Winners, losers from ‘Monday Night Football’ doubleheader in Week 1

To celebrate the first week of the season, fans were treated to a “Monday Night Football” doubleheader that featured plenty of fireworks.

Early, it was the Houston Texans visiting the New Orleans Saints. This one proved to be an entertaining, see-saw battle all game long. It wasn’t until the last second ticked off the clock that we knew which team would win, as New Orleans eked out a 30-28 victory.

Late in the evening, the AFC West was on display with a rivalry game featuring the Denver Broncos visiting the famed Black Hole and the Oakland Raiders. To the delight of the home crowd, the Raiders dominated, winning 24-16.

These were the biggest winners and losers from the season-opening “Monday Night Football” doubleheader.

Winner: The Hyde/Johnson duo is pretty dynamic

When the Texans lost Lamar Miller for the season with an ACL injury, it was easy to panic about their ability to run the ball consistently. Then, Houston pulled off a trade for Carlos Hyde. That proved to be a savvy move, as the power back was huge in Week 1.

Hyde rushed for 83 yards on 10 carries, providing the thunder in Houston’s offense. Former Cleveland Browns back Duke Johnson provided the lightning with 57 yards on the ground. He also provided a spark in the passing game with four catches for 33 yards. The duo combined on 175 yards from scrimmage and appears to be a solid tandem the Texans can count on this season.

Loser: J.J. Watt was practically invisible

Sep 9, 2019; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints offensive tackle Ryan Ramczyk (71) blocks Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt (99) in the second half at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

When Houston traded Jadeveon Clowney to the Seattle Seahawks for a pauper’s bounty, many wondered if the Texans could remain dominant up front without him. It was only one game, but on Monday it was pretty clear they won’t be the same.

In particular, star defensive end J.J. Watt was unbelievably unproductive. In fact, Watt didn’t register a single stat. Not one tackle. Not one quarterback hit. Not one pass defended. Nothing. Nada. Zilch.

Watt is too good to struggle like this all season. But perhaps he benefited from Clowney more than anyone realized. We’ll soon find out.

Winner: Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara — still pretty darn good

Sep 9, 2019; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas (13) celebrates with fans after a win against the Houston Texans during the second half at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Last season, Saints receiver Michael Thomas had one of the most impressive statistical seasons any wideout has ever had in the NFL. He caught an absurd 85% of the passes that came his way to the tune of 125 catches for 1,405 yards and nine touchdowns. On Monday night, Thomas picked up right where he left off. Catching 10 passes on 13 targets, he racked up 123 yards and was the main weapon in Drew Brees’ arsenal all game long. He’s already living up to the monster contract he signed this summer.

Fantasy football players also once again rejoiced at the production of Alvin Kamara on Monday night. He’s such a dynamic weapon, and he’s among the best the NFL has to offer in terms of bang for your buck. That was on display against Houston as Kamara racked up the yardage. He piled up 97 yards on just 13 carries and another 72 yards on seven receptions. That’s an average of 8.45 yards per touch.

Loser: Houston’s offensive line is still a huge problem

Sep 9, 2019; New Orleans, LA, USA; Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) reacts after a touchdown pass against the New Orleans Saints during the second half at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Deshaun Watson was sacked a league-leading 62 times last year and hit 125 times, and not surprisingly he got banged up quite a bit in the process. The Texans tried to fix this issue in the draft and then by trading for Laremy Tunsil right before the season began. But based on what transpired in Week 1 against New Orleans, this problem isn’t going away any time soon.

Hopkins was pummeled by the Saints. From the opening drive until the end, he took big hits in the pocket (and outside of it as well). Houston’s offensive line allowed six sacks and gave up 11 quarterback hits.

That puts Watson on pace to be sacked 96 times this year, and absorb 176 hits in the pocket. That’s not sustainable. And it’s going to get this young man hurt badly at some point.

Winner: Wil Lutz called game

Sep 9, 2019; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints kicker Wil Lutz (3) (behind) is mobbed by teammates after his game winning, 58-yard field goal against the Houston Texans in the second half at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

The final minute of the Texans-Saints game was insanely fun to watch for anyone who is not a Houston fan. It was also one of the best things we’ve seen in sports for some time now.

Deshaun Watson made two of the best throws under pressure you’ll ever see and tied the game on a touchdown pass to Kenny Stills. Then, Houston kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn missed the extra point, only to get a second chance due to a penalty. He made the kick, putting the Texans up by one point with just 37 seconds remaining in the game.

That’s when Drew Brees marched the Saints 35 yards down the field in 35 seconds, setting up a potential game-winner from 58 yards out.

Wil Lutz stepped onto the field, took a deep breath, and then called game.

Loser: Broncos struggled in the red zone

September 9, 2019; Oakland, CA, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Joe Flacco (5) passes the football against the Oakland Raiders during the first quarter at Oakland Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Broncos made a few nice pushes into to enemy territory against Oakland Monday night. They just couldn’t do much once they got into the red zone.

Four times, Joe Flacco had Denver in a position to score touchdowns inside the 20-yard line. Three times, the Broncos came up short. The only successful trip came late in the fourth quarter when the game was already practically over.

Rookie offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello struggled with the game plan. Flacco struggled to avoid pressure in key situations. The Broncos had one touchdown go right through their hands (literally), which we’ll get to in more detail later. Just an awful performance by Denver’s offense when it mattered most.

Winner: Darren Waller, Tyrell Williams, Josh Jacobs give Raiders some juice

Sep 9, 2019; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders tight end Darren Waller (83) carries the ball against Denver Broncos cornerback Isaac Yiadom (26) during the first quarter at Oakland Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

No Antonio Brown? No problem. The Raiders have plenty of offensive firepower, thanks to the emergence of ‘Hard Knocks’ star, tight end Darren Waller, free-agent acquisition Tyrell Williams and rookie running back Josh Jacobs.

Waller was a tremendous go-to option for Derek Carr in the middle of the field. He came through with seven catches for 70 yards and appears to be a centerpiece on this offense.

Williams did for Oakland what he’s been doing for the Chargers the past few years — make big plays down the field. He hauled in a gorgeous 43-yard pass and scored a touchdown, finishing with six catches for 105 yards.

Jacobs did an incredible job on the ground, rushing for 85 yards and two touchdowns. He also added 28 yards through the air.

This trio looks really good.

https://www.yardbarker.com/nfl/articles/winners_losers_from_monday_night_football_doubleheader_in_week_1/s1_12680_29957384

By: Jesse Reed

The best and worst moves of the NFL offseason

After a wild NFL offseason, the impact of team transactions is already becoming clearer as teams settle into the preseason.  1 of 24

Best: Bills sign John Brown

Young Bills quarterback Josh Allen has perhaps the strongest arm in the NFL, but the Bills were lacking a true speed receiver going into the offseason. That changed when they signed Brown to a three-year, $27 million contract. While Brown has struggled with injuries recently, he managed to stay on the field in Baltimore last year and averaged 17.0 yards per reception. He gives Buffalo the deep option it desperately needed. 2 of 24

Worst: Bengals re-sign Bobby Hart

Despite his struggles at tackle last year, the Bengals still re-signed Hart to a three-year, $21 million deal. That was much to the chagrin of Bengals fans who watched him struggle last year on what continues to be one of the league’s weakest offensive lines. 3 of 24

Best: Browns acquire Odell Beckham Jr.

The headlining move of the entire offseason was general manager John Dorsey’s trade for Beckham. Often a distraction in New York, Beckham is still undeniably one of the top wideouts in the league and now has a promising young quarterback in Baker Mayfield throwing him the ball. Cleveland is all in for the 2019 season, and Beckham is capable of bringing the Browns to the next level. 4 of 24

Worst: Broncos acquire Joe Flacco

There’s nothing that sets an NFL organization back more than investing in the wrong quarterback. Flacco’s experience is attractive, but he’s been one of the league’s worst starters over the last few years in Baltimore. Since 2015, Flacco is 24-27 as a starter with a mediocre 82.7 Quarterback Rating. It could just be that Flacco is a stopgap for second-round pick Drew Lock, but it looks like he will start most, if not all, of the 2019 season. 5 of 24

Best: Cardinals hire Kliff Kingsbury

Cardinals fans have reason to be excited about the near future even if the team doesn’t win many games this season. Kingsbury was regarded as an offensive genius at Texas Tech, and he has some interesting weapons to work with in Arizona, led by No. 1 overall pick Kyler Murray. Arizona’s defense could be a nightmare, much like Kingsbury’s defenses were with the Red Raiders, as Patrick Peterson is suspended to start the year and No. 2 corner Robert Alford is injured. Still, there should be plenty of scoring, with the hope that Arizona can get the personnel to develop a defense later. 6 of 24

Worst: 49ers sign Tevin Coleman

San Francisco had one of the league’s most potent running attacks last season, even without Jerick McKinnon, averaging 4.5 yards per attempt. Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert proved that they earned more playing time, but that’s unlikely to happen after the 49ers signed Coleman. He has a history with head coach Kyle Shanahan in Atlanta, but he has never seen 200 touches in an NFL season and seems replaceable for the two-year, $8.5 million price tag. 7 of 24

Best: Chiefs sign Tyrann Mathieu

The Chiefs defense lost Justin Houston, Dee Ford and Eric Berry in the offseason. Without those key veterans, they clearly needed new veteran leadership for new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s defense, and Mathieu is set to take on that role. He’s coming off one of his best seasons in Houston despite six years in the league and still just 27 years old. Mathieu’s versatility to play safety or corner is perfect for his new system and the Chiefs’ dire needs in the secondary. 8 of 24

Worst: Giants draft Daniel Jones

https://www.yardbarker.com/nfl/articles/the_best_and_worst_moves_of_the_nfl_offseason/s1__29808668#slide_1

By: Seth Trachtman

NFL stars looking to rebound from a rough 2018

Whether it was due to injury, age or just subpar play, many NFL players are looking to rebound after disappointing 2018 seasons. Here’s a look at 25 players hoping to bounce back.

Ezekiel Ansah, DE, free agent

Ansah had an injury-plagued year in 2018, likely his last in Detroit. He played only seven games, recording four sacks, and he struggled to find a market as a free agent this offseason due to a shoulder injury.

Vic Beasley, DE, Falcons

Beasley led the league with 15.5 sacks in 2016, but that production looks more like a fluke after his last two seasons. He had only five sacks in each of the last two seasons and also had just 20 tackles last year as a situational pass rusher. Atlanta desperately needs a rebound from him this year.

Randall Cobb, WR, Cowboys

At one time Cobb was Aaron Rodgers’ top receiver, but he’s struggled in Green Bay over the last three years. After playing only nine games due to injuries last season, he signed with the Cowboys to replace Cole Beasley as the team’s slot receiver.

Andy Dalton, QB, Bengals

Dalton’s last winning season as a starter was 2015. Last year he went 5-6 in 11 starts before a season-ending thumb injury. He also threw 11 interceptions during his time on the field. Bengals fans hope new head coach Zac Taylor can help Dalton take a step forward.

Joe Flacco, QB, Broncos

The writing was on the wall for Flacco in Baltimore after the team drafted Lamar Jackson. Despite adding several new receivers, Flacco went 4-5 as a starter with just 12 touchdown passes before giving way to Jackson due to a hip injury. Denver traded for Flacco in the offseason, but he’s in a similar situation after the Broncos drafted Drew Lock in the second round.

Leonard Fournette, RB, Jaguars

Jacksonville’s return for selecting Fournette fourth overall in the 2017 draft hasn’t been great thus far. He had more than 1,000 yards rushing in his rookie season but averaged only 3.9 yards per carry. Last season was worse, as he played only eight games mostly due to injuries and had a terrible 3.3 yards per rush attempt. Fournette also had minor legal issues during the offseason.

Devonta Freeman, RB, Falcons

Freeman has struggled to stay healthy over the last two seasons and played only two games last year due to foot and groin injuries. He’s still young enough to rebound going into his age 27 season, and the Falcons need him to be healthy after Tevin Coleman left in free agency.

Jimmy Graham, TE, Packers

Green Bay expected big things from Graham after signing him last offseason, but he was a relative disappointment with only 636 yards receiving and two touchdowns. Graham deserves credit for gutting out a thumb injury late in the year, but the expectation that he’d replace Jordy Nelson’s production didn’t come to fruition.

A.J. Green, WR, Bengals

Green has missed significant time in two of the last three seasons, sitting out seven games last year due to a toe injury. For the second straight year, Green’s production when he did play was also down significantly with only 77 receiving yards per game after averaging at least 80 yards from 2012-2016.

Full 25

By: Seth Trachtman

 

Winners and losers from NFL Week 12

Some pretty big stuff went down in NFL Week 12 as contenders scrapped for a foothold in the playoff chase heading into the season’s final quarter.

One game that featured teams on the other end of the spectrum gave us one of the most poetic moments of the season.

With only two teams on a bye this week, there was plenty of stuff to digest. These were the biggest winners and losers from the action.

Winner: Browns get revenge 

Cleveland did some incredible stuff in the first half on the road against Cincinnati. The Browns put up 28 points in the first half — essentially putting the game away before halftime. It was the first time since 1991 that they’d scored that many points in a first half.

It was also the first road win in 26 tries — saving the Browns from the embarrassment of setting another dubious NFL record.

Along the way, Baker Mayfield and Nick Chubb continued to show they’re going to be centerpieces in Cleveland for a long time. Mayfield threw multiple touchdowns for the fifth game in a row (he finished with four and no interceptions), and Chubb racked up 128 yards with two touchdowns.

Oh, and they did it all against their former head coach.

Loser: Who’s trash now, Ramsey?

Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey made headlines before the season for an interview he did in which he blasted many of the league’s quarterbacks. Among them, he singled Buffalo’s Josh Allen out, calling him “trash.” He would also take to social media to troll Allen, which made his disdain for the rookie all the more clear.

Well, Allen and the Bills took it to Ramsey and the Jaguars on Sunday, winning 24-21 in Buffalo, and honestly the game wasn’t really as close as that. Allen outplayed Blake Bortles — throwing a gorgeous 75-yard touchdown pass and scoring twice, helping his team hand Jacksonville its seventh loss in a row.

Right now, it’s clear that the Jags are trash. Being dismantled by Allen and the Bills at this point in the season accentuated that fact.

Winner: Lamar and Gus do it again

For the second weekend in a row, Lamar Jackson and Gus Edwards led a winning offensive attack as the Baltimore Ravens easily cruised past the Oakland Raiders.

Jackson accounted for 249 yards and two touchdowns, and Edwards was brilliant on the ground going for 118 yards on 23 carries — a lot of that coming in the second half as the Ravens protected the lead.

Earlier on Sunday before the games began, a report emerged that Jackson had a “strong shot” to retain the job even if Joe Flacco is healthy. Based on the way things have gone the past two weeks — Baltimore snapped a three-game losing streak last weekend and is now very much in the playoff hunt — benching the rookie would be a tough sell.

Loser: Oh, No, Gano!

There are a few things that stand out as big mistakes by Carolina on Sunday in their three-point loss to Seattle. The decision to go for it on fourth down at Seattle’s five-yard line on their first offensive possession backfired, for one. Cam Newton’s interception in the end zone on the first drive of the second half was brutal, too.

At the least, those mistakes cost Carolina potentially six points.

But despite them, the Panthers had a real chance to win at the end of the game. Newton and the offense moved into field-goal range with under two minutes remaining. Then, just like last weekend, Graham Gano — usually extremely reliable — missed the potential game-winner.

Seattle drove down the field and converted the actual game-winner with time expiring instead. Now at 6-5, having lost three straight games, a playoff spot is in no way guaranteed for these Panthers.

Continue Reading

By: Jesse Reed

Most overpaid NFL player at every position

With the requirements of the NFL salary cap, teams can ill afford to be wasteful in their attempt to build a Super Bowl contender. Here’s a look at the most overpaid players at every position in the NFL entering the 2018 season. Salaries are cap hits, according to Spotrac.com.

Quarterback: Joe Flacco, Ravens

The Ravens are taking a cap hit of nearly $25 million from Flacco in 2018, fourth highest in the NFL, yet fans can’t wait to see him depart. He had only 3,141 yards passing and 18/13 TD/INT last season, and Baltimore drafted Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson in the first round to be his successor.

Running Back: Latavius Murray, Vikings

Murray filled in adequately last season after rookie Dalvin Cook got injured, but he still lacked consistency with less than four yards per carry. The former Raider also lacks great versatility as a receiver, yet he counts $5.2 million against the cap this season, 10th most at his position. Minnesota hopes he does more sitting behind Cook this season.

Fullback: Kyle Juszczyk, 49ers

Juszczyk blew away the fullback pay scale when he signed a four-year, $21 million deal with the 49ers before last season. With a cap hit of more than $4.4 million, he makes almost double that of the second-highest-paid fullback. No matter how much he helps the 49ers, it’s clear they overpaid.

Wide Receiver: Randall Cobb, Packers

At his best, Cobb is a true playmaker, but that hasn’t been the case over the last few seasons. He’s averaged around 10 yards per reception over the last three years, among the worst at his position, and had just 66 receptions for 653 yards and four scores in 15 games during 2017. However, he’s the eighth-highest-paid wideout against the cap this year, making nearly $12.8 million.

Full List here

By Seth Trachtman

 

Joe Flacco In Concussion Protocol After Hit From Kiko Alonso

Written by AP at FoxSports.com

The Baltimore Ravens are angry and calling for a review of the rule book after watching Joe Flacco being helped off the field, bleeding and disoriented following a late hit.

Flacco sustained a concussion Thursday night against Miami after he went into a slide designed to prevent the quarterback from being tackled. The Ravens were off Friday, and provided no update on the quarterback’s condition.

It is unclear if Flacco will be ready when Baltimore plays on Nov. 5 at Tennessee.

Dolphins linebacker Kiko Alonso crushed Flacco late in the first half Thursday night, forcing his exit in a game the Ravens would win 40-0. Alonso received a penalty for unnecessary roughness on the play, but that was of little consolation to the Ravens.

”He was sliding, and the guy came in high. They’re trying to take that play out, but it happens,” safety Eric Weddle said. ”Maybe they’ll look at in in the offseason, and in that situation, the guy should get ejected.”

Flacco threw a touchdown pass earlier in the game and helped Baltimore take a 13-0 lead before Alonso’s hit ripped the helmet from the quarterback’s head and put a gash near his ear that required stitches.

”Was it clean? Was it dirty? It doesn’t matter,” Ravens linebacker C.J. Mosley said. ”At the end of the day, our quarterback went down, and the whole team took it personally.”

Alonso insisted the hit to the head was unintentional.

”I thought he was going to slide. And then, I had to hit him, because he slid too late,” Alonso said. ”It was bang-bang. I don’t know what else I could have done.”

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Fantasy Start’em, Sit’em for Week 2


Written by Michael Beller at SI.com

Some of the league’s borderline start/sit plays ended up as swing players for a lot of fantasy owners in Week 1. Jameis Winston threw for 281 yards and four touchdowns in a win over the Falcons. Willie Snead hauled in nine passes from Drew Brees for 172 yards and a score. Danny Woodhead totaled 120 yards from scrimmage and hit paydirt twice, finishing as the week’s No. 7 running back in standard-scoring leagues.

Start/sit decisions can make or break fantasy matchups, and we help you make the tough ones every week. Let’s get to the plays and fades for Week 2.

Be sure to check back with our start/sit column from the time it debuts on Thursday all the way through to kickoff on Sunday. As new information becomes available, we’ll update the column to reflect the landscape as it is at that moment. You’ll also be able to find start/sit advice from us in the form of our weekly rankings and our Facebook Live chat every Sunday beginning at 12:15 p.m. ET.

Quarterbacks

Start

Joe Flacco (at Cleveland)

Flacco is primed to be the latest example of why the stream life works so well with quarterbacks in traditional leagues. He and the Ravens offense should have their way against a Cleveland defense that made Carson Wentz look like a successful 10-year veteran last week. Add to that the still muddled backfield situation for the Ravens, and you get a recipe for a monster game from Flacco. He has top-five upside at the position this week.

Derek Carr (vs. Atlanta)

Carr threw just one touchdown last week, but don’t let that cloud how good he was against the Saints. He threw for 319 yards and 8.4 yards per attempt, helping lead his team to a 35–34 win. Atlanta could not slow down Jameis Winston and the Buccaneers last week, and that does not bode well for a showdown with the ascending Raiders. Carr also carries top-five upside in Week 2.

Andrew Luck (at Denver)

Too many fantasy owners love to get cute and over-think the situation. Yes, Luck and the Colts have a tough matchup against a Denver defense that boasts the best secondary in the league and mostly kept Cam Newton in check, at least through the air. Did you see what Luck did against Detroit last week, though? Forget the results. Luck had 47 pass attempts, and that could be closer to the norm than the exception this season. Thanks to both volume and talent, Luck is matchup-proof.

Marcus Mariota (at Detroit)

Mariota played a sloppy game against a strong Minnesota defense last week, but still came away with 16.74 points in standard-scoring leagues, making him the No. 15 quarterback. He’s in a much better spot this week, going up against a Detroit defense that would be happy to be league average this season. Mariota is a low-end QB1 in Week 2.

*Superflex Special*

Josh McCown (vs. Baltimore)

Those of you in superflex or two-QB leagues lucky enough to already own McCown, or snag him off the waiver wire this week, are in good shape. The veteran takes over an offense with a bevy of playmakers and a suspect running game, putting him in position to be the driving force in the offense. Thanks to Cleveland’s poor defense and a couple of offenses stronger through the air than on the ground, this game has sneaky high-scoring potential. McCown slots as a low-end QB2 this week.

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Joe Flacco Returns To Camp Healthy

Written by Kyle P. Barber at Baltimore Beatdown

Tonight’s practice by far was the fieriest training camp practice the Baltimore Ravens experienced this season, and maybe in quite a few years. It included two scuffles during O-line / D-Line drills, two more during the 11 on 11 match-ups, and one last feud during true football scenarios. The tension high for new players under the stadium lights apparently, as rookie linebacker Kamalei Correa tested both Dennis Pitta and Mike Wallace. Joe Flacco, the team’s captain, quarterback and leader finally put an end to the scuffles during the 11’s scenario, confronting the young Correa and testing whether he really wanted to step up with the O-line in tow.

“Ha! Listen, I’m protected man,” Joe said. “I can say whatever I want to him cause I got a big army coming behind me. It wasn’t nice, but like I said, I mean I really didn’t have to be scared. I got a big army coming behind me. I think he was too smart. I challenged him to see if he was willing to come after me a little bit, and he made the right decision I think.”

Dennis Pitta gave his reason why he got into the scuffle that ended with him spraining a finger.

“Without going into detail I think there was some after the whistle stuff that wasn’t necessary,” Pitta said.

The finger is a simple day to day injury, they are only playing it safe because being out a few days in camp is much better than an injury during the regular season.

Joe Flacco teased Dennis about the injury.

“He got his little baby injury that he always gets in camp and gets him out of a week in camp,” Joe teased. “That’s better than breaking his hip though.”

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NFL Training Camp Storylines To Watch For

Written by Adam Schein at NFL.com

The return of football means the return of football chatter. And let’s be honest: Much of the chatter is, well, hot air. You have guys making headlines in late July and August who, in many cases, just won’t be factors from September through February.

But not to fear: The Schein Nine is here!

Allow me to keep you focused this training camp. Avoid getting bogged down in the minutiae! Here are nine things we SHOULD be talking about in the coming weeks:

1) The QB situation we should be talking about: Joe Flacco’s recovery

Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Jets just reached an agreement. Going forward, we’re certain to hear a bunch about the quarterback competitions in Denver, San Francisco and Cleveland. But I’m here to say that everyone should pay close attention to what’s going on at Ravens camp. Joe Flacco’s health is, quite simply, everything for Baltimore. Yes, Joe Flacco is elite. He’s a Super Bowl champ with a rocket for an arm. Flacco leads by example — and the Ravens follow.

Baltimore placed six players on the Physically Unable to Perform list to start camp. Flacco was not one of these players. Highly significant. The RavensQB ripped up his ACL last November, so being ready for everything at training camp counts as a big deal.

The Ravens had incredibly bad luck with injuries last year. As the USA Today recently pointed out, eight Week 1 starters in 2015 went on to suffer season-ending injuries, with Flacco,Terrell Suggs, Steve Smith Sr. and Justin Forsett being the most prominent. No wonder Baltimore crashed and burned to 5-11 — the first losing season in the John Harbaugh era.

If Flacco can stay healthy and be on the field for Week 1, that will be a good way to flip to script. This organization, with a great coach and front office, should return to solid ground in 2016. With a healthy Flacco, Baltimore will be in the mix for the playoffs. Without an injured or compromised Flacco? Baltimore will be in trouble (again).

2) The head coach we should be talking about: Chip Kelly

Of course it’s Chip Kelly. It’s always Chip Kelly.

Chip Kelly The General Manager got Chip Kelly The Coach fired in Philly. Frankly, his general personality didn’t appear to help him much, either. But I digress. I was happy to see Kelly get a second chance with the San Francisco 49ers.

Say what you will about Kelly’s personnel savvy (or lack thereof), but the guy can coach. In three years with Philadelphia — a team that went 4-12 in the season prior to his arrival — Kelly logged two 10-win seasons, one division title and an overall record of 26-21. Could do much worse than that.

Now, let’s see what he learned from his first pro coaching assignment. How will his relationships be with the players and the front office? What about implementing his system? Does he have a quarterback? Is Blaine Gabbert reallyleading this competition? Can he rebootColin Kaepernick’s once-promising career?

There’s always so much intrigue with the quirky coach.

But the expectations are low around Kelly’s new team. The roster is pretty bare. Honestly, San Francisco might be the worst team in the NFC. I love Chip, but the Niners are so far away from where they were just a few years ago under Jim Harbaugh.

Could Chip shock the world with his offense? Will he combust? I can’t wait to find out.

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Flacco Signs Extension with Baltimore


Written by Jamison Hensley at ESPN.com

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco wasn’t in a rush to sign a contract that would make him among the highest-paid players in NFL history.

Flacco said the sides hammered out the three-year extension quicker than he anticipated, and the deal was essentially completed earlier in the week. But he chose to “sleep on it” before officially agreeing to the contract Wednesday.

“This only happens two or three times in a career,” Flacco said at Wednesday’s news conference. “I had to sit back and remind myself what a big deal this is and what a big decision this is. I’m as happy as can be. I’m not going to think about this another day past today.”

The three-year agreement is worth $66.4 million and includes an NFL record $40 million signing bonus, a source told ESPN’s Adam Caplan. This allows the Ravens to keep their franchise quarterback under contract through 2021 and alleviates some restless nights in the future for general manager Ozzie Newsome.

“I just spent about five days with GMs [at the NFL combine] that are looking for a Joe Flacco,” Newsome said. “They’re not sleeping at night. I can tell you that. Joe is our quarterback and I’m proud to say that.”

Flacco’s signing bonus is $3 million more than what any other NFL player had ever received. The deal also includes $44 million fully guaranteed ($40 million in a signing bonus and a $4 million base salary in Year 1), according to Caplan.

Flacco, though, said money wasn’t a motivating factor for the deal.

“Once this thing is signed and over with it, [winning] is all that we’re worried about,” Flacco said. “This gives us the best chance to move forward over the next five, six years. It’s a huge window to go win another Super Bowl.”

The Ravens lowered Flacco’s $28.55 million cap number, which was the third highest in the NFL, and created $6 million in cap space just a week before free agency begins. But Newsome said that’s not what prompted the sides to hammer out a new deal.

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