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2018 Playbook Football Questions Interviews
1. Which NFL teams do you see being 'Play On' worthy this season?
Baltimore Ravens: Last year, I had the Philadelphia Eagles in this spot ('nuff said). The same formula that I used last year points to the Baltimore Ravens in 2018. They had a 'for and against' point differential (+5.8 ppg) that you would normal see in a 10-win-or-MORE team. Baltimore figures to improve significantly on offense with the additions of Michael Crabtree, John Brown, Willis Snead, and rookie Hayden Hurst. FINALLY…. some weapons for QB Joe Flacco! And on defense, they were one of only five teams in the league that allowed LESS than 19 points per game last season. Bring on a Wild card spot in 2018!
Los Angeles Chargers: My pick to win the AFC West Division. If that is the case, it would be their first trip to the post-season since 2013. They would have done it last year, but couldn't quite overcome an 0-4 start to the season (still went 9-3 in their last 12 games). Phillip Rivers is as stable as it gets when it comes to the QB position. He's now #1 in the entire league with 210 consecutive starts in a row without injury (#4 ALL-TIME!). Los Angeles closed the 2017 season by allowing only 12.6 ppg on defense in their last six games. And their +5.2 ppg differential suggests they should have won 10 or more games.
2. Which NFL teams do you see being 'Play Against' worthy this season?
Buffalo Bills: It's hard to imagine that Buffalo was a Playoff team last year, with the 2nd worst passing offense in the league… and 4th worst rushing defense. The dominant theme in the summer will be the starting QB competition, but it doesn't really matter who wins the job. Not drafting a running back could also come back to haunt the Bills. They are a LsSean McCoy injury away from the most putrid offense in the entire league. Their total point differential of -4.0 ppg indicates they had no business making it to the post-season last season. This team will be lucky to average 17 points per game on offense this season.
Detroit Lions: They hired a defensive guru in new head coach Matt Patricia, but didn't do much to back up that side of the ball in the off-season (only 2 defensive players chosen in their first five picks). Their front seven on defense is still one of the biggest question marks in the league. Factor in the 32nd ranked team in rushing offense last year (76.3 rushing YPG)… and it looks like a LAST place finish in the NFC Central Division is in the cards. They have the 2nd TOUGHEST schedule in the league. Not to mention pretty difficult HOME games vs the Packers, Vikings, Patriots, Panthers, and Rams...
3. Which NFL teams do you see making it to the Super Bowl this season?
Minnesota Vikings versus Pittsburgh Steelers
4. Which College Football teams do you see being 'Play On' worthy this season?
Florida State Seminoles: For many college football programs, a 7-win season is pretty damn good. But the bar is set HIGHER in Tallahassee. After a 3-6 start in 2017, Florida State won their last four games of the season to finish with a 7-6 SU record. In addition, the Seminoles were one of the LEAST profitable teams in college football, with a 4-8-1 ATS record. In 2018, it's a new era. Jimbo Fisher is gone (to Texas A&M), and Willie Taggert returns to the Sunshine State (after 2 years in Oregon). His last season here was in 2016 when he led the South Florida Bulls to a 10-2 SU record. He is transitioning the Seminole offense from a pro-style approach to a more of a spread, up-tempo attack. And the good news is: 95.8% of Florida State's offense from last year is returning in 2018.
Florida Gators: I'm staying in the Sunshine State for 'Play On' team #2. That would be the Florida Gators, who failed to get cash in 73% of their games last year (3-8 ATS). The addition of new head coach Dan Mullen (9 years at Miss St) should be a big bump for a Gator's offense that averaged only 22.1 ppg last fall. Mullen has strong record of developing young QB's, and Florida is returning ALL FIVE offensive line starters from last year. We already know that they will be one of the BEST defenses in all of college football. And the schedule is favorable: only 3 road games in the SEC, and the Gators won't leave their home state after their Oct 13th game at Vanderbilt.
5. Which College Football teams do you see being 'Play Against' worthy this season?
Washington State Cougars: It's been a hell of a ride in the last three years for Mike Leach's Cougars. 9-4 SU in 2015, 8-5 in 2016, and 9-4 in 2017. Not to mention a KILLER ATS run of 22-11 in the regular season. But only one other team in the entire PAC 12 Conference is returning less production this season than Washington State. Only four offensive players return. And they also have to replace record-setting QB Luke Falk, who has gone on to the NFL. Perhaps the biggest question mark is on defense. Coordinator Alex Grinch (who improved the Cougars by -83 ypg LY) moved on to Ohio State. And the jury is out on new guy Tracy Claeys (from Minnesota). The Cougars could very well be KITTY KATS (in ATS terms) in 2018.
LSU Tigers: The Bayou Bengals won 9 games last season. Despite that, oddsmakers have pegged their O/U at only SEVEN (7) wins for 2018. I bet the UNDER in that one. And I'll be playing AGAINST LSU more than on 'em this season. They are returning an SEC-low 48% of their offensive production from last year. They have an unsettled QB situation. The offensive play-calling of Steve Ensminger is a complete question mark. They start the year with a tough game against Miami-Florida, and they also have very difficult ROAD matchups this season against Auburn, Florida, Arkansas, and Texas A&M. Home games against Ole Miss, Georgia, and Alabama are not 'King'-cake walks either!
6. Which College Football teams do you see making it to the College Football Playoff Championship Game this season?
Ohio State Buckeyes versus Washington Huskies
7. Which new head coach hire will prove to be the best in the NFL this season?
Mike Vrabel / Tennessee Titans: This is a no-branier for me… particularly in the long term. Yes, Vrabel has only one year of experience as defensive coordinator of the Houston Texans. But he's young (42 years old)… is a 'Players' coach… inherits Marcus Marriota at the QB spot… and (most importantly) played eight years for the greatest coach of all-time (Bill Belichick). It's no wonder that fans are using the nickname of 'Patriots-SOUTH' in describing their Titans. In the off-season, Tennessee used their $49 million in cap space very wisely in free agency. They play in a very WINNABLE division. They were already in the Playoffs last season. Their defense has improved in points-per-game-ALLOWED in EACH of the last four seasons. And they have the 2nd EASIEST schedule in the entire league in 2018.
8. Which new head coach hire will prove to be the best in College Football this season?
Kevin Sumlin / Arizona Wildcats: Perfect new hire in the perfect spot has to go to Kevin Sumlin. He had a nice run at Texas A&M with a similar dual-threat QB in Johnny Manziel. In Tucson, he inherits a Heisman Trophy hopeful in Kahlil Tate… who led the Wlldcats to a 7-win season last year and an average of more than 40 points per game. Tate has a rocket arm to go with top-end speed. The perfect marriage to go with Sumlin, who will bring his quick-strike, spread offense to Arizona... who also returns SEVEN guys from last year. This could be a special season for the Wildcats, who could conceivably play for the PAC 12 title in a weakened West Division. At the very least, their tougher games are at HOME (vs USC and Oregon). And their more winnable games are on the road (Oreg St, UCLA, Wash St).
9. What will we remember the most about the 2018 football season?
1 OVERALL: Wagering LEGALLY on College and Professional sports in MULTIPLE states… It's about freakin' time. #LetThemBet!
Top Five in NFL:
(1) The Beginning of the END for the New England Patriots… and their tremendous run over the last 15 seasons.
(2) The Pittsburgh Steelers winning the AFC Central Division not because of their offense, but a great DEFENSE instead.
(3) The Atlanta Falcons returning to their 2016 form of DYNAMIC offense, in which they averaged 34 ppg.
(4) The Seattle Seahawks 'Legion of Doom' defense being one of the worst in the league in 2018. (5) The Cleveland Browns STILL in the hunt for a possible Playoff spot as we get into the last month of the season (hey, a guy can DREAM, can't he?)