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No team wants to distance itself from last season or even the previous year

They get a chance to prove
all of those offseason maneuvers paid off when they host their
archrivals Authentic
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, the Steelers, on Sunday.No, it's not fair
to fully judge Cleveland's progress in the opener. It is tempting, though,
considering how the roster has been revamped and the enthusiasm has been ramped
up."Honestly, I would rather not look back," says Browns coach Hue Jackson, and
why would he with a 1-31 record in charge? "I just feel really good about this
group. We have to get ourselves ready to play. It is a big-time game this week.
This is against the best team in our division. It is a huge game."It also
doesn't hurt the Browns that Pittsburgh has been missing one of its best
players, star running back and holdout Le'Veon Bell.Still, as Jackson notes, the
Steelers have been the cream of the AFC North for a long time, while the Browns
have been the downtrodden.Regardless of Bell's status 鈥?James Conner is the
backup 鈥?the Steelers have a dynamic offense thanks to receiver Antonio Brown,
perhaps the NFL's best player; quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, still a force in
his 15th pro season; and a talented offensive line."If we start off with James,
I think we'll be fine either way," guard Ramon Foster says. "He's a guy that's
made strides. He's made us confident in him. So he gets the start, we roll with
him. No disrespect to (Bell), we've got to move. This is a moving train."The
season opened Thursday night when the defending champion Philadelphia Eagles got
past the Atlanta Falcons 18-12 in a sloppy, penalty-filled game.Jay Ajayi scored
his second touchdown on an 11-yard run with 2:19 remaining, and the Eagles
withstood a two-minute drive by Matt Ryan and the Falcons, with Julio Jones
failing to come down with Ryan's high pass on the final play from the 5-yard
line.The game was marred by penalties, dropped passes, missed assignments and
weak quarterbacking. Foles threw for 117 yards and an interception, and Ryan
completed less than 50 percent of his passes. Neither threw for a touchdown.San
Francisco at MinnesotaYes, quarterbacks get too much attention these days.
Still, this is one game where they have to be the focal point.The Vikings spent
about the entire budget of the state of Minnesota on Kirk Cousins after he
played two seasons under the franchise tag in Washington. So while the return of
rookie sensation (until he hurt his knee) Dalvin Cook to the backfield is quite
intriguing, most eyes will be on how Cousins fares with far more talent around
him.San Francisco was in QB purgatory a year ago, then pulled off an October
deal for Jimmy Garoppolo. The youngster who hasn't lost in seven career starts,
got a huge contract, too. He'll face one of the NFL's toughest defenses in this
one.New York Jets at Detroit, Monday nightOK, excuse us if, one more
time Womens John
Brown Jersey
, we concentrate on the quarterback. This one is Sam
Darnold , the only member of the five first-round passers in this year's draft
who will get a start. He has poise, lots of arm talent and the ability to escape
trouble.Of course, he's also a J-E-T-S QB; the last true franchise guy they had
was Joe Namath."I know that just because I got named the starter doesn't mean we
won the game Monday night," the Southern Cal product says. "It's awesome and I'm
really happy to be the starting quarterback, but I also know that I've got to go
out there and do my job."He'll try to do it against new Lions coach Matt
Patricia's defensive acumen. Patricia comes from New England, so the pedigree is
impressive.Los Angeles Rams at Oakland, Monday nightAnother 2018 newcomer
鈥?actually a returning megastar 鈥?is Raiders coach Jon Gruden. Enticed out of
the ESPN broadcast booth, given full reign in Oakland along with major money,
Gruden already has flexed his power by trading the Raiders' best player, pass
rusher supreme Khalil Mack .That probably won't temper the rabid Black Hole for
the opener. What might is a Rams club with perhaps the most talented roster in
the NFL, led by DT Aaron Donald and RB Todd Gurley.Cincinnati at
IndianapolisAnother key returnee (and, yeah, a QB) is Andrew Luck for the Colts.
A shoulder injury that some claim was misdiagnosed, others say was mishandled,
sidelined him for all of 2017. When healthy, he is elite, although the roster
under new coach Frank Reich appears anything but.Cincinnati brought back Marvin
Lewis, the second-longest tenured coach in the NFL, and also re-signed its top
two defenders, Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins. They'll try to wreak havoc on
Luck.Tennessee at MiamiMike Vrabel won three Super Bowls as a linebacker and
sometime TD-catching receiver. He takes over a Titans squad that made the
playoffs and upset Kansas City last winter, and seeks to build on such success
in the rugged AFC South. Look for RB Derrick Henry to be the workhorse on
offense and CB Malcolm Butler trying to show he deserved to play for the
Patriots in their Super Bowl loss to Philadelphia.The Dolphins' season could
depend on how much Frank Gore has left as a ball carrier. Gore is closing in on
fourth place on the career rushing list, seemingly Hall of Fame
credentials.Washington at ArizonaLike Patricia and to a lesser extent Vrabel,
new Cardinals coach Steve Wilks made his reputation as a defensive coordinator
with Carolina. One thing for sure, he will have the Cardinals playing a more
physical style than in recent seasons. On offense, he gets back fantasy football
go-to David Johnson at running back.With the Cousins years over, Alex Smith was
acquired and will make few mistakes at quarterback. He doesn't have a ton to
work with, unless recently signed Adrian Peterson still excels. Don't bet
against Peterson.Jacksonville at New York GiantsGiants owner John Mara calls
what happened to his club last season "a perfect storm." New York tried to right
the ship by hiring Pat Shurmur as coach and Dave Gettleman as general manager.
If the Giants are healthy and second overall draft pick Saquon Barkley is the
second coming of LT 鈥?LaDainian Tomlinson, not Lawrence Taylor 鈥?this could be a
dangerous team.The first test is massive. After being 10 minutes from making the
Super Bowl, the Jags are among the AFC favorites. Even spicier: Tom Coughlin,
who led the Giants to two titles as coach and now oversees Jacksonville's
football operations, returns to the Meadowlands.Chicago at Green BayTalk about
adding some spice, that's exactly what Mack will do for the Monsters of the
Midway. It might not happen Sunday night at Lambeau Field; let the standout
defender get into football shape first.Chicago hired Chiefs offensive guru Matt
Nagy as coach Womens
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, but it's Mack and the D that likely will
carry the Bears.No question who will carry the Packers. Aaron Rodgers returns
from his shoulder woes that derailed the 2017 season. Of primary interest could
be his hookups with tight end Jimmy Graham, who needs to return to elite status
after several down years.Houston at New EnglandWhat could be a highly revealing
matchup for the first weekend of the schedule.Like so many teams, the Texans are
hoping to stay away from the injury bug that ruined them last season. Getting
back J.J. Watt, probably the best defensive player the NFL has seen in the past
half-dozen years, and Whitney Mercilus is huge. So is having Deshaun Watson at
quarterback after his sensational rookie performances before wrecking his
knee.More than ever, the spotlight in New England will be on defensive
improvement. Unless age catches up to him 鈥?and he plans to play until he is 45
鈥?Tom Brady at 41 remains the Michael Jordan/Wayne Gretzky of football.Tampa Bay
at New OrleansThe Saints are looking pretty jazzy after strong drafts and
personnel moves helped them nearly make the NFC title game last season. They had
both top rookie award winners in RB Alvin Kamara and CB Marshon Lattimore, while
Drew Brees probably will be setting more passing records at age 39.It's hard to
say the same about a Buccaneers squad that will have starting quarterback Jameis
Winston suspended for three games for violating the league's personal conduct
policy. Tampa Bay was very active in bulking up its defense, a must in the NFC
South going against Brees, Matt Ryan and Cam Newton.Kansas City at Los Angeles
ChargersA lot of love is being sent the Chargers' way in their second season
playing in a soccer stadium. Rightfully so given their strengths in the pass
rush and with a balanced offense. Remember, they lost their first four games
before winding up 9-7 and barely out of the postseason.Not so much love outside
of Arrowhead Stadium is being tossed at the Chiefs, so a road win against the
presumptive AFC West favorite would provide a massive boost. Coach Andy Reid has
a way of winning with most any level of talent 鈥?at least in the regular
season.Dallas at CarolinaThe big questions in Big D:鈥擧ow much will having Zeke
Elliott in the backfield all season make a difference?鈥擟an Dak Prescott
replicate his great rookie year with Elliott behind him?鈥擶ho will catch the ball
with Jason Witten and Dez Bryant gone?鈥擮ther than a solid pass rush, what does
Dallas have on defense?There are fewer queries in Carolina, though repeating
11-5 in the NFC South won't likely get a division crown. Watch for RB Christian
McCaffrey to truly break out.Seattle at DenverYeah, the teams that fought it out
for the 2013 NFL crown now have that also-ran look. Roster makeovers are greatly
to blame.Seattle's once-masterful defense is in rebuild mode, while other than
the superb Russell Wilson throwing to the superb Doug Baldwin, it's hard to find
much on offense to get excited about.Denver brought in Case Keenum after he
quarterbacked Minnesota to the NFC championship game in his first real shot at
being the starter. It's the Orange Crush defense, however, that will need to
sway games for the Broncos.Buffalo at BaltimoreSorry, but we'll finish with more
quarterback stuff.This could have been a glimpse of two April first-rounders,
Buffalo's Josh Allen against Baltimore's Lamar Jackson. Both will ride the
bench, though, and at least in the Bills' case it's understandable. Coach Sean
McDermott probably didn't want Allen making a debut against the Ravens'
aggressive and powerful defense. After he was released by the Oakland Raiders
last offseason, the Ravens moved quickly to sign wide receiver Michael Crabtree
to a three-year, $21 million dollar contract. At the time, the acquisition was
well-received by many and expected to pay dividends. Many thought Crabtree would
thrive as the number one option in Baltimore’s revamped passing attack. On the
surface, it made sense; his redzone prowess and savy, veteran skills mirrored
that of past Ravens receivers who had success in Baltimore, such as Anquan
Boldin and Derrick Mason. However, things did not go according to plan.
Crabtree’s longtime struggles with drops reared their ugly head early in the
season and his production in terms of yards and touchdowns failed to
compensate.Crabtree finished the season with near career-lows across the board:
54 receptions, 607 yards and three touchdowns, which ranked 62nd, 66th, and 78th
out of all wide receivers Authentic
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, respectively.He saw 100 targets on the
year, which led all Ravens receivers, so Crabtree’s struggles can’t be chalked
up to a lack of opportunity. Despite seeing more targets than his counterparts,
Crabtree was less productive than John Brown, Willie Snead IV, and even rookie
tight end Mark Andrews.Much like John Brown, however, Crabtree’s production
cratered during the second half of the season following a quarterback change.
When the Ravens became a run-centric offense with Lamar Jackson, essentially
every receiver other than Willie Snead IV and Mark Andrews became
invisible.Here’s a breakdown of Crabtree’s regular season production in nine
games with Joe Flacco starting and eight games Lamar Jackson under center:With
Flacco: 41 receptions, 472 yards, 11.5 YPC, 2 TDWith Jackson: 13 receptions, 135
yards, 10.4 YPC, 1 TDClearly, Crabtree was negatively affected by the switch at
quarterback. Would his production have fallen off had Flacco never gotten
injured? Probably not. However, Jackson is the quarterback going forward and
Crabtree’s game does not mesh well with the young signal-caller.Given his
inconsistencies as a passer, the Ravens need to surround Jackson with playmakers
capable of creating separation and gaining yards after the catch. Crabtree isn’t
particularly good at either of these things.Baltimore has an opportunity to get
younger at the position and potentially acquire some building blocks for the
future. Crabtree, who turns 31 next season, was never going to be anything more
than a stopgap option.Crabtree is at the backend of his prime and his production
has tailored off over the past few seasons. After being signed to lead a
new-look receiver core, Crabtree was one of the Ravens biggest disappointments
this season. His performance did little to elicit confidence that he’ll improve
going forward, either.If the Ravens want to let Crabtree go, they can do so with
the team-option in his contract. According to Spotrac, the Ravens can release
Crabtree before June 1st, which ends Crabtree’s contract as a one-year/$8
million deal, saving Baltimore $4,666,665 in 2019.If his short time in Baltimore
has come to a close, at least he left on somewhat of a high note: catching two
fourth-quarter touchdown passes in the Ravens wild card loss to the Chargers.
The 10-year veteran is one of several potential cap casualties on the Ravens
roster. Cutting ties with “King Crab” would save Baltimore money and allow for a
smoother investment in younger, more scheme-friendly options at wide
receiver.While retaining him going into next season would maintain consistency
at the position, moving in a different direction appears to the best option for
the Ravens. Be sure to vote and leave your thoughts down below!
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