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Thread: 2018 nfl football sneak peek at teams/predictions/news/notes/picks etc. !

  1. #46
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    Handicapping Ravens (8.5)
    July 19, 2018


    The Baltimore Ravens have missed the playoffs in four of the last five seasons, including the last three. The pressure is mounting on head coach John Harbaugh, who begins his 11th season with the Ravens. Baltimore has a schedule that does them very few favors, so getting to 10 wins and into the playoffs will be difficult.

    Let’s look at the win total for the Ravens and their 2018 schedule to see if they will go over or under 8.5 wins.

    Baltimore Ravens 2018 Regular Season Win Total
    Over 8.5 (+100)
    Under 8.5 (-130)

    Sept. 9 vs. Buffalo Bills


    The opener for the Ravens is simply a game they have to win if they are to go over 8.5 wins. The good news is that the Ravens have never lost at home against an AFC East opponent when favored under Harbaugh. They are 8-0 SU and 6-2 ATS.

    Sept. 13 at Cincinnati Bengals

    The Ravens are definitely capable of winning on the road in Cincinnati. This will be an early test to see if Baltimore is going to be a challenger in the AFC North this season.

    Sept. 23 vs. Denver Broncos

    The Broncos are going to be much better than they were a year ago, as they now have Case Keenum at quarterback. This is definitely not a sure home win for the Ravens.

    Sept. 30 at Pittsburgh Steelers

    The first of the two wars between the Ravens and Steelers takes place in Pittsburgh. Baltimore has proven in the past that they can challenge the Steelers on the road in Pittsburgh.

    Oct. 7 at Cleveland Browns

    The Ravens have owned the Browns with Flacco at quarterback. They are 17-2 and 12-7 ATS with Flacco under center against Cleveland. This may not be easy, but it is a game the Ravens should win.

    Oct. 14 at Tennessee Titans

    This is a watershed type of game for Baltimore, as it will show just how good the Ravens are against teams competing for a Wild Card spot. You can make a case that the Ravens may need to win this game to get to 9 wins.

    Oct. 21 vs. New Orleans Saints

    The Ravens have two straight games against NFC South teams and neither one will be easy. They face a very good New Orleans team, but the game is at home.

    Oct. 28 at Carolina Panthers

    The Ravens face a difficult road test against the Panthers following the home game against the Saints. This has the look of a road defeat.

    Nov. 4 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

    The Ravens won’t have it easy before their bye, as they get the Steelers for the second time this season.

    Nov. 11 BYE

    Nov. 18 vs. Cincinnati Bengals


    The second half of the season has been a problem for the Ravens and this is not a sure win, even though the Ravens will be coming off their bye.

    Nov. 25 vs. Oakland Raiders

    The Raiders should be improved this season with Gruden as their head coach and Baltimore is nothing special as a home team. This could be yet another home loss.

    Dec. 2 at Atlanta Falcons


    It is hard to see the Ravens going into Atlanta and winning, but the Falcons were untrustworthy last season at home, so perhaps Baltimore can surprise.

    Dec. 9 at Kansas City Chiefs

    The Ravens get another tough road game in early December, as they travel to take on the Chiefs in Arrowhead. The Ravens may need this game to stay in the playoff hunt.

    Dec. 16 vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    This is simply a must-win game for the Ravens given their schedule this season. The Bucs are a team that shouldn’t challenge in the NFC this season.

    Dec. 23 at Los Angeles Chargers

    The Chargers are expected to be a contender in the AFC this season, so this is another home game that won’t be easy. The Chargers have a good pass rush and teams that rush the passer effectively have given Flacco problems through the years.

    Dec. 30 vs. Cleveland Browns

    The Ravens have to hope this game actually means something. The schedule for Baltimore is difficult and they may already be out of playoff contention before this game begins.

    Baltimore Ravens 2018 Regular Season Win Total Prediction

    The 2018 schedule for the Ravens is no bargain, but Baltimore won nine games a year ago and easily could have won 12, as they blew three winnable games to Cincinnati, Chicago and Pittsburgh. The Ravens made some nice additions at receiver, so the passing game should be improved and the running game is solid. If the defense plays well the Ravens have a chance to win nine or ten games and go over their win total of 8.5 in 2018.
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    Games to Watch - Preseason
    July 23, 2018


    Winning Picks for NFL Preseason Week 1

    We are about a week and a half away from the start of the NFL preseason, with the Hall of Fame Game on August 2nd being the first game of the bunch. We want to get a jump start on the season by taking a look at the Week 1 preseason schedule and picking some straight up winners. As you all know, wagering on preseason games is notoriously tough, especially in the opening couple of weeks when the projected starters on each team see very little of the action.

    Still, the preseason always brings a great chance to get back into the swing of betting on football before the regular season finally gets underway, so make sure to visit YouWager.eu and start gearing up for some football action.

    Without further ado, let’s get to the straight up picks for NFL preseason Week 1.

    Chicago Bears vs Baltimore Ravens
    Date/Time: Thursday, August 2, 8:00 p.m. ET


    Ravens coach John Harbaugh is coming into the season on the hot seat after his team once again missed out on the playoffs last season. The Ravens made some moves in the offseason to try and improve this year, which adds even more heat to a simmering pot. The Chicago Bears have been on a downturn for several years now, although they finally look to have their franchise QB in Mitch Trubisky, although this season will give us a better indication of what we can expect from the young man. As we said earlier, we won’t see many of the big names here, but I think it’s the Ravens who will get the win.

    Pittsburgh Steelers vs Philadelphia Eagles
    Date/Time: Thursday, August 9, 7:00 p.m. ET


    Sure, it’s only preseason, but this match-up jumps right off the calendar. For the Eagles, it’s time to put aside the happy times of winning the Super Bowl and get back to the serious business of playing football again. The Eagles are going to have a tough time getting back to the big game, as they are in a conference that is totally stacked with great teams this season. For the Steelers, this year is finally about getting over the hump and getting past the Patriots in the AFC. These two are almost certainly playoff bound this season, but I like the Eagles in the preseason opener.

    Washington Redskins vs New England Patriots
    Date/Time: Thursday, August 9, 7:30 p.m. ET


    It’s never easy to bounce back after losing in the Super Bowl the previous season, and we have historically seen teams struggle when put in that position. We are talking about the New England Patriots here, though, so perhaps those rules do not apply. Their preseason may be a little more interesting than most, as they need to find a WR who can slot in for Julian Edelman while he serves a 4-game suspension to start the season. These games will be a test of sorts for the bench guys, so look for the Patriots to get one over on the Redskins at home.

    Atlanta Falcons vs New York Jets
    Date/Time: Friday, August 10, 7:30 p.m. ET


    There are several teams who are just not going to be very good this season, and there is a distinct possibility that the New York Jets could be among that group. After all, this is a team that has won just 5 games in each of its past two seasons, and who are going to be fielding a young, inexperienced team this year. But while most teams will take the preseason to try their new players and play with their lineups, the Jets have much to prove, and chances are, they will play more intensively than their rivals. There is going to be a lot of competition for spots, though, so look for the Jets to play a little harder than most in the preseason. That said, they are probably still looking at a beating versus the Falcons.
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    Handicapping Panthers (8)
    July 26, 2018


    The Carolina Panthers are coming off a very disappointing 6-10 season, but oddsmakers expect a rebound from Carolina in 2018, as they set the win total for the Panthers at eight games.

    New ownership decided to keep head coach Ron Rivera, but some other people lost their job including offensive coordinator Mike Shula. The Carolina offense could look different this season with Norv Turner calling the plays.

    Let’s look at Carolina’s schedule for 2018 to see if they will go over or under their win total of eight.

    Carolina Panthers 2018 Regular Season Win Total
    Over 8 (-140)
    Under 8 (+110)


    Carolina Panthers 2018 Schedule Analysis

    Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 9, vs. Dallas Cowboys


    The Panthers are opening a season at home for the first time since 2013. This is basically a coin flip game, as the Panthers are listed as 2.5-point home favorites.

    Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 16, at Atlanta Falcons

    The Panthers have had all kinds of trouble of late against the Falcons, losing four of the last five meetings. That streak will probably go to five out of six after this one is over.

    Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 23, vs. Cincinnati Bengals

    The last time these teams met was in 2015 in Cincinnati and the game ended in a 37-37 tie. The Panthers look to be a slightly better team than the Bengals and this game is at home, so they should get the win.

    Week 4: Bye

    Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 7, vs. New York Giants


    This may not be the easy win for the Panthers that it appears to be, as the Giants are expected to be improved this season. It is also worth noting that the Giants GM is former Panthers GM Dave Gettleman.

    Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 14, at Washington Redskins

    The Redskins have a new starting quarterback in Alex Smith, but the focus on this one will be on cornerback Josh Norman. This is the second of three straight games for the Panthers against NFC East teams.

    Sunday, Oct. 21, at Philadelphia Eagles

    The Panthers face a difficult road test against the defending Super Bowl champions. This game has some intrigue, as the Panthers have former Eagles wide receiver Torrey Smith.

    Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 29, vs. Baltimore Ravens

    This game against the Ravens looks like a letdown spot for the Panthers after playing the Super Bowl champs.

    Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 4, vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    The Panthers should be able to handle the Bucs at home in this one. This is one of those must-win games for Carolina this season.

    Week 10: Thursday, Nov. 8, at Pittsburgh Steelers

    This game comes on short rest and Rivera has said he doesn’t like Thursday night games. He won’t like them any better after the Panthers lose this one.

    Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 18, at Detroit Lions

    The Panthers get extra time to prepare for this one. The Lions have a new head coach and they are at home, so this will not be an easy game for Carolina.

    Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 25, vs. Seattle Seahawks

    It seems like the Panthers play the Seahawks every season even though they are in different divisions. They have played seven times since 2012 with Seattle winning five. This year’s Seahawks are nowhere near as good as in past seasons, so the Panthers should get the home win.

    Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 2, at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    The Panthers will need to make a late season push to reach the playoffs and this is another game they have to win.

    Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 9, at Cleveland Browns

    The time to play the Browns may not be in December, as the Browns will have the home field edge and Carolina will be playing in cold weather. This could be a tough one for Carolina.

    Week 15: Monday, Dec. 17, vs. New Orleans Saints

    The Panthers and Saints on Monday Night Football. This could be a huge game in terms of the division title if the Panthers are still in contention. Cam Newton is 5-1 on Monday Night Football.

    Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 23, vs. Atlanta Falcons

    The Panthers have had trouble against the Falcons and even though this game is at home, it could be yet another loss.

    Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 30, at New Orleans Saints

    The Panthers and Saints play twice in the final three weeks of the season. This one is in New Orleans and the Saints should have the edge.

    Carolina Panthers 2018 Regular Season Win Total Prediction


    The Panthers are one of the tougher teams to predict for 2018. They should rebound from last season, but it is hard to know how everything will come together on offense with Turner running the show and the Panthers will be without stud linebacker Thomas Davis for the first four games of the season.

    The schedule is difficult for the Panthers, so we’ll lean under the total of eight for Carolina in 2018.
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    Futures Outlook - NFC South
    July 26, 2018

    NFL Futures - Odds to win NFC South


    The NFC South was one of the most talented divisions in the NFL in 2017 and it is stacking up to be so again this year.

    The New Orleans Saints, Carolina Panthers and Atlanta Falcons all made the playoffs a season ago and each finished within a game of each other in the standings. The Saints won the NFC South by virtue of a tiebreaker over the Panthers and made it to the NFC Divisional Round before a last-second touchdown by the Vikings knocked them out of the postseason.

    New Orleans returns a lot of talent on both sides of the ball, led by Drew Brees, and will enter this season as the favorite to capture the division once again. The Saints’ odds have improved because they have finally put a solid defense on the field to avoid forcing Brees to win shootouts. The running back addition of Alvin Kamara was also huge last season and the mixture of balance and Brees makes the Saints tough to beat.

    The Falcons were on the precipice of winning the Super Bowl two years ago and then made it back to the playoffs a year ago, but the offense never quite performed like it did in 2016 under offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. The main pieces are still in place and if the offense can find its magic again this team has the potential to be very dangerous.

    The Carolina Panthers have a solid defense once again and star quarterback Cam Newton. The team has been inconsistent often but always seems to find a way to win its share of games. The Panthers have lost many key members of their defensive coaching staff the past two years and it is fair to wonder if the departure of some smart minds will take its toll.

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the extreme longshot in a three-team race. The Bucs are the least talented team in the division and won’t have suspended quarterback Jameis Winston for the first three games of the season. This team is likely going to fall into a hole early and have trouble getting out of it unless the three others in the division manage to beat up on each other and allow the Bucs to hang around.

    NFC SOUTH ODDS
    New Orleans Saints +150
    Atlanta Falcons +173
    Carolina Panthers +296
    Tampa Bay Buccaneers +995


    NFC SOUTH STANDINGS (2017 Season)

    Saints 11-5
    Panthers 11-5
    Falcons 10-6
    Buccaneers 5-11


    Odds Analysis

    Everything seemed to go right for the Saints last year while there were plenty of stumbles for the Falcons, and yet they only finished one game apart in the standings. Brees is a year older and it’s fair to wonder if he’s going to start slowing down at some point. The Saints are a chic pick because of Brees and some young talent, but the Falcons at higher odds are a better choice in NFL betting lines.

    Atlanta has a star quarterback in Matt Ryan as well as some great weapons, led by Julio Jones, and a solid offensive line. The offense should take a step forward this year while the defense is good enough to get the job done with a lead.

    The Panthers’ odds aren’t favorable enough to choose them, while Tampa Bay is going to finish in last place by a significant amount, so that is not a worthwhile flier. This should end up being a two-team race with the Falcons the pick to win the NFC South even as both they and the Saints make it into the playoffs in NFL gambling.

    NFC North ATS Pick: Atlanta Falcons to win the NFC South

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    Futures Outlook - NFC West
    July 27, 2018
    By Bookmaker



    NFL Futures - Odds to win NFC West

    The NFC West has flipped upside down. The Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals were the teams to beat in recent years but now have the longest odds to win the division. The Los Angeles Rams are the new power in the division after surprisingly winning it in 2017 and then loading up with talent in the offseason.

    The arrival of coach Sean McVay last year kicked off a renaissance and now the Rams are expecting to be Super Bowl contenders. Quarterback Jared Goff, running back Todd Gurley and defensive tackle Aaron Donald highlight the list of returners, while the team also added Ndamukong Suh, Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib to the defense. With all of this talent it is easy to see why the Rams are the prohibitive favorites to claim the division for a second straight year.

    The San Francisco 49ers are the toughest team to judge in the division. They struggled for most of last year but played extremely well with Jimmy Garoppolo under center down the stretch after he arrived via trade. Cornerback Richard Sherman and others joined the team in free agency and now San Francisco is aiming to take a big step forward into playoff contention.

    The Seattle Seahawks are no longer the team to beat in the West after a fantastic run. Sherman, Kam Chancellor and Michael Bennett are gone from a terrific defense, while safety Earl Thomas is unhappy with his contract and holding out. Seattle still has Russell Wilson and some good players on defense, but it’s hard to imagine the Seahawks being as good as they have been the past few years.

    The Arizona Cardinals have extremely long odds to win the division. They made the NFC Championship game in 2015 but haven’t finished above .500 in either of the past two years and now have a new coach in Steve Wilks and a new quarterback in Sam Bradford. The Cardinals’ defense is underrated but the offense will need to play better than expected for the team to be competitive, and they have a tough schedule in NFL betting.

    NFC WEST ODDS - per BookMaker.eu
    Los Angeles Rams -193
    San Francisco 49ers +300
    Seattle Seahawks +523
    Arizona Cardinals +2027

    NFC WEST STANDINGS (2017 Season)
    Los Angeles Rams 11-5
    Seattle Seahawks 9-7
    Arizona Cardinals 8-8
    San Francisco 49ers 6-10

    Odds Analysis

    The Rams are definitely the best team but these odds are pretty tough. Los Angeles may get hit with an injury to a key player which would torpedo the season, something that happened to multiple teams a year ago. If everything goes as expected, the Rams should win the NFC West, but at -193 it’s not a great payoff.

    The 49ers might look attractive but they are getting too much credit for the end of last season. Garoppolo looks good but it is still a small sample size and +300 is not enough of a longshot.

    The Seahawks and Cardinals are the more attractive bets. While it’s easy to understand while the oddsmakers have made them longshots, each team has more talented players than given credit for. The Rams are the team to beat for a reason but if things don’t go right for Los Angeles, it would open up the door for one of these underdogs to win the division.

    The Rams are the pick but it’s best to stay away from them at these odds in NFL gambling.

    NFC West ATS Pick: Los Angeles Rams to win the NFC West

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    KC enters camp with loaded backfield
    July 28, 2018


    ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) Three years ago, a little-known and undersized running back out of Abilene Christian led the Kansas City Chiefs in rushing, filling in admirably for an injured Jamaal Charles.

    These days, Charcandrick West finds himself fighting for a job.

    That alone is a sign of just how much deeper and more talented the Chiefs' stable of running backs is this season. Kareem Hunt led the league in rushing as a rookie, but there is a crush of ability and experience nipping at his heels.

    ''There's a good number of backs here that we have,'' offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy said, ''and we're very, very blessed and fortunate. We just want to watch these guys compete.''

    These guys: West, who managed just 72 yards on 18 carries last season; Spencer Ware, who led the Chiefs in rushing two years ago before sustaining a season-ending injury in preseason; Kerwynn Williams, who started six games last season for Arizona; Damien Williams, who appeared in 58 games over the past four seasons in Miami; and Darrel Williams, perhaps the biggest dark horse of the bunch.

    Williams backed up Leonard Fournette and Derrius Guice the past few years at LSU, a big reason why he went undrafted this past April. But many scouts believe he has the talent to succeed, noting he averaged 5.7 yards a carry last season - better than Guice, a second-round pick.

    ''I probably say this every year, but the talent pool has gotten deeper,'' Bieniemy said. ''I look forward to it. Why? Because it brings out the best in each and every one of them.''

    There are a multitude of reasons why the Chiefs have invested so heavily in the position.

    For one thing, the value of running backs has swung back to the positive after many had written them off in the era of the pass-happy NFL. Offensive coordinators have started to utilize them in creative ways, employing them as pass-catchers and blockers along with running.

    No wonder three running backs were selected in the first round of the draft, and four more in the second round, headlined by Saquon Barkley going to the Giants at No. 2 overall.

    Then there's the misfortune that has befallen Kansas City at the position.

    Twice the franchise lost Charles to season-ending injuries in his prime, the first time resulting in Jackie Battle leading the team in rushing. Then, after Ware's transition from fullback to running back led to a breakout season, he tore up his knee in last year's preseason game against Seattle.

    The Chiefs were fortunate that Hunt emerged as a bona fide star, but they nonetheless headed into the season with a relatively shallow backfield. West handled some spot duty, and Akeem Hunt and an aged C.J. Spiller saw action, but it was quarterback Alex Smith that was second on the team in rushing.

    General manager Brett Veach hardly wants new quarterback Patrick Mahomes II to do likewise

    ''In my mind and obviously in Brett's mind - because he's the one who did this - you can't have enough of those guys,'' Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. ''We figured, listen, if we have a chance to get good players lets go ahead and better ourselves, let the competition be there and see what happens. I'm expecting Spencer to be back, but you never know, and you've got kids that can play.''

    The depth has already paid off the first week of camp, giving Hunt a chance to rest a stiff hamstring Friday and Ware an opportunity to slowly get back into game shape.

    ''I've never shied away from competition,'' Ware said. ''My ultimate goal is to make my team better and to get better as a player - to make myself more valuable for my team and let them be able to use me in any way they can.''

    NOTES: Rookie FS Armani Watts was back on the field Saturday after tweaking his ankle. ''He needs reps now,'' Reid said. ''If you're going to make this team you have to show it.'' ... West took a shot to the head during the team's first padded practice and was being evaluated by team doctors.
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    Titans' TE Walker's hard work pays off
    July 28, 2018


    NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Delanie Walker will leave the white suit to celebrate a new contract to teammate Taylor Lewan. The three-time Pro Bowl tight end going into his 13th NFL season is too busy working to be better than last season.

    And now Walker is under contract through 2020 with yet another contract extension.

    ''It feels good,'' Walker said Saturday. ''You know I feel like I worked hard on the field and especially off the field with the community. So it feels good that the organization recognizes that and see what I did and rewarded me would have a nice contract. So I'm excited about that.''

    The Titans announced the extension after practice Friday, their second signing of the day with their Pro Bowl left tackle celebrating his new five-year, $80 million deal with a white suit and hat mimicking Boss Hogg from the TV show ''The Dukes of Hazzard.'' Walker had been going into his final season under contract before the extension.

    ''I couldn't top Taylor, so sorry to disappoint,'' Walker said with a laugh. ''I couldn't find a white suit in time.''

    Originally a sixth-round pick out of Central Missouri State, Walker spent his first seven seasons in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers never catching more than 29 passes in any season. The 6-foot-2, 248-pound Walker knew he could do much more and gambled on signing with Tennessee in 2013 as a free agent.

    He's delivered with 356 receptions since 2013 - most by any tight end in the NFL in that span. Walker's best season statistically came in 2015 when he caught 94 passes for 1,088 yards, and he led the Titans with 74 catches for 807 yards. Walker has gone to the Pro Bowl the past three seasons and was the game's MVP last January .

    Titans coach Mike Vrabel notes Walker didn't come into the league as a first-round pick or starter from the beginning.

    ''He's worked and he's gotten better every year, and he continues to do that and takes great care of his body and football's very important to him,'' Vrabel said.

    Walker said he knew this all was possible, which is why he left the 49ers.

    ''I had something good there,'' Walker said. ''You know they loved me there. They gave me the opportunity to play, but I didn't see myself being that guy that I wanted to be. Knowing that I can be a dominant starter in this league, and the Titans gave me the opportunity. So I'm thankful and I'm blessed to still be able to play the way I'll play and for them to give me an extension.''

    Now 33 and with the most NFL experience on the roster, Walker says people ask him how he stays in such shape at his age. Walker said he learned by watching former teammates like Larry Allen and Bryant Young and copying how they took care of themselves.

    His approach? Be among the first players to arrive and the last to leave. Get all the treatment possible and eat right. Hit the cold tub and steam room. Three massages a week. Lastly, play football like the game that it is. Walker went to the ground to pull in a ball during the offseason program.

    ''It's a kid's game, and I feel like a kid every time I step on a field,'' Walker said.

    Walker almost didn't make it to training camp this year. On Tuesday, his Lamborghini got caught underneath a tractor-trailer with Walker inside on a street in downtown Nashville. Walker thanked the person who flagged down the truck driver, alerting the driver to the car stuck to the semi.

    ''Thank you for stopping the guy because he was still going,'' Walker said. ''He didn't see me at all.''

    Notes: LB Brian Orakpo did not practice Saturday. Vrabel said Orakpo knocked shoulders with TE Luke Stocker on Friday, something that wearing pads would've protected. ... Rookie LB Rashaan Evans limped off the practice field with a trainer, but Vrabel did not have an update on his status.
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    Settled in after relocation, Chargers eye playoff contention
    July 28, 2018


    COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) A year ago at this time, the Los Angeles Chargers' lives were still unsettled amid the upheaval of their franchise relocation season. Some were still looking for houses, and others needed to get kids into school.

    When Philip Rivers and his teammates reported to the same sunny spot Saturday for the first practice their second training camp in Orange County, pretty much everyone was feeling perfectly at home.

    ''Now it's just football,'' Rivers said. ''There's not as much wondering about schedules and what the practice field was going to be like. There's not as much of that uncertainty. It's all football now. There's definitely a level of comfort that I think we have now and we can just put our focus on the field.''

    A year after leaving San Diego, the Chargers are eager to take another shot at living up to their enormous potential. Although they already lost two key players to injuries before training camp even began, the Bolts are aware they're still a popular pick to be a playoff team and likely even a Super Bowl contender.

    Those are nothing less than the Chargers' own internal expectations, and they're much more interested in proving themselves right.

    ''We just want to be the team we know we can be,'' running back Melvin Gordon said. ''Yeah, expectations are high, but we make them higher than other people make them.''

    The 36-year-old Rivers has started every game for the Chargers since 2006, and he realizes he has fewer and fewer shots at reaching his first Super Bowl. He won the AFC West and appeared in playoff games during each of his first four seasons as a starter, but the Bolts have made the playoffs just once since that run ended in 2009.

    Rivers understands the excitement around the Chargers after their 9-3 finish to last season. He even welcomes it.

    ''It's interesting, because it's been a while,'' Rivers said. ''I've been on some teams here that had those expectations, and we went out and did it year after year there for a while. It's been a long time, though. There aren't many guys that have been through that on this team. ... We know there are a lot of expectations outside. We have those same expectations on the inside.''

    The Chargers return with remarkable continuity from last season's team, with veteran center Mike Pouncey joining a largely unchanged offense and rookie safety Derwin James moving into a solid defense. Their biggest personnel losses happened recently, and did nothing to shake the Chargers' reputation for soul-crushing injury problems: tight end Hunter Henry was lost for the season in May, and former Pro Bowl cornerback Jason Verrett tore his Achilles tendon Friday in a conditioning test.

    The coaching staff also stayed essentially intact, with second-year head coach Anthony Lynn keeping coordinators Ken Whisenhunt and Gus Bradley. Lynn said he feels more confident as a head coach after getting through his first year in good form - and even finishing up his college degree along the way.

    ''I definitely feel a little bit more comfortable knowing what to expect, not moving and not living out of boxes, knowing where we're going to training camp, and (having a) similar coaching staff and players,'' Lynn said.

    Although the stands at Jack Hammett Sports Complex were filled with an estimated 7,000 fans for the first practice, the Chargers realize they've still got plenty of work to do if they hope to win over the Los Angeles marketplace in the coming years - particularly with the Los Angeles Rams looking like a potential Super Bowl team as well. Fielding a winning team this fall would be the most potent way to do it, the Bolts players and coaches agree.

    But after four consecutive non-playoff seasons, and after the challenges of their relocation year, the Chargers are grateful to settle in for a few weeks of training camp with their thoughts on nothing bigger than the next practice or scrimmage.

    Rivers even had a catchphrase for it: ''Enjoy the boring.''
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    Rams grateful for experience Wilson brings at linebacker
    July 28, 2018


    IRVINE, Calif. (AP) With 17 career starts in three seasons, Los Angeles Rams inside linebacker Ramik Wilson might not look like a grizzled veteran.

    However, at a position where the second and third-most experienced players have combined for six career starts and the other three are rookies, the 25-year-old Wilson certainly qualifies.

    ''We have a lot of youth at that position. We have a lot of guys, other than Mark Barron, that haven't been starters before. To be able to get (Ramik) in free agency was great,'' linebackers coach Joe Barry said.

    The Rams needed to add experience after trading starting linebacker Alec Ogletree to the New York Giants. Cory Littleton had started five games in two seasons while backing up Barron, but would get the first chance to replace Ogletree at middle linebacker. Bryce Hager's only start came in Week 17 last season when the Rams rested players ahead of their home playoff game.

    Wilson fit the bill after starting 11 games and recording 61 tackles for Kansas City in 2016, but saw his playing time reduced last season after the Chiefs traded for former second-round draft pick Reggie Ragland. When the Chiefs did not tender a contract to Wilson, he agreed to terms on a one-year contract with the Rams in March weeks after they agreed to trade Ogletree.

    The opportunity to play for defensive coordinator Wade Phillips was something Wilson could not pass up, especially with the chance to move back to his more natural position playing on the weak side.

    ''It just made perfect sense,'' Wilson said. ''I can run to the ball and I can flow. I can make plays. I can do what I'm supposed to do.''

    Barry liked Wilson coming out of college at Georgia, and his subsequent experience as both a starter and backup for the Chiefs made Wilson even more appealing.

    ''As an NFL player, you've got to prepare subtly different if you're the guy as the starter compared to if you're the backup. He's been in both roles, so I think that means a lot,'' Barry said.

    Wilson's ability to adjust was evident during OTAs. With Barron sitting out because of injuries, Wilson was paired with Littleton as part of the first-team defense. The two quickly meshed, and the partnership seems to have only grown as Wilson and Littleton continued to work together early in training camp, with Barron being worked back in cautiously.

    Barry could not take credit for the chemistry Wilson and Littleton have displayed.

    ''When two guys go out and they take over 200 snaps together in OTAs, they are going to build a rapport together. It just happens naturally,'' Barry said.

    Despite the inexperience of the group, Wilson likes how they are progressing. How the linebackers perform might determine whether the play of the Rams defense matches the hysteria created by signing defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and trading for cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Marcus Peter in the offseason, and Wilson has not seen anything to indicate the inside linebackers are not ready for the challenge.

    ''They are right along and they are ready to go, the whole room,'' Wilson said. ''We've got a lot of expectations, but we know we've got the talent. We're just putting in the work each day now and taking it one day at a time. That's all we are going to do, and the results will show at the end of the day.''

    NOTES: Rams head coach Sean McVay said Saturday there was no update regarding All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald's holdout, but they have been in contact via telephone. ''I spoke with him in the last day or so, and we're just checking in, seeing how he's doing,'' McVay said.

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    49ers' Foster says he learned lesson
    July 28, 2018


    SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) San Francisco 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster said he is using his legal problems that he feared could cost him his football career this offseason as a learning tool going forward now that he has been cleared of the most serious charges.

    Foster spoke to the media on Saturday for the first time since he was charged in April for felony domestic assault and later exonerated when the accuser recanted her story and a judge found no other credible evidence.

    ''I learned every day I have to go harder at everything I do now to better myself even more,'' Foster said. ''It's like do or die. Just don't mess up. ... It's like how I'm trying to craft my career, I have to craft my life.''

    Foster spent much of his offseason dealing with legal issues rather than preparing for his second season in the NFL. He was charged in January in Alabama with second-degree marijuana possession. That charge was eventually dismissed after he completed a first-time offender diversion course.

    Foster then faced more serious charges for an incident in California in February. He was initially charged in April with felonies for domestic violence, making criminal threats and weapons possession after being accused of beating up his ex-girlfriend.

    A judge ruled there was no probable cause on the first two charges after the ex-girlfriend recanted the allegations and the judge found no other evidence to support the charges. The weapons charge was reduced to a misdemeanor and Foster pleaded no-contest to that in June.

    He was sentenced to two years' probation, 232 hours of community service, and $235 in fines.

    Foster declined to discuss specifics of the case on Saturday and is just thankful to be back with his teammates on the field.

    ''It made me appreciate football a lot better,'' he said. ''It was crazy knowing that football could be gone. Just being back on this field with my brothers and these coaches is a blessing.''

    Foster missed about a month of the offseason program while dealing with the legal issues and will also be suspended without pay for the first two games of the regular season for violating the NFL's conduct and substance-abuse policy.

    He is able to take part in training camp and play the exhibition games, but must sit out San Francisco's games against Minnesota and Detroit before being allowed to return on Sept. 17 before the Niners play Kansas City.

    ''It was painful,'' Foster said of the punishment. ''It's football, something I do, something I love. It is what it is. Accept the consequences, you take it and you move on. You learn from it, too, and you grow from it.''

    The 49ers stood behind Foster even as he was not allowed at the facility. But coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch have made clear that Foster must get his life in order and avoid further legal trouble if he wants to remain part of the organization.

    ''I think Reuben's done a great job just handling it,'' Shanahan said. ''What they originally charged him with is as bad of a thing as you can imagine. It's a very embarrassing thing because of how bad it was. To have all that scrutiny on you and to have to go through that, I think would be a challenge for any human being. That would mess a lot of people up.

    ''I've been really, very impressed with Reuben in how he handled it, the process he went through while it was going on and after it got dropped, how he's handled himself since. I know he learned a lot through it. We talked about it a lot at the beginning, that some things seem so bad but if you get through it, it can be a good thing in the long run. If you handle it right, it can enlighten you in some things and help you grow. I really think it has for Reuben and I think it's benefited him in the long run.''

    Foster said he appreciated the support, especially from teammates who came to court in a public show of support. One of those teammates was Richard Sherman, who barely knew Foster after signing with the team in March.

    Sherman and Foster now have lockers next to each other.

    ''That's real. He's a man for that,'' Foster said of Sherman coming to court in April. ''I respect Richard Sherman for that, coming to court and supporting me. Just being there for me at the hard times.''
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    GB's Graham builds chemistry with Rodgers
    July 28, 2018


    GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) Jimmy Graham isn't worried about developing chemistry with Aaron Rodgers. The Green Bay Packers new tight end knows how good his new quarterback is, and through the first three days of training camp, they've already made plenty of progress.

    But when will Graham know that he and Rodgers have truly gotten on the same page?

    ''I'll be with the ball in the end zone,'' Graham said after Saturday's first in-pads practice of camp. ''That's really when you know.''

    That hasn't happened yet in any of the 11-on-11 team periods of the first three practices, but the two have connected plenty of times during drills and expect to be on the same wavelength in time for the Sept. 9 regular-season opener against Chicago.

    ''We'll just keep plugging away. We'll just keep doing that each and every day,'' Graham said. ''And come Week 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 . we'll be clicking, I'm pretty sure.''

    The Packers certainly need Graham, a five-time Pro Bowl tight end who came over from Seattle in free agency, to be a force. After cutting wide receiver Jordy Nelson during the offseason, they'll be counting on Graham to be a go-to presence in the red zone. Last year with the Seahawks, all 10 of his touchdown catches came from inside the opponent's 20-yard line.

    Coach Mike McCarthy's offense is at its best when he has a big, athletic tight end in the mix, which is why the team has signed one three years running - Jared Cook in 2016, Martellus Bennett last year and Graham this time around. While the Bennett experiment backfired, Rodgers and Cook developed a strong connection during their one season together after Cook overcame early-season injury problems.

    ''We just need more reps,'' Rodgers said of his exposure to Graham. ''He's a big target, he catches the ball with his hands. We haven't had a guy like that around here in a while. Obviously Jared did a lot of those things, but Jimmy, he's got a great feel for coverages, getting open, he uses his body really well, runs good routes. And he's a matchup issue. We haven't had a consistent matchup issue guy like that for a long time.

    ''So we just need reps together. He needs to hear the language, he needs to hear some of the code words and the verbiage and the signals. I'm not worried about any chemistry issues with him.''

    Graham, who played with elite-level quarterbacks with the Saints (Drew Brees) and Seahawks (Russell Wilson), has been impressed with Rodgers' accuracy and his ability to put the ball in places that protect his receivers from dangerous hits. To Graham, having that type of trust already with Rodgers is a very encouraging sign.

    ''I know when leads me out there that I can just run right through it. I've got no worries in the world because I know he's the eyes in the back of my head,'' Graham said. ''We'll just keep working on that. It's not him getting on my page, it's me getting on his page, you know? He's been in this league a long time, knows too much, and I've got to just catch up and just learn every day and make sure I'm supposed to be where I'm at so I can make that catch and make that big play.''
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    Cam: Time to 'take back the division'
    July 28, 2018


    SPARTANBURG, S.C. (AP) An optimistic Cam Newton says he's adjusting well to a new offensive scheme and boldly proclaimed it's time for the Carolina Panthers to ''take back the division.''

    Wearing a ''Change the culture'' t-shirt and a ''Keep Pounding'' hat, an upbeat Newton was budding with enthusiasm on Saturday even after starting right tackle Daryl Williams went down with a knee injury earlier in practice.

    In his first football-related interview in six months, Newton set a positive tone for training camp for a team that hopes to recapture the NFC South it won in 2013, 2014 and 2015. Carolina went 11-5 last season, but New Orleans won the head-to-head tiebreaker and took the division title.

    Part of Newton's optimism surrounds the hiring of offensive coordinator Norv Turner and the addition of wide receivers D.J. Moore, Torrey Smith and Jarius Wright.

    Newton said Turner has been ''extremely easy'' to work with and joked that his offense is ''Boogie approved.''

    The 2015 league MVP said he likes that Turner is open to listening to suggestions about what plays may work best, even to the point to keeping the names of some of the predecessor Mike Shula's play calls.

    ''I think the onus is on (Turner) more so than us to take what we have done good and expand on it, rather than just ripping the sheets of paper up and having a this-is-my-way-or-the-highway mentality,'' Newton said.

    Newton said it didn't take long to realize Turner has a high football IQ.

    But he added that it's still a little too early to know exactly what to expect from the Panthers offense when the regular season arrives.

    ''I can't tell you that, (but) I know that the transition as far as philosophies has almost been as easy as anyone could expect,'' Newton said. ''He is super relatable and is someone who has been around this league and been around a lot of egos and lot of different players and knows how to adjust. That alone makes my job easy knowing that he is a person who you can go to and say, `This is how I feel about certain things.' And (he'll say), `OK, let's find out how we can implement it.' He's not a guy who is so egotistical who says, `No, this play is going to work versus this.'''

    Turner has already talked about wanting to improve Newton's completion percentage.

    Newton's has completed just 58.5 percent of his career passes, but Turner would like him to be above 65 percent.

    ''That's a goal of mine and it is certainly attainable,'' Newton said.

    Newton said that means learning to accept what the defense gives him, even if it means short dump-offs over the middle and to outlet receivers.

    ''That has to be my mentality,'' Newton said. ''We have a lot of guys who can take two yards and turn it into 20 yards, or more. But it starts with me and I have to trust those guys and get the ball to them.''

    The 29-year-old Newton said he's feeling healthy heading into the season.

    That's a big difference from last season when he underwent shoulder surgery and missed all of OTAs and minicamp and a large portion of training camp undergoing rehab.

    ''It was very big for me making the proper steps this offseason knowing that I am full go,'' Newton said. ''My body feels great and I always have to mention to TD (linebacker Thomas Davis) that I even look great. I am in a position where I am all smiles.''

    Newton also addressed new owner David Tepper, teasing that ''I'm up for an upgrade'' after seeing he paid $2.2 million to purchase the team from founder Jerry Richardson.

    ''The excitement is something we all should get prepared for knowing we have a lively owner,'' Newton said.
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    Wentz looking 'really good' at Eagles camp
    July 28, 2018


    PHILADELPHIA (AP) Carson Wentz lunged to his right and then backpedaled to avoid a rush. After darting forward again, he quickly rolled to his right and took off down the sideline at full speed.

    The only reminder Saturday that the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback was returning from knee surgery was the brace attached his left leg.

    ''Obviously he's got some of that Kobe Bryant (stuff) in his knee,'' defensive end Michael Bennett said with a smile, referring to the offseason knee treatment in Germany the NBA great used to receive. ''He probably went to Germany or Switzerland or some (stuff), because he's looking really good out there.''

    How upbeat were the Eagles after Wentz went through 11-on-11 drills with the starters at the first padded practice of training camp? Coach Doug Peterson interrupted new offensive coordinator Mike Groh's press conference with the key question for the Super Bowl champions.

    ''I know you don't want to put a timetable on Carson, but what's your timetable?'' Pederson asked, smirking.

    ''Great question,'' Groh said.

    Wentz sure looked close to ready, if not already there, during a humid morning practice. Barely seven months removed from tearing the anterior cruciate and lateral collateral ligaments in his left knee, Wentz participated in full team drills without limitations. While he tossed two interceptions, he drew rave reviews from his teammates and coaches for his arm strength, accuracy and mobility.

    ''He's in the right frame of mind. He's making some good throws,'' Groh said. ''As you can see, we're pretty good on defense. Those guys are making it challenging for us on offense, particularly early, first day in pads.''

    Wentz dazzled in 13 games last season, throwing for 3,296 yards and 33 touchdowns with just seven interceptions. The Eagles led the NFL in scoring and were 11-2 after Wentz went down on Dec. 10.

    Behind backup Nick Foles, the Eagles went on to win their first NFL title. But it's clear that even though Foles was the Super Bowl MVP, Wentz will become the starter again when he's ready.

    ''When you're rehabbing something, it's not an exponential line. It's not you're slowly getting better and then you rapidly accelerate,'' tight end Zach Ertz said. ''There's going to be times in training camp probably where he doesn't feel great or his knee doesn't feel great and they'll back him off.''

    Because of that, the Eagles remain tight-lipped about whether they expect Wentz under center for the season opener Sept. 6 against Atlanta. It's also uncertain if he'll appear in a preseason game. Wentz didn't speak to reporters after the 2 1/2-hour workout.

    ''To have everybody out there, Carson there, in some people's minds is ahead of schedule,'' Groh said. ''But I know this was his target date. So we're happy to have him out there working. It's only going to make everybody better.''

    NOTES: With several receivers banged up and not practicing, including Alshon Jeffery and Bryce Treggs, the Eagles signed WR DeAndre Carter. The move gives the Eagles the maximum 90 players. ... The team displayed the Lombardi Trophy in a glass case outside the practice fields, allowing fans to snap pictures while standing next to it.
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    Falcons hope well-paid offense makes plays
    July 28, 2018


    FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) Ricardo Allen began listing the weapons on the Atlanta Falcons' offense and shook his head.

    Wide receivers Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu and Calvin Ridley. Running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. Quarterback Matt Ryan.

    The safety said facing those playmakers is like a bad dream he must revisit every practice. But Allen also smiled because that's good news for Atlanta's 2018 outlook.

    ''Oh, man, you've got Julio, you've got Sanu, you've got Ridley on the field at the same time and you've got those running backs,'' Allen said Saturday. ''Who do you match up against? Who do you put your best players on? It's like a matchup nightmare.''

    The front office has taken action to make those playmakers happy - and safe.

    Ryan has a new five-year, $150 million contract extension. Jones was given an adjustment to his five-year, $71.5 million contract and a promise the deal will be renegotiated after the season. Left tackle Jake Matthews agreed to five-year, $75 million extension on Friday, and the team's top offseason acquisition was right guard Brandon Fusco, adding more stability to the offensive line.

    Ridley, a wide receiver from Alabama, was the team's first-round draft pick .

    Ryan is 33. Jones is 29. Coleman can be a free agent after the season. The Falcons are attempting to seize this opportunity to take full advantage of this offense - most of the unit led the league in scoring two years ago.

    ''To go up against it every day, I personally don't think any other offense that has this many weapons from sideline to sideline to give us that much pressure,'' Allen said. ''Then you've got Matty Ice out there putting the ball anywhere he can. It's a hard matchup and every day is a challenge and that's a good thing.''

    The Falcons led the league with 33.8 points a game in their 2016 Super Bowl season with former coordinator Kyle Shanahan, now San Francisco's coach, in charge of the offense. In Steve Sarkasian's 2017 debut as offensive coordinator, Atlanta fell back to 15th in scoring, at 22.1 points per game.

    Center Alex Mack says the Falcons are starting faster in their second year with Sarkasian.

    ''I just see it as a way to start fast and build,'' Mack said Saturday. ''As an offense in training camp, you can start at a more advanced point than you started the year before, so you can get into the details and work on the little things and be really on the same page.''

    The Falcons opened training camp with Freeman and Jones at full health.

    Jones played every game but dealt with a long list of injuries last season. Freeman missed two games with his second concussion of the year, including one last preseason, and also was slowed by a knee injury at the end of the season.

    ''It is awesome to see Free back, feeling like himself,'' coach Dan Quinn said. ''His aggressive nature always comes out and he's off to a great start.''

    Quinn said the familiarity that comes with the offense's second season with Sarkasian is crucial.

    ''I think anytime you're around guys for more than a year, he has such a clear vision of what guys can do,'' Quinn said. ''As small as that may sound to you, it's a big deal.''

    NOTES: DE Takkarist McKinley left practice with an apparent right shoulder injury. He has had surgeries on both shoulders the last two years. Quinn said Saturday's injury is not believed to be serious. ... The Falcons have sold all 60,000 tickets, at $5 each, for their practice at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sunday. It will be the team's first practice in pads.
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    Handicapping Cowboys (8)
    July 31, 2018


    The Dallas Cowboys have made the playoffs in even numbered years recently and missed out in odd numbered years. Will that streak continue in 2018 with the Cowboys making the playoffs? The Cowboys were a big disappointment last season, as they went from winning 13 games in 2016 to winning just nine in 2017. Dallas has really only had two good seasons under head coach Jason Garrett in seven years, but Garrett is back again for 2018.

    Let’s look at the win total for the Cowboys for this season and see if they will go over or under their total.

    Dallas Cowboys 2018 Regular Season Win Total
    Over 8 (-135)
    Under 8 (+105)


    Dallas Cowboys 2018 Schedule Analysis

    Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 9, at Carolina Panthers


    The Cowboys will have to face a Carolina team that has Norv Turner as their offensive coordinator and that is not good news for the Dallas defense. Carolina is a 2.5-point home favorite at BetDSI.

    Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 16, vs. New York Giants


    This is a Sunday night game and it won’t be easy for Dallas, as the Giants are expected to be improved this season.

    Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 23, at Seattle Seahawks

    The Seahawks are not as good as in past seasons, but this is still the home opener for the Seahawks and winning in Seattle is never easy. The Cowboys could have an edge, as they have former Seattle defensive coordinator Kris Richard.

    Week 4: Sunday, Sept. 30, vs. Detroit Lions

    The Lions have a new head coach in Matt Patricia, but the Cowboys are at home and they should get the win.

    Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 7, at Houston Texans


    The Texans are going to be much better this season with a healthy Deshaun Watson and J.J. Watt. This one looks like a road loss for the Cowboys.

    Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 14, vs. Jacksonville Jaguars

    Is there an easy game on the schedule for the Cowboys this season? They have to face a very good Jacksonville team, but at least this one is at home.

    Week 7: Oct. 21 at Washington Redskins

    The Redskins have a new quarterback in Alex Smith and a solid running game led by their rookie Guice. Dallas has won their last five games at FedEx Field. Will the streak end this season?

    Week 8: Bye

    Week 9: Nov. 5, vs. Tennessee Titans


    The Titans were a playoff team last season and they feature a mobile quarterback in Marcus Mariota. This could be a tough home contest for the Cowboys.

    Week 10: Nov. 11, at Philadelphia Eagles

    The Cowboys have had success at Lincoln Financial Field in recent seasons, but it is still hard to see Dallas going in to Philly and beating the defending Super Bowl champs.

    Week 11: Nov. 18, at Atlanta Falcons

    The Cowboys were destroyed last season in Atlanta, as Dak Prescott was sacked eight times. It could be closer this year, but this still looks like a road loss for Dallas.

    Week 12: Nov. 22, vs. Washington Redskins

    The Cowboys have lost four of their last six games on Thanksgiving, but this one is at home and Dallas should be favored.

    Week 13: Nov. 29, vs. New Orleans Saints

    This will be the second straight Thursday night game for Dallas, but at least they will be playing with a normal week of rest. This could be a shootout that is decided on the last possession.

    Week 14: Dec. 9, vs. Philadelphia Eagles

    The Cowboys will have extra time to get ready for this one, but Philadelphia is still the better team and Dallas could get swept by the Eagles this season.

    Week 15: Dec. 16, at Indianapolis Colts

    The Colts have Andrew Luck back and they are at home, so this will not be an easy road contest for Dallas.

    Week 16: Dec. 23, vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers


    Will the Cowboys still be playing for anything when this game starts? The Bucs are not considered a good team, so Dallas should get the home win.

    Week 17: Dec. 30, at New York Giants

    This game could decide a playoff spot and if that is the case, you have to like the Giants, as the Cowboys have faced a must-win at the end of the season under Garrett quite a bit and lost every time.

    Dallas Cowboys 2018 Regular Season Win Total Prediction

    Do you see any easy games for Dallas this season? The only game that looks like a sure win is the home game against Tampa Bay. The Cowboys do have Ezekiel Elliot and Prescott is a capable quarterback, but the defense isn’t that great and Garrett is not a good head coach. We’ll look for Dallas to go under their win total of eight this season.
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