Tag Archives: Arizona Cardinals

NFL 2019: NFC Preview

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If Carson Wentz is healthy, the Eagles could be serious contenders in the NFC this season.

 

By: Elias McMillan

 

NFC EAST

It seems like things will never change in the NFL’s “glamour” division. The NFC East hasn’t seen a repeat champion in 15 seasons and I think that tradition will remain the same in 2019. The Dallas Cowboys have come the closest to bucking that trend as they have won the division three times in the last six seasons. But if you’ve been paying attention to that franchise, you should know that they usually disappoint after a successful season. Usually. If you look on paper, the Philadelphia Eagles probably has the most talent in the division from top to bottom. A lot is going to depend on the play of the QB. Nick Foles almost lifted Philadelphia again in the 2018 postseason, winning on the road in Chicago and almost upsetting New Orleans. With Foles now in Jacksonville, Philly will be depending on Carson Wentz to return to his 2017 form where he was a MVP candidate. He’ll have plenty of help this season as the Eagles are deep at the skill positions. At WR, DeSean Jackson returns to Philly joining Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor. The Eagles should have an improved backfield this season as well. They acquired RB Jordan Howard from Chicago and drafted speedster Miles Sanders from Penn State. On defense, DT Fletcher Cox leads a loaded group on the defensive line. Veteran safety Malcolm Jenkins also returns though Philly’s secondary seems to always be a weakness year in and year out. The defending champion Cowboys also return with a talented roster in 2019. A lot of the talk during the offseason with Dallas has been about the contract situations of QB Dak Prescott, WR Amari Cooper, and star RB Ezekiel Elliott. I’m sure all three will get their deals, respectfully, especially Elliott who is easily the most important player on the roster. Despite all the talk about the offensive side of the ball, the real reason why Dallas made a run to the postseason last year was their defense. I think Dallas will be strong defensively again in 2019. LB’s Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch are the cornerstones for this defense right now and for the future. The Cowboys should be able to get after QB’s this season with DE’s Demarcus Lawrence and newcomer Robert Quinn. Dallas needs to find an answer in the middle of their run defense as they absolutely killed them in their playoff loss against the Rams. In the secondary, they have promising young talent. Safety Xavier Woods could have a breakout season. CB Byron Jones made the Pro Bowl last season but he gives up big plays in crucial situations. I don’t see Dallas extending his contract unless his interception numbers improve. He has 2 in four seasons as a pro. If Washington didn’t get derailed by injuries on both sides of the ball last year, they probably would have won the division. They enter the 2019 campaign with holes in their roster due to injuries and losses in free agency. The QB position is still reeling after injuries last season to Alex Smith and Colt McCoy. They may have to lean on Case Keenum to start this season but if he’s shaky, the cries for rookie Dwayne Haskins will get louder. What else might not help is the absence of OT Trent Williams. Without him, it may not even matter who Washington starts at QB. I really liked Washington’s defense at the beginning of last season. I think losing LB Preston Smith will hurt them this year though they did draft a possible replacement in Montez Sweat. Washington has young talent on their defensive line but that unit has to stay healthy this year. The secondary already has CB Josh Norman but they should receive a boost with the addition of safety Landon Collins. No one is expecting much out of the New York Football Giants this year as they lost Collins and Odell Beckham Jr. in the offseason. Surprisingly, QB Eli Manning returns in what should be his swan song. The Giants used their top pick in the draft on QB Daniel Jones from DOOK and I expect that they do plan to play him. The leash on Manning this year should be short. If trading away OBJ wasn’t bad enough, the WR core turned into a complete dumpster fire right as training camp began. Injuries and suspensions will leave the QB’s with not a lot of reliable options in the passing game. RB Saquon Barkley will be tasked with literally carrying this offense. The Giants defense is in full rebuild mode. They could surprise some teams but they have a lot of young and unproven talent. Rookies CB Deandre Baker and DT Dexter Lawrence will have to grow up quickly in their first seasons. Projected Finish: 1) Eagles, 2) Cowboys, 3) Washington, 4) Giants

NFC NORTH

The Chicago Bears had zero buzz entering the 2018 season until they made an acquisition that completely turned their franchise around. Trading for edge rusher Khalil Mack made Chicago into a contender in the NFC and he’s a difference maker that could keep Chicago atop this division for a couple years. Chicago’s defense really didn’t have an identity since Brian Urlacher retired. Now, they feature one of the top front sevens in the league that specializes in getting to the QB. On offense, the Bears will be looking for QB Mitch Trubisky to continue to improve as a down the field passer. The backfield will look different this year, as Jordan Howard was send away to Philly. RB Tarik Cohen could have a breakout season and rookie RB David Montgomery has impressed so far in the preseason. Minnesota will be looking to rebound after a disappointing 2018. QB Kirk Cousins will be forever criticized in the media because of his contract but I believe he’s a much better player than people let on. The emergence of WR Adam Thielen has been a huge help for Cousins and the passing offense. Thielen and Stephon Diggs form one of the top 1-2 punches at receiver in the league. Minnesota is still waiting for RB Dalvin Cook to breakout as he has a ton of ability. The Vikings defense took a step back last season. They’ll be looking to bounce back in 2019 with many returning starters including LB Anthony Barr who almost left in free agency. I think Green Bay is going to go through some growing pains this season as they are rebuilding. Replacing familiar names with young talent could actually workout for them in the long run especially on the defensive side. LB Clay Matthews is gone but free agent signing, LB Preston Smith, is a younger, talented replacement. On offense, everything will be tied to all-world QB Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers is still the top passer in the league but the Packers need to do a better job at protecting him, as he isn’t getting younger. WR Davante Adams has solidified himself as one of the best WR in the league and as Rodgers’ top target. Every year it seems like Green Bay will be waiting for somebody to breakout at the RB position. Maybe it will be RB Aaron Jones who scored 9 times last season. In Detroit, it’s looking more and more like the Matt Patricia experiment will be ending soon. This could be a make or break season for him as Detroit has a roster than shouldn’t be in the NFC North basement. I feel bad for QB Matt Stafford who is on his way to being the latest star player to have his career wasted at Ford Field. If Detroit doesn’t have a great season, I wonder if he would try to force his way outta there though it would be hard because of his massive contract. Stafford will have decent talent around him this year. WR Kenny Golladay had a breakout 2018 season and RB’s Kerryon Johnson and C.J. Anderson should be a formable duo in the backfield. I think Detroit’s defense could be good enough to keep the Lions in games this season. They had a top 10 secondary last year and upfront, they added DE Trey Flowers from New England and DT Mike Daniels from Green Bay. I’m not sure what Daniels has left in the tank but I love the revenge factor of him signing with Detroit after being cut by the Packers. Projected Finish: 1) Bears, 2) Vikings, 3) Packers, 4) Lions

NFC SOUTH

In recent years, I have picked the Saints to come out of the NFC because on paper, they appear to have the best or one of the best rosters in the league. The same could be said again going into 2019. The way the Saints’ season ended last year should serve as enough motivation to see the team atop this division again. On offense, they return elite talent at the QB, RB, and WR positions. RB Alvin Kamara will have a new partner in the backfield this year in Latavius Murray. Drew Brees will also have a new weapon in the passing game, TE Jared Cook. New Orleans’ defense was pretty decent last year and I think the addition of DT Malcolm Brown from New England will make them stronger. I think the Carolina Panthers had a great offseason but their success will be tied to the health of QB Cam Newton. If Newton is back to 100%, Carolina could be a sleeper in the NFC. I still think Newton doesn’t have enough help on the offensive side of the ball. RB Christian McCaffrey proved himself to be a legit threat behind the tackles as a runner and as a receiver. WR D.J. Moore needs to have a similar breakout season in 2019. I really like how Carolina improved their defense in the offseason. They have a nice mix of young talent (rookie DE Brian Burns) and veteran leadership (DT Gerald McCoy). The LB group will miss Thomas Davis but they still have Luke Kuechly, Shaq Thompson, and newly acquired veteran Bruce Irvin. The Atlanta Falcons did reach the Super Bowl a few seasons ago but they seem to reach expectations. As long as they have QB Matt Ryan and WR Julio Jones, they are going to put up big numbers. But Ryan isn’t getting enough help from his offensive line. Atlanta addressed that in this past draft but those young blockers are going to have to grow up fast. RB Devonta Freeman returns to the backfield for Atlanta but without Tevin Coleman who left in free agency. Atlanta defense has been seen as a weak point on this team but they do have great individual talents in LB Deion Jones and edge rusher Vic Beasley. Tampa Bay has a long way to go in order to be competitive in this division again. But I really like the hiring of new head coach Bruce Arians. Him and offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich will be tasked with saving the career of QB Jameis Winston who is running out of favor in the organization. Winston still has the tools to be a successful QB in this league but he hasn’t been able to put it all together. Hopefully, the coaching change will help.  The reliable WR Mike Evans returns to provide big plays in the passing game. Tampa also resigned OT Donovan Smith to help keep Winston upright. Tampa’s defense is going through a transition, marked by the sudden release of long time Buccaneer, Gerald McCoy. They added veteran Ndamukong Suh to the defensive line but the real newcomer to look for will be rookie LB Devin White. I would be surprised if this Tampa team won a lot in 2019 but this season will be really all about fixing Jameis Winston. Because if they are picking high in next year’s draft, they probably be looking for a new QB. Projected Finish: 1) Saints, 2) Panthers, 3) Falcons, 4) Buccaneers

NFC WEST

The LA Rams made a surprise run to the Super Bowl last season and they could be in line for a return visit. QB Jared Goff will look to keep improving and the return of WR Cooper Kupp from injury should help. Kupp will return to an already talented group at WR that includes Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods. RB Todd Gurley is the real engine that keeps this Rams offense running. His health has been concerning recently but if healthy, he’s the best back in football. The Rams have the best defensive lineman in football in DT Aaron Donald. On the edge, they traded for DE Dante Fowler late last season and that move paid off greatly for LA. He returns to a Rams defensive line that should be the tops in the NFC. The Rams also added a pair of veterans on defense looking to prove that they still got it: LB Clay Matthews and safety Eric Weddle. Last season, we learned that no matter how many faces change on both sides of the ball in Seattle, they’ll always have a chance with QB Russell Wilson behind center. Wilson will be without reliable target Doug Baldwin this year but he will be expecting big things from rookie WR DK Metcalf. Outside of Metcalf, WR Tyler Lockett proved to be a playmaker in the offense last season. On defense, Seattle traded away their best pass rusher in the offseason. They’re going to need someone on the defensive line to step up. The strength of Seattle’s defense is still intact as long as they have LB Bobby Wagner in the middle. San Francisco has accumulated so much young talent in recent years, I feel like they could be a surprise team this season. A lot is going to depend on the play of QB Jimmy Garoppolo who has not looked great so far in preseason. San Fran is also really missing a big play WR. In the backfield, they are loaded with returning starter Matt Breida and free agent signee Tevin Coleman. I think this 49ers team has promise because of their defense. They acquired DE Dee Ford from Kansas City and picked up the top pass rusher in the draft, Nick Bosa. If the 49ers do one thing well this year on defense, it will be getting after the QB. San Fran also signed LB Kwon Alexander who was a playmaker in Tampa Bay. I’m not sure what CB Richard Sherman has left in the tank but it would be nice if this defense saw contributions from him in the secondary this season. Arizona is starting back at square one this season after firing their head coach after one year. They brought in Kliff Kingsbury to coach the team despite having zero NFL experience and they drafted a talented young QB first overall who will be tasked with fixing an offense that was pretty bad last season. This experiment in Arizona is going to be a great success or a great disaster. QB Kyler Murray will have enough veteran help around him in WR Larry Fitzgerald and RB David Johnson. Great pass rushers, Chandler Jones and newcomer Terrell Suggs will headline Arizona’s defense. I like the addition of LB Jordan Hicks who made a lot of big plays in Philadelphia. CB Patrick Peterson returns to the secondary, which was one of the best in football a season ago. Arizona will be hurt without Peterson as he will be suspended for the first 6 games of the season. Projected Finish: 1) Rams, 2) Seahawks, 3) 49ers, 4) Cardinals

 

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2019 NFL Draft: No Mock. Just Random Thoughts.

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Where will Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray land? I say, not in Arizona.

By: Elias McMillan

 

Alright. Unfortunately, I did not do a NFL mock draft this year. But I’ve always loved this time of year to research and pretend to know what I’m talking about based on minutes upon hours and hours of watching highlights on YouTube. So, again, no mock, but here are just some random thoughts about how I think this weekend will go down in Nashville.

  • What is Arizona going to do with the first pick? Well, I think it is NOT going to be Kyler Murray, the standout QB out of Oklahoma. I’m not a believer in this year’s QB class but Murray is probably the top signal caller in this draft. I just think that’s not saying much. I don’t see Murray as a NFL caliber passer like Mayfield “appears” to be. He’s indeed a talented player. He can throw. He can run. He can be a playmaker. But the HOPE is that he can be Russell Wilson. Can be. Sounds too risky. Wilson is Wilson. But for every Wilson, there’s been 5 or 6 guys with similar skill sets and ran similar, fast, wide open offenses in college that just haven’t panned out. Bottom line is that Murray could be the next great thing in this league but I don’t see it right now as a sure thing. He is going to need work. Arizona DRAFTED a QB in the first round last year. Arizona was a bad team last season. They need to build that team up, put better players around that QB (Rosen) and not muddy the situation further. Arizona should take the best player available at 1 and that player is Ohio State Defensive End Nick Bosa.

 

  • So, where does that leave Murray? I predict that a big trade will happen. I think Arizona, San Fran, the Jets, or Oakland will be the ones to receive the “King’s Ransom”. Which team will pull the trigger? My first thought was maybe the New York Giants. They need to face the facts in the first place about Eli Manning and work on replacing him. If the Giants were crazy enough to trade away OBJ, maybe they would do the same in terms of finding a new QB. But now, I’m hearing a more logical option: Washington. It would be such a Dan Snyder move. Despite that fact such a trade would echo the disaster that was the RG3 situation, Washington is in desperate need for a QB. Freak accidents to Alex Smith and then Colt McCoy completely wrecked their 2018 and the signs are pointing to both of those guys not being back. Ever. Washington NEEDS a QB and I believe that they can convince themselves that Kyler Murray can be their “Russell Wilson”. I can only imagine the trade package they dream up but it will have to be ridiculous.

 

  • Again, I think Murray is the best QB in this draft. From what I’ve seen, I’m not impressed with Dook’s Daniel Jones. I don’t understand the whole “I’ve worked with David Cutcliffe and he knows the Mannings so that means he knows quarterbacks” angle. He might be a better passer but not nearly in the same class of a playmaker. Ohio State quarterbacks have burned me before (I really liked Cardale Jones) but I’m kind of rooting for Dwayne Haskins to fall into a good situation. I think he’s better than Jones and he’s a guy who has shown improvement during his time in college. I think it means something that he’s been able to show improvement as his college career went on. It shows that he’s coachable. I’m not a big fan of this QB class but other passers that intrigue me are West Virginia’s Will Grier and Buffalo’s Tyree Jackson.

 

  • As for the rest of the draft, ehhhhh, I don’t know. Let’s talk the AFC North because there’s been so much talk within that division this offseason. The Pittsburgh Steelers have replaced the Dallas Cowboys in terms of being in the news every week for some unimportant, social media back and forth or whatever. Despite all the talk about AB and Bell and the “Killer B” era ending without a championship, I hope the Steeler faithful realize that the real reason why that era ended the way it did was because of the opposite side of the football. The Steelers have had multiple draft misfires on defense during that time and THAT’S what held them back. I think Pittsburgh will probably look for help on the defense side again. They need to. Inside Linebacker, Cornerback, Safety, Pass Rusher. They are all options. They just need someone to really pan out. Either way, I’m excited about what is about to happen in that division. Because I believe that a changing of the guard is about to happen. You can place your faith in a 37-year-old QB and yes, Ben is still supremely talented. And yes, offensive talent can be replaced and reloaded and blah, blah, blah. But I believe that they will truly miss the production from those guys because they were really, really, good. Especially AB. Ben lead the league in passing last season, I know. But, Father Time is undefeated. So, Pittsburgh really needs a strong defensive draft to finally pan out. I’m not saying that I’m buying into all the Cleveland hype either. But I believe that they will at least be there. I won’t say that the Browns are automatically “contenders” because of the Odell Beckham Jr. trade. They certainly have the talent to maybe be an 8-win team. The AFC North schedule will be tough for all 4 teams in 2019. The Steelers COULD be an 9-10 win team. That’s not far from 8. I think the division will be a dogfight into December. I feel that even Cincinnati could be there. I’m excited to see what they can do now that they finally have a new regime. I wonder if they’ll take a new QB in Round One to really signal the end of the Marvin Lewis/Andy Dalton era. Too bad Baltimore’s defense was gutted in free agency. They now need as much defensive help as Pittsburgh. Either way, the changing of the guard is coming to the AFC North and personally, I can’t wait……

 

  • Let’s talk about my Cowboys finally, who do not have a first round pick. Which I’m not upset about. I guess the Amari Cooper trade “worked”. Dallas went on a run. Won the division. And now they at least have reasonable hope going into 2019. But that hope usually does not translate with this franchise for whatever reason in recent years (23 years to be exact). Especially following a “successful” season. What is a successful season for Dallas anymore? A playoff win? Sad. Anyways, I think Dallas can still find the help they need with their late round selections. A run stuffing DT could be an option. A young safety or tight end prospect could be in play as well. I really want to see which young running back they select because as good as Ezekiel Elliott is, he is still a RB. And watching him last year, I saw a guy who was TIRED. Because they are running him into the ground. Because he is Dallas’ greatest weapon on the entire team. You can’t really say that about any other team where the Running Back, the most expendable player in football, is THE guy who makes it work. PSU’s Miles Sanders, Stanford’s Bryce Love, and Trayveon Williams out of Texas A&M are runners that could be a nice fit.

2018 NFL MOCK Draft! (With Trades!)

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Penn State’s Saquon Barkley is the best player in this draft. Should Cleveland take him with the first overall pick?

By: Elias McMillan

 

It’s draft week and it is finally time for me to unveil my mock draft. Mock drafts can be classified as mostly pointless. Probably because we are overly saturated with them from the moment football season ends. I realized this and I ask myself, “How can I make my mock draft even more pointless?” This is how I arrived at the idea of doing my first mock draft with trades. Now, I’ll have selections and trade scenarios that probably will not happened. With that being said, (once again) the Cleveland Browns are on the clock…..

ROUND ONE

1. Cleveland Browns – Sam Darnold, QB, USC: Cleveland has the first overall pick again this year and this time, they will not pass on a QB. With that decision, they are risking missing out of the best player in the draft. But they do have enough assets to maybe trade up to the very next pick. With this selection, the Browns will give themselves a potential QB of the future to groom behind Tyrod Taylor. Sam Darnold will be the first QB taken in the draft for the same reason why Mitch Trubisky went at number two last year: potential. Darnold may not be ready to play right away but he has the potential to be a top QB in the league. There are QB’s in this draft that may have a better arm and may be more athletically gifted than Darnold, but he is play maker. We can’t get too wrapped up around arm strength. Darnold can get the ball out to his playmakers as well as any QB in this draft.

((((TRADE)))) Giants trade second overall pick and 4th rounder (108) to Bills for 12th overall pick, 22nd overall, 2nd round pick (56), and a 2019 1st round pick

2. Buffalo Bills – Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA: After dumping Tyrod Taylor to Cleveland, Buffalo needs to make the big move up to grab a franchise QB. The Giants could very well take a QB or the best player available here. But they seem to be committed to Eli Manning for one more year (for some reason) and I think the Bills will give the Giants an offer that they can’t refuse. It would be funny if the Giants said no to THREE first rounders just to draft a running back but I don’t see that happening. The Giants will gain future assets with the haul from Buffalo and the Bills will get a QB in Rosen who is the most pro ready out of this draft class.

3. New York Jets – Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma: The Jets traded up with the Colts to take a QB and I have them taking the Heisman winner out of Oklahoma. Baker Mayfield has been a lightning rod for discussion for some reason during this draft process. I think Mayfield has plenty of question marks from his hype and his attitude but I think he is a good player. My issue with him is that he has most likely peaked already as a QB. Mayfield was a walk-on at a D-1 program and ended up winning the Heisman at one of the most storied programs in college football. Its an amazing story. For him to be successful at the next level, I think he needs time to soak up information in a veteran heavy locker room in order to humble himself. The Jets already have a couple of vets at the position so, Mayfield will have plenty of time to study up and later prove himself.

4. Cleveland Browns – Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State: This is the dream scenario if your Cleveland. You take a risk with drafting a QB first overall but then the best player in the draft is still available at the fourth pick. I have been a long time supporter of NOT drafting a running back in the top 10 of the draft but I’m willing to ignore that this time because of the team involved. My thing is that team’s that regularly compete for championships usually do not draft RB’s early. Well, Cleveland isn’t competing for championships anytime soon. They just need to best talent. I think Barkley was better at Penn State than Ezekiel Elliott and Leonard Fournette were in college. Barkley has everything you would want at the RB position and he would join a talented RB group in Cleveland, which will be key for keeping him fresh. Barkley could totally transform the Browns offense and the league, as he reminds me of the second coming of Marshall Faulk.

5. Denver Broncos – Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming: I don’t believe that John Elway is ready to roll with Case Keenum. I’m not a big fan of Josh Allen but I know that he’ll probably end up going after Mayfield in the draft. Allen has the strongest arm in the draft and is sort of athletic, so the scouts absolutely love him. I feel like QB’s like him always look the part during the process getting to the draft but then they end up not panning out. I can see Denver falling for this in this draft.

6. Indianapolis Colts – Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State: The Colts, who traded back, will end the run on QB’s. Bradley Chubb is the best pass rusher in this draft. Chubb isn’t as dynamic as an athlete as last year’s number one pick, Myles Garrett. But he is still really good and the Colts sack totals as a team last season ranked among the bottom in the league. They could absolutely use his talents.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Minkah Fitzpatrick, S/CB, Alabama: Minkah Fitzpatrick is one of the most versatile players in this draft. Tampa could use him as a ball hawk safety or as a pass defender in nickel situations. Fitzpatrick has a knack for making plays around the football and thats something that the Bucs defense could use. Their pass defense ranked last in the league in 2017.

8. Chicago Bears – Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech: The Bears need a new inside presence at linebacker. Edmunds looks like he could play for the Bulls. He is crazy athletic but plays with a certain physicality that will make him popular with Chicago fans.

((((TRADE)))) 49ers trade ninth overall pick to Giants for 12th overall pick and 2nd round pick (34).

9. New York Giants – Quentin Nelson, OG, Notre Dame: After trading out of the top ten, the Giants return to help their offensive line. Nelson is regarded as the best offensive lineman in the draft and drafting him could go a long ways in helping the Giants run game improve.

10. Oakland Raiders – Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia: Roquan Smith is probably the best LB in the draft and rumor has it that Jon Gruden really likes him. Smith could probably go higher than 10 but there are some whispers about injury concerns. But if healthy, Smith will be a do-it-all defender in the middle of the Raiders defense for years to come.

11. Miami Dolphins – Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama: The Dolphins need a Ndamukong Suh replacement. Payne is a disruptor that would shine in Miami’s 4-3 scheme.

12. San Francisco 49ers – Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State: The Niners will land the best corner in the draft. Ward is a short but scrappy defender. He offers great speed and quickness while supplying ideal support in the run game as a tackler. Richard Sherman will serve as a great mentor for him.

13. Washington – Vita Vea, DT, Washington: Washington had the worst run defense in the league last season despite having one of the better defensive tackles dropping to them in the first round of last year’s draft. Vita Vea is an absolute load that will demand plenty of attention from opposing offensive lineman.

14. Green Bay Packers – Marcus Davenport, OLB/DE, UTSA: I think the Packers will think hard about taking a WR here but I also think they need to start thinking about life after Clay Matthews. I have them taking Marcus Davenport. He’s a small school product but is one of the best edge defenders in this draft.

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Lamar Jackson probably should be drafted in the top ten.

15. Arizona Cardinals – Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville: I don’t like the way Arizona handled their QB situation during this offseason. Placing your faith in Sam Bradford and Mike Glennon doesn’t really inspire much confidence. But it does tell me that they need to think about taking a QB for the future. Lamar Jackson is as talented as any QB in this draft. There are question marks about his durability, his arm, and his talent as a passer. But you could easily say the same about every QB in this draft. Jackson may have to prove himself as a passer early in his career but he has one thing that is undeniable in his wheelhouse: speed. Jackson has “home run” capable speed in his arsenal, which will make him attractive to NFL teams. I think Arizona would be smart to take a chance with this kid who won the Heisman as a junior in college.

16. Baltimore Ravens – Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame: Baltimore could go a lot of ways with this selection. I chose for them to play it safe and shore up the right side of their offensive line. The Ravens could potentially take Joe Flacco’s successor here or a new weapon in the passing game. But, an offensive tackle to help that offense isn’t a bad idea.

17. Los Angeles Chargers – Derwin James, S, Florida State: This will probably be consider a steal in most draft circles. Derwin James is a “do-it-all” defender in the secondary. I question how high his ceiling is as he doesn’t seem like a great pass defender but more of a “in-the-box” safety. But his athleticism and physicality will help him become very successful no matter the role he finds in the secondary.

18. Seattle Seahawks – Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa: Richard Sherman is gone. The Legion of Boom is going under a face lift and a corner here would make a ton of sense.

((((TRADE)))) Cowboys trade 19th overall pick and 4th round pick (116) to Patriots for 23rd overall pick and 2nd round pick (63).

19. New England Patriots – Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA: The Patriots desperately need a replacement for Nate Solder on the offensive line. So, they’ll trade up with Dallas to grab the next best tackle. Kolton Miller will remain Patriots fans of Solder with how tall he is and hopefully with his play. New England will need Miller to play at a high level right away especially for an older QB.

20. Detroit Lions – Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan: The Lions are looking for youth on the defensive line. Hurst, from near by Ann Arbor, is undersized but very talented as a pass rusher.

21. Cincinnati Bengals – James Daniels, C, Iowa: Cincinnati’s running game has suffered in the last couple seasons. They need to shore up the interior of their offensive line to help Joe Mixon and Gio Bernard.

22. New York Giants – Harold Landry, DE, Boston College: After trading away Jason Pierre Paul, the Giants are in need for pass rushers. Landry has been one of the top pass rushers in college football during the last two seasons. He will fill a need for the Giants who have this selection due to a trade earlier with Buffalo.

23. Dallas Cowboys – Will Hernandez, OG, UTEP: Dallas could easily go with a WR or LB in the first round. But I think the Dez Bryant release taught us that they will depend heavily on the run game going forward now more than ever. Dallas can solidify the left guard position by drafting Hernandez who is an absolute mauler.

24. Carolina Panthers – Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama: Cam Newton would love this selection. Ridley is the first WR off the board but he will probably go before the 24th pick. Ridley offers great speed and elite route running but he isn’t your prototypical Alabama receiver. He isn’t as physically gifted as Julio Jones and he is more like a lesser version of Amari Cooper. Ridley is a good player and he could be a good pro but he doesn’t have that “wow” factor like WR’s in past drafts.

25. Tennessee Titans – Leighton Vader Esch, LB, Boise State: Vader Esch is another player who might go closer to the middle of the first round despite rumors about his health. He is a good down hill tackler as a LB and he would provide some much needed depth at the position for Tennessee.

26. Atlanta Falcons – Taven Bryan, DT, Florida: Florida’s Taven Bryan will offer some versatility on the Falcons defensive line. He is big enough to play inside and is athletic enough to rush from the outside. He is raw as a football player and he may be a project before becoming a full time contributor.

27. New Orleans Saints – Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina: The Saints get Drew Brees the top TE in the draft.  Hurst, a former baseball player, could help create some mismatches with his height.

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With the Ryan Shazier injury, Pittsburgh could really use a LB like Rashaan Evans

28. Pittsburgh Steelers – Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama: Pittsburgh needs LB help with the status of Ryan Shazier in the air. Taking a Alabama LB has proven to be risky recently outside of Baltimore’s CJ Mosley. But Evans is among one the most talented players at the position in the draft. I think he is undersized but in a 3-4 scheme, Pittsburgh could use him in the middle or as a situational pass rusher.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars – D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland: Moore is probably my favorite WR in this draft. Moore is a quick, tough, playmaker who reminds me of another Maryland receiver: Stephon Diggs. Jacksonville should be looking for a WR after losing Allen Robinson in free agency.

30. Minnesota Vikings – Isaiah Wynn, OG, Georgia: Minnesota is excited about Kirk Cousins but they should really be excited about the return of Dalvin Cook who missed most of last season due to injury. With a healthy Cook and this selection of a young, upcoming guard, Minnesota could have a really strong running game.

31. New England Patriots – Carlton Davis, CB, Auburn: New England’s secondary has been a joke for a while now. They need help.

32. Philadelphia Eagles – Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville: Philadelphia’s secondary isn’t that much better than New England’s. Jaire Alexander is a playmaker who does his most damage as a returner, usually after interceptions.

ROUND TWO

33. Cleveland Browns – Harrison Phillips, DT, Stanford: Cleveland can address their run defense with this selection.

34. San Francisco 49ers – Justin Reid, S, Stanford: San Francisco moved on from Eric Reid so they’ll draft his little brother from nearby Stanford here.

35. Cleveland Browns – Brian O’Neill, OT, Pittsburgh: Joe Thomas retired this offseason. The Browns need young bodies on that offensive line.

36. Indianapolis Colts – Derrius Guice, RB, LSU: Frank Gore left to go home to Miami. Indy desperately needs a young RB.

37. Indianapolis Colts – Mike Hughes, CB, Central Florida: The Colts have two straight selections in round two. With the second one, they’ll take a corner to replace Vontae Davis who was traded away to Buffalo.

38. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Sony Michel, RB, Georgia: Sony Michel has shot up draft boards during this process. He was considered the “second banana” in the backfield while at Georgia but he helped form one of the better RB duos in CFB. Michel isn’t the fastest RB but he can get tough yards and prove to be valuable on passing downs.

39. Chicago Bears – Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado: You can never have enough corners.

40. Denver Broncos – Ronald Jones, RB, USC: Denver recently cut C.J. Anderson and that created a need at RB.

41. Oakland Raiders – Joseph Noteboom, OT, TCU: Oakland needs depth behind Donald Penn at tackle.

42. Miami Dolphins – Mike Gesicki, TE, Penn State: This could be the steal of the draft. Gesicki has the ideal size and speed that team’s would want at TE. Miami needs a target at TE after the disaster that was Julius Thomas.

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New England needs to find a possible Brady successor in round two. Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph could be it.

43. New England Patriots – Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State: The Patriots got rid of three different Tom Brady backups in the past two years. Rudolph would make a lot of sense here.

44. Washington – Donte Jackson, CB, LSU: Washington doesn’t have much at corner behind Norman and newly acquired Orlando Scandrick.

45. Green Bay Packers – Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M: Kirk will prove to be a great receiver in the slot for Aaron Rodgers.

46. Cincinnati Bengals – Darius Leonard, OLB, South Carolina State: The Bengals need to start grooming a replacement for the problematic Vontaze Burfict at LB. Leonard is a small school product but offers much athleticism.

47. Arizona Cardinals – Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma: Arizona had one of the worst offensive line last season. They need to explore a way to upgrade that unit for no matter who is starting at QB.

48. Los Angeles Chargers – Tim Settle, DT, Virginia Tech: The Chargers need to get younger on the defensive line. Tim Settle is one of the biggest defensive tackles in the draft and he’ll help improve LA’s run defense.

49.Indianapolis Colts – Connor Williams, OG/OT, Texas: The Colts could use a young blocker to help improve their run game. Conor Williams could play at tackle or move inside to guard.

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After the release of Dez Bryant, Dallas might not have to look far for WR help.

50. Dallas Cowboys – Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU: Dallas created a need at WR when they released Dez Bryant last week. Courtland Sutton is a local kid who would love the chance to become an outside threat for Dak Prescott in the passing game. Sutton isn’t a speedster but his size makes it hard for defenders to deal with. He could develop as a new jump ball target in the red zone for Dallas.

51. Detroit Lions – Billy Price, OG/C, Ohio State: The Lions need help at improving one of the worst running games in football from a season ago. The selection of Price would address the woes on the interior of Detroit’s offensive line.

52. Baltimore Ravens – Tegray Scales, LB, Indiana: Baltimore needs depth at LB behind all-pro C.J. Mosley.

53. Buffalo Bills – Anthony Miller, WR, Memphis: Miller could develop into an ideal slot receiver as a pro.

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Arden Key was a pass rush specialist at LSU

54. Kansas City Chiefs – Arden Key, OLB, LSU: After the departure of Tamba Hali, the Chiefs need to find younger pass rushers. Key is undersized but could excel as an outside rusher in a 3-4 defense.

55. Carolina Panthers – Ronnie Harrison, S, Alabama: Carolina needs help in the secondary after addressing the offensive side of the ball earlier.

56. New York Giants – Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia: Chubb might have a lot of milage on him but he was one of the most talented backs in college football during his time at Georgia.

57. Tennessee Titans – Lorenzo Carter, OLB, Georgia: Tennessee can use Carter for depth behind veterans Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan.

58. Atlanta Falcons – Dallas Goedert, TE, South Dakota State: Atlanta never get enough out of the TE position. They need an upgrade.

59. San Francisco 49ers – Austin Corbett, OG, Nevada: This pick would be for depth for recently signed Jonathan Cooper.

60. Pittsburgh Steelers – Will Richardson, OT, NC State: Pittsburgh’s offensive line is pretty good but they aren’t getting younger. Especially at the tackle position.

61. Jacksonville Jaguars – Jerome Baker, OLB, Ohio State: Jacksonville may need a young LB to replace Paul Posluszny who recently retired.

62. Minnesota Vikings – Sam Hubbard, DE, Ohio State: You can never have enough pass rushers.

63. Dallas Cowboys – Nyheim Hines, RB, NC State: This could be a reach but Dallas needs to think about the RB position after the retirement of Darren McFadden and Alfred Morris was not resigned. Hines is a speedy back who could develop into a Darren Sproles type player.

64. Cleveland Browns – James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State: Washington was regarded as one of the top pass catchers in the nation while at Oklahoma State. He could provide whoever is at QB with a pretty reliable target.

 

NFL 2017: Mid-Season Report

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

By: Elias McMillan

 

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

 

Top 5 Surprising Teams

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

 

Top 5 Disappointing Teams

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

 

Mid Season Awards

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

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

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

My REVISED Pick of Super Bowl 52

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

 

NFL 2017: Week 7 Predictions!

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After handing Kansas City their first loss of 2017, Pittsburgh sets its eyes on Cincinnati and the AFC North.

By: Elias McMillan

 

Last Week: 8-6

Season: 50-41

Big Five Games of the Week

Arizona @ Los Angeles Rams – The Cardinals could put themselves right back in the discussion in the NFC West with a win over the Rams in London on Sunday. Arizona has had a rough start to this season. They lost RB David Johnson and their defense has been a major disappointment. But the arrival of RB Adrian Peterson last week has put some life back into the Cardinals offense. The Rams are currently in first place in the NFC West. Crazy, I know. They are finally seeing the fruits of their individual talent from a couple of players (Gurley, Donald, etc.) but as a team they are still inconsistent. The Rams and Cardinals both have defenses that give up a lot on the ground and through the air. I’ll place my faith in the three old guys (Peterson, Palmer, & Fitzgerald) though the Rams will probably have the best player on the field. Prediction: Cardinals 33 – Rams 23

Baltimore @ Minnesota – With Rookie RD Dalvin Cook going down to an injury weeks ago, it felt like the excitement about Minnesota’s season went with him. But suddenly, hope springs enteral for the guys in Purple. Aaron Rodgers was taken out last week, they secured the home victory over Green Bay, and QB Teddy Bridgewater is getting ready to return. What a tremendous turn around this could be. But the Vikings can’t get ahead of themselves. They still have to take care of business at home this week against a floundering Baltimore team. Are we seeing the end of Joe Flacco? Baltimore’s offense is a mess and maybe Flacco isn’t sole to blame but he hasn’t been exactly lighting it up this season. Baltimore’s offensive struggles serve right into Minnesota’s strength: defense. Prediction: Vikings 28 – Ravens 14

Cincinnati @ Pittsburgh – The Steelers are following a familiar pattern this season. Playing down to weak opponents then playing up against stronger one. This has been in full display the last two weeks with what happened at home against Jacksonville then last week at undefeated Kansas City. Can the Steelers find some consistency? This Sunday at home against a AFC North rival would be a great time for the Steelers to stop tripping over themselves and start playing like the title contenders everyone thought they would be. Pittsburgh is taking Cincinnati seriously despite the Bengals struggles this season. Cincy has been playing better since Week 1 and are coming to Pittsburgh off a bye week, so they should be fresh. This will be a long, drawn out chess match with both teams attempting to control the clock with the run game. Pittsburgh will not be overly aggressive which will allow the Bengals to believe that they can actually hang with them. But, despite their issues, the Steelers are still the class of the AFC North and they’ll prove it Sunday at home. Prediction: Steelers 29 – Bengals 21

Atlanta @ New England – I almost called New England losing at the Jets last week. I could see it coming. New England has grossly under achieved so far this season but there’s no panic in Bean town thanks to the awful division they play in. I can’t explain what happened to the Falcons last week. To blow a 17 point lead at home to Miami? They must have been over looking the Dolphins in anticipation to this primetime Super Bowl rematch. The Patriots haven’t been great at home, losing there to Carolina, Kansas City, and nearly Houston. Atlanta can forget about what happened last week at home. They’ve been clearly waiting for this opportunity to exorcise the demons from last year’s Super Bowl meltdown. Matt Ryan and the Falcons offense will jump on the home team early and look to make a point in this one. Prediction: Falcons 34 – Patriots 27   

Washington @ Philadelphia – All aboard the Philadelphia hype train. The Eagles are 5-1 and since they’re in the NFC East, all eyes are on them right now. Allow me to quickly throw shade. Who have the Eagles beaten? I guess their most impressive win was at Carolina but they were gifted in that one by a couple of horrible throws by Cam Newton. Looking down the Eagles schedule and they have a cupcake city trail that will probably lead to a 10 win season. I can’t believe it but its true. Sigh. Washington was never going to be a player in the NFC East this year but I was impressed by their defense. That unit is starting to suffer through some injuries and Kirk Cousins and the Washington offense won’t be able to save them. Philly should roll at home. Prediction: Eagles 30 – Washington 20

The Rest of Week 7

Chiefs over Raiders – Oakland has no defense. Kansas City’s offense should be able to rebound on the short week.

Bills over Buccaneers – Tampa Bay will be on my list of most disappointing teams this season. Buffalo’s defense is tough and Tyrod Taylor will have some chances for some big plays at home against Tampa’s defense.

Panthers over Bears – Cam Newton was brutal at the end of last week’s game against the Eagles. I hope he has himself figured out this week. They can’t sleep on Chicago’s defense. They have young talent.

Titans over Browns – There’s no hope is Cleveland. Tennessee must start stacking victories if they hope to win their division.

Saints over Packers – The Aaron Rodgers injury is an absolute killer. Now, Green Bay’s roster will be exposed for just not being very good. Rodgers hid a lot of problems for the Packers.

Jaguars over Colts – Jacksonville’s seesaw season continues. And Andrew Luck has had a setback during his recovery. He can’t wait to get out of Indianapolis.

Jets over Dolphins – Toss-up game here. I’m rooting for Todd Bowles. He’s a good coach and the Jets looked like over achievers last week.

Cowboys over 49ers – Trap game for Dallas coming off the bye. They can’t let their lack of defense lose it for them. Control the clock with the run game and limit San Fran’s big plays.

Seahawks over Giants – New York could make things hard for Seattle on the road judging off what they did to Denver last week. Seattle’s defense must set the tone early in this one.

Broncos over Chargers – Denver better show up this week. They were nowhere to be found at home last Sunday.

 

Fantasy Football Picks of the Week

QB: Matt Ryan (Falcons) – New England gives up the most yardage through the air this season. Ryan will attack and attack often.

RB: C.J Anderson (Broncos) – The Chargers allow the most yardage through the ground this season. With the question marks Denver has at QB, they should lean on Anderson and the run game.

WR: Dez Bryant (Cowboys) – I want to see Dez have a multiple TD game against a weak 49ers secondary.

TE: Travis Kelce (Chiefs) – Oakland can’t defend the pass. Kelce has been the heartbeat of the Chiefs passing attack this season.

DEF: Minnesota – Joe Flacco will not be able to beat this defense.

NFL 2017: Preseason Awards & Playoff Predictions

 

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Oakland Raiders

Here’s a Super Bowl Prediction that is guaranteed not to come true. Maybe.

By: Elias McMillan

 

First, here are my picks for the 2017 post-season awards:

MVP: Tom Brady, QB (New England Patriots) – Despite missing the first four games of the season and not having his number one weapon in the passing game (Rob Gronkowski), Tom Brady still had a dream season in 2016. Going into to this season, Brady has Gronk healthy and an even talented WR core to work with. And he is determined to break the Madden Curse. I think Brady will turn back the clock again this year.

Offensive MVP: David Johnson, RB (Arizona Cardinals) – Ezekiel Elliott and Le’Veon Bell get most of the headlines when it comes to RB’s in the league but David Johnson can be just as productive. I think Arizona will continue to lean on him this season. Especially, with Arizona’s questions in the passing game.

Defensive MVP: J.J Watt, DE (Houston Texans) – Watt will probably will NFL Man of the Year with the work he has done in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. But Watt will also have the goal of reminding the league this year of how dominant he can be. I think he will have a huge season lining up opposite of Clowney.

Offensive Rookie of the Year: Christian McCaffrey, RB (Carolina Panthers) – I criticized this draft pick numerous times since April. But Carolina seems to be highly impressed with what McCaffrey will bring to this offense. He will definitely get the touches in Carolina and his numbers will impress in his first season.

Defensive Rookie of the Year: Reuben Foster, LB (San Francisco 49ers) – Its an absolute shame that Foster dropped all the way to the bottom of round one in this past draft. Foster will be playing this first season with a chip on his shoulder and will remind 49er fans of Patrick Willis.

Comeback Player of the Year: Earl Thomas, S (Seattle Seahawks) – Earl Thomas was pondering retirement when he went down with a significant knee injury last season. Now, he will have a chance to be apart of a pretty good Seattle defense once again. He will prove to be the most valuable piece of the Seahawk defense this year.

Coach of the Year: Bill Belichick (New England Patriots) – It seems like Belichick has everything. Its been a while since he has won this award. New England is bound to have a killer regular season this year so, why not?

And now, here is my forecast for the playoffs this season. As a reminder, here are the teams I see qualifying in 2017:

AFC

  1. New England Patriots – 15-1 (AFC East)
  2. Oakland Raiders – 12-4 (AFC West)
  3. Pittsburgh Steelers – 11-5 (AFC North)
  4. Tennessee Titans – 10-6 (AFC South)
  5. Houston Texans – 9-7 (Wild-card)
  6. Denver Broncos – 9-7 (Wild-card)

NFC

  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)

Wild-Card Weekend

AFC: (3) Steelers over (6) Broncos, (5) Texans over (4) Titans

NFC: (3) Giants over (6) Buccaneers, (5) Cardinals over (4) Packers

Divisional Round

AFC: (1) Patriots over (5) Texans, (2) Raiders over (3) Steelers

NFC: (1) Falcons over (5) Cardinals, (3) Giants over (2) Seahawks

Conference Championship Sunday

AFC: (2) Raiders over (1) Patriots

NFC: (1) Falcons over (3) Giants

Super Bowl LII from U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota

Atlanta Falcons over Oakland Raiders

Recap: The Patriots might have been the number seed in the AFC playoffs last season but they were not supremely talented. They traded away many of their better defensive players. They had injury problems on offense. And they still won the Super Bowl last February. This offseason, the Patriots reloaded much like they did in 2010. And much like 2010, I think we will see New England slice through the regular season only to see them fall short in the playoffs. I think Oakland needs this season. That fan base in Oakland is ready to tear the city apart. They need one last shot at glory while in that city. I think David Carr will return this season and play at a high level. Oakland has some things to figure out defensively but behind Khalil Mack and that talented front seven, they’ll get after the QB and they’ll administer some revenge in Foxboro in January. In the NFC, I think we’ll see a two-dog race between Atlanta and Seattle. I have the Giants as a sleeper team because I like their defense and that have so many offensive weapons. But Atlanta’s defense is young and on the rise. Coming off of what happened last year, I believe Atlanta will ride a story of redemption all the way back to the Super Bowl. I know that Atlanta has a long history of folding under pressure. I know picking a team to return to the Super Bowl and win really isn’t bold and it kind of jinxes it. But I had to pick somebody. I think Atlanta can correct the ending from a season ago this upcoming February in Minneapolis. But then again, it is September.

 

 

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)