NFL - Winners and Losers from Week 1

Quarterback Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos and tight end Julius Thomas #80 celebrate Thomas' third touchdown reception of the first half of a game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on September 7, 2014 in Denver, Colorado. (September 6, 2014, Source: Justin Edmonds/Getty Images North America)

Marshawn Lynch

It is hard to single out a Seahawks player as they dominated the Green Bay Packers on both sides of the ball, but RB Marshawn Lynch stood out a little bit extra. The 28-year old scored 2 rushing touchdowns and ran for 110 yards, averaging 5.5 yards per carry.

Matt Ryan

Matty “Ice” was hot on Sunday. Atlanta’s quarterback completed 31 of 43 pass attempts for 448 yards and 3 touchdowns and finished with a passer rating of 128.8, as the Falcons beat the Saints 37-34 in overtime.

Tennessee Titans

The Titans outplayed the Kansas City Chiefs on every level. On defense they intercepted QB Alex Smith three times and limited RB Jamaal Charles to 19 rushing yards. On offense they rushed for 162 yards and QB Jake Locker finished with a passer rating of 111.4, completing 66.7% of his passes for 266 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Knowshon Moreno

The Dolphins signed the 27-year old running back to a one-year deal in the offseason but Moreno is making a case for a long-term contract. The sixth-year pro out of Georgia ran for 134 yards and 1 touchdown against the New England Patriots. He is averaging 4.1 yards per carry throughout his career.

New York Jets Rushing Offense

New York’s workload split at the running back position between RB Chris Johnson and RB Chris Ivory may cause problems for many teams this season. Johnson accounted for 68 yards on 13 carries and Ivory ran for 102 yards and 1 touchdown. The Jets have the best rushing offense in the league for now, totalling 212 yards against the Oakland Raiders.

Pittsburgh Steelers Offense

The Steelers rushed for 127 yards against the Cleveland Browns and passed for an additional 363 yards. QB Ben Roethlisberger, who finished with a completion percentage of 67.6% and a passer rating of 100.7, found WR Antonio Brown 5 times for 116 yards and a touchdown. RB Le’Veon Bell ran for 109 yards on 21 carries and 1 touchdown.

Cincinnati Bengals Pass Protection

Cincinnati’s offensive line didn’t allow a single sack and enabled QB Andy Dalton to pass for 301 yards at the Baltimore Ravens.

Ryan Fitzpatrick

The 31-year old had an outstanding debut for the Houston Texans. Fitzpatrick completed 14 of 22 passes for 206 yards and threw 1 touchdown for a passer rating of 109.3.

Julius Thomas

Denver’s tight end had the probably best game of his career, catching 7 passes for 104 yards and 3 touchdowns, as the Broncos beat the Indianapolis Colts 31-24.

Matthew Stafford

Detroit’s 26-year old signal caller dissected New York’s defense en route to a 35-14 victory. Stafford completed 68.8% of his passes for 346 yards and 2 touchdowns. He finished with a passer rating of 125.3.

Carson Palmer

Carson Palmer orchestrated a 12-point comeback in the fourth quarter (well, both two-point conversions failed) to lead the Arizona Cardinals to an 18-17 win over the San Diego Chargers. On Monday night he completed 24 of 37 passes for 304 yards, 2 touchdowns and a passer rating of 108.4.

Chicago Bears Rushing Defense

The Bears ranked last in 2013, allowing opposing running backs to average 161.4 yards per game. In this season’s opener they surrendered 193 yards on the ground. Buffalo’s RBs C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson and Anthony Dixon each rushed for 50+ yards. The Bears will find it hard to make the playoffs if they cannot stop the run.

St. Louis Rams

You knew this would be a difficult season for the Rams after QB Sam Bradford re-tore his ACL in the preseason but Saturday’s performance would put them at the bottom of pretty much any NFL power rankings. Most surprisingly, St. Louis’ defense did not get anything going against the Minnesota Vikings.

Toby Gerhart

It may be unfair to nominate Jacksonville’s running back as he sustained an ankle injury in the game, but the Jaguars could not protect their 17-point lead against the Philadelphia Eagles in the second half because Gerhart was unable to produce. He finished the game with 42 yards on 18 carries.

Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys committed 4 turnovers, which resulted in 21 points for the San Francisco 49ers. QB Tony Romo threw 3 interceptions and RB DeMarco Murray lost a fumble which CB Chris Culliver returned 35 yards for a touchdown. After 10 minutes, the Cowboys dug a hole for themselves too deep to climb out of.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Buccaneers should have beaten the Carolina Panthers, who missed QB Cam Newton, but their turnovers proved costly. QB Josh McCown’s 2 interceptions and RB Bobby Rainey’s fumble led to 17 points for the Panthers.

Are the 49ers going to lift the Vince Lombardi Trophy this Year?

Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers celebrates with teammate Michael Crabtree after a touchdown was scored against the Baltimore Ravens during Super Bowl XLVII at the Mercedes Benz Superdome on February 3, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (February 2, 2013, Source: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images North America)

The San Francisco 49ers have the best record in the NFL since head coach Jim Harbaugh took over in 2011. The team won 36 of their 48 regular season games but suffered three heartbreaking playoff losses (twice in the NFC Championship Game and once in Super Bowl XLVII) and essentially finished each season empty-handed. Is this the year the Niners will finally succeed?

Improving the roster is imperative when you compete in the strongest division in the NFL and the 49ers had quite the turnover in the offseason.

A lot has been made about the departures of S Donte Whitner, CB Carlos Rogers and CB Tarrell Brown, presumably making the secondary weaker, but the acquisitions of S Antoine Bethea (Indianapolis) and CB Chris Cook (Minnesota) are adequate replacements. San Francisco's defensive backfield may lack a superstar but its depth is extraordinary, which is a true asset in a pass-happy league.

C Jonathan Goodwin left for the New Orleans Saints. C Daniel Kilgore, his replacement, comes from within the team's own ranks. He is a versatile offensive lineman but new to the center position. There may be a learning curve involved but the Niners are confident that he gets the job done.

In recent years San Francisco's receiving corps suffered injuries that left the unit thin at this position. The Niners lost WR Mario Manningham to the New York Giants in the offseason but acquired WR Stevie Johnson (Buffalo), WR Brandon Lloyd (New England) and WR Bruce Ellington (Draft) and now appear extremely deep at the wide receiver position. QB Colin Kaepernick has plenty of reliable targets to excel as a passer and San Francisco's aerial attack should become much more dangerous this season.

One big area of concern are the contract negotiations with head coach Jim Harbaugh. He wants to be paid like a Super Bowl winning coach (his brother earns $2m more per year and has actually won a Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens) and the 49ers want him to bring the Vince Lombardi Trophy back to San Francisco before they give him a pay rise. This must not become a distraction because Harbaugh's main concern should be winning ballgames.

There have also been reports of a growing rift between the head coach and several key players. Whether those reports are true is a different story but good team chemistry is necessary in order to achieve the goals.

The competition did not sleep either. The Seattle Seahawks may have lost some solid contributors but the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots look better on paper than they did one year ago.

49ers Keys to Success

Colin Kaepernick's progress needs to continue. He is a great scrambler but the option offense is so much more effective with great pocket presence.

RB Frank Gore must not slow down. Last year his numbers were down compared to previous seasons, though 1,128 yards, 4.1 yards per carry and 9 rushing touchdowns are still good statistics. Gore's backups are more or less unproven players, hence the Niners rely on another productive season from the 31-year old veteran.

A healthy roster. Derrick Deese, Super Bowl winning right guard with the 49ers in 1995, believes that the Niners should have a great shot at going to the dance again as long as the injury bug doesn't bite them. ILB NaVorro Bowman will miss half the season with a knee injury, so it's important that the rest of San Francisco's key players stay healthy.

All things considered, the 49ers are one of the favorites to win Super Bowl XLIX but the road to Glendale, Az is going to be long and tough. Winning the NFC West and clinching home-field advantage are important to avoid going to hostile places. After that, everything is possible.  

When will Buffalo's Playoff Drought end?

ORCHARD PARK, NY, May 18: Sammy Watkins #14 of Buffalo Bills pulls in a pass during the Buffalo Bills rookie minicamp on May 18, 2014 at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, New York. (May 17, 2014, Source: Brett Carlsen/Getty Images North America)

The NFL is all about parity. With the introduction of free agency and a salary cap 20 years ago dynasties like the 70s Pittsburgh Steelers, the 80s San Francisco 49ers or the 90s Dallas Cowboys became a thing of the past. Still, the Buffalo Bills, a great franchise themselves in the early 90s, have been struggling to make the playoffs since 1999.

The Bills are in a difficult position. For the fans it's all about a return to the postseason as soon as possible. For the organization it's about building a team that can compete for many years to come.

With their all-or-nothing approach in the offseason the Bills made it clear that ending the playoff drought is the number one priority. They traded up in the draft to acquire WR Sammy Watkins with the fourth overall pick. The deal came at a price though, costing the Bills a first and fourth round pick in next year's draft.

Sammy Watkins has all the tools to improve last year's fifth worst passing offense significantly but his impact will largely depend on the further development of second-year QB E.J. Manuel.

MLB Brandon Spikes was another great and necessary acquisition. Buffalo's run defense ranked 28th last season and the former Patriots standout is known as one of the best run stopper in the NFL.

CB Corey Graham is a solid addition to Buffalo's talented defensive backfield, though his role seems to be unclear at this point. He may end up playing nickelback but there are speculations that he will replace the departed FS Jairus Byrd at the safety position. Either way, Buffalo's pass defense, which ranked fourth last season, will probably not be quite as good it was last year.

Whether the WR Mike Williams trade was a wise move remains to be seen. He was acquired from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a sixth-rounder but he comes with an expensive contract, as he signed a six-year deal worth $40.25m in 2013. It did, however, help the Bills to offload WR Stevie Johnson to the San Francisco 49ers for a fourth-round pick in 2015. Williams will primarily be used in three-wideout sets and the red zone offense.

The spot behind the New England Patriots in the AFC East is up for grabs and the AFC in general is rather weak but I don't think the Bills did enough to end their playoff drought. Too much depends on an immediate impact from rookie Sammy Watkins and the progress of E. J. Manuel.  

How does an Injury affect Betting Odds?

Shea McClellin #99 of the Chicago Bears tackles Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers during the first quarter at Lambeau Field on November 04, 2013 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (November 3, 2013, Source: Mike McGinnis/Getty Images North America)

The Green Bay Packers were a Super Bowl contender in 2013 with a 5-2 record going into week 9 of the season. Aaron Rodgers had another stellar season up to this point completing 67.1% of his passes for 313.0 yards per game. Then the nightmare began.

In the game against the Chicago Bears Aaron Rodgers suffered a shoulder injury, which would sideline him for several weeks. This wasn't only a big deal for the Green Bay Packers and their fans but it also changed the odds relating to the team.

Initially, Green Bay's odds to win the Super Bowl dropped from 9-1 to 14-1 in week 10. This was a cautious approach because nobody knew when Rodgers would return to action. The odds of Green Bay's division rivals improved from 75-1 to 33-1 (Chicago) and 40-1 to 33-1 (Detroit).

Oddsmakers in Las Vegas ranked Aaron Rodgers as the third best quarterback in the league before the season. His Per-Game Value was 6 points, meaning he is almost worth a touchdown compared to his potential backup. If you subtract a touchdown per game from an 11-5 team, which the Packers arguably were, you will end up with an 8-8 record.

Without Aaron Rodgers the Packers went 2-5-1 but still managed to clinch the division title upon his return in the final week of the regular season by defeating the Chicago Bears. Green Bay finished the season with an 8-7-1 record.

Quarterback is the most sensitive position in football for oddsmakers. They don't get as nervous if a non-quarterback misses a game through injury. If Adrian Peterson were to be sidelined Minnesota's game odds would drop by 2.5 points. The likes of A.J. Green or J.J. Watt have a Per-Game Value of 1 point. Their injuries would be a big concern for their respective teams but for oddsmakers they are rarely the difference between a win and a loss.  

Boston Red Sox Outlook for 2014

Jackie Bradley Jr. #25 of the Boston Red Sox scores as Matt Wieters #32 of the Baltimore Orioles applies a late tag in the 2nd inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park on September 19, 2013 in Boston, Massachusetts. (September 18, 2013, Source: Jim Rogash/Getty Images North America)

The Boston Red Sox are getting ready to defend their World Series title as the start of the new season is fast approaching. After a turbulent offseason that saw CF Jacoby Ellsbury leave for their bitter rival the New York Yankees, Boston assembled a team good enough to compete for a repeat.

Boston's lineup is pretty much set and remains one of the strongest in the league as spring training is underway. The only position battle will be between Jackie Bradley Jr. and Grady Sizemore at centerfield. Bradley is a highly touted talent but struggled last season with a batting average of .189 and spent a lot of time playing Triple-A baseball.

Grady Sizemore has a history of injuries and hasn't played in the MLB since 2011. Last month he was signed to an incentive-laden contract, with $750,000 guaranteed and as much as $6 million in bonuses, depending on plate appearances and days on the major league roster. The former Cleveland Indian can only challenge for the starting job if he manages to shake off the injury bug.

LF Daniel Nava and LF Jonny Gomes will platoon in leftfield, with Nava getting the nod against right-handed pitching.

C A.J. Pierzynski was signed to a one-year, $8.25 million contract in the offseason. He replaces C Jarrod Saltalamacchia behind the plate and provides veteran leadership.

Projected Lineup:

RF Shane Victorino

LF Daniel Nava

2B Dustin Pedroia

DH David Ortiz

1B Mike Napoli

SS Xander Bogaerts

C A.J. Pierzynski

3B Will Middlebrooks

CF Jackie Bradley Jr.

The Red Sox possess one of the best rotations in the MLB. SP Ryan Dempster announced that he will sit out this season due to health issues and decided to stay with his family.

LHP Jon Lester and RHP Clay Buchholz have ace potential and could turn out to be a dominant one-two punch throughout the season if Buchholz manages to stay healthy.

RHP John Lackey exceeded expectations in Boston and proved to be a rock-solid middle-of-the-rotation pitcher. The same can be said about RHP Jake Peavy. 26-year old LHP Felix Doubront completes Boston's rotation.

Projected Rotation:

LHP Jon Lester

RHP Clay Buccholz

RHP John Lackey

RHP Jake Peavy

LHP Felix Doubront

The Boston Red Sox might have the best bullpen in the AL, if not the MLB. RHP Koji Uehara is the designated closer but nowhere near assured of this role.

RHP Edward Mujica was acquired from the St. Louis Cardinals and could step into the closer role should Uehara struggle or get injured. LHP Andrew Miller is another setup guy capable of closing out games for the Red Sox.

Projected Bullpen:

RHP Koji Uehara (closer)

RHP Edward Mujica

LHP Andrew Miller

LHP Craig Breslow

RHP Junichi Tazawa

RHP Burke Badenhop

RHP Brandon Workman

All things considered, the fans will more than likely see postseason baseball at Fenway Park in October. The AL East looks very competitive with the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees in particular but even if the Red Sox fail to win their division their record should be good enough for a wildcard.