JR Bang of the First Black Champ podcast joins Scott and Flows to celebrate the Bears’ sweep of the divisional gauntlet, and discuss the keys to the Bears’ success before previewing Sunday’s game against the New York Giants
The three-man crew is back together for a preview of the new NBA season, a recap of week 6 and to chat about the continued back-and-forth between Drake and Pusha T.
NBA opening night
Things we’re looking forward to this season
Jimmy Butler/T’Wolves drama
Week 6 NFL review
Heated Saquon Barkley v. QB debate
Do you believe in Mahomes & the Chiefs?
Are the Jags D overrated?
Week 7 predictions
Drake/Pusha T interviews
Goofy Mog of the Week
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We are now about to enter Week 5 of the NFL season and Dez Bryant is still looking for a new team. He hinted last week that he should be signing with somebody “soon” but no teams have been attached to these rumors. As we’ve seen, some teams could definitely use the help on offense. Others may not need the help but could be best in maximizing Dez Bryant’s skillset.
Green Bay Packers
Randall Cobb is banged up and Geronimo Allison went down this week with a concussion. Aaron Rodgers doesn’t typically throw the ball to tight ends but they’ve still managed to find ways to get the ball to Jimmy Graham in the red zone. That means they would have no problem utilizing Dez in the same way. As a team that loves to pass it from inside the five yard line, the Packers would provide a great chance for Dez to reclaim his confidence and production.
TY Hilton is another player that exited this week with an injury. He joins Jack Doyle as another one of Andrew Luck’s favorite targets on the shelf. If both guys continue to miss time, Dez Bryant could easily slide into a starting role. Like Aaron Rodgers, Luck loves to throw to his big bodies in the red zone. But if the Colts want to compete, they’ll need more than just Eric Ebron.
This one would have made more sense during the offseason. When Doug Baldwin became injured in the preseason, Dez Bryant could have greatly benefited from the role Brandon Marshall stepped into. However, that opportunity has passed with Doug Baldwin now back on the field.
San Francisco 49ers
Similar to the Seahawks, I wish this one came with better circumstances. This would have been a better opportunity if Jimmy Garoppolo was still healthy. CJ Beathard gave the Niners a chance to win this week but he’s not in the team’s long-term plans. Garoppolo would have needed to be the guy to build that chemistry with Dez.
New York Giants
When the Giants drafted Saquon Barkley, I was hoping they would go out and sign Dez Bryant to complete the offense. With Odell Beckham outside, Sterling Shepard in the slot, Evan Engram at tight end, and Saquon in the backfield, Dez could have served as the opposite outside receiver. Nobody could be double covered and defenses wouldn’t be able to load the box. Eli Manning isn’t as bad as the media is making him out to be. His offensive line just isn’t giving him a consistently clean pocket. If Bryant was added to the slew of talent they already have, defenses wouldn’t have the luxury of blitzing as often as they wanted to.
Aside from the man-handling of the Minnesota Vikings, the Bills have looked like one of the worst teams in football. Just when we had a chance to start taking them more seriously, they went scoreless against the Packers this week. Kelvin Benjamin is supposed to be their WR1 but only had a single catch in a game they were trailing the whole time. Charles Clay and LeSean McCoy may very well be at the tail end of their careers. The Bills could be looking at a total reset next season. I doubt Dez Bryant could fix the Bills but he’s better than what they have now and Josh Allen needs somebody to throw to before he loses confidence in himself.
Somehow even more hopeless than the Bills are the Arizona Cardinals. Josh Rosen stepped in this week and actually had a chance to win the game. That’s more than we’ve been able to say in recent weeks so there is a glimmer of hope. However, I would be surprised if Larry Fitzgerald doesn’t retire after this season and his successor has yet to emerge from the rest of the Arizona offense. Josh Rosen is going to be in desperate need of help next year if they don’t make some serious changes.
They’re 3-1 but these wins haven’t been very pretty. Corey Davis had a 161 yard performance in their win against the Eagles but he’s not going to do that every week. In their Week 2 in against the Texans, their leading receiver was safety Dane Cruikshank who caught a 66 yard TD on a fake punt. In their Week 3 win, Marcus Mariota only threw for 100 yards. Delanie Walker is already going to miss the rest of the season and he’s been Mariota’s favorite target in recent years. The Titans need a boost on offense if they want to give their defense a rest this season.
Every season we tend to see around five new teams emerge during the season and make their way into the playoffs. Most of them are surprises too.
Last season the Rams and Eagles took two giant premature steps forward. I didn't expect much from either team last year but now they both have the appearance of perennial contenders. An injury to Aaron Rodgers allowed for three NFC South teams to book a playoff ticket.
A lot can happen so let's take a look at a few certain contenders along with some of those potential surprises.
Tier 1: Locked In
New Orleans Saints
Los Angeles Rams
The Saints were one Stefon Diggs touchdown away from having a real shot at winning the Super Bowl last year. No more wonders of how Adrian Peterson is going mesh with the offense. Mark Ingram will be suspended for the first four games but they have no problem making Alvin Kamara the focal point of the offense until then. Michael Thomas, Cameron Meredith, and Ted Ginn Jr. are already a solid foundation but rookie Tre'Quan Smith adds even more raw speed.
Speaking of rookies, first round DE Marcus Davenport makes his way onto a stout defense led by sophomore CB Marshon Lattimore.
The Vikings made all the way to the conference finals on the back of Case Keenum before getting embarrassed by the Eagles. They've been contenders for the past several seasons thanks to their elite defense so they have no concerns on that side of the ball. Their offense has gotten better every year and now it takes another step forward.
Replacing Keenum is Kirk Cousins, who's is a more willing runner and deep ball thrower. Dalvin Cook returns from an injury that derailed his rookie season after four games. He possesses the best traits of both Jerick McKinnon and Latavis Murray and was actually on pace to lead the league in rushing at the time of his injury.
Sean McVay was the blessing that Jared Goff and Todd Gurley needed. New life was injected into the Rams' passing game and the addition of Andrew Whitworth at left tackle gave Gurley some actual lanes to run through. Sammy Watkins was a great asset in the red zone but I think Brandin Cooks is an upgrade for the type of uptempo offense they run.
The defense lost Trumaine Johnson but added Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib, Sam Shields, and Ndamukong Suh so they should be all set.
Tier 2: Not Far Behind
Green Bay Packers
The only reason I have the defending Super Bowl Champion Eagles right here is because Carson Wentz and Alshon Jeffrey are currently working their way back from injuries. If they're forced to missed time then that may cost them a couple of games. Regardless, their defense alone should win them games. I'm not concerned.
The Carolina Panthers have one of the most consistently disciplined defenses in the league regardless of who they plug in there. The offense tends to be a tad on the inconsistent side but everything is currently aligning. Greg Olsen and Curtis Samuel are back and healthy. Christian McCaffrey is expected to take a big leap this year as the projected three-down back.
On top of that, first-round rookie receiver DJ Moore was viewed by many as the most talented prospect in his position's draft class. If everything clicks, they could beat anybody.
Green Bay still had a chance to make the playoffs even with all of the time that Aaron Rodgers missed. Ted Thompson is no longer the GM so now they'll actually participate in free agency going forward. Brian Gutekunst made that apparent with the signings of Muhammad Wilkerson and Jimmy Graham this offseason. Graham has surely lost a step but he'll have no problem hauling in all those red zone targets that Jordy Nelson left behind.
From a fantasy perspective, their RB situation is messy. From a real-life perspective, they have three guys (Ty Montgomery, Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams) that can start and produce on any given week. We all know their offense is a threat but their defense is sneaky good and is loaded with talent at all three levels.
The Falcons' offense looked watered down in 2017 as they transitioned from a Kyle Shanahan offense to a Steve Sarkisian-led side. Despite the step down, they still made the playoffs in a difficult division. If they can get a better grasp on Sarkisian's scheme then they have all the pieces to return to form.
Tier 3: Don't Be Surprised
New York Giants
San Francisco 49ers
In 2016 we saw the emergence of a stingy Giants defense that paved a way to the playoffs. We didn't see that same defense in 2017. The offense couldn't help them at all. The entire receiving corps was depleted with injuries and there was zero semblance of a run game. Now that 2016 team gets Evan Engram and Saquon Barkley. I'm sure they're excited about a healthy Odell Beckham too.
The Bears had a top 10 defense last year which a lot of people don't realize. It's pretty impressive considering their offense was at the bottom of the league in terms of total plays ran. Jordan Howard has managed to be successful in vanilla schemes but now the training wheels are off in Matt Nagy's new offense.
Just like the Giants, they didn't have anybody to throw the ball to last season. Allen Robinson, Trey Burton, Taylor Gabriel, and Anthony Miller hope to aid Mitchell Trubisky make a leap similar to Jared Goff with his revamped team.
If I wrote this a couple months ago then I might have had the 49ers a tier higher. The hype surrounding them has been immense so I've tried to temper my expectations recently. The once elite defense has been a place mat in recent years but the front seven is young and promising. Richard Sherman also provides a type of intelligence and star power the team hasn't seen since Patrick Willis and Navarro Bowman were together. Jerick McKinnon isn't as good between the tackles as Carlos Hyde but has a better knack for catching the ball which is what Kyle Shanahan is looking for.
The Cardinals could hover around 8-8 or even 9-7 this season, but they face a similar problem to the other teams in their tier. If everything goes right for the previous teams then the conference may be too crowded to let everyone into the playoffs. The Cardinals are probably one more year out from returning to prominence.
Their defense always lands in the upper half of the league, David Johnson is back, and they have a Hall of Famer in Larry Fitzgerald at wide receiver. The glaring problem is the quarterback situation. Sam Bradford is talented enough to lead a playoff team but can never stay healthy for a full season. Even if he is healthy, they may be too eager to get Josh Rosen on the field. Rosen will probably have the QB position set in stone by next season but Larry Fitz may be gone by then.