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NFL 2018: Week 11 Predictions

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Chicago Bears

Chicago could get a leg up on the NFC North at home Sunday against the Vikings.

 

By: Elias McMillan

Last Week: 9-5

Season: 81-65-2

Big Five Games of the Week

Dallas @ Atlanta – This could be an elimination game for both these teams. Dallas and Atlanta have been inconsistent this season but for different reasons. Realistically, Dallas is right where they should be. They have a defense that will keep them in most games but an offense that has gotten better since acquiring WR Amari Cooper but is still not explosive enough. Atlanta has suffered through some injuries on both sides of the ball but they still offer a talented roster on paper. But they have the tendency to under perform or to completely no-show like they did last week in Cleveland. I think Atlanta’s problems lie within the coaching staff, which is clearly not getting the most out of this roster. I guess, you could say the same for Dallas but they nearly have the same talent on offense. I think both teams understand the situation on Sunday and that will make for a competitive game. Dallas will play tough on the road but I think Atlanta’s offense will overwhelm at some point in the second half. Winner: Falcons

Houston @ Washington – I’m a believer in Washington’s defense. I also believe that this Houston team, though coming off a bye, is capable of laying an egg offensively. But then again, I don’t really trust Washington’s offense outside of RB Adrian Peterson. I just think Washington’s defense will be able to make a bigger impact on the game than Houston’s. If Alex Smith can make fewer mistakes than DeShaun Watson, I think he’ll be able to ride that defense and running game in a low scoring contest. Winner: Washington

Philadelphia @ New Orleans – The Super Bowl hangover in Philadelphia is real. New Orleans’ status as a contender in the NFC since their opening season loss is real. The Eagles are facing a tough road if they want to have a chance to win the division and a loss here could pretty much crush those dreams. The Saints are on a roll right now with no signs of slowing. Though, they have played in some tough games at home this season. I doubt that Philly will knock them off. Winner: Saints

Minnesota @ Chicago – I think the NFC North will come down to these two teams. Chicago has shown flashes of a team that could be a contender but I think they are still a few years away. QB Mitch Trubisky has had some impressive outings but he still occasionally makes mistakes that could be fixed as time goes on. I could see him struggle against a strong defense but I’m not sure if Minnesota has that anymore. Minnesota lost their defense from last season somehow which has led them to under perform at times. I feel good about Minnesota’s offense though with Dalvin Cook back from injury. I think the Vikings should lean on their run game in order to keep Khalil Mack from dominating in the backfield. I also like Minnesota’s advantage they have in the passing game with the weapons Kirk Cousins has at wide out. Chicago will play inspired at home but I believe Minnesota has the better team. These teams do meet again in Week 17. Winner: Vikings

Kansas City @ LA Rams – This will be a fun one to watch. The Rams and the Chiefs will provide plenty of offensive fireworks. The winner may come down to which defense can produce the most stops. LA is pretty strong up front defensively with what they have in Aaron Donald and the addition of Dante Fowler has paid off immediately. But their secondary has struggled recently. I expect Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs offense to take full advantage. Kansas City’s defense gives up a lot of yards as well. But I’ll bet on Mahomes to out gun sling Jared Goff especially with Goff playing with a short handed receiving core. We also can’t write off Todd Gurley and Kareem Hunt’s impact in this game. Again, this one will just be a fun game to watch. Winner: Chiefs

The Rest of Week 11

Seahawks over Packers – Both teams are extremely average. Seattle is usually a strong team at home. Something strange usually happens when these two teams play.

Panthers over Lions – Carolina will be eager to rebound after getting punched in the mouth last week.

Titans over Colts – Tennessee looks like they are preparing for a run at the AFC South crown.

Buccaneers over Giants – The Giants are hard to watch on offense. Especially with all the weapons they have. It’s obvious that the QB is holding them back.

Steelers over Jaguars – It’s a shame what is happening in Jacksonville. They have fallen completely off the rails. Barring a letdown, Pittsburgh should absolutely smack them.

Ravens over Bengals – Baltimore’s QB situation could be an interesting thing to watch in this one. I know the Ravens will be able to lean on their defense against a Cincinnati offense that is struggling.

Cardinals over Raiders – Oakland looks worse and worse each week.

Chargers over Broncos – LA may have two teams in the post season this year.

Fantasy Football Picks of the Week

QB: Patrick Mahomes (Chiefs) – Mahomes has played big in prime time games this season.

RB: Melvin Gordon (Chargers) – Gordon has been a consistent scorer near the goal line for LA.

WR: Michael Thomas (Saints) – The Eagles secondary caught the injury bug at the worst possible time.

TE: Greg Olsen (Panthers) – Back from injury, Olsen is once again Cam Newton’s security blanket in the passing game.

DEF: Baltimore – With no A.J. Green and a banged up offensive line, Baltimore’s pass rushers will be able to pin their ears back and get after Andy Dalton on Sunday.

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NFL 2018: Week 9 Predictions

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Can Todd Gurley and the Rams stay unbeaten in the Super Dome?

 

By: Elias McMillan

Last Week: 12-2

Season: 64-55-2

Big Five Games of the Week

Atlanta @ Washington – I don’t think I’ll let my mind convince me that Washington is the real deal. But with the current shape of the NFC East, they may be good enough to win that division. I can at least admit that they have addressed and improved in one of their weaker areas. Washington has a top ranked run-stopping defense this year and it is helping them tough out some victories. Atlanta is a team with an amazing roster on paper but they are extremely average on the field. Despite that, I think they have enough firepower on offense to really test Washington’s defense. I don’t think Atlanta will be able to run the ball but they could be in good shape if they can protect Matt Ryan. That’s a “big if” and I don’t trust Atlanta on the road at all. They are a constant under achiever. Hone this one up to wishful thinking. Winner: Falcons

Pittsburgh @ Baltimore – The Ravens got completely outclassed last week in Carolina. They have to be telling themselves that this is a must “bounce back” week with Pittsburgh coming to town. There has been a lot of drama surrounding the Steelers this season but they are currently riding high. That’s probably because they played Cleveland last week. I feel that Pittsburgh is all “gassed up” and cocky after last week. The Ravens beat them earlier this season in a game that wasn’t as close as the scoreboard indicated. I think Baltimore will regroup at home on Sunday and those issues that Pittsburgh still have defensively will rear its ugly head once more. Winner: Ravens

LA Chargers @ Seattle – Seattle has been a surprise this season because they were supposed to stink. Now, they can even beat bad teams on the road. The Chargers are fairly decent at 5-2 and they should prove to be a tough out for the Seahawks, even at home. But I feel like we can still count on the Chargers to be wildly inconsistent and for Seattle to be a cruel place for opponents on the road.  Winner: Seahawks

LA Rams @ New Orleans – The Rams have been the most impressive team in the league this season and their undefeated record shows that. Last week against Green Bay, it felt like they were running out of gas. New Orleans has had their rough stretches this season but they are starting to resemble a real contender. This matchup will have plenty of offensive fireworks and the team with the ball last will probably end up winning. I think home field advantage will play a huge factor on the outcome. Winner: Saints

Green Bay @ New England – Green Bay’s defense over achieved last week in LA and they probably deserved to win that game. I don’t know if I can trust that same unit in constitutive weeks. New England is banged up on both sides of the ball. I can see this matchup being actually what everyone wants to see: a duel between two of the greatest QB’s of all time. Winner: Patriots

 

The Rest of Week 9

Raiders over 49ers – San Francisco is starting a QB tonight who doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page. If Oakland loses tonight, Jon Gruden should be fired.

Bears over Bills – Chicago’s defense faces the Peterman! Should be fun.

Chiefs over Browns – The mastermind of Bounty gate is now the head man in Cleveland. Should KC avoid starting Patrick Mahomes Sunday? Serious question.

Jets over Dolphins – The Jets can use their running game to dominant Miami on the road.

Vikings over Lions – Detroit doesn’t look like a team ready to compete for a playoff spot.

Panthers over Buccaneers – Fitzmagic is back! But Carolina is playing some of its best football currently.

Texans over Broncos – Denver will be punch-less on offense. The Broncos can be tough at home but I think Houston should roll.

Cowboys over Titans – Tennessee isn’t very good. These are the games that Dallas should be able to win.

 

Fantasy Football Picks of the Week

QB: Cam Newton (Panthers) – After dismantling Baltimore’s defense, Newton has a favorable matchup this week against the 2ndworst defense in the league.

RB: Lamar Miller (Texans) – Miller ran it well against a weak Miami defense last week. Denver’s run defense isn’t that much better.

WR: Michael Thomas (Saints) – I like Drew Brees’ top target to have an impressive stat line in a game that will give the scoreboard operator a workout.

TE: Travis Kelce (Chiefs) – With Tyreek Hill banged up, Kelce could see some extra targets.

DEF: Chicago – An easy choice with the Peterman starting for Buffalo.

NFL 2018: Week 5 Predictions (Condensed)

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Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes is the talk of the league. On Sunday, he’ll face a tough Jacksonville defense.

By: Elias McMillan

 

Last Week: 7-8

Season: 29-32-2

Week 5 Predictions

Patriots over Colts – New England is going to start playing good football again after another shaky start to the season. The return of Julian Edelman may help as well.

Titans over Bills – I was impressed with Marcus Mariota last week. Tennessee is stringing together victories with little fan fare surrounding them.

Bengals over Dolphins – I was just beginning to warm up to Miami but then they completely crapped themselves last week in New England. Cincy may be able to jump on them early if they take away from the turnovers.

Ravens over Browns – Cleveland was robbed last week. It’s a real shame too because Baltimore is playing well right now.

Packers over Lions – Not too confident in Green Bay but Detroit did lose at Dallas last week.

Jaguars over Chiefs – I think the Jaguars defense at the least will slow down Kansas City’s offensive attack. Also, the Chiefs have major issues on defense.

Broncos over Jets – The Jets looked so good in Week 1. Everything since then has been a disaster.

Steelers over Falcons – Two bad defenses here. Start Matt Ryan and Ben Roethlisberger in fantasy this week. As for the game, it’s going to be a toss up. Atlanta has too many injuries in their secondary currently.

Panthers over Giants – New York is working each week to get better. That’s the nicest thing I can say about them right now. Carolina should be fresh coming off the bye.

Chargers over Raiders – Jon Gruden should be winless in 2018.

Eagles over Vikings – What happened to Minnesota’s defense? Carson Wentz should have a field day at home Sunday.

49ers over Cardinals – I like the way San Francisco fought last week. I think they’ll be able to carry over to this Sunday at home.

Rams over Seahawks – The LA offensive attack will not show mercy against the Earl Thomas-less Seattle secondary.

Texans over Cowboys – Dallas can not win on odd weeks against mobile QB’s. Yeah. That’s what I’m going with. Look it up.

Saints over Washington – To be honest, I like Washington here in a sneaky upset. I just don’t trust the Saints defense and Washington’s defense is underrated. It should be a close one. I’ll bet on the home team.

NFL 2018: Week 3 Predictions

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After a week of drama, the Steelers will now have to deal with Fitzmagic.

 

By: Elias McMillan

Last Week: 8-7-1

Season: 16-14-2

Big Five Games of the Week

New Orleans @ Atlanta – The Saints haven’t looked like the Super Bowl contenders that everyone pegged them as before the season started. Their secondary on defense has struggled and the offense is mistake prone. Atlanta also seems to be stuck in neutral despite their talented roster. But I think they are in better shape currently compared to New Orleans. I like Atlanta to get their second straight division win at home. Winner: Falcons

Cincinnati @ Carolina – Cincy is undefeated but the Joe Mixon injury concerns me. I think if their defense can get after Cam Newton, they can win this game. But I’m not too confident in Andy Dalton on the road. Carolina played good enough to win last week in Atlanta. I think their offense will continue to make big plays at home this week. Winner: Panthers

Tennessee @ Jacksonville – The Titans were Jacksonville’s Achilles heel last season. After a statement win last week vs. New England, the Jaguars face another important test this week. Tennessee is banged up at the QB position but they were still able to beat a talented Houston team last week. I think the Jags will receive a boost with RB Leonard Fournette returning to the line up Sunday. Jacksonville is playing right now with supreme confidence on defense. I also like what I saw last week out of the Jacksonville WR core. These divisional games can always be tough but I would expect Jacksonville to at least take the one in the matchup played in their home. Winner: Jaguars

LA Chargers @ LA Rams – The Chargers wanted to start fast this season but injuries have already hindered them. The Rams are clicking on all cylinders right now and are looking very much like the champs of this past off-season. Right now, I don’t think the Chargers are capable of slowing the Rams down on offense and Phillip Rivers faces a big chore in this Rams defense, which is coming off a shutout last week. I like the Rams in this battle for LA. Winner: Rams

Pittsburgh @ Tampa Bay – There’s plenty of drama in Pittsburgh right now but winning can pretty much solve anything. Ryan Fitzpatrick and the suddenly explosive Tampa Bay offense has been the story of the season after two week. That will work into Pittsburgh’s current weakness in the secondary as I expect the Bucs to attack through the air again on Monday night. The Steelers are capable of airing it out as well. I see this game as a shootout between tow great passing attacks. I think Mike Tomlin has challenged his team and his defense to silence all of the noise surrounding the team off the field by getting a win on the field. I think the Steelers defense will play their part in losing this one on the road but they’ll be bailed out by their offense. Winner: Steelers

The Rest of Week 3

Jets over Browns – Cleveland is the sentimental favorite but this Jets team is mentally tough.

Chiefs over 49ers – The Patrick Mahomes show will continue as the Chiefs open their home schedule.

Raiders over Dolphins – No one is talking about how this Miami team is unbeaten but Oakland absolutely need this one.

Vikings over Bills – This one should be a layup for Minnesota at home against a Bills team that has trouble scoring and keeping their players during halftime.

Eagles over Colts – Carson Wentz’s return should be the highlight of this one.

Packers over Washington – Green Bay’s defense will keep Washington in it. Tough to bet against Aaron Rodgers though.

Broncos over Ravens – If Denver can stay away from the turnover, their defense should be able to take care of business on the road.

Texans over Giants – Houston has been a disappointment to start this season. They need this one at home.

Bears over Cardinals – Arizona might get shutout in consecutive weeks.

Cowboys over Seahawks – Offense will be at the minimum. Dallas will try to make this an “Ezekiel Elliott” game against an underrated Seattle defense.

Patriots over Lions – The narrative against Bill Belichick disciples will continue, as the Lions will be winless after this week.

Fantasy Picks of the Week

QB: Ben Roethlisberger/Ryan Fitzpatrick (Steelers/Buccaneers) – You can’t miss with this MNF matchup. Passing yards could reach to over 900.

RB: Lamar Miller (Texans) – Miller has been silently productive to start this season.

WR: Tyreek Hill (Chiefs) – The 49ers will not be able to slow down the Kansas City Cheetah.

TE: Jordan Reed (Washington) – Alex Smith will target the big TE against this Packers secondary.

DEF: Chicago – The Bears defense will have their way with Arizona.

NFL 2018: Week 1 Predictions

Eagles Rams Football

Nick Foles had a nice moment last January but he is still Nick Foles.

 

By Elias McMillan

Past Regular Season Records:

2009 Regular Season Record: 169-87

2010 Regular Season Record: 157-99

2011 Regular Season Record: 162-94

2012 Regular Season Record: 163-92-1

2013 Regular Season Record: 158-97-1

2014 Regular Season Record: 158-97-1

2015 Regular Season Record: 163-93

2016 Regular Season Record: 163-91-2

2017 Regular Season Record: 151-103

 

Big Five Games of Week 1

Atlanta @ Philadelphia – The home team usually does well in these season opening Thursday night games. But I don’t feel too good about Philadelphia tonight. I think they are primed some Super Bowl hangover type performances this season and we will see one tonight. What’s going to hurt the Eagles tonight will be their lack of offense. QB Nick Foles has struggled recently. Atlanta has one of the better rosters in the league and I think they’ll be looking to put on an impressive performance tonight. Philly’s defense may be able to keep them in this game but I don’t think they’ll get enough from the other side of the ball tonight. Prediction: Falcons

Houston @ New England – If memory serves me right, I think the Patriots lost in their home opener last season. Either way, I’m going out on a limb and saying that I really like Houston’s chances in this game. With a healthy J.J. Watt and other key pieces on defense, I think the Texans will be able to limited Tom Brady on Sunday. QB Deshaun Watson led a dynamic Texans offense before he got injured last season. I think they’ll be able to attack an underrated but not strong Patriots defense. The Brady-Rob Gronkowski connection will be a force for the Houston secondary to deal with but I think this game will end with a failed Tom Brady comeback attempt. Prediction: Texans

Jacksonville @ New York Giants – The Jalen Ramsey and Odell Beckham Jr. matchup makes this game must see TV. The offense on display here probably will not be pretty. This could be an old school drag ‘em out type of game with the lack of scoring. The Giants retooled their offense in the offseason and there is a lot of hype behind the debut of Saquon Barkley but I still believe that the Jacksonville defense is really good. They’ll force Eli Manning into some mistakes and Blake Bortles and his lack of weapons in the passing game will not have to do much heavy lifting. Prediction: Jaguars

Dallas @ Carolina – I’m having nightmares about what Cam Newton did to Dallas on Thanksgiving a few years ago. Both teams are different now, obviously. The buzz around Dallas for the start of this season is that the defense is supposed to be vastly improved; Especially at the defensive line. That unit may have a chance to shine Sunday as Carolina’s offensive line is banged up. If they can get after Cam Newton, they could have the potential to create some big plays. The Dallas offense vs. the Carolina defense is the matchup that may determine this game. Carolina still touts a good defense and the Cowboys offensive line is also not at 100%. Dak Prescott and even Ezekiel Elliott might face a uphill battle in this contest offensively. I think Carolina is vulnerable but I trust Newton’s big play ability. He usually balls out in season opener. Prediction: Panthers

Chicago @ Green Bay – This game might be one that everyone will be talking about on Monday. I think the addition of Khalil Mack drastically changes Chi-Town’s outlook for this season. The Bears really focused this offseason on adding pieces on offense but then they ended up adding a big fish in the world of pass rushers. I think we are all aware of what Aaron Rodgers is capable of but the Bears could be able to up the pressure on him that night. I wouldn’t count on Mitch Trubisky dueling with Rodgers but Green Bay’s defense has been on the downside recently. I don’t think Chicago will win but they’ll have the potential to make this one interesting. Prediction: Packers

The Rest of Week 1

Steelers over Browns – This might sound strange but Pittsburgh is vulnerable going into this one. Cleveland has the momentum just from being under the radar. They must execute or just be the Browns again.

Bengals over Colts – Andrew Luck is back but he doesn’t have enough weapons. Marvin Lewis is also back and his team has a knack for giving away victories. Something will have to give.

Titans over Dolphins – I think Tennessee will have a big day on the ground in this one.

Vikings over 49ers – Jimmy G will find it tough against Minnesota’s defense on the road.

Saints over Buccaneers – This matchup is ironic because it was Tampa that should have traded for Teddy Bridgewater. I like the New Orleans defense to really flex their muscles at home.

Ravens over Bills – Buffalo is going to stink so bad this year. And it might be all directly linked to the QB position. Baltimore’s third string signal caller is better than the guy Buffalo will start Sunday.

Chargers over Chiefs – The Chargers had to hear all offseason about how their slow start in September kept them from the postseason. They’ll have that in mind Sunday against a divisional opponent.

Broncos over Seahawks – Russell Wilson will try to win this one by himself. Life without the Legion of Boom will be tough this season for Seattle.

Cardinals over Washington – The lack of a run game in Washington means Chandler Jones and company will have opportunities to get after Alex Smith.

Lions over Jets – I’m excited about Sam Darnold but the Jets are a few weapons short to go toe to toe with Matt Stafford and the Lions passing attack.

Rams over Raiders – The offseason champs should smash this Oakland team that has just been hit by a bus this past week with the trading of their best player.

Fantasy Football Picks

QB: Drew Brees (New Orleans) – Brees at home against Tampa’s secondary. He is a must start.

RB: Todd Gurley (LA Rams) – Gurley should run wild against a Raiders defense without a soul.

WR: Antonio Browns (Pittsburgh) – AB big play ability will make everyone forget about the drama with Le’Veon Bell.

TE: Greg Olsen (Carolina) – Cam Newton will be facing a lot of pressure. Olsen, his security blanket, will get plenty of looks.

DEF: Baltimore – Against Nathan Peterman, the interception could rack up for the Ravens.

NFL 2018: NFC Season Preview

NFC EAST

Will the Eagles suffer a Super Bowl hangover? Probably. The health of QB Carson Wentz will be a concern. The guy played at a MVP level last season before his major leg injury. I think he can return and be the same player but circumstances have changed from last season. The Eagles lost pieces at the RB and WR position in the offseason. I think Philly still could win this division because their defense will once again be really good. But then again, it’s a tough road to become back-to-back champions in this division. The Cowboys did not help QB Dak Prescott in this offseason. They unceremoniously cut WR Dez Bryant and TE Jason Witten, who wasn’t a difference maker any more anyways, suddenly retired. Dak Prescott and the passing game in Dallas as a whole struggled last season and you can’t just blame that on one player. You can blame it on the awful play calling but also this: Prescott just has to play better. I think he can have a bounce back season but who knows. He’s going to have to prove it. But the bottom line is that this offense is reliant on RB Ezekiel Elliott and the running game. The Cowboys do not have a reliable big play target in the passing game and that is going to hurt them. On the bright side, for the first time in a while, there is real optimism surrounding this defense. They brought back DE Demarcus Lawrence on the franchise tag and he was a terror on the edge last season. Also, things are looking up in the secondary with the young corners they have. Dallas is one “Earl Thomas trade” away from maybe having an elite defense. I think the Giants made a mistake placing their faith into QB Eli Manning again this offseason. QB’s don’t grow on tree and Manning has the look of someone who is done in the league. But the draft pick of RB Saquon Barkley has many optimistic in New York. The Giants made an effort to improve their offensive line and they return a talented receiver core led by recently contract extended Odell Beckham Jr. New York will have concerns on defense. They traded away Jason Pierre-Paul and replaced him with no one. I like the trade for ILB Alec Ogletree though. Washington chose trading for Alex Smith over re-signing Kirk Cousins. That is such a Dan Synder move. So, vanilla. I mean, Alex Smith can be go but he isn’t nearly as dynamic as Cousins. At least, when it counts. Washington has many issues before the season has even started. Injuries at RB mean they may have to lean on an aging RB Adrian Peterson. The WR group is really average. TE Jordan Reed is really good but he can’t stay healthy. Washington desperately needs to improve their defense, which they have tried through the draft. They have plenty of young talent on that side of the ball but they need to start paying dividends sooner than later. Projected Finish (Playoff Team in BOLD): 1) Eagles, 2) Cowboys, 3) Giants, 4) Washington

NFC NORTH

Minnesota is great shape in 2018 because once again, they will be strong defensively. The Vikings were the big winners in the offseason, signing the top QB available in Kirk Cousins. If history can serve as a reminder, signing that the big name free agent QB can back fire or not exactly work out as planned. I don’t expect Minnesota being able to plug in Cousins and have a real dynamic passing attack. But Cousins doesn’t have the bar set high for him. He was really has to run the offense and not make mistakes. Minnesota has talented receivers but they are really more suited to run the ball. So, needless to say, I’m excited about RB Dalvin Cook who had his season cut short last year due to injury. Again, Minnesota should be pretty tough on defense. They are solid across the board on the defensive line, at linebacker and in the secondary. Green Bay’s success will once again be tied to the health of QB Aaron Rogers. Green Bay is not a good football team on paper but Rodgers just seems to lift this team out of mediocrity time and time again. The Packers don’t have consistency at RB or at the WR position. TE Jimmy Graham might prove to be a huge addition though. Green Bay’s front seven on defense looks old and not nearly as good as they once were. There is hope in the secondary though. 2018 draft picks, CB’s Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson, have looked really good in preseason. Detroit was mighty neutral in the offseason. They really didn’t do much to improve. This tells me that new head coach Matt Patricia is in the process of starting a massive rebuild. And that kinda stinks for QB Matt Stafford because he’s really good but his team is in no shape to compete. I think RB LeGarrette Blount will provide some stability at that position if he stays healthy. Two extremely under rated guys in Golden Tate and the emerging Kenny Golladay leads the Lions at WR. Detroit actually has a decent defense but they aren’t good enough to close out games. I feel like Stafford usually has to blame this team out a lot, much like Rodgers in Green Bay. I think the Bears could be on the verge of turning their franchise around but a lot is going to depend on QB Mitch Trubisky. He is going to have to show some sizable improves in his second year. The Bears have great talent at the skill positions on offense. RB’s Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen should form a great duo in the backfield. Chicago made efforts to improve the WR position in the offseason with the additions of Allen Robinson and rookie Anthony Miller. It will be even greater if WR Kevin White can finally stay healthy. The Bears might be held back by their defense in 2018 as they are still a work in progress. Projected Finish (Playoff Team in BOLD): 1) Vikings, 2) Packers, 3) Lions, 4) Bears

NFC SOUTH

The New Orleans Saints are legit Super Bowl contenders in my eyes. It’s amazing how fast they were able to turn around their defense. Now, it looks like they may be able to give QB Drew Brees a farewell swan song that he deserves. He will once again lead an explosive offense. RB Alvin Kamara is special player from out the backfield and WR Michael Thomas is one of the better receivers in the league that no one talks about. I also like how the Saints did not rest on their laurels during the draft and traded up to grab one of the best pass rushers. From top to bottom, the Atlanta Falcons probably have one of the best rosters in the entire league. It was true last season and it may be true again in 2018. That tells me their coaching stinks or the players are really lacking in the area of execution. Let me just run of some names from the top of my head: Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Devonta Freeman, and Tevin Coleman. That’s a solid group of talent to have on offense. Atlanta’s defense has plenty of talent as well especially at the LB position with Deion Jones and Vic Beasley. I’m afraid that Carolina’s window is slowly closing. Since the Super Bowl lose, they have refused to improve their offensive line and I think that will bite them again this season. Cam Newton can’t be Cam Newton if he is running for his life or worse, injured. I never was a believer in RB Christian McCaffrey as an every down back but he has looked the part early during this pre-season. Carolina is also missing a big play WR. Maybe WR Devin Funchess can be that guy or maybe newcomer D.J. Moore. Carolina’s defensive front seven will be solid this season as look as they stay healthy. Their secondary remains to be a weak spot. Tampa Bay is in a tough spot thanks to the Jameis Winston suspension. He is going to have to come back and perform at a high level if he hopes to stay in the team’s future. The Bucs have a lot of unproven talent at the RB position this year but that could prove to be a good thing. WR Mike Evans is one thing Tampa can count on offensively. Tampa has a chance to be really good up front on defense with the addition of DE Jason Pierre-Paul. They made an effort to improve their defensive line in the offseason and they may see that pay off sooner than later. Tampa also has a good group at LB. Their secondary needs work as they lack playmakers at corner. Projected Finish (Playoff Team in BOLD): 1) Saints, 2) Falcons, 3) Panthers, 4) Buccaneers

NFC WEST

The LA Rams were the offseason champs of 2018. That’s usually bad news but the NFC West isn’t as tough as it use to be. In recent history, this division was led by tough defenses in Seattle and San Francisco. Now, it looks like Los Angeles has turned into a haven for defensive talent. The defensive line was already good with Aaron Donald but they went ahead and added Ndamukong Suh. The Rams will also added a pair of playmakers in the secondary in Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters. The Rams were let down in the playoffs by their offense so I think the pressure will be on that side of the ball to continue to get better. RB Todd Gurley will continue to be the tone setter for the offense. QB Jared Goff had a decent second season in 2017. He must show that he can continue to improve. The Rams bring with them in 2018 a talented collection of receivers led by Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods, and Cooper Kupp. Arizona is starting anew at head coach in 2018. They started the offseason with a clean slate at QB and they decided to go with the often-injured Sam Bradford. That decision may come back to bite them though they were able to draft Josh Rosen who may be the QB for the future. Whoever is at QB, they will be able to lean on RB David Johnson. Arizona is lacking a young playmaker at WR though Larry Fitzgerald is still capable at his age. On defense, the Cardinals will be tough to deal with up front. DE Chandler Jones led the league in sacks a season ago. Arizona has a good group at LB and the secondary could be better this year despite losing safety Tyrann Mathieu. There’s a lot of hype surrounding San Francisco this year but I don’t think they are ready to return to the playoffs. QB Jimmy Garoppolo has created most of that optimism around the franchise but they still need to add more pieces around him if they hope to be successful with him. I’m not sold on Jerick McKinnon as a led back in this offense and they are also in the market for a big play wide receiver. I like the collection of young talent they have in their defensive front seven. CB Richard Sherman is going to learn this season how hard life is without playing with the Legion of Boom. Thinking of the Legion of Boom, Seattle might stink this season. It might get so bad that coach Pete Carroll might be a guy who could be looking for an escape by the end of the season. QB Russell Wilson will be carrying this offense again with a lack of a running game and protection from his offensive line. The Seahawks will look mighty thin at receiver this season outside of Doug Baldwin and Brandon Marshall. The biggest difference for Seattle this season will be on defense, as they will look entirely different. Meaning, that they won’t be really good. Projected Finish (Playoff Team in BOLD): 1) Rams, 2) Cardinals, 3) 49ers, 4) Seahawks

NFL Playoffs: 2018 Divisional Round Predictions!

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

By: Elias McMillan

 

Wild-Card Round: 1-3

Playoffs: 1-3

Divisional Round

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

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

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

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