USA Today 2017 NFL Predictions

Written By: Conner Pack

 

After taking a month off and taking a little vacation it’s time to get back to work. For some NFL teams training camps are already under way and for others they’re about to begin. With that being said, yesterday USA Today released their preseason NFL Predictions. Now I know this is just predictions, but it’s still dead season so this gives us sports people something to talk about.

– What Stood Out

Four things that caught my attention were: the Patriots going undefeated, the Titans going 12-4 and winning the AFC South, the Buccaneers going 10-6 and being an NFC wild card team, and the Cowboys going 11-5 and winning NFC East.

– Patriots 16-0?

Coming off their impressive comeback Super Bowl victory, USA Today is predicting the New England Patriots will go 16-0 in 2017. Looking at their schedule, it’s quite possible that could actually happen. Last season the Patriots only lost two games. One of the games was to the Bills and Jacoby Brissett started at quarterback. The second game was an overtime thriller to the Seahawks.

So it’s not all that far-fetched to believe 16-0 won’t happen, they did it before. Not to mention they have the best quarterback; Tom Brady and the best head coach; Bill Belichick. But me personally I don’t think they’ll end up 16-0. I think they’ll slip up and lose a close game maybe to Oakland or Pittsburgh. But come January 1st it wouldn’t be surprise if the Patriots are sitting at 16-0 heading into the playoffs.

– Titans Go 12-4?

Last season the Tennessee Titans took major steps forward finishing 9-7 and barely missing the playoffs. The running back tandem of Murray and Henry played a major role in the efficiency of their offense. By having a solid running game and an elite offensive line Mariota was able to show off his passing abilities. The Titans offense finished eleventh in total offense last season. However their defense was another story, particularly their horrendous secondary.

Now, 12-4 in my opinion is a bit of a stretch. Is it possible? Most definitely. But for the Titans to finish 12-4 and win the AFC South they’ve got to take care of business in their division. For years they’ve split with teams or have been swept by teams within the division, last season the Titans were 2-4 in the division. Losing to the Colts twice and splitting with Texans and Jaguars. To be a contender you’ve got to win in the division. Finally, the Titans have got to beat the Indianapolis Colts. They’re 1-15 over the last eight years. Beating the Colts will tell us if this team is for real or not.

– Buccaneers Making the Playoffs

It’s been quite awhile since the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been a playoff team. With Jameis Winston entering his third season, the Buccaneers are in a great position to contend for a possible playoff position. Adding DeSean Jackson an experienced speedy receiver with rising star Mike Evans is huge. Two very dynamic play makers Winston has at his disposal. Not to mention they draft Alabama tight end OJ Howard. Another big target who can streak down the middle of the field.

 

My biggest concerns with this Buccaneers team is defense and running back. They’ve had their defensive struggles for a couple of years now. And with Doug Martin not all the way checked in they really don’t have a proven running back. But I do think they’ll have enough to be in the playoffs this season. Their division could be wide open depending on if the Falcons have a Super Bowl hangover.

– Dallas Cowboys 11-5 and Win NFC East

The rookie duo of running back Ezekiel Elliot and quarterback Dak Prescott took the league by storm last season. Elliot led the league in rushing as a rookie and Prescott was one of the top quarterbacks in the league last season. However, all of that was “last season”. I’m not taking anything away from their success because what they did was very impressive.

 

That leads me to this, I don’t think the Cowboys will have the same success they had last year. Yes, I do still think they should be the favorite to win the NFC East. But I think it’s going to be a dog fight amongst all of the NFC East teams, especially the Giants and Eagles. Something else to factor in is the sophomore slump. Dak and Zeke were awesome last year, it’s going to be hard to repeat the same success. Now that teams have seen them play and there’s film on them teams can game plan a lot better for them now.

Finally, this offseason has not been all that great for the Cowboys, there have been several incidence where players have been arrested or caught up in negative situations. With a lot of it surrounding Ezekiel Elliot. We still don’t know how many games he’ll be suspended if he even gets a suspension. That’s another factor to add to why the Cowboys won’t be as successful.

Philadelphia Eagles Draft Review

Written By: Conner Pack

For NFL fans last weekend was a small slice of heaven, due to football taking center stage with the 2017 NFL Draft. It’s only been roughly two months since the Super Bowl but, were a people who love our football and relish in it any chance we get. We’re only about five more months away from the start of the regular season. Today, I’m going to talk about the Philadelphia Eagles and give my thoughts on what they did in the draft.

Coming into the draft the Eagles had several needs; cornerback, wide receiver, running back, and a speed edge rusher just to name a few. In the draft, the Eagles managed to draft guys at all four of these positions. Time will tell if these guys will pan out.

– First Round Pick 14

With their first round pick the Eagles drafted University of Tennessee defensive end Derek Barnett. Barnett, was an absolute monster throughout his college years. During his time at Tennessee, Barnett became the all time sack leader with 33, breaking former Eagle Reggie Whites record of 32. On top of the sacks Barnett was the heart and soul of that Tennessee defense. He will bring passion, intensity, and hard work to what is already a solid Eagles defensive line.

What I like about this pick;  After parting ways with long time Eagle Connor Barwin, the Eagles had to find someone bigger and faster to take his place; and Barnett fits that role. With a defensive line already loaded with talent (Fletcher Cox, Timmy Jernigan, Chris Long, and Brandon Graham) adding Barnett just gives them that X factor who can potentially propel them to the next level.

For years the Eagles have had an average pass rush. From time to time they’d have multiple sack games or major tackles for loss plays. But for the most part it’s been hit or miss. With Jim Schwartz entering his second seasons as defensive coordinator, he will have a lot of talent on the defensive line to work with.

Noteable College Stats:

197 Total Tackles, 33 Sacks, 52 Tackles for loss, 31 QBH, 13 Sacks junior year, 19 Tackles for loss junior year

– Second Round Pick 43

With the Eagles second pick in the draft, they selected University of Washington corner back Sidney Jones. Jones, was a projected first round pick coming into the draft but, he suffered a freak achilles injury on his pro day. After the injury occurred his stock began to fall. When the Eagles made this pick, I originally was a little uneasy. But from all the reports he seems to be making a full recover and, if comes back one hundred percent health the Eagles will have gotten a steal.

What I like about this pick; the days of Asante Samuel, Lito Sheppard, and Brain Dawkins have been long gone for some time now. For years, the Eagles secondary was among the league’s best. But as of late the secondary especially the cornerback position has been in shambles.  Adding a skilled explosive corner like Jones will pay dividends for the Eagles secondary.

Finally, last season rookie cornerback Jalen Mills showed he has a ton of potential. Teaming Jones and Mills up on the outside looks to be the move for years to come.

Notable College Stats:

9 Total interceptions, 146 Total tackles

– Third Round Pick 99

With the Eagles third pick in the draft, they selected West Virginia cornerback Rasul Douglas. Douglas, 6-2 weighing 209 pounds is a bigger corner compared to Sidney Jones. His senior season he had a break out season becasue of his ability to make intercetions. Douglas along with Tarvarus McFadden from Florida State led college football with 8 interceptions for the 2016 season.

What I like about this pick; the Eagles decided to go back to back corners with their second and third picks. Adding Douglas gives the Eagles more depth at the cornerback position. Also, he proved to be a ball hawk and the Eagles defense sure could use some guys who can make game changing plays in the secondary.

Notable College Stats:

9 Total interceptions, 78 Total tackles, 8 Interceptions senior year

– Fourth Round Pick 118

With the Eagles fourth pick in the draft, they selected North Carolina wide receiver Mack Hollins. Hollins, standing 6’4 is a tall receiver who will be a major asset for Carson Wentz and the Eagles offense. During his time at North Carolina he wasn’t a stand out receiver, where he made a name was in special teams. On special teams this guy can get down the field and is able make tackles.

What I like about this pick; it took the Eagles four rounds but they finally addressed the receiver problem that has been plaguing them. Hollins brings size and speed to this receiving corps. The Eagles struggled mightily in the red zone last year. Adding Hollins immediately gives you a big red zone target. Also, his ability to play special teams and make big time Tackles is huge.

Notable College Stats:

88 Total receptions, 21 Total touchdowns, 8 Touchdowns in both sophomore and junior season, Defense: 24 Total tackles, 18 solo tackles

-Fourth Round Pick 132

With the Eagles fifth pick in the draft, they selected San Diego State running back Donnel Pumphrey. Going with Pumphrey the Eagles have officially decided to go all in on the running back by committee system. Basically what that means is you have a collection of running backs and you use all of them. Right now the Eagles have Ryan Mathews, Darren Sproles, Kenyon Barner, Wendell Smallwood, and now Donnell Pumphrey.

(More than likely Mathews will be released or traded before the season, Darren Sproles may have a limited role because of age, jury is still out on Barner and Smallwood, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Smallwood become a bigger part of the running game.)

What I like about this pick; With the Eagles using their running back by committee system, Pumphrey fits in perfectly. He’s 5’8 176 pounds, so he’s a lot like Darren Sproles. With Sproles up there in age Pumphrey will be a good replacement for him. Also Pumphrey finished his college career as the all time leading rusher in NCAA history. Finishing his career with 6,405 yards.

Notable College Stats:

6,405 Total yards, 6.0 average, 62 Rushing touchdowns, 5 Receiving touchdowns

– Fifth Round Pick 166

With the Eagles sixth pick in the draft, the selected West Virginia wide receiver Shelton Gibson. During his time at West Virginia, Gibson proved to be a deadly deep threat for defenses. His specialty is being a speedy stretch the field receiver. Some have compared him to former Eagles DeSean Jackson. His speed and ability to take the top off the defense will open up the field for Wentz and the Eagles offense.

What I like about this pick; again the Eagles addressed the wide receiver position. But, Gibson compared to Hollins brings more speed and athleticism. Both guys will be a major asset to Carson Wentz.

Notable College Stats:

1,898 Total receiving yards, 17 Total touchdowns, 22.6 Career average receiving yards per reception

– Fifth Round Pick 184

With the Eagles seventh pick in the draft, the selected Nebraska safety Nate Gerry. In college Gerry played safety but the Eagles plan to convert him into a linebacker. But during his time at Nebraska, Gerry was a solid tackler and ball hawk. Having three straight seasons with four plus interceptions.

What I like about this pick; I like that the Eagles continue adding guys who have shown they can make plays on the defensive side of the ball. My only worry is that he will be too small for the linebacker position. He needs to bulk up some in order to keep from getting hurt. But if he adds the muscle and doesn’t get hurt his ball skills will be great for the Eagles linebacking corps.

Notable College Stats:

13 Total interceptions, 273 Total tackles, 19 Total tackles for loss

– Sixth Round Pick 214

With the Eagles eighth and final pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, they selected University of Washington defensive tackle Elijah Qualls. Again addressing the defensive line which is good. You can never have too many defensive linemen. While at Washington, Qualls, is another big body for defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz to utilize.

What I like about this pick; adding another bid body to what’s already shaping out to be a top-notch defensive line is great. Qualls probably won’t start but he for sure will be in the rotation.

– Final Thoughts

Overall I like what the Eagles did in the draft. I really like that they added more depth to the defensive line as well as added some cornerbacks. I think the two wide outs drafted will be major play makers on both offense and special teams. The one area I wish the Eagles would have addressed is running back.

Yes, drafting Pumphrey is solid. But is he the future at running back? How long will the Eagles rely on running back by committee? Who knows, but come September we’ll find out.