As the Miami Hurricanes plan for their final regular season game, there’s still more than a handful of games left in the NFL season. Some teams still have realistic ambitions of making the playoffs. Others are living in a fantasy where they’re only mathematically able to make the postseason. Then there are those who are already looking forward to the 2019 season.
Since this is the ProCane preview, we’ll look at how University of Miami Hurricanes football, both past and present, will impact the 2018-’19 NFL playoff field.
Carolina Panthers (6-3) vs Detroit Lions (3-6) 1PM EDT
After last week’s debacle against the Steelers on Thursday Night Football, the Panthers finally return to the field to exorcise some demons. Carolina is in the midst of contending for the wildcard spot and still have two games remaining against the NFC South-leading New Orleans in the weeks to come. However, this week the focus is on leaving Ford Field with a win.
ProCane TE Greg Olsen may be healthy enough to be on the field, but is still being bothered by a foot injury that cost him a few games early in the season. While his foot may not be 100%, the injury hasn’t dampened the chemistry between Olsen and QB Cam Newton. Olsen remains Newton’s favorite target in the passing game, averaging five targets a game since his return. If the Panthers’ offensive line can provide enough time for Newton to get through his progression, you should see lots of happy kids receiving TD balls from the Carolina O.
Houston Texans (6-3) vs Washington Redskins (6-3) 1PM EDT
RB Lamar Miller seems to be back to his younger form. Uncoincidentally, the Texans are riding a six-game win streak. Of course, Houston’s defense, QB DeShaun Watson and the Texan receiving corp all deserve their due. That said, Miller establishing himself as a threat to break open a big run is important to Houston, who rank 11th in the NFL with 120.2 rushing yards-per-game. The former Miami Killian High School standout has scored a TD in two of his last three games. Coming off a bye week, a well-rested Miller should find his way into the endzone.
The Redskins have bottled opposing run games to the tune of 90.9 yards per game. Miller doesn’t need to surpass the century mark for the Texans to be successful — though it wouldn’t hurt, of course. By making the run game a threat and bringing down Washington safety DJ Swearinger closer to the line of scrimmage, they should open Houston’s playbook.
Pittsburgh Steelers (6-2-1) vs Jacksonville Jaguars (3-6) 1PM EDT
For all intents and purposes, CB Artie Burns continues to be the Steelers’ insurance policy in the secondary. Burns has ridden the pine during the Steelers five-game win streak. With Cameron Sutton and Joe Haden ahead of him on the depth chart, Burns received a season low 10 total defensive snaps last week against Carolina. Unless an injury arises, the decline in snaps will continue for the former first round pick.
As Burns struggles to find playing time, Steelers’ LB Anthony Chickillo has carved out a productive role for himself in 2018. After contributing mainly as a special teamer during his first three seasons in the league, Chick has risen to become a contributing member of the Steelers’ linebacking corp. The stats — six tackles, seven QB hurries, a sack and a fumble recovery — don’t paint the full profile.
An assignment-sound veteran, Pittsburgh defensive coordinator Keith Butler can rely on No. 56 to be where he’s supposed to be. It may not look pretty when the former defensive end drops back into coverage, but Chickillo understands where his help is needed in coverage and makes the effort to pick up threats in his zone.
If there’s a team that can relate to the misery of the Hurricanes’ 2018 letdown of a season, it’s the Jacksonville Jaguars. After going to the AFC Championship game in 2017, the Jaguars are teetering on the cliff that would force them to miss the postseason. The return of RB Leonard Fournette was supposed to jumpstart the Jaguars’ offense. Instead, the Jags rushed for 2.7 yards-per-carry against a modest Indianapolis defense in week ten.
The Steelers are ranked fourth in the NFL in run defense entering today’s game, allowing 90.8 rushing yards-per-game. With the ever-erratic play of QB Blake Bortles, a reliable running game will help mitigate the concern for the Jags offense.
DE Calais Campbell is the leader of an underperforming defense. What happened to the Jags’ defense? Jacksonville has given up 20 points in each of their losses during this five-game slump. Campbell, who is tied for the team lead with five sacks at this point, is going to need to throw off Steeler QB Ben Roethlisberger — Campbell sacked Roethlisberger 3 times in two meetings last season — for Jacksonville to have a shot at pulling off the upset here.
Denver Broncos (3-6) vs Los Angeles Chargers (7-2) 4:05PM EDT
The electricity surrounding the Chargers’ franchise is rapidly approaching capacity. If not for being in the same division as the red-hot Chiefs, the Chargers would be one of the conversation points. Instead, the Bolts surge in obscurity as the Saints, Cowboys and Rams take up most of the headlines. The team doesn’t seem to mind winning and going about their business, despite playing in the second biggest market in the country.
ProCane PK Michael Badgley continues to provide reliability on special teams. As mentioned in our ProCane Recap, the rookie made both of his FG attempts, with a long of 41 yards against the Raiders in week 10.
Unfortunately, LB Denzel Perryman suffered a knee injury on the first drive of the the game in week 10. While the toothless Raiders didn’t offer up much of a challenge, the Broncos’ ninth rated rushing attack is a stiffer challenge. However, their passing game has flickered on and off like those Christmas lights you bought two seasons ago. This could be the perfect storm for strong safety Rayshawn Jenkins to see more snaps this week. Jenkins has rotated in as part the Chargers’ sub-packages on later downs.
WR Travis Benjamin continues to be a vertical threat for the Chargers’ offense — that is, when they line him up. The Glades Central project production has primarily come on punt return, where he averages 4.7 yards-per-return. Aside from a target or two, or the odd jet-motion handoff, Benjamin has fallen down the offensive pecking order since his return to the lineup.
Kansas City Chiefs (9-1) vs Los Angeles Rams (9-1) Monday 8:15PM EDT
For all the duds that Monday Night Football has been forced to air over the course of the last few years, this game surely will make up for past transgressions. In what could be a preview of the Super Bowl, two of the most electric offenses the sport has to offer clash in Los Angeles Sunday night. The offenses are assuredly the headliners, but, for our purposes, the ProCane content draws from the defenses for both teams.
For Chiefs’ DE Allen Bailey, 2018 has been his most productive season as a pro to date. Sitting at four sacks this season, with six weeks left, Bailey needs just one more sack to tie his single-season personal best. Generating more pressure this season as a 3-4 end would be absurd, if not for the fact that the NFL is coming to understand what UM fans learned — Allen Bailey is a sheer force of nature getting off the ball. Working against Rams’ tackle Andrew Whitworth, expect there to be plenty of chippiness from the two, with Bailey trying to bullrush Whitworth into the pocket.
For the Rams, cornerback Sam Shields has enjoyed a productive season back in the league after taking a hiatus to address medical concerns in 2017. Working as a rotation corner, Shield will see action against the Chiefs’ outside receivers — which could be Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins or even TE Travis Kelce, depending on formation.
Shields has improved in his technique as the season progressed, and his confidence appears to have risen along with his production. Outside of the Saints, this will be the toughest challenge for Shields and the Rams’ secondary to stay with KC’s receivers for a prolonged time should QB Pat Mahomes continue to buy time to make uncanny throws. This doesn’t even account for RB Kareem Hunt and a potent Chiefs’ running game.
It’s going to be a high-scoring affair to be sure. Although it’s taking place on foreign soil, it should be an entertaining contest.... Unless you’re the defensive proponent. Then you better look elsewhere for some substance.
ProCanes Fantasy Player of the Week
We’re going back to the tight end well this week. As we mentioned earlier, Olsen has once again become Cam Newton’s favorite target in the passing game. Last week was a mess for the entire Panthers’ offense. With 10 days in-between games, we have faith that Carolina will be able to get it together and take advantage of the Lions’ secondary.
Olsen is probably the TE you took in the mid-rounds, or maybe he’s floating in your free agency pool. With the likes of Chris Herndon, David Njoku and Rob Gronkowski enjoying a bye week, Olsen is in an ideal spot start today.
News and Notes
A Pair of ProCanes Done for the Season
LB Denzel Perryman was ruled out for the remainder of the 2018 season with multiple injuries. Jaguars’ C Brandon Linder will miss the rest of the season after suffering a knee injury in a week 10 loss to the Colts. Linder was PFF’s 8th ranked center entering week 11.
The ProCanes infirmary added another roster spot on Thursday. Green Bay Packers TE Jimmy Graham suffered a broken thumb in a game against the Seattle Seahawks. Although nothing has been confirmed, many sources believe the injury will rule him out for the remainder of the season.
Reggie Wayne Inducted Into Colts Ring of Honor
Today, former Indianapolis Colts WR Reggie Wayne will be officially inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor. The ProCane spent his entire 13-year career with the Colts. Wayne’s career stat line read: 1,070 receptions, 14,345 receiving yards, and 82 touchdowns. Oh, and yesterday just happened to be Wayne’s 40th birthday. Congratulations No. 87!
#tbt... Me and the Big Man conversation years ago. @JimIrsay: You know what Reg... One day you'll be inducted into the @Colts Ring of Honor...— Reggie Wayne (@ReggieWayne_17) November 15, 2018
Me: If that day ever comes. You know I'm gonna need your plane right. pic.twitter.com/RJoUXEoOcB
IT’S ALWAYS ABOUT THE U!