated on running the football and controlling the clock.
Quarterbacks are still king, and the money Prescott is set to receive proves that point even further.
It's no secret these two players are great friends, and each heralded leaders in the Cowboys locker room. It would be a tall task for this front office to extend one, while bailing on the other. And by all accounts, the Cowboys have no plan on doing so.
Prescott and Elliott seem like a package-deal in the Cowboys backfield. Quarterback and running back next to one another for as long as they are apart of America's Team.
At least, that's the plan.
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