Blackout Bruno’s NFL Picks for Super Bowl 51

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Published on : February 2, 2017

 

 

The stage is all set for Super Bowl 51. Once again, the New England Patriots will head back to the biggest game in football with the hopes of adding even more to their wall of fame. While the Atlanta Falcons are only in their second SB ever and they are seeking their first win. I went 1-1 in the Conference Championship games. I had the Packers beating the Falcons but I’ll gladly take the loss in my silly picks record if it means Aaron Rodgers’ season is over. So far in the playoffs, my record is 7-3. Only one guess left. Let’s blend a pitcher of margaritas and dive into the NFL’s premiere event. Here is my pick for the Super Bowl.

 

New England Patriots vs Atlanta Falcons

As I’ve done all year, the picks are about who I think is going to win, not who I like. Those two things rarely line up. I don’t dislike New England, in fact I like Tom Brady but I’m just so tired of seeing them win. I’m rooting for Atlanta all the way, I very much hope they win. It’s better for the game if some new teams bring home the Lombardi Trophy.

 

 

I loved the way the Falcons dismantled the Packers. They did it so soundly and completely, it was a work of art. Matt Ryan to Julio Jones seems like the most dangerous combo around. Plus the way running backs Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman both catch and run, allows Atlanta to keep drives moving. Which normally leads to lots of points. The Falcons are an indoor team and they will enjoy the dome in Houston and look to keep up their blistering pace on offense. On defense, they have played some solid bend don’t break football and seem to generate enough turnovers to close out games. This is looking like it could be an epic Super Bowl 51.

 

On the New England side of the conversation, it’s just hard to bet against them. They are so modular and they do exactly what they need to. Every time. In many ways, Matt Ryan and company have copied some of the way the Pats move the chains. The use of the versatile backs to spread out the defense to later attack down field. Nothing super revolutionary, but these are squads executing it perfectly. Looking at the offensive roster, I’d give the talent edge to Atlanta but that doesn’t mean anything because Tom Brady can beat you with anyone. He’ll make WR Chris Hogan look like a Hall of Famer if he needs to.

 

 

Looking head-to-head, it seems fairly evenly matched. And if that’s the case then I have to say Patriots. They have the experience, they know what it takes to win a Super Bowl and if they get the ball at the end of the game, look for some vintage Brady as he leads his troops down for the game-winning score.

Winner: New England

 

Don’t get me wrong, I can’t wait for the big showdown in Houston but it always comes with just a hint of sadness. This is because I know the NFL season is over and football will go into hibernation until it’s time for the draft. So enjoy the Super Bowl and let’s pray it’s a close contest. Don’t forget the guacamole either.

 

Parade.

 

 


Who are the 2015 Atlanta Falcons of this year?

Written by :
Published on : November 4, 2016

 

 

We all remember the 2015 Atlanta Falcons don’t we? They jumped out of the gates last season to start with a 5-0 record. They looked to be the class of the NFC South and of the conference overall. Hopes were high in Atlanta and it had people talking about them winning the division before the season had even hit its half way mark. They had a new head coach in former Seahawks defensive coordinator, Dan Quinn. And had as electrifying a quarterback/receiver combo as anyone in the league with Matt Ryan and Julio Jones. On the surface, they seemed to have everything it takes to win the conference and play for the Lombardi Trophy.

 

Then it all came crashing down.

 

After being undefeated through the first five weeks of the 2015 season, the Falcons would go on to finish 8-8 and 2nd in the NFC South to the Carolina Panthers, who would eventually go to the Super Bowl. They got exposed as being too one-dimensional on offense by relying solely on the talents of Ryan and Jones to carry the team. The defense was sub-par, despite it being the specialty of the head coach, and there just weren’t enough pieces to keep winning consistently.

 

This was how the second half of the 2015 season felt for the Atlanta Falcons.

 

In 2016, there are multiple teams that are sitting pretty at the half way point. The New England Patriots (7-1) are in a league of their own, as usual. In Dallas, the Cowboys (6-1) are riding a potent offensive attack led by two rookie of the year candidates. The reigning Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos (6-2) are in good position thanks to their defense and running game (sound familiar?), despite having an untested QB at the helm. These teams are, for the most part, balanced and capable of winning on any given day. They are headed to the playoffs.

 

There are two other teams that have only two losses that aren’t doing things quite as convincingly though. The Oakland Raiders (6-2) and the Minnesota Vikings (5-2) are both deeply flawed teams that seem to be on the verge of getting exposed. Let’s take a look at both squads and see which of them is destined to be this year’s 2015 Atlanta Falcons by falling flat on their faces in the second half of the season.

 

Oakland Raiders

The Oakland Raiders sit at 6-2 almost completely on the back of their offense and their risk-taking head coach. They’ve had the good fortune of playing mostly middle of the pack teams (Saints, Titans, Ravens, Chargers, Buccaneers) and one bad team (Jaguars). They’ve beaten all of those squads. The surefire sign of a good football team is that they beat the teams they are supposed to beat. The two teams they’ve lost to are this year’s Falcons (5-3 and much improved over last year with one of the most prolific offenses in football) and the Kansas City Chiefs (5-2). Both of these teams pretty good so you can’t really fault them for dropping a couple to top competition.

 

In short, the Raiders are getting the job done, if not always in convincing fashion. It took a ballsy as hell 2-point conversion to win the game with 47 seconds on the clock instead of heading to overtime in New Orleans in week 1. Let us also not forget the 513 yard effort from QB Derek Carr and the equally ballsy touchdown pass on 4th down with 1:45 left to play in overtime. This likely helped the NFL avoid yet another tie game. The Raiders also committed an NFL-record 23 penalties for 200 yards. When you figure those two very unconvincing wins against two of the NFL’s worse teams and the rest of their wins came by an average of 7 points, it’s easy to see that this team has some issues.

 

 Can the Raiders survive on the strength of Derek Carr’s arm and the size of Jack Del Rio’s balls alone?

 

The most glaring issues are penalties, which reared its head in a big way in week 8, and the play of the defense. The Oakland Raiders are at the bottom, or near the bottom, in all categories that relate to both of those things. Coach Jack Del Rio has the offense all figured out. The Raiders can put up points with most teams in the league, but if they don’t get these other issues figured out then this team could very well end up like the 2015 Atlanta Falcons, on the outside of the playoffs looking in.

 

Luckily for fans of the team, both of these things can be corrected, especially the penalties. That’s simply coaching and practice. This team HAS to get more disciplined if they want this run to continue and it’s totally within the realm of possibility. A bit more tricky will be improving a defense which ranks at or near the bottom of the league in points allowed per game and yards allowed per game. But there is hope. The star of the defense, Khalil Mack, is finally starting to put it together. He posted a 2 sack, 7 tackle, 4 qb pressure, 1 forced fumble stat line in the week 8 win over the Bucs. The defense also allowed a season-low 270 yards. If this is the beginning of a trend then there is a good chance that the 2016 Oakland Raiders will not be the second-coming of the 2015 Atlanta Falcons.

 

Minnesota Vikings

The Minnesota Vikings were everyone’s favorite pick to win the NFC before the season began. Then the injuries started, most notably with Teddy Bridgewater’s dislocated knee in the preseason. An injury that has the future of the young QB’s career hanging in jeopardy. This injury forced them to trade for perennial NFL whipping boy, Sam Bradford, and at first the move seemed to have worked out pretty well. Through 6 games Bradford has, for the most part, played as good or better than at any point in his 6 year career. In combination with a defense that is first in the league in points allowed per game, it’s easy to see why this team had such high hopes before the season.

 

But the injuries just kept coming.

 

In September, the team was forced to place all-time great running back (and noted child abuser) Adrian Peterson on injured reserved. Losing the other cornerstone of the offense was a big hit, but it didn’t stop there. The offensive line has seen an endless amount of injuries including season-ending ones for tackles Matt Kalil and Andre Smith. With the rest of the offensive line battling their own injuries or underperforming in their roles, the running game has taken a serious hit. As a result the team is averaging an abysmal 2.7 yards per attempt on the ground and offensive coordinator, Norv Turner, was given his walking papers following week 8. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

 

 A team can overcome the loss of one or two players, but when the entire offensive line goes down…

 

A month ago, the Vikings were owning every team they played and people were talking about them as a shoe-in to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl this year. In the last two weeks, they have been exposed by a solid Eagles defense and a poor Bears team. The team scored just 10 points in both of those matchups and Sam Bradford has been sacked a total of 11 times over both games. And we all know that if any quarterback in the league thrives under defensive pressure, it is definitely NOT Bradford.

 

With the problems that this team faces on offense, there is a good chance that they are in real trouble. And dangerously close to repeating what the Falcons did last year. The issues with the offensive line and running game aren’t going anywhere. Anytime a contender is forced to fire their offensive coordinator mid-season, there is ample reason to be worried. The team signed former pro bowl tackle-turned-revolving door, Jake Long, to try and stop the bleeding at the left tackle position and it has been a resounding failure. The defense is AMAZING but that might not be enough to win the division, let alone the conference.

 

Both of these teams have their issues, but for one of them those issues will not be resolved this year. That’s right, it is the 2016 Minnesota Vikings who will be this year’s Atlanta Falcons. The offensive line is paper thin and it is going to get Sam Bradford exposed for the fraud that he was during his first 4 weeks of play. He is not equipped to carry the offense by himself and because of that there’s a chance that these Minnesota Vikings will finish right around .500 and miss the playoffs. Just like the Falcons did last year.

 

 


Fantasy Football Waiver Wire: Week 3

Written by :
Published on : September 21, 2016

 

 

It’s only week 3 and already many big names have gone down with serious injuries. This is the biggest x-factor of fantasy football. Players on your team are going to get hurt. It happens. Champions scoop up their replacements and the next big thing off the waiver wire. So far, we’ve seen Keenan Allen, Jimmy Garoppolo, Danny Woodhead, Adrian Peterson, Robert Griffen III, Doug Martin, Ameer Abdullah, Josh McCown all get added to the injury report. Well, SBS is here to help. First, I’m going to assume you play in a good league and most of the notable players are already unavailable. Below are some free agent options (all less than 50% owned in ESPN standard leagues) to fill the holes in your fantasy roster.

 

QB

Carson Wentz, Philadelphie Eagles – The rookie isn’t totally lighting up the box score but he has been efficient moving the ball and has zero turnovers so far. Owned in 19.5% of ESPN leagues.

 

Ryan Fitzpatrick, New York Jets – Posted 14 and 20 points in his first two starts. Only 1 pick, plus Fitzpatrick has some solid options with Matt Forte, Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall (if he isn’t hurt). Owned in 33.2% of ESPN leagues.

 

RB

Fozzy Whittaker, Carolina Panthers – With Jonathan Stewart banged up, Fozzy got the start and put up 100 yards on 16 carries against the 49ers. Stewart’s hamstring may hold him a few weeks longer making Whittaker a must add. Owned in 1.1% of ESPN leagues

 

Jerick McKinnon, Minnesota Vikings – AP is going to miss some time and that opens the door for Jerick. Matt Asiata will also be in the mix but McKinnon is the back you want to add. Owned in 24.4% of ESPN leagues.

 

Jay Ajayi, Miami Dolphins – Another replacement killer. Arian Foster is nursing a groin injury so it’s time to add his backup. Ajayi got some work at the end of last game but the Dolphins were behind and not running the ball much. Look for Jay to post a decent stat line in Cleveland. Owned in 46% of ESPN leagues.

 

TE

Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings – Sam Bradford is in and he is throwing. Rudolph found the end zone for the first time with Sam as QB. Look for this trend to continue as the pass game becomes the focus because of the AP injury. Owned in 32.2% of ESPN leagues.

 

 

Jacob Tamme, Atlanta Falcons – Matt Ryan is red hot and spreading the ball all around. And there is plenty to go around. Tamme has at least 5 catches in both the first two games and has made it to pay dirt once. Falcons will keep passing and Julio Jones keeps sucking up all the coverage. Jacob is a steal right now. Owned in 10.9% of ESPN leagues.

 

WR

Cole Beasley, Dallas Cowboys – Rookie QB Dak Prescott (owned in 44.3% of ESPN leaagues) has built a rapport with the wideout and looks for him often. He has been second on the team in targets two weeks running. That consistency makes him a legit plug-and-play option for those in need. Owned in 7.4% of ESPN leagues.

 

Kenny Britt, Los Angeles Rams – Britt has posted 67 yards and 94 yards in two games. He has yet to score a TD but he is LA’s best receiving threat in terms of fantasy. You could do a lot worse. Owned in 8.3% of ESPN leagues.

 

Danny Amendola, New England Patriots – Coming off a 4 catch, 50 yard and 2 touchdown game, Danny will be a popular add. The Pats throw the ball enough that this makes sense, no matter who the QB is. Only owned in 3.5% of ESPN leagues.

 

K

Cairo Santos, Kansas City Chiefs – 10 points in week one, 15 in week two and hasn’t missed a field goal yet. Look at your roster, is your kicker this good? Owned in 28% of ESPN leagues.

 

Nick Novak, Houston Texans – 11 points in week one, 13 in week two and he’s only missed one field goal. Look at your roster, is your kicker this good? Owned in 9% of ESPN leagues.

 

D/ST

Philadelphia Eagles – The Philly D has scored 14 fantasy points in both games. They haven’t allowed more than real 14 points in any game and already have 4 takeaways. Owned in 27% of ESPN leagues.

 

 

Pittsburgh Steelers – This unit hasn’t scored a ton of points but they been solid through two contests. Never giving up more than 16 points and averaging two turnovers won per game. Not too bad for a crew owned in merely 21.2% of ESPN leagues.

 

Need more help than that? Then you’re probably screwed. Check back soon for more waiver wire tips as we approach the dreaded dog days of the bye weeks.

 

Flex.

 

 


Roger Pretzel’s Cloudy Crystal Ball: NFC South

Written by :
Published on : September 11, 2015

 

Ah the NFC South, the only division where you can make the playoffs without a winning record. It was a wacky scene last year, and I don’t see it getting any less wacky with a young Saints crew deep in reconstruction, a Falcons team with a potentially explosive offense (which they’ll need considering their defense), a tantalizingly improved Buccaneers gang, and a Panthers team flirting with a serious drop in production.

 

Listen up you weisenheimer, the ball’s got some crass opinions to share…

 

New Orleans Saints:
 photo neworleanssaints_zpsi3uqpgml.jpg

 

I’ve got a lot of affection for the Saints, but the team has changed so drastically in such a short amount of time that they’re nearly unrecognizable. The Junior Galette debacle was a costly embarrassment, and I’m not fully convinced that C.J. Spiller will be successful even if he seems like a great fit in Nola’s offensive system. It’s not all bad news of course. Having a young team means that some guys are going to inevitably crawl out of the woodwork and become big playmakers. Drew Brees still has some great options to throw to: Marques Colston will remain a solid end-zone threat and will be perfect for those third-and-short surprise pass plays. I also love how Brandin Cooks has emerged as Drew’s go-to receiver. I expect great things from him this season.

 

From the coaching perspective, I think Sean Peyton is one of the best in the league, even if that signature visor makes him look like a white-boy rave DJ from the Wisconsin suburbs of the late 90’s. This is also going to be a terribly important season for Rob Ryan as defensive coordinator. All the wild, free flowing, blonde hair isn’t going to help him keep his job if the Saints defense crumbles under injuries and inexperience.

 

The crystal ball says:

Rebuilding. Rebuilding. Rebuilding. Even if a passel of these young players emerge as studs, it’s still going to take a bit of work getting everyone on the same page. Jimmy Graham’s loss is definitely going to hurt, as is the absence of some of the defensive vets (due to injury), like Jairus Byrd. The Saints don’t make the playoffs this year, but Rob Ryan keeps his job and lives to fight another day.

 

Atlanta Falcons:
 photo atlantafalcons_zpsnhsgpfyx.jpg

 

Deflategate was an interesting litmus test for a league that sometimes struggles with its successes in the face of scandal. I was a little shocked that more attention wasn’t paid to the story of the Atlanta Falcons pumping extra volume into their arena to mess with the other team. In my mind this is way more egregious than the PSI of a football in terms of actual game outcome, so I’m quite comfortable labeling the Falcons as cheaters right from the get-go.

 

What happened to Atlanta anyway? Seems like just a couple years ago they were poised to make a serious Super Bowl run. Certainly a decaying running game and the retirement of Tony Gonzalez were big factors, but this is also a team that’s had some defensive deficiencies for some time now. Maybe that changes with Vic Beasley starting the season as a rookie DE, but I’m not holding my breath. Matt Ryan and Julio Jones are definitely going to create some offensive fireworks together along with Roddy White thrown in for good measure, but like many other middling teams, there’s only so much you can hope for with this current group.

 

The crystal ball says:

Dan Quinn is coming into a tough situation as a first time head coach, and while I respect his WWE wrestler look, I don’t think we can expect a whole lot outta Hotlanta this season. On the plus side, it’s a very weak division with a once dominant Saints team regrouping. So the Falcons have a shot at doing well within the NFC South, but personally, I still like the Panthers for the division, making a wild card slot highly unlikely for the dirty birds. We’re going to see plenty of beautiful highlights from Matt Ryan and company in game recaps next to losing scores.

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
 photo tampabaybuccaneers_zpsduqwerej.jpg

 

Lovie Smith is not to be trifled with even if he does have a habit of making willfully bad decisions and betting on the wrong horse. I like his reworking of the Bucs and with Jameis Winston we might finally have a team on our hands. Vincent Jackson is a mammoth-sized receiver, and the perfect type of guy for a talented young QB to pitch to. There is this nagging sense however that Mike Glennon wasn’t exactly the worst QB ever, so really how much better can Jameis Winston make this team?

 

As far as Winston is concerned, he could be golden in the NFL as long as he can keep his off-field extracurriculars in check. We’ve seen plenty of dudes who are prone to bad behavior wreck themselves in the NFL. Hell, guys who aren’t prone to bad behavior land in hot water too. The Winston pick was a hopeful gamble and I hope he keeps it together long enough to play. On the other side of the ball, Tampa Bay does have a pretty solid defense despite what last year’s stats might suggest. That D is only going to get better with the addition of George Johnson who had a great last season with the Lions. Like the Falcons, this is another club that has problems with the run game, but I’m not totally ready to give up on Doug Martin. Sure, he’s not going to light up your fantasy scoreboard, but I think the muscle hamster (worst nickname ever) can provide an adequate run game to bolster Winston’s arm.

 

The crystal ball says:

It’s so tempting to imagine the Buccaneers popping off. I do think they make some huge strides. Winston will behave, at least for his rookie year, but watch out for the offseason and the following one. I see steady improvement all around as Lovie Smith gets his hooks deeper in the team and Winston settles in. At first the crystal ball was telling me that the Bucs had a good chance to make the playoffs but then she admitted that she had been drinking too much white zin the night before. The Bucs have a good shot at a .500 season, and at this point, that’s almost as good as making the playoffs.

 

Carolina Panthers:
 photo caronlianpanthers_zps1ptd7kr7.jpg

 

No Kelvin Benjamin. Yeah, Aaron Rodgers can survive without Jordy Nelson, no sweat, but Cam Newton is going to have a really hard time without his number one receiver. Greg Olson can only catch so many; and how much can really be expected from Ted Ginn Jr. and Stephen Hill? There’s a lot of talk about the Panthers running the ball more, but if they don’t throw it enough that will prevent Cam from running, which is arguably his greatest asset. Look, Superman ain’t exactly known for his arm accuracy. I think Jonathan Stewart has some promise in the backfield, old as he is, and let’s not forget that Carolina has a strong defense. I can’t pronounce the dude’s name right but I can’t wait to see some of those big tackles Luke Kuechly is bound to make. Say it with me now… “Keek-Ly.”

 

He obviously doesn’t see it this way but I think this will be a great chance for Ron Rivera to show off his chops as head coach. “Riverboat Ron” is working in a division that will be up for grabs all season, and will likely be emboldened to make some risky player decisions based on that. He’s shown in the past that he has the balls to go for it on fourth and short, and he’s going to need all that chutzpah with a diminished offense and a quarterback just starting to show signs of decline.

 

The crystal ball says:

This is Carolina’s division to lose. The Falcons will do well statistically but aren’t a major contender. The Saints are sidelined in rebuilding, and the Bucs might just be nipping at their heels. My sweetly murky crystal ball still sees Carolina as the strongest group in the bunch mostly thanks to a stout defensive backbone and an offense that’s not afraid to be unorthodox. I think they make the playoffs and are once again promptly eliminated in the first round.

 

 


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