Mike Florio talks with former Ravens coach and current FOX and NFL Network analyst Brian Billick about a host of NFL topics, including elite quarterbacks, the future of Michael Vick in Philadelphia and Tim Tebow in New York, player safety in the realm of concussions, what’s bugging Eli Manning and more.This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!
PFT Live: Brian Billick on elite QBs
It’s harder then ever to predict the outcome of NFL games. Or maybe we just stink.
Regardless, MDS and I had a do-the-opposite 7-9 showing in Week Three. The putrid performances put MDS at 25-23 for the season, and yours truly at 24-24.
We’ll try to improve (and likely fail) in Week Four, where we disagree on four of the 15 games. So check out the picks below. And assume that, as to each game, the opposite outcome is guaranteed.
Dolphins at Bengals
MDS’s take: The Dolphins finally got a win on Sunday, but needing overtime at home to beat the Browns isn’t inspiring. The Bengals should win comfortably.
MDS’s pick: Bengals 28, Dolphins 14.
Florio’s take: An early-season desperation game for a pair of teams trying to avoid falling to 1-3. Miami has played well enough to be undefeated. They play up and down to the level of competition, and with coach Adam Gase starting to strongly assert himself, the Dolphins could be ready to get everyone’s attention, only a few days after nearly blowing it at home against the Browns.
Florio’s pick: Dolphins 27, Bengals 20.
Colts at Jaguars
MDS’s take: How does the NFL always manage to find bad games to send to London? The 1-2 Colts aren’t exactly setting the world on fire, but the 0-3 Jaguars might be the worst team in the league through three weeks.
MDS’s pick: Colts 24, Jaguars 13.
Florio’s take: The NFL keeps exporting race-to-the-bottom matchups to England, even if this one wasn’t supposed to be an early-season battle for the AFC South basement. The Jaguars scored 51 against the Colts last year, but that was against an Indy team that lacked Andrew Luck. So it’ll be closer this time, but Blake Bortles and company should be able to find a way to get their first win of the season.
Florio’s pick: Jaguars 31, Colts 27.
Titans at Texans
MDS’s take: As bad as the Texans looked last week against the Patriots, and even without J.J. Watt, I still think their defense is good enough to shut down the Titans’ “exotic smash mouth” attack.
MDS’s pick: Texans 20, Titans 10.
Florio’s take: The Texans can overcome not having J.J. Watt, at least against Tennessee. Against other teams, that may not be the case.
Florio’s pick: Texans 24, Titans 17.
Browns at Washington
MDS’s take: In the preseason, this game was circled as the return of Robert Griffin III. Now there’s nothing much interesting about it, other than a good opportunity for Washington to improve to 2-2.
MDS’s pick: Washington 21, Browns 13.
Florio’s take: Left for dead at 0-2, Washington scratches and claws its way back to .500 against a Browns team that won’t be a pushover.
Florio’s pick: Washington 31, Browns 23.
Seahawks at Jets
MDS’s take: The Seahawks’ defense is great, as usual. The Jets’ offense is a mess, with Ryan Fitzpatrick looking nothing like the solid passer he was last year. Seattle should win this easily.
MDS’s pick: Seahawks 28, Jets 10.
Florio’s take: The Jets had a “come to Jesus” meeting, but it’s the Seahawks who are returning to their Garden of Eden, where they won Super Bowl XLVIII.
Florio’s pick: Seahawks 23, Jets 20.
Bills at Patriots
MDS’s take: Although I was impressed with the way Rex Ryan had his guys ready to play last week against the Cardinals, I wouldn’t pick them to win at New England whether it’s Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo, Jacoby Brissett or Julian Edelman at quarterback.
MDS’s pick: Patriots 22, Bills 9.
Florio’s take: Jimmy Garoppolo, Jacoby Brissett, Julian Edelman, A.J. Derby, Drew Bledsoe, Tony Eason, Steve Grogan. It doesn’t matter. With 10 days to get ready for the last game of the #DeflateGate suspension, Bill Belichick would win even with Stephen Gostkowski at quarterback.
Florio’s pick: Patriots 24, Bills 10.
Panthers at Falcons
MDS’s take: My eyes tell me the Falcons have been a better team than the Panthers this year. But my head tells me the Panthers are the better team, even if they haven’t shown it. This feels like one of those games where I’m going to kick myself no matter which team I pick.
MDS’s pick: Panthers 21, Falcons 20.
Florio’s take: The Panthers have faced two championship-caliber defenses in three games. After Sunday, they will have faced two in four games.
Florio’s pick: Panthers 37, Falcons 28.
Raiders at Ravens
MDS’s take: The Ravens have a good defense and bad offense. The Raiders have a good offense and bad defense. Who wins? I’ll go with the team with the better special teams.
MDS’s pick: Ravens 24, Raiders 21.
Florio’s take: The Ravens keep on finding ways to win, thanks to a very good defense and a good-enough offense. It won’t be a Siragusa-on-Gannon flattening, but the Ravens will do just enough to emerge with the win.
Florio’s pick: Ravens 17, Raiders 14.
Lions at Bears
MDS’s take: The Lions have been fairly disappointing through three games, but the Bears are at a whole different level of disappointing.
MDS’s pick: Lions 28, Bears 17.
Florio’s take: This old-school black-and-blue division showdown will leave anyone who watches it needing a punch to the jaw to wake up.
Florio’s pick: Bears 16, Lions 13.
Broncos at Buccaneers
MDS’s take: That great Week One showing from Jameis Winston feels like a long time ago. The Broncos’ defense is going to give Winston another rough game.
MDS’s pick: Broncos 27, Buccaneers 14.
Florio’s take: The first overall pick in 2015 squares off against a seventh-rounder. The seventh-rounder has a far better defense. Advantage, seventh-rounder.
Florio’s pick: Broncos 28, Buccaneers 21.
Rams at Cardinals
MDS’s take: This feels almost like a must-win game for the Cardinals, who would find themselves two games back and down a tiebreaker with a loss. I think Bruce Arians will have his team ready for a big game.
MDS’s pick: Cardinals 31, Rams 10.
Florio’s take: The up-and-down Cardinals find their groove for a week, until they lose it again for another week, as the Rams get back on their 7-9 pace.
Florio’s pick: Cardinals 34, Rams 20.
Saints at Chargers
MDS’s pick: Chargers 27, Saints 20.
Florio’s take: Drew Brees returns to San Diego for likely the last time, regardless of whether the team moves. The spirit will be willing, but the defense will continue to be weak.
Florio’s pick: Chargers 34, Saints 27.
Cowboys at 49ers
MDS’s take: That 28-0 49ers win in Week One feels like it was from some alternate universe, because in the two weeks since then the 49ers have looked like they’d struggle to beat a college team by 28 points.
MDS’s pick: Cowboys 20, 49ers 10.
Florio’s take: No Romo, no Dez. No problem, for the 49ers — especially since coach Chip Kelly knows the Cowboys well after playing them six times in three years with the Eagles.
Florio’s pick: 49ers 20, Cowboys 17.
Chiefs at Steelers
MDS’s take: The Steelers took a serious beating in Philadelphia on Sunday but I don’t think they can possibly look that bad two weeks in a row. They’ll bounce back in a big way this week.
MDS’s pick: Steelers 24, Chiefs 21.
Florio’s take: Doug Pederson figured out how to shut down the Steelers. His mentor, Andy Reid, may not be thrilled about that, since Pittsburgh now has even greater reason to figure out how to get back on the right track.
Florio’s pick: Steelers 31, Chiefs 21.
Giants at Vikings
MDS’s take: If the Vikings’ defense keeps playing the way it has through three weeks, they have a chance to be this year’s Broncos, a team that can win a Super Bowl no matter who plays quarterback. The Vikings should improve to 4-0 on Monday night.
MDS’s pick: Vikings 20, Giants 7.
Florio’s take: Last year, the Vikings developed a reputation for failing to get it done in prime time. This year, with a great defense and excellent coaching, the Vikings will get it done no matter what time of day the games start.
Florio’s pick: Vikings 27, Giants 20.
Through the first three weeks of the season, Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston leads the NFL with 142 pass attempts and has been throwing the ball more often than any first- or second-year quarterback other than Drew Bledsoe.
Winston has also been sacked five times, scrambled three times and had other pass attempts wiped out by penalties to create further imbalance for a team that’s run the ball 71 times. Head coach Dirk Koetter believes that needs to change in the coming weeks.
“In the last two games, we’ve thrown too much,” Koetter said, via the Tampa Bay Times. “We’ve got to quit getting behind by two scores, and we need to run the ball better.”
As Koetter noted, the Bucs have fallen behind in each of their last two games and gone to a pass-heavy attack as they tried to get back into losses to the Cardinals and Rams. They were more balanced in a Week One victory over the Falcons, lending support to the idea that more running will go hand in hand with better results for the team.
Getting that done would be easier with a healthy Doug Martin, who hurt his hamstring in Week Two and didn’t play in Week Three. Martin didn’t practice Wednesday, so the Bucs may need to find a way to get the run game working without him against a Broncos defense that’s not easy to move the ball against under any circumstances.
Dustin Hopkins‘ last week was good enough, but being perfect for the season was enough for a bigger honor.
The Washington kicker was named NFC special teams player of the month, hitting 11-of-11 field goals in September.
He was player of the week after going 5-of-5 against the Giants last week, but was deserving over the two games before that as well.
His 11 field goals are the most in the league, and he’s second in the league with 15 touchbacks. He’s also hit all five of his extra points.
Alabama linebacker Tim Williams, a likely first-round pick in the 2017 NFL draft, has been arrested on a gun charge.
Williams was arrested at 2 a.m. today on a misdemeanor charge of carrying a pistol without a license.
Police say they found the gun after approaching a vehicle in a parking lot because they could smell marijuana smoke coming out of it. According to police, Williams admitted that the gun is his. Another person in the car, not a football player, claimed responsibility for the marijuana.
Williams had 10.5 sacks last season and emerged as one of the best pass rushers in the country. He decided to return to Alabama for his senior season this year even though he said he was told he would have been a late first or early second-round pick if he had entered the 2016 draft. So far this season he has 1.5 sacks.
After he was released on $300 bond, Williams posted on Twitter, “Thank god a mistake worth learning from.”
One month ago, the Eagles expected to keep quarterback Carson Wentz on the bench at least for September, if not longer. Then, Teddy Bridgewater suffered a knee injury, the Vikings traded for Sam Bradford, and Wentz became the starter.
He has made more than the most out of his opportunities, leading the Eagles to a 3-0 record and winning the NFL’s offensive rookie of the month award for September.
Wentz has thrown 102 passes without an interception, and he’s averaging 7.5 yards per attempt. His best game by far came against the Steelers, with a 74.2 completion percentage, 301 yards passing, and a passer rating of 125.9.
The Eagles traded up to draft Wentz, the player they hope will become their next franchise quarterback. The Browns have faced plenty of criticism after trading the pick that became Wentz, and the Rams have faced plenty of questions about the decision to trade up and take not Wentz but Jared Goff.
It’s still too early to declare Wentz the next Donovan McNabb in Philly, but Wentz has passed every test he has faced, with the only knock being a propensity to get knocked around a little too much.
Linebacker Deion Jones played his college ball at LSU before being drafted by the Falcons in the second round of this year’s draft and the New Orleans native made the most of his homecoming last Monday night.
Jones picked off a Drew Brees pass and returned it for 90 yards for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter. The play came with the Falcons up 38-25 and the Saints driving for a score that would have made for a tight game headed into the stretch. The Falcons went on to win 45-32 to move to 2-1 on the season.
Jones has also made 25 tackles in his first three games, which ranks at the top of all rookies in the league this season. All of that was enough to make Jones the choice as the NFL’s top defensive rookie for September.
Ravens kicker Justin Tucker got a four-year contract extension in July and he spent the first month of the 2016 season showing why the Ravens wanted to keep him around.
Tucker has been named the AFC special teams player of the month after making every kick he took in Baltimore’s three wins. Tucker was 9-of-9 on field goals and 4-of-4 on extra points.
One of those field goals was a 53-yarder with 1:07 to play against the Jaguars in Week Three that lifted the Ravens to a 19-17 win over Jacksonville. His two field goals also loomed large in a 13-7 win over the Bills to open the season and he hit three as the Ravens came back from 20-0 down to beat the Browns in Week Two.
It’s the third time in his career that Tucker has been honored as the conference’s top special teams player of the month. That suggests there’s a good chance he’ll win some more over the life of his new deal.
Von Miller isn’t the only player to cash in this offseason, then continue to pay dividends for his team.
Cox has three sacks and a forced fumble, but his contributions go beyond the simple counting stats.
He’s the centerpiece of new coordinator Jim Schwartz’s defense, and by being back in a 4-3 defense, has the ability to collapse pockets and make the jobs of other players easier. The Eagles lead the league in scoring defense, having given up just 27 points in three games.
The Eagles gave him a seven-year, $110.79 million contract this offseason, on the heels of a 9.5-sack season in 2015.
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett didn’t rule out receiver Dez Bryant for Sunday’s game at San Francisco. Then again, Garrett didn’t initially rule out quarterback Tony Romo for Week One, even though he had a broken back.
But Bryant, like Romo, likely will be out for the Week Four game against the 49ers. Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that Bryant could miss up to three weeks with a hairline fracture in his knee.
With Romo and likely Bryant out for Sunday, that’s bad news for the Cowboys. As noted by Gil Brandt of NFL.com, the Cowboys are 0-6 since 2014 when they don’t have Romo or Bryant.
In other words, it’s a great opportunity for quarterback Dak Prescott to show that he deserves to be the team’s starter, regardless of whether Romo is healthy.
It might not be a Super Bowl MVP or a giant contract, but Von Miller keeps stacking up the honors.
The Broncos outside linebacker was named AFC defensive player of the month, after another strong start to the season.
Miller has a league-high five sacks in the Broncos’ first three games.
But four of those sacks have come in fourth quarters, adding to his reputation as a game-changer.
Of course, that was pretty well established already, and the reason the Broncos gave him a six-year, $114.5 million contract this offseason.
There are still questions about whether the Falcons have enough defense to contend in the NFC South.
But their offense is back on track, thanks to quarterback Matt Ryan.
Ryan was named NFC offensive player of the month for September, a strong bounce-back month for a team that collapsed after a 5-0 start in 2015.
Ryan completed 73-of-103 passes in September, for 970 yards, seven touchdowns, and just one interception. His 119.0 rating is highest among all NFC quarterbacks.
Things will get tougher for them as they host the Panthers this weekend, but Ryan has been on a bit of a roll leading the Falcons to back-to-back wins over the Raiders and Saints.
One of the many disappointments of the first three games of this season in Jacksonville is rookie linebacker Myles Jack.
Jack, a star at UCLA who was selected in the second round of this year’s draft, has barely played: He has been on the field for only 16 plays on defense, all late in the Jaguars’ blowout loss to the Chargers. He has also played on special teams, but he hasn’t contributed the way he was expected to contribute.
Still, Jaguars coach Gus Bradley says the team is not disappointed and expects Jack to make an impact this season.
“He’s getting better and we’re putting a lot on his plate,” Bradley said, via the Florida Times-Union. “I would say the last two weeks he has really grown. He’s really grown as far as being in shape and handling all the duties that we are asking of him.”
Jaguars defensive coordinator Todd Wash said the Jaguars had been working Jack at middle and weakside linebacker but could put him at strongside linebacker just to get him on the field.
“He understands that those guys in front of him are playing well, but we’ve got to find a way to get him on the grass,” Wash said. “I don’t think anything’s top secret. I just think there are other positions he can play on our defense.”
Jack will surely contribute to the Jaguars’ defense at some point, but it has to be disappointing that he hasn’t been able to yet.
Today, it’s hard to imagine where they’d be without him.
The veteran running back was named AFC offensive player of the month for September, a reward for the league’s leading rusher.
Blount has topped 100 yards the last two games, helping to fill in the cracks for a team playing without its starting quarterback (Tom Brady) and with an injured backup (Jimmy Garoppolo). His work’s a lot of the reason they can play a rookie (Jacoby Brissett) on a short week’s preparation and still be 3-0.
He has 75 carries for 295 yards and four touchdowns so far this season.
With Texans defensive end J.J. Watt on injured reserve and gone for at least eight weeks, the obvious reaction has become that the team’s offense needs to do more. The new leader of the Houston offense doesn’t necessarily agree with that.
“I don’t think anything changes offensively now that the news of J.J. going on IR has come out,” Brock Osweiler told reporters on Wednesday. “Bottom line, we need to score points. We need to score a lot of them. We knew that whether he was put on IR or not. There’s been a great focus on that. I think Monday in practice we came out, we had a really good day. I think today was a little bit better and I hope that the rest of the week keeps getting better and better because we know we need to do our part offensively. I think the defense has done a tremendous job this year through the first three games. Now it’s time for the offense to step up as a unit, finish drives, score points, protect the football and do our part of the deal.”
He’s right; the offense needs to keep doing what it’s been doing. If it tries to do even more, it just won’t work, in the same way it didn’t work last Thursday.
That shutout loss to the Patriots was only Osweiler’s 10th career start. Osweiler addressed the question of whether his big-picture lack of experience should be a factor in the assessment of his performance.
“I don’t think — in fact, I know for a fact — I don’t use my lack of starts as an excuse for anything,” Osweiler said. “I expect myself to play at an extremely high level. I have great confidence in my abilities and what I can do and I have great confidence in the teammates around me to help me do my job. I’m never going to use my lack of starts for an excuse or say ‘I’ll figure it out eventually’ or anything like that. Bottom line, I expect to play at an extremely high level and an extremely high level right now.”
The Texans will need it. An impaired defense puts more pressure on an offense, giving the offense less desirable field position and fewer turnovers.
Bengals cornerback Adam Jones said after last Sunday’s loss to the Broncos that part of the reason that the team is not panicking about a 1-2 start is that tight end Tyler Eifert and linebacker Vontaze Burfict are returning to the lineup.
It looks like the wait for Eifert will extend at least another week after he was listed as doubtful to play against the Dolphins on Thursday night, but the wait for Burfict is coming to an end.
On Sirius XM NFL Radio Thursday morning, coach Marvin Lewis said that Burfict is “raring to go” after serving a three-game suspension and will be in the lineup against Miami. Lewis said he wasn’t sure how much Burfict will play after three weeks off and a short week leading into this game, but that he “raises the level” of everyone on the team so they’ll probably be looking for as many spots to get him in as they can.
When Burfict is in the game, people will be paying close attention to how he conducts himself after serving a suspension for a series of hits that the league felt violated the rules governing player safety. Should Burfict not be able to avoid those hits, a longer suspension and the Bengals will have to think about looking elsewhere for a player who can raise their level without crossing the line.