Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is tripped up by St. Louis Rams safety Mark Barron for a five-yard sack during third quarter action on Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015, at Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis. (Chris Lee/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS) (Photo by permission of Tribune News Service)
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is tripped up by St. Louis Rams safety Mark Barron for a five-yard sack during third quarter action on Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015, at Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis. (Chris Lee/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS)

Photo by permission of Tribune News Service

Amid the Action: Week of October 4, 2015

A look at the upcoming week's NFL clashes

September 30, 2015

The season is young, and the powerhouse teams are already showing themselves, but it’s really too early to tell where all of this is heading. Here are my NFL picks for this weekend.

update: Six of my nine picks won. 

Bills will improve to 3-1 on Sunday against Giants

Amid+the+Action+by+Kainoa+Deguilmo

Amid the Action by Kainoa Deguilmo

On Sunday, the New York Giants will face the Buffalo Bills. The Giants came out with a 32-21 win over the Washington Redskins on Thursday. The Bills just routed the Dolphins 41-14 at Miami. Both of these teams are coming off successful wins. But the question is: who will win on Sunday? I’m taking the Bills.

Yes, there are reports of Lesean Mccoy and Sammy Watkins, but this offense still has the talent to pull through. Tyrod Taylor is on fire right now and is up against a defense that will allow him plenty of opportunities. This New York team may have won, but they allowed 21 points by the Redskins who are an absolute mess right now.

If the Redskins can score three touchdowns against the Giants, there’s no reason the Bills wouldn’t be able to do the same, if not more. New York looked better that game, but the team really struggles with consistency. The lack of consistency showed, especially against Dallas. Personally, that game was painful to watch.

I’m not a New York fan, but I can’t stand Dallas. The Giants put up a really good game. The defense was decent–not great–but decent throughout the entire game. If only Eli Manning ran out the clock, if only he took the sack, if only Rashad Jennings scored…the list goes on. But nobody can solely blame the offense for this loss.

The defense had maybe over a minute, maybe less, and the Dallas offense, with no timeouts, ran onto the field. This is the only way to put it: the defense didn’t show up when the team needed them the most.

It was like a high school team playing against a bunch of pop warner players. Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys practically marched down the field into the end zone. New York may have won by a good margin last game, but that was by arguably one of the worst teams in the league. The Bills are certainly on a higher level than the Redskins.

Can the Ravens bounce back against the Steelers?

The Ravens are having one of the worst starts of the 2015 NFL season.

As of now, they are 0-3 with one of their losses coming from Oakland. Yes, they lost to the Raiders. The Oakland Raiders pulled through with a last-minute touchdown. In week one they were shut down by the Broncos defense, and against the Bengals, they fell 28-24.

The Steelers, on the other hand, HAD a good start. They lost their first game of the season while playing the Patriots in New England, 28-21. After that game, they came back to smash the 49ers 43-18 in their home opener and managed to beat the Rams 12-6; however, they have troubles of their own.

Big Ben Roethlisberger went down with a knee injury that will have him “sidelined for a number of weeks” according to Mike Tomlin, Pittsburg’s head coach.

Is this the chance for the Ravens to break their losing streak? With Big Ben out, the defense won’t be as pressured. Sure, Terrell Suggs, (probably their best defensive player) is out too, but doesn’t the quarterback situation work in their favor?

I say no. Don’t get me wrong, but the Steelers simply still have too much power even on the offensive side of the ball. Their back-up is Michael Vick, who showed in the preseason he can deliver. Now I know what you’re thinking. Well that’s just preseason, he wasn’t playing against any starters.

But you also have to think of it this way: He wasn’t playing with any starters either. If he can deliver to rookie receivers, I’m sure he’ll pull through. After all, he’ll have Antonio Brown, one of the best and most productive wide receivers in the game today. Not to mention D’angelo Williams, who has been very effective for their ground game. I’m sure Ryan Shazier and the rest of the defense will hold as well against a struggling Ravens offense.

Bears cannot stop Oakland’s momentum

The Raiders will continue their winning streak, moving to 3-1 on the season against the Chicago Bears. So far, Oakland has shocked everybody. Their only loss came from Cincinnati, who stomped them.

After that they beat the Ravens. Yes, you heard that right, they beat Joe Flacco and the Ravens, who also have Steve Smith. They followed that win with beating Johnny Manziel and the Cleveland Browns.

The Bears have had a disappointing start to their 2015 season. They are 0-3 and have suffered losses to the Packers in week 1, the Cardinals in week 2, and were shutout by the Seattle Seahawks in week 3, who finally had Kam Chancellor come back.

The Raiders have momentum going for them, and they definitely have the talent this year to be successful. Derek Carr has shown a lot of maturity and progress in his second year as quarterback. If he continues on this track, he will have a bright future.

Oakland also selected former Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper with their first selection of the 2015 NFL draft. He has definitely proven why he was a first round draft pick. As of now, he has 290 yards on 20 catches, is currently averaging 14.5 yards per catch and has one touchdown.

Derek Carr has 726 yards on 57 out of 90 completions. He also has 5 touchdown passes in only 3 games, which is quite impressive.

The Oakland defense has also proven to be worthy, with an excellent pass rush. Khalil Mack is back (so much fun to say) and is a monster on the field. Oakland has also signed ex-49ers outside linebacker Aldon Smith (wish San Francisco’d kept him). And of course, Charles Woodson is Charles Woodson. The offense also had good help from Latavius Murray, their running back.

Jay Cutler has not been impressive. He has 345 yards on 26 completions out of 45 attempts. He also has two touchdown passes.

Matt Forte is looking all right, with 276 yards on 59 carries, averaging 4.7 yards per carry.

Martellus Bennet has been looking good. He has 118 yards on 13 catches averaging an impressive 9.1 yards per catch.

The Raiders are on a roll right now, and the Bears aren’t going to be the ones to stop it.

Jets will beat Dolphins

On Sunday, the speedy offense of the Dolphins will face off against the similar defense of the Jets. The Jets improved to 2-1 with a surprising upset of the Colts 20-7. But they fell their last game to the Eagles 24-17. The Dolphins, who are 1-2, had their first and only win of the season against the Washington Redskins in week 1, lost to the Bills, and also fell to the Jaguars 23-20. On Sunday, I think the Jets will win.

“The Jets…have surprised everyone.”

 

Both teams are coming off losses and are looking to bounce back. After all, it’s still early in the season. The Dolphins had a lot of hype in the offseason with the (overpriced) signing of former Lions DT Ndamukong Suh, who they gave a $114 million contract to. He has performed well, but he’s not the Savior for the Dolphins.

After a week 1 win, the Dolphins continued to struggle, even losing to the Jaguars, as mentioned above. The Jets, on the other hand, have surprised everyone, and Ryan Fitzpatrick has shown good signs of improvement. The defense has also really stepped up this year.

The offense has shined with Chris Ivory in the backfield providing them with some much-needed run support. The defense forced five turnovers against the Colts, who were expected to beat the Jets.

Geno Smith may be out thanks to a scuffle at practice, but they don’t show any signs of missing him.

While the Dolphins offense may be their strong point, I feel that the Jets defense will prove to be too much, forcing Tannehill to make some mistakes.

Andy Dalton and the Bengals will improve to 4-0

The Cincinnati Bengals will improve to 4-0 against the Kansas City Chiefs. Right now, they’re undefeated, and Andy Dalton is looking sharp. The same cannot be said for the Chiefs, who are 1-2.

They started out hot against the Texans, who were having issues of their own in the season opener. But after that, they kind of faded. When they played Denver, they put up a good fight, but a heartbreaking scoop and score ended their chances of pulling a win. The week after, they got crushed by Aaron Rodgers and his Packers, who are doing surprisingly well without Jordy Nelson.

The Bengals have had a much better start. To open the season, they stomped on the Oakland Raiders, who didn’t even get into Bengals territory until the fourth quarter. After beating Oakland, they went on to face the Chargers, who they squeaked by, and they also beat Joe Flacco and the Ravens. The offense has been really good this season, averaging 414.3 yards, which is the second most in the league.

Andy Dalton has completed 61 of 92 passes for 866 yards and has 8 touchdown passes, in three games. He and AJ Green can lead this team to victory against a struggling Chiefs team.

Alex Smith has 724 yards on 62 out of 98 completions and has 4 touchdown passes. He finally threw a touchdown to a Chiefs receiver this year!

“Last year, none of the Chiefs wide receivers scored a touchdown…”

 

Last year, none of the Chiefs wide receivers scored a touchdown, which is pretty unbelievable. Jamaal Charles has 231 yards on 48 carries, averaging 4.8 yards per carry. He will be vital to this game, if he can hold onto the ball. The Chiefs defense should give Andy Dalton a run for his money, but I don’t know if that will prove to be enough.

Redskins will improve to 2-2, Eagles will fall

The Redskins will redeem themselves after their loss against the Giants by beating their other division rival, the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles aren’t the powerhouse team they were last year.

Chip Kelly traded away Lesean Mccoy–which was a risky move–and replaced him with linebacker Kiko Alonso. He also got rid of Jeremy Maclin…another risky move. As of now, the Eagles are 1-2 and last in their division. Their first win came this last game against the New York Jets, with a score of 24-17. They started off the season with back-to-back losses to Dallas and the Atlanta Falcons. Although they acquired a three-headed monster for the run game, their offense has not lived up to the hype.

The Redskins are also 1-2. They won their first game of the season when they played the Rams, winning 24-10. They lost their opening game against the Dolphins and lost against the Giants 32-21. RGIII is out of the picture, and Kirk Cousins has taken the starting spot. This could be his second victory of the season.

“…Kirk Cousins has taken the starting spot. This could be his second victory…”

 

So far, Cousins is 74 for 107 with 715 yards and three touchdown passes. The Redskins are led in rushing by power back Alfred Morris who has 199 yards on 49 carries and is averaging 4.1 yards per carry. Jordan Reed is leading the team in receiving yards with 241 yards on 19 carries, averaging 12.7 yards per catch and has one touchdown this season.

Bradford, who the Eagles acquired this past offseason, is 73 for 117 and has 678 yards with three touchdown passes. Ryan Matthew (NOT Demarco Murray) leads Philly in rushing with 112 yards on 28 carries for 1 touchdown. He’s averaging four yards a carry.

Jordan Matthews leads the Eagles in receiving with 231 yards on 22 catches averaging 10.5 yards per catch, and he has one touchdown.

The Eagles still have some talent, but I don’t think it will be enough. The Redskins will move up to 2-2 on the season.

Newton will continue dominance against Buccaneers

Jameis Winston has shown some good flashes during his playing time, but don’t expect to see much of that against Cam Newton and the Panthers. The Panthers are 3-0 and don’t show any signs of slowing down, while the Buccaneers still have a lot of young guys on their roster.

The Panthers started off with beating the Jaguars 20-9. After that, they beat the Texans 24-17. In their last game, they beat their division rivals, the Saints, who were without Drew Brees, 27-22.

The Buccaneers have not had the same success. They are currently 1-2 and they drafted Jameis Winston with their first round pick of the 2015 NFL draft. His first game was awful. It was a big wake-up call for Winston. His first ever attempted NFL pass was a touchdown, but for the wrong team, resulting in a pick six against the Titans, who had a rookie of their own, Marcus Mariota starting at quarterback.

They bounced back against the Saints, with Jameis Winston leading them to a 26-19 victory, but after that brief win, they fell to the Texans 19-9.

Cam Newton is 56 for 99 and has 685 yards passing with five touchdowns. The receiving core is led by tight end Greg Olsen, who has 215 yards on 15 catches, averaging an impressive 14.3 yards per catch. Jonathan Stewart has 170 yards on 49 carries averaging 3.5 yards per carry.

Jameis Winston is 47 for 90 with 678 yards passing, and he’s had four touchdown passes.

Vincent Jackson has 145 yard on nine catches, averaging 16.1 yards per catch and has one touchdown on the season.

Doug Martin leads the team in rushing with 176 yards on 46 carries averaging 3.8 yards per carry.

The Panthers have this game in the bag. The Buccaneers are not an elite team, and Cam Newton will certainly have a good game for himself.

Andrew Luck will be Andrew Luck

As the Colts face the Jaguars on Sunday, I think this will be the game for the Colts to settle down in and start winning again. Don’t get me wrong, the Jaguars have shown flashes of hope, but in this game, Andrew Luck will get back to being Andrew Luck and deliver on Sunday.

The Colts have been disappointing so far. Andrew Luck looks nervous and unsettled, and it’s affecting his gameplay.

This offense was supposed to be good. They acquired Texans wide out Andre Johnson, 49ers all-time rushing leader Frank Gore, they have T.Y. Hilton returning, and of course, Andrew Luck.

The Jaguars have not had a great start either (surprised, aren’t you?). Their first and only win of the season came from their game against the Dolphins 23-20, which was their second game of the season. In their opener, they lost to Carolina 20-9, and in their last game, it was ugly. Tom Brady and the Patriots came to town and routed them 51-17. Yes, you heard that right. I mean, it’s the Patriots…but still. 51 points? Ouch. The Colts aren’t on the same level as the Patriots, but here’s their chance to break even.

This has not been the case, and Luck has had the lowest passer rating among starting quarterbacks in the league. He has 753 yards on 65 completions out of 116 with five touchdown passes. T.Y. Hilton has racked up 227 yards on 15 catches, averaging 15.1 yards per catch. Gore has 174 yards on 37 attempts averaging 4.7 yards, scoring two touchdowns.

The Jaguars once again have Blake Bortles, who has shown good signs here and there. He has completed 57 of 106 passes for 698 yards and five touchdown passes also. Allen Robinson has helped out a lot as well. He has 250 yards receiving on 11 catches averaging 22.7 yards per catch, with two touchdowns. T.J. Yeldon has 154 rushing yards on 48 attempts averaging 3.2 yards.

Overall, the Colts haven’t been too impressive, but at the same time, neither have the Jaguars. Andrew Luck will be back to his old self, bringing the Colts to 2-2.

Has the 49ers dynasty ended?

The last 49ers Super Bowl victory came in 1995. That was against the Chargers. From there on, San Francisco experienced a drought until 2011 when they made a playoff run with new head coach Jim Harbaugh.

They advanced as far to the NFC Championship where they fell to the (then dominant) New York Giants, led by Eli Manning.

The next year? Alex Smith fades out of the picture after a concussion and number 7 Colin Kaepernick takes the reins. The NFL was not ready for Colin Kaepernick. He enjoyed much success as a rookie, resulting in a trip to the Super Bowl, where 49ers fell to the Ravens 34-31.

The next year, the NFL was ready for Kaepernick, and it showed. Still, he managed to get to the NFC championship where San Francisco fell to their rival the Seattle Seahawks.

The next year, the NFL had Kaepernick down, and the 49ers struggled to an 8-8 season.

Fast forward to the present. The 49ers had arguably the worst offseason in sports history. Big names like Patrick Willis, Justin Smith, Frank Gore, Aldon Smith, and rising star Chris Borland are out of the picture. Oh yeah, Anthony Davis says “peace” too and is suddenly gone. Look at the picture now. One more thing; how could I forget: Jim Harbaugh, who took the team to the playoffs multiple times, is gone too.

Now, it’s a brand new head coach, who has never been an NFL head coach before. This is a team who’s missing franchise players. The glory years, I believe, will come to a brief halt. This is a brand new offense, new names that have to adjust and mold to work with a brand new head coaching staff.

This team’s defense doesn’t have it any easier. Well-known defensive coordinator Vic Fangio is gone. Eric Mangini isn’t bad….but let’s be honest. He’s not Vic Fangio.

San Francisco certainly isn’t out of talent. There are still many good player to work with on the team. But the 49ers are gonna take some time to adjust. These are the rebuilding years. Every team goes through them. This may not be the year they hoist the Lombardi trophy in the air, but believe me, that time is bound to come soon.

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