NFL: 3 Week 1 Matchups You CAN’T Miss

On Thursday, the NFL officially released the leagues 2018 regular season schedule. It didn’t take long for me to see that this season is set for a ton of great matchups but, for this post specifically I thought I’d focus on opening weekend. The three matchups that are going to most definitely be must see TV.

1.) Atlanta Falcons at Philadelphia Eagles – It shouldn’t be surprising to see this game at No. 1. I mean c’mon man. The defending Super Bowl champs hosting one of the toughest teams in the NFC. On week 1? Yes please. We still don’t know if Carson Wentz will be back in time but, if he is, we are looking at a Matt Ryan vs Carson Wentz Sunday night showdown. I get excited about this game just thinking of it.

2.) Houston Texans at New England Patriots – Assuming Tom Brady (almost certainly) does return for another season, 2018 is set to be New Englands revenge tour. For them to kick that tour off against Deshaun Watson’s Houston Texans couldn’t be any better. The Watson-Hopkins duo has a chance to really take off against the Patriots secondary. New England is surprisingly sort of messy right now but, I have no doubt that they’ll be back to their dominant self in time for the Texans. If this game is anything like their regular season matchup a year ago, I’ll be very happy.

3.) San Francisco 49ers at Minnesota Vikings – Ah yes. The battle between giant QB contracts. Jimmy Garoppolo vs Kirk Cousins. Both QB’s will be trying to prove the same thing. Their worth. This is going to be quite the battle. Garoppolo will have his hands full with Minnesota’s “Purple Reign” defense. Kirk Cousins will have to go against arguably the most confident team in the NFL. Personally, I’m all in on Jimmy Garoppolo and I think he could be in for an incredible season. The 49ers are my Super Bowl dark horse. Going up against the Vikings week 1 will be quite the challenge. This one’s going to be fun watch.

This schedule release reminded me how much I miss football season. It’s only April! Hurry up, NFL. I’m hanging on by a thread here.

Collin Borron

Photo Credit: Aaron Doster – USA TODAY Sports

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Could Denver Draft Saquon Barkley After Releasing C.J. Anderson?

First things first, As a Denver faithful, I’d like to say thank you to C.J. for all he has done for the organization. From undrafted to being a key component of the offense. Any given snap, Anderson played with more effort and passion than anyone else on the field. In 2015, he played a huge role in Denver’s magical season and seemingly iced the game and secured a Super Bowl victory for the Broncos. I wish nothing but the best for C.J. Anderson and his future in the league.

Now that Anderson is gone, what happen’s next? Do the Broncos make Devontae Booker their starter and have De’Angelo Henderson back him up or draft a running back from this year’s incredibly deep RB class. Having the 5th overall pick mean’s that there is a solid chance that Penn State phenom, Saquon Barkley will still be available. If he is, it would be hard to pass him up. 

 It’s a fun idea but, would Elway and the Broncos be willing to pass up their bigger needs to snag Barkley? Let’s look at their top 3 needs (in no specific order)
 
Quarterback: This seems to be the most likely pick for Denver according to the “experts”. The thing about this QB class is the fact that it is astoundingly overhyped. Not one of the quarterback’s in this class is truly promising. Rumor has it, Denver is most interested in Baker Mayfield. Don’t get me wrong, he’s extremely talented and has potential to succeed but, I’m not sure he is worthy of being the 5th pick. No matter the QB, they wouldn’t see playing time for a few years anyways. If Barkley is available, I would take him in a heartbeat over any available QB.
 
Cornerback: In my opinion, this is what the Broncos are going to end up with. Specifically, Ohio State’s, Denzel Ward. Aqib Talib left quite the hole in the Orange Crush defense with his departure and it needs filled immediately. As much as I’d love to see Ward in a Denver uniform, this years CB class, like the RB class, is an incredibly deep group and a solid starting corner can be found later on in the draft. Although you can also find a solid RB later as well, there is only one Saquon Barkley.
 
Guard: Considered the safest pick in the entire draft and no bust potential, Quenton Nelson is the top guard available. He’d no doubt be a good pick up for Denver’s struggling offensive line but, I read an interesting point from, Woody Paige on the Colorado Springs Gazette:
 
“Would Nelson or Bradley Chubb turn the Broncos into a franchise that can beat out the Patriots, the Steelers or even the Chargers? No.”
 
An excellent point. The Broncos need someone who can make an impact and turn the organization around immediately. That’s something that can’t be found from a guard. Barkley is that player.
 
A handful of analysts say not to buy into the Barkley hype too much but, after witnessing him play multiple times throughout his college career, I’ve seen enough of him to be convinced. He’s a once in a generation running back and is a player that should not be passed up. He’d be a perfect fit in Denver and could be the player that brings the Broncos back. It’s hard to tell if Barkley will even be available at 5 but, if he his, don’t be surprised if Denver snags him. 
– Collin Borron

Dalvin Cook Will Takeover The NFL in 2018

213 days ago, Dalvin Cook tore up the New Orleans defense in his NFL debut. Rushing for 127 yards on 22 carries, he broke the Vikings rookie debut rushing record previously held by Adrian Peterson. Through the first 4 games, Cook seemed to be set for a fantastic rookie season. Leading the league in rushing and showing he can seemingly do it all, he was poised to be Rookie of the Year. Unfortunately, the injury bug struck and it struck bad. Tearing his ACL, Cook saw his season come to an early end, leaving Vikings faithful and NFL fans alike dismal.

In his short four game season, Cook showed the NFL he was the real deal. After he got injured, everyone seemed to forget about him. I believe he’ll give the league quite the wake up call. He certainly has the right mind set saying he’s going to come back “better than ever” and tweeted out “CBPOTY??”(Comeback Player of the Year). 

Obviously the Vikings still did solid on offense last season but with Cook’s return in 2018 they could very well do better. Cousins running the offense, a handful of star wideouts and now Dalvin Cook most likely being the No. 1 RB, Minnesota’s 2018 offense isn’t to be taken lightly. With all of the offensive tools and complete confidence, Cook is set for a special season.

The 2018 NFL season is still quite a ways away but, I can’t help myself to be as excited as ever to see Dalvin Cook comeback. 

Collin Borron

 

The NFC is Going To Be A Wildfire in 2018

Last season, the NFC was clearly the best conference in the NFL. Lead by the Eagles, Rams, Vikings, Saints and a handful of others. All of which were Super Bowl contenders and one ended up winning the coveted prize. In 2018, expect to see even more NFC teams compete for the Lombardi trophy. Here’s a list of who I think could be representing the NFC in Super Bowl 53. 
 
Philadelphia Eagles: Obviously I’m putting the defending Super Bowl champs on this list. They are returning almost their entire team and I think Doug Pederson has set up Philly for a potential dynasty. It’s the competition in the NFC that I think will end up preventing it.
 
Los Angeles Rams: Coming off a fantastic 2017 season, the Rams have only gotten better this off-season. A lot better. Headlined by Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib and Ndamukong Suh. L.A. has picked up some much-needed elite defensive talent. With already one of the best offenses in the NFL, the Rams could have themselves one of the top defenses as well. L.A. is going to be scary good.
 
Kevin C. Cox – Getty Images
 
Atlanta Falcons: The dirty birds seemed to be a little quiet last year. They had an alright season at 10-6 and lost on the final drive in the playoffs. The Falcons haven’t really had any big pick ups simply because they don’t need anyone that bad. Their roster is Super Bowl caliber. I believe the only thing slowing them down is adjusting to Steve Sarkisian’s offense. Once they figure that out, watch out.
 
Green Bay Packers: Aaron Rodgers is back but, this time with Jimmy Graham alongside him. They’ve also picked up a couple much need corners. Green Bay just needs their defense to get slightly better and Rodgers to stay healthy. Achieve this and they immediately become a threat.
 
New Orleans Saints: I think this is probably the most forgot about contender, ever since being on the wrong end of arguably the biggest miracle in playoff history. In 2017, Drew Brees and the Saints were a Super Bowl worthy team. In 2018, that won’t change. Even though they are in the toughest division in football, they could very well be the top seed in the NFC.
 
Sports Beast
 
San Francisco 49ers: It’s time to believe the Jimmy Garoppolo hype. Unless you have been living under rock, the world saw Garoppolo single-handedly take one of the worst teams in the NFL and turn them into a winning machine to end the season. Thus recreates team unity, ultimate trust in their QB and new-found motivation. The 49ers are my dark horse to win it all this year.
 
Minnesota Vikings: In a perfect world, Minnesota keeps their entire team other than replacing Case Keenum with a better QB in Kirk Cousins. The thing is, after Minnesota’s magical playoff run, the Vikings set themselves up for a brutal 2018 schedule. Then again, with that Purple Reign defense, anything is possible.
 
These seven are just my personal favorites to represent the NFC but a few other teams that I could see sneak in are the Carolina Panthers, Washington Redskins and Detroit Lions
 
There you have it. All of the NFC teams I personally feel like could end up in Super Bowl 53. It’s going to be an all out brawl and I can’t wait to see how it all unfolds. Personally I’ll be rooting for the Los Angeles Rams as they have been a team I’ve been wanting to witness be great again for almost my entire life. No matter what team makes it, I believe the NFC will win themselves back to back titles. 
– Collin Borron
Photo Credit – Getty Images

Why is NOBODY Talking About Mason Rudolph?

Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Lamar Jackson, Baker Mayfield and Josh Allen. All are the top quarterback prospects in the 2018 NFL Draft. The only issue is that there is a name missing from that list. That name is Mason Rudolph.

Rudolph’s time at Oklahoma State were nothing short of sensational. In 2016 he threw for 4,091 yards with 28 Touchdowns and just 4 interceptions. Last season he nearly passed for 5,000 yards with 37 TD’s and 9 interceptions. Those 37 TD tosses lead the nation. All while maintaining a completion percentage over 60%. He’s a lethal pocket passer. Tall, steady, calm and accurate. He has shown consistent improvement during his time with the Cowboys and is only getting better as he prepares for his career in the NFL.

Yes, I’m aware what the experts and scouts have said about him. Probable back up or average to below average starter. These “experts” said the closest NFL comparison to Rudolph was Christian Ponder. Ouch. I guess I could see some similarities in their play style but, overall talent wise, Rudolph takes the cake and it’s not even close. Ponder didn’t come close to Rudolph’s numbers in college at all. Also Ponder was short pass reliant. As for Rudolph, he can tear you apart downfield. For every similarity between the two quarterback’s, there are about a dozen differences. All in all, comparing Rudolph to Ponder is not much of a comparison at all and is just another reason why I almost never go off of what the “experts” say when judging a player.

So why do I like him so much? He’s proven himself to be one of, if not the most consistent QB’s in the entire draft, he’s gotten significantly better every year, makes few mistakes, has the best arm strength and touch passes out of any prospect. The rest of the QB class can’t say the same. Another reason I’m rooting so hard for Rudolph is because he is overlooked simply because he played against the weak Big 12 defenses and was only able to thrive in an easy pass heavy offense that Gundy gave him. Which is nonsense. With that logic, why is Baker Mayfield getting all the hype he gets? He played against those very same defenses. The point is invalid. I’m not mad that Rudolph is seemingly getting tossed aside when it comes to the other QB’s, I’m just surprised.

So, where could he end up? My guess is Arizona. He could be the hero that the Cardinals have been looking for and obviously not wanting to go long-term with Sam Bradford, picking up Rudolph could help spark a much-needed turnaround in Phoenix. There are also talks of him landing in Denver, Pittsburgh, Buffalo and New England. Could you imagine Mason Rudolph having Tom Brady as a teacher? Goodness.

I just have this “gut feeling” about Mason Rudolph. He’s an easy player to root for after being so overlooked and deemed unworthy to succeed in the NFL by all of these so-called “experts”. Rudolph deserves a shot just as much as the rest of the QB’s in this draft. Wherever he ends up, I’ll be rooting for him to prove all of those who doubted him.

– Collin Borron

It’s Time to Start Taking The Tennessee Titans Seriously

Free Agency has been a roller coaster of surprising, emotional, head-scratching and wild pickups. Tuesday, the Packers headlined the day, snagging Jimmy Graham and cutting Jordy Nelson. Some other popular pickups were Case Keenum to Denver, Cousins to Minnesota, Sammy Watkins to KC and Bridgewater to the Jets but, why isn’t anyone talking about what’s going on in Nashville. The Tennessee Titans picked up Malcom Butler and Dion Lewis from New England. Hello? This is huge!

In today’s NFL, Defensive backs rule the defense. With that said, a team can no longer rely on just two corners. Instead, three or in some cases four are what teams are looking for. After picking up Butler on Tuesday, Tennessee has created one hell of a cornerback trio. Malcom Butler, Logan Ryan and Adoree Jackson. Butler and Ryan both played together in New England and won a Super Bowl during their time with the Pats. Bringing their experience and chemistry on to the Titans is definitely a positive. As for Adoree Jackson, he is coming off a solid rookie season alongside Logan Ryan. Jackson is only getting better and he’ll be able to thrive even more by getting to learn from the experienced Ryan and Butler.  Malcom Butler isn’t an elite corner but, with Logan Ryan and Adoree Jackson, Tennessee’s pass defense will certainly be significantly better.

As for Dion Lewis, he is replacing the recently released, DeMarco Murray. This makes the Titans new one-two punch, Lewis, and Henry. Oh boy. Like Malcom Butler, Dion Lewis brings key experience to the offense. Something Murray couldn’t offer. Lewis is coming off a 1,000 yards rushing season with the Patriots and now being paired with Henry, the two running backs have the potential to be the NFL’s next great RB duo. It’s going to be fun to see how Tennessee utilizes these guys.

The Titans are a team that has been quietly building a monster. Last year, we got the first glimpse of what this Tennessee team is capable of. Earning a playoff berth and defeating Kansas City on the road when they were MAJOR underdogs, there’s no denying this team has improved quite a bit. The AFC South is going to be a battle in 2018. Deshaun Watson will be back for Houston, Andrew Luck will be back for Indy, Jacksonville is coming off an AFC championship appearance and now Tennessee has a respectable pass defense, top RB duo, and Mariota has multiple receiving weapons lead by Pro Bowler, Delanie Walker. It won’t be easy but, Tennessee shouldn’t be overlooked in the AFC South and in the AFC in general in 2018.

– Collin Borron (Founder & Owner of The Gridiron Express)

Welcome to Denver, Mr. Keenum

It is almost 2 AM as I am writing this and the news of Case Keenum intending to sign with the Denver broke only an hour ago. Passing on Kirk Cousins, Elway and the Broncos decided to spark the free agency QB race by signing Case Keenum. As a die-hard Broncos fan myself, it was impossible for me not to write about this immediately after finding out.

First off, why Keenum over Cousins? Well, it’s simple really. Denver was looking for someone who would fit their system best and even though Cousins is the better QB overall, none of that matters if he doesn’t play in a system that fits him. Although it was a fun thought, Cousins in Denver just wasn’t the right fit. As for Keenum, he thrived in Minnesota’s offense last year and the Vikings are nearly the same team as Denver when you think of it. Denver’s system with Siemian and Osweiler was almost identical to Minnesota’s with Keenum. I think we all know which one had more success. Keenum thrived last year. A lot of credit goes to Pat Shurmur and Minnesota for working with what Keenum had and building a perfect system around him. Nothing flashy. Simple but, deadly. This said I think Keenum will fit just fine in Denver’s offense.

USA TODAY Sports

Although he does seem like a solid fit, what if Case Keenum’s incredible year in 2017 was just a fluke? Remember 2015, when Brock Osweiler started 7 games for the Broncos? He went 5-2 in those games and was a big part of the reason Denver reached the Super Bowl. A year later, Houston signed Osweiler to a $50 million dollar contract. Look how that turned out. Osweiler was a 7 game wonder. Although I do believe Case Keenum is a better QB than Osweiler in many areas, I’m just not completely sold on him yet. Now don’t get me wrong, if he does even somewhat similar to what he did last year in Minnesota, I and Denver fans alike will be ecstatic.

Overall, I really like Case Keenum as a player and a person. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited to see him come to the Mile High City. The potential he has to thrive in Denver’s offense has me giddy. With the recent quarterback struggles, we Broncos fans are desperate for QB to get us out of this hole we’ve been stuck in for the past 2 years. If Keenum is that QB, I’m more than ok with it.

– Collin Borron (Founder & Owner of The Gridiron Express)