1) What a fantastic NCAA National Championship game last night. It kind of made up for all the crappy NFL Wildcard weekend games.
There’s still a ways to go before the NFL Draft, but many experts predict that about 8-10 first rounders were playing in that game last night between the Champion Clemson Tigers and the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Which player from that game do you hope your favorite team drafts?
2) I go back and forth on Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson. He seems to have a knack for coming up big when his team needs him, but those 30 interceptions the last two years has me concerned. If he’s throwing so many picks out of his collegiate spread offense, how will he fare in a pro style offense when he’s asked to do more?
Then again, he has an NFL arm, he has NFL accuracy, he’s a great athlete, but more importantly, he appears to have a good feel for the game and for commanding an offense.
I’m not sure when he’ll get drafted, but I wouldn’t bet against him eventually becoming a very good pro QB.
3) No playoff team was hurt more by injury than the Oakland Raiders when they lost starting quarterback Derek Carr in week 16. Without him their offense couldn’t sustain much against the #1 defense of the Houston Texans in Saturday’s match-up.
That was the only game I missed in my Wildcard predictions last week, because I figured Texans’ QB Brock Osweiler would have a couple of turnovers and Oakland’s o-line would be able to make enough running lanes to control the clock. It was a good gameplan by Houston head coach Bill O'Brien as he stuck to the run and let his defense set the tone.
4) I should have known better than to pick Oakland and their rookie QB vs Houston’s #1 D last week, but the Texans won’t get by the New England Patriots on Saturday night. I expect Osweiler to struggle and I expect Tom Brady to thrive in a rematch of their week 3 game that saw the Pats roll the Texans, 27-0, behind 3rd string QB Jacoby Brissett.
Brady will throw for 3 TDs and the Patriots will win 31-13.
5) Did you know that Seattle Seahawks’ QB Russell Wilson has more career wins (64 including then postseason) than any other QB in their first 5 seasons in the NFL?
He’ll start next year with that same 64, because I’m going with the Atlanta Falcons at home to sneak by, 24-23. These two teams met week 6 in Seattle and the Seahawks scored 9 unanswered points in the 4th quarter to win by 2, 26 to 24.
6) The first Sunday game has the Pittsburgh Steelers traveling to face the Kansas City Chiefs in what should be a fantastic game. Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger was in a walking boot after their Wildcard win, but the team does not expect that to limit him.
But even with Big Ben at 100%, I’m going with the well rested Chiefs to get revenge from the 43-14 drubbing when they met in Pittsburgh on October 2nd. I’ll predict another high scoring game, K.C. 33 - Pittsburgh 30.
7) The Green Bay Packers get to close out the weekend again, but this time they travel to Dallas to face the #1 seeded Cowboys. The Packers may be without wide out Jordy Nelson, who cracked some ribs, but I’m still going to go with Green Bay to pull off the upset.
Aaron Rodgers will do Aaron Rodgers-like things and the Pack will also get revenge from their week six 30 to 16 loss. I’ll predict G.B. 24 - Dallas 17.
What do you guys predict in the divisional round?
8) That whole Miami boat trip had nothing to do with the New York Giants losing to the Packers. People saying they weren’t focused and that led to the loss are just reaching for excuses. Was it a bad look, a few of them getting away on their off day? Probably, but it’s not the reason Odell Beckham Jr. dropped three passes.
9) I like the moves by the Jacksonville Jaguars in promoting interim head coach Doug Marrone to head coach and bringing in Tom Coughlin as the Executive Vice President of Football Operations.
Marrone elected to step down as head coach of the Buffalo Bills after the 2014 season, a season in which they went 9-7, because the Bills went though an ownership change. A clause in his contract gave him an out, but also guaranteed his 2015 salary, so thinking he would be hired by the New York Jets, he resigned. The Jets didn’t hire him, which led to him being hired as the assistant head coach / offensive line coach of the Jags in 2015.
Fast forward a couple of years, and now Marrone will report to a guy that had great success in his 2nd coaching gig. Coughlin will try and impart some of the wisdom that helped him win two Super Bowls with the New York Giants after his first go round as a head coach (with the Jags) led to his firing after the 2002 season.
10) The two Chicago Bears that are guaranteeing a Super Bowl win in 2017, are also two that may not even be around in 2017.
I’m sure by now you heard about Alshon Jeffery making his Super Bowl guarantee after the Bears lost their 13th game of the 2016 season, but did you catch Lamarr Houston doubling down on the prediction on the NFL Network this morning?
"I liked it. I'm backing him," Houston said on Good Morning Football. "If we do things right as an organization, make the right moves in the offseason, we have the defensive players, we have the defensive potential to play good defense. We have the defensive coordinator, so if everything is handled the way it should be, I think we should be a very good contending team."
Jeffery, a free agent, may not be a Bear next year and Houston, who is set to make almost $7 million in 2017 coming off another ACL injury, may be a cap casualty.
By now you know my feelings on Jeffery (I’d like him back at the right price), but I’d also like to see a 100% Houston return as well. He had a strong finish to the 2015 season, his first as a 3-4 OLB, and I was expecting him to play some good football in 2016 before his latest injury setback.