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The Minnesota Vikings likely won’t have Dalvin Cook on Monday night against the Green Bay Packers with the NFC North title on the line.

Cook is dealing with a shoulder injury, and NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reports that it’s highly unlikely the running back plays Monday night. The Vikings, however, are optimistic Cook will be ready for the playoffs, if they make it — Minnesota needs one win in the final two weeks or one Los Angeles Rams loss to clinch a playoff spot.

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“He is expected to play for the Vikings in the playoffs,” Rapoport said Thursday on NFL Network’s NFL NOW. “That is the good news, assuming they make the playoffs and it sounds like that’s the direction they are headed. … As far as his status this week, though, from what I understand, it’s still very much in doubt. I’ve been told by one person it is highly unlikely that he plays. It is a different injury than the SC joint injury he’s been dealing with. It’s something new, it’s not major but it is something that would make it very, very hard to play on Monday.”

Coach Mike Zimmer played coy earlier in the day, refusing to let on the severity of Cook’s injury.

“Yeah, I have an update. He seems to be doing good,” Zimmer said Thursday, via the team’s official Twitter feed.

The 24-year-old suffered the latest shoulder injury early in the third quarter of Sunday’s blowout win over the Chargers. Cook officially was a DNP during Thursday’s practice.

Cook, who was injured in the Seattle game in Week 13 and immediately said he’d play, spoke more cautiously this time around, but added that wasn’t an indication the shoulder issue was more severe. “No, it’s just two different injuries,” he said.

“I’m going to go through my normal preparations and if I’m ready to go, I’m ready to go,” Cook noted.

With the Vikings needing a win over Green Bay and the Packers to stumble in Week 17 against the hapless Detroit Lions, the NFC North seems a longshot. A wild-card berth, however, is in sight. Ensuring Cook is ready for January football is key for Minnesota.

With Cook looking unlikely to play, and backup Alexander Mattison’s status still unclear due to an ankle injury, Mike Boone — a bowling-ball runner set aflame with the fires of ancient temper — figures to get the bulk of the carries. Backup Ameer Abdullah should see the passing-down snaps Monday against Green Bay.

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LOS ANGELES — The first thing Kemba Walker and Marcus Smart noticed with De’Aaron Fox was the Sacramento Kings point guard’s Mach speed.

“He makes fast people look not fast,” Smart said, practically shaking his head.

Fox has some news for his impressed teammates.

“I think I probably have gotten faster,” said the point guard who’s entering his third NBA season.

This might be music to Gregg Popovich’s ears as USA Basketball prepares for next month’s FIBA World Cup. With Kyle Lowry recently withdrawing from Team USA due to his surgically repaired thumb, Fox has a prime opportunity in front of him. Initially, Fox was on the select team but has since been promoted to the senior squad with a need at point guard.

Fox is doing his best to impress thus far. After seeing Fox’s speed up close, Walker said he thinks Fox is the fastest player in the NBA with a basketball in his hands.

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“Oh, my goodness,” Walker said. “He is super fast. His quickness is crazy. His end-to-end speed is ridiculous. … That’s scary if he’s gotten faster. The thing about him is he’s fast but really under control.”

During USA Basketball’s 97-78 exhibition win over the select team last Friday, Fox scored 12 points and had 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks in 15 minutes. He also made 6-of-9 shots, but Fox said Popovich got on him for passing up shots.

Walker said it’s only a matter of time before Fox is an All-Star. But the Boston Celtics point guard believes Fox can take his game up another level if he adds a consistent perimeter shot. Last season, Fox improved his field goal shooting percentage to 45.8% and 37.1% from behind the 3-point arc after shooting 41.2% overall and 30.7% from 3-point range.

“What impressed me the most is probably his shooting,” Walker said. “He has really been knocking it down. That is what is going to take him to that next level. Like for myself entering the league, the next step for me was my jump shot. That is what helped me get to the next level.”

“Whenever he consistently gets that, it will be over,” Walker said. “It will be over. No question.”
Guard De’Aaron Fox has opened some eyes with his speed as Team USA prepares for next month’s FIBA World Cup. Initially, Fox was on the Select Team but has since been promoted to the senior squad with a need at point guard. Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
On Wednesday, Fox, Kyle Kuzma, Joe Harris, Myles Turner and Jaylen Brown were walking through plays on another court when Team USA lost a scrimmage, 36-17, to a select team led by Jeff Van Gundy that was made up largely of some young pros, including Justin Anderson and G League players.

This men’s national team has lost practice scrimmages before and still looked good in last week’s exhibition. Still, there’s plenty to work on before the World Cup, including developing chemistry. With several of America’s star players withdrawing to prepare for the upcoming NBA season with the timing of September’s World Cup, Popovich has a young roster with a group of players who don’t have much international experience.
Like many of the players trying out for the final roster, Fox hopes that this USA Basketball experience will lead toward a breakout NBA season with the up-and-coming Kings.

Fox says he already has picked up leadership tips from Lowry and Smart and has tried to hold new teammates accountable even if he isn’t comfortable playing with them yet.

“I think it is a big opportunity just being able to be here,” Fox said. “I think I have gotten better as a player, as a leader, understanding of the game entirely. And if I am able to be on this team and travel with this team, it’s a big success.”

“Jerry [Colangelo] even talked about the 2010 team, all those guys being around 21, 22, 23 years old,” Fox said of what USA Basketball’s managing director told him. “He kind of sees the same thing and using it as a springboard into the season.”

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Boston Red Sox designated hitter J.D. Martinez was a late scratch with a tight back in Wednesday’s spring training game against the Minnesota Twins, and he is expected to sit for at least a couple of days to give it time to heal.

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“We’re not going to take a chance,” manager Alex Cora said. “He wasn’t going to play tomorrow anyway, so he’ll come here, get treatment and see how he feels.”

Cora said Martinez will not travel with the team to Tampa, Florida, on Friday to play the New York Yankees.

“If he’s OK to play, probably get at-bats on the minor league side,” Cora said. “There’s no need to rush him.”

Martinez, who had been injury-prone earlier in his career, was an iron man for the Red Sox last season, appearing in 150 games, with a .330 average, 43 home runs and 130 RBIs.

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As the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams play in Super Bowl LIII on Sunday, the rest of the league is, to steal a phrase, on to 2019. The other 30 organizations might sneak a peek at the television — Doug Marrone aside — but after chasing down everyone Sean McVay is friends with on social media, the league’s runners-up are now spending time planning out their roster cuts, scouring college tape for the draft, and preparing for free agency.

Likewise, while I have a Super Bowl preview coming later this week, I have thoughts about where each of the league’s franchises might look under a totally different light in 2019. During the spring, Vegas sportsbooks post over/under marks for the upcoming season and give a general estimate of where they expect each team to land in the months to come. Those numbers are generally designed to attract even amounts of money on either side of the bet, although there are some exceptions I’ll get to later in this piece.

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I’m going to give my projections for where those over/under marks will land when the books open their 2019 totals for betting. In the process, I have to make some educated (and/or wild) guesses about what will happen in the months to come for players such as Antonio Brown and Cam Newton, whose 2019 home and status, respectively, remain unclear. I don’t know where the major free agents will go or whether veteran players will retire, but I do have each team’s schedule and their advanced metrics from the 2018 season to help guide the way.

Before we get started, I have to make one thing clear. This is not my projection of how each team will finish in 2019. I’ll have my own thoughts on that as we hit the summer. This is merely trying to estimate what Vegas will set as the average expectation for each of the league’s 32 teams in 2019 this spring.

Jump To A Team:

Arizona Cardinals (2018 record: 3-13)

Projected 2019 over/under: 4.5 wins (over -130, under +110)

Explaining The ‘Juice’
The typical over/under bet has a line of -110 on both sides, meaning bettors would need to bet $110 on either the over or the under to win $100. For many of the bets below, I’ve shaded the bets in one direction with shorter odds, or what’s commonly known as “juice,” to emphasize that one side is more likely to come in than the other. In 2018, for example, the Patriots were listed in Vegas with an over/under of 11 wins at -130 on the over, suggesting that the book thought they would take more action on the over side of the action at an 11-win total. When over/unders arrive in Vegas and begin to take action, sportsbooks will respond to the betting by adjusting the juice on each side of the line before eventually moving to a new point total.
The list has to start somewhere, and the natural beginning point might as well be the worst team in football. The 3-13 Cardinals fired coach Steve Wilks and replaced him with Kliff Kingsbury, who has no NFL coaching experience and was fired by Texas Tech. Years of poor drafts have limited the Cardinals to a few precious stars, and while it’s unfair to judge Josh Rosen after he spent 2018 playing behind backup linemen, the Cardinals probably won’t be able to address all of their issues on offense in one offseason. A trade out of the No. 1 overall pick might help.
A division with two playoff teams and a returning Jimmy Garoppolo in San Francisco also means the Cards will play one of the tougher last-place schedules in the NFL. It’s hard for a team to be this bad in back-to-back seasons, which is why the line builds in a 1.5-game improvement and has juice going over 4.5 wins, but the Cardinals don’t have much going for them heading into 2019.
Oakland Raiders (4-12)

Projected over/under: 5 wins (over +110, under -130)

The Cardinals at least have a home, which might be more than we can say for the Raiders. The Raiders don’t have a lease for the 2019 season. They’ve already lost one home game to the schedule-makers, as they will host the Bears in London.
Oakland’s roster is a work in progress, as just about everyone who wasn’t acquired by Jon Gruden is likely available for trade or subject to release this offseason. The Raiders have four of the top 35 picks in this year’s draft, but given Gruden’s track record with personnel, should they really be expected to make an immediate impact?
Miami Dolphins (7-9)

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Projected over/under: 5.5 wins (over -115, under -105)

Ownership has already suggested that the Dolphins need to rebuild after years of mismanagement under the previous regime of Adam Gase and Mike Tannenbaum, which repeatedly tilted at windmills in the hopes of stumbling on a sustainable roster or team culture.
They could draft a quarterback, which would likely mean the end of Ryan Tannehill’s tenure on the roster and $13.4 million in dead money on Miami’s cap. The likes of DeVante Parker, Andre Branch and Danny Amendola could follow Tannehill out the door, while Miami’s 7-9 record included a 5.2-win Pythagorean expectation, suggesting the team is likely to decline in 2019.
Buffalo Bills (6-10)

Projected over/under: 6 wins (over +105, under -125)

The Bills would benefit from a weakened Dolphins team, and after spending the past two years clearing out cap space, general manager Brandon Beane projects to have more than $80 million in room to build infrastructure around Josh Allen. With a weak crop of offensive talent waiting in free agency, though, the Bills might not be able to add enough in support for their young quarterback.
There are also still plenty of questions about Allen, who needed a late surge to finish with a 67.9 passer rating, the 14th-worst mark for a quarterback in a 300-attempt season in league history. Sean McDermott’s defense has ranked among the best in football over the past two seasons and should continue to carry the load in 2019.
Josh Allen finished his rookie season with a Total QBR of 52.2, which ranked 24th in the league. AP Photo/Adrian Kraus

Washington Redskins (7-9)

Projected over/under: 6 wins (over -105, under -115)

Optimistic fans might note that Washington was 6-3 before Alex Smith broke his leg and was down to Josh Johnson by the end of the season, but even during that 6-3 stretch, the team had outscored its opposition by a combined one point, and its Pythagorean expectation suggested Washington was playing like a .500 team.
Washington also has just $15.5 million in cap space to work with and may need to replace Smith, who has a guaranteed $15 million base salary coming in 2019 and might never be able to play again. Washington has an underrated defense and a great offensive line when healthy, but unless it adds another quarterback, its ceiling with Colt McCoy is capped.
New York Jets (4-12)

Projected over/under: 6 wins

Jets fans are excited about their future with Sam Darnold, and the team could easily top $100 million in cap space this offseason. As I suggested with the Bills, though, there might not be many offensive weapons worth investing in this offseason, as a desperate franchise might look to hand Le’Veon Bell a blank check to win the back pages in New York.
General manager Mike Maccagnan’s spending record in free agency is spotty at best. New coach Adam Gase also failed to impress during his time in Miami, although he hasn’t had a young quarterback to work with like Darnold since, well, Tim Tebow in Denver.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-11)

Projected over/under: 6.5 wins (over +110, under -130)

The perennial breakout pick will be among the favorites to take a step forward in 2018, given that the 5-11 Buccaneers went 3-6 in games decided by a touchdown or less and replaced Dirk Koetter with wise sage Bruce Arians, who went 29-12-1 in those same games with the Colts and Cardinals.
The issues are, well, also perennial: Jameis Winston is unreliable on and off the field, the defense is coming off a horrific season, and the other three NFC South teams have a more plausible path to the postseason. Chances are that the Bucs will improve, but new coordinator Todd Bowles would need to turn around a woeful Bucs defense overnight to get Tampa into playoff consideration.
Cincinnati Bengals (6-10)

Projected over/under: 6.5 wins

The Bengals seemed like a lock to hit or go over their Vegas preseason total of seven wins when they reached their bye at 5-3, but a dismal defense and injuries to Andy Dalton and A.J. Green helped sink their offense during a 1-7 second half. The collapse finally prompted the Bengals to make a coaching change, although Rams quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor, the man who’s expected to take the reins in 2019, doesn’t even have a full season of playcalling experience at the professional level.
Taylor is reportedly considering hiring Jack Del Rio as defensive coordinator, and it could be the most important move Cincinnati makes this offseason, given the success Del Rio had in that role with the Broncos.
Jacksonville Jaguars (5-11)

Projected over/under: 6.5 wins (over -115, under -105)

Perhaps the league’s most disappointing team in 2018, the Jaguars fell by five wins in dropping to 5-11. Ownership resisted the urge to make offseason changes to the coaching staff or front office, but after years of spending in free agency, the Jags are $10 million over the projected cap for 2019 and will realize only $4.5 million in savings by releasing beleaguered quarterback Blake Bortles. Malik Jackson and Carlos Hyde are likely to follow Bortles out the door, while the future of Leonard Fournette with the Jaguars remains uncertain after the team attempted to void the remaining guarantees in his contract following a suspension.
Jacksonville’s over/under could rise if it finds a serious upgrade at quarterback; of course, given that the Jags doubled down on Bortles last offseason, they might not be very good judges of quarterback play.
Leonard Fournette had a disappointing Year 2 in the NFL, rushing for just 439 yards and five touchdowns in eight games. Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports

Detroit Lions (6-10)

Projected over/under: 7 wins (over -105, under -115)

The Lions had a bizarre season in the AFC East alone; who would have projected that the Lions would blow out the Patriots, comfortably beat the Dolphins, and then lose to the Bills and Jets? Matt Patricia’s team was 23rd in offensive DVOA and 27th in defensive DVOA, so Patricia promptly fired offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter and replaced him with former Seahawks coordinator Darrell Bevell.
The Lions have yet to fill many of their holes on defense, as hiring Patricia was no immediate salve. They’ll need to make investments on that side of the ball this offseason to improve much on their 6-10 mark.
New York Giants (5-11)

Projected over/under: 7 wins

The Giants might be one of the rare teams both the public and sharps expect to improve in 2019. Teams with long-standing fan bases tend to attract more over action from tourists visiting Vegas, which is why the likes of the Giants, Cowboys and Bears have higher-than-expected lines most seasons.
Pat Shurmur’s team went 5-11 with a seven-win Pythagorean expectation, suggesting the Giants are one of the most likely teams in football to improve next season. If any team is going to benefit from a Cowboys decline, it’s likely the Giants, although they might need to improve upon Eli Manning at quarterback to rise much beyond 7-9 or 8-8.
Denver Broncos (6-10)

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Projected over/under: 7 wins (over -115, under -105)

John Elway’s Broncos are another team likely to improve in 2019, as they were ravaged by injuries along the offensive line and still managed to post a 7.4 Pythagorean expectation, leaving Denver comfortably ahead of its 6-10 record. By DVOA, the Broncos ranked 13th in the league, ahead of playoff teams like the Eagles (15th) and Cowboys (21st).
Their ceiling is probably limited by the difficulty of playing in the AFC West and the inconsistent play of Case Keenum, but if new offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello can protect Keenum, the Broncos have more upside than you might see at first glance.
Carolina Panthers (7-9)

Projected over/under: 7.5 wins (over +130, under -150)

If we were actually posting these odds at a sportsbook, the Panthers’ line would likely be off the board until there’s some clarity about Cam Newton’s 2019 status. Since I have to post a number for every team, though, this is a best-fit line based upon a wild guess at Newton’s health. This number projects that Newton has a 60 percent chance of entering the season healthy, a 25 percent shot of missing the first four weeks of the year, and a 15 percent chance of missing the majority of the season.
Given that the Panthers are losing veterans such as Thomas Davis and Ryan Kalil and need to rebuild their depth on both sides of the line of scrimmage, this could be a difficult year even if Newton is on the field in Week 1.
Cleveland Browns (7-8-1)

Projected over/under: 7.5 wins (over even money, under -120)

After years of ranking as the lowest over/under on the board, the Browns aren’t a joke anymore. Baker Mayfield & Co. would have come narrowly short of this total at 7-8-1 in 2018, as ties count as losses for the purposes of these bets. With a young core and Hue Jackson safely ensconced outside of the Cleveland metropolitan area, it would be reasonable to expect the Browns to improve in 2018.
What might hurt the Browns, though, are some of the factors that pushed them to success in 2018. Their schedule will be tougher, as they got to face Jeff Driskel for one and a half games vs. the Bengals, while the move up the standings will get the Browns a third-place schedule in 2019. Cleveland’s turnover margin was extremely likely to improve in 2018, but its plus-7 mark could be tough to keep up. Teams that improve as much as the Browns did in general often have a consolidation year; 67 of the 89 previous teams (approximately 75 percent) that improved by five or more wins since 1989 declined by at least one win the following season.
San Francisco 49ers (4-12)

Projected over/under: 7.5 wins

The 49ers will be an easy pick to improve in 2019. Obviously, they’re getting back Jimmy Garoppolo, and while there’s no guarantee he will play 16 games, chances are that the 49ers will get more than three starts out of their top quarterback in 2019. Injuries to many of the 49ers’ other skill-position weapons aren’t likely to all simultaneously recur.
The 49ers forced just seven takeaways on defense and posted a minus-25 turnover differential, which often regresses toward the mean, as it did for the Browns, who went from minus-28 in 2017 to plus-7 in 2018. Kyle Shanahan’s team went 3-5 in one-score games and played more like a six-win team than its 4-12 record. The NFC West remains difficult, but if any team is likely to leap from the bottom quarter of the league into the postseason in 2019, it’s the Niners.
The 49ers’ season was derailed when quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo tore his ACL in Week 3. Peter Aiken/Getty Images

Atlanta Falcons (7-9)

Projected over/under: 8 wins (over -125, under +105)

After a disappointing season, the Falcons fired both of their coordinators and went back to what worked in the past. Their offensive staff now includes Dirk Koetter and Mike Mularkey, both of whom are former Falcons offensive coordinators. Dan Quinn added defensive coordinator duties to his role as coach. Atlanta will hope that the familiar faces can bring new life to a team that never seemed to click on both sides of the ball at the same time in 2018.
If Quinn can get a defense that ranked 31st in DVOA back toward the middle of the pack, the Falcons should be able to make the playoffs. With just $4.7 million in cap space before addressing Grady Jarrett’s free-agent status, however, the Falcons don’t have the flexibility to make major additions on either side of the ball.
Tennessee Titans (9-7)

Projected over/under: 8.5 wins (over -105, under -115)

The league’s most confusing team was wildly inconsistent in its debut season under Mike Vrabel; while the 9-7 Titans soundly defeated the Patriots and finished the season with four wins over playoff teams, they lost to the Dolphins and Bills and were swept by a combined 44 points in two losses to the Colts, with the second costing Tennessee a playoff spot.
The Titans lost offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur to the Packers, and while they promoted Arthur Smith to try to secure some stability, Marcus Mariota will be on his fifth offensive coordinator in five seasons. With Mariota yet to complete a full 16-game season as a pro and the AFC South going up against the AFC West and the NFC South in 2019, the Titans could struggle to hit nine wins for the fourth consecutive campaign.
Green Bay Packers (6-9-1)

Projected over/under: 8.5 wins

Matt LaFleur’s new team had a shockingly disappointing 2018, as it managed to get a 16-game season out of Aaron Rodgers and still went 6-9-1, which cost Mike McCarthy his job. I think it was time for McCarthy to go, and the lack of interest in hiring McCarthy around the league suggests that he wasn’t seen as a great coach, but it’s also fair to note that the move doesn’t guarantee success.
Fans were thrilled when the Packers promoted Ted Thompson and new general manager Brian Gutekunst actually spent money in free agency, but his first class delivered Jimmy Graham, Tramon Williams and Muhammad Wilkerson, who failed to make an impact thanks to injuries and aging. LaFleur isn’t McCarthy, but the 39-year-old might not turn out to be an upgrade, either.
Dallas Cowboys (10-6)

Projected over/under: 8.5 wins (over -125, under +105)

Cowboys fans will likely see this as easy money, given that Dallas went 7-2 after trading for Amari Cooper and won’t have any cap constraints preventing Jerry Jones from retaining the team’s core contributors. The reality is that few teams project as more likely to decline than the Cowboys, who played more like an 8.4-win team all season and will face a first-place schedule in 2019.
Dallas finished the year 8-2 in games decided by seven points or fewer, and nothing about its track record under Jason Garrett suggests it will be able to keep that up.
Indianapolis Colts (10-6)

Projected over/under: 8.5 wins (over -130, under +110)
Likewise, the Colts ran a furious second-half stretch into the postseason, where they won in Houston in the wild-card round before getting blown out by the Chiefs. They’re in great shape for the future with Andrew Luck, a strong 2018 draft and more than $115 million in cap space heading into this offseason, but they played the league’s easiest schedule in 2018.

Indy will play a second-place schedule in 2019 and goes up against the NFC South and AFC West, so it is likely to face tougher competition.
ESPN.com Illustration

Seattle Seahawks (10-6)

Projected over/under: 9 wins

The Seahawks made an unexpected return to the playoffs this season, thanks in part to their home turf; Russell Wilson & Co. were 6-2 at home, with their only losses coming against the Chargers and Rams. Their 4-4 record on the road included losses to the Broncos and 49ers.
Assuming the Seahawks place the franchise tag on pass-rusher Frank Clark and let star safety Earl Thomas leave in free agency, Seattle will have about $35 million in cap space, but that money might go to extending Bobby Wagner and Wilson. It remains to be seen whether the team’s run-heavy approach will work as well in 2019.
Houston Texans (11-5)

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Projected over/under: 9 wins

Bill O’Brien’s team is top-heavy and predicated upon a core of star players staying healthy and playing at a high level. In 2018, those players mostly did: Deshaun Watson, DeAndre Hopkins, J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, Tyrann Mathieu and Benardrick McKinney combined to miss one game all season, and four of the six delivered Pro Bowl campaigns.
Instead, the Texans’ secondary pieces such as Will Fuller, Demaryius Thomas and Seantrel Henderson missed serious time with injuries, and while the core carried them to the postseason, an injury to Hopkins was enough to stifle the offense in a frustrating loss to the Colts. Those stars aren’t as likely to be as healthy in 2019, although the Texans will have three top-55 picks after sitting out the first two rounds of the 2018 draft.
Baltimore Ravens (10-6)

Projected over/under: 9 wins

Baltimore continues to profile as a better team by advanced metrics than by on-field performance; after going 9-7 with 10.4 Pythagorean wins in 2017, it improved to 10-6 with 10.8 Pythagorean wins in 2018. The Ravens should force more takeaways in 2019 after the same defense that racked up 34 in 2017 fell to 17 this season, but they’ll play a first-place schedule, which means they’ll get the Chiefs and Texans in lieu of the Chargers and Colts.
The perennially cap-strapped Ravens also won’t realize many of the savings after they move on from Joe Flacco until 2020, given that they would eat $16 million in dead money with a Flacco trade. That would leave Baltimore with $41 million in cap room, but it will need to use that room to re-sign C.J. Mosley and John Brown and to start working on deals for restricted free agents Patrick Onwuasor and Michael Pierce.
Minnesota Vikings (8-7-1)

Projected over/under: 9 wins (over -125, under +105)

It seems like the Vikings cycle between wildly successful and despair-inducing seasons from year to year under Mike Zimmer, but in the bigger picture, they’ve won an average of 9.5 games in their five years under the former Cowboys and Bengals assistant.
Minnesota doesn’t have much cap room after the Kirk Cousins deal and could lose Sheldon Richardson, Anthony Barr, Dan Bailey and Latavius Murray this offseason, but if you ask Vikings fans, Richardson might be the only one in the bunch they’ll miss.
Philadelphia Eagles (9-7)

Projected over/under: 9.5 wins
With the Carson Wentz tempest quickly struck down on Twitter by what seemed like most of the Eagles’ locker room, Philadelphia should have no issues contending again in 2019. The concerns with Wentz are instead about health and what the Eagles do if their star quarterback can’t stay on the field in 2019. Nick Foles will likely leave for a starting job one way or another this offseason, and the Eagles might not be able to afford a significant replacement, given that Philly will have about $4 million in cap space after Foles comes off the books while Brandon Graham, Chris Long, Ronald Darby, Jordan Hicks and Darren Sproles all hit unrestricted free agency.

The Eagles would benefit from a Cowboys decline, although by DVOA, the 2018 team was the worst edition of the Doug Pederson era and finished with the exact same DVOA — 0.0 percent — as the Giants.
Pittsburgh Steelers (9-6-1)

Projected over/under: 10 wins
Will Antonio Brown still be on this roster in August? This projection would be at 10.5 wins if I felt more confident that the Steelers would work something out with their star receiver; remember that in what felt like a disastrous 2018 season, the Steelers still went 9-6-1.

Assuming that the Steelers end up amassing draft picks for their mercurial wideout, Pittsburgh will run things back in 2019 with a second-place schedule, although the division rotation within the AFC means Mike Tomlin’s team will still manage to play the Patriots for the fifth consecutive season. Their biggest concern is Ben Roethlisberger falling off of a cliff as he enters his age-37 campaign.
Los Angeles Chargers (12-4)

Projected over/under: 10 wins
For years, the Chargers underperformed their point differential and posted a dismal record in close games. The 2017 Chargers posted a 10.4-win Pythagorean expectation and went 9-7, which is why they were likely to get better the following season. The 2018 Chargers posted an identical 10.4-win expectation, but Philip Rivers & Co. improved to 12-4. Chances are they’ll decline some in 2019, but they’ll also presumably get something closer to a full season from star pass-rusher Joey Bosa.

One thing seems certain: The same team that went 7-20 in one-score games from 2015 to ’17 won’t be able to repeat its 5-1 mark in those same contests last season. The Chargers also lose a home game to Mexico City.
Joey Bosa had 5.5 sacks in seven games this season, and the Chargers got to the AFC divisional round. Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Chicago Bears (12-4)

Projected over/under: 10.5 wins (over +115, under -135)
Matt Nagy’s team returns virtually everyone on the field from the 12-4 Bears of 2018, but they’ll be without stud defensive coordinator Vic Fangio after the Broncos poached the 60-year-old to take over as coach.

Their dominant defense might struggle to lead the league in takeaways and rank among the healthiest units in football for a second consecutive season, but will improvement from Mitchell Trubisky and a young offense be enough to offset any defensive decline?
Kansas City Chiefs (12-4)

Projected over/under: 11 wins
All Patrick Mahomes did during his first season as a starter was likely win league MVP. What’s on tap for his second season at the helm under Andy Reid? After firing defensive coordinator Bob Sutton, the Chiefs clearly hope to build a better defense to capitalize on their dominant offense.

Mahomes & Co. became the second team in league history to score 30 or more points in a game and lose four times in one season (playoffs included), joining the 2002 Chiefs in the process. Those Chiefs went from 8-8 to 13-3 the following year. The 12-4 Chiefs can’t make that sort of leap, but if they can get something close to a full season out of Eric Berry, they might not need the offense to score 35 points per game.
Los Angeles Rams (13-3)

Projected over/under: 11 wins
The NFC champions are likely to suffer some slight drop-off in 2019, as the 13-3 Rams played more like a 10.9-win team during the regular season. A 6-1 record in one-score games goes a long way. Barring an injury to Jared Goff, Sean McVay’s team should be able to ride a devastating offense and its big-play defense to another double-digit win total.

I might have placed Todd Gurley within that caveat a month ago, but after the emergence of C.J. Anderson, the Rams almost have to bring back the former Broncos starter into the fold for a full season in 2019, right? The Rams don’t always have traditional home-field advantage, as their playoff game against the Cowboys showed, but they’re losing one home game to a London trip against the Bengals this upcoming season.
New Orleans Saints (13-3)

Projected over/under: 11 wins (over -125, under +105)
Arguably the most complete team in the league on paper, the Saints saw Drew Brees fade badly over the final two months of the season. As Mike Sando pointed out on my podcast, the 40-year-old Hall of Famer was playing like an MVP candidate and posting a league-best Total QBR of 88.1 heading into the Cowboys game in Week 13. From that point forward, Brees posted a QBR of 55.3, placing him between Nick Mullens and Derek Carr.

Could it be a blip, a small sample of middling play from an oft-excellent quarterback? Of course. Could it also be something similar to the late-season decline we saw from Peyton Manning in 2014 before Manning struggled mightily in 2015? That’s also on the table. The Broncos still managed to win the Super Bowl with a compromised quarterback that season, and the Saints can win plenty of games in 2019 with their defense and an excellent running game. It’s also fair to say that their highest ceiling comes with the Brees of old, and there are no guarantees we’ll see that same level of genius at work next season.
New England Patriots (11-5)

Projected over/under: 12 wins (over +125, under -145)
They’re the Patriots. They won 12 or more games in eight consecutive seasons before 2018, and the only reason they didn’t get to 12 wins was because the Dolphins beat them on a laterals play with all zeros on the clock. Yes, they will be in some level of flux. Rob Gronkowski might retire. Stephen Gostkowski, Trey Flowers and Trent Brown are unrestricted free agents. Tom Brady is going to be a year older. They’re likely going to lose defensive coordinator Brian Flores to Miami.

You know what? I have faith Bill Belichick will figure it out, because Bill Belichick always figures it out. They’re going to fall to earth one day, but it probably won’t be in 2019.

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Chiefs safety Eric Berry and running back Spencer Ware returned to practice Wednesday, raising the possibility that both will be available for their AFC championship showdown with New England.
Berry missed most of the season with a heel injury that developed in training camp, then played parts of two games against the Chargers and Seahawks. The heel began to bother him again the next week, and he did not practice last week or play in the divisional round against Indianapolis.
Ware hurt his hamstring in a Week 14 win over the Ravens.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid also said that Canadian right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, who was activated off injured reserve on Tuesday after suffering foot and ankle injuries in Week 5, would work into the mix with the starters. Whether the native of Mont-Saint-Hilaire, Que., starts in Sunday’s game against the Patriots will not be decided until later in the week.
“We’re getting our work done starting today,” Reid said, “and we’ll put it in right through Saturday.”
The Chiefs have treated Berry with caution all year after the three-time All-Pro tore his Achilles tendon in last season’s opener. He remains one of their best playmakers when he’s on the field, and he’s continued to provide a vocal and emotional lift while he’s been out.
He broke down the pregame huddle before last Saturday’s 31-13 victory over the Colts.
One sign that Berry might be available came when Duvernay-Tardif came off IR. The Chiefs had to cut someone from the 53-man roster to make space and chose veteran safety Ron Parker.
“We’ve had great communication with him, so we’re going to keep that and just see how he feels as we go,” Reid said. “Right now he feels pretty good and we’ll see how he feels at practice, and during practice. We talk to him all the time. Same with Larry and all the guys.”
The only player who didn’t practice Wednesday was linebacker Dorian O’Daniel, who remains out with a calf injury. O’Daniel plays on four different special teams units.
In other news, the Chiefs began to lay new sod inside Arrowhead Stadium on Wednesday after much of the field was torn up in the divisional round. Heavy snow that began last Friday and stopped just before kickoff left parts of the field mushy, particularly between the hash marks and along the sidelines.
Those areas and the south end zone were getting fresh sod.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick, whose team is accustomed to playing on turf, acknowledged this week that the playing surface can be important. He also said that the Patriots generally try to replicate it during practice, but that’s sometimes difficult to accomplish.
“I’d say during the year we’ve practiced in most every condition we could get,” he said, “and it would be pretty unusual for something to come up that we haven’t at least approximated in the practice setting so that we can refer back to, ‘Well, when it’s like this or when this happens, we need to make this adjustment,’ because we’ve already talked about it and made it.
“So, it would have to be something pretty extraordinary to fall outside of that, out of those experiences that we’ve had over the course of the year. But if it did, we would just broaden our net.”
Another factor to consider is the weather: The forecast calls for more rain and snow on Saturday, followed by an arctic blast Sunday that could yield game-time temperatures in the single digits.
“It don’t matter to me on game day,” Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston said. “I just hate TV timeouts and standing there. Besides that, it doesn’t matter what the temperature is when we’re playing.”

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METAIRIE, La. — New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton had quite the display waiting for his players this week when they started preparing for Sunday’s NFC divisional playoff opener against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Payton brought three armed guards, a stack of more than $200,000 in cash, the Vince Lombardi Trophy and a Super Bowl ring into the team meeting room Monday to give his players added motivation.

The cash represents how much money they stand to make in playoff bonuses if they go all the way — a total of $201,000, according to the collective bargaining agreement.

“Guys make good money here. But not too often you see $250,000 cash right there. So that was very appealing,” Saints running back Mark Ingram said. “The Lombardi sitting right there in front of it, the ring sitting right in front of it, the armed guards. It was pretty dope. But we still gotta go out there and do what we do.”

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Payton had used a similar tactic before the Saints’ 2009 Super Bowl run — although only three players on the current roster were around for that.

“That’s definitely motivating,” Ingram said. “Of course, everybody’s playing to be champions. But that trophy, that bread, all that’s on the line. It’s just another little way to get us going.

“I told ’em I want my presentation to look just like that. I want ’em to come to my house. Lombardi, the glass box of cash, my ring, all that … armed guards. I want that same presentation. I don’t want no direct deposits coming from the playoffs. I want all my cash coming to the crib looking just like they had it the other day. That was nice.”

Added Saints defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins: “If you saw all that money in front of you, anybody would get excited about that. And I’m right along with them.”

Payton’s motivational tactic was first revealed on social media by a local attorney, then confirmed by players.

“We all know what’s at stake,” defensive end Alex Okafor said. “I think everybody in this locker room wants a Super Bowl. But there’s just seeing something in person that just adds a little bit more motivation. And just seeing that Super Bowl trophy, seeing that cash … I mean, if you ain’t ready to play after that, then we don’t need you.

“Like, ‘It’s legit now. We in this thing now.’ The first-round bye, we were at home watching games, so it’s kind of like we were chilling. We didn’t feel the edge like we needed to, just because we were at home. But now that we came this week and Sean popped it off like that, ‘OK. It’s time.'”

Payton has become known for his creative motivational tactics over the years — putting mouse traps around the facility to warn players against “eating the cheese,” dressing like Patriots coach Bill Belichick to give a mock scouting report on his players, and flying in mascots from their alma maters.

“It was a very Sean type of thing to do, so I thought it was cool,” Saints defensive tackle Tyeler Davison said.

“Sean does a great job of getting us ready,” Rankins said. “He kind of knows what buttons to push and how to pique guys’ interest and get guys even more excited than they already are to go and play a playoff game.”
But players also stressed that Payton is even better at laying out what they need to do to win against the Eagles on Sunday.

“It was just Sean trying to give everybody a vision, especially the young guys, as to what we’re after and the opportunity we have, especially as the No. 1 seed,” quarterback Drew Brees said. “It all comes through this place. But first things first: This game’s the most important game of the season. And I think we’ve taken that approach each and every game this year. So when you do that, and you get to a playoff game and everyone talks about, ‘Now it’s the playoffs,’ well, is the preparation any different?

“No. We’ve been approaching it this way the whole time. We always expect their best. We always expect to go out and execute to perfection. So let’s just go play ball.”

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The Los Angeles Chargers are expected to have a pair of key offensive playmakers in the lineup for the first round of the playoffs, including the return of a star tight end who has yet to play this season.

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Despite limping off in the fourth quarter against the Denver Broncos in Week 17, running back Melvin Gordon is expected to play Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Tight end Hunter Henry, who tore his ACL during the offseason, also is expected to play, the source said.

Gordon left Sunday’s game against the Broncos in the fourth quarter. After the 23-9 win, Gordon said he had tweaked his knee but planned to be ready for the first round of the playoffs.

Henry suffered a noncontact ACL tear during organized team activities in May and missed the entire regular season. Following the injury, the Chargers signed longtime tight end Antonio Gates to a one-year contract, and he would lead the Chargers’ tight ends in catches (28), receiving yards (333) and touchdowns (2).

Information from ESPN’s Eric D. Williams was used in this report.

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Another year in Baltimore and another shot at a $1 million incentive for Eric Weddle. LATEST ANALYSIS ▶ Game picks: Colts beat Titans ▶ Vikings’ plan to stop Mack ▶ Mariota among those with most at stake ▶ Previewing offseason QB market ▶ MJD: Ranking top 5 rushing tandems ▶ Coach candidates: Names to know ▶ Five rookies who landed in best spots ▶ Power Rankings: Bears up to No. 2 ▶ Nine guys who need change of scenery The safety has an incentive clause in his contract that earns a cool million if he makes the Pro Bowl and the Ravens make the playoffs in the same season. The first part of the equation was taken care of last week. Now Baltimore must close out the second part Sunday against the Cleveland Browns. “I would trade one million bucks for a chance at the playoffs any second,” Weddle said, via ESPN. “That’s just where I’m at. It’s not that I don’t appreciate money or how much money it is, but that’s not my incentive to try to go to win.” The 33-year-old safety missed out on the One Million Dollars incentive in brutal fashion last season as the Cincinnati Bengals knocked the Ravens out on Tyler Boyd’s last-second touchdown catch. After the loss last year, Weddle said he cared more about losing a playoff chance than the money. He continues to hold that stance. “I want a chance at getting to the Super Bowl. I also want everyone to experience the playoffs,” Weddle said. “That’s where my focus is. [The money is] just icing on the cake if we get it done.” Beat the Browns on Sunday, the Ravens are in the playoffs. And Weddle will take home a load of icing as well.

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FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Opposing coaches have a new reason to reconsider making Calvin Ridley the third priority in defensive plans against the Atlanta Falcons’ passing game.

The New Orleans Saints tried that approach last week, devoting extra defensive help to both Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu while leaving Ridley in man-to-man coverage. Ridley took advantage of the matchups with an Atlanta rookie-record three touchdown catches, even though the Falcons lost to the Saints, 43-37 , in overtime.
Ridley’s breakout game could pay off for Jones, Sanu and the offence in future games, including Sunday’s visit from Cincinnati. It could be more difficult for defences to devote double coverage to the Falcons’ veteran receivers when there is compelling evidence of Ridley’s speed and big-play ability shredding a defence.

“It will help out a lot,” Sanu said Wednesday. “Calvin is explosive, as you saw on Sunday. He’s definitely a game-changer for us.”

Ridley’s three TD catches in one game matched Jones’ total for his entire 2017 season. He had 146 yards receiving on seven catches. He has a team-leading four scoring catches in the last two weeks, making him look like another top target for quarterback Matt Ryan.

“He creates unbelievable separation,” Ryan said after Wednesday’s practice. “His acceleration out of cuts is really good. His patience for a young receiver versus man to man coverage, knowing how to win and the timing of the play. All of that stuff usually takes a long time to learn and he’s been doing it naturally.”

Ridley’s first touch came at tailback, where he was stopped on a run following a pitch from Ryan. His impact at receiver made that gadget play easy to forget.

Ridley said he doesn’t know if the big game will lead to more attention from the Bengals’ defence.

“I really don’t have any idea,” he said. “I’m just going to go out there and work and give myself the best chance to produce and give my team the best chance to win.”

Falcons coach Dan Quinn was careful to point out that Jones helped to create the scoring opportunities for Ridley in Atlanta’s partnership of former Alabama receivers.

“Usually when you open the book, you’re staring at 11,” Quinn said of opposing defensive co-ordinators’ worries about Jones, the two-time first-team All-Pro selection. “He’s the one who gets your attention right off the bat to say ‘OK, how is this man not going to wreck the game?'”

Now Ridley is another big concern for defences.

Another former Alabama player, cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, is expected to shadow Jones .

Quinn said the strength of Atlanta’s rejuvenated offence which has topped 30 points in back-to-back games is boasting “multiple guys who have unique skill sets. Fortunately for us, we have a few of those.”

The offence may have to carry a bigger load as the Falcons (1-2) attempt to replace three injured starters on defence. Safety Ricardo Allen was placed on season-ending injured reserve on Tuesday with a torn Achilles tendon suffered against the Saints.

Strong safety Keanu Neal (knee) is out for the year. Linebacker Deion Jones (foot) also is on IR and must miss at least eight games.

NOTES: DE Takk McKinley (groin) returned to practice after missing last week’s game. … Jones (calf) did not practice but his status is not expected to be in doubt for the game. He also was held out of practice last week before being fully cleared for the game. … RB Devonta Freeman (knee) did not practice and is in danger of missing his third straight game. … Quinn said DE Derrick Shelby (groin) faces an “uphill” battle to be ready for the game.

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The Los Angeles Rams remain on top of the TSN.ca NFL Power Rankings, ahead of the Kansas City Chiefs and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

This is the first update since the preseason, so some of the surprise teams in the early going have vaulted up higher in the rankings. On the strength of Patrick Mahomes and Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Chiefs and Bucs have made big moves up.

Other big movers are the Denver Broncos, Baltimore Ravens, and Cincinnati Bengals.

Headed in the other direction, the big fallers are the Arizona Cardinals, Seattle Seahawns, and Houston Texans.

LOS ANGELES RAMS

THIS WEEK: 1 LAST WEEK: 1 RECORD: 2-0

The Rams came into the season ranked No. 1 and they have outscored the opposition 67-13 in two wins. That’s good enough to stay on top.

Key Injuries: OLB Mark Barron (ankle).

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

THIS WEEK: 2 LAST WEEK: 14 RECORD: 2-0

The big question for the Chiefs coming into the season was whether or not second-year quarterback Patrick Mahomes would be ready. 10 touchdowns later, it looks like he’s ready to be a star.

Key Injuries: FS Eric Berry (heel).

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

THIS WEEK: 3 LAST WEEK: 29 RECORD: 2-0

Who would have predicted back-to-back 400-yard passing games with four touchdowns in both for backup QB Ryan Fitzpatrick? The Bucs’ early success is more than a little surprising, but it also may force them to keep Fitzpatrick in the starter’s role.

Key Injuries: QB Jameis Winston (suspension).

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

THIS WEEK: 4 LAST WEEK: 11 RECORD: 2-0

Only looked okay in a Week One win over the Giants, but were much more impressive in Week Two, with Blake Bortles having one of the best games of his career in a decisive 31-20 win against the Patriots.

Key Injuries: WR Marqise Lee (knee), LT Cam Robinson (knee).

MINNESOTA VIKINGS

THIS WEEK: 5 LAST WEEK: 3 RECORD: 1-0-1

The kicking game cost the Vikings at Green Bay, leaving them with a tie, but it’s readily apparent through two weeks that Minnesota has a potent offence. The defence has a rep, too, but they weren’t as effective against the Packers.

Key Injuries: None.

DENVER BRONCOS

THIS WEEK: 6 LAST WEEK: 21 RECORD: 2-0

A couple of narrow home wins doesn’t necessarily mean everything is okay for the Broncos, but it’s a good start and the offence has received an unexpected boost from undrafted rookie RB Phillip Lindsay, who has gained 213 yards from scrimmage in his first two games.

Key Injuries: T Menelik Watson (pectoral), T Jared Veldheer (concussion).

BALTIMORE RAVENS

THIS WEEK: 7 LAST WEEK: 23 RECORD: 1-1

After routing the Bills in Week One, the Ravens were brought back to Earth in a Thursday night loss at Cincinnati.

Key Injuries: TE Hayden Hurst (foot), CB Jimmy Smith (suspension/Achilles).

L.A. CHARGERS

THIS WEEK: 8 LAST WEEK: 6 RECORD: 1-1

The Chargers have split their first two games, losing to a strong Chiefs team then beating the abysmal Bills, but the injuries continue to accumulate, making this week’s Battle of Los Angeles all the more daunting.

Key Injuries: TE Hunter Henry (knee), S Jaylen Watkins (knee), CB Jason Verrett (Achilles), DE Joey Bosa (foot), DE Corey Liuget (suspension), RT Joe Barksdale (knee).

CINCINNATI BENGALS

THIS WEEK: 9 LAST WEEK: 24 RECORD: 2-0

The Bengals have looked good in a pair of 34-23 wins over Indianapolis and Baltimore, respectively. The passing game is sharp, and will need to be with starting running back Joe Mixon expected to miss a couple of weeks.

Key Injuries: C Billy Price (foot), RB Joe Mixon (knee).

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

THIS WEEK: 10 LAST WEEK: 13 RECORD: 1-1

Their Week One win against Atlanta wasn’t great, and they struggled in a Week Two loss at Tampa Bay, but the Eagles are getting starting quarterback Carson Wentz back in the lineup. The question is, given all of their injuries, does he have anyone to whom he can throw the ball?

Key Injuries: WR Alshon Jeffery (shoulder), WR Mike Wallace (leg).

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

THIS WEEK: 11 LAST WEEK: 2 RECORD: 1-1

After a loss at Jacksonville, the Patriots traded to get troubled wide receiver Josh Gordon from the Browns, a move that smacks of desperation, but there is the hope that Gordon straightens out and just plays ball. If he does that, then he can be a difference maker.

Key Injuries: WR Julian Edelman (suspension), DE Trey Flowers (concussion).

WASHINGTON

THIS WEEK: 12 LAST WEEK: 18 RECORD: 1-1

After an impressive showing at Arizona in Week One, Washington returned home and fell flat against Indianapolis. QB Alex Smith could use one of his receivers to step up and take hold of the No. 1 role.

Key Injuries: RB Derrius Guice (knee).

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

THIS WEEK: 13 LAST WEEK: 8 RECORD: 1-1

Losing a high-scoring affair in Week One against Tampa Bay was troubling, and a three-point home win against Cleveland didn’t inspire much confidence.

Key Injuries: RB Mark Ingram (suspension).

CAROLINA PANTHERS

THIS WEEK: 14 LAST WEEK: 9 RECORD: 1-1

A less-than-thrilling win at Dallas in Week One, followed by an okay loss at Atlanta. The Panthers are still looking for some reliable options in the passing game, especially with TE Greg Olsen sidelined.

Key Injuries: LT Matt Kalil (knee), TE Greg Olsen (knee), SS Da’Norris Searcy (concussion).

GREEN BAY PACKERS

THIS WEEK: 15 LAST WEEK: 10 RECORD: 1-0-1

If nothing else, through two weeks, the Packers have been very fortunate. They are unbeaten with a plus-one point differential. Getting RB Aaron Jones back from suspension could add another weapon in the backfield rotation.

Key Injuries: CB Kevin King (groin).

MIAMI DOLPHINS

THIS WEEK: 16 LAST WEEK: 26 RECORD: 2-0

Maybe the wins over the Titans and Jets weren’t eye-popping performances, but the Dolphins aren’t going to complain about winning their first two games.

Key Injuries: None.

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

THIS WEEK: 17 LAST WEEK: 5 RECORD: 0-1-1

So much drama. First it’s Le’Veon Bell’s holdout, now it’s Antonio Brown feeling unappreciated. Somewhere along the way, they need the defence to step up.

Key Injuries: RB Le’Veon Bell (unsigned).

ATLANTA FALCONS

THIS WEEK: 18 LAST WEEK: 7 RECORD: 1-1

The .500 record isn’t nearly as problematic as the current injured list, with the Falcons already losing a couple of starters on both sides of the ball.

Key Injuries: RB Devonta Freeman (knee), LG Andy Levitre (triceps), SS Keanu Neal (knee), MLB Deion Jones (foot).

NEW YORK JETS

THIS WEEK: 19 LAST WEEK: 31 RECORD: 1-1

Rookie QB Sam Darnold not only gives the Jets hope long-term, but he’s giving them a chance to be competitive right now. Even in a Week Two loss at Miami, he threw for 334 yards.

Key Injuries: FS Marcus Maye (foot).

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

THIS WEEK: 20 LAST WEEK: 20 RECORD: 1-1

The Niners rebounded for a victory in Week Two, with RB Matt Breida making the difference. They have some serious tests coming up, with visits to the Chiefs and Chargers in the next two weeks.

Key Injuries: RB Jerick McKinnon (knee).

CHICAGO BEARS

THIS WEEK: 21 LAST WEEK: 22 RECORD: 1-1

A close loss at Green Bay in Week One followed up by a Monday night win over Seattle in Week Two. They’re still a work in progress, as second-year QB Mitch Trubisky settles into his role as an NFL starter.

Key Injuries: None.

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

THIS WEEK: 22 LAST WEEK: 30 RECORD: 1-1

After a tough home loss against Cincinnati in Week One, the Colts recovered with a solid victory at Washington in Week Two.

Key Injuries: None.

DALLAS COWBOYS

THIS WEEK: 23 LAST WEEK: 19 RECORD: 1-1

The Cowboys did win against the Giants in Week Two, but they have scored 28 points in two games and have, predictably, had trouble moving the ball on offence.

Key Injuries: C Travis Frederick (neurological).

TENNESSEE TITANS

THIS WEEK: 24 LAST WEEK: 17 RECORD: 1-1

With Marcus Mariota hurt, the Titans turned to Blaine Gabbert and escaped with a win against Houston, but Gabbert’s performance – passing for 117 yards – hardly inspires confidence.

Key Injuries: S Jonathan Cyprien (knee), QB Marcus Mariota (elbow).

DETROIT LIONS

THIS WEEK: 25 LAST WEEK: 15 RECORD: 0-2

The Lions were embarrassed by the Jets in Week One and then lost a close one in San Francisco. A home date, against Matt Patricia’s former Patriots squad, awaits.

Key Injuries: None.

HOUSTON TEXANS

THIS WEEK: 26 LAST WEEK: 4 RECORD: 0-2

Two road losses to start the season isn’t the end of the world for the Texans, but it does place some urgency on getting into the win column ASAP. With the Giants coming to Houston this week, there’s no time like the present.

Key Injuries: None.

OAKLAND RAIDERS

THIS WEEK: 27 LAST WEEK: 28 RECORD: 0-2

The Raiders looked better at Denver in Week Two than they did at home against the Rams in Week One. It may just be a reflection of the opposition, but could be reason to have some optimism heading into Miami for Week Three.

Key Injuries: None.

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

THIS WEEK: 28 LAST WEEK: 12 RECORD: 0-2

The Seahawks have not looked good in losing their first two games, as the offensive line isn’t giving QB Russell Wilson enough time and with Doug Baldwin hurt, he’s missing his number one weapon in the passing game.

Key Injuries: WR Doug Baldwin (knee), OLB K.J. Wright (knee).

CLEVELAND BROWNS

THIS WEEK: 29 LAST WEEK: 27 RECORD: 0-1-1

A tie against Pittsburgh and a close loss against Seattle is a promising start to the season. It would have been more encouraging if they were able to get Josh Gordon producing for The Land.

Key Injuries: DE Emmanuel Ogbah (ankle), OLB Christian Kirksey (shoulder).

NEW YORK GIANTS

THIS WEEK: 30 LAST WEEK: 25 RECORD: 0-2

The Giants came into the season hoping that QB Eli Manning still had something left and it’s looking like that might have been an optimistic take.

Key Injuries: C Jon Halapio (leg).

ARIZONA CARDINALS

THIS WEEK: 31 LAST WEEK: 16 RECORD: 0-2

Given Sam Bradford’s struggles through two weeks, it can’t be long before rookie Josh Rosen gets his chance to steer the ship.

Key Injuries: None.

BUFFALO BILLS

THIS WEEK: 32 LAST WEEK: 32 RECORD: 0-2

The Bills were obliterated in Week One and a little more respectable in Week Two, but they are at Minnesota and Green Bay the next two weeks, a trip that doesn’t figure to turn around their fortunes.