The 2018 season seems like a perfect time for the 49ers to end their four-year playoff drought with two big advantages over the other teams in their division: They have a quarterback who has never lost and they’re going to play the easiest schedule in the NFC West.

With the regular season still more than two months away, you might be wondering how we already know that the 49ers have the easiest schedule in the division, and that’s because we devised a formula to rank all 32 schedules in the NFL.

Back in February, we ranked each team’s 2018 schedule using strength of schedule, but that’s not exactly the most efficient way to rate schedule difficulty. To fix that, we’ve devised a formula that gives a more accurate look at what each team will be facing during the upcoming season.

To devise our formula, we started by going through each individual game on each team’s schedule and ranked it based on difficulty. Here’s a quick example of how that works: Although all four teams in the NFC West will play the Packers this year, not all the games are rated equally. By  


The Falcons downplayed Julio Jones‘ absence from organized team activities in May, after the wide receiver also hadn’t been present for Atlanta’s offseason workouts prior to OTAs. Jones’ decision to skip the June mandatory minicamp, however, was more troubling for the Falcons — head coach Dan Quinn had anticipated Jones’ attendance.

Jones isn’t satisfied with the five-year, $71.25 million contract extension he signed in 2015, which briefly made him the NFL’s highest-paid wide receiver. He is seeking some sort of adjustment to his contract. The Falcons are reportedly receptive to the idea.

General manager Thomas Dimitroff acknowledged during the minicamp there had been “constructive and productive” dialogue with Jones’ camp. Jones is represented by Creative Artist Agency’s Jimmy Sexton, who changed the non-quarterback market in 2015 by negotiating defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh’s blockbuster deal ($114.375 million/six years; $59.955 million fully guaranteed) with the Dolphins during free agency.

Jones is scheduled to make $34.426 million through the 2020 season. His salary is $10.5 million this year, $12.5 million next year and $11.426 million in 2020. By 

DENVER, CO – SEPTEMBER 17: Denver Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr. returns an interception in the third quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on Sunday, September 17, 2017. (Photo by Steve Nehf/The Denver Post)

The NFL cornerback story entering training camp this month centers on established faces in new places. Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters are in Los Angeles (Rams). Richard Sherman is in San Francisco. By 

Atlanta Falcons CEO Steve Cannon, head coach Dan Quinn, players Alex Mack, Ben Garland and Matt Bryant, cheerleaders Brianna Stade and Alexandria Giannini and Chris Millman, director of community relations, traveled on a USO tour to Iraq and Kuwait June 17-19, 2018. USO is a not-for-profit organization and not part of the Department of Defense. The use of DoD imagery does not constitute an endorsement by DoD. No release on file.
Some would have you believe that NFL players are at odds with the U.S. military—it’s not the case, specifically on Dan Quinn’s squad. Plus, Chip Kelly returns to school while his influence on the NFL remains, why the Jaguars are bullish on Bortles, a look at a couple interesting prospects in the supplemental draft and more. By Albert Breer
The only pure placekicker ever to be named MVP of the NFL, Mark Moseley was also the last of his toe-kicking breed, as the profession became the domain of soccer-styling Garos and Horsts and Björns from abroad. An integral member of a colorful Redskins Super Bowl winner, he’s now kicking back as a top executive at a burger enterprise you might know—Five Guys. By MICHAEL FARBER

I was at Oakland Raiders coach Jon Gruden’s podium at the NFL scouting combine when he made the comment that has followed him all offseason. I thought he was being far from serious when he said it.

“Are you talking about the analytics, the GPA, all the modern technology? Man, I’m trying to throw the game back to 1998,” Gruden said with his trademark smirk.

Even if he was joking, Gruden should know how it works in 2018. That became the meme. Every time the Raiders’ offseason was mentioned after that, so was “I’m trying to throw the game back to 1998.”

But this much is true too: Gruden gave all the “1998” jokes life with a strange offseason.

The Raiders put a strange priority on old players and a style that seems like a better fit 20 years ago. They made it a point to retain 32-year-old running back Marshawn Lynch, then sign 33-year-old former Green Bay Packers star receiver Jordy Nelson. The Raiders re-signed blocking tight end Lee Smith, then signed free-agent blocking tight end Derek Carrier. Running back Doug Martin was signed to recapture his Pro Bowl form he last flashed three years ago. The Raiders signed or re-signed 23 free agents, according to Spotrac, and 20 of them are at least 28 years old. The only three “young” free agents were cornerback Daryl Worley, cut by the Eagles after he was charged with a DUI and a gun violation, fullback Keith Smith and Carrier. Twelve of the Raiders’ free-agent signees are in their 30s. By Frank Schwab, Shutdown Corner

Oakland Raiders 2018 training camp profile: CB Rashaan Melvin

The Raiders needed help at cornerback heading into the offseason, and they  certainly got some in Indianapolis Colts corner Rashaan Melvin. Coming into the offseason, the Oakland Raiders knew they had a major hole at the cornerback position. Sean Smith and David Amerson were released by the team, and T.J. Carrie decided to sign with the Cleveland Browns. That left Gareon Conley as the main holdover from 2017, which was a season that saw the rookie barely play due to injury. To patch up the position group, the Raiders signed Rashaan Melvin to a one-year contract. Melvin, who finally became a starter in his fourth stop of his NFL journey with the Indianapolis Colts, had a breakout season in 2017. By Just Blog Baby

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