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NFL 2016: NFC West Preview

Chip Kelly

Was Chip Kelly the right choice at head coach for the 49ers? I say, No.

By: Elias McMillan


NFC West

Arizona Cardinals – Arizona has had plenty of regular season success in the last couple of years. In 2016, they will hope to turn that into a legit run to the Super Bowl. The Cardinals have proven that their offense could be championship worthy. They had the number one ranked offense in the league a season ago. But I think Arizona will be a contender again this season because of the improvements on defense. Arizona is already decent up front as they were one of the top ranked run defenses in the league. DE Calais Campbell is the stand out up front as tall and athletic pass rusher. I’m really excited to see what first round pick, DE Robert Nkemdiche, can do as a rookie. Nkemdiche, much like Campbell, offers crazy athleticism for a defensive lineman and he’ll be able to be a disruptor in this 3-4 defensive scheme. Arizona also upgraded their pass rush significantly by trading for New England defensive star, Chandler Jones. Jones may have some issues off the field but if he can stay on it, he’ll be an important piece on this defense this season. Star veteran Patrick Peterson will lead Arizona’s secondary again in 2016. But Cardinals fans are really excited for the possibility of having safety Tyrann Mathieu back and healthy for 16 games. Mathieu was having a great 2015 season before he was injured. Now that he’s healthy, he will definitely be an upgrade in the secondary in the postseason that they didn’t have during last year’s playoff run. Having a high scoring offense will continue to be apart of what makes this team successful. QB Carson Palmer is back for another year. Palmer is mistake prone at times but he clearly gives this offense the best chance at being at its best. Having a veteran signal caller like Palmer is important in this offense because the Cardinals are loaded with so much offensive talent. Having a veteran at QB assures that all that talent is being led with someone with experience. At the skill positions, the Cardinals have a mix of younger talent and veteran leadership. I think RB David Johnson could have a break out season after a successful rookie year. In relief of Johnson, Arizona brought back Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington. That’s a talented trio of backs that can do it all from out the backfield. At receiver, Larry Fitzgerald is the model of what young receivers aspire to be. Fitzgerald may be older but as you saw in the playoffs last season, he can still break a game open in cutch situations. Malcolm Floyd and Jaron Brown are also explosive receivers in this offense. Arizona has a great balance on offense and they can beat you in so many different ways. I think we will see this season that the improvements on the defensive side of the ball will add up to more success in the post season. Prediction: 12-4 (NFC West Champs)

Seattle Seahawks – Since Seattle’s emergence as a power in the NFC, they have gone through offseason’s that saw them lose starters on both sides of the ball. Despite that, this team will be deep enough again with talent to compete for a division title. Seattle took a step back last season and they probably should have lost that wildcard round playoff game in Minnesota. Seattle also had some key players leave in free agency and thru retirement. RB Marshawn Lynch retired but Seattle seemed prepared for that move. RB Thomas Rawls showed promise last season and he’ll be set to be the starter in the backfield in 2016. Seattle also drafted a couple of RB’s so they will be prepared if Rawls get injured like he did a season ago. The running game will be important in Seattle’s offense this season but as always, QB Russell Wilson will be the player that will make this offense successful or not. Wilson had a great 2015 but the perception still exists that he isn’t a great passer. Wilson may never put up Aaron Rodgers numbers but he still has the ability to come up with big play after big play in key moments in a ball game. One thing that would help Wilson in 2016 would be a better offensive line. Seattle must have realized this because Wilson will have a number of new starters up front that came over in the draft or free agency. Better play upfront will allow Wilson to display his talents inside the pocket as a passer. Seattle’s receivers still don’t get enough credit but that’s ok as long as they keep making plays for Wilson. WR Doug Baldwin is coming off his most successful season yet and is probably one of the best possession receivers in the league. WR’s Jermaine Kearse and Tyler Lockett fit the mold of what Seattle wants out of their receivers. They have an overachieving group at WR and that is just how they like it. TE Jimmy Graham could add a legit dynamic aspect to this passing game if he ever gets healthy. Seattle’s defense lost Bruce Irvin in free agency but they will still have the players upfront to be a dominant defense this season. DE’s Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, and Frank Clark are a great group at providing pressure in the backfield. Seattle not only has a great pass rush but they ranked number one in the league last season at stopping the run. Without Irvin, Seattle’s LB core doesn’t have a lot of depth with Bobby Wagner as the lone stand out. The Seahawks secondary will be great again in 2016. The Legion of Boom will return three of its main core in CB Richard Sherman and safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor. With the talent Seattle has upfront on defense and in the secondary, I think they’ll be good enough on that side of the ball compensate for the short coming of an offense that might not be as good without Marshawn Lynch. I don’t think Seattle’s offense will be a weakness but I do think that the team’s success will be more about what they get done on the defensive side of the ball. Seattle will be that team that no one will want to play in the post season. Prediction: 10-6 (Wildcard)

Los Angeles Rams – The Rams are back in Los Angeles and honestly, it isn’t as exciting as it sounds. It is a little different seeing “Los Angeles” associated with the NFL again. But they can try to put this team on reality shows all they want. The bottom line is that this team is as average and boring of a team that you will ever see. I mean, they do have two legit stars on both sides of the ball but nothing else really outside of that. I don’t know if this was a marketing move of a football move but the Rams traded to the top spot of this past year’s draft to take QB Jared Goff. Goff was a accomplished QB at Cal but after the preseason, head coach Jeff Fisher proclaimed him to be the “third-stringer”. No matter the case, the Rams really need someone to work successfully at the QB position in 2016. Rather it is Goff or starter Case Keenum. Even if the Rams had legit quarterbacking, the receiving core is extremely average. WR Tavon Austin is game breaker but more so on special teams. Austin just hasn’t been consistent enough as a receiver in this league yet. WR Kenny Britt is an underrated possession receiver and nothing much else. Maybe rookie WR Pharoh Cooper can be a consistent performer. I don’t know. I do know that RB Todd Gurley is the only star on this side of the ball for this team. Gurley is a great, tough runner and he is primed for another big year after a successful rookie campaign that saw him win the Offensive Rookie of the Year award. The Rams will have the ability to be in a lot of games because of their tough defense. I don’t know if this defense is as good as its reputation but it is still pretty decent. Everyone is going to talk about DT Aaron Donald who is probably the best defensive lineman in the game not named J.J. Watt. Donald will continue to be a terror this season along with DE Robert Quinn. At linebacker, Alec Ogletree is an amazing athlete who plays as physical as anyone at his position. I think it is interesting to see that the Rams moved Mark Barron from safety to linebacker. That might help them to be above average at covering tight ends. Barron may have flamed out as a safety but his physicality will help him at this new position. The Rams lost CB Janoris Jenkins in free agency but I didn’t think he was that good in the first place. The Rams choose to keep CB Trumaine Johnson who is just as average of a player as Jenkins but at a cheaper price. Jenkins and Johnson gamble a lot in the secondary. So, they may rack up interceptions but they also get beat a lot. This Rams secondary will get beat a lot in 2016. They are really thin at the safety position and I don’t think much of corners Johnson or Coty Sensabaugh. “They” wanted a NFL team in Los Angeles and “they” got it. The average Rams are the team that LA deserves. The ownership is clearly too busy counting new revenue to care if this team actually competes or not. They might even give Jeff Fisher another contract extension. Outside of Gurley and Donald, the entire situation with this football organization is a huge joke. But hey, it will be Lakers season soon and the Dodgers might make the playoffs. Prediction: 7-9

San Francisco 49ers – The 49ers have gone through a lot of changes since their most recent Super Bowl appearance. That team’s roster has been pretty much gutted and replaced with not much. San Francisco was just dealt a bad card where many players just left via free agency or through retirement. The 49ers organization is starting the climb back but I’m starting to believe that it will take awhile before they get back there. I understand that Jim Tomsula (the mic rula) wasn’t going to work out as head coach for this team. I believed that this team needed a NFL vet that would command respect while attracting free agents to this history-laced organization. Instead, they hired Chip Kelly who will do neither. QB Colin Kaepernick has been dragged through the media recently and not because of his protest of the national anthem. People will say that Kaepernick is washed up and not the same player he was when he was winning playoff games in Lambeau Field while leading his 49ers to the Super Bowl. Amazing. It’s amazing that many in the media are ignoring that his roster has been completely gutted since then and very few QB’s would see success in that situation. I’m not saying that makes up for Kaepernick’s failures but it definitely means something. Kaepernick is also coming off shoulder surgery, has recently changed up his diet and is looking a bit skinny. Coach Kelly actually alluded to this recently. This is the only way I could excuse starting Blaine Gabbert over him. Once Kaepernick is 100%, he should start immediately. Even if he does or doesn’t, he is in a no win situation with Chip Kelly in San Francisco. Kelly is not going to attract free agents to San Fran and I don’t trust him with building a team with “his guys”. I don’t know what held up the proposed trade in the offseason involving Kaepernick but he needs to find a way out of there. Denver would have been the perfect landing spot. But I digress. The passing game this season will not mean much for the 49ers as their WR core is extremely thin on talent. WR Torrey Smith is the clear-cut best option from a group of no names. RB Carlos Hyde was supposed to be a break out player last season but he kind of disappointed. I think Hyde is talented enough to bounce back in 2016 and this team will really need him to do so. I feel a lot better about the 49er defense than I do the offense. It will be interesting to see this Oregon led defensive line with 2nd year guy, Arik Armstead and rookie DeForest Buckner. The real standouts on this defense will be at the linebacker position. LB Ahmad Brooks is a dynamic pass rusher and LB NaVorro Bowman is still a run stopping missile. This defense has a pretty good mix at safety with Eric Reid and veteran Antoine Bethea. The Niners are really thin at corner where safety turned corner Jimmie Ward might be a full season starter this year. It is going to be a long climb back for this franchise but I don’t think Chip Kelly or Colin Kaepernick will be there long enough to see it. Prediction: 4-12


NFL 2015: Week 7 Predictions!


Last Week, Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers put the league on notice.

By: Elias McMillan

Last Week: 8-6

Season: 60-31

Big Five Games of the Week

Seattle @ San Francisco – The Seahawks are reeling going into this rivalry game tonight in San Francisco. I think Seattle is right where they were last season around this time which means, I believe that there is still time for them to turn their season around. Seattle has issues right now with protecting their QB and with holding on to leads. But I think their power running game and defense can still help them stack some more wins this season. San Fran might have gained some confidence last week when they defeated a bad Baltimore team at home. But they are also a bad team that belongs in last place in this division. I don’t see the 49ers being able to run the ball tonight especially with RB Carlos Hyde coming off an injury. Colin Kaepernick will be forced to do too much tonight and that will eventually mean more chances for the Seattle defense to create turnovers. Prediction: Seahawks 21 – 49ers 14

Pittsburgh @ Kansas City – The hype over Landry Jones in Pittsburgh is in overdrive. But that will probably come to a complete halt on Sunday. The Steelers will be in Kansas City to take on a Chiefs team that will struggle to put up enough points to win without Jamaal Charles. Besides the point that the Chiefs offense is struggling without Charles, the Steelers defense has been a nice surprise this season especially since the Roethlisberger injury. The Steelers defense is over achieving each week and it seems not to matter if they are missing players because of injuries. Ryan Shazier and Jarvis Jones have been missing but it has yet to matter recently for this defense. They are receiving great play recently from Cameron Heyward and James Harrison. The Steelers do give up a lot of yardage through the air but I’m not expecting Alex Smith to exploit that. The Chiefs will have a great chance at winning this game because they have the tools to get after the QB. Pittsburgh suffered another injury to their offensive line, which will prove to be horrible news for Jones. With all the pressure around Jones, it’s going to be tough for Pittsburgh to get anything going through the air. Much like how it was for the majority of Mike Vick’s snaps. But with the way Pittsburgh’s defense is playing, I don’t think Kansas City will be able to take advantage of the lack of offensive production from their opponent. I’m taking the road team by the slimmest of margins. If the Steelers can go 3-1 without Ben, that would be a huge confidence builder going forward. Prediction: Steelers 17 – Chiefs 16

New York Jets @ New England – The Patriots are undefeated but I don’t see them as an unstoppable, juggernaut of a team. I actually think that the Jets matchup well against them this Sunday in Foxboro. I believe that the Jets have the defense to slow Tom Brady and the Patriots offense. I also believe that the Patriots don’t have a great defense so, I can see the Jets being successful on Sunday offensively on the ground and through the air. The Jets really haven’t been consistent on offense this season though. So, I don’t know if I can fully trust Ryan Fitzpatrick in this big game. I’m taking the home team but it will be closer than you think. Prediction: Patriots 29 – Jets 27

Dallas @ New York Giants – After an embarrassing loss last week on Monday night, the Giants will be looking for revenge this week against a Dallas team who is coming off the bye week. The NFC East is now wide open and it will likely stay this way until Week 17. The funny thing is that if Dez Bryant and Tony Romo were healthy, the NFC East race would already to over. Coming off the bye, the Dallas defense will finally be at full strength and we kind of saw a glimpse of that in their last game vs. New England. That Cowboys defense actually held Tom Brady in check but eventually, they got tired. Mainly because the offense couldn’t amount to anything with Brandon Weeden calling the shots. Matt Cassel will get the start for Dallas at QB but I don’t think it will really matter. Cassel will have to prove that Dallas can actually be a threat down the field in the passing game. Until then, defenses will continue the stack the box and the Cowboys running game will have a tough time getting going. I believe that the Cowboys defense will be great in this game against Eli Manning. Manning will face unbelievable pressure for most of the game. But if the Dallas offensive woes continue, their defense will get tired and Eli will take advantage. I would like to believe that things will be different with Cassel but I would rather see it happen first. Prediction: Giants 35 – Cowboys 21

Philadelphia @ Carolina – The Eagles now believe that they’re still alive in the NFC East race after beating New York last week. And for the most part, they are right. If the Eagles can get great play out of their defensive front seven and if the running game can start playing consistent football, they’ll be in a lot of games this season. But on Sunday, they’ll take on a Carolina team that is coming off a huge road victory in Seattle. Carolina is still undefeated this season mainly because their defense. Their defense is clicking on all cylinders right now and Philly will struggle to get anything going through the air or on the ground in this Sunday night matchup. Carolina’s offense has been successful this season so far because of their QB but also because of their offensive line. Carolina is strong up front and they have 3rd best running game in football right now. Cam Newton is such a playmaking wild-card and he will need to lean on his offensive line on Sunday against that active Philly front seven. The Eagles defense will look to rattle Cam in this game but it will be the Panthers defense that will keep Philly from winning this game. Prediction: Panthers 24 – Eagles 18

The Rest of Week 7

Bills over Jaguars – Without Tyrod Taylor, Buffalo will be vulnerable in this game against a Jacksonville team that is desperate for a win. Rex Ryan called out his defense this week and they’ll respond with a strong performance in London.

Vikings over Lions – Detroit discovered last week that they still have Calvin Johnson. If they can do the same this week, they may win their second straight. I’m not counting on that though.

Falcons over Titans – Hopefully, last weeks lost in New Orleans will serve as a wake up call for Atlanta.

Colts over Saints – Drew Brees seems to be back at 100%. I still don’t trust New Orleans’ defense. Indy needs to start stacking up some victories before they find themselves in a race in the AFC South.

Rams over Browns – This is a trap game for St. Louis who should win this game easily coming off the bye.

Dolphins over Texans – Can we get a second straight lights out performance from this Miami defense under new head coach Dan Campbell? I think so.

Buccaneers over Washington – Jameis Winston wont have to do too much to win this game, as Washington’s QB issues will once again rear its ugly head.

Chargers over Raiders – How many close games can the Chargers lose this season? Hopefully, a game against Oakland can stop their bleeding.

Cardinals over Ravens – Arizona blinked last week and didn’t play its best game. They will be antsy to right what was wrong last week against a bad Ravens team.

Fantasy Football Picks of the Week

QB: Phillip Rivers (Chargers) – Rivers threw for over 500 yards last week. San Diego’s running game has been inconsistent so they’ll lean on the pass again this week vs. Oakland.

RB: Todd Gurley (Rams) – Coming off the bye, Gurley will continue the nice streak of games he has been having against Cleveland run defense.

WR: T.Y. Hilton (Colts) – Hilton has been strangely quiet so far this season. I think he’ll be able to play great this week against the Saints secondary.

TE: Rob Gronkowski (Patriots) – Gronk probably feels like he isn’t getting the ball enough so far this season as he doesn’t rank in the top ten in catches at his position. The Jets don’t have anyone who can cover him.

DEF: Tampa Bay – Don’t look now but the Bucs have the 5th ranked defense in the league.

NFL 2015: NFC West Preview


Jeff Fisher maybe on the hot seat entering this 2015 season.

By: Elias McMillan

Seattle Seahawks – After suffering a tough loss in last year’s Super Bowl, Seattle will have a lot of the same successful elements from a season ago. But they have also added a few pieces that may make them look even better on paper this year. The most dramatic change takes place at the TE position, as the Seahawks were able to swing a trade for Pro Bowler, Jimmy Graham. Graham is a dynamic pass catcher and he’ll provide QB Russell Wilson with a top talent receiver that he has never had in Seattle. Unfortunately, in order to land Graham, Seattle had to part with their starting center. Seattle didn’t have a great offensive line a year ago and they might be worst in that unit this season. Wilson’s mobility can make up for the lack of talent on the offensive line but all that running around might take a toll later in the season. Seattle got a huge lift in free agency, as they were able to resign RB Marshawn Lynch. Lynch has shown no signs of slowing down and this season he’ll be paired with another great back who was casted off from Buffalo, Fred Jackson. Seattle’s receivers are still the most average group of receivers in the league but lookout for rookie Tyler Lockett who could rise fast as a slot receiver and a return man. Seattle will continue to be great on defense this season. They get a great pass rush from their defensive line led by Cliff Avril, Mchael Bennett and Bruce Irvin. Rookie DE Frank Clark will continue the tradition of great pass rushers on this defense and will be great this season in a reserve role on third downs. The middle of the defense will continue to be anchored by LB Bobby Wagner who is one of the most underrated defenders in the league. It might be hard for Seattle at the beginning of the season without safety Kam Chancellor who is holding out but once he returns, Seattle’s secondary maybe even better than it was last season. They loss CB Byron Maxwell in free agency but he was mainly great when QB’s wanted to avoid CB Richard Sherman. CB Cary Williams has had some rough seasons but physically, he is an upgrade from Maxwell and he could excel with the amount of attention he’ll get playing opposite of Sherman. Sherman still has the rep of being the premiere shutdown corner in the league but safety Earl Thomas is the real leader of this secondary. Thomas has some injury concerns but as long as he can stay on the field, Seattle’s secondary will be able to perform up to standard. Seattle has a set formula for success and I think it will work for them again this season. If they can hit their stride late in the season again, they’ll have a decent chance at returning to the Super Bowl for the third straight season. Prediction: 12-4 (NFC West Champs)

Arizona Cardinals – Arizona surprised everyone last season and almost won this division. The driving force on this team is their head coach, Bruce Arians, and their hard-nosed philosophy on defense. Arizona will hopefully carry over last season’s success into this season in order to compete with Seattle for the division. What would really help would be if QB Carson Palmer can stay healthy this season. Arizona’s QB situation was a mess when Palmer went down last year so his health will be vital to the team’s success on offense. Arizona need better play out of their offensive line this season. They spent a top draft pick this year on OT D.J. Humphries and former first round pick, OG Jonathan Cooper, is going to need to stay healthy if he wants to stay in Arizona for the long term. Starting RB Andre Ellington also has injury issues but Arizona has a better insurance plan this season with bringing in veteran Chris Johnson to help spell him. Arizona returns a great WR core led by all pro Larry Fitzgerald. WR Michael Floyd is a solid second receiving option and WR John Brown is a star slot receiver in this league after an impressive rookie season. Arizona has a good defense but for them to win the division, they’re going to need to have Palmer and Ellington for 16 games. Thinking of the defense, the Cardinals may have lost some pieces from a season ago but they’ll be tough again this season. DE Calais Campbell is the leader of the defensive line and he can affect the game as a pass rusher or a run defender. Arizona will be counting on a couple of rookies this season for them to continue to be successful at stopping the run. That might be a costly experiment. They do have serviceable players at middle linebacker in Sean Weatherspoon and Kevin Minter. In the offseason, they allowed CB Antonio Cromartie walk away via free agency and that might be a plus for the secondary. CB Patrick Peterson is one of the best corners in the game and now Arizona will have a more physical presensce opposite of him in Jerraud Powers. Arizona also have a decent pair of young safeties in Tyrann Mathieu and Deone Bucannon. The defense should be tough once again and that will keep Arizona in a lot of ball games this season. The key will be if the leaders on offense can be healthy for 16 games in order to get the team to return to the post season. Prediction: 9-7

St. Louis Rams – This will be a key year for head coach Jeff Fisher. The Rams have the talent to at least qualify for the post season this year but the defense must live up to expectations and the offense has to find its consistency. The Rams franchise is surrounded by a lot of uncertainty so another disappointing season might mean the end of Jeff Fisher and maybe the end of the franchise in St. Louis. On offense, the Rams finally decided to end Sam Bradford’s time with the franchise. Bradford’s story with injuries became unchanging so Fisher pulled the trigger to send him to Philadelphia for Nick Foles. Foles had a couple of great months at QB in Philly but he hasn’t proven to be a sure thing in this league and even if he is able to reach his ceiling this season in St. Louis, I don’t think he is as talented as Bradford. But the Rams are just counting on him to stay healthy and keep the passing game afloat. The Rams have a great young receiving core led by Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey. WR Kenny Britt is the veteran leader of the receiver group and he’ll provide Foles with the big target that he prefers. The Rams need consistency in the running game this season. Last year, RB Tre Mason showed some promise but many people in the franchise are hoping that this year’s first round pick, Todd Gurley, can become a superstar in their backfield. The Rams would be better served if both backs can stay healthy and they can use them as a tandem. On defense, St. Louis is ridiculously stacked on the defensive line. DE’s Robert Quinn and Chris Long are top-notch pass rushers and run defenders. Inside, DT’s Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers are among the best penetrators in the game. They also added DT Nick Fairley in the offseason to help stuff the run. The Rams should be very tough to run against and opposing QB’s will dread passing on third downs. St. Louis also has a pair of athletic linebackers. LB Alec Ogletree is an active playmaker and LB James Laurinaitis fits the mold perfectly as the middle LB on this defense. St. Louis doesn’t have a great secondary but with that front seven, it truly shouldn’t matter. The Rams struggle with finding consistency from their starting safeties. CB Janoris Jenkins is a risk taker but has great ball skills and has a knack for returning interceptions for touchdowns. The QB position maybe a question mark but on paper, this Rams team should be the second best team in this division on paper. If this team under performs again, there might be a lot of changes on this roster and coaching staff going into 2016. Prediction: 8-8

San Francisco 49ers – No one had a harder offseason than the 49ers. Not only did they lose their head coach for a college job, they lost almost every valuable veteran on defense and even a couple on offense. This year’s 49ers team will be young on defense but they’ll also be noticeability less talented at a lot of areas. On offense, I think they’ll be hurt by the departure of starting guard Mike Iupati. This 49ers team has been known for their power running game but their offensive line took a noticeable hit in the offseason. RB Frank Gore is gone too but at least it appears that they have a replacement lined up. I think RB Carlos Hyde will be set up to have a breakout season this year as the offense will lean heavily on this young back. Having Reggie Bush as a backup won’t be bad either as he will be trying to prove that he has plenty left in the tank. You also cant forget about QB Colin Kaepernick who will continue to provide the big play ability on offense this season. Two seasoned veterans will lead the WR core: the reliable Anquan Boldin and a newcomer from Baltimore, Torrey Smith. Slot receiver Bruce Ellington will probably get more touches this year too as he will be a valuable piece for this offense and on special teams as a returner. The defense this year will be a shell of its former self especially on the defensive line and at the LB position. After losing a couple of valuable veterans on the defensive line, rookie DE Arik Armstead will probably have to play early on in his first season. The LB core has been completely ripped to shreds due to retirements and suspensions. Some good news though: LB NaVorro Bowman is back and healthy and he should be a front-runner for comeback player of the year. The 49er secondary will continue to play their physical brand of football but the bad play from the front seven will probably affect them negatively. I do like their group of safeties. Antoine Bethea is a physical tackler and Eric Reid has a nose for the football. The 49ers are clearly rebuilding but they have some young pieces that they will be able to keep going forward from this season. It should be interesting to see how the offense will try to make up for the shortcomings on defense. But this team clearly wont contend this season. Prediction: 4-12