Category Archives: Review

NFL 2019: Random Divisional Thoughts & a Pre-Season Super Bowl Prediction

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Can Drew Brees and the Saints finally make a return to the Super Bowl this season?

By: Elias McMillan

Before we start the season this weekend, here are some of my random thoughts about the goings on in each division. Plus, I’ll include my always-wrong pre-season Super Bowl prediction.

NFC East

The biggest topic in Dallas this offseason has been the contract situations for the team’s youngest stars. As a Cowboys fan, my attitude about this has remained unchanged: I don’t care. Lets just win a championship. Jerry Jones has handed out extensions to a couple of guys already but as I type this, the Ezekiel Elliott deal hasn’t been completed yet. I’ve never been too worried about this situation and I’ve always been sure that Elliott would not sit out the season. Elliott is the most important player on the roster and he deserves the money. But as Mr. Jones said earlier this offseason, you do not need a rushing champion to win a championship. And he’s absolutely right. But if that’s the case, why draft a guy like Elliott 4thoverall? Why then proceed to build the entire offense around that position? The bottom line is that for Dallas to compete for a championship this year, they are going to need the defense to repeat what they did last season and for Dak Prescott to play above average football. Now, Zeke can win you ballgames but for Dallas to go far, I believe both of those things will play a factor. And no matter what fans or analysts say, this division will be a dogfight. It always is. Philly probably has the best roster in the division from top to bottom. No one is expecting much from Wash or NYG but that could potentially make them dangerous. I believe it will come down to Philly and Dallas but this division will definitely will not be a cakewalk.

NFC North

It’s going to be interesting to see how Chicago deals with success. The target in this division is now on their back. I just don’t think Green Bay or Detroit has enough to compete with them this year. That leaves Minnesota who returns with a talented roster and a chip on their shoulder after disappointing last year. Chicago’s defense will be elite again with LB Khalil Mack but the difference maker on this team will have to come from their offense. QB Mitch Trubisky must continue to progress. Minnesota has the talent on both sides of the ball to over take Chicago this year. They just have to stay healthy and QB Kirk Cousins has to perform well in big spots.

NFC South

Despite all of their recent failures in the playoffs, the championship window is still open in New Orleans. The Saints are deep with talent and experience and they are my favorite in the conference. I think Carolina will be improved this season and they will make the playoffs. Though, I’m already concerned with the health of Cam Newton. I don’t think Newton knows how to play differently in terms of body conservation. We all know he can do amazing things on the run but recently, they has placed his health at risk. I hope Newton’s shoulder is healed from a season ago and he can show once again what he can do with his arm. I’m rooting for Bruce Arians in Tampa. He’s a good coach and he’s surrounded himself with a good staff. It’s going to take some time for him to right the ship in Tampa and I hope the organization gives him that time.

NFC West

I don’t think the Jadaveon Clowney trade changes much in this division but it definitely makes Seattle a better football team. The Seahawks might have a defense now as good as they had during their Super Bowl runs. It will be up to Russell Wilson and the passing game to do enough even though they will be leaning on some inexperience at the WR position. QB Jimmy Garoppolo has received mixed reviews in the preseason. It would be a shame if he doesn’t pan out this season for the 49ers. I think San Fran has the pieces to be the next dominant defense in this division. But they won’t do much winning if the offense doesn’t produce. Garoppolo will be under a lot of pressure in 2019. Not to mention that LA, Arizona, and now Seattle all have elite pass rushers.

AFC East

Head coach Brian Flores won’t admit it but it’s true: the Miami Dolphins are tanking. The trading away of expensive veterans would have made sense months ago but to do so just days before the season sends a very clear message. I feel bad for QB Josh Rosen. Though he is not starting, he now walks into another tough situation in Miami. It will be interesting to see if the remade Jets are improved this year. If not, it looks like New England will walk right into another division title.

AFC North

The time to talk in Cleveland is over. All the hype means nothing now. They are 0-0. It’s hard to disappoint when you only won 7 games last season but it sounds like anything but a playoff berth for the Browns will be deemed as so. As I said before, Cleveland must crawl before they can walk. For me, crawling will be showing that they can 8 games. I think Pittsburgh is going to be super motivated at least for the beginning of the season. I think the lost of AB and the lack of talent will catch to them eventually this season. It could be around Week 7 or if they meet New England in the post season. Per usual.

AFC South

Houston is getting dragged by fans and critics for the Clowney trade, but now they are suddenly the favorites in this division. Without Clowney, they still have JJ Watt and Whitney Mercilus to provide a pass rush. And the trade for Laremy Tunsil will upgrade the offensive line that looked awful in the preseason. I wouldn’t count Indianapolis out in this division as well. I think the team will rally around QB Jacoby Brissett and play some good ball. What also caught my attention in the preseason in this division: Jaguars rookie LB Josh Allen. He has looked beastly at times and Jacksonville’s defense could make a return to dominance with him in the fold. The Luck retirement has made the race in the AFC South very interesting and this is before a single game has been played.

AFC West

I really liked the Chargers going into this season but the Derwin James injury is an absolute killer. I think LA will still be able to compete in this division but they lost one of the top talents with that injury. Kansas City has been a question mark with me this offseason because of the Tyreek Hill and Kareem Hunt situations. But Hill has been made available and the Chiefs’ backfield looks really solid now with the signing of Shady McCoy. The Chiefs offense will be scary once again in 2019.

Super Bowl LIV Prediction

Well, if we learned anything last year, its that New England reign at the top isn’t over yet no matter how badly we all want it to be. The Pats will once again walk thru the AFC East and skate past all comers in January. New Orleans looks like the class of the NFC going into 2019. But as good as they look, we all know the result if they meet Brady and the Pats in Miami early February. Prediction: Patriots over Saints

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NFL 2018: Week 17 Predictions

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All eyes on Sunday will be on Cleveland’s rookie QB, Baker Mayfield.

By: Elias McMillan

 

Last Week: 11-5

Season: 138-100-2

Week 17 Picks

Bills over Dolphins – Buffalo gives DT Kyle Williams a hero’s send off into retirement.

Packers over Lions – This meaningless game will be highlighted by Aaron Rodgers, I guess.

Patriots over Jets – New England still needs to lock up that first round bye in the playoffs. They’ll put their best foot forward against a competitive Jets team.

Saints over Panthers – Teddy Bridgewater will hope to have a strong game as he auditions for a potential job elsewhere.

Giants over Cowboys – Dallas can’t improve their seeding in the NFC. I think New York will win it late against the Cowboys’ backups.

Falcons over Buccaneers – Atlanta’s defense will strive against a Tampa Bay offense that turns over the ball too much.

Texans over Jaguars – Houston is still in play for a potential bye in the post season.

Chargers over Broncos – LA was bullied last week. They’ll need a strong performance this week to put that Baltimore loss in the past. Also, the AFC West crown is still up for grabs.

Chiefs over Raiders – KC needs this one to lock up the AFC West in what could be a high scoring affair.

Rams over 49ers – No Todd Gurley worries me for LA. San Francisco has played decently at times late this season. I still like LA in this match up but don’t be surprised if the Niners make things interesting.

Vikings over Bears – I thought Minnesota would falter on the road last week. This week, I think they’ll clinch the final playoff spot in the NFC. Minnesota has been a stronger team at home. Chicago may want to knock Minnesota out this Sunday but they might be better off facing a familiar opponent in the wildcard round.

Steelers over Bengals – Pittsburgh needs help to get into the playoffs but in terms of this week’s game, they should roll against the 2ndstring of the Bengals.

Seahawks over Cardinals – Seattle may rest their starters but that may not even matter. Arizona will lock up the first overall pick in next April’s draft.

Eagles over Washington – The way Philadelphia has rallied behind Nick Foles is reminiscent of last season. Too bad they won’t make the post season.

Ravens over Browns – Baltimore has only lost once since their bye week. If the Ravens defense shows up like they did last week, Bayer Mayfield will be in for a world of hurt.

Colts over Titans – With the final playoff spot in the AFC on the line, I’m going with the healthiest team. Marcus Mariota will try to give it a go on Sunday but I doubt that he’ll be able to play the entire 60 minutes. I like Andrew Luck and the Colts on the road.

NFL 2018: Week 4 Predictions

USP NFL: PITTSBURGH STEELERS AT TAMPA BAY BUCCANEE S FBN TB PIT USA FL

Everything’s all good in Steel Town now that they’ve got their first victory of 2018, right?

By: Elias McMillan

 

Last Week: 6-10

Season: 22-24-2

Big Five Games of the Week

Minnesota @ LA Rams – The Vikings absolutely laid an egg at home last week against a terrible Buffalo team. But I believe they can bounce back this week even on the road against a good LA Rams team. The Rams have significant injuries in their secondary and I believe this will give Kirk Cousins full range in terms of attack them through the air. LA’s offense is pretty capable as well but I just think Minnesota will be anxious to get the bad taste from Week 3 out of their system. Winner: Vikings

Miami @ New England – New England had their annual early season “are they done” loss last week. The Patriots will obviously bounce back. But not enough people are talking about this undefeated Miami Dolphins team. They are proving that addition by subtraction can work out if you look at the changes that they’ve made in the offseason, which are now paying off. New England’s defense is struggling right now and I believe that Miami’s offense is capable of attack them through the ground and in the air. Instead of bouncing back at home, I think New England will lose their second straight. Winner: Dolphins

New Orleans @ NY Giants – The Giants finally got a win last week but I think that may have said more about Houston than about them. New Orleans has been apart of a close finish in each game this week. This tells me that their defense needs fixed. I think the Giants will be able to put up points against this team but I don’t think that will be enough for them to win. If they are able to go “tit-for-tat” offensively, I’ll still bet on the Saints to win another close one. Winner: Saints

Baltimore @ Pittsburgh – The Steelers finally won last week so everything’s all-good in Yinzer land. Right? Hardly. Pittsburgh’s defense is poor and they almost blew a 20-point lead last week in the second half. I think Baltimore coming to town will be a good thing for them because they should know what to expect. These games are usually a tough-drag ‘em out type of contest. Everyone knows about Pittsburgh’s struggles on defense but I don’t think the Ravens offense is good enough to exploit it. I am looking at you, Joe Flacco. I wonder if the Baltimore defense will be able to make enough stops against a Pittsburgh offense that has so many ways to beat you. The road team typically has the tougher up hill climb in these matchups. Winner: Steelers

Kansas City @ Denver – Patrick Mahomes is the talk of the NFL right now and the lights will be extra bright on him and the Chiefs offense on Monday night. I’m looking forward to see how this kid deals with being chased by Von Miller for 4 quarters. Going into the 2018 season, I believed that Kansas City would take a step back this year because of their defense. The good news is that I don’t see Denver’s offense being able to push the issue against them especially since Case Keenum will be tasked with out dueling the hottest QB in the league currently. Playing at Mile-High can prove to be a challenge but I believe Mahomes and the gang will be up for it. Winner: Chiefs

The Rest of Week 4

Falcons over Bengals – Rookie WR Calvin Ridley is starting to become an x-factor for the Atlanta offense.

Bears over Buccaneers – Ryan Fitzpatrick will continue to fall back down to earth against a Chicago defense that will get after him. Winston will be the starter when Tampa returns from the bye week in Week 6.

Lions over Cowboys – I’m buying into Detroit’s performance last week but Dallas is a team that cannot score points. Last time I checked, you have to score points to win.

Packers over Bills – Green Bay is not a good team. Buffalo and especially rookie QB Josh Allen would definitely have my attention if they were able to win in Green Bay.

Eagles over Titans – I like Philly here in a low scoring affair. Tennessee is close to being down two quarterbacks. I think Carson Wentz will continue to feel more comfortable back in the lineup.

Colts over Texans – The talk in Texas maybe about the Cowboys’ struggles but what in the world is going on in Houston? Deshaun Watson, J.J. Watt, Clowney, Hopkins, Lamar Miller. They are all healthy. Yet, Houston is winless. The hot seat will be on coach Bill O’Brien real soon if they go to 0-4.

Jaguars over Jets – Jacksonville is a good team that just can’t beat Tennessee. It makes no sense but it’s true.

Browns over Raiders – I like Bayer Mayfield to keep Jon Gruden’s Raiders winless in a road upset.

Seahawks over Cardinals – Arizona made the right decision benching Sam Bradford for the rookie Josh Rosen. But this Cardinals team doesn’t look like they are in shape to compete this year.

Chargers over 49ers – The Jimmy Garoppolo injury has taken the air out of the entire season for San Francisco.

Fantasy Picks of the Week

QB: Phillip Rivers (Chargers) – Rivers should have plenty of opportunities against the 49ers that might have trouble scoring points themselves.

RB: Kenyan Drake (Dolphins) – Many are waiting on a breakout out game from Drake. It could come this week in New England.

WR: Odell Beckham Jr. (Giants) – The New Orleans secondary is back to being bad. That should be good news for New York’s top receiving target.

TE: Travis Kelce (Chiefs) – Kelce is pretty reliable is playing with house money with how well the Chiefs offense is operating.

DEF: Jacksonville – I like the Jaguars defense to limit rookie QB Sam Darnold this week.

 

 

 

 

NFL 2017: Mid-Season Report

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At the midway point of the 2017 season, a all-Pennsylvania Super Bowl doesn’t seem like a crazy idea.

By: Elias McMillan

 

We have seen some surprises and disappointments so far this 2017 season. Here’s my list. Also, I had to change my original Super Bowl prediction of Falcons-Raiders from last August.

 

Top 5 Surprising Teams

  1. Philadelphia Eagles (8-1) – The Eagles look right now like the class of the NFC. Their young QB, Carson Wentz, is leading an explosive offensive attack that can create big plays on the ground and thru the air. On defense, the Eagles are strong up front against the run and can get after the QB. Time will tell if this Eagles team is for real or not. They’ve had a cakewalk of a schedule so far this season and they still have remaining games against Dallas, Seattle, and much improved Los Angeles.
  2. New Orleans Saints (6-2) – The Saints are the sleeper team in the NFC South that Tampa Bay was suppose to be this year. QB Drew Brees is still getting the job done despite his age and he is receiving great support from his running backs. Defense has been the main issue in New Orleans for years now but we are seeing a much-improved secondary in 2017.
  3. Los Angeles Rams (6-2) – The Rams has had the individual talent on the roster for a while now. But this year, they are finally putting it together to where they might actually be a playoff team. RB Todd Gurley and DT Aaron Donald continue to be great but that young defense is really beginning to thrive under coordinator Wade Phillips and QB Jared Goff is having a bounce back season after a tough rookie campaign.
  4. Jacksonville Jaguars (5-3) – Jacksonville’s defense has become good enough where it is single handedly winning games for the team. The Jaguars are loaded with talent across the board defensively and they are now witnessing the fruits of their draft labor. If the offense can do just a little more than the minimum, Sacksonville will win the AFC South.
  5. New York Jets (4-5) – The Jets were supposed to win three games this year. At the half waypoint, they have four. You have to give head coach Todd Bowles credit for what he has been able to do with this roster. They are giving maximum effort each week and it shows. The Jets wont make the playoffs this year but I really hope they stick with the coaching brain trust that they currently have.

 

Top 5 Disappointing Teams

  1. Oakland Raiders (4-5) – The Raiders were my Super Bowl pick but they look like a mess right now. The defense has really disappointed and QB Derek Carr isnt getting much from his offensive line. Oakland has enough talent to turn their season around but it doesn’t seem likely.
  2. New York Giants (1-7) – Even before the injuries, the Giants were a mess from Jump Street in 2017. The offense is in crisis mode without Odell Beckham Jr. and it look like they are starting to prepare for life without Eli Manning. I thought New York at least had a promising defense at the beginning of the season but they have also been a massive letdown.
  3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-6) – Tampa was my sleeper in the NFC South. I thought QB Jameis Winston would blossom with all the talent they surrounded him with in the offseason. Instead, Winston and the entire offense have struggled. Tampa also isn’t getting much from their defense either. I wonder who will receive most of the blame at season’s end: the head coach or the QB?
  4. Atlanta Falcons (4-4) – Atlanta is still in the hunt for a playoff berth but they have massively under performed this season. Despite having the talent on both sides of the ball, the offense has yet to find consistency and the defense is not closing out game in the second half. Atlanta will have to start playing with some urgency in the second half of the season.
  5. Arizona Cardinals (4-4) – I had Arizona as a playoff team before the season started. Their struggles can be accounted for different reason. Losing their best player, RB David Johnson, hurt. But to add on to that, they also lose starting QB Carson Palmer. Injuries happen but the real disappointment with this team lies on the defense. OLB Chandler Jones is having a great season as one of the leading pass rushers in the league. But the rest of the defense, especially the secondary, has really let this team down so far this year.

 

Mid Season Awards

MVP: Carson Wentz (QB – Philadelphia) – Wentz has been very impressive so far this year and his team has the best record in football.

Offensive MVP: Tom Brady (QB – New England) – The ageless one continues to lead the league in passing categories. New England remains so confident in him that they traded away his back up.

Defensive MVP: Calais Campbell (DT – Jacksonville) – We have to give someone credit for helping the Jacksonville defense take that next step. Calais Campbell has provided leadership with that group while being on the league leaders in sacks at the halfway point of the season.

My REVISED Pick of Super Bowl 52

In the AFC, I think it is Pittsburgh’s conference to lose. The Steelers have had the best roster in the AFC for some years now but for one reason or another, they haven’t been able to put it together in January. With Ben Roethlisberger’s retirement looming, the Steelers have to get it done this season. New England will meet Pittsburgh again in the playoffs but I think Pittsburgh is able to finally slay their “dragon” this postseason if they are healthy. In the NFC, I see a wide-open field. Everyone loves Philadelphia right now but they have had a cake schedule so far. We will see how good they really are, as we get closer to the postseason. Minnesota could be a sleeper. They have a great defense and Teddy Bridgewater will be returning at QB soon. I’m not sure if I’m ready to take New Orleans seriously yet. In the West, Seattle just dropped two straight at home, which literally never happens. And can’t fully trust the LA Rams with their inconsistent offense. I love the idea of Dallas wrecking stuff as a wildcard in the playoffs but I’m not entirely sure if they will even make the playoffs. Despite their recent struggles and because there was no way I was going to pick the Eagles, I’ll go with Seattle because their defense can still be good when it wants to. REVISED Super Bowl 52 Prediction: Steelers over Seahawks

 

NFL 2016: Mid Season Report

NFL: JAN 03 Jaguars at Texans

The Jacksonville Jaguars had so much promise going into this season. They’ve been one of the most disappointing teams in 2016

By: Elias McMillan

 

Every team has played at least half of their schedule. So, it is now time for me to name my top 5 surprises and disappointments at the half way mark in this 2016 NFL Season. I’ll also make a revised Super Bowl pick at the end.

Top 5 Surprising Teams

  1. Dallas Cowboys (7-1) – Without Romo for the first part of the season and seeing how the team performed last season, I had the Cowboys winning just 8 games and not going to the playoffs in my preseason predictions. Now, it looks like things without Romo are going to be okay, the team already has 7 victories, and they are more than likely going to at least win the division and many a first round bye in the playoffs. I definitely didn’t see this coming. The plan to build a monster running game like what we saw in 2014 has worked with the selection of Ezekiel Elliott with the 4th overall pick. But the real surprise has been rookie QB Dak Prescott who has been able to do more than keep this team afloat while Romo recovers. I still think that the defense will be this teams undoing eventually but right now, they look like the class of the NFC.
  2. Oakland Raiders (7-2) – Many people believed that the Raiders would take that leap in 2016. I didn’t really believe that before the season but now I am witnessing it. QB David Carr is commanding a top-notch air attack. WR Amari Cooper is playing great but so is veteran WR Michael Crabtree. On defense, they have a tough front seven that can really get after the QB. They face a tough road ahead for the rest of the season but right now they are in position to maybe win their division.
  3. Denver Broncos (6-3) – After losing to Oakland last week, you might be surprised that I would put Denver on this list. But with their QB situation going into the season, I thought they would fall into a Super Bowl hangover. Instead, their defense is just as good as it was a season ago. Trevor Siemian has the offense getting by. Too bad that they lost starting RB CJ Anderson but their running game was a successful part to this season so far as well. I don’t know how the rest of the way will go but the AFC West race will be interesting.
  4. Atlanta Falcons (6-3) – With the way Carolina has played so far this season, that has opened the door for the Falcons to take control of the NFC South. Atlanta was already going to be amazing offensively with names like Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and DeVonta Freeman. But their defense has improved enough where you can sense that this team could close out this division sooner than later.
  5. Miami Dolphins (4-4) – Honestly, I couldn’t figure out a fifth team to put in this slot. But I had Miami winning just 5 games before the season and they are already at 4. Miami is currently in second place in the AFC East and there is a good chance for them to stay there. They have a lot of young talent on the offensive side of the ball and they are getting the most finally out their defensive front four. They might be able to make a surprising run to the wild card.

 

Top 5 Disappointing Teams

  1. Carolina Panthers (3-5) – Things have gotten so bad in Carolina so quickly. A lot of talk about Cam Newton but the bottom line is that the defense is what has under performed greatly this season. Maybe it is from the decision to let Josh Norman go. But Carolina refused to get younger and better at key positions in the offseason and it is showing up currently each week. Carolina may be able to rebound and have a respectable record to end the season but their playoff chances look bleak.
  2. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-6) – Remember how Jacksonville had so much optimism before the season. So much for all of that. It looks like the same old Jags are here to stay for at least another season. With all of that young talent, this team can barely compete in a terrible AFC South division. Maybe QB Blake Bortles isn’t that good. Maybe the head coach and GM need to be fired. Either way, Jacksonville has too much talent to be sucking like have this season. I predict major changes coming in the offseason.
  3. New York Jets (3-6) – This year, the Jets season has been basically derailed because of the QB position. And I completely understand why they had to bring back Ryan Fitzpatrick. They had great success with him last season. This season it has been the opposite. And it has gotten so bad on that side of the ball that not even their defense can save them. This team has some positives like Matt Forte and their defensive line. But the bad QB play, the injuries, and the aging vets can only carry this team so far. I thought at the start of the season that this team could at least win 8 games.
  4. Arizona Cardinals (3-4-1) – Arizona ws my Super Bwl pick at the beginning of the season. They have been a disappointment on both sides of the ball but mainly on defense. Carson Palmer has been shaky at times but Arizona still has a wealth of talent on offense. I thought that this defense would be a monster but they don’t make enough plays and have been a massive disappointment. Because they have a tie, it is still possible for them to rebound and get back into the playoff race.
  5. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-4) – The Steelers were my Super Bowl team coming out of the AFC before the season. I think Pittsburgh could still bounce back and win their division but they have still been a disappointment so far in 2016. The losses against lesser opponents. The inconsistencies on offense. A complete no show from the pass rush. And they have also struggled due to injury. But like I said, there is still time for them to bounce back and win a string of games. But I just don’t see them as a Super Bowl contender like I thought they would be at the start of the season.

 

Mid Season Awards

MVP: Julio Jones (WR – Atlanta) – These things always go to the QB. Matt Ryan has been good but lets be real. Julio Jones is what makes the Atlanta Falcons offense go. Jones currently leads the league in receiving and he is going to continue to be a huge part of Atlanta’s success for the rest of the season. I was tempted to give this to Tom Brady but the Patriots went 3-1 without him. That kinda puts huge hole in his bid.

Offensive MVP: Ezekiel Elliott (RB – Dallas) – Ezekiel Elliott is going to continue to put up monster numbers this season behind that offensive line. That Dallas power rushing game is a huge reason for the team’s success in 2016. Elliott will probably go on to be the league’s leading rusher.

Defensive MVP: Cliff Avril (DE – Seattle) – Avril is among the league leaders in sacks and is leading Seattle’s defensive line to be one of the best units in the NFL. Seattle has been inconsistent at times this season but they’ve been able to still lean on that defense. Arvil and that defensive line is a big part of that.

My REVISED Pick for Super Bowl 51

In the AFC, I believe that the Patriots will be there once again. Despite not having a strong defense, they probably have the best shot out of anyone in the conference. I thought that the Patriots would maybe fall short of a Super Bowl berth much like last season but they are much ahead in front of everyone else in the AFC. Pittsburgh doesn’t have the defense to slow Tom Brady and the offense. Denver still has a good defense but they are not going to be able to run the ball like they did a season ago. Maybe Oakland can shock the world and compete with the Patriots. I don’t know. But the Pats area safe pick right now. In the NFC, I can tell you, as a fan of the team how the Cowboys season will end. First off, Tony Romo will be starting going into the post season. Also, Dallas will be bringing with them into the post season that same sorry defense. That defense will let them down in January but everyone will still blame Tony Romo. Same as there ever was. I think Seattle or Atlanta could give Dallas problems in January. Both teams have decent pass rushes. Atlanta has a dynamic offense but we can’t completely write off Russell Wilson either. Ultimately, I still believe that Seattle’s defense will be the most valuable unit in football once the playoffs begin. REVISED Super Bowl 51 Prediction: Seahawks over Patriots

2016 Dallas Cowboys Offseason: I DIDNT LIKE MOST OF IT

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By: Elias McMillan

After ending a season that saw them go 4-12, you would think that there wouldn’t be much optimism surrounding the Dallas Cowboys going into the offseason. But once you consider that the 2015 season was one of instances were a lot went wrong with injuries and etc., you could feel optimistic about the Cowboys having a great offseason to improve, get healthy, and be ready to compete in 2016. But months later after the season has ended and now on the eve of the 2016 campaign, I feel that the Cowboys really disappointed me this offseason. I do think that this team will compete in 2016 if they stay healthy but I was looking forward to seeing moves that would improve this team greatly. After the great success of the 2014 season, I feel that the blueprint was set for this team to not only just compete but to become title contenders. Going into 2016, I see Dallas as a team that isn’t on the cusp of being a contender but a team that will just “compete”.

I didn’t expect the Cowboys to be major players in free agency but the club did end up bringing a lot of players back that I didn’t expect back. Looking at the defensive secondary first, where I thought the Cowboys were preparing to move on from first round pick disappointment Morris Claiborne and free agent disappointment Brandon Carr. Claiborne was a free agent who they could have let walk and Carr was a candidate to be released due to his lack of production and his large cap number. Instead, Claiborne was brought back on a one-year deal and Carr took a pay cut to stay with the team. I didn’t hate these moves but I didn’t see them coming. And to Claiborne, Carr and the rest of the secondary’s credit, they can probably play a lot better football than what they’ve shown last season. That unit suffered through injuries (Scandrick) and an inconsistent pass rush. Going into this season, the secondary is a healthy, close group that will probably play better if the defensive front four is improved.

I totally understand why Greg Hardy was not brought back. He didn’t really handle himself well last season and he wasn’t the beast that he was in Carolina. But he does deserve a lot of credit for bringing out the most from line mate DeMarcus Lawrence. Hopefully, Lawrence can be the player that he was last season without Hardy. In terms of free agency, the defensive line was the only place where the Cowboys made any type of significant move. DT Cedric Thornton was brought in from Philadelphia and he should be an upgrade from Nick Hayden. Thornton and Tyrone Crawford should form a formable duo inside for this defense but defensive end still remains a major question mark. The Cowboys got word that Lawrence may be facing a suspension before the draft so that might affect their plans in April. Outside of Lawrence, the Cowboys were counting on Randy Gregory to have a solid offseason after a tough rookie season marred by injuries and suspensions. Also, the Cowboys brought in Benson Mayowa who seems like the forgotten man in the offseason. Mayowa was a restricted free agent but Oakland didn’t fight to keep him because their defense is going through a personnel change from 4-3 to 3-4. Mayowa showed some flashes as a Raider and the Cowboys are hoping he can truly flourish in a 4-3 defense as a pass rusher. The situation involving Lawrence and Gregory ends up taking a turn but I’ll hit on that later.

Jack Crawford and Kyle Wilber are underrated pieces but neither player is really great and I thought the Cowboys could aim to easily replace them both. Instead, they were both brought back on small mid level deals. I guess both players could prove to be valuable in terms of depth and on special teams. LB Rolando McClain was a starter for most of last season but he was a guy that I felt that you really couldn’t rely on. When McClain is at his best, he was a big part of the defense’s success. But with all of the big hits he provided, there were also a lot of plays where he would just miss, take a bad angle, or just tune out completely. LB’s are kinda like RB’s in the league currently in where it isn’t hard to get production out of a free agent for a year or so. For that reason, I didn’t expect McClain to be back but he was brought back on a one-year deal. My problem with that is that the team would be depending on an unreliable player to start again in 2016. And this guy doesn’t want to show up on time for mini camp or work out during the off-season reportedly. And when asked about it, the team gives a “family issues” excuse for him. The entire situation just seemed fishy from the beginning. Why would Jerry Jones want a guy like that back with his history of suspensions and just overall flakiness? Well, maybe the Cowboys can give him one more chance and draft his replacement in April. We’ll see.

On offense, the Cowboys were able to retain OG Ronald Leary, which will prove important for depth purposes. Last season, we saw how important in the backup QB position is. Since Dallas pretty much bottomed out because of that situation, I thought that finding a new, veteran with experience at backup QB would be a priority. The Cowboys did look but they clearly didn’t look hard enough. The one guy I knew would get called in was Matt Moore who is very familiar with head coach Jason Garrett and the Cowboys organization. Moore is up there in age but he is plenty experienced and would have been an upgrade from Kellen Moore, Matt Cassel, and Brandon Weeden. Moore visited with Dallas and left Valley Ranch without a deal. Days later he signs back with Miami. The backup QB situation is dire. Tony Romo is great and so is his offensive line. But he is 36 years old. Old QB’s tend to get injured playing in the NFL. Matt Moore should not of been able to leave Dallas without a deal. Instead now, the Cowboys are going to go forward with what they got, Kellen Moore and Jameill Showers. Two guys who are short on talent and experience. It is as if the organization didn’t think backup QB was an issue last season.

At running back, last season proved that with this offensive line, you could have success no matter who’s running the ball. Darren McFadden exceeded expectations in 2015 but I understand if the team didn’t want to fully count on lightning striking twice with him in 2016. Joseph Randle totally lost his mind and Lance Dunbar is a free agent who is coming off of an injury. I expected Dallas to bring someone in that the position. Alfred Morris signed on a two year and I felt that this could be a real underrated signing by Dallas. Morris is a veteran like McFadden but he is younger and probably has a lot more left in the tank. Plus, Lance Dunbar was brought back on a one-year deal. Dunbar was an important part of the passing game last season before he got hurt so I like that was brought back. With 3 veterans in the fold, I fully expected Dallas to take a younger RB in the draft but I definitely didn’t want one in the first round.

So, now lets talk about the draft where the Cowboys basically did everything I didn’t want them to. The player I wanted at pick #4 overall from day one was DE Joey Bosa. Not only he would have filled a need for Dallas but also his production in college warranted a high selection. Bosa goes to San Diego at #3 so there goes that plan. I never was on board with Jalen Ramsey because I didn’t see a fit for him on this defense. Especially since Dallas brought the entire secondary back in the offseason and they took a CB/S in the first round last year. I absolutely didn’t want a RB at #4 so I thought I would have found a team to trade down with. Shaq Lawson or Leonard Floyd could have been options in a trade down scenario where Dallas could have addressed the team’s greatest need. The Cowboys were in the position that they’re in this offseason because they’ve drafted so safely in recently history. Taking a RB that high in the first round is the opposite of drafting safely. It is a flashy, Hollywood draft pick and it doesn’t make much since to me. And if you listen to Jerry Jones and others who follow the team closely, it wouldn’t have mattered if my guy (Bosa) were available at #4. Ezekiel Elliott was the guy they wanted all along. RB wasn’t a big enough need to address with pick #4. There are plenty of examples in this league of how you can find young quality RB’s anywhere in the draft. Which is probably why they went ahead and took another RB in round 6. I understand the pluses of the Elliott pick. The Cowboys need to maximize the RB position to help Romo stay healthy and to return to the ball control style of football that we saw in 2014. But the Cowboys ran the ball pretty well last season without a young stud a RB. The Romo injury was the difference. So, maximizing the run game is more so to help Romo to stay healthy. Ok, I get that sort of. But then, they take it a step further and say that the ball control offense is going to help the defense stay fresh. I normally would agree with that situation but I don’t see enough talent on that side of the ball. Average talent that is resting up on the bench is still going to be average when they hit the field. Resting the defense will mean nothing if the talent level on that side of the football is not improved.

So in round 2, lets improve the talent on the defensive side of the football with a pass rusher or an impact linebacker that could replace Rolando McClain soon. They take LB Jaylon Smith who if healthy, would have been a top 10 pick overall. Instead, Smith suffered a serious knee injury and will probably miss the entire 2016 season. I get if the Cowboys see Smith as that top-10 prospect that will be a big time player for the team in the future. But the defense needs help sooner rather than later. Because of the smart draft decisions from recent years, the Cowboys have a realistic window to become title contenders. But with the first two selections from this draft, the Cowboys completely failed at maximizing those selections. And the Smith selection looks even worst now that McClain will miss more than half of the season due to suspension. Jaylon Smith might turn into an All-Star but how does that help Dallas in 2016? We cannot count on having impact players next year. We should be trying to field that best team possible as soon as possible. Thinking about the next season before this one starts is a loser’s mentality.

The Cowboys did address the front four in the 3rd and 4th rounds but how can we expect those picks to turn into major pieces this season? Dallas even took the QB that I didn’t want them to take. Dak Prescott was a great college QB at Mississippi State but if you watched him against top defenses in the SEC, you saw that he is limited by his arm strength and his decision-making under pressure. I didn’t feel great about Prescott’s pro prospects going into the draft and now I’ll get to see that process first hand as Dallas did indeed draft him.

After the draft, we’ve learned about how the Cowboys defense would be missing multiple players due to suspensions. DeMarcus Lawrence will miss the first 4 games after his appeal was denied. I don’t think Lawrence’s violation of the substance abuse policy was marijuana related so I’m not overly worried about him. Though, not having him for the first month of the season will hurt big time. Another DE, Randy Gregory, is also facing multiple suspensions. Gregory has a history with marijuana issues, which allowed him to fall into the Cowboys lap in the second round of the 2015 draft in the first place. Gregory was suspended last season for a violation and he was facing another 4 game suspension for this upcoming season. Last week, Gregory checked himself into rehab as he failed another drug test and is facing an even longer suspension now. Rolando McClain will also face a lengthy suspension this season. The entire situation is just frustrating. I think Lawrence might be able to bounce back from this but I don’t feel great about the other two. With Gregory’s history, I think it might be safe to say that his Cowboys career could be over. I completely understand why the Cowboys took a risk on Gregory in the first place. The defense needs quality pass rushers and they still do especially now. I don’t understand why the Cowboys took a chance on bringing back a guy like McClain though. And then they draft a potential replacement for him that cant play until next season? I just don’t like it at all. We could have and should have just allowed McClain to walk away. But instead now, our depth at LB behind Sean Lee looks mighty weak.

With the talent of the offensive side of the ball, I think the Cowboys will be fine on that side of the football. Getting back a healthy Tony Romo and Dez Bryant will pay huge dividends. If the great depth at RB paired with the offensive line does it job, Dallas will have one of the top offenses in football. But I’m afraid that this wont be enough to make this team into title contenders. A lot of people are saying how in 2014, the Cowboys had a worst defensive situation and they still got so close from making the NFC Championship. Well as a fan, I don’t want to “come close” anymore. “Coming close” is no longer a goal. Tony Romo is 36 years old and this team needs to maximize its chances right now. In 2016. We can’t just use 2014 as an example of success because it wasn’t. It was a great season but it ended in failure. We lost. How can we be a better team in 2016. I think the offense will be at the level. Maybe. But look at the recent champions and contenders. You can have a flashy offense but if you don’t have a defense that can create stops, you are not going to be a contender. I feel that there were several decisions this offseason that will keep this team from being a contender in 2016. And its frustrating to me because this team needs to maximize the years that Tony Romo has left. I feel that this team has done the opposite this offseason. If Romo can survive the season, I still think that this Cowboys team can win the NFC East. But anything past that, anything in terms of making the ultimate goal, remains a huge question mark.

2016 NFL Draft Grades: NFC

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Is Ezekiel Elliott really worth a top 5 pick?

By: Elias McMillan

 

NFC EAST

1. Washington: (Team Needs: DE (3-4), CB, S, RB, OLB (3-4), C, NT) – WR wasn’t a need position for Washington entering this draft but they took Josh Doctson with their first selection. Doctson might prove to be a smart selection as the team might be preparing for life without DeSean Jackson or Pierre Garcon. Love the selection of Su’a Cravens who will play that “tweener” position of Safety/Linebacker. CB Kendall Fuller is a steal in the third round. Fuller has a great NFL pedigree and he probably should have been drafted sooner if there weren’t questions about his health. I feel like Washington missed out on opportunities to address the positions on the line of scrimmage. They needed offensive and defensive line help. Plus, I think they should have drafted someone to help with the pass rush. But their top three selections are pretty strong. Grade: B

2. New York Giants: (Team Needs: CB, LB (4-3), OT, WR, S) – CB Eli Apple will help this secondary that was the worst in football a season ago. But the Apple pick at 10th overall is a bit of a reach. I had Apple going closer to the second round. I absolutely love the second round pick of WR Sterling Shepard. Shepard is a speedster and a playmaker in the slot. He’ll do big things in this offense and he might help push Victor Cruz completely off the roster eventually. Safety Darian Thompson was another smart pick for the Giants. They need all the help they can find in the secondary. The fifth round selection of RB Paul Perkins was strange to me because the Giants backfield is already kinda loaded. The Giants didn’t draft for any offensive line help but they still did a decent job. Grade: B-

3. Philadelphia Eagles: (Team Needs: CB, RB, OG, LB) – Wow. I don’t have much positive things to say about this draft for the Eagles. You don’t trade up to the top of the draft for a QB especially when you already have money invested in your veteran starter and when you signed one of the top backups in free agency. I also have to mention that this was not a great draft for QBs. Carson Wentz will have the chance to prove that he is the QB for the future but coming out of a FCS school and with the QB situation in Philadelphia, he’ll have a long climb to the top. I like that they addressed the interior of their offensive line in the third round. But they should have taken a RB earlier. I think Jalen Mills in the seventh round could be a steal that will help out in the secondary. Grade: C-

4. Dallas Cowboys: (Team Needs: DE, DT, OLB (4-3), CB, S, QB, WR, RB) – Ezekiel Elliott might eventually be one the best RB’s in the league but in today’s NFL, you don’t take RB’s in the top five of the draft. Ever. If the Cowboys wanted to build towards being a contender, they needed to address their god-awful pass rush situation in the first or second round. They did neither. The Elliott will prove to be very important. The Cowboys should be able to unleash a power running game that will help the offense become very efficient and at the same time take the pressure off of their 36-year-old starting QB. But in terms of contending for championships, a power running game really isn’t that important. Having players at the line of scrimmage on defense is much more important. So in 2016, we could see a great Cowboys offense but we also could see a team that wont contend for a title without the players needed on defense on the line the scrimmage. In the second round, they took LB Jaylon Smith who is one of the best prospects in this draft. The problem with that pick is that Smith is coming off of a massive knee injury and will probably not suit up at all in 2016. I don’t think this Cowboys defense can afford to wait a year to get am impact player on that defense. I like that they thought that a LB was a need position but it would have been better if they took someone who could have helped them this season. DT Maliek Collins might be my favorite pick of the bunch as an inside pass rusher. I absolutely hated the Dak Prescott pick. I’ve seen Prescott play numerous times and I don’t see a future backup QB. I see someone who needs a ton of work as a passer and with a similar skill set as a Tim Tebow. He was the one QB I didn’t want Dallas to take. DE Charles Tapper might become a rotational guy, as a pass rusher but again, this position should have been focused on earlier in the draft. To end the draft, they took a TE who hasn’t played football in years. There are some qualities to this draft class for Dallas but there are just too many things that I don’t like. Grade: D

NFC NORTH

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Georgia’s Leonard Floyd is a pass rusher in a wide receiver’s body.

1. Chicago Bears: (Team Needs: OLB (3-4), ILB, DE (3-4), CB, WR) – The Bears had the most solid of a draft out of anyone. Leonard Floyd could be the future pass rusher that this 3-4 defense needs. Cody Whitehair was one of the top guards in the draft and he’ll help this offensive line right away. I felt that DE Jonathan Bullard could have gone in the first round. The Bears were able to get him in round three. He will be a great interior defender against the run or the pass. LB Nick Kwiatkoski is a tough tackler who will help the middle of the defense. I also liked the selection of a couple of small school products. CB Deiondre’ Hall is a playmaker in the secondary and WR Daniel Braverman could have a future in the league as a slot receiver. The Bears pretty much hit all of their needs and drafted quality players. Grade: A

2. Minnesota Vikings: (Team Needs: WR, DE (4-3), LB, DT) – Minnesota really lucked out and maybe gotten the best receiver in the draft. Laquon Treadwell really legitimizes the WR core in Minnesota and will definitely help the progression of QB Teddy Bridgewater. I thought CB Mackensie Alexander was good enough to be a first rounder but Minnesota stopped his fall in the late second round. I thought that the Vikings needed to address the inside linebacker position and Kentrell Brothers will definitely help that department. There wont be a more interesting rookie than WR Moritz Boehringer from Germany. I think Minnesota missed out on addressing the DE position but they still did a solid job with this draft. Grade: B+

3. Detroit Lions: (Team Needs: WR, DE (4-3), DT, LB, S, CB) – The Lions were very conservative with this draft class. Addressing the offensive line is never a bad thing and Detroit did so with all three positions early in the draft. In the second round, they got a steal out of DT A’Shawn Robinson who will definitely help Detroit stop the run. There is a lot of buzz surrounding safety Miles Killebrew and it’s not just because of his awesome name. Killebrew is a heat-seeking missile as a tackler and he’ll definitely make his mark as a special teamer. Considering Calvin Johnson retired, I’m disappointed that they didn’t address the WR position. Also, Detroit didn’t look to draft an edge rusher to put across from Ziggy Ansah. Grade: B

4. Green Bay Packers: (Team Needs: WR, NT, DE (3-4), ILB, CB) – The Packers needed a B.J. Raji replacement and they made of gotten it in first round pick DT Kenny Clark. I like the second round pick of OT Jason Spriggs. He’ll provide some much needed depth on that offensive line. I don’t know if Blake Martinez is the middle linebacker the Packers need as a starter. I see Martinez more as a special teams contributor. The Packers pretty much hit most of their needs except for in the secondary. Nothing really jumps out about this draft class. I think Kenny Clark will be a good one though. Grade: C

NFC SOUTH

1. New Orleans Saints: (Team Needs: DE (4-3), DT, CB, OG, WR) – DT Sheldon Rankins is a huge disruptor and will be a great fit for the Saints. WR Michael Thomas should serve as an eventual replacement to Marques Colston. Thomas, much like Colston, is a big possession receiver that will be a nice complement to Brandin Cooks. Safety Vonn Bell is a pick that was needed once you consider how bad the Saints secondary has been. The Saints addressed all of their need areas on defense. Which is really their entire defense. I think they should of brought in some offensive line help. Grade: B

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Vernon Hargreaves will be a fan favorite in his hometown of Tampa Bay.

2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: (Team Needs: OT, DE, LB (4-3), CB, S) – The Buccaneers got the kid they wanted all along in the first round in Tampa native, Vernon Hargreaves. Hargreaves might be the best “pure” corner in this draft. Tampa needed DE help but I’m not sure if they’ll get it out from Noah Spence. Spence is a dynamic pass rusher but he needs to get bigger to play in a 4-3. Everyone is criticizing Tampa decision to trade back up into the second round for a kicker. But kickers are not important until you need them. Roberto Aguayo will definitely get the opportunity to prove that he’s worth it. Tampa did a decent job at hitting all of their need areas. Grade: B-

3. Atlanta Falcons: (Team Needs: DE (4-3), WR, LB, TE, S) – Atlanta was dead last in the league again this past season in sacks. So, I can’t understand why they passed on Shaq Lawson for a safety. Keanu Neal is a good player but Atlanta had greater needs and the pick was a reach. I really like LB Deion Jones though. Jones has all the skills that a linebacker needs in a 4-3 defense. Atlanta waited until the seventh round to take a receiver and they released Roddy White earlier this offseason. TE Austin Hooper might prove to be a smart selection as the Falcons are still looking for that big TE target since Tony Gonzalez retired. Nothing too spectacular from this draft class though. Grade: C

4. Carolina Panthers: (Team Needs: WR, OT, RB, DE, CB, S) – It’s hard to criticize Carolina’s draft because they were drafting at the bottom of each round. But they pretty much did their own thing and ignored some of their obvious need areas. Carolina has enough quality defensive tackles but they took another one in the first round. CB Josh Norman was shockingly let go weeks ago so, I understand if Carolina was going to draft a CB. But they drafted three of them when they could have addressed other needs. Just a very strange draft for the reigning NFC Champs. Grade: C-

NFC WEST 

1. Seattle Seahawks: (Team Needs: C, OG, OT, RB, DT, DE (4-3), LB) – I got to pat myself on the back again for correctly predicting Seattle’s first round pick. Germain Ifedi’s versatility will help the Seattle offensive line. DT Jarran Reed probably could have been a first rounder but Seattle was able to get him in the second round. Reed will prove to be a great pick for Seattle who needs some fresh body’s to replace those who they lost in free agency. Seattle loaded up at RB with the selections of C.J. Prosise in the third round and Alex Collins in the fifth. I like Nick Vannett as a TE prospect because of his great size. I’m glad Seattle understood how serious the situation is on their offensive line. They did a good job addressing that area. I think Seattle should have addressed the edge rusher and inside linebacker positions. But overall, they had a productive draft weekend. Grade: B+

2. San Francisco 49ers: (Team Needs: WR, RB, OT, ILB, OLB (3-4), DE (3-4), CB) – San Francisco had a boatload of picks and they made the most out of them. After taking an Oregon defensive tackle last season, they repeated the action this year. DeForest Buckner along with fellow Duck, Arik Armstead, will form a good duo on the 49ers defensive line. Trading back in for an offensive lineman is weird but so is Chip Kelly. Joshua Garnett was one of the top guards in the draft and the 49ers definitely need the help on the offensive line. I’m a fan of CB Rashard Robinson who is one of the most athletic corners in the draft. DE Ronald Blair is a quality pick in the fifth round. Blair is a big body who will fit well inside on the defensive line. I like the 49ers final pick because his name is “Prince Charles”. Grade: B-

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Jared Goff is Hollywood’s newest leading man.

3. Los Angeles Rams: (Team Needs: QB, WR, DE (4-3), LB, CB, S) – Considering what the Rams gave up to get to the top of the draft, they really couldn’t draft anyone of significance in the later rounds. But they still did okay. Jared Goff isn’t the best player in the draft but the Rams needed to take him number one because they have a talented roster and they’ve been a QB away from being contenders for a while now. Goff isn’t the top player in this draft but he is the best passer. TE Tyler Higbee probably would have gone before the fourth round if it wasn’t for some legal issues but he might be a guy that Goff can look to in the passing game early in his career. WR Pharoh Cooper is an underrated prospect that might have a chance at making the roster. The Rams should have done more to address their defense in this draft. Grade: C

4. Arizona Cardinals: (Team Needs: C, DE (3-4), OLB (3-4), OT, CB) – Arizona’s draft was completely underwhelming. Maybe just because I don’t recognize a lot of the names. In the first round, they took a chance on DT Robert Nkemdiche. Nkemdiche isnt a risk because of his on the field work but if he can just stay out of trouble, he’ll be a great player in this league. Nkemdiche probably should have gone in the top half of the draft. Arizona addressed the secondary with three picks in the draft and I believe that was needed. Guard Even Boehm might be a replacement to Jonathan Cooper who was traded away months ago. Grade: C-