Tag Archives: Aaron Rodgers

NFL 2017: Week 6 Predictions!

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Are Cam Newton and the Panthers starting to regain the form they showed in 2015?

By: Elias McMillan

 

Last Week: 4-10

Season: 42-35

Big Five Games of the Week

Philadelphia @ Carolina – The Panthers went from an unimpressive 2-0 to a very impressive 4-1. The Panthers netted a big road victory last week in Detroit. Now, they’ll return home to face a hot Philadelphia team. The Eagles passing offense is looking really strong right now. The offensive line is holding up and QB Carson Wentz is finding his big targets down the field. The Eagles still have an inconsistent run game and their secondary on defense is shaky but right now things are just clicking on that team. On a short week, I like the home team’s chances but I think the Eagles are going to be able to win some key matchups in this game. I think the Eagles front seven will limit Carolina on the ground and get after Cam Newton. And I like Philadelphia’s chances to make more big plays down the field against Carolina’s secondary. This should be a really good game. I can’t believe it but I’m going with the road Eagles in an upset. Prediction: Eagles 27 – Panthers 20

Green Bay @ Minnesota – The Vikings have the defense to get after Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense. Especially at home. But I don’t trust their offense even against a Packers defense that isn’t that great. Playing at Minnesota can be a tough task but the Packers will have more opportunities to put points on the board. Minnesota’s offense is handicapped by the injuries they have at QB and RB. Prediction: Packers 29 – Vikings 18

New England @ New York Jets – The Jets enter this game with 3 wins. The Jets enter Week 6 of the 2017 season with six wins. They can’t fire Todd Bowles after this season. Some in the Jets locker room have said before the season that they are NOT tanking. I guess, they were right. New England is better team and should own them. But then again, I think the Jets have a better chance than most believe. New England is beatable. This year, the familiar flaws (defense and offensive line play) have returned to the Pats. And there are whispers about Tom Brady maybe playing through a shoulder injury. Also, I love the story line of DE Kony Ealy who was a Patriot to start training camp after a trade from Carolina only to get cut before the start of the season and getting signed by the Jets. Ultimate revenge factor for him in this game. I suspect Bowles will allow him to pin his ears back and chase Brady all game. I don’t think the Jets have the offense to out score the Patriots but then again, New England’s defense is in a rut. I’m not picking the Jets but I’m saying that being the Pats at home isnt as tall of a task than it sounds. Prediction: Patriots 31 – Jets 30

Los Angeles Rams @ Jacksonville – Jacksonville’s defense balled out last week but the Jags will be fighting a stigma this week at home against the Rams. The Jaguars can’t seem to put together a pair of good performances in a row. The LA Rams were a dropped pass in the end zone away from coming away with their most impressive win of the season at home against Seattle. I think the progress seen in LA is real and they play Jacksonville tough on the road. The Rams will take the ball out of Jared Goff’s hands and give it to Todd Gurley as much as possible against a Jaguars defense that isn’t strong against the run, usually. I think the Rams front seven on defense, led by Aaron Donald, will be a great test for Leonard Fournette and the Jags running game. Both QB’s in this game stink and they wont matter in this match up. I think the Rams will be able to hide Goff better than the Jaguars can hide Bortles. Prediction: Rams 13 – Jaguars 10

Pittsburgh @ Kansas City – So much drama in Pittsburgh recently. But I’ve seen this movie before. The Steelers are in an early season rut. And they still have enough talent to bounce back. Enter the Chiefs who are undefeated and are playing as well as anyone right now. The Chiefs have to be thinking about how Pittsburgh has punked them in their last two meetings. I think this game will come down to who can control the clock better. Steelers RB Le’Veon Bell is begging for more touches and I think he will get his wish on Sunday. The Chiefs have a pretty good RB on their team too. Rookie RB Kareem Hunt should see plenty of opportunities in this game. Both QB’s, Ben Roethlisberger and Alex Smith, will not be shy about airing it out. The Antonio Brown/Marcus Peters matchup should be entertaining. And the Chiefs will be looking for big plays from WR Tyreke Hill who will be the fastest player on the field Sunday. This game will come down to execution. The Chiefs will have the home field advantage but Pittsburgh has the experience in these situations to bounce back after a few tough weeks. I like Pittsburgh to right the ship in an upset. Prediction: Steelers 34 – Chiefs 30

The Rest of Week 6

Falcons over Dolphins – Atlanta will be fresh coming off the bye. I feel that injuries are their greatest enemy so far this season.

Lions over Saints – Stafford vs. Brees should provide some great QB theater.

Washington over 49ers – This game will feature two young up and coming defenses in the league.

Ravens over Bears – Have the Ravens righted the ship after a bad start? Maybe. They can’t have a let down at home against a weak opponent.

Texans over Browns – Deshaun Watson is looking like a real answer at QB for Houston. DeShone Kizer was benched last week and lost his starting job. Who has worst luck at picking QB’s than Cleveland? The Watt and Clowney injuries will hurt but I’m still going with Houston.

Buccaneers over Cardinals – Arizona’s defense is an embarrassment right now.

Chargers over Raiders – David Carr or no David Carr, the defensive woes are what are what is holding Oakland back.

Broncos over Giants – The New York Giants are sad. The entire WR core is out for the season. THE ENTIRE CORE. The top four options. How could this happen? Denver should roll at home.

Titans over Colts – Tennessee has to turn it around this week on Monday night. If not, their season will get longer and longer.

Fantasy Football Picks of the Week

QB: Jameis Winston (Buccaneers) – Jameis has had some shaky starts in games this season but the Cardinals defense gives up plenty of big plays down field.

RB: Todd Gurley (Rams) – LA will use Gurley like Pittsburgh should have used Le’Veon Bell last week.

WR: DeAndre Hopkins (Texans) – Hopkins is building a great connection with the rookie QB, Watson. Sunday against the Browns could be like a glorified practice session.

TE: Ed Dickson (Panthers) – Dickson has put together a small string of good performances recently. Newton will continue to look his way on Thursday night.

DEF: Denver – The Broncos are a defensive team and they’ll face an offensively wounded Giants team this week.

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NFL 2017: Week 5 Predictions!

Detroit Lions v Minnesota Vikings

The Lions defense is ready to put the NFC on notice.

By: Elias McMillan

 

Last Week: 11-5

Season: 38-25

Big Five Games of the Week

New England @ Tampa Bay – The Patriots were able to come back late last week at home against Carolina but that game wasn’t as close as the scoreboard would have you believe. New England has some serious defensive problems and it looks like it’s going to be a reoccurring issue. Tampa did a great job hanging tough last week to get their victory over the Giants. I think the Patriots on a short week might be too tall of a task for them. I imagine Coach Bill Belichick isn’t too pleased with his team right now and his grouch like attitude will have an affect on his team this week. New England’s secondary has been called out and I think they’ll have a chance to respond against QB Jameis Winston, who is prone to mistakes. New England’s defense is struggling but Tampa’s defense isn’t that great either. I think Tom Brady will have a vintage performance on the road this Thursday night. Prediction: Patriots 36 – Buccaneers 27

Carolina @ Detroit – Carolina did an impressive job on the road last week. But I’m afraid that game was more about New England’s defensive struggles and less about Cam Newton having a bounce back performance. Newton will face a much tougher defense on the road this week in the Lions. I’m not sure what’s the deal with Newton this season. I’m not sure if he is 100% healthy. Either way, I like the way Detroit’s defense is playing right now. They are keeping the Lions in games and creating opportunities for Matt Stafford and the offense. I think Carolina’s defensive line should create some issues for the Lions as well but they’ll be okay as long as they stay away from the turnovers. I think Detroit is playing better football right now so, I’ll take the home team. Prediction: Lions 20 – Panthers 14

Seattle @ Los Angeles Rams – When you beat the Dallas Cowboys, it’s going to turn some heads. No matter how bad of a game the Cowboys played. It doesn’t matter. That’s just how it is. But now that more media eyes are starting to pay attention to the Rams, they could really impress but beating a strong defensive team like Seattle. The Seahawks were almost on the ropes at home against a bad Colts team until their defense took over. But no mistake about it, Russell Wilson and the Seattle offense needs to improve. And things wont get easier as injuries are starting to pile up on the offensive line and in the backfield. I think Aaron Donald will give Wilson fits on Sunday. Seattle is usually shaky on the road. For Los Angeles, they just have to make sure that QB Jared Goff doesn’t lose the game for them. RB Todd Gurley might be a full proof plan for that as he is playing like the best RB in the football right now. A win here for the home team would really put the league on notice. Prediction: Rams 22 – Seahawks 17

Green Bay @ Dallas – The Cowboys are coming off a weak performance last week in all phases of the game. Without LB Sean Lee, the Cowboys defense really looked toothless. QB Dak Prescott wasn’t as sharp as defenses are standing up to stop the run and are just daring Prescott to win the game with his arm. Dak needs to remind defenses of what he can do in the passing game. Green Bay played last Thursday so, they will have the extra rest. But I think Dallas actually matches up well with them despite how bad their defense looked a week ago. The Packers do have Aaron Rodgers but they don’t have a “Todd Gurley”. Green Bay’s offensive line and running game is suspect and I think the Dallas defensive line can have a bounce back performance this week. Green Bay’s defense is underrated but they don’t have a “Aaron Donald”. I don’t expect the Packers will be successful if they sell out the stop Ezekiel Elliott and the Cowboys run game. But if they do, they don’t have a great secondary so, Prescott needs to exploit this and make the Packers respect the air attack. After a poor performance last week, I must be crazy to take Dallas with Aaron Rodgers coming to the stadium. But I believe the Cowboys will really want this W before their bye week. Prediction: Cowboys 31 – Packers 30

Kansas City @ Houston – I didn’t think the Chiefs were going to pull it off on Monday but they survived a tough test at home from Washington. Kansas City must now regroup and face a Houston team on the road that is coming off an impressive win last week. I feel like we’ve been saying for years now that the Texans would be dangerous if they ever figured out their QB situation. Last week, rookie QB Deshaun Watson solidified himself as the team’s leader on offense as that unit just exploded on the scoreboard against Tennessee. One thing about the Chiefs is that they have a veteran coaching staff and they will definitely draw up a plan to make Watson not comfortable this week. Kansas City has fought through many injuries on defense but they will still provide better resistance than what Tennessee did a week ago. I’m worried about Kansas City’s banged up offensive line because JJ Watt and company could really change the game upfront with what he has around him. I think Houston’s defense will have a real chance to flex their muscles on Sunday night and they will limit Kareem Hunt and the Chiefs’ offense. Prediction: Texans 26 – Chiefs 23

 

The Rest of Week 5

Bills over Bengals – Look out for Buffalo. They have some really big win early this season (@ Atlanta, vs. Denver). They are playing very well on defense right now.

Browns over Jets – Hue Jackson is tired of losing. This is now or never for Cleveland at home on Sunday.

Colts over 49ers – Indy can’t let the letdown of last Sunday night drag over to this week.

Titans over Dolphins – A matchup of teams that should have signed Colin Kaepernick. Is Tennessee’s defense that bad that they’ll allow Jay Cutler look serviceable?

Giants over Chargers – The Giants gotta win some time. Why not against a team that loses close game after close game after close game?

Eagles over Cardinals – I think Arizona will play Philly tough but can they score enough points?

Steelers over Jaguars – Another cupcake for Pittsburgh. Seriously, who has had an easier schedule so far this season? I hope Antonio Brown leg drops a Gatorade cooler on the sideline just so Pittsburgh media can lose their minds all next week.

Raiders over Ravens – Baltimore looks really bad but Oakland will be without David Carr. Oakland can’t let EJ Manuel lose it for them.

Vikings over Bears – I want to see my guy, Mitch Trubisky, shine but the Minnesota will unleash that pass rush on the rookie QB.

 

Fantasy Football Picks of the Week

QB: Tom Brady (Patriots) – New England has the worst pass defense in the league. Who’s second worst? Tampa Bay. Great news for Brady.

RB: Le’Veon Bell (Steelers) – Jacksonville has talent on defense but they allow the most yards on the ground. Pittsburgh should feed Bell and allow him to feast.

WR: Larry Fitzgerald (Cardinals) – Fitzgerald is off to a great start this season. Arizona will have to attack the Eagles through the air if they hope to win.

TE: Delanie Walker (Titans) – Tennessee’s QB situation might become shaky. Walker will become a security blanket for whoever is the starter.

DEF: Buffalo – Andy Dalton has improved each week this season. Buffalo’s defense will put a stop to that on Sunday.

NFL 2017: Week 2 Predictions!

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Jacksonville’s defense put their stamp in Week 1 last week.

By: Elias McMillan

 

Last Week: 7-8

Season: 7-8

Big Five Games of the Week

Philadelphia @ Kansas City – The Chiefs really impressed last Thursday. I wasn’t surprised to see how their defense played. But the big surprise was the explosiveness on offense. They will receive a good test in their home opener this week against the Eagles. Philadelphia’s front seven was in full display last week as it was their defense, which allowed them to pull away for Washington. I think QB Carson Wentz will have a tougher time this week. Kansas City has one of the better home field advantages in the league. I also think Andy Reid familiarity with Doug Peterson and the Eagles will play a factor. Prediction: Chiefs 25 – Eagles 17

Minnesota @ Pittsburgh – The Steelers couldn’t pull anyway from Cleveland last week. They better have all the cobwebs shaken out by Sunday because Minnesota should serve as a tougher challenge for them. Minnesota’s strength is their defense but much like the Chiefs, their offense surprised people last week. Rookie RB Dalvin Cook had a strong first performance and QB Sam Bradford looked great going down the field. I think Pittsburgh has to find a way to get Le’Veon Bell going in this one to help solve this tough Vikings defense. I think Pittsburgh’s overall talent and being at home should be able to carry them in this one but last week’s performance worries me a bit. Prediction: Steelers 27 – Vikings 21

Tennessee @ Jacksonville – Jacksonville’s defense really impressed in Week 1. All that young talent that they’ve been drafting on that side on the ball was in full display in a game that many people didn’t pick them in. They even made Blake Bortles seem to be serviceable. Tennessee didn’t play bad in their home opener last week against Oakland but they just seemed really bland. I think Jacksonville’s defense will be the most dynamic unit in this matchup. They’ll be tested well by Tennessee’s offense but I’m going with the home underdog. Prediction: Jaguars 23 – Titans 20

Dallas @ Denver – The Cowboys had a strong performance in Week 1 especially on the defensive side of the ball. But as always the case with Dallas, I’m just waiting on that wet blanket to arrive. And that could come in the form of the Denver Broncos this week. Denver didn’t overly impress in their first regular season game but I think they will prove to be a tough out at home. The battle at the line of scrimmage between the Dallas offensive line and the Denver defensive line should be a good one. Though, Denver isn’t very strong at defending the run. The Cowboys did a great job limiting Eli Manning last week. Surely, they shouldn’t have an issue with Trevor Siemian, right? Even so, I think Denver’s defense will make this a close contest. Prediction: Broncos 28 –Cowboys 24

Green Bay @ Atlanta – Seattle’s lack of an offensive line made Green Bay’s defense look like the ’85 Bears last week. I think it is fair to say that Atlanta’s offensive line will not make it so easy for that group this week in the home opener for the Falcons. Atlanta gutted out a close one on the road last week but I expected them to play much more loose against an opponent they should be able to handle. I think Atlanta can “out-physical” Green Bay at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Green Bay will have the better QB in Aaron Rodgers but Falcons QB Matt Ryan has the better weapon in Julio Jones. Prediction: Falcons 29 – Packers 23

The Rest of Week 2

Bengals over Texans – Cincinnati was held scoreless last week. They will be hungry for some points at home against a Houston team that is going through a tough week and is rushing a rookie QB out there on the road.

Cardinals over Colts – I know Arizona lost David Johnson but did you see how bad Indy was last week?

Patriots over Saints – New Year, same defensive problems for New Orleans. New England isn’t happy about how their season started and they had extra time to prepare for this one.

Buccaneers over Bears – Tampa had an extra week to prepare. Chicago competed hard last week. Expect a let down this week on the road.

Panthers over Bills – If Carolina can limit LeSean McCoy, they should win this one easily.

Ravens over Browns – Am I crazy for thinking that Cleveland looked more impressive in their loss to Pittsburgh than Baltimore did in their win over Cincinnati?

Raiders over Jets – Oakland got a good road win last week in Tennessee. They cant have a let down against a tanking Jets team.

Dolphins over Chargers – The Chargers are addicted to losing close games. Miami is traveling a long ways but they are fresh.

Rams over Washington – Washington had a hard time protecting Kirk Cousins. The Rams don’t do many things well but they do have a dangerous defensive front seven which will be in full strength this week with the return of Aaron Donald.

Seahawks over 49ers – I don’t see how San Francisco is suppose to score points. Not just in this game or last week but for the entire season.

Giants over Lions – New York struggled mightily last week. But Odell Beckham Jr is back and that’s all they need, right? All jokes aside, if New York’s success this season is tied to one player, they are in for a long season.

Fantasy Football Picks of the Week

QB: Tom Brady (Patriots) – New Orleans’ secondary is still pretty bad and they’ll be facing a QB in Brady who isnt coming off his best performance. We’ll see some vintage Tom in this one.

RB: Jay Ajayi (Dolphins) – Is Jay Cutler ready to stand in the pocket against a good Chargers pass rush? If not, Ajayi will be ready to carry Miami’s offense.

WR: Odell Beckham Jr. (Giants) – OBJ will be ready to put on a show on Monday night.

TE: Rob Gronkowski (Patriots) – Gronk only had tow catches last week. He’ll get a steady serving of passes this week against New Orleans.

DEF: Seattle – San Francisco literally has no offense.

NFL 2017: NFC Preview (Condensed)

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Dak Prescott has the keys to the castle in Dallas. What will he do with it? And can Matt Ryan get over what happened in the Super Bowl?

By: Elias McMillan

 

NFC East

New York Giants – I think the Giants have the best defense in the NFC East. They are strong up front with two passing rushing vets (JPP & Vernon) and a big run stuffer (Damon Harrison). I think they are weak at the LB position but they are loaded with talent in the secondary. New York should also have a sound passing attack on offense. Eli Manning will have a wide array of weapons to choose from this season with Beckham Jr, Brandon Marshall, Sterling Shepard, and rookie TE Evan Engram. The Giants do have question marks with their running game and offensive line. But I think they can outlast the competition in a tight NFC East race. Prediction: 10-6 (NFC East Champs)

Dallas Cowboys –For whatever reason, the Cowboys haven’t been able to string together back-to-back successful seasons too many times since the 90’s. And after blowing a great opportunity the change the narrative last season, they return this season with little or no improvements. I think the offense will be okay. I think Dak Prescott will not fall into a sophomore slump. There are some changes on the offensive line and Ezekiel Elliott might miss the start of the season but I think the run game will still be strong. And the Cowboys do return many weapons in the passing game led by Dez Bryant and the leadership of Jason Witten. On defense, all eyes will be on LB Jaylon Smith who missed all of last season due to injury but the Cowboys are expect big things out of. Outside of that, the Cowboys return a defense that cant create pressure and are featuring wholesale changes in the secondary. At this point, I feel bad for Jason Witten. I feel good about Dallas in 2018 though. Prediction: 8-8

Washington – I like what Washington has on defense. If they could just find some consistency on offense they could be a sleeper team in the NFC East. QB Kirk Cousins is a mixed bag but I like his gunslinger mentality. Many are expecting a big year from free agent signee WR Terrelle Pryor. Washington also had a nice big target for Cousins in TE Jordan Reed if he can stay healthy. Much like New York, offensive line and running back are where the question marks lie. Like I said earlier, I like many of the pieces on this Washington defense. They have already suffered some injuries on the defensive line and at LB but they wisely prepared for this in the draft. I’m interested in seeing how rookies DE Jonathan Allen and LB Ryan Anderson develop in their first years. Washington may have some weak spots in the secondary but they at least still have CB Josh Norman. Because of what they have defensively, Washington might surprise a bit this year. Prediction: 7-9

Philadelphia Eagles – Some have Philadelphia as a sleeper team in this division. I just don’t see it. Is Carson Wentz going to turn out to be a baller in his 2nd year? Maybe. He’ll have pretty weapons this year at WR with Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith. The Eagles are still reeling at the RB position from the LeSean McCoy trade. Do they really expect LeGarrette Blount to be their #1 back? Philly’s defense will be pretty much the same from a season ago: decent front seven, trash secondary. I like DT Fletcher Cox and rookie DE Derek Barnett. In a best-case scenario for this team, I don’t even see them making it past 8 wins. Prediction: 6-10

 

NFC North

Green Bay Packers – I really don’t see how this Packers team got better in the off-season. A lot of familiar faces from the last couple seasons are gone. The Packers are in the transition of getting younger on defense with OLB Clay Matthews the lone veteran holdover. They let Eddie Lacy go in free agency. Ty Montgomery is talented but can he really be an every down back? But as last year proved, because they really weren’t that good either, as long as they have Aaron Rodgers behind center, they’ll be okay. Prediction: 10-6 (NFC North Champs)

Minnesota Vikings – I like this Minnesota team because Mike Zimmer has himself a tough defense on this squad. It was the defense that led them to a hot start to begin 2016. Eventually, they fell apart down the stretch but as long as that same defense returns, they’ll be in a lot of games this year. Obviously, there are plenty of questions on offense especially at the QB position. QB Teddy Bridgewater may not be ready until the middle of the season so they will have to ride it out with Sam Bradford for now. Minnesota will also be dealing with a couple of new starters on the offensive line. But I think they will have a better run offense this season even with the departure of Adrian Peterson. I’m expecting big things from rookie RB Dalvin Cook. Prediction: 8-8

Detroit Lions – I don’t even remember that the Lions made the playoffs last year. They really didn’t make any dramatic changes in the offseason. QB Matthew Stafford will give them a chance to win every week. The Lions are still missing consistency in the run game. Stafford has pretty good targets to go to in the passing game. This has to be the season where TE Eric Ebron proves himself as a legit TE in the league and not just an athlete. Detroit will be solid defensively, at least up front. First round pick LB Jarrad Davis will be counted on early in his career. And you could say the same about second round pick CB Teez Tabor. I think the Lions are a running game away from challenging Green Bay in the division. Prediction: 7-9

Chicago Bears – The Bears are still rebuilding but with a veteran head coach. Weird. I’m wondering if John Fox will be around to see the final product. After spending money on QB Mike Glennon for some reason, the Bears went ahead and traded for QB Mitch Trubisky. Trubisky has shown promise in the pre-season and Chicago might as well stop wasting everyone’s time and insert him into the lineup. RB Jordan Howard is returning after an impressive rookie season. The Bears have question marks at WR. Kevin White is healthy and he will receive plenty of opportunities this year. Chicago’s defense is a mess. They need to build that side of the ball up as soon as possible if they want to climb out of the basement in this division. Prediction: 5-11

 

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons – There’s a lot of talk about the blown lead in the Super Bowl and the hangover from that. I know that Super Bowl losers, especially in this fashion, usually have a hard time getting back but I think Atlanta may have something going. I think this way because I liked what I saw from their defense last season and I like the additions they made in the offseason. Atlanta has a legit pass rush with Vic Beasley and I think rookie Takkarist McKinley could make an impact up front as well. I’m a big fan of the young LB’s they have especially Deion Jones who had a great rookie season. Atlanta will also see reinforcements in the secondary with the return of Desmond Trufant who missed most of last season. Everyone knows about what Atlanta has on offense with Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman, etc. But I think the improvements on this young defense will really make this team dangerous in the NFC again this season. Prediction: 13-3 (NFC South Champs)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – For the first time in a while, the Bucs enter a football season with some momentum. This team will be led by QB Jameis Winston who has really taken on a leadership role in that locker room and the team has brought in. Winston will be surrounded by probably the most talented he’s been around in his career. Tampa is loaded at WR with Mike Evans and newcomer DeSean Jackson who can really stretch the field. TE Cameron Brate impressed last season but the team decided to really maximize the TE position with the first round selection of TE O.J. Howard. I’m worried about the suspension of RB Doug Martin but this Tampa offense will be about what Winston can do in the passing game. Tampa returns a solid defense led by DT Gerald McCoy. I really like their LB core. They are missing playmakers in the secondary though. I think Tampa should be good enough to make that jump in the post season in 2017. Prediction: 9-7 (Wild-card)

Carolina Panthers – The Super Bowl hangover was real in Carolina in 2016. I think Carolina is in a position to rebound and maybe return to the playoffs but they need to do two things. First and more importantly, they need to ensure that the defense can stay at the level they were in during 2015. And secondly, they need to get Cam Newton better protection and younger players at the skill positions on offense. They did the latter in this offseason and I’m afraid that wasn’t the direction that this team needed to go. I think Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel will do good things in their rookie seasons but I prioritize the line scrimmage over the flashy skill players. I think Newton will be able to use those young guys effectively but I’m worried about his protection especially that he is coming off off-season surgery. On defense, Carolina is starting to look old. They gave up on Kony Ealy and brought back an ancient Julius Peppers. I really like Thomas Davis and Luke Kuechly but they both have injury concerns. Carolina may slightly improve from 2016 but they need to do a better job at protecting their franchise QB and getting younger talent on defense. Prediction: 8-8

New Orleans Saints – There isn’t much buzz surrounding the Saints going into 2017. We know they will pass the ball well with QB Drew Brees. Its too bad that they couldn’t make it work with Brandin Cooks but they did bring in Ted Ginn Jr. to take his role as the speedster at WR. RB Mark Ingram is the established back in this offense so, I don’t understand why they brought in an aging Adrian Peterson. Defense remains the main issues on this team. DE Cameron Jordan can only do so much. The Saints did make an effort on improving their secondary through the draft this offseason. I think the Saints will compete. But they wont be on the same level as the three other teams in this division. Prediction: 6-10

 

NFC West

Seattle Seahawks – The Seahawks are still in the mist of a decent run in the NFC as consistent title contenders. But I get the feeling that their window is starting to get smaller. Which is supposed to happen in the NFL. You can’t resign and keep everyone for only so long. But Seattle should be in pretty good shape in 2017. QB Russell Wilson returns and Seattle continued their efforts in the off-season to improve his offensive line. I think the Eddie Lacy signing could improve the run game if he can stay healthy. And that’s a big “if”. WR Doug Baldwin is massively underrated and TE Jimmy Graham can still take over a game when called upon. This team will continue to be led by the defense though. The front seven is tough and can pretty much do it all. Pass rush, run stuff, etc. The Seahawks also still have the three major cogs in the L.O.B., Sherman, Thomas, and Chancellor. Prediction: 11-5 (NFC West Champs)

Arizona Cardinals – Arizona massively under performed last season and they return in 2017 with a supremely talented roster. On offense, RB David Johnson established himself last season as one of the top RB’s in the league. Arizona’s passing game is still dependent on QB Carson Palmer’s health. Head coach Bruce Arians doesn’t think much of the WR’s on the roster but WR Larry Fitzgerald is still as good as they come. Arizona has recognizable names on defense but they need to become an elite unit if Arizona hopes to make the postseason. They will miss Calais Campbell up front but Chandler Jones is still a pretty good pass rusher and first round pick Haason Reddick could develop into a difference maker. I feel that Arizona secondary under performed last season but that should change as long as Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu can stay healthy. I think the Cardinals have too much talent to miss the playoffs for a second straight season. Prediction: 10-6 (Wild-card)

Los Angeles Rams – The Rams hired a 30-year-old coach to lead the team in 2017. Maybe that youth can energize a team that hasn’t done anything note worthy in a while. Can second year QB Jared Goff show that he is worth his top selection in the draft a year ago? Can RB Todd Gurley return to form? Can the Rams finally get some consistency out from their recievers? Will the newly acquired Sammy Watkins keep the number 2 as his jersey number? Has the only player worth a damn on this roster (DT Aaron Donald) ended his holdout yet? Too many questions. Prediction: 5-11

San Francisco 49ers – Nothing quite says “we’re rebuilding” like saying “we’re rolling with Brian Hoyer as our QB this year”. San Francisco should be a complete disaster offensively this season. Its fitting that the offensive coordinator that blew it for Atlanta in the Super Bowl is now the head coach. On the bright side, San Fran is building a defense that might become a problem real soon. They basically have an all-Pac-10 defensive line and I liked the late addition of veteran pass rusher Elvis Dumervil. LB NaVorro Bowman returns and he’ll get a chance to groom rookie Reuben Foster who dropped right into the 49ers lap in the draft this pass April. Foster should have been a top 15 pick. The secondary leaves much to be desired but that front seven might end up being one of the best in the league. But with Brian Hoyer at QB, that tells me that this team must be tanking for one of the top signal callers in college. Prediction: 3-13

 

NFC Playoff Picture Prediction

  1. Atlanta Falcons – 13-3 (NFC South)
  2. Seattle Seahawks – 11-5 (NFC West)
  3. New York Giants – 10-6 (NFC East)
  4. Green Bay Packers – 10-6 (NFC North)
  5. Arizona Cardinals – 10-6 (Wild-card)
  6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 9-7 (Wild-card)

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