Can Khalil Mack Win the 2018 MVP?

khalil-mack-bears-mvpThe Chicago Bears gave up quite a bit to acquire Pro Bowl linebacker Khalil Mack. But many felt that the package they sent to the Oakland Raiders was more than worth it when considering the type of impact he makes.

Nothing has changed in this regard, because Mack is having an outstanding season for the Bears. He’s already racked up four sacks and four forced fumbles en route to leading Chicago to a surprising 3-1 start. That said, it’s worth asking whether Mack can become one of the rare defensive players to win an NFL MVP award.

Mack Needs to Have a Lawrence Taylor Type Season

The two main factors with regard to Khalil Mack winning MVP include his stats and Chicago’s success. Stats-wise, he needs to come close to or eclipse numbers set by Lawrence Taylor, the last defensive player to win league MVP.

khalil-mack-bears-mvp-1When Taylor captured the award in 1986, he put up 20.5 sacks. Mack is on the exact same pace, which means that he’s at least in the conversation for top player.

Of course, simply recording a lot of sacks doesn’t guarantee him anything. But if he were to also tally plenty of interceptions and forced fumbles, the fifth-year linebacker would improve his case.

As it stands right now, Mack is on pace for 20 sacks, 16 forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries, and four interceptions. Assuming he actually finishes the season with these type of numbers, then he definitely has a shot to capture MVP.

How Good Do the Bears Need to be for Mack to Win MVP?

The NFL doesn’t award its top honor to players on bad teams. That said, the Bears will also have to be successful in order for Mack to become a legitimate MVP candidate.

Nine wins is the absolute minimum that the Bears would need, along with a playoff berth. Chicago winning the NFC North title would further Mack’s bid for MVP.

Taylor’s Giants won the Super Bowl in 1986. I don’t think that the Bears need to do quite this well for Mack to take the MVP. But Chicago winning a division title might be the last piece of the puzzle.

Mack Has the Hype Behind Him

One thing that Mack undoubtedly has going for him this season is hype. Analysts have been talking about him ever since Oakland made the puzzling decision to ship him to the Bears.

Being on a new team – especially a historic one like Chicago – has brought Mack more attention than ever. He’s delivered under the spotlight too as his numbers show.

Again, he simply needs to continue this torrid pace and rack up individual stats to remain in the MVP conversation. Based on his past history, it doesn’t seem like Mack will have much difficulty doing so.

Ultimately, it comes down to how Chicago performs as a team. If they can have a strong season, then we might see the first defensive player win MVP in over three decades.

Edelman, Ingram, Burfict Among Suspended Players Returning in Week 5

julian-edelman-patriotsSeveral NFL teams are going to get a boost this week as key players return from suspension. New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman is one of the biggest names coming off a suspension. New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram is another strong player will be returning to his squad in Week 5.

These aren’t the only players, though, who’ll give their teams a boost. That said, I’m going to look at several players who are coming off suspensions and how they’ll impact their respective teams.

Multiple Teams Get Help at Just the Right Time

mark-ingram-saintsHere are the players who’ll be returning to their teams this week (including one free agent), along with analysis on how they figure to provide an impact:

Patriots WR Julian Edelman — Edelman went for 1,106 receiving yards on 98 catches in 2016, before missing all of 2017 with an ACL injury. He’s presumably healthy at this point and will start immediately.

Saints RB Mark Ingram — Ingram has topped 1,000 rushing yards in two consecutive seasons. This feat was particularly impressive last year, as he shared duties with the electric Alvin Kamara.

Bengals LB Vontaze Burfict — Burfict, who’s recorded three seasons with 100+ tackles, will add some nastiness to a Bengals defense that’s already tough.

Cowboys DT David Irving — The Cowboys have shown flashes of greatness. If Irving can keep his off-field issues to a minimum, Dallas’ defensive unit may be great more often.

Chargers DT Corey Liuget — This 300-pounder will help San Diego plug the middle and make it harder for AFC West rivals to run on them.

Colts RB Robert Turbin — The Colts’ backfield is fair game, as nobody has established themselves as a full-time starter. Turbin, who had seven touchdowns for Indianapolis in 2016, could be in line for some more work this season.

Ravens CB Jimmy Smith — Baltimore is off to a solid 3-1 start. Getting Smith back will only help more, given that he’s one of the league’s best corners.

Raiders CB Daryl Worley — Worley is a solid cover corner who can help this beleaguered Oakland defense.

Free agent OL Vadal Alexander — Former Oakland Raiders guard Vadal Alexander can help provide depth for any team with offensive line issues.

Which Suspended Players Will Have the Biggest Impact

baltimore-cornerback-jimmy-smith-suspendedMuch of who has the biggest impact will depend upon who can stay on the field and out of trouble. That said, Edelman figures to provide a big boost for New England, which has had some serious offensive struggles up until last week’s 38-7 victory over the Miami Dolphins. Edelman is a good possession receiver who’s sorely needed on a team without many healthy wideouts.

Ingram is also another player who’ll help his team out immensely. Last year, Ingram and Kamara formed the league’s most powerful running back duo. The Saints need them to repeat their 2017 success in order to win the NFC South.

Burfict is another high impact player who can boost his team. The Bengals have gotten off to a surprising 3-1 start, but they can do even better with Burfict on the field.

Jimmy Smith is yet one more player to watch for as he comes off suspension. Smith is a top cornerback who should make Baltimore’s defense even stronger.

Jameis Winston Starting Against Falcons in Week 5

jameis-winston-week-7-injuryRyan Fitzpatrick had a magical start to 2018. He became the first quarterback in NFL history to pass for over 400 yards in the first three games of a season.

However, Fitzmagic ended in brutal fashion with a 48-10 loss to the Chicago Bears on Sunday. That said, Jameis Winston looks to start moving forward.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter has already named Winston as the starter for their Monday matchup against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 6, after their upcoming bye week.

Why Is Winston Starting & Fitzpatrick Benched?

Jameis Winston started the 2018 season suspended for three games due to off-field issues. The Buccaneers convinced Ryan Fitzpatrick to avoid retiring at age 35, so that he could help them out in the season’s first three games.

What ensued was the best start to a season for any NFL quarterback in terms of numbers. Fitzpatrick threw for 1,230 yards and 11 touchdowns in the team’s surprising 2-1 start. This delayed Winston’s return as a starter by one game, because Tampa Bay wanted to ride the hot hand.

Unfortunately for Fitzpatrick, he got off to a bad start against a tough Chicago Bears’ defense. This motivated Koetter to bench him in favor of Winston, who was drafted number one overall in 2015.

Winston should be Ready to Start the Rest of the Season

jameis-winston-tampa-bayThe 48-10 loss to the Buccaneers was no doubt humiliating. But the good thing about it is that Winston got a little game experience this season before he presumably starts the rest of the year.

It wasn’t a great start to the year, as he threw for 145 yards on 16-of-20 passing with one touchdown and two interceptions. But then again, this is a Chicago Bears’ defense led by Khalil Mack that’s been giving all of their opponents’ fits. Now, Winston has an entire bye week to prepare for his Week 6 start against Atlanta.

“[Winston] is a guy who will be here way longer than me and needs to be playing,” said Koetter.

He’ll have some talented wide receivers to throw to, including Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, and Chris Goodwin. Tight ends Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard are also a strong receiving duo.

This is likely a make or break season for Jameis Winston, who’s struggled with mediocre play and off-field issues. Assuming he and the Bucs can show some life, then he’ll have a longer chance to prove that he’s a franchise quarterback. If not, then the team could undergo a big overhaul that sees the franchise change direction again.

Earl Thomas Injury Nixes Trade to Chiefs

earl-thomas-seattleSeattle Seahawks safety Earl Thomas broke his leg during Sunday’s matchup against the Arizona Cardinals. The All-Pro safety will now be out for the rest of 2018 and heads into the off-season with an uncertain future.

Thomas isn’t the only one who will be missing out, though, due to his injury. The Seahawks were apparently on the brink of completing a deal to send him to the Kansas City Chiefs.

NFL Network reporter Ian Rapoport said that Seattle came down on their asking price, which made this almost a done deal.

“Here is how it went going into Sunday: From what I am told, the Seahawks wanted two second-round picks, actually lowered their price to one second-round pick,” Rapoport said.

“The Kansas City Chiefs were then in the process of freeing up money, creating salary cap space to make room for Thomas’ $8.5 million salary.

“This is something that likely would have happened, and Earl Thomas would have been a member of the Kansas City Chiefs. He just needed more time.”

What would Thomas Have Brought to the Chiefs?

Rapoport noted that the Chiefs weren’t looking to give Thomas a long-term contract. But they were hoping to get one of the top safeties in football as a one-year rental.

He would’ve immediately bolstered a defense that’s strong enough as it is. Furthermore, he’d have formed one outstanding safety duo with Eric Berry, whenever Berry can play again.

earl-thomas-seahawksThe only issue here was that the Chiefs needed to make $6.6 million in cap space available. They would’ve had to make some additional moves to free up this money. Nevertheless, they were willing to do so in order to bring in Thomas.

Seattle, meanwhile, would’ve gotten a second-round pick. The Seahawks are no longer a serious Super Bowl contender, meaning they need all the young talent they can get moving forward.

Rapoport notes that the Seahawks never considered sitting Thomas until the deal was completed. After all, both sides still needed time to work through the details.

“I don’t want to make it seem like it was something that was going to happen in a matter of hours,” the insider explained.

“It would have taken some time, but when two sides get close to a trade and you sort of know it’s going to happen, the Chiefs could have cleared cap space relatively quickly.

“I have not heard any consideration of sitting Thomas, but it’s probably something that could have happened in a matter of days or weeks.”

Thomas Extremely Unhappy about the Situation

Earl Thomas held out briefly to start the season, because he wanted an extension. However, he returned to the team and paid the price after breaking his leg, which will leave him without a deal entering the 2019 offseason.

Thomas flipped off the Seattle sidelines as he was carted off the field. This was likely meant for the team’s front office, which never gave him an extension.

He’s no doubt played his last game in Seattle. That said, it’ll be interesting to see where Thomas goes in the 2019 campaign. As for Seattle, they get nothing in return for their All-Pro.

This is a tough pill to swallow when considering that they could’ve instead received a second-round pick. Perhaps Thomas got his revenge on the franchise in a roundabout way, although it’s not currently benefiting him either.

Belichick on Josh Gordon Playing Against Miami: “We’ll See”

josh-gordon-patriotsNew England Patriots coach Bill Belichick has never been one to offer much information to the media. And he’s staying true to form regarding new addition Josh Gordon.

Many are wondering if the talented wide receiver will see the field against the Miami Dolphins this Sunday. But Belichick isn’t giving any details on the matter.

“We’ll see,” he told reporters.

The long-time Patriots coach did offer some tidbits on how Gordon is fitting into the organization.

“Josh is working hard on and off the field,” said Belichick. “He’s done everything he can do.”

Gordon Is Dealing with a Hamstring Injury

josh-gordon-patriotsGordon tweaked his hamstring in Week 2 while he was still with the Cleveland Browns. We’re now two weeks past that incident, but he still hasn’t seen the field. This has caused people to wonder about his health.

It’s very likely that Gordon has a minor injury and will see the field sooner than later. The larger issue may be how quickly he picks up New England’s complicated offensive scheme.

The Browns moved Gordon to the Patriots after he was reportedly “not himself” at the team facilities. The 27-year-old has struggled with alcoholism and drug use during his six-year career.

New England was willing to take a risk on Gordon for the low price of a fifth-round draft pick. Now, they just need him to get healthy and pick up the playbook.

Gordon would Provide a Huge Boost Against Miami

josh-gordon-suspensionIt’s hard to say that the Patriots are facing a must-win game against Miami. However, they would definitely welcome a victory after starting the season 1-2. The Dolphins, meanwhile, have had a surprising 3-0 start and lead the AFC East.

A victory would pull the Patriots within one game of their division rivals. A loss would drop them to 1-3 and put them three games behind Miami.

The entire reason why they traded for Gordon is because their offense needs more explosion. They traded receiver Brandin Cooks to the Rams in the offseason and let running back Dion Lewis go in free agency. These two players were their main home-run threats last year.

Gordon, who’s 6’3″ and runs a 4.4 forty, is an excellent deep threat who can stretch the field. He would give Miami’s secondary fits if he’s able to go at full speed. And with Tom Brady’s accuracy, Gordon could definitely have some opportunities to score.

Of course, the big question is if Gordon’s hamstring has recovered enough. Furthermore, he might not play as many snaps if he doesn’t fully grasp the playbook yet.

Miami vs. New England Odds

The Dolphins may be undefeated, but the Patriots are getting all the love at GTBets. New England is currently a -6.5 favorite, which is huge considering that they’re two games behind Miami right now.

Here’s a look at the full GTBets odds:

  • Miami Dolphins +6.5 (-108); +235 moneyline; Over 48 (-109)
  • New England Patriots -6.5 (-109); -286 moneyline; Under 48 (-109)

The Patriots know that they need a victory to keep pace in the AFC East. Plus, this game will be in Foxborough, which only adds credence to the thought that New England will win.

Of course, -6.5 is a large spread to cover for a team that’s struggled the past couple of weeks. Gordon playing with certainly improve New England’s chance of winning by a touchdown or more.

Miami Dolphins vs. New England Patriots Odds Week 4

The Miami Dolphins face the New England Patriots this weekend in an important AFC East clash. Miami is currently leading the division with a 3-0 record, while New England is off to an uncharacteristic 1-2 start.

The game will be played at Foxborough, which gives the Patriots an advantage. But it’s hard to count out the Dolphins, who’ve exceeded expectations with their undefeated start.

A win for Miami would solidify their division lead, while a win for New England would pull them a game closer in the East race. I’m going to look at the odds on this game and discuss why each team can cover.

Dolphins Patriots Odds Week 4

New England comes into this game as almost a touchdown favorite according to our GTBets odds. Our bookmakers have looked beyond their 1-2 start to a team that’s coming off two straight Super Bowl appearances.

Here are the current GTBets odds:

  • Miami Dolphins +6.5 (-108); +235 moneyline; O 48 (-109)
  • New England Patriots -6.5 (-109); -286 moneyline; U 48 (-109)

Why Miami can Cover +6.5

The Dolphins aren’t letting their 3-0 start go to their heads. In fact, coach Adam Gase made sure to address this matter when speaking with the Miami Herald.

“We’ve played three games. I mean, they’re going to do the same thing they always do — they’ll get better every week,” said Gase.

Miami Dolphins v Buffalo Bills“They have a really good coaching staff and they have a Hall of Fame quarterback. I mean, the records are irrelevant right now. It doesn’t mean anything.”

Gase and his Dolphins are wise not to overlook the Patriots, who’ve dominated the AFC East for a decade and a half. But Miami is also off to a 3-0 start for a reason.

They’ve made plays when it counts, which is why they’re 11th in the league with 25.0 PPG. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill is a big reason for this hot start. Coming off an ACL injury last season, Tannehill hasn’t missed a beat in throwing for 687 yards, 7 touchdowns, and just 2 interceptions.

This team also has a balanced rushing attack that sees the yardage evenly distributed between Kenyan Drake (104), Frank Gore (98), and Tannehill (74).

The defense has done a solid job of forcing turnovers, accumulating 7 interceptions and 2 fumble recoveries through three contests. Xavien Howard (3 interceptions) has been particularly adept at taking the ball from the other team.

Of course, New England is good at not beating itself. So the Dolphins will need to find a way to win without creating turnovers, namely through Tannehill and the offense staying hot.

Why New England Will Cover -6.5

Bill Belichick knows that his team has plenty of work to do if they want to return to a third straight Super Bowl.

“We just didn’t do anything well enough to give ourselves a chance to win,” said Belichick after losing to Detroit.

“Similar situation last week — get behind early, play from behind. [We] just weren’t able to make it up. So, just going to have to work our way out of it, obviously we have a lot of work to do.”

What’s alarming about New England’s back-to-back losses to Detroit and Jacksonville is that they both came via double digits. This is the first time that this has happened since 2002.

Injuries and suspensions (Julian Edelman) have played a big part in their struggles. The receiving corp is especially thin due to Edelman’s absence. This showed against the Lions, as QB Tom Brady completed just 4-of-10 passes to his wideouts for 43 yards.

brady-jaguarsBrady is possibly the greatest quarterback of all time. But he’s only throwing the ball — not catching it. Perhaps Josh Gordon playing against the Dolphins could provide New England with a boost. Gordon led the league in receiving yardage in 2013, which is the last time that he played a full season.

Rookie running back Sony Michel finally played his first game last week. He didn’t do a lot with his 14 carries (50 yards), but he’s also working himself back into game shape after an injury. Michel should be even stronger this week against the Dolphins.

New England hasn’t become a dynasty for nothing. Belichick and his staff are excellent planners and should come up with a great gameplan against Miami. You can guarantee that New England will come out well-prepared in what’s a highly important game for them.

Score Prediction

New England Wins 27-20, and cover their -6.5 spread