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NFL Playoffs: 2018 Divisional Round Predictions!

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Philadelphia will have to ride their top ranked defense if they hope to advance pass Atlanta.

By: Elias McMillan

 

Wild-Card Round: 1-3

Playoffs: 1-3

Divisional Round

Atlanta @ Philadelphia – I guess I should be embarrassed for taking the Rams last week. The Falcons showed their experience and pretty much shut down L.A. on the road. Now, come a big test in the number one seeded Eagles. It is a big test for Atlanta because they are the favorites and now everyone is expecting to see the Atlanta team from last post season. I think Atlanta is different from a season ago but chances are they will probably get to their second straight NFC Championship game on Saturday. Atlanta brings to the table an offense with a ton of potential in the passing or running game. Philadelphia has been able to lean on its defense this season so that will be a key matchup in this game. I feel confident that the Eagles defense will do everything in their power to try to win this game for the home team. The Falcons have a pair of good RB’s but Philly is strong against the run. The Eagles are vulnerable in the secondary and it should be interesting to see if Matt Ryan can figure out a way to make Julio Jones a big factor in the game. I think this game will turn on the Eagles lack of offense. I have no reason to have confidence in QB Nick Foles. Especially when Atlanta’s defense is playing well. The Eagles were one of the top running teams on offense in the league this season but Atlanta did a really good job limiting Todd Gurley a week ago. I don’t think they will let Jay Ajayi or LeGarrette Blount get off too many big gains. I think Atlanta will be able to ride their defense and just get enough out of their offense to advance to next week while ending Philadelphia’s season. Prediction: Falcons 21 – Eagles 16

Tennessee @ New England – The Titans were a nice surprise last weekend as they came back from a 21-3 hole to win in Kansas City. They will have to get it done on the road again this week against top seeded New England. I think Tennessee stands a better chance in this game than most people are giving them. Really, I do. New England is New England. But they can be knocked off their game. They are beatable. I don’t have much faith in the Titans defense though. Shutting out Alex Smith for one half is one thing compared to going up against Tom Brady. New England has so many weapons and so many ways to attack. Tennessee will have problems with the Patriots balanced attack. Tennessee is really physical up front on defense so I want to see if they can defend the run well again this week while putting heat on Brady. I big part of last week was that Travis Kelce was knocked out of the game. The Titans will have to account for another dominant, pass catching TE in Rob Gronkowski. I think New England will have an advantage their. The main reason why New England is beatable is because of their defense. Marcus Mariota had a strong second half last week in Kansas City but he has been wildly inconsistent this season. Mariota has Derrick Henry to lean on and Tennessee has a pretty good record with him as the main option in the run game. Outside of Henry and TE Delaine Walker, Tennessee really doesn’t have a lot of reliable players at the skill positions for Mariota to go to. Tennessee may have a “fighter’s chance” but New England should be able handle business at home. I can see Brady having his way with the Titans secondary and Mariota will over extend himself trying to keep up. Prediction: Patriots 38 – Titans 23

Jacksonville @ Pittsburgh – Jacksonville’s win over Buffalo last week sure wasn’t pretty but it was definitely better than losing. The Jaguars will take their strong defense to Pittsburgh on Sunday to face a Steelers team they defeated earlier this season. Week 5 was a long, long time ago but I think Jacksonville can take a lot from what happened in that game and maybe find themselves with a chance to score a big upset on Sunday. There is a lot of talk about the Jaguars having to deal with playing in the cold weather on the road. But playoff football usually comes down to two things: defense and the run game. And Jacksonville has both. The Jaguars have studs on the defensive line that can stuff the run and pressure the QB. They have a talented group of linebackers. And their secondary is close to what Seattle had a few years ago, led by standout Jalen Ramsey. All that being said, Pittsburgh has a really good offense. We all know what Ben Roethlisberger is capable of in January. I do have questions about how WR Antonio Brown will look, as he will be returning after dealing with a lower leg injury. Even if Brown is rusty, Pittsburgh’s WR core is solid. RB Le’Veon Bell is one of the best at his position in the game but Jacksonville did such a great job against him earlier this season. I think this will be a game where the Steelers offense cannot abandon the run. Bell can lead this offense when called upon. I know that the Steelers are not a run first offense anymore but Bell need at least more than 25 touches. For the Jaguars, their offense is a point of weakness but they can at least run the ball. RB Leonard Fournette is ready for another heavy workload. He had a strong performance in Pittsburgh in Week 5 and this time around, he’ll be facing the same defense without its starting middle LB. I believe Pittsburgh could be vulnerable defending the run in this game but unfortunately Jacksonville can’t run it every play. Eventually QB Blake Bortles will have to try to look like a NFL QB in this game. I don’t think Bortles is the worst starter in the league but the Pittsburgh secondary will have to be really off their game for him to be able to do anything substantial. Much like in 2007, I think the Jaguars have the tools to upset the Steelers on Sunday but I’m not brave enough to pick it. It will be tough sledding for the Pittsburgh offense but they’ll find a way to outscore a Jaguars team that may have problems on their own scoring points on the road. Prediction: Steelers 23 – Jaguars 13

New Orleans @ Minnesota – New Orleans clearly outclassed Carolina at home last week. They didn’t add any “cool” points with the way they finished but they at least got the job done. I believe they will face a tall task this week in Minnesota. The Vikings are very tough at home and the Saints should remember that. Minnesota opened this season beating the Saints at home. New Orleans will be looking to reverse that result on Sunday. I like Minnesota in this game because of their defense. I think Drew Brees will not have the passing windows that he had last week against Carolina. Minnesota does a great job at limiting the run with their front seven. Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram found it hard to find space last week and I think that will continue in Minnesota. The Saints also bring into this game a good defense. New Orleans has a legit secondary this year and they are coming off a game where the pass rush made a big impact. But I think the Vikings offense will be able to excel by just playing at their own pace while not trying to do too much. QB Case Keenum will use the running game to keep Brees on the bench but he will also take his shots down field as he has a top-notch group of receivers. I think Brees has an edge over Keenum but Minnesota’s defense has an edge over on New Orleans’. Prediction: Vikings 29 – Saints 21

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NFL Playoffs: 2018 Wild-Card Weekend Predictions!

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The Bills will be looking for their first post season win since 1995 in Jacksonville on Sunday.

By: Elias McMillan

 

Last Week: 9-7

2017 Regular Season: 151-103

NFL Playoffs: Wild-Card Weekend

Tennessee @ Kansas City – The Chiefs bounced back nicely near the end of the regular season to win their second straight AFC West title. They may not be as strong as they were a season ago, especially on the defensive side, but they are playing well going into the post season. I can’t say that about the Titans. I was waiting for Tennessee’s playoff chances to just die out but luckily they seem to just have Jacksonville’s number. Up until last Sunday, the Titans were trending downwards but they were able to take advantage of poor QB play to clinch a spot in the playoffs. Tennessee’s defense has been inconsistent from most of 2017 and I think Kansas City has the weapons to expose that unit on Saturday. RB Kareem Hunt led the league in rushing this season and he was key in December in helping end Kansas City’s mid season slide. QB Alex Smith has been proven to play well against poor secondaries and Tennessee’s ranks near the bottom in the league. I think WR Tyreke Hill and TE Travis Kelce will have their opportunities in this game. Kansas City usually has a strong front seven on defense but injuries have hurt them this year. Justin Houston is still one of the best pass rushers in the game and in the secondary, you can count CB Marcus Peters to make a play or shut down a side of the field. For Tennessee, QB Marcus Mariota has had a problem with accuracy this season. With TE Delanie Walker as one of the few reliable targets in the passing game, Mariota has had to lean on the run game this year, which really hasn’t been a bad thing. RB DeMarco Murray is a capable back but he will be out this week. That may not be that big of a blow as RB Derrick Henry is having a break out season splitting carries with Murray and leading the team in rushing. Henry is a nice change of pace from Murray but he will have to be a every down back in this game. Tennessee’s front seven on defense is under rated but offense’s with capable QB play should be able to handle them. With Arrowhead rocking, this should be a slam-dunk for the home team. Prediction: Chiefs 38 – Titans 21

Atlanta @ Los Angeles – This is an old school NFC West matchup if you remember how the divisions were formatted in the early 90’s. I wish the NFL would allow the Falcons to wear their throwback red jerseys and the Rams can wear their throwback royal blues with yellow. Anyways, this matchup will have the NFC Champion from a season ago against a Rams team that finally broke thru this year. Atlanta is a team that is definitely capable of making a run back to the Super Bowl with the talent they have on both sides of the ball. But for whatever reason, they have under performed and have been inconsistent this year. It almost cost them a chance to get back into the playoffs. QB Matt Ryan must have a strong game on Saturday night. He will be facing a Rams defense that struggles against the run but is among the league leaders in sacks. The Falcons must do anything in their power to account for DT Aaron Donald who is as good of a defender than anyone in the league. Despite having that strength in the middle of the defense, the Rams are vulnerable against the run. RB Devonta Freeman might have a chance to help Atlanta run a balanced attack on offense. WR Julio Jones is still one of the best in the league but Ryan must find a way to increase his scoring chances. Atlanta’s defense has quietly delivered this season but they’ll face a tall task in slowing down RB Todd Gurley. Gurley has established himself as a legit MVP candidate and he has been a driving force behind the turn around of his QB, Jared Goff. LA’s balanced and steady attack on offense has served them well this season. Keeping the pressure off Goff will be key in this game as Atlanta offers a decent pass rush. Between Gurley and Donald, the Rams have the two best players in this game and I think they’ll be able to ride them both to a home victory on Saturday night. Atlanta has the potential to make this a close one though. Prediction: Rams 24 – Falcons 20

Buffalo @ Jacksonville – Thanks to Cincinnati, Buffalo is everyone’s lovable underdog in this post season. The Bills will be making their first playoff trip in 17 years and they’ll be looking for their first playoff victory since 1995. Jacksonville was riding high about a month ago. There were even whispers that they could have jumped up to the second seed in the AFC. The last two weeks, The Jaguars have trended downward since clinching the AFC South, losing two straight include last week’s embarrassing loss at Tennessee. We all know how strong Jacksonville’s defense has been all season. They have the second ranked unit in the league and the top pass defense in football. Everyone has serious doubts about their situation at QB. Blake Bortles was starting to play better at the beginning of December but has regressed to his regular self recently, just in time for the playoffs. Jacksonville’s passing game has also struggled with all the injuries they had to deal with at the WR position. It seems to me that they might have to lean on rookie RB Leonard Fournette. That may not be a bad thing as the Jags have the league’s leading rushing attack. The Jaguars have a tremendous pass rush and secondary but they struggle against the run and that is where Buffalo can take advantage. RB LeSean McCoy is having another strong season. He suffered an injury last week but he appears to be ready to return for Sunday. Buffalo is going to need a big day on the ground if they hope QB Tyrod Taylor will be able to get anything in the passing game. Buffalo’s air attack has been feast or famine this season and things will definitely be tough for them against this secondary. I think Jacksonville’s defense will continue to be the strength for their team on Sunday but I think their offense will continue to struggle. Buffalo will be able to take advantage of some mistakes on the road and they will avoid an emotional letdown after what happened last week. I’m taking the Bills in an upset and they’ll advance to face division rival, New England next week. Prediction: Bills 21 – Jaguars 20

Carolina @ New Orleans – The Saints almost blew their chance at the division crowd last week. Luckily for them, Carolina fell on the road against Atlanta. I’m not going to take much away from the loss last week in Tampa. I still think the Saints are a strong contender in the NFC. Carolina has had their struggles this year but also look like a team that could go on a run. I think the winner of this game will probably go to the NFC Championship game. The Saints beat the Panthers twice already this year and it seems that they just have their number. Carolina’s defense will play tough but they have a lot to contend with. The Saints offer a balanced running attack with Mark Ingram and rookie sensation Alvin Kamara and down field threats in the passing game like WR Michael Thomas. Carolina has a good defense but this isnt the same unit from two seasons ago. New Orleans’ improved defense should be able to limit the damage that Cam Newton is capable of. Newton will have his backfield at full strength on Sunday as Jonathan Stewart will return from injury to be paired with another rookie sensation, Christian McCaffrey. Despite trading away Kevlin Benjamin to Buffalo, Carolina has been able to create big plays in the passing game. But their WR core may be short handed in this one due to injuries and they’ll be up against a much-improved Saints secondary. Not to mention, the crowd in the Super Dome will really make it tough for the Panthers offense to operate. I like the home team to advance. Prediction: Saints 34 – Panthers 24

NFL 2017: Week 14 Predictions!

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It may not being saying much but Baltimore is playing its best football of the season right now. On Sunday night, they visit division rival, Pittsburgh.

By: Elias McMillan

 

Last Week: 9-7

Season: 115-77

Big Five Games of the Week

New Orleans @ Atlanta – You know, I’m a uniform nerd so I have to mention that this week’s color rush match-up features two of the best sets in the league. But I digress. Atlanta had problems scoring points last week against Minnesota’s defense despite having a healthy Devonta Freeman back. This week, they’ll face New Orleans at home and they have an improved defense this season. New Orleans may not be as stout as Minnesota defensively but they can get the job done upfront and in the secondary. The real star of the Saints emergence as a contender is their run game. RB Mark Ingram has been steady and rookie RB Alvin Kamara has been as good as any rookie RB this season. Kamara offers great speed and toughness in the red zone. I don’t think the Falcons defense will be able to bottle the Saints run game. Atlanta will want to protect the home turf in this NFC South matchup but I don’t see them matching New Orleans unless their offense can get it figured out. Prediction: Saints 28 – Falcons 18

Oakland @ Kansas City – Oakland crawled to a victory last week at home against a bad Giants team. That may not seem like much but maybe that can keep that rolling into this week when they face a slumping Chiefs team. Kansas City is falling apart. Last week against the Jets, QB Alex Smith played out of his mind and they still lost. The fact that the Jets were able to put up the points they were able to, its time to realize that Kansas City is a poor defensive team. And even worst, they suspended their best corner for this game. I know the Chiefs are usually good at home but I think the Raiders may have advantage in this one. If David Carr is able to run his offense and hit his receivers down field against a poor secondary, the Raiders should have a great chance at taking this one. Oakland has been a disappointment this season but a win here on the road will put them firmly in the playoff conversation. I think Oakland will step up on the road and Kansas City’s woes will continue. Prediction: Raiders 24 – Chiefs 21

Philadelphia @ Los Angeles Rams – After a loss in Seattle, the Eagles stayed on the west coast in preparation for a matchup on Sunday with the NFC West leading LA Rams. The Eagles will need to come out this week with a little more urgency on offense. The Rams have a tough defense under Wade Phillips. Their whole game is based on limiting the opposing offenses chances to score, as their offense isn’t going to win them any games. The Rams offense will face an uphill battle in this game against a Philadelphia defense that is also pretty decent. I have a hard time believing that the Rams will be able to outscore the Eagles and if they are able to, it will take a tremendous effort from their defense. I think the Eagles are starting to look stale on both sides of the ball. I’m going out a limb and taking the home team in an upset. Prediction: Rams 23 – Eagles 16

Seattle @ Jacksonville – The Seahawks had a classic strong performance last week at home. I didn’t see that coming with all the injuries they are going through right now. QB Russell Wilson is doing a great job at keeping his team competitive and he might be good enough to carry Seattle to the post season. Jacksonville has been as inconsistent this season as Seattle without all the injuries. This should be a great defensive matchup. If I had to trust one offense to make a game deciding play, I’ll go with Wilson over Blake Bortles. I’ll give Bortles some credit as he hasn’t put in a poor performance recently but I think Seattle’s defense will present him with some issues. Prediction: Seahawks 24 – Jaguars 17

Baltimore @ Pittsburgh – I really liked the way Baltimore looked last week at home. Defense continued to play well but the offense finally showed up as well. QB Joe Flacco had his best performance of 2017 and the run game is starting to show some consistency. Pittsburgh is coming off some poor performances despite maintaining their winning streak. They didn’t look great at home against Green Bay and they were down three scores last week in Cincinnati. I think it does mean a lot that they were able to win those games but I’m starting to worry about their defense. And things could get worst before they get better with the injury last week suffered by defensive leader Ryan Shazier. This could be a classic, drag ‘em out, AFC North, Ravens-Steelers game, per usual. Though the Steelers defense is struggling, I don’t think I’m ready to believe that the Ravens are ready to maintain a consistent threat in the passing game yet. Baltimore’s defense is good but Pittsburgh just has better players. Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell will give them fits. Flacco has had some big moments at Heinz Field. He will have to be the one to match what Pittsburgh can do offensively on Sunday. I think Pittsburgh will keep it rolling in a tough contest. It won’t get as ugly as it got last week. But who knows. Mike Mitchell might be returning. Prediction: Steelers 29 – Ravens 17

The Rest of Week 14

Colts over Bills – Buffalo failed to upset New England last week and even worst, they suffered through a few injuries in that contest. Indy stinks but they should be able to take full advantage of a banged up Bills team.

Bears over Bengals – Marvin Lewis still has a job? How? Chicago must help put the nail in that coffin. The entire Cincinnati franchise is a joke.

Packers over Browns – Green Bay is keeping hope alive as Aaron Rodgers could be returning soon.

Giants over Cowboys – Here’s an upset. I still feel that the Cowboys will find a way at ended their chances at the playoffs in an embarrassing fashion despite ending their skid last week. The Giants have nothing to lose. They fired their coach. A lot of alumni will be at the stadium this week. And they’ll have Eli Manning to rally behind. The Giants stink but they be extra motivated to put a stake thru Dallas’ playoff hopes. Dak went 11-22 passing last week. I don’t trust that he is back to the form he had last season.

Buccaneers over Lions – Matt Stafford has a hand injury and Detroit’s backup is garbage. I’m taking Famous Jameis to eat the “W”.

Vikings over Panthers – If Cam Newton can beat the Minnesota defense, I would be surprised and very impressed.

Texans over 49ers – Jimmy Garoppolo got a win last week. This week, he’ll face a tougher road test in the Houston defense.

Jets over Broncos – Denver looks awful. How did it get so bad so fast for them? Meanwhile, Todd Bowles is winning games with Josh McCown. What a time.

Cardinals over Titans – I don’t trust the Tennessee defense.

Chargers over Washington – Washington looks like they are ready to fast forward to the offseason. Meanwhile, the LA Chargers are in the middle of a three-team race in the AFC West.

Patriots over Dolphins – New England won’t need Gronk this week. He’ll be fresh next week in Pittsburgh.

Fantasy Football Picks of the Week

QB: David Carr (Raiders) – Kansas City is giving up a lot through the air.

RB: Frank Gore (Colts) – Gore is quietly having a strong season.

WR: Larry Fitzgerald (Cardinals) – How about a vintage Larry Legend performance at home this week and a poor Titans secondary?

TE: Travis Kelce (Chiefs) – Oakland doesn’t have a great secondary. Alex Smith will look to continue last week’s success by looking 87’s way.

DEF: Minnesota – The Vikings defense will be a tough chore even on the road for Cam Newton.