Tag Archives: Carolina Panthers

Red’s 2018 NFL Predictions – NFC South

Today we move on to the NFC South – division which has produced two NFL Champions and a few runners-up.  This is the division of the nouveau teams as there is not a single member that predates the 1960’s.   But last year it was the “NFL Division of Excellence” with three teams advancing to the playoffs.

Atlanta Falcons –  This team was still smarting from the 28-3 letdown against the Patriots in 2016.  Still they had a 10 win season and made it to the divisional round losing in a low-scoring slug fest to the Eagles.  Pretty good for a team that finished in third place in their division.   There are no real surprises for this season.  There will be some changes on the defensive line and some help coming for the secondary.  On offense, new guard Brian Fusco shores up an already very solid line.  Freeman and Coleman are as solid a running back duo as there is in the league.  Jones and Sanu are about the same at wide-out.  Then there is Matty Ice.  Perhaps more than any other team, the Falcons fate rests in the hands of the ball handler. If Ryan returns to 2016 form (or even a close facsimile thereof), the Falcons will be flying high.  The schedule is reasonable favorable with the possible pathetic AFC North and the mediocre NFC East coming up. Atlanta wins this division with an 11-5 record.

New Orleans Saints – First a tip of the gold and black hat to long-time Saints owner and all round bon vivant Tom Benson who died in March at the age of 90.  He tried to buck the image of the No Fun League with his antics – but likely also bears some responsibility for the targeting and injury payola scandal that cost his coach a full season.  Benson also managed to create one of the most loyal fan bases in the entire league.  Red and family were in New Orleans for the OTNA’s home game last season and just about everyone in the city was wearing black and gold in some form or fashion. And just between him and you, Red has no problems with a gold lame miniskirt on the right person.   Red was watching at a local pizza parlor and when the OTNAs went ahead by 15 with just over 3 minutes left, it seemed to be an ugly Sunday night in NO.  But Brees led an incredible comeback to tie the game and the Saints won on a 51 yard FG with about a minute left in OT.  So Red is hesitant to say this is the last hurrah for 39 year-old Drew Brees as he keeps performing at a high level.  And with Ingram and Kamara in the backfield, Brees doesn’t have to do as much.  At this point, only Brady is better at reading defenses and getting his team in the right set.  And then there is this fact which may have slipped your notice  – Michael Thomas’ 196 receptions are the most by anyone in the first two years of an NFL career. Ever.  The Saints’ defense has been retooled over the past two seasons and this season will show whether the pieces are finally fitting together.  As for the schedule, it poses some interesting possibilities. The Saints start with a two consecutive home games against the weaker sisters (Bucs and Browns) and finish with two home games (Stealers and Panthers). That means they are on the road for 8 of 12 weeks in the middle of the season.  The three game road stretch beginning on Nov. 29 may determine the Saints’ playoff fate.  Red thinks the Saints are is still a Wildcard team at 10-6.

Carolina Panthers – Red once believed, but no more.  The 2017 season was tumultuous at best with owner Jerry Richardson firing GM Dave Gettleman weeks before the start of the regular season, followed by his decision to sell the team after facing multiple workplace allegations, including sexual harassment and racial allegations.   The team seemed remarkably unfazed and had a chance to win the division before falling to the Falcons in Week 17.  Still they made the playoffs but cratered lost a high-scoring battle with the Saints and went home.  The offense is probably there, but Red just doesn’t see this defense keeping the Panthers in enough games to keep pace with the Saints or Falcons in 2018.  It comes down to the last three games against the Saints, Falcons and Saints.   Carolina can’t close the deal and goes 9-7 and goes home.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Does Red really have to comment on this team.  Jameis Winston did nothing to show that he is the mythical “franchise quarterback” every team looks for.  So maybe it is a good thing he is suspended for the first three games of the season.   Note to JW:  Hell hath no fury like a female Uber driver groped.  The Bucs pathetic excuse for a defense (last in the NFL in total defense, sacks and third-down percentage) can only be better with the addition of former Eagles tackle Beau Allen and end Vinny Curry.  Whether tired old Jason Pierre-Paul had anything left in the tank is another story.  Running back is a question mark and only Mike Evans is the only true offensive superstar on this squad.  They will improve from last year’s sad 5-11 mark – but not enough.  Tampa Bay is 7-9 material at best.

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Red’s NFL Picks – NFC South

Surprisingly, the NFC South (unlike almost every other division) is actually comprised of teams entirely from the South.  More fun facts to follow.

Falcons. You know how many times Red has picked the Falcons before giving up on them last season. That’s right – a whole shitload. And how did that work out?  And then last season Red finally wakes up picks the Panthers – who decide to suck while the Falcons finally wake up – at least until the second half of the Superb Owl. Take heart Falcons fans, Red can failure pain.  And despite their pathetic performance in Houston, Red is biting on the Falcons. It may be a collapse of judgment to pick this team to win the NFC South, but this fall apart from some questions about a Superb Owl hangover, the Falcons look solid. Choking the list of positives, they have Matty Ice and the same basic offensive crew around him.  Expect lots of bombs and dive plays.  There may be a few questions – suck gas what happens without offensive wiz Kyle Shanahan? And is crack-up quarterback Matt Schaub capable of tanking over if needed? What will their record be?  10-6 or 11-5? Just flop a coin and don’t sink about it too much.   Really, Falcons fans you should stop gripping, just say “Tanks” for a memorable season last year and hope for the bust in 2017.  Atlanta strolls to an 11-5 record.

Buccaneers. The Buccaneers have a decent shot at a Wild Card spot. Their 5 game win streak to close the season almost almost landed them in the playoffs where nobody wanted to face them. They look to have two elite talents in Jameis Winston and Mike Evans. Doug Martin remains a question mark – he is either great or injured with little room in between. Jaquizz Rodgers needs to take over as the Number 1 back. Adding DeSean Jackson and O.J. Howard makes this a formidable offensive unit.  On defense, Kwon Alexander put up Defensive ROY numbers in 2015 and improved last season and the rest of the defense looks good enough to win a lot of games.  The Bucs have had trouble finishing off close ones.  Dumping erratic kicker Roberto Aguayo and bringing in Nick Folk may help in that area.  Look for the Tampa Bay to go 10-6 and make it to Wildcard Weekend.

Panthers.  Panthers are a sexy pick to with the NFC South despite their first to worst performance in 2016. Losing six games by 3 points or less will get a bad record. Red thinks the Panthers are sadly headed in the wrong direction as evidenced by the firing of GM Dave Gettleman in July.  Rivera’s job is on the line this season and his best work is not done under pressure.  They do have an easy loser’s schedule and will not be playing with a makeshift O line as in 2016. But lack of a real running game will limit Cam’s options.  CN does improve his woeful 52% completion rate last season, but it would be hard not to.  On the other side the additions of Julius Peppers and Captain Munnerlyn (perhaps Red’s favorite name in all of the NFL) will bolster a defense that distinctly underperformed last year.  Still it is a difficult climb back to the excellence of 2015.  The Panthers make it back a ways, but not a long ways.  Carolina fans can expect an 8-8 record at best.

Saints.  The Saints’ window of opportunity has closed. Not that it was all that wide open anyway with three consecutive 7-9 seasons.  Adding boy-beater Adrian Peterson might help, but probably doesn’t offset losing rising star wideout Brandin Cooks.  Last year Drew Brees refused to look tired and old. The ageless wonder completed  a league-leading 471 of his league-leading 673 attempts for 70% completion rate (who in God’s name completed more than 70% of their passes last season?) for a  league-leading 5208 yards (are you getting the drift here?) and 37 touchdowns!  Imagine what that could have done for a team like say – the hapless Texans.  Even though DB should be tired and old in his by-God 17th NFL season, he again refuses to follow the script and that alone will carry this team a long ways – just not long enough.  Saints cannot score enough points to make up for sadly sagging defense.  New Orleans slumps to 6-10.

Answer:  Sam Bradford completed 71.4% and Matt Ryan completed 70.1% of their attempts to edge out Brees.

 

Red’s NFL Picks – Super Bowl

“If it’s the ultimate game, how come they’re playing it again next year?”

Duane Thomas – former running back for the Cowboys, Chargers, Redskins and Hawaiians (WFL).

According to legend, Thomas was overwhelmingly selected as the MVP of Superb Owl VI after the Cowboys stomped on the Dolphins for their first of five wins. But because of DT’s prickly relations with the press (basically ignoring them all season), Larry Klein of Sport magazine which presented the award, named Roger Staubach instead.

Red Rates Himself – For Conference Championship Week Red was 2-0. For the season Red is now 60-46. What money goes to Vegas stays in Vegas – unless you have Red by your side.

Your Ultimate Pick of the Week: Panthers over Broncos. This should be an interesting game. Of course, Red thought that two years ago when you had an incredible Broncos offense facing a tremendous Seahawks defense. My how the worm has turned. This one features an anemic Broncos offense going up against a very good Panthers defense. And a superb Panthers offense facing off against a world-beating Broncos defense. In the modern NFL, Red typically bets on the offense.

First, let’s consider the Broncos – who have won 11 of their 14 victories by seven points or less in the regular season and playoffs which are the most such nail biters by any team in the Superb Owl era. In other words, the Broncos have been winning by the skin of their mouth guards no thanks to the offense. Even PMS was forced to acknowledge this. “Like I’ve said from the get-go, our defense has gotten us to this point. Let’s make that very clear.” On the positive front, the Broncos have five wins against playoff teams having beat the Chiefs, Vikings, Packers, Patriots and Bengals. That is nothing short of incredible in the modern NFL. With probably the best secondary in the league, the Broncos can afford to focus on stopping the run – something they will have to do against the Panthers who happen to have a very good running back playing under center. But then there is that fairly awful offense led by the aged PMS. Last game PMS launched a bomb (maybe 40 yards in the air) against the Pats just as if to say, “I can still do this.” Well maybe so, maybe no. The Broncos have to establish a semblance of a running game to keep this one close and keep PMS from being taken off the field in a basket. CJ Anderson must break at least 2 long runs (he had one against the Stealers and one against the Pats) and the Broncos need 120 yards of rushing. With that, the excellent Panthers defense will free up some space for PMS. If it’s a close game, don’t bet against the Broncos.

 

Moving on to the Panthers, there is almost nothing bad to say about this team beyond the ugly home uniforms. Even that won’t be a factor since they are the visiting team on Sunday. The only real mystery is how the Falcons managed to beat them. With a defense already good enough to win a bunch of games, the Panthers added a top-ranked offense cranking out 31 points per game and never looked back. The Panthers beat three playoff teams – Texans, Packers and OTNA’s – two of whom prevailed in the PEFAPFD that were the AFC South and NFC East this season. So until the playoffs, the Panthers had not really beaten down on a good team other than the Packers – but boy did they bring down the hammer in those games. But more than any other team except perhaps the Patriots, the success of the Panthers rests on the shoulders (and legs) of one man – MVP to be Cam Newton. The Panthers rushing game is what has kept defenses honest, but it is the extraordinary playmaking ability of CN that grabs the headlines. The only real question for the Panthers is will CN somehow wilt in the spotlight. That seems improbable given his demeanor, however, he was somewhat shaky the last time he played for a championship at Auburn. If there is a second set of shoulders here it would be the very capable ones of Greg Olsen. He is clearly the second-best TE in the game with a 14.3 yards per catch average based on his ability to catch and run.

The one stat that really sticks out as the difference between these teams is the +20 turnover margin for the Panthers as opposed to the -4 margin for the Broncos. It is probably weak-kneed, trite and lame to claim that the game will come down to turnovers – except that it probably will. I do expect the Broncos defense to acquit itself respectably in this game, but the likelihood is that the Panthers get a short field at least once and stop a promising Broncos drive at least once simply because of the way the ball bounces.

Red’s record on Superb Owl bets is admittedly spotty. The Panthers giving up 6 is a lot given the Broncos record of keeping games close. The 44.5 O/U is more attractive. Red likes the under here – which means the game probably is going to OT.

Final Prediction of the Season. Carolina 24 Denver 17.

 

Red’s NFL Picks – Conference Championships

“The stash of games is getting low.”

Said many years ago by an old stoner friend of Red’s (who loved football almost as much as he liked the weed). Indeed, it is. Indeed, it is.

Red Rates Himself – For Round 2 of the Playoffs Red was 2-2. For the season Red is now 58-46. Omaha, Omaha.

Your Rocky Mountain High Pick of the Week: Broncos over Patriots. Red is breaking tradition and all the rules by picking the Broncos – even though the Patriots were his preseason AFC Champ. If this game were in Foxboro, Red would call it the other way. If you didn’t notice, every home team won last week and every game was a “one score” game in that one score by the losing team would have won or tied the game. Red expects the same this weekend. There will be no blowouts of the last teams standing but the home field advantage in this type of game is enormous. The Patriots strategy last week was to pretend like the solid front 7 of the Chiefs defense simply did not exist and throw, throw some more and keep throwing the entire game. There was a mere pretense of a running game – not surprising since the Pats were down to retired retread Steven Jackson as their main option in the backfield. No knock on Jackson who had a solid career but expecting him to come out of retirement a couple of weeks before the playoffs and rush for 100 yards is a little much even for the Pats. That strategy will not work against the best defense in the league. Miller, Ware, Jackson and Wolfe will be turned loose on Brady. Pressure will be the key. So what will Belicheat pull out of the hat this week in the face of the team who gets after the QB better than anyone else? If Red knew that he wouldn’t be working for a living.   Red expects the Broncos’ sputtering offense will need to score 24 to win and they can do that with smart game management and a decent game from the disappointing C.J. Anderson. The Broncos need at least 130 yards on the ground and the clock chewing that entails, if they are going to win. And PMS needs to not suck – a tall order right now. Red likes the Broncos plus 3, but the O/U at 44.5 scares him. Denver 24 New England 23.

Your Wildwood Weed Pick of the Week: Panthers over Cardinals. Cardinals surprised Red last week. He thought that the Packers wild finish would finish off a team that had to be wondering “What the Hell just happened?” But Larry Fitzgerald put an end to Red’s dream of correctly picking both Superb Owl teams – so now he hates them. On the other side, the Panthers have simply been the best team in the league all season. Notwithstanding the Seahawks furious comeback in the second half, what the Panthers did to the Hawks in the first half ought to be illegal. Red expects a similarly fast start to this one – again followed by a spirited rally that falls short. And although, Red would desperately like to see the first ever all Mountain Time Zone Superb Owl (with the only two teams that could possibly make that happen), he can’t go against a Carolina team that has bested all comers but one – and looked pretty snappy doing so. Red likes the Panthers giving up 3 and the over at 44.5.   Carolina 35 Arizona 29.