BAL @ DAL:
I think Dallas will win this game as expected because of the slight edge of being at home. However, it will be much closer than people expect. Baltimore actually matches up well against the Cowboys. They have a stout defense that is only allowing 71 yards per game on the ground. Therefore, if any team could stop the Cowboy running attack that is mauling every team they play, it could be the Ravens. If the Ravens can stop the run, it will be interesting to see how Dak Prescott looks without being able to rely heavily on his running game. The Baltimore defense also ranks near the top in pass defense and turnovers forced, so it could be a tough day for Prescott (if he plays how a rookie should). Personally, I want to see Baltimore stop the run entirely, to get a better read on how good Prescott is. However, the Cowboy offensive line is so good I don’t see that happening and that is why the Cowboys will win a tight one. Nonetheless, do not be surprised if the Ravens pull off the upset. They match up well defensively, and if Flacco can have a big day against the average Cowboy defense, then maybe they can win. I don’t see the Baltimore offense being good enough, so I will pick the Cowboys to win 24-23.
League’s Most Disappointing Player:
Blake Bortles. He was supposed to take a step forward in his third year, but all that he has really shown is that all of his production that came in the past years was during garbage time. He was only able to look successful stat wise because teams stopped caring when Jacksonville was down 20 points. This year looks no different. They tried to upgrade the team around him by spending big money in free agency and it has completely flopped. His throwing motion is terrible. The ball dips below his waist and it takes forever for him to throw. He is never going to be a good QB and Jacksonville should be prepared to move on after next year (They won’t, they will probably play him this year and next year). In my opinion, Jacksonville should probably draft a QB to sit behind Bortles next year and then step in once they realize how much of a disaster the Bortles pick was in 2017.
Something of Note:
Blake Bortles was ranked the 56th best player in the NFL’s Top 100 players ranked by the players. Derek Carr was ranked 100. I thought it was preposterous then that Carr was 44 spots below Bortles. Interesting to see how things have changed since those rankings came out. Most people would love to have Carr as their QB, but who would pick Bortles now?
Who wins the AFC North?
I would have to pick Pittsburgh. I think Pittsburgh is the better team than the Ravens because of the fire power they have offensively and most importantly because of how much better Ben is than Flacco. Secondly, if anyone takes a look at the upcoming schedules they would see that Pittsburgh is the obvious choice. The Ravens have to play at the Cowboys, at New England, at Pittsburgh, and at the Bengals. Those games seem like 4 losses to me. In addition, they still have Miami, Cincinnati, and the Eagles at home. None of those are easy games. So, with the Ravens being 5-4 right now and that tough schedule coming up, I see them only being able to win 8 games. On the other hand, the Steelers have a much easier schedule. They still have the Browns twice, at the Colts and the Bills (all should be won) and the Ravens (at home) and the Bengals in which they should be favored in both. Therefore, I see Pittsburgh only losing one game for the rest of the year and getting to 10-6. As we know 10 is greater than 8, so the Pittsburgh Steelers will be the AFC North Champs for 2016.
Ryan is currently a student at the University of North Carolina. He grew up in the Bay Area and has had Raiders season tickets his entire life fostering his love for the NFL. He has founded his own sports website, thejrreport.com and works at the Sports Desk for the Daily Tar Heel. You can follow Ryan on twitter @rytime98 if you want to discuss anything sports.