UFC 252 takes place at the APEX Centre on Sunday 16th August, as heavyweights Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier fight for the UFC heavyweight title.
Welcome to this weekly column on the National Football League, a cocktail of light-hearted musings, analysis – and of course gambling. Let’s kick-off.
First and goal
The story lost in Cleveland’s false start to the season was the Titans, who won 43-13. With Andrew Luck retiring and Nick Foles going down, the door is wide open for Tennessee to grab the AFC South.
They have a defence to be feared and have finally worked out how to utilise powerful running back Derek Henry. Bill Belichick’s coaching tree is infamously bad but Mike Vrabel might be the exception (I’m also big on Brian Flores but better not say that too loud week).
The Titans just need quarterback Marcus Mariota to not be a potato and they should be a playoff team.
Second and goal
Are the Raiders good? Does Jon Gruden actually know what he’s doing? Personally, I think Monday’s 24-16 win over Denver says more about the Broncos than Oakland, but this situation is one to watch.
One year into Gruden’s tenure he has the team he wants, and the pieces fit together damn well in week one. Tyrell Williams as WR1 lit it up while Josh Jacobs also starred.
I thought the Trent Brown signing was a massive over-pay but he got the job done against Von Miller and Bradley Chubb. They’re obviously not going to win the division but the Raiders could generate some optimism heading to Las Vegas.
Third and goal
The Colts are going to be fine. While life after Luck started with a loss, Indianapolis was in a position to win their game against the Chargers, losing in overtime. They might’ve won too, if not for some uncharacteristic Adam Vinatieri misses.
But the truth is, this team was a Super Bowl contender before Luck retired and they’re still okay now. Jacoby Brissett is good enough to keep the Colts relevant and the rest of their roster is nicely built, led by the Marlon Mack and the running game.
I don’t think Indy will make the playoffs but they’re going to cause some headaches and be a fun team to bet on.
Give me New Orleans vs Rams, now. This is unquestionably the must-watch game of the week, after last year’s NFC Championship Game where the Saints were robbed of a Super Bowl berth by a bewildering non-pass interference call.
The fallout was immense, epitomised by the lawsuit filed by a group of fans against the NFL!
Both franchises notched week one victories and are once again leading contenders to take the NFC.
I’m throwing a challenge flag on both the Packers and the Bears. I have no idea what to read into the season-opener; Mitch Trubisky is coping the brunt of criticism but this Packers’ defence under coordinator Mike Pettine looks really good.
I think we’ll learn about both sides in their respective match-ups this weekend, but it could be Green Bay’s opponent, Minnesota, that announce themselves as the team to beat in the NFC North.
The Bears travel to Denver, which is a tough landing spot for the under fire Trubisky.
Send in the punt team
Typically, I’ll wait a few weeks to get a feel for the league but after a winning start to the season I’m happy to dip my toe again.
The Eagles ($1.78) should beat Atlanta and the Seahawks (+4.5) are good value going into Pittsburgh.