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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 2019: AFC Preview

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No Brown? No Bell? No worries. Here comes Super Ben to save the day. Right?

 

By: Elias McMillan

AFC EAST

For the past 15 seasons, this division has only seen two other teams finish in first place other than the New England Patriots. No one is sure when the Patriots’ domination of the AFC East will end but I doubt it will be this year despite the fact New England really didn’t improve in the offseason. QB Tom Brady returns once again in his quest to add to his already Hall-of-Fame resume. New England has a nice mix of youth and veteran leadership at the skill positions. On offense this year, they will have a huge hole at the TE position thanks to the retirement of Rob Gronkowski. New England’s defense really showed out in the Super Bowl last season, holding their opponent to only 3 points. I think that unit will be weaken this season with the departures of DT Malcolm Brown and DE Trey Flowers. New England usually does a good job reloading on defense with players that we’ve may not even heard of yet. They did trade for aging but still effective DT Michael Bennett. The team in this division that made the most movement in the offseason was the New York Jets. The Jets forked over the big bucks in free agency and brought in RB Le’Veon Bell and LB C.J. Mosley. Bell, one of the top RB’s in football, should be fresh after taking 2018 off. He’ll have a great chance at rejuvenating this Jets offense and taking pressure away from the young QB, Sam Darnold. Darnold showed some promise in his rookie season but the lights on him will be brighter this year. I think having an elite option coming out the backfield will help him. The Jets really don’t have a star at WR but Robby Anderson is underrated and Jamison Crowder can be great in the slot. With the addition of Mosley and first round pick DT Quinnen Williams, the Jets front seven could be really good. “Do-Everything” safety, Jamal Adams, also returns as the leader of this defense. Adams is a rare talent in the secondary who can play the run and cover receivers down field. The Buffalo Bills hope this year won’t be a lost season for their rookie QB Josh Allen. Allen showed last year that he has the athletic tools but the Bills will be looking to seeing him improve as a passer. Buffalo’s backfield will be loaded with a gang of veterans. RB’s Frank Gore and T.J. Yeldon join LeSean McCoy and I’m not sure how that competition in training camp will play out. Gore, who refuses to retire, will probably win the starting job, which could make McCoy a surprising cut before the regular season. Buffalo’s defense could be something special this season. Despite losing Stephon Gilmore to New England in 2018, they led the league in pass defense. I don’t believe that it is possible for a NFL to “tank”, especially at the start of the season. But many believe that the Miami Dolphins will be that team this year. Miami actually has a good-to-average offense on paper. I think the young receivers on this team that are waiting to breakout and will love playing with an old gun slinger at QB, Ryan Fitzpatrick. But as we all know by now, that will probably last for maybe a month or so. Fitzpatrick will start out the season playing on fire then experience a huge, turnover laced, drop-off right around Week 5. I’m really rooting for QB Josh Rosen to get a chance in this offense since many have unfairly written him off. He’s basically a rookie again after being traded from Arizona and he deserves to start this portion of his career with a clean slate. Miami’s defense lost some key veterans in the offseason. CB Xavien Howard did receive a big contract in the offseason, which was well deserved as he is proving to be one of the top corners in football. Projected Finish: 1) New England, 2) NY Jets, 3) Buffalo, 4) Miami

AFC NORTH

The AFC North led the league in headlines this past offseason. Pittsburgh, who missed the playoffs for the first time in five years, stayed in the drama thanks to a messy divorce with WR Antonio Brown. With Brown now in Oakland, Pittsburgh is thinking that moving the best receiver in football will prove to be an “addition by subtraction” move. And everything on the offensive side of the ball will be smooth as long as QB Ben Roethlisberger can stand. I’m sure that Ben will continue to be great and the running game will be fine as long as the offensive line continues to play well. But I believe that the offense will feel a drop-off of talent without 84. Go ahead and watch the highlights from 2018. It wasn’t like AB was playing like an aging veteran. AB had a strong productive season and it will be hard for the Steelers to replace that. Juju Smith-Schuster is a talented WR but we don’t know if he is ready for the added attention as a #1 receiver. It’s okay to throw in all of your chips on Roethlisberger to save the offense but he is aging too. Father time is undefeated and it’s going to interesting to see him play without his top guy for the last couple years. With all the talk about offense, Pittsburgh’s defense could be something special this season. I think trading up for LB Devin Bush in the draft will prove to be a great move. Pittsburgh will be great up front with DT Cam Heyward and OLB T.J. Watt but the question will continue to be if their secondary will hold them back. The Browns were the offseason champs of this division despite not even winning 8 games in 2018. But the offense showed excitement and promise under QB Baker Mayfield and trading for WR Odell Beckham Jr. could put their offensive talent over the top. The Browns are crazy deep at WR with OBJ joining Jarvis Landry, Antonio Callaway and Rashard Higgins. The backfield will be loaded with talent as well with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, who will be fresh coming off an suspension. Cleveland is also expected to be strong defensively, led by young guys DE Myles Garrett and CB Denzel Ward. I think the city of Cleveland has reason to be hype about what could potentially happen with all this talent in 2019. But you have to crawl before you can walk. I’m not saying that the Browns hype isn’t real. I’m saying that the franchise hasn’t won more than 8 games in 11 years. Realistically, I don’t think Cleveland is ready to overtake the division but they’ll at least “be there” this year. Baltimore surprised everyone and won the division last season. Unfortunately, I think they’ll take a step backwards this year. The new offense, now catered to QB Lamar Jackson, will be fun to watch. They’ll probably lead the league in rushing this year. I really like the addition of RB Mark Ingram. The elephant in the room with Jackson at QB will be his ability to pass down the field. I’m hoping exciting rookie WR Marquise Brown (AB’s cousin) will help with that. The real reason why Baltimore will struggle this year is that I think the defense won’t be able to make up the lost of LB C.J. Mosley. Mosley was a guy that Baltimore could not afford to get away. The Ravens defense will also look strange in 2019 without LB Terrell Suggs. Baltimore’s saving grace on defense might be there secondary that looks strong with the addition of Earl Thomas at safety. I’m excited to say that the rebuild of the Cincinnati Bengals is finally on. Marvin Lewis, Vontaze Burfict, and Pac-Man Jones are all gone. Unfortunately, the new look Bengals may already be behind the 8-ball with WR A.J. Green injured and first rounder T Jonah Williams out for the season. Without Green, who will be back after the first four games, WR Tyler Boyd will have the opportunity to shine and he’ll have to after the pay raise he just received. Cincinnati will be strong defensively up front with DT Geno Atkins. The Bengals could be a sleeper even with Green missing time. They will be a team that could hold opponents to less than three scores but their offense might struggle to score that same amount. Projected Finish: 1) Steelers, 2) Browns, 3) Ravens, 4) Bengals

AFC SOUTH

I wouldn’t say that the AFC South is boring. But it’s the least interesting division in the AFC. Houston has young and exciting talent but just can’t break through in the playoffs. Jacksonville showed promise a couple years ago before completely falling apart last season. And Tennessee is still waiting for Marcus Mariota to show that he can be a franchise QB. Indianapolis caught momentum late last season only to lose to the top seed in the conference. QB Andrew Luck is still the top dog in the division when it comes to QB play but his health seems to be a question mark every year. Regardless, I think Indy has surrounded him with decent talent at the receiver and running back positions. Indy really started to catch fire last season because of their defense and rookie sensation LB Darius Leonard. In the offseason, they added a pass rushing presence in veteran LB Justin Houston. The Houston Texans should run away with this division if you look at the talent they have on paper. QB Deshaun Watson is a young star in this league and is continuing to improve. WR DeAndre Hopkins catches everything and the backfield should receive a boost with the addition of Duke Johnson; joining veteran Lamar Miller. Houston will continue to have one of the top front sevens on defense led by J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney. Houston’s secondary will need to have a bounce back year after finishing 2018 near the bottom of the league in pass defense. Jacksonville will be hoping to have their QB situation fixed this season. I’m not too confident in QB Nick Foles but he enters 2019 with not a lot of pressure. He only has to prove to be better than Blake Bortles. The Jaguars defense looked so strong two years ago. I think what happened to that unit last season will prove to be a fluke. They will be motivated to prove that though the sudden retirement of LB Telvin Smith will not help. That could open the door for rookie LB Josh Allen who looked like the best pass rusher in this past draft. CB Jalen Ramsey returns to a secondary that ranked second in the league in pass defense. Tennessee almost made the playoffs last season but I didn’t see them take a step forward from that in the offseason. Trading for QB Ryan Tannehill will probably not instill confidence for Mariota. The Titans are excited to see more of RB Derrick Henry who broke out last season. They need RB Dion Lewis to rebound from last season, as he was a total bust of a free agent signing. Tennessee will be strong defensively, led by one of the league’s top secondaries. DT Jurrell Casey is one of the best interior linemen and DE Cameron Wake who is coming off a productive career in Miami, will join him this year. Projected Finish: 1) Colts, 2) Texans, 3) Jaguars, 4) Titans

AFC WEST

The AFC West featured the most competitive division in the conference last season and I think we’ll see the same in 2019. Kansas City shot their way to the top of the conference thanks to the performance of QB Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes returns with many of the same weapons from a season ago, WR’s Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, and TE Travis Kelce. On defense, they traded away DE Dee Ford but also acquired DE Frank Clark who should serve as a great replacement. Kansas City’s pass defense was among the league’s worst last season. They are hoping that offseason acquisition, safety Tyrann Mathieu, will help them improve in that area. The Chargers will be strong again in 2019, which could be QB Phillip Rivers final season. I get the feeling that Rivers won’t retire until he makes his Super Bowl debut. Rivers will once again have great targets in the passing game to go to in WR’s Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. But most of the talk in the offseason has been about the RB position. I don’t think RB Melvin Gordon’s hold out will last into the season. He will report and I think he needs a wake up call. Gordon is talented but he doesn’t have much of a leg to stand on with only one 1,000 yard season. I really like what the Chargers have on defense. Pass rushers Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa are difference makers up front and safety Derwin James is one of the best in the NFL already in his young career. What’s been holding Denver back for the last few seasons has been the QB position. You can laugh now but I think trading for QB Joe Flacco might prove to be one of the smartest moves made in the offseason. Denver gets a veteran presence behind center and he’s looking to prove that he still has some good football left in him. RB Phillip Lindsay who had a breakout rookie season will assist Flacco. WR Emmanuel Sanders will be plus for this passing offense if he can stay healthy. The Broncos defense will be led once again by pass rushing extraordinaire Von Miller. Denver will be looking for someone in the secondary to step up this season, as they are a missing a few pieces from last year. The Oakland Raiders made the biggest move in the offseason, trading for the best WR in the NFL, Antonio Brown. Despite that exciting acquisition, the Raiders are still not ready to compete in this division. I think having Brown in the lineup will improve the passing game, which is good news for QB Derek Carr. But the Raiders will still have unanswered question with their offensive line and backfield. A lot will be expected from rookie RB Josh Jacobs. On defense, the Raiders still are looking to fill the massive hole left by trading away DE Khalil Mack. They spent their top pick on DE Clelin Ferrell who was on no ones radar at the top of the draft. They also brought in talented but constant knucklehead LB Vontaze Burfict. This Raiders squad will be an interesting mix but I don’t think they’ll play good enough football to escape the AFC West basement. Projected Finish: 1) Chiefs, 2) Chargers, 3) Broncos, 4) Raiders

NFL Playoffs: Divisional Round Predictions


Wild Card Round - Houston Texans v Indianapolis Colts

Can Andrew Luck and Colts upset the AFC’s top seed on the road Saturday?

 

By: Elias McMillan

Wild Card: 2-2

Playoffs 2-2

Divisional Round

Indianapolis @ Kansas City – Last weekend’s win in Houston went kind of like I expect it would for Indy. The Colts looked impressive on both sides of the ball. The defense limited Houston to just 7 points. Andrew Luck looked like himself passing the ball around and the Colts even ran the ball well. The Colts have the momentum going into a showdown with the AFC’s #1 seed. Kansas City jumped to the top the AFC this season behind the production of MVP candidate, QB Patrick Mahomes. Even with the suspension of RB Kareem Hunt, the Chiefs offense hasn’t missed a beat all season. On Saturday, the Colts will have to account for the speed of WR Tyreek Hill and the physicality of TE Travis Kelce. I think Kansas City will find success offensively in this matchup. The question for the Chiefs all season has been about their defense. The Chiefs can score a lot but they can also give up a lot as well. The team with the ball last may end up winning this one. There’s a narrative out there about Andy Reid’s teams in the post-season always coming up short. I bet this Chiefs team wants to be the group that bunks that trend. I also think the home field advantage will play a part in this one. Prediction: Chiefs 38 – Colts 33

Dallas @ Los Angeles Rams – Dallas’ victory last week at home against Seattle wasn’t as impressive as they wanted it to be but they got the job done. Now, they will be looking to enter uncharted territory when they travel to LA to face the Rams. Dallas hasn’t advanced to the conference championship round in 20 plus years and they haven’t won a playoff game on the road in about the same time frame. But this is a Dallas team that believes they have it in them. In their case, I believe they have the best defense left in the NFC. The Cowboys did a great job limiting Seattle’s run game last week. I am a bit worried about the secondary, as Seattle really didn’t press the issue until the game was out of the reach. This probably won’t be the case on Saturday night. Even with Todd Gurley returning from injury, the Rams know that they big play offense has been depended on what Jared Goff can do in the passing game. The Rams offense lit up scoreboards for most of this season but they have cooled off significantly heading into the post-season. Maybe losing WR Cooper Kupp to injury has something to do with that. I don’t really believe the Rams have a game breaker at the WR position. Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks are nice players but they don’t demand the entire defense’s attention. If they can’t get Goff going, I think their best bet is to force feed Gurley who is bound to make a big play as a runner or receiver. The Rams have well known players on their defense but as a unit, they just haven’t been that good. DT Aaron Donald is beast and is capable of possibly winning this game himself. Despite having him up front, the Rams are pretty average against the run. Dallas will continue to run the offense through Ezekiel Elliott and he will eventually put the Cowboys in scoring positions. CB’s Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib have a history of making big plays but they are also risk takers. If QB Dak Prescott can stay away from Donald, he’ll be able to find his receivers downfield for some big plays off a double move or play action. The moment I feel that the Cowboys may do something worth talking about is the same moment when they usually disappoint me. Knowing this, I’m still going with my gut on this one. The Rams are not the offensive machine they were earlier this season and usually, a good defense can beat a good offense in January. This will be close but I’m taking the road team in the upset as the Cowboys fans will probably take over the stadium as well. Prediction: Cowboys 27 – Rams 24

Los Angeles Chargers @ New England – Despite Baltimore’s late push last week, the Chargers were fairly in control in that game. Now, they’ll make another long trip back to the east coast to face playoff staple, New England. This isn’t the same Patriots team that we are accustomed to seeing in January. The Patriots were able to win their division and gain a first round bye in the post season but this is probably their weakest playoff team during the Bill Belicheck era. Tom Brady is still a very good QB at his age but the Patriots have had receiver issues all season. Julian Edelman and Chris Hogan have both been banged up and they don’t have much waiting in the wings. The big play guy in the passing game has been TE Rob Gronkowski but even he doesn’t look like his normal self. The Patriots do have a plenty of options at RB but they are a team that just can’t depend on the run. The Chargers proved last week that they can handle a run first offense and it will also help that they have the pass rushers to get after Brady. New England has been known for years recently to have a less than impressive defense. I think this will allow QB Phillip Rivers to really push the issue in the passing game. Rivers has never beaten Brady in the post-season but I think this is his best shot. The Chargers are capable to out-physical New England on both sides of the ball. I like the Chargers in an upset that really shouldn’t be an upset. Prediction: Chargers 29 – Patriots 20

Philadelphia @ New Orleans – As much as I hate to admit, the Eagles actually matchup well with the Saints. I know this is the same team that was blown out by them on the road but a lot has changed since then. The Eagles don’t have a run game so they are forced to unleash the full capability of QB Nick Foles. The play of Foles during this last month are becoming the stuff of legend as he looks to help the Eagles make a return trip to the Super Bowl. I think the play of the Saints secondary plays in favor to the Eagles as that unit isn’t a strength for the home team. Philadelphia has also received great play out of their offensive line.  Knowing that they are a pass-first offense, they are going to need another great performance from that unit as New Orleans has an impressive front four on defense. But I think this game will have to turn on QB Drew Brees exposing the Eagles defense. This was something that the Bears failed to do last week. The Eagles will have to account for RB’s Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram but they should be okay with what they have in their front seven defensively. Philly’s weakness in the secondary and Brees must be able to exploit that. I think the Eagles will be able to do damage and score points in this one but I think Brees will be the one to set the tone causing Philly to play catch up for most of the game. Prediction: Saints 41 – Eagles 31

NFL Playoffs: Wild-Card Round Predictions

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QB Russell Wilson marches an impressive Seahawks team into Dallas this weekend.

 

By: Elias McMillan

Last Week: 12-4

Final Regular Season Record: 150-104-2

Wild-Card Round

Indianapolis @ Houston – These interdivisional playoff matchups are usually really competitive so I’m expecting a close matchup here between AFC South rivals. The Colts and Texans split their meetings in the regular season with the road team winning in each matchup. In their first meeting in Houston, plenty of points were scored as the Texans escaped by a field goal. A lot has changed with both teams since then. More so with Indy. The Colts caught fire late this season and they’ve been able to ride their current wave they’re on into the post season. With Indy, you know what you’re getting with their offense. QB Andrew Luck is a candidate for comeback player of the year. At receiver, they don’t have much outside of T.Y. Hilton but TE Eric Ebron has been a breakout player after a disappointing start to his career in Detroit. In the second half of the season, the Colts found their running game as Marlon Mack has emerged as a difference maker along with rookie Nyneim Hines. But what has really been impressive about the Colts this season has been the toughness they’ve shown on the defensive side of the ball. Rookie LB Darius Leonard led the league in tackles this season and he sets the tone for this “bend but don’t break” defense. Houston will present a lot of challenges offensively. QB Deshaun Watson is a playmaker with his arm and legs. It helps that he has an all-Pro WR to go to in DeAndre Hopkins. RB Lamar Miller has also quietly had a nice season. I think this game will hinge on if the Houston defense shows up and makes big plays. The Texans do defend the run well up front with J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney. But they also have the tendency to give up big plays in the secondary. I think the Colts will be able to attack through the air for some big plays if Luck can avoid the Texans pass rush. Despite having Hopkins, I don’t think Watson will be able to out produce Luck especially with how well Indy’s defense has been playing. Despite winning 11 games, Houston really hasn’t beaten a quality opponent this season outside of that early season victory against the Colts. I think Indy is playing better football right now and they’ll get the win on the road Saturday. Prediction: Colts 34 – Texans 24

Seattle @ Dallas – The Seahawks hammered Dallas at home back in September but in this rematch, I expect them to see a different Cowboys team. After starting the season 3-5, Dallas saved their season by trading for WR Amari Cooper, leaning on their defense, and allowing the other teams in their division to collapse. Seattle has had an impressive regular season that no one really saw coming. Without the Legion of Boom, Seattle stuck to their guns and now they look like a team that no one in the playoffs wants to see. QB Russell Wilson continues to lead this offense efficiently while at the same time having the potential to create a big plays after each snap. RB Chris Carson has been a big part of Seattle’s offense as he is one of the top rushers in football this year. Seattle’s wideouts still have that underrated label on them but defensive backs across the league know how dangerous Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett can be. Yes, the Legion of Boom is gone but this Seahawks defense is underrated. LB Bobby Wagner is a guy that Dallas will need to key on as he is always around the ball. Seattle’s defense ranked in the middle of the road this year against the run and the passing game. I think Dallas can really present some issues for them on offense. As usual, everything for Dallas will run through RB Ezekiel Elliott. But Seattle can not completely write off what QB Dak Prescott can bring to the table. Dallas allowed Dak to gain extra reps last week in a meaningless game in New York. I wouldn’t be surprised if that experience left him with more confidence so we could see him take more chances down the field to Copper and the other receivers. Dallas’ turnaround this season was heavily aided by the play of their defense. DE Demarcus Lawrence has solidified himself as one of the top pass rushers in the game. Linebackers Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch are basically what Carolina had a few years ago with Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis. And CB Byron Jones is having an all-Pro season in his first year in that position. The Cowboys on defense will have to focus on preventing the big plays from Wilson but they also have to account for Seattle’s running game. Dallas ranks in the top five for run defense but then I remember what the Colts did to them in their last defeat. I think Seattle is capable of using the run to set up the big plays from their QB. Dallas created a lot of big plays on their own last week but that was against the Giants. These teams are almost equally matched. I guess we also have to consider that Seattle has a knack for under performing on the road. But they are more experienced in these situations. My heart is with the home team but I think Wilson will lift Seattle to victory. Prediction: Seahawks 24 – Cowboys 23

Los Angeles Chargers @ Baltimore – The Ravens really bullied the Chargers a few weeks ago. I think experience will prove to be a great teacher as LA travels up to Baltimore looking for revenge. Baltimore was able to dominate LA in their first meeting upfront on offense and defense. The Ravens collapsed that offensive line and made it tough for QB Phillip Rivers to create in the passing game. I think LA will be better prepared for what Baltimore brings to the table. For starters, the Chargers are healthier on offense. RB Melvin Gordon will be ready to go and big play TE Hunter Henry will also be returning from injury. Baltimore has a tough front 7 on defense but their secondary can give big plays. The key for the Chargers will be to keep their QB away from pressure so he and WR Keenan Allen can attack this secondary. LA’s defense has been shaky but they have some great individual talent. I’m a big time believer in edge rushers Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. Rookie safety Derwin James is another young player who makes plays on this defense. The Chargers will have to focus on stopping what Baltimore can do in the running game. Rookie QB Lamar Jackson has been a killer with his running ability during Baltimore’s run to a division title. RB’s Gus Edwards and Kenneth Dixon have proven to be more than serviceable recently as well. LA shouldn’t dare Jackson to throw but they do have to account for Baltimore’s strength, which is the run game. If the Chargers can better protect Rivers this time around, I really like their chances on the road. Rivers is at the end of his career. These opportunities for him are not guaranteed. Knowing this, I think the Chargers will make the best of it and score the upset. Prediction: Chargers 29 – Ravens 24

Philadelphia @ Chicago – Finally, a game that is not a rematch from earlier this season. The Bears eliminated Minnesota last week in the final game of the regular season, making this matchup possible. Philadelphia defied odds late in this season, scoring upsets in LA and against Houston to spring them into the postseason conversation. The Eagles, much like last year, are rallying around QB Nick Foles. Foles didn’t start the 2018 season great but he has really come on recently. The Eagles are going to have to lean on Foles and the air attack in this game. The Eagles don’t have a run game to talk about and they’re facing a defense that is tough upfront and in the secondary. I expect to see LB Khalil Mack and company to set the tone in this game at the line of scrimmage and in the backfield pressuring the QB. I also believe that Philly’s defense will not be able to account for Chicago’s many weapons on offense. QB Mitch Trubisky has a great cast around him in the backfield with Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen and at wideout with Allen Robinson and rookie Anthony Miller. The way the Eagles got into the post season was a nice story but it will end in Chicago on Sunday. Prediction: Bears 27 – Eagles 13

 

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 15 Predictions (Condensed Version)

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Tom Brady makes his yearly pilgrimage to Pittsburgh this Sunday.

By: Elias McMillan

 

Last Week: 9-7

Season: 118-88-2

Week 15 Picks

Chiefs over Chargers – Kansas City hasn’t let success go to their head. I was impressed with the way the fought back last week against a quality opponent. The Chargers will give them a tough challenge but KC is usually tough at home.

Texans over Jets – Houston finally lost last week. They should be able to bounce back against a bad Jets team but you never know. I didn’t expect New York to win last week on the road.

Broncos over Browns – This one will be a surprisingly competitive game as both teams are holding on to slim post season hopes.

Falcons over Cardinals – Boring.

Bills over Lions – Buffalo wasn’t suppose to lose last week at home. They usually have a really fun looking home game in the snow where they play amazingly well. Maybe it will be this week.

Bears over Packers – Chicago really impressed me last week with the way they shut down the Rams offense. They take joy in ending Aaron Rodgers’ season at home.

Raiders over Bengals – Maybe Cincinnati will fire Marvin Lewis for real this time.

Colts over Cowboys – This one is a toss up. I’m not sure how good this Colts team is and Dallas has received many breaks during their 5 game winning streak. Indy is fighting to have a chance at the playoffs while Dallas pretty much has to win just one of their last three games to clinch the division. I think Indy will be the hungrier team on Sunday. Dallas may have to start thinking about being healthy for that wild-card game.

Vikings over Dolphins – Minnesota fired their offensive coordinator this week so the pressure on their offense to show some life this weekend. If not, this Miami team is confident enough with Ryan Tannehill back in the fold to score a road upset.

Giants over Titans – If New York presses Tennessee for four quarters and tackles Derrick Henry, the Titans will roll over.

Jaguars over Washington – If you have the Jacksonville defense on your fantasy team, they are a MUST start.

Ravens over Buccaneers – Despite the loss in Kansas City last week, the Lamar Jackson era is here in Baltimore. The Ravens defense is really going to have to flex at home against one of the better offenses in the league.

Seahawks over 49ers – Seattle may be the most dangerous team in the NFC right now.

Steelers over Patriots – Pittsburgh has two tough opponents left on their schedule and they are going to have to beat one of them to make the post season. I bet it will be this Sunday against a familiar opponent. Everyone likes to beat on how bad the Pittsburgh defense is playing currently but remember: New England’s defense is also pretty bad. If Pittsburgh avoids mistakes and plays like the more desperate team, which they are, they should win on Sunday.

Rams over Eagles – Carson Wentz may not play Sunday, which tells me that that Philadelphia is mailing it in. LA’s offense should be able to rebound after last week against a wounded Eagles secondary.

Saints over Panthers – If Carolina loses out after starting 6-2, does Ron Rivera get canned?

NFL 2018: Week 14 Predictions

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The Houston Texans haven’t looked back since starting the season 0-3.

By: Elias McMillan

 

Last Week: 10-6

Season: 109-81-2

Big Five Games of the Week

Baltimore @ Kansas City – Rookie QB Lamar Jackson hasn’t lost since being inserted into the starting lineup for an injured Joe Flacco. But really, Baltimore’s current success is due to the play of their defense. That defense will be tested in a huge way Sunday in Kansas City. Even with the absence of RB Kareem Hunt, I still expect this Chiefs offense to not miss a beat. KC doesn’t really have a dominating defense and Baltimore has been able to hold their own against quality opponents this season. So, I think this could be a surprisingly contested game. But a road win in Kansas City maybe to tall of a task for this rookie QB. Winner: Chiefs

Indianapolis @ Houston – I didn’t expect the Colts to get shutout like they did last week. But that was not a great showing from them with another divisional showdown on the road looming. Houston hasn’t lost since starting the season 0-3. I don’t think they’ll win out going into the post season but it is starting to look that way. I could be wrong but I think QB Andrew Luck has a good track record against Houston. Either way, it doesn’t look like Indy is ready to upend the streaking Texans. Winner: Texans

Philadelphia @ Dallas – This will be a big test for Dallas in terms of not being tied to the “moment”. The Cowboys shocked everyone last week with a home victory over a quality opponent but they have to move on. This Sunday, a new challenge will present themselves in the form of the desperate Philadelphia Eagles. A good thing going forward from last week for Dallas is that the team must be feeling really encouraged about the defensive side of the ball. But Dallas should know that let downs can happen and they can’t afford to be victims to that in the middle of the playoff race. Philadelphia has won two straight against NFC East opponents despite not playing well recently. The Eagles are just not healthy enough to make a late push this season for the playoffs. I think they’ll play Dallas tough though. These games are usually “drag ‘em out” fights until the end. But if Dallas can play like they know they can defensively, I think they’ll roll at home. Winner: Cowboys

LA Rams @ Chicago – The Bears have struggled without QB Mitch Trubisky but luckily their entire division is on the struggle bus as well. They’ll get Trubisky back in time for Sunday night, as Chicago will host the current top seed in the NFC. The strength vs. strength matchup in this game is an intriguing one. On one hand, the Rams are able to score at will with all their weapons. But on the other Chicago’s defense is pretty stout, led by LB Khalil Mack. This game could turn on the defender playing for the visiting team. DT Aaron Donald is the league’s leader in sacks and is on pace for a second straight defensive player of the year award. Chicago will welcome the return of their starting QB but he will not be so please to see 99 lining up across from him. Winner: Rams

Minnesota @ Seattle – The secret is out on Seattle. They were supposed to fall off this year but they look like they could be the team that no one wants to play in the post season. Minnesota, despite their early struggles, could still make the post season. They are currently in a rough stretch in their schedule but they getting healthy at the right time. That being said, I don’t see them being able to produce big plays offensively on the road against this Seahawks defense. QB Russell Wilson has shown plenty of big play ability this season and I think we’ll see that again Monday against a struggling Vikings secondary. Winner: Seahawks

The Rest of Week 14

Titans over Jaguars – Tennessee is still in the playoff race and they always seem to just have Jacksonville’s number.

Bills over Jets – Buffalo is a safe bet at home in December.

Browns over Panthers – Carolina has issues. Cleveland can attack their secondary through the air on offense and their pass rush should be able to rattle a Cam Newton who may not be at 100%.

Falcons over Packers – Green Bay is usually good at home but they lost their last week against Arizona. Atlanta is holding on to slim playoff hopes.

Patriots over Dolphins – Miami can be tough at home especially with Ryan Tannehill back in the lineup. This one could be close.

Saints over Buccaneers – New Orleans will be anxious to bounce back after last week’s nightmare.

Giants over Washington – Washington is one game out of first place but they refuse to better their situation at QB. They would rather lose than try to put a better player at the QB position. What kind of message does that send to the locker room? I hope New York wins by a million. Dan Synder and Jay Gruden are gutless, cowards.

Chargers over Bengals – Things are looking up in LA. The playoffs look likely as they were able to get a huge road victory last week without Melvin Gordon.

Broncos over 49ers – Denver is going to have to get it done through the run game because of the injuries at the WR position.

Steelers over Raiders – I know everyone is talking about Pittsburgh’s recent history in Oakland and the James Connor injury. It doesn’t matter. Oakland stinks.

Lions over Cardinals – Who’s going to watch this game? Just a brutal matchup. Worthy of Thursday Night Football.

Fantasy Football Picks of the Week

QB: Phillip Rivers (Chargers) – After a big victory last week, Rivers faces the second worst secondary in the league at home.

RB: Christian McCaffery (Panthers) – Carolina is struggling but the little RB out of Stanford has been their saving grace recently.

WR: Michael Thomas (Saints) – Thomas didn’t do much last week in Dallas. He’ll bounce back against Tampa’s secondary.

TE: Jared Cook (Raiders) – Cook is quietly having a nice season in Oakland.

DEF: New York Giants – Mark Sanchez is starting in a NFL game on Sunday. Hahahahahahhaahhahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaahhahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahhaahaha.