Category Archives: Playoffs

NFL Playoffs: Super Bowl LI Prediction!

Pepsi Zero Sugar Super Bowl LI Halftime Show Press Conference

“I’ve got a hundred million reasons to walk awaaaaaaaaaaaaay….”

 

By: Elias McMillan

Conference Championships: 0-2

Playoffs: 4-6

Super Bowl 51 from NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas

New England Patriots vs. Atlanta Falcons

Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, or Lady Gaga as you may know her, has had a long road to music super stardom. Early in her life, music was a huge part of who she was and who she eventually wanted to be. She began to play the piano at the young age of four and was playing open mics around NYC by the time she was 14. At 17, she was allowed early admission into the top school for the arts at NYU. Two years later, she dropped out of NYU to focus on finding her sound as a professional musician. After creating a cult like following in the NYC Underground music scene, she was signed and then quickly dropped from Def Jam. The experience was heartbreaking but it encouraged her to begin experimenting further with her sound as a performer and with her overall image. Soon after, she found herself on an imprint of Interscope Records where R&B superstar, Akon, recognized her abilities and featured her vocals on one of his albums. Akon then told Interscope executives that Gaga had the potential to be a “franchise player” and a year later, her debut album began production.

“The Fame” debuted in August of 2008 and included mega dance-pop hits like Just “Dance”, “Poker Face”, “LoveGame”, & “Paparazzi”. The debut was a monster success for Gaga who went on to win multiple awards at the Grammys. “The Fame” was named one of the 100 Greatest Debut Albums by Rolling Stone magazine. A year later, “The Fame” was reissued as “The Fame Monster” and included new hits like “Bad Romance” & “Telephone” featuring Beyoncé.

Gaga’s official second LP was “Born This Way” and it proved to be an excellent follow up to her debut. The electric rock & techno influenced record continued Gaga’s streak of massive hits with songs like the title single “Born This Way”, and “The Edge of Glory”.

Gaga’s third studio album “ArtPop” featured hits “Applause” and “Do What U Want” featuring R. Kelly but was considered lackluster by many music critics. Soon after that release, she left her long time manager and began a new chapter to her career. She collaborated with long time friend and music legend Tony Bennett and released “Cheek to Cheek”. The joint album reintroduced Bennett to a younger audience and was received well by critics, winning at the Grammys that year.

After exploring some ventures in front of the camera as an actress, Gaga returned with a brand new album last October. “Joanne” was released as a much softer version of Gaga’s previous’ works but still featured her incredible vocal ability and her unique sound that creates hit records. Singles “Perfect Illusion” and “Million Reasons” have already shot to the top of the charts and now, Gaga is preparing for her biggest and greatest stage yet, the Super Bowl 51 halftime show.

Prediction: Patriots 34 – Falcons 24

NFL Playoffs: 2017 Conference Championship Sunday Predictions!

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Super Steelers? It does appear that way.

 

By: Elias McMillan

 

Divisional Round: 2-2

Playoffs: 4-4

Conference Championship Sunday

NFC Championship Game

Green Bay @ Atlanta – The Packers and the Falcons will be riding their high-powered offenses into Championship Sunday. I’m not giving either defenses much of a chance at being the difference makers in this contest. Atlanta’s offense is a lot more balanced that Green Bay’s. The Falcons have a great vertical passing attack led by QB Matt Ryan. WR’s Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, and Taylor Gabriel have done a great job at stretching the field on the outside and in the middle of defenses. But unlike the Packers, Atlanta has two legit RB’s while Green Bay has none. Devonta Freeman is a tough runner between the tackles and Tevin Coleman can do similar things but is also a threat as a receiver. Atlanta’s offense is set up to make a Super Bowl run. But the Falcons will have to come out sharp against this Green Bay defense. Dallas didn’t do that last week and that was one of the reasons they lost. Atlanta has had a stigma for a while now for falling short in big games. The Falcons offense is going to have to be the driving force to make sure that doesn’t happen. Green Bay receives decent play from their outside LB’s Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers, and Nick Perry. Those guys can affect the Atlanta pass game by pressuring Ryan but they are also good against the run. But as a unit, Green Bay doesn’t defend the run or the pass very well. Atlanta will have the opportunity to set the tone on offense in this game. For the Packers, their offense will also have a great chance at success on Sunday. QB Aaron Rodgers was very much the best QB of the league last week as he is playing at a very high level. The Packers have multiple threats down the field at WR and TE even without Jordy Nelson. Atlanta’s defense is average at best and I feel confident that Rodgers can have a big day through the air against them. Green Bay may not have much of a run game but Atlanta isn’t exactly a run-stuffing defense. I think Atlanta’s defense, especially the front seven, could be a bit underrated. I think their LB’s do a good job and outside rusher Vic Beasley is a difference maker on passing downs. Green Bay’s offensive line did a good job last week but Beasley will present a greater challenge for them on Sunday. This game will come down to which defense I trust more at making more stops or which offense do I trust more at performing at a high level for 60 minutes. I don’t think Atlanta is ready defensively to stop Aaron Rodgers. Green Bay does not have a great defense but they are experienced and Atlanta has been prone to let downs in the past. It just feels like this is Aaron Rodgers’ time. This Packers team has come a long way from being embarrassed on Monday Night Football by Washington months ago. I have the Packers advancing to the Super Bowl in the first game. Prediction: Packers 36 – Falcons 31

AFC Championship Game

Pittsburgh @ New England – At the beginning of this season, many pegged the Steelers as a Super Bowl favorite. In fact, in my pre season predictions, I had the Steelers making it out of the AFC over the same Patriots team they will be facing on Sunday. The Steelers have had their issues this season. After falling to 4-5 when they lost to Dallas at home, those Super Bowl predictions took a serious hit. Since then, the Steelers have been able to get back on track, their defense has improved, and the offense look impossible to stop with the way Le’Veon Bell is running the ball. I’ve heard many people say this week that for the Steelers to beat New England in Foxboro on Sunday, they will need a vintage big time performance from Ben Roethlisberger. I don’t feel that way at all. Roethlisberger hasn’t exactly been lighting in up in the playoffs but he doesn’t have to. The most important weapon in this ball game on Sunday will be RB Le’Veon Bell. I think New England’s defense can be underrated at times but I don’t see them being able to shutdown Bell for 4 quarters. I think New England’s front seven could present some issues for the Steelers in terms of stuffing the run and pressuring the QB. I’m a big fan of DT Malcolm Brown who is playing great right now. Edge rushers Trey Flowers and veteran Rob Ninkovich are capable of getting after the QB. But the Steelers offensive line has done a great job for most of the season in the run and in pass protection. New England’s secondary isn’t exactly great either. With time, I think Roethlisberger would find success down the field. CB Malcolm Butler will try his best at shadowing WR Antonio Brown but that is a matchup that I would expect seeing Brown to win. Though Le’Veon Bell might be the best player on the field on Sunday, the New England running game might poise a bigger threat than Pittsburgh’s. New England has a great RB duo in LeGarrette Blount and Dion Lewis. Blount is a tough guy to bring down once he gets going and Lewis is a great receiving threat coming out from the backfield. Lewis is also a difference maker in special teams as a returner. We saw that last week. I think the Steelers defense could potential have their hands full with both of those backs. The Steelers will have to key on pressuring Tom Brady as well. Hopefully, the Patriots have learned their lesson from last year’s AFC Championship Game where they allowed Denver’s ace pass rusher harass Brady for most of the game. New England’s offensive line cannot let James Harrison do what Von Miller did last year. I guess we have to give the Steelers secondary credit for playing great against Matt Moore and Alex Smith but we have to believe that Brady will present a greater challenge for them. But again, that unit for Pittsburgh has done a decent job recently. Can we really expect Julian Edelman to be the big play receiver that the Steelers wont have an answer for? I think Brady could play well in this game but I think this offense will really miss Rob Gronkowski on Sunday. The Patriots are gonna need Martellus Bennett to make some big plays but Steeler LB’s Ryan Shazier and Lawrence Timmons have done a great job recently in pass coverage. I’m said before that I think the Patriots defense is under rated but right now, I think I trust the Pittsburgh defense more. Which is saying a lot because, I still don’t believe that the Steelers defense is that good. But they are kind of on a roll right now and I think I have that continuing this Sunday. This will be good game with a classic ending. I said last week that the winner of Pittsburgh-Kansas City is going to the Super Bowl. Plus, I had Pittsburgh making it this far in the pre season. Can’t turn back now. Prediction: Steelers 28 – Patriots 24

NFL Playoffs: 2017 NFL Divisional Round Predictions!

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Atlanta hasn’t forgot about what happened when they faced Seattle earlier this season. They will be hoping for some revenge at home this weekend in the NFL Playoffs.

By: Elias McMillan

 

Wild-Card Round: 2-2

Playoffs: 2-2

Divisional Round

Seattle @ Atlanta – This first divisional playoff matchup this weekend is a rematch from a closely contested game earlier this season, which saw the Seahawks get the victory in a close one. Atlanta actually impressed many in that game as they were able to hang with Seattle on the road and how they might have won that game if not for a botch PI penalty that wasn’t called late in the 4th quarter. Both teams have changed since then but I think Atlanta will definitely have revenge on their minds this Saturday. Seattle was able to take care of Detroit last weekend but on Saturday they will face a much more talented and balanced offense in Atlanta. The Falcons are powered on offense by their dynamic passing game led by QB Matt Ryan and his lead target WR Julio Jones. But don’t sleep on the way Atlanta can run the ball. RB’s Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman are as a dynamic running duo as any other one in the league. We all know about how good this Atlanta offense can be but history dictates that really good offenses usually fall to good defenses in the playoffs. I think Seattle’s defense will put up a great challenge for Atlanta but they are not at full strength with Earl Thomas out of the line up. Even with Thomas in the secondary, the Falcons were still able to put up production in that first meeting earlier this season. Seattle will have to fight hard on both sides of the ball to compete with Atlanta on Saturday. Last weekend, Seattle ran the ball very well behind RB Thomas Rawls and with that running game; they were able to control the tempo for most of the contest. Seattle might have to implement that game plan again on Saturday, as Atlanta is just an average defense at defending the run. They might help QB Russell Wilson in terms of protecting himself from Atlanta’s pass rush. Edge rusher Vic Beasley was the league leader in sack this season and with the state of Seattle’s offensive line, I think he will be in pursuit of Wilson for the majority of this Saturday afternoon. But if Wilson can find time, he will be throwing against a Falcons secondary that ranked near the bottom this season. I think Seattle will have a good shot at winning on the road this weekend but the Seahawks have historically had let down on the road in the regular season and in the playoffs. I think Atlanta will jump out on top early and they’ll be able to hold off a Seahawks comeback late. Much like the last time these teams played in the post season in Atlanta. Prediction: Falcons 28 – Seahawks 24

Houston @ New England – I guess we have to give Houston credit for beating up on an injured Oakland team last week. But on to this week where no one on earth is giving the Texans a chance at going up to Foxboro on Saturday night and leaving with a victory. I don’t know if Houston has a real chance or not but I’ll try my best to sell that to you. First, the Texans have the number one ranked defense in the NFL. DE Jadeveon Clowney was a real difference maker last week and he will be used in a similar way this week against a Patriots offensive line that can struggle against the premier pass rushers in this league. Houston also has a stingy secondary. They will get physical with New England’s smaller receivers and create tough passing windows for QB Tom Brady. And my third point: the Texans coaching staff is made up from Bill Belichick disciples. Bill O’Brien is the head coach and Romeo Crennel is the defensive coordinator. They know Belichick. They know their offense. Could this prove to be an advantage for Houston? I don’t know. Also, I’m not going to bet on it. I think New England will use this game to prove why they are favored by so much in this game. I think New England will be aggressive offensively and they will tire out the Texans up front with their running game. New England’s defense is also unheralded and they will have the opportunity to appear to be really good against Houston’s offense. I think Houston’s defense might be able to keep the Texans in this game but I have no faith in QB Brock Osweiler going toe to toe with Tom Brady in terms of offensive production. The Patriots will dominate in this one. Prediction: Patriots 35 – Texans 17

Green Bay @ Dallas – On Sunday, the marathon of rematches from the regular season will continue. Green Bay won last week at home convincingly against the Giants and they are feeling pretty good going into this matchup in Jerry’s World. They maybe feeling good about there chances but they may not be feeling so good health wise. Green Bay is banged up on both sides of the ball while the Cowboys are rested and are as healthy as they’ve been all season. A lot of people like the Packers right now because of the play of QB Aaron Rodgers and I can’t blame them. Rodgers is having one of those seasons that is proving that he is the best QB in football. Even with the Jordy Nelson injury, the Packers are well equipped at the WR position with players like DeVante Adams, Randall Cobb, and TE Jarred Cook. Adams had a big game against the Cowboys 2 years ago in the playoffs in memory serves me correctly. Green Bay isn’t going to beat anyone in the ground game but Ty Montgomery’s ability as a versatile runner and receiver from out of the backfield will make him into a player that the Cowboys defense will have to account for. Montgomery is a Dallas native and he will have the extra motivation to show out in front of his family. I don’t know how the Packers held the Giants to only 13 points last week. Green Bay has some talented players on defense like Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers, and safety HaHa Clinton-Dix. But as a unit, Green Bay isn’t very good defensively. That banged up secondary will mean that the Packers will have to lean on their front 7 to created stops and turnovers. The Cowboys offensive line handled the Packers front 7 quite easily in their matchup earlier this season. I don’t think the Packers will have an answer for rookie RB Ezekiel Elliott and the Dallas run game. In passing situations, I am scared to death of the matchup between Peppers and right tackle Doug Free. But rookie QB Dak Prescott had a decent day passing against the Packers earlier this season and he was able to play well even without WR Dez Bryant. With the current state of the Packers secondary, I fully expect Bryant to be a difference maker down the field in a way that Odell Beckham Jr wasn’t last week. The Cowboys have a highly ranked defense but really, those numbers aren’t as impressive if you’ve watched the Cowboys this season. Rodgers will have a chance at creating some big plays down the field against a defense that struggles to provide pressure or create turnovers. But the Dallas defense this season has been known for bending but not breaking. I think the Cowboys defense could be a weakness but it is a unit that is better than it was in 2014. The Cowboys had an impressive regular season but they are now approaching rare air for them. This is a franchise that hasn’t advanced to Conference Championship Sunday in 21 years. This is a huge game for the entire franchise and I believe that they will not let their inexperience of Aaron Rodgers squander their opportunity. Many of the talking heads like Green Bay on Sunday but I’m thinking that is just more wishful thinking than really believing that Dallas will lose this game. The opportunity will be too big for this team to miss. I like the Cowboys at home. Prediction: Cowboys 33 – Packers 24

Pittsburgh @ Kansas City – I’m glad that this game was pushed back into primetime for the safety of the fans traveling to Kansas City and also I can now sleep in on Sunday without fear of missing any of the NFL Playoff action. This matchup should be a good one in Kansas City in a great atmosphere like Arrowhead Stadium. That place will be packed and rocking. I also want to say this first: I think the winner of this game will end up advancing to the Super Bowl. That being said, it is going to be really hard for me to not pick the Steelers to win this game. Pittsburgh was a pre season favorite going into this season but they kind of lost their way and found themselves with a 4-5 record after 9 games. They may not have had a tough schedule to close out the season but that doesn’t matter really. We have to give them credit for the run they are currently on and they did have to overcome some adversity against division rivals Cincinnati and Baltimore. The reason why the Steelers were pre season Super Bowl favorites was because of the talent they have on the offensive side of the ball. And that talent was on full display last week against Miami. I know that Miami isnt a good team and they kind of backed into the playoffs but WR Antonio Brown and RB Le’Veon Bell looked unstoppable last week. QB Ben Roethlisberger also had an impressive outing. I guess we can talk about the defense starting to play better even though last week they were hardly tested against an one-dimensional offense led by a backup QB. But still, that defense improving will be key if the Steelers want to make it to the Super Bowl. And that unit is improving. But here comes the bad news Pittsburgh fans: Kansas City isn’t Miami. I liked Kansas City all season. I like their defense. I like their ball control offense. I like Andy Reid and his experience. Limiting the combo of Bell, Brown, and Big Ben maybe a huge chore for the Chiefs defense but I think they will at least be up to it. I like Kansas City up front on defense. They have three really good pass rushers in Tamba Hali, Dee Ford, and Justin Houston. I think they will be able to pressure Big Ben in a way that he hasn’t felt in a while. Though on the other hand, the Pittsburgh offensive line has been performing well this season and they do not get enough credit. Protecting Ben will be a huge part of this game especially when you figure in Ben’s ankle injury. The Chiefs suffered a tough injury near the end of the season to LB Derrick Johnson. Since then, the Chiefs have struggled at stopping the run. I think they better figure out a way to slow Bell and the Pittsburgh running attack. If Bell can get loose, he will control the tempo of this game. Antonio Brown is the best WR in the league but KC’s secondary is really good. CB Marcus Peters is a tough player who has the knack at creating big plays. Safety Eric Berry is probably the best at his position in the league and he will be an issue in the box defending the run and covering the deep ball. Many people are saying that they cannot count on QB Alex Smith and the Chiefs offense out scoring the Steelers with their many offensive weapons. Alex Smith has been forever slept on especially in the playoffs and I think he will prove on Sunday night to be better than what most people believe. Even without Jamaal Charles, the Chiefs have a decent run game. Plus, Smith has some pretty good receivers to go to as well. TE Travis Kelce is a difference maker down the field. WR Jeremy Maclin is good on his own right. And rookie WR Tyreek Hill is a speedster who can affect the game as a kick returner. I think the Chiefs offense is more capable than what people believe. It has been a long time since the Chiefs have won a home playoff game and Andy Reid as a coach has a great record when coming off of the bye week. Earlier this season, the Steelers squashed the Chiefs at home. KC then went on the bye week and returned to go on a great run which led them to the AFC West crown. I don’t think the Chiefs have forgot about that Sunday night beat down in Heinz Field. I think that the KC front seven on defense will find a way to bother Roethlisberger and they will come up with more stops than the Steelers defense will produce. It will be close but I’m taking the Chiefs at Arrowhead. Prediction: Chiefs 24 – Steelers 20

NFL Playoffs: 2017 NFL Wild-Card Weekend Predictions!

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Miami’s run to the playoffs started in Week 6 against the Steelers. On Sunday, the Dolphins will meet them again in Pittsburgh.

By: Elias McMillan

 

Last Week: 14-2

Final 2016 Regular Season Record: 163-91-2

NFL Playoffs: Wildcard Weekend

Oakland @ Houston – For the second straight year, ESPN gets stuck with coverage of a playoff game in Houston that no one really wanted to see. Oakland was such a great story this season until about 2 weeks ago. Within that time, they have lost their starter and backup QB in rout to already being clinched for a post-season berth in the playoffs. Where Oakland goes from here is anyone’s guess. Houston has had its QB troubles recently too. Houston’s 72 million dollar man, QB Brock Osweiler, was bench about 3 weeks ago but because of a concussion suffered by his replacement, backup Tom Savage, Osweiler will be back in the starting position this Saturday. We have to imagine that Osweiler isn’t feeling too confident about his standing as the leader of the offense or as a competent QB in this league. The fact is that Osweiler hasn’t lived up to expectations this season. I’m not sure if Houston is going to need Osweiler to be great to win this playoff game. Houston has other weapons on the team that will make them a tough out for the Raiders. RB Lamar Miller had a good first season with the Texans. He was held out from the last two games of the regular season and he should be fresh and ready to go this weekend. Oakland will have to find a way to account for Miller as they ranked 23rd in the league in run defense. Houston is going to have to run the ball effectively in this game in order to control the clock and to keep Osweiler from making a mistake. Oakland doesn’t have a strong run defense but their defense can affect the game in other ways. Edge rushers, Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin, have made a living this season at creating chaos in the opponents back field. Oakland allows quite a few yards through the air but I like the way safety Reggie Nelson has been playing lately. Oakland doesn’t have the best defense in the playoffs but they have the ability to create turnovers that can change the game. After being down two QB’s, the Raiders will have to start QB Connor Cook on Saturday who is making his career debut as a pro. Cook is a real wildcard in this matchup because no one knows what to expect from him. Oakland’s offensive line has a huge task ahead of them as they will have to protect their young QB against a pretty good Houston defense. DE Jadeveon Clowney has finally emerged as a difference maker on the field with the absence of J.J. Watt. Oakland has had a serviceable running game this season so with Cook starting, we may see a steady dose of RB Latavius Murray. Houston has one of the top pass defenses in the league so it will be interesting seeing how Cook want to attack them with Amari Cooper or Michael Crabtree. In their matchup earlier this season, Houston outplayed Oakland really but they were on the wrong end of a couple of bad calls. I bet Oakland thinks that can play better than what they did in the last matchup but Houston probably has the bigger revenge chip on their shoulder. Oakland won 12 games this season and I think their playmakers on defense will be the difference. I’m taking the Raiders in a low scoring affair. Prediction: Raiders 18 – Texans 14

Detroit @ Seattle – In the second game on Saturday, we’ll see two teams that don’t look like they are ready to make a run towards the Super Bowl. Detroit squandered their lead in the NFC North to the Packers in a matter of 3 weeks. Seattle wrapped up the NFC West earlier but since the injury to Earl Thomas, they haven’t looked the same. Detroit still has its work cut out for them if they hope to upset Seattle who is usually a monster at home. But with the way Seattle has been playing lately, they are definitely vulnerable right now, even with the home field advantage. If Detroit can keep Seattle from controlling the clock on offense, they’ll have a shot at winning this game. Detroit has been inconsistent at stopping the run on defense but Seattle’s run game has been inconsistent as well. I don’t know how well Russell Wilson will play but Detroit will have to find a way to pressure him in order to keep him from making big plays. Last year in the playoffs, Wilson struggled in that first game at Minnesota but was still able to make the big play late to help Seattle get the victory. With the state of the Seahawks offensive line, I believe the Lions will be able to get after Wilson. Seattle is still pretty good defensively even without Earl Thomas. The Seahawks have a good pass rush and one of the top run defenses in the league. Detroit should have a hard time getting the run game going which will open the door for QB Matt Stafford to try to win the game with his arm. The Legion of Boom isn’t quite that without Thomas in the lineup so I wouldn’t be surprised to see Stafford find the matchups that will help him get his team down the field. TE Eric Ebron has emerged recently and WR’s Golden Tate and Anquan Boldin are more than familiar with the Seattle secondary. I think this game will be closer than what many people think. Detroit hasn’t won in a month and I don’t think I have faith in their defense to totally shut down Seattle offensively. A wildcard in this game will be TE Jimmy Graham who can destroy a defense’s game plan at any moment. I’m going with the home team. Prediction: Seahawks 26 – Lions 21

Miami @ Pittsburgh – Miami starting the season with a 1-4 record going into their Week 6 matchup at home against the Steelers. Who would have known that game was the start of a 9-2 run in the post season? Miami has had a remarkable and unlikely run to the playoffs this season and it is fitting that they’ll be in Pittsburgh on Sunday for this Wildcard matchup. People see the city name “Miami” and think, “Oh. There’s no way a team from Miami can win in Pittsburgh in January!” That thinking is common but couldn’t be more false. Miami is a ten-point underdog this weekend but I think they could stand a chance in Pittsburgh. Miami was able to beat Pittsburgh in their first matchup this season because of RB Jay Ajayi and the Miami run game. A great coach once said that a good run game is one thing that is guaranteed to travel with teams no matter which stadium they’re playing at. If Miami brings their running attack and is able to control the clock, they’ll be able to limit Pittsburgh’s scoring chances on offense. QB Matt Moore will be starting for the Dolphins and I don’t see him coming out with the goal to just air it out against the Steelers secondary. Pittsburgh’s defense as a whole has gotten a lot better since Week 6 so Moore will have to be careful and be selective about the shots to take down field. Miami does have more than capable WR’s in Jarvis Landry and Kenny Stills. This game will feature two defenses that can allow both offenses to put up a lot of numbers but again; I see where Pittsburgh’s defense has improved. Not so much with Miami. I don’t have much confidence in Miami limiting Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, or Antonio Brown on Sunday. For Miami to stand a chance on defense, they will need to bring the pressure towards Roethlisberger for all 4 quarters. The Steelers have a decent offensive line but they’ll have a huge chore ahead of them on Sunday in the shape of DE Cameron Wake and DT Ndamukong Suh. I think too many things would have to go right for Miami for them to upset Pittsburgh on Sunday. Miami could slow the game down with Ajayi or harass Roethlisberger behind the line of scrimmage. But the Steelers just have too many weapons for Miami to account for. They wont be able to stop Bell on the ground and with time, Roethlisberger should be able to find big plays down the field against the Dolphins secondary. Miami could make it interesting but I like the Steelers at home. Prediction: Steelers 36 – Dolphins 28

New York Giants @ Green Bay – The second matchup on Sunday features two of the hottest teams in the NFC. Green Bay rode their hot streak into winning the NFC North last week. The Giants have looked impressive down the stretch and many believe that they could be gearing up for another championship run. I have to give Green Bay credit for catching up with Detroit and winning the division but on Sunday, they might match up poorly against the Giants. The Giants have done a tremendous job defensively recently and they might present some issues to Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense. New York may not have the same pass rushing abilities they had when Jason Pierre-Paul was healthy but they playing well against the run and the secondary is also playing out of its mind right now. If the Giants can’t get after Rodgers, he will have time in the pocket but many QB’s have found it tough recently against the Giants secondary. Green Bay is going to have to figure out a creative way to get receivers open down the field. Another thing I don’t like about this matchup for the Packers is that their defense really isn’t good. They have had their issues this season at stopping the run and they are recently faced with multiple injuries in the secondary. The Giants don’t have a strong rushing offense but they do have some talented backs that might be able to find some space against the Packers front seven. And with a hurting secondary, the Giants and their talented trio of receivers should be able to make big plays down the field. Rodgers is the hot QB right now and he has powered the entire Green Bay squad during their run into the playoffs. Green Bay has been an overachiever in recent weeks so; I think they’ll be able to put up a good fight especially at home. But with the way that the Giants defense has been playing recently and with the state of the Packers secondary, I can see the Giants winning this one by the skin of their teeth. Prediction: Giants 24 – Packers 21

NFL 2016: Preseason Awards & Playoff Predictions

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In Super Bowl LI, I think we’ll see a rematch that is 8 years in the making.

By: Elias McMillan

 

First, here are my picks for the 2016 post-season awards:

MVP: Aaron Rodgers – QB (Green Bay Packers) – The MVP award is such a sham. It is really the “best QB of the season” award. But I think that guy in 2016 might be Aaron Rodgers. With his receivers now back and healthy, we will see that Packers passing attack that we were used to seeing a couple of seasons ago. Rodgers will put up great numbers and because of the Teddy Bridgewater injury, the Packers might overtake in the NFC North this season as well.

Offensive MVP: Antonio Brown – WR (Pittsburgh Steelers) – Now, I know that this could easily be the MVP as well but I know that would never happen. Either way, Antonio Brown is probably the best offensive weapon in football. The guy is unstoppable and is showing no signs of slowing down. Because of the suspension situations in Pittsburgh, the Steelers will be leaning on Brown even more this season.

Defensive MVP: Khalil Mack – LB (Oakland Raiders) – Khalil Mack is on the cusp of NFL stardom and I think his play will elevate this Raiders team into the postseason in 2016. I still don’t have a clear answer of what type of defense will the Raiders run in 2016. Will it be a 4-3 or a 3-4? All the clues tell me that it will be a 3-4, which will give Mack even more opportunity to get after the QB. I think we will see Mack as the league leader in sack this season.

Offensive Rookie of the Year – Ezekiel Elliott – RB (Dallas Cowboys) – This will be everyone’s answer to this question. But I honestly was going to go another way until a couple of things happened. 1) The Darren McFadden injury is much more serious than originally indicated. I was thinking that Dallas would do the whole “running back by committee” thing with Zeke, Alfred Morris, and DMC. But it is clear that Zeke will be the lead back and will get most of the carries this season. And 2) I really liked WR Laquon Treadwell to help Teddy Bridgewater to become a more down the field threat. But with the current state of Minnesota’s QB situation, I’m not sure about his impact in his first year. It is pretty much set in stone that Elliott behind this offensive line will do some serious damage in his first year.

Defensive Rookie of the Year – Robert Nkemdiche – DT (Arizona Cardinals) – With Calais Campbell and Chandler Jones doing damage on the outside, Nkemdiche is going to have a lot of opportunities to be an impact rookie in the trenches for this Cardinals defense.

Comeback Player of the Year – DeMarco Murray – RB (Tennessee Titans) – Philadelphia brought over Murray from Dallas in order to short change their division rival. That had to be the only reason because once Murray got to Philly, they didn’t have a plan on how to use him or they just didn’t know how to use him. Now that he is no longer a pawn in Chip Kelly’s game, Murray will get to do what he does best in Tennessee. Murray is a physical downhill runner and he’ll be behind a power offensive line in Tennessee. I think that rookie Derrick Henry will “vulture” away some touchdowns for him but we will see the 2014 DeMarco Murray make his return in 2016. Prediction: Murray will have more yards this season than Philadelphia will have as a team.

Coach of the Year – Jack Del Rio (Oakland Raiders) – The Raiders are young, hungry and they have the right leadership at the coaching position. The Raiders will be a playoff team in 2016 under coach Del Rio who will offers a wealth of experience for this young team.

And now, here is my forecast for the playoffs this season. As a reminder, here are the teams I see qualifying in 2016:

AFC

  1. Pittsburgh Steelers – 12-4 (AFC North)
  2. New England Patriots – 11-5 (AFC East)
  3. Kansas City Chiefs – 11-5 (AFC West)
  4. Houston Texans – 9-7 (AFC South)
  5. Cincinnati Bengals – 10-6 (Wildcard 1)
  6. Oakland Raiders – 9-7 (Wildcard 2)

NFC

  1. Arizona Cardinals – 12-4 (NFC West)
  2. Carolina Panthers – 12-4 (NFC South)
  3. Minnesota Vikings – 11-5 (NFC North)
  4. New York Giants – 9-7 (NFC East)
  5. Seattle Seahawks – 10-6 (Wildcard 1)
  6. Green Bay Packers – 10-6 (Wildcard 2)

Wild Card Weekend

AFC: (3) Chiefs over (6) Raiders, (5) Bengals over (4) Texans

NFC: (6) Packers over (3) Vikings, (5) Seahawks over (4) Giants

Divisional Round

AFC: (1) Steelers over (5) Bengals, (2) Patriots over (3) Chiefs

NFC: (1) Cardinals over (6) Packers, (2) Panthers over (5) Seahawks

Conference Championship Sunday

AFC: (1) Steelers over (2) Patriots

NFC: (1) Cardinals over (2) Panthers

Super Bowl LI from NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas

Arizona Cardinals over Pittsburgh Steelers

Recap: In the AFC, I see the Steelers being the clear-cut favorites and I don’t see that changing as the season goes on. Its not like I see the Steelers as some type of great team or anything. It is more because the other top teams in the conference failed at getting better in the offseason. Denver will not be better. New England did not improve. Who does that leave? Houston? Cincinnati? Please. If the talent on the Steelers roster is as good as everyone thinks it is, the Steelers should be able to win the conference. I know that the Steelers are a team dealing with multiple suspensions but they are equipped with talent to help lessen that blow. The Steelers also don’t have a great defense but that same defense over achieved last season and I think they’ll do the same this year. The Steelers dealt with a lot (injuries, suspensions, etc.) in 2015 and they were still oh-so close to beating the eventual Super Bowl Champion Broncos. I think that will serve as motivation as Pittsburgh will advance to its ninth Super Bowl. The competition in the NFC is a lot tougher than it was a couple years ago. Carolina, Seattle, and Arizona will all be serious contenders in 2016. I thought Minnesota would join that conversation this year but they lost their starting QB in a tragic non-contact injury in practice. Green Bay could sneak in and win that division but I don’t see them on the class of those first three NFC teams I named. The reason I like Arizona so much is that I think they have a dynamic defense this season so match their offense. RB David Johnson will continue to improve. The Cardinals passing game will continue to light up the scoreboards. And now the defense will have an improved pass rush with Chandler Jones and an improved secondary with a now healthy Tyrann Mathieu. So in this Super Bowl XLIII rematch, I have Arizona flipping the script and allowing Larry Fitzgerald to walk off into the sunset.

Yes. It’s STILL Okay to hate LeBron James

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By: Elias McMillan

 

LeBron James’ triumph last Sunday night was one of the greatest moments in the history of North American sports. Just the entire sequence of events leading up to Sunday was really epic. James and the Cavs, facing elimination twice, responded with masterful performances in Game 5 and Game 6. Then on Sunday night, in a game that was finally competitive, James wasn’t as aggressive as he was in the last two games but still was able to will his Cavs to a championship. Yes, it was Kyrie Irving who really hit the dagger into the heart of Golden State but LeBron did the little things in his overall game that really propelled his team to victory. Now, LeBron and the city of Cleveland can finally have their day in the sun for the entire offseason.

LeBron has been such a polarizing figure in sports since he been in the league. Either you love him or you hate him. And he has a lot of haters. Bringing Cleveland a championship will probably go down as his greatest accomplishment and the magnificence of that accomplishment may cause the haters to let up on him just a little bit. At least that was the narrative being pushed by the media leading up to Game 7. Leading up to the Game 7 and all Sunday afternoon, all we heard was how awesome it would be for Cleveland to have this moment. Cleveland has waited for so long for a championship and we should feel sorry for their fans. In fact, Cleveland fans DESERVE a championship moment because it has been so long. This is my 10-year old son and he doesn’t know how it feels to be a champion because he is a Cleveland fan. Please, feel sorry for him. Please, feel sorry for us. Please, root for us. Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah. And it went on and on like that from the talking heads all afternoon. I couldn’t take it. And the funny thing is that I’m only exaggerating a little bit. They were really pushing the “Cleveland DESERVES this moment” card hard. It reminded me of how and why I hate the Chicago Cubs and the Boston Red Sox. When the Red Sox had its moment in 2004, everyone suddenly became a Red Sox fans. It was suppose to be some type of feel good moment. Just one big bandwagon for everyone to jump on all at once. They DESERVED it. Same thing applies to the Cubs. The lovable losers. That fan base has been waiting long enough for its team to become winners. We must root for them and we must wish their fans happiness. They DESERVE it. Here’s what I say: those fan bases deserve NOTHING! The Red Sox is 04 earned it. When the Cavs won it on Sunday, they earned it. Your fan base suffering for a winner is not going to gain sympathy. At least not with me. If you’re a fan of a team because they are winners, then you already lost. No one is forcing you to be a fan of any team. If you’re tired of watching your team fail over and over again, then stop being a fan. No one is forcing you to watch. You keep watching and you stay loyal because you are a fan and you love your team. Winning is a bonus. An awesome bonus. But it is not promised. And you DON’T deserve it.

But why does the success of King James garner such reaction from the masses. First off, there has never been anything like LeBron James in sports, period. 6’8, 250+ pounds, and he runs like a deer. It’s unreal. It’s unstoppable. No wonder many believed that he could be THE greatest ever once drafted in 2003. LeBron had his great moments early in his career in Cleveland but he couldn’t elevate his team enough to win a championship. 

Really, the team didn’t have enough talent and having just LeBron wasn’t enough. The Eastern Conference was more competitive in those days. Leaving for Miami and “The Decision” didn’t really make me turn on LeBron but if you want to talk about his legacy, then that event definitely had an effect. Forming a super team to finally get a championship seems like a plot from a comic book. I understand what James was looking to accomplish but was it really necessary? I mean, look at the state of the Eastern Conference currently. All of that talent against the East really tipped the scales towards LeBron and I feel that the East has yet to recover. Meanwhile in Cleveland, they sucked enough to get a star in Kyrie Irving and win not one but two NBA Draft lotteries. What are the odds? James and his super team won two titles in Miami but they also lost two that included the first year in Miami and what turned out to be his last one. I don’t know what soured James in Miami and if he would have stayed, Miami might have been in the Finals again last year and this year. But LeBron saw the opportunity to form yet another Super Team in Cleveland by returning. Team Hopping to situation and situation to find that best possible one to secure a championship will always make me view LeBron differently when stacked up against the greats in the game. But remember, we can criticize him all we want. It doesn’t matter because we have to go back to our meaningless, joyless lives and he still gets to be LeBron James. His words, not mine. 

LeBron’s talent on the basketball court almost has no bounds. He isn’t an elite jump shooter like MJ or Kobe but his power and size really makes him unstoppable offensively. It all comes down to body control. LeBron is able to play the game with the agility of a point guard while having the power and strength of someone who is 6’8 and 250 pounds. LeBron should be a bully on the court and sometimes he has been. Which is why his status as a FLOPPER is weird to me. It’s completely unnecessary but his history of flopping speaks for itself. And you could say that, “Oh. The game is different now. Flopping is accepted. Blah Blah.” Flopping isn’t a new thing to basketball. The greats rarely flopped because it’s a cheap, embarrassing tactic. But it’s apart of LeBron’s game. I don’t know if he was coached to do so at an early age but it’s been past time for him to grow out of that. LeBron does take a lot of punishment playing the game as big as he does but flopping, wining, and pandering to the officials isn’t a good look for the best basketball player in the world.

LeBron James and Cavs earned their moment in the sun right now but I have to bring up the circumstances that may have turned these Finals to Cleveland after being down 3-1 in the series. The NBA should not have gotten involved. What happened between LeBron and Draymond Green should have been just a play on. Double Technical. Nothing to see here. I don’t know how much of an affect Green would had in a Game 5 in Golden State but the NBA robbed us fans of seeing that. 

Also, no one would have imagined how valuable Andrew Bogut was going to be to this series. We didn’t realize it until LeBron and other Cavs were able to get to the basket and rebound a lot better with him out of the lineup. And when the Warriors turned over the ball multiple times in that Game 7 when running the pick and roll with Festus Ezeli and Anderson Varejão. The Draymond suspension and the Bogut injury definitely helped the series turn in the favor of the Cavs. But hey, despite that Stephen Curry still played like crap down the stretch in that game and Cleveland earned it on the court.

I’m not anti Cleveland. My high school colors were Orange and Brown and I felt that the entire city hated us because of that. For that reason, I’ve always kinda wanted to see the Browns have some kind of success in the NFL currently. I never really cared about the Cavs. I never cared about the Cleveland Indians and their racist logo. I just hate and will always root against LeBron’s super teams no matter what city he chooses next. Unless it’s New York, of course. But you know that he is going to leave again right? Just wait until that talent dies down and they fail to replace it.

Speaking of that talent, besides Irving and Love, how did Cleveland get so many key role players in the first place? It is a staple for all of LeBron’s super teams to have top-notch role players who find their way on to the roster for nearly nothing? A season ago, Timofey Mozgov was a key role player. How did he get to Cleveland? He was traded there for nothing. JR Smith and Iman Shumpert were traded to Cleveland. For nothing. Channing Frye was a 32 million dollar man in Orlando. How did he get to Cleveland? He was traded there for NOTHING. Second round picks? Jared Cuttingham? Who? I mean, how can the league allow this kinda stuff to happen?

James is the ultimate opportunist and he really doesn’t have to be. The Eastern Conference is so weak LeBron is bound to compete for championships no matter what. So, why all the extra stuff? Why the team hopping? Why the flopping? I don’t know. Maybe its all just to fuel haters like me. I love how LeBron actually listens to all the criticisms and uses it as motivation. As if not just having the drive to be the best isn’t enough. I’m glad that Jordan didn’t play in this era so he couldn’t have so many haters to motivate him. And I’m not gonna waste any more time on ranking LeBron as a player against the all time greats. LeBron has plenty of basketball left and his legacy isn’t set in stone yet. And I don’t feel like crushing the “all-time great” narrative with him just yet. Because I don’t think he is or will ever be. Even better, I think LeBron will go down as the greatest athlete in the history of North American sports. Which could be better than being known as the best basketball player of all time. There isn’t anything wrong with that title. In my mind, when ranking the greatest players in my generation, I favor the players who are “dogs”. LeBron can have his moments as a “dog” in his career but I feel like he’ll be remembered more as a passive player. And hey, there’s nothing wrong with that. Passing is cool. Helping your teammates is cool. Finding the open shot for your teammate is cool. But the greatest players in my generation have been “dogs”. MJ, Kobe, Iverson. They are “dogs”. They aren’t passing when the game is on the line. And more times than not, they’ll hit that game winner. But in defense of LeBron and his lack of “dog”, if you’re winning than who cares how you get there.

Sign. As a Knicks fan, I hated Jordan growing up. So, draw your own conclusions. It’s still okay to hate LeBron James.

Super Bowl 50 Prediction!

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Will Peyton Manning get the story book ending to his career or will the Panthers defense dropkick him into retirement?

By: Elias McMillan

 

Conference Championship: 1-1

Playoffs: 7-3

Super Bowl 50 from Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California

Carolina Panthers vs. Denver Broncos

I’m starting to think that the two-week break from Conference Championship Sunday and the Super Bowl is too long. Because now there are a lot of different angles that we could take when talking about this year’s big game because there was so much time for the media to create pointless plotlines. I choose to just focus on the actual game because it probably will be a pretty good one. With the issues Denver had this season at offense, I didn’t see their run to the Super Bowl coming. But you have to give them a lot of credit for taking home field advantage and making the most of it in playoffs. In the NFC, Carolina has been the dominant team all season. They are the favorites on Sunday and for good reason.

I think the most entertaining matchup in this game will be between the Carolina offense and the Denver defense. If you have watched the Broncos this season, you know that they are playing in this game because of their defense. They’ve had the number one ranked defense for most of the season and that unit looked really strong last week against Tom Brady and the Patriots. They are led on defense by two of the best pass rushers in the game today, Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware. Miller, Ware, and the younger inside rusher Derek Wolfe will give the Panthers a hard time on passing downs. Denver is tough to run on as well. Denver’s secondary has been banged up recently and they have some holes. They don’t cover the deep ball well but they are as physical of a group as one Carolina has faced all season. Denver’s defense is great but they’ll also have their hands full with the league MVP, QB Cam Newton. Newton has been in a zone all season and if he continues to play comfortable and loose, good things will continue to happen for this Panthers offense. RB Jonathan Stewart has been sort of an unsung hero for the Panthers this season. Carolina has seen a lot of success in the running game this year and Stewart will hope to continue that on Sunday. If Stewart gets the normal amount of touches, he could produce some of the games biggest plays on Sunday. The critics have been harping on the Panthers receivers all season. They might not have any future Hall of Famers but that group has stepped up in a huge way this season. WR’s Ted Ginn Jr. and Corey Brown have game breaking speed and Ginn offers something to watch for in the special teams area as well. In terms of catching the football this season from Newton, the real star has been TE Greg Olsen. Olsen is a big play target in any situation. Cam will continue to call his number in order to get down the field or in the red zone.

I do think the matchup between the Denver offense and the Carolina defense will determine this game though. I think QB Peyton Manning has benefitted from opponents not expecting much from him in recent games. Manning clearly isn’t his old self and he could be playing in his last game on Sunday, but as you saw two weeks ago, Manning still has some ability left when it comes to driving the ball down the field. I think Carolina’s defense is good enough to defend Manning as if he was his old self but they can’t forget about Denver’s running game. Denver has quietly ran the ball at a decent pace this season. RB’s C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman are tough runners between the tackles and they can turn on the jets in the open field. Manning also has a great group at the WR position. WR Demaryius Thomas is the prototypical big outside target that is hard to defend and WR Emmanuel Sanders is a quick game breaker with the ball in his hands. But I think the Carolina defense will be able to dictate how successful Peyton Manning will be in this game. Carolina has the ability to pressure Manning from all angles at the line of scrimmage. They don’t have a dynamic outside pass rusher from the past like Greg Hardy or Julius Peppers but they have tough grinders who can take up blockers and shoot the gaps into the backfield. DE Charles Johnson is a name you might hear on Sunday as well as veteran Jared Allen who has an outstanding rep as a pass rusher. I love Carolina’s interior defensive lineman as well. Kawaan Short and Star Lotulelei are both as good at stuffing the run as they are at making plays in the backfield. Carolina also has an outstanding group at linebacker led by defensive POY candidate Luke Kuechly. LB Thomas Davis might be playing with a broken arm but he is one of the fastest LB’s in football so if his speed and quickness is still at 100%, he’ll be able to make an impact in this game. Carolina’s secondary has really overachieved this season I think and they’ll continue to play great as long as the front seven does its job. CB Josh Norman has been playing lights out this season. Norman is the mouthpiece of the defense and he may not be as good as Richard Sherman but this year, he has been as effective. I think Carolina’s defense will be able to control the pace of the Denver offense and the game as a whole.

If Carolina can stop the run like they can, they will force Peyton Manning to go beyond his means. I think Denver has the tools to be successful in the passing game on Sunday but this Carolina defense doesn’t give many chances for offenses to have success. I think Carolina will force some mistakes from the Denver offense and in return, there’s offense will take care of business with the short field. I don’t think that this game will be a blow out. I think this Denver team is good enough to be in striking distance at least in the 4th quarter. I think Carolina will start out hot and gain a double-digit lead. Denver will slowly crawl back into the game in the second half but Cam Newton and Carolina’s ball control offense will deliver the game deciding blow.

It should be a good enough game that will definitely overshadow the hype, the commercials and the halftime show. Here’s some advice: watch as many of the new commercials online before Sunday. The Super Bowl commercials are usually corny or just flat out suck. And as for halftime: who gives a crap about Coldplay? I don’t care if they bring out Beyoncé or Bruno Mars. The NFL really dropped the ball this year by not letting Migos headline the halftime show. But anyway, my point is that this game will be a great one with Carolina coming out on top. I hope this win will catapult Cam Newton as the new face of the NFL for years to come. Prediction: Panthers 34 – Broncos 24