NBA Power Rankings: 3 Weeks In

This is the first in-season NBA power rankings for Around the Block. We are about an 8th of the way through the season, with every team playing between 9-11 games so far. The season has gotten off to a great start, with rookies making their mark, former dynasties looking revamped and a wide-open race to the finals. There have been surprises all over the league, good and bad. Here is the first look at where all 30 teams stack up thus far.

nba power rankings
Credit: The Guardian

1) Golden State Warriors

Record: 9-1

Before the season I wrote about my favorite over-under bets for the NBA season. My number one pick was the Warriors to go over, and so far that looks like a fantastic bet. The Warriors have jumped out to hot start, with the best record in the league at 8-1. The Warriors have the league’s best defensive rating, along with the current MVP front runner in Stephen Curry. They are doing all this without last year’s 2nd overall pick James Wiseman and the imminent return of Klay Thompson. This team should only get better. I expect them to be near the top of these rankings all season long.

2) Philadelphia 76ers

Record: 8-3

Without patting myself on the back too much, I also had the 76ers beating their projected win total. Even with the ongoing Ben Simmons drama, and missing some of their key players due to Covid. The Sixers have picked up where they left off last regular season, dominating the east. Joel Embiid has produced at the same level we have seen the past four seasons. The emergence of Seth Curry has been one of the bright spots for this team. Curry currently is 3rd in true shooting percentage league-wide. A stat historically dominated by bigs who take the majority of their shots within 5 feet of the basket. While the shooting numbers are unsustainable, the Sixers will be able to keep pace once they get some key players back and sort out of the Simmons situation.

Update: This was written prior to the news of Joel Embiid being put into health and safety protocol for a minimum of 10 days

3) Brooklyn Nets

Record: 7-4

Another team with a lot of drama surrounding, the Nets took a couple games to return to form; specifically James Harden. The Nets can compete with any team in the league when Harden is playing as he did in Toronto. The Nets are getting valuable minutes from their veterans, they are one of the best in the league and they are doing this all without one of the top 20 players in the league. The Kyrie situation currently doesn’t have any end in sight, but there are rumors New York could change its vaccine stance which would allow Irving to rejoin the team without major repercussions. The Nets will continue to win games as long as they have two of their three stars in action, and a supporting cast that perfectly suits the big 3.

4) Miami Heat

Record: 7-3

The Heat were on top of many power rankings before to their brutal loss to the Celtics. Miami has come out guns blazing and the way the game is being officiated has given an advantage to physical defense, Miami’s specialty. One of my favorite parts of the early season is members of the media talking about Kyle Lowry’s defense, shooting, and play-making. Essentially admitting they didn’t watch any of Kyle in Toronto, as he continues to be the same All-Star caliber player. Combined with the re-emergence of Tyler Herro’s scoring ability, the Heat are built for a playoff run.

5) Utah Jazz

Record: 7-3

The Jazz continue to dominate in the regular season, where Rudy Gobert shines as the front-runner for Defensive Player of the Year once again. Two of the three Jazz losses have come without Mike Conley, a great sign for the Conley-Mitchell backcourt. The Jazz have a deep rotation with the ability to cover any injury setbacks. The real issues start in the playoffs where teams go small to pull Gobert away from the basket. For the time being the Jazz are one of the best in the west, especially when Conley is at full health.

6) Milwaukee Bucks

Record: 4-6

The Bucks currently sit in the final spot for the eastern play-in game, of course, it is only 10 games in but things have broken wrong for Milwaukee. Jrue Holiday missed 5 games, Brook Lopez hasn’t played since opening night and Khris Middleton continues to be in health and safety protocol due to Covid. The defending champs are off to their worst start since the 2017-2018 season, but this roster when fully healthy is a top 5 team in the league. Giannis Antetokounmpo has played his butt off to keep the Bucks ready to make a run and push back into the top of the east.

7) Dallas Mavericks

Record: 7-3

Luka Doncic added another career highlight when he sunk the Celtics with a 3 point buzzer-beater. Doncic continues to break the brain of every NBA fan, hitting shots that no 6’7 human should hit. With the game-winner Saturday, Luka tied Dirk Nowitzki for the most game-winning buzzer beaters in Dallas history. The Mavs go as Luka does, and so far this season that is good for the third-best record in the west. The rest of the roster could use some upgrades, another wing or ball handler would be ideal for this team. Jalen Brunson has been a much-needed boost off the bench and has shown he can provide valuable minutes in crunch time. His performance against San Antonio was easily one of his best.

8) Phoenix Suns

Record: 6-3

Last season’s western champions bring back an almost identical roster. The Suns know the formula to a winning season, they just need to shake off the rust of a shorter than average offseason. Chris Paul moved into 3rd place on the All-time assist leaderboard, jumping Mark Jackson and Steve Nash in the process. He had a season-high 18 assists on Tuesday. The Suns will be competitive all season long as they are among the West’s elite, but most of their play has been overshadowed by the tragic reports about owner Robert Sarver and his inexcusable behavior.

9) Denver Nuggets

Record: 5-4

The Nuggets are a one-man show for the time being. Nikola Jokic leads the team in every statistical category. He is playing even better than his MVP season and carrying the Nuggets to a 5-4 record. Jokic’s biggest improvement this season has come on the defensive side of the ball, he is 2nd in the league in individual defensive rating, behind reigning DPOY Rudy Gobert and ahead of former DPOY Draymond Green. Jokic has made strides on that side of the ball using technique and IQ to keep pace with faster and more athletic players. The Nuggets have the potential to finish higher on this list if Michael Porter Jr. can get out of his slump. Coming off a major 172 million dollar extension, he has been one of the most disappointing players in the league this season.

10) Chicago Bulls

Record: 7-3

The Bulls are off to their best start since the Derrick Rose days, their offseason additions have made the biggest impact league-wide. While many were skeptical of the DeMar DeRozan – Zach Lavine fit, the two have meshed very well. DeRozan has shown he can be a key contributor on a winning team again. Free-agent signee Alex Caruso has exceeded expectations to help the Bulls thus far, but no player has had a bigger impact on the Bulls than Lonzo Ball. Ball is the perfect piece to tie this unit together, his play-making and defensive impact have been crucial in every Bulls win this season. The Bulls will continue to be an offensive powerhouse as they have 3 players who can score at will, the team’s issue will come on the defensive front. The Bulls best defensive player Patrick Williams was on the verge of a breakout, but after breaking his wrist the Bulls won’t see him again until next season.

11) Memphis Grizzlies

Record: 6-4

The Grizz have been of the league’s early-season darlings. Ja Morant is a bonafide star, leading the NBA in points in the post. Ja is 6’3, his layup package so far this season is unmatched. The Grizz are getting healthier and have a young team with a lot of talent, Jaren Jackson Jr. started off slow but has picked up his play over the past couple of games. With Dillon Brooks on his way back from injury, Memphis should be competitive all season long.

12) Washington Wizards

Record: 7-3

When the Wizards traded Russell Westbrook to the Lakers, many people wrote the team off. Westbrook was not a fantastic fit beside Beal but the team was trending in the wrong direction. 10 games into the season and the Wizards sit ahead of the Lakers in the power rankings (not by much, but we’ll get there). Washington is experiencing what Bill Simmons calls the Ewing effect, in short – the Ewing effect represents an uptick in play from a team when they lose a “star”. The Wizards look completely different this season, they are getting the most out of new additions. Montrezl Harrell is one of the front-runners for Sixth Man of the Year, Kyle Kuzma has carved out a nice role as a starter and Spencer Dinwiddie is finding his legs after missing the majority of last season. The Wizards are the surprise team of the league thus far.

13) Los Angeles Lakers

Record: 6-5

This spot feels low for the Lakers, but also high? I’m not sure what to make of this year’s Lakers. They still have LeBron, who is currently out with an abdominal strain that was initially expected to keep him out for just a week. There are now rumors it could keep him out much longer. The roster construction of the Lakers is a mess, Anthony Davis is one of the league’s best but the Russell Westbrook experience has had mixed results. The Lakers could have had Buddy Hield (a career 40% three-point shooter) while having more cap to resign free agents like Alex Caruso. The Lakers are a talented team, but they need to figure out a better rotation and hope LeBron can stay healthy after a rough 8 months.

14) New York Knicks

Record: 7-4

BING BONG! The new catchphrase of the Knicks can be heard and seen across NBA arenas league-wide. It has captivated basketball in New York and the Knicks are looking to build off of last season. RJ Barrett has been the Knicks’ best player so far, showing flashes of a future all-star. The Knicks started hot but have dropped three of their last four, as they look to build chemistry with new offseason additions. While the offense has been fine, the Knicks defense will need to get back on track to keep them in the playoff race, and out of the play-in game.

15) Toronto Raptors

Record: 6-5

Coming off of a five-game win streak, the Raptors dropped two straight over the weekend, but that shouldn’t halt the buzz surrounding this team. On July 29th the Raptors shocked the world by selecting Scottie Barnes fourth overall, with cries from fans to take Jalen Suggs who went one pick later. 11 games into the season and Barnes has all the looks of a future star. After Sunday’s loss to the Nets Kevin Durant raved about the young rookie, to the delight of Raptors fans league-wide. Combined with the emergence of OG Annunoby and the return of Pascal Siakam, the Raptors are once again set up to destroy all offseason predictions regarding the team.

16) Cleveland Cavaliers

Record: 7-4

Speaking of rookies, Evan Mobley has been getting his share of praise. Mobley played the best game of his young career on Sunday at Madison Square Garden, dominating every aspect of the game. Mobley has earned the nickname “Baby KG” after the great Kevin Garnett. His defense at such a young age has been unbelievable to watch, Mobley leads the league in contested shots, not just rookies. The Cavs have been another surprise as they have gotten lots out of new additions Lauri Markknen and Ricky Rubio. As someone who had lots of questions regarding the roster construction, I can happily say. I was wrong.

17) Portland Trailblazers

Record: 5-5

The Blazers and new head coach Chauncey Billups have not gotten off to an ideal start. Damian Lillard is in the midst of the worst shooting slump of his entire NBA career. Dame is averaging just 18.5 PPG (points per game), down from 28.8 last season and 6 points lower than his career average of 24.6. It is easy to see that his shooting splits have completely cratered to start the season, I expect Lillard to find his game and the Blazers to move up in these rankings. To make matters worse the Blazers are now dealing with an in-house investigation of a toxic workplace environment caused by current GM Neil Olshey.

18) Los Angeles Clippers

Record: 5-4

The Clippers are getting healthier, with the return of Serge Ibaka after offseason surgery. Paul George has carried this team most nights, with little help from the rest of the roster. Terrence Mann has been the lone other bright spot while slowly playing more minutes and becoming a hound on the defensive end. This Clippers team definitely has its limitations but the play-in game is definitely within reach.

19) Charlotte Hornets

Record: 5-7

The league’s most fun team, the Hornets are coming off their worst loss of the season to the 9-1 Warriors. Charlotte has ways to go on the defensive side of the ball, as LaMelo Ball continues to struggle defensively. The Hornets have now lost five straight after a dominant start to the season, Miles Bridges has come out hot, and seems to be the early favorite for Most Improved.

20) Boston Celtics

Record: 4-6

Coming into the season, the Celtics were expected to be in the thick of the playoff race led by their two young Stars, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Through ten games, the Celtics have been one of the league’s most disappointing. After seemingly righting the ship with back-to-back wins in Florida, the Celtics gave up a massive fourth-quarter lead and then lost to another Luka dagger. The rumors have already started swirling as Shams Charania of The Athletic reported the Celtics have called about Sixers star Ben Simmons. The rumor suggests that any talks start with Celtics star Jaylen Brown who is in the midst of a career season statistically.

21) Atlanta Hawks

Record: 4-7

The 2021 Hawks have looked polar opposite to the team we saw in the eastern conference finals just five months ago. No player has struggled more to adjust to the new foul rules, than Trae Young. The Hawks have outright been bad, there is no sugar-coating it. This team is talented and has plenty of depth, I expect the Hawks to make a run and find their rhythm. The only positive surrounding this team is the early play of John Collins. He is shooting 59.6% from the field and 42.9% from 3, both would be career highs, all while shooting more than ever. If the rest of the Hawks can pick up their play, watch out.

22) Sacramento Kings

Record: 5-6

The Kings have had a really nice start to the season, while their best player De’Aaron Fox has struggled. Fox has been the one of league’s worst 3 point shooters, shooting just 20% so far. His PPG is also down from 25.8 to 18.9, aside from Fox the Kings have been a welcome surprise as the best of the league’s bad teams. Harrison Barnes is averaging 22.5 points and has become the de-facto late-game scorer. While I doubt the level of play is sustainable the Kings couldn’t have asked for a better start with this roster. I realize how sad that sounds with the team sitting at 5-6 but the roster is really really bad.

23) Indiana Pacers

Record: 4-7

The Pacers’ have been playing without fringe all-star and leading scorer Malcolm Brogdon due to Covid so the record does not tell the full story. Indiana has a talented roster and solid core between Brogdon, Domantas Sabonis, Myles Turner, and Caris LeVert. The team is adjusting to a new coach and a new system from Rick Carlisle. The Pacers have the pieces to be competitive and play for a spot in the play-in game. If things continue to go south the Pacers are a team to watch for a splash trade or full tear down.

24) Minnesota Timberwolves

Record: 3-6

The Wolves are on a five-game losing streak, they have a date with the Warriors on Wednesday. Things are not looking great for one of the league’s worst franchises. The Wolves are nearing a point where they should consider trading their best asset, Karl-Anthony Towns. Towns’ career has been rotting away in Minnesota and it is time to see what he can do on a good team. The Wolves have some talent around KAT in Anthony Edwards and D’Angelo Russell but it has been the same story since KAT was drafted. Another early lottery pick and we could see a trade request from more than one guy.

25) San Antonio Spurs

Record: 3-7

Long gone are the days of the Spurs dynasty, now it is the early stages of a rebuild. Dejounte Murray has easily been the Spurs’ best player averaging a crisp 18.4 points, 8.2 assists, 8.1 assists, and 2.1 steals per game. These numbers would put him in Hall of Fame company as the third player to average that since Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson. The Spurs have a plethora of young wings to coach up and reevaluate after the season to continue the rebuild.

26) Orlando Magic

Record: 3-8

The Magic have been helped by the emergence of Cole Anthony. Last year’s first-rounder has been one of the league’s most improved. He has carried a young Magic team to each of their three victories. The Magic are ways away from being a contender but they have some really nice players who could be a large part of the future. Fifth pick Jalen Suggs has not had an ideal start to his young career, while early his shooting woes have continued from college.

27) Oklahoma City Thunder

Record: 3-6

The Thunder are just letting Shai Gilgeous-Alexander just go to work, SGA is leading the NBA in isolation points per game. Shai has constantly kept this team in games and single-handedly beat the Lakers (without LeBron but still). Since the start of last season, the Thunder are 19-25 when he plays and 6-31 

28) Houston Rockets

Record: 1-9

The Rockets are the best of the one-win teams. This roster has some talent to trade away at the deadline. That is the story with the Rockets this season, keep acquiring assets and developing. This year’s second overall pick Jalen Green has shown flashes through ten games. His scoring has been on full display at times, with a high arcing shot and ferocious dunks. Green is about the only watchable part of the Rockets.

29) Detroit Pistons

Cade Cunningham, the first overall pick in this year’s draft is off to a bad start. There are plenty of statistics out there telling us he is off to the worst start for the first overall pick since Anthony Bennett. Cunningham is 20 years old, coming off an injury, and is working on changing his shot. I know it has not been encouraging to start but can we give the kid more than four games. Cunningham has struggled in just about every aspect but I would be shocked if he doesn’t turn it around.

30) New Orleans Pelicans

The Pels are a mess, missing their two best players they have been downright bad. Zion Williamson has been one of the leading news stories as he struggles to get healthy and rumors persist about his weight issues. Brandon Ingram is about to miss his fifth consecutive game, with hopes his return is imminent. The Pelicans are the laughing stock of the league until Zion can return and dominate the way he did last season. At his best, he is one of the league’s best and most efficient scorers. The hope is Zion can figure things out on his end so we can see him take his play to the next level.

Jamie Cutler’s Favorite NBA Win Totals for 2021

NBA win totals 2021 Credit: ClutchPoints

Every year, Bill Simmons does a two part NBA win total podcast going over every team and picking a side. It is always one of my favorite listens before the season starts; it helps get to gage where each team is at based on the consensus of basketball junkies I trust. This year I decided to hold off listening to the podcast so I could pick a few of my own. Win totals are always a fun bet that gives you more of a rooting interest in different teams. Without further ado, here are my five favorite NBA win totals for 2021.

Golden State Warriors Over 47.5 Wins

This is the first total that stuck out to me, each time I look, I keep coming back. The once dominant Warriors have come back to reality with a plethora of catastrophic injuries over the past couple seasons, but there is optimism in the bay once again. Klay Thompson is on track to play for the first time in over 2 years, clips of him practicing have looked encouraging. Stephen Curry is coming off an MVP caliber season, and the Warriors got better over the season.

The Warriors have much more talent this time around with Draymond Green, Andrew Wiggins, the return of Andre Igoudala and a another year of last years 2nd overall pick James Wiseman. Combined with two high draft picks and Otto Porter who has flashed signs of being a valuable role player in the past.

All of this depth plus a player who I expect to make a leap this season, Jordan Poole. Poole has really come into his own and he has shown flashes of being a true number 3 option on this team. Expect Poole to be a major part of the Warriors offence this season. The Warriors are ready to re-enter the title conversation, and should smash this win total.

Charlotte Hornets Under 38.5 Wins

The Hornets were one of the league’s most surprising teams last season, they beat their win total of 26.5 by 6 games. Come 2021 LaMelo Ball and co. have higher expectations. While I believe this team is on the right track, I think a lot broke right for Charlotte last season, from a weaker eastern conference to lucky breaks. The east has definitely improved this season, with the top 6 likely a combination of the Bucks, Celtics Hawks, Heat, Nets and 76ers. The Bulls, Knicks and Pacers all improved this season and added key contributors through personnel or coaching.

That is 9 teams currently set up to be better than Charlotte, not including a pesky Raptors squad and a always in the mix Wizards. The Hornets are young, but it feels like they are missing established vets who help right the ship during a tough stretch. I expect some growing pains from the young Hornets, this feels like a learning season to get LaMelo to the next level.

Philadelphia 76ers Over 50.5 Wins

One of the biggest question marks in the NBA right now is Ben Simmons. After talk all offseason that Simmons would not play for the Sixers again, Ben has finally reported and it sounds like he is on track to play for the team this season. A shocking development that no one expected, makes it hard to get a read on this team. The Sixers were the #1 seed in the east last season, winning 49 games in a shortened season. I believe this Sixers team is capable of winning 50 games with or without Ben Simmons.

The Sixers have one of the league’s best in Joel Embiid and a fantastic supporting cast for him. Tobias Harris and Seth Curry are perfect complimentary pieces to Embiid’s game. Tyrese Maxey is a player i expect to make a leap this season, he showed flashes in 2020 and the Sixers would be wise to push him into the starting lineup sooner than later. Embiid and Simmons have both shown they play better in a system without each other.

The best case scenario is trading Simmons for a package that includes shooters, or a floor general to work with Embiid. If they could pry Tyrese Haliburton or in a crazy situation, De’Aaron Fox from the Kings, that would upgrade the lineup immensely. The Sixers are in a good position regardless of Simmons status, I expect another strong regular season from the team.

Sacramento Kings Under 36.5 Wins

Speaking of the Kings, I am expecting their under to hit as well. The Kings roster construction confuses me, two years in a row they drafted best player available. A draft strategy I usually love, but the team already had a young stud point guard in De’Aaron Fox. Now they have 3 ball dominant guards with Tyrese Haliburton and Davion Mitchell, plus another guard who loves to shoot in Buddy Hield. They can’t possibly play the 4 of them at once, the defense could have prime Hakeem as their 5th and still be horrendous. While I like Richaun Holmes as role player his defense lacks as well.

The best thing this team could do is trade for Simmons. A defensive stud who can drive to the basket, and make plays. The Kings also suffer from having the worst coach in the league, Luke Walton. Walton and the Kings are in for a rough season, which might see them saying goodbye to some of their core players.

Denver Nuggets Over 47.5

Coming off an MVP season, Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets are looking to make the jump from perennial playoff team, to title contender. They have had playoff success the past two seasons but couldn’t get past the hump. Late last season rising star Jamal Murray tore his ACL just weeks before the playoff run. While Murray is out for at least the first half of the season, the other Nuggets will need to step up in order for the team tops in the west again.

This team gets a full season of Aaron Gordon, and Will Barton is fully healthy for the first time since last march. I am excited to see how Michael Porter Jr. looks in the absence of Jamal Murray. Many around the league are expecting a major jump from Porter Jr in year three.

The Nuggets have intriguing role players from PJ Dozier, to rookie Nah’Shon “Bones” Hyland . They will need one of the guards to step up as well as more of a scoring effort from Gordon and Porter. Nikola Jokic is a threat to take over any game, he is one of my favorite league pass alerts (a player who gets so hot you have to text a friend telling them to turn on a random basketball game in December, Steph Curry usually leads this made up stat).

He can keep the Nuggets in any game, which always helps the win total. The Nuggets high powered offense and good coaching will lead them to another strong season, I expect another 50 win season for Michael Malone.

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Is DeAndre Ayton worth the max?

DeAndre Ayton
DeAndre Ayton, Credit: NBA

In 2018, the Phoenix Suns selected DeAndre Ayton with the first overall pick. Taking him two spots before Luka Doncic and four spots before Trae Young. Ayton had a rough start to his career, but he has blossomed into one of the league’s premier young centers. Ayton’s 2020 playoff run showed how valuable he can be to a playoff team. Ayton averaging an extremely efficient 15.8 points per game, with fantastic rebounding and mostly good defense (he struggled against Giannis in the finals, but who doesn’t). Due to this, DeAndre Ayton is looking for the max.

Come 2021, Ayton is expected to have an even bigger role for the defending western conference champions. DeAndre Ayton is eligible for the rookie max. The max comes in at 5 years, $172.5 million. With boosts and bonuses that could push it to a total of $207 million. So far Ayton’s camp will not budge on anything less than the max, his peers have received the same contract why shouldn’t he?

Reasons to not resign

The Suns have reservations about giving Ayton the max, they have seen how quickly the landscape of the league changes, especially with Bigs. Big men who can’t knock down 3’s, or run an offense have seen their value quickly deteriorate. Even the league’s best defender, Rudy Gobert has had trouble staying on the floor due to his offensive inabilities. The modern NBA big has a new role in the game, and many teams are still figuring out how they view these players.

Ayton will need to add more to his game, we have already seen his a capable mid-range shooter. Ayton shoots above league average from within 5 feet, 5-9 feet and 10-14 feet, where he struggles is anything over 15 feet where he is below league average. Adding a reliable 3 point shot to his game, would do wonders for Ayton and help keep him on the floor during the playoffs. We have seen traditional bigs add the 3 to their game, from Blake Griffin, LaMarcus Aldridge and Brook Lopez.

Reasons to resign

Ayton’s rare combination of size and athleticism combined with a consistent deep ball would make him one of the league’s best centers. His defensive IQ and footwork also need improvement. Physically Ayton has the tools to be an elite center, who disrupts the middle and shuts down other teams bigs. Thus far he has shown flashes of greatness but those have been few and far between. Ayton’s best defense performance to date, came against the Lakers in the first round of last years playoffs.

The Lakers averaged 42.6 points in the paint per 100 possessions with Ayton on the floor, with Ayton on the bench that number ballooned to 58.5. Ayton held Anthony Davis one of the league’s best to a pedestrian 40% shooting when guarded by him. Davis shoots 40% on just jump shots when guarded by the rest of the league. If Ayton can continue to take these strides on the defensive side of the ball, he could become one the league’s best two-way players.

Overall

The Suns need to be careful how they approach this situation, Phoenix does not have a great reputation for taking care of their guys. Suns owner Robert Sarver has been the center of media attention multiple times, and not for the right reasons. The longer this story goes, the worse the trust gets between the players and ownership. Ayton of courses feels as though he deserves the max.

Ayton is the second most important player for the Suns future. The combination of Devin Booker and Ayton are the keys to success. The Suns need to make sure both players continue to play for this team. Otherwise we could see the Suns short run of success doom itself very quickly. While I understand the risks that come with giving Ayton a max contract, the upside far outweighs the risk of possibly losing Ayton to a team willing to pay him the max.

The Weekly Brief: Week 1

We finally made it. The NFL is back after eight long months and it did not disappoint. Everything is officially right with the world for the next 22 weeks. Each week I want a way to summarize the games, discuss the biggest storylines and look at the betting trends. So here is the first-ever Weekly Brief.

Packers season in jeopardy?

Aaron Rogers, former Jeopardy! game show host, had one of the worst games of his career. Coming off his MVP season, Rodgers and the Packers’ offense looked completely out of sync. Rodgers finished the day with 133 yards, no touchdowns, and two interceptions. It didn’t stop there; essentially, the entire Packers team was outplayed on a neutral site The team wound up losing, 38-3, the biggest loss as a franchise since 2006. While this was just one game, the general flow and preparedness of the team are a cause for concern. Looking to next week, the Packers have a Monday night showdown with the Lions. I expect them to look a lot more like the team of 2020, with Rodgers and the offense proving yesterday was a fluke for one of the league’s best.

Steelers break the table

Pittsburgh went into Buffalo and dominated the Bills, outscoring them 23-6 in the second half. Most NFL pundits were expecting a down season for the Steelers but the defense came out and showed they are still among the best of the league. Buffalo looked all out of sorts, with Josh Allen looking more like his 2019 self compared to the player we saw last season. The main takeaway from this game was more about the Steelers’ defense than the Bills’ offense. If TJ Watt and Minkah Fitzpatrick play the way they did on Sunday, Pittsburgh will be one of the teams still playing football in mid-January.

NFC Best?

The NFC west once again looks like the best division in football. All four teams won yesterday, and each finished with a top 10 offense and defense in DVOA. Each team showed promise as they took on new looks and adjustments for the season. Seahawks’ new offensive coordinator, Shane Waldron, had the team rolling. Russell Wilson started hot with a 4-touchdown game. The Cardinals’ new-look defense received help from a familiar face- Chandler Jones. Jones missed most of the previous season but had the best game of his career yesterday with five sacks. Jones is on track to finish with 85 sacks, breaking the current single-season record of 22.5. The 49ers looked fantastic to start the game, before almost blowing a 24-point lead with 7:50 to go. The 49ers reminded the rest of the league that Kyle Shanahan is still among the league’s best play-callers. Last but definitely not least, the Rams and new quarterback Matthew Stafford put on a Sunday night show. Stafford quickly showed why the Rams traded for him hitting Van Jefferson for a 67-yard touchdown on his second pass of the game. The NFC West will once again be a bloodbath, and we are likely to see three of these teams in the playoffs.

Learning Curves

It was a fun day for NFL rookies – the top three receivers in the draft all showed out. As Ja’Marr Chase silenced any and all critics with a 100-yard, 1 touchdown day. DeVonta Smith also had a nice day as he scored an early touchdown and showed the route running prowess we saw in his Heisman campaign in 2020. Jaylen Waddle looked great in his first NFL game scoring the go-ahead touchdown as the Dolphins beat the Patriots. While the receivers played great, the rookie QB’s did not fare as well with Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, and Mac Jones all facing some rookie struggles. The Jaguars offense gives me more cause for concern than the two others as Urban Meyer has not looked the part. The Jaguars need to make sure the development of Lawrence is done properly, and by the right people.

Have a day Underdogs

Betting Underdogs finished the day 11-4 against the spread, with eight of them outright winning games. Week one was full of surprises, and for those of you who bet on the Texans to go 0-17, my condolences. This goes to show that 2021 looks to have more parody, and taking the points might be the move to winning your slate.

The Injury Report

Broncos WR Jerry Jeudy was diagnosed with a high ankle sprain, and while X-rays were negative, he’s likely out for a couple of weeks. Washington quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick looks to have suffered a hip subluxation; it’s a serious injury that will keep him out for a while. San Francisco cornerback Jason Verrett tore his ACL, he has had issues staying healthy throughout his career. The 49ers also lost Raheem Mostert and Dre Greenlaw to minor injuries. Other notable injuries to 2020 first-round offensive tackles, Mekhi Becton and Jedrick Wills. Becton was carted off with a knee injury, while Wills left the game with an ankle issue. Saints corner Marshon Lattimore will need surgery on his thumb and agreed to a 5-year extension after the game and is considered week to week. Also, Lions cornerback Jeff Okudah ruptured his Achilles tendon, so his season is over.

Viva Las Vegas

The Ravens come to town as the NFL shows off its shiny new stadium in Vegas. Baltimore is (-4) favorites tonight against a new-look Raiders squad. The Ravens should dominate this game as Lamar Jackson is at his best in primetime. Take the Ravens with the spread and don’t look back. For player props, Henry Ruggs was the first receiver taken in last year’s draft. I expect him to get on track to start the season, and I am taking him to have over 34.5 receiving yards. With Marcus Peters out for the season, the Ravens will need help opposite Marlon Humphrey who usually follows bigger receivers like Bryan Edwards or Darren Waller. Ruggs is the best deep threat for the Raiders, who I expect to throw the ball lots in garbage time.

Projecting the NFL’s top 10 offenses heading into 2021

Over the past 10 seasons, offense has taken over the NFL. Since 2010 we have 7 of the 10 scoring seasons of all time, with last season being the highest scoring season in NFL history. Offense is the name of the game, and I decided to take a look at the league’s best. Here are the top 10 offenses heading into the season.

10) Los Angeles Chargers

In 2020 the Chargers had the 18th ranked offense averaging 24.0 PPG (points per game). They did that with a rookie QB, the worst offensive line in football (according to PFF), and a head coach whose teams were in the top 10 scoring just once over his 4 years. The 2021 Chargers bring a new look to the team, Justin Hebert finished as Rookie of the Year and set records for most touchdowns by a Rookie quarterback. The team made major additions to the offensive line, adding former Packer Corey Linsley and drafting Rashawn Slater 10th overall, one of the best pass blockers in the draft. The Chargers also fired Anthony Lynn, a coach notorious for running an uninspiring offense.

With Lynn out of the picture, the Chargers brought in up-and-coming defensive coach Brandon Staley, along with former Saints quarterbacks coach Joe Lombardi to run the offense. Lombardi has spent 12 of the last 15 seasons with Drew Brees, one of the smartest quarterbacks in NFL history. Lombardi hopes to bring some of the things that made Brees a future Hall-of-Famer to Herbert. This team has some of the best weapons in the NFL with Keenan Allen and Austin Ekeler, combine that with an innovative offensive coordinator and a promising young quarterback. The Chargers will have one of the league’s top offenses and should have a chance at one of the wild card spots.

9) Los Angeles Rams

The team with the biggest splash in the offseason, the Los Angeles Rams traded for long-time Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford. Stafford had been with the Lions since he was the team’s first pick in 2009. He has been a model of consistency with the team, always making plays for his receivers. The Rams traded for Stafford, expecting him to be the missing piece for a team lacking consistency from the Quarterback position.

The Rams have a plethora of playmakers, Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp are two of the most underappreciated receivers in football. Tyler Higbee has put up top 5 tight end numbers without Gerald Everett (who is now a Seattle Seahawk), and they have one of the better offensive lines in the league. This team has all the makings of a top offense. Combined with Sean McVay an offensive genius who has shown time and time again he can get the most out of his guys. If McVay made Jared Goff look like a future star for a season, he should be able to make magic with Stafford.

8) Tennessee Titans

The Titans made one of the biggest splashes in free agency trading for Julio Jones. Jones has been the best wide receiver in the NFL since he entered the league in 2010. The addition of Jones gives the Titans an incredible offensive core of Jones, AJ Brown, and Derrick Henry. With Jones in the mix, defense coordinators are going to have a hard time deciding between giving the secondary extra help or putting more players in the box to stop Henry.

Ryan Tannehill has quietly been one of the league’s most efficient quarterbacks since he escaped Adam Gase Hell. The Titans’ offense comes with some question marks, as they lost their second and third most targeted players in Corey Davis and Jonnu Smith. The greatest loss comes from their coaching staff as offensive coordinator Arthur Smith became the Atlanta Falcons head coach. He was the mastermind of the offense and helped produce the best seasons of Henry and Tannehill’s careers. The team’s new co-coordinators were on the staff with Smith, they kept them in place to continue running the scheme that made the Titans offense so successful.

7) Cleveland Browns

Continuity is the theme for the Cleveland Browns this season. The Browns offense comes back with the same starters as last season and the same coaching staff. This is the first time in Baker Mayfield’s career he will have the same head coach for more than a season. With all signs pointing towards a top offense for the Browns.


Kevin Stefanski is a coaching star, who brings an innovative scheme. Baker Mayfield is coming off his most efficient season, thanks to the best offensive line in football. They have the best running back duo in Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, and they have loads of receiving weapons in Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry, Austin Hooper, and more. Things are trending up for the Browns, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see them higher on this list at the end of the season.

6) Buffalo Bills

The Bills were the 3rd highest-scoring team in the league last season, in 2019 they were 19th. Two factors contributed to the massive jump, the main reason being, Josh Allen got better. It sounds so simple but that is it. Allen got better in every aspect of his game. His decision-making got better, his accuracy improved, and his control at the line went to a new level. Allen was the 2nd best quarterback in the league last season, he took his game to a whole new level as well as the game of Stefon Diggs’. Diggs broke out last season and joined the NFL’s elite. His immediate connection with Allen took the league by storm.

Jump to 2021, the Bills bring their entire offense back. Their genius offensive coordinator, Brian Daboll is back in Buffalo, and the Bills are one of the league’s best offenses. I expect the Bills to put up plenty of points, with a slight regression from Josh Allen. While he has definitely taken the leap to the NFL’s elite, Allen’s game revolves around throwing more 50/50 balls than the average quarterback. This will lead to some crazy touchdowns but also more turnovers. The Bills run game will be the big story as they were not overly productive last season. Adding a more efficient ground game to the offense will take some of the rushing pressure off of Allen and keep him from taking big hits.

5) Seattle Seahawks

Over the first half of the season, The Seahawks averaged 34.0 PPG the highest mark of any team. Russell Wilson looked like the runaway MVP, and the Hawks were rolling in a pass-first offense. Then came Buffalo, in week nine Wilson threw 2 interceptions as the Seahawks were blown out by the Bills. A week later, more of the same as the Rams stout defense forced Wilson into 2 more interceptions and Seattle seemingly lost all its mojo. Head coach Pete Carroll saw these two games and decided to push Seattle back into a run-first offense. Carroll saw the turnovers and decided to take a risk-averse approach. Seattle averaged just 23 PPG over their last 8 games, and Wilson’s incredible start to the season was forgotten.

Fast forward to September 2021, and Seattle’s offense has a new look. The Seahawks brought in a new offensive coordinator, Shane Waldron from the Sean McVay tree. Waldron comes from a Rams offense known for getting players open, using lots of motion, and manipulating the run game to set up the pass. The Waldron signing was music to the ears of Wilson, who has discussed his excitement for Waldron time and time again this offseason. Seattle also made some offensive additions, adding Raiders guard Gabe Jackson, one of the better guards of the last five years. Seattle signed former Rams tight end Gerald Everett, one of the best after the catch tight ends in football. Everett and Seahawks second-round draft pick Dwayne Eskridge both figure to be a part of the offense as both are at their best in space. With all the new additions there will be questions with this offense, but Wilson is one of the best quarterbacks in the league. As long as he plays for the Seahawks the offense will be dangerous.

4) Green Bay Packers

The highest-scoring team in 2020, The Packers were the talk of the offseason. About an hour before the NFL draft ESPN’s Adam Schefter released a report that MVP Aaron Rodgers was unhappy with the Packers organization. These headlines dominated the NFL over the next couple of weeks, but eventually, the Packers and Rodgers settled their differences (for now). Rodgers is back for 2021, and so are the Packers on this list. Rodgers and receiver DaVante Adams may be the best QB-WR duo in football, they have a mental connection like no other. Add in one of the best do it all running backs in Aaron Jones and a solid offensive line. The Packers are going to put up points.

Green Bay head coach Matt LaFleur is one of the most innovative minds in football, his next task is to find a 2nd receiver for Rodgers to rely on. There is only so much Adams and Jones can do, it will take a breakout from one of the “other guys” to take this offense to a new level. If one of Robert Tonyan (who was fantastic last year), Marquez Valdes-Scantling, or Randall Cobb can take on a larger role, this offense can be even better than last season.

3) Dallas Cowboys

Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys historically started the 2020 season. Through the first 4 weeks, Prescott was on pace for 6,760 passing yards for the entire season. The current NFL record is 5,447. Prescott was looking to smash that before a horrific injury ended his season. The Cowboys hope Dak and offense can recreate the same record-breaking pace in 2021. Dak is one of the most underrated players in the league, and when healthy he is a top quarterback. His high IQ and understanding of the players around him make him a threat to any defense.

The Cowboys were riddled with injuries last season, besides Dak their offensive line was decimated. The Cowboys expect to have a healthier season, with Tyron Smith and La’El Collins at 100%. Zack Martin will start the season on the Covid list, but he is one of the league’s best guards and a key piece of this team. Dallas has some of the best skill players in the league from All-Pro running back Ezekiel Elliot, to their three-headed receiving monster of CeeDee Lamb, Amari Cooper, and Michael Gallup. Each of these receivers brings a different skill set that compliments each other and puts pressure on the defense to focus more on the passing game. The Cowboys should have no problem throwing the ball, and I expect to be discussing CeeDee Lamb as one of the league’s elite by season’s end.

2) Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The defending champions pulled off one of the greatest offseasons in recent memory, by adding nobody? The Bucs managed to bring back all 22 starters, and somehow kept both of their coordinators. General Manager Jason Licht deserves all the credit in the world, he has built a juggernaut. Tampa has the most weapons of any team in the league. This team has 5 capable receivers, 3 good tight ends, and 3 complimentary running backs, it is ridiculous. They can attack any matchup they want and should be better with another full season of Tom Brady.

The focal point of the offense is their trio of stud receivers. Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Antonio Brown are the best group of receivers in league history. It is almost unfair Brady gets to work with this group. The defending champs are set up for success and should be even better this season.

1) Kansas City Chiefs

If my favorite team is playing the Chiefs this season, I am terrified. Having one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time is a scary thought. Combine him with a Hall of Fame tight end, and the biggest mismatch in football. The Chiefs offense will break records in a 17 game season. Mahomes, Kelce, and Hill are the most terrifying thing in the NFL. They can beat you in so many different ways, not to mention 2nd year running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire who I expect big things from.

When the Chiefs lost in the Super Bowl, they had one glaring weakness. They could not protect Patrick Mahomes. So the Chiefs went out and turned that weakness into a strength, they shocked everyone in free agency signing Joe Thuney who ranked as PFF’s 3rd best guard in football. They traded for Orlando Brown Jr. PFF had him as the 17th best tackle. They signed Kyle Long out of retirement, drafted Creed Humphrey, and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif is back after working as a doctor during the pandemic. The offensive line is revamped and reloaded. The offense has no weaknesses, and Andy Reid is the best play-caller in all of football. Not to mention they somehow kept their offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, who is more than deserving of a head coaching opportunity. The Chiefs prepared to destroy every defense in their path, and I expect them to make a statement in 2021.