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NFL 2015: Week 10 Predictions!

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New England’s defense will be aiming to slow down New York’s Odell Beckham Jr. on Sunday.

By: Elias McMillan

Last Week: 8-5

Season: 86-46

Big Five Games of the Week

Buffalo @ New York Jets – Big game tonight in the AFC East. The Jets are looking to keep their momentum after defeating Jacksonville last week. The Jets are currently in second place in the division and they have a favorable schedule leading up into December. Buffalo has had their issues this season but now they appear to be healthy and ready to make a push towards the post season. This matchup will feature two tough defenses but I’ll give the edge to Buffalo because New York’s secondary is rather weak sans Darrelle Revis. WR Sammy Watkins finally had a big game last week but he’ll face a huge test in Revis tonight. Opposite of Revis is where the Jets defense will be in trouble. The Jets offense is able to be successful because of RB Chris Ivory and the running game but Buffalo has one of the best defensive lines in football. The same can be said when the other team has the ball. Buffalo has had success running ball with rookie Karlos Williams and the now healthy LeSean McCoy but the Jets also are a tough team to run against. Because this is Rex Ryan’s homecoming game, I’m expecting Buffalo to come out with a little extra edge tonight. I’m taking the road team in the bright red unis. It will go down to the wire though. Prediction: Bills 24 – Jets 21

Minnesota @ Oakland – Minnesota has an impressive 6-2 record but no one is really talking about them. This Sunday, they’ll travel to Oakland to face a Raiders team that took its lumps last week in Pittsburgh. Minnesota has the tools to attack this Raiders defense on the ground and through the air. RB Adrian Peterson is looking like his old self again and the Vikings will continue to feed him on Sunday. QB Teddy Bridgewater took a big hit last week but he will start this Sunday. Oakland’s secondary is pretty suspect so I would expect Bridgewater to get his hook on with his new favorite target, rookie WR Stefon Diggs. Oakland has a decent balanced attack on offense as well but Minnesota is a lot better defensively. The Raiders usually play better at home but I think this Vikings team is tough enough to get a big road victory. Prediction: Vikings 35 – Raiders 27

Kansas City @ Denver – Denver had a poor showing last week in Indy. They were in a close game but then they completely lost their cool. Divisional matchups are always tough but I would expect the Broncos to bounce back at home this week against the Chiefs. The Chiefs are short handed on offense and they will find it tough to score points against Denver’s top ranked defense. Kansas City will have a chance if Peyton Manning is pressured and he turns over the ball. I think Denver learned from last week and they’ll be able to take care of business on Sunday. Prediction: Broncos 22 – Chiefs 10

New England @ New York Giants – New England is on a roll once again going into the second half of a season. Tom Brady is doing it all for the offense and the defense is under rated and not getting enough press. There will be plenty of press this week as the Pats will travel to New Jersey to take on the rival Giants. Now, I know that the Patriots and the Giants aren’t really rivals but because of the fan bases and because of the recent history in the post season, this is a rivalry game. Like the other NFC East teams, the Giants really stink this year but it appears that they can do enough to win their division. Eli Manning isn’t turning over the ball as much and he is getting the ball to his talented receivers, led by WR Odell Beckham Jr. The Patriots will have its hands full with trying to slow down Beckham Jr. as they don’t have a strong presence in the secondary. New England’s strength on defense comes from their defensive line, where they are tough against the run and have the league’s leader in sacks, Chandler Jones. We all know how Manning can play when under pressure so I would expect that the Patriots defense will make it a point to get after him on Sunday. Brady has been playing well on the other side of the ball but the Giants will up their efforts at pressuring him on Sunday as well. DE Jason Pierre-Paul is back and it may other have 8.5 fingers but he still have plenty of ability as a pass rusher. The Giants are poor at stopping the run but New England will be shorthanded without Dion Lewis. RB LeGarrette Blount has been playing well as of late though so I would expect plenty of touches for him on Sunday. The Giants usually have New England’s number in the post season but Sunday’s game is taking place in the regular season. I expect New England to stay undefeated. Prediction: Patriots 31 – Giants 21

Arizona @ Seattle – This is a big game for Seattle coming off the bye. They should be all rested up and ready to stake their claim for the NFC West against the rival Cardinals. Arizona has looked good this season but much like last season, they have faltered against better opponents. Arizona will be in this game on Sunday because of their defense. Seattle has issues on the offensive side of the ball. RB Marshawn Lynch will continue to be the heartbeat of the offense for Seattle. But when Seattle is passing the ball, they cant protect QB Russell Wilson and they still don’t have a big time play maker at receiver. This serves well for the Cardinals as they have a good secondary lead by CB Patrick Peterson. Seattle does have a big play target in the passing game in TE Jimmy Graham but they haven’t been consistent at feeding him the football. Hopefully, this was something that they worked on during the bye week. Arizona’s offense will find it hard in this matchup as well. Seattle is still a tough team to run against and their pass rush will be able to get after Carson Palmer. If Palmer does have time to throw, Seattle’s secondary will have its hands full with Arizona’s talented receivers. This should be a close game but I expect Seattle to continue the tradition of playing better than what they really are at home. Prediction: Seahawks 30 – Cardinals 24

The Rest of Week 10

Packers over Lions – It has literally been forever since Detroit has won in Green Bay.

Panthers over Titans – Carolina handled Green Bay pretty well last week and the score of that game didn’t really tell the story of that game. I think Carolina stays undefeated this week in Nashville.

Bears over Rams – Chicago is quietly still breathing this season. St. Louis has a lot of talent but they are easily unlikable because of that coaching staff.

Eagles over Dolphins – Philadelphia’s offensive line deserves a lot of credit. Their running game has successfully bounced back from how bad it looked earlier in the season. Miami is starting to lose the momentum they created by firing their coach.

Steelers over Browns – Pittsburgh will be without its starting QB but it wont matter. It’s Cleveland. Cleveland.

Buccaneers over Cowboys – This is a must win for Dallas. The pipe dream of Tony Romo returning and saving this season hinges on this game. Tampa is beatable but they have a tough defense and their offense is getting better. I have no reason to believe in this Dallas team right now.

Saints over Washington – Rob Ryan’s bad defense made an appearance last week. Lets see if that unit can bounce back on the road against Kirk Cousins.

Ravens over Jaguars – I thought Jacksonville was really to make their move last week. I was wrong. Baltimore is awful but is coming off the bye and is playing at home.

Bengals over Texans – Houston wont be able to score enough points on the road. Cincinnati completes what I think will be a clean sweep for the undefeated teams in the league on Monday night.

Fantasy Football Picks of the Week

QB: Tom Brady (Patriots) – Brady will be facing the second worst pass defense in the league on Sunday.

RB: DeAngelo Williams (Steelers) – Williams was decent last week against Oakland and without Roethlisberger, he’ll get extra carries against Cleveland’s pitiful run defense.

WR: Allen Robinson (Jaguars) – Baltimore’s secondary isnt very good. Robinson is putting up consistent numbers and he might get extra targets this week as his teammate, Allen Hurns, is fighting a foot injury.

TE: Jordan Reed (Washington) – New Orleans’ secondary is a joke. Cousins loves going to his TE. He is one of the few Washington receivers that can stay healthy.

DEF: Carolina – The Panthers are the easy choice here and they’ll be facing an usually poor Titans offense.

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NFL 2015: Mid-Season Report

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At the mid-season mark, what’s not to like about this Carolina Panthers squad?

By: Elias McMillan

Now that every team has played at least 8 games, here are my top 5 surprises and disappointments in this 2015 NFL Season. Also, I have mid-season awards and a REVISED prediction for Super Bowl 50.

Top Five Surprising Teams

  1. Carolina Panthers (8-0) – Before the season started, I believed that the Panthers could still repeat as NFC South champions this season. But I couldn’t imagine them being without a loss at the half point of the season. I had no doubts that the defense in Carolina would be very good but I thought that the lack of offensive weapons would have kept them from being serious title contenders this year. But the offense, led by Cam Newton, has done just enough to win games and beat some of the better teams in the NFC. Carolina looks like they’ll have a clear path to home field advantage in this season’s playoffs.
  2. Cincinnati Bengals (8-0) – I thought that the Bengals would take a serious step back before the season started. Cincinnati has a lot of talent but I thought because of past failures, they wouldn’t be able to put it all together for one more playoff run. Instead, Cincy has improved play on their defensive line and the offense is still able to strike quickly and often. The Bengals look to be a lock to make the playoffs again but time will tell if they will actually be able to advance pass the first round this time around.
  3. New York Jets (5-3) – The Jets were supposed to stink this year. Instead, new head coach Todd Bowles has reenergized the team and they are now sitting in second place in the AFC East. There was a lot of hype surrounding Buffalo and Miami before the season started but the Jets have successfully risen up from behind the radar. The strength behind this Jets team has been the defensive front seven and the return of their power running game behind RB Chris Ivory. The Jets will have a tough road in the second half of the season but they might actually have a good chance at returning to the playoffs.
  4. Atlanta Falcons (6-3) – Atlanta was an early season surprise before they started to cool down significantly recently. Atlanta’s defense was playing way above expectations and RB Devonta Freeman was the breakout star on this offense. Atlanta has started to fall back to earth but they still might be able to ride their big play offense into the playoffs. They still have two games left on the schedule against the division leading Panthers.
  5. New England Patriots (8-0) – Yea, I know that the undefeated Patriots aren’t that big of a surprise but I didn’t think they would be this good of a team because of all their losses on the defensive side of the ball. Tom Brady hasn’t missed a game this season and the Patriots offense is the usual machine that it has always been. But for whatever reason, the defense hasn’t let down like I thought they would. The Patriots actually rank third in the league in rush defense.

Top Five Disappointing Teams

  1. Baltimore Ravens (2-6) – I had the Ravens competing for the AFC North title this season. A lot of people have been saying that the turning point of this season for the Ravens was when Terrell Suggs was lost due to injury. I think the bigger loss happened before the season when Baltimore traded away Haloti Ngata. Baltimore’s defense has regressed this season and the offense hasn’t been able to put it together. Joe Flacco has regressed and his receivers have been dropping like flies. This has been a truly lost season for John Harbaugh.
  2. Indianapolis Colts (4-5) – I realize that the Colts will still probably win the AFC South but there are an under .500 team and I had them winning it all before the season started. The Colts have severely under performed this season from the head coach, to the QB, and to the defense. The Colts are fortunate to be in the AFC South but they wont be the title contenders that I thought they would be at the start of the season.
  3. Miami Dolphins (3-5) – At the start of the season, I said that the Dolphins had “underachiever” written all over them. And for the most part, I was right. The defense has really let the entire team down and Ryan Tannehill isnt having the breakout season that we all thought he would be having. Good news is that they at least fired that stiff of a head coach. I hope Dan Campbell can turn it around and the Dolphins can finish off the season respectfully.
  4. Dallas Cowboys (2-6) – The Cowboys season has been completely wreck due to injuries but they still belong on this list. When Tony Romo went down, the belief was there that they had the talent to at least tread water until he returns. Instead, the Cowboys have lost 6 straight without Romo. The plan at backup QB has been a disaster, as well as the plan to replace DeMarco Murray. Whats even more disappointing is that the defense is even under performing. Because the NFC East stinks, Dallas literally has one more chance to maybe save the season this Sunday in Tampa. It’s a slim chance but a chance nonetheless.
  5. Detroit Lions (1-7) – With all the losses on the defensive line, I knew that Detroit would take a step back in 2015. But I didn’t think it would be this bad. Despite all of the talent of the offensive side of the ball and the additions to the offensive line, Detroit has completely flew off the handle and now, wholesale changes are on the horizon.

Mid-Season Awards

MVP: Tom Brady (QB – Patriots) – New England is probably the best team in the AFC and it’s because of the play of their QB. Brady has returned with a vengeance and is showing no signs of slowing down. I don’t think of his play as much as a “revenge tour” though that is a cool idea. But Brady has been what he has always been, a future Hall of Famer with a killer instinct. In the offseason, the AFC East teams stacked their defensive lines in order to stop Brady. Nothing has worked as of yet.

Offensive MVP: Antonio Brown (WR – Steelers) – I’m still kind of in awe of the game that Brown had a couple days ago. With Le’Veon Bell out, Brown will be the engine that will keep the Pittsburgh offense going into the post-season. No one on the league works harder than Brown and his numbers reflect that.

Defensive MVP: Charles Woodson (S – Raiders) – Woodson is having a renaissance of a season in 2015. He leads the league in interceptions and is a reason for Oakland’s recent turn around.

My REVISED Prediction for Super Bowl 50

In the NFC, I don’t see my preseason pick, Seattle, making it out. They might still eventually win the NFC West but they don’t look like the same team they were last season. The offensive line play and the unpredictability of Russell Wilson will probably cost them in the playoffs. Green Bay is a contender but I don’t trust their defense or their offensive line. Carolina maybe beatable because of their inexperience but they are clearly the lone stand out in the conference. In the AFC, I had the Colts coming out of the conference and winning it all. They probably wont happen though the Colts will win their division. Pittsburgh has so much freaking talent. I mean, how else are they still winning ball games with all the injuries they have. Pittsburgh’s defense isn’t getting enough credit but they still have significant weaknesses in the secondary. Roethlisberger may get healthy again but I’m not sure if I can trust them in playoffs especially if they cant catch the Bengals. Thinking of the Bengals, they might be sitting pretty in the AFC when its all set and done. I think it will come down to Cincinnati and New England in the AFC. And Cincy might stand a good chance if their defensive line and bother Tom Brady. The closer will be the fact that I don’t trust Andy Dalton at all in the post season. Remember the run that Joe Flacco had in his Super Bowl season? Do you think Dalton has that in him? I don’t. You can’t also forget about the Broncos. Denver has the best defense in football but the inconsistencies of offense might keep them from making the Super Bowl. New England is beatable, much like last season. But if they can overcome the defenses of Cincinnati and Denver, they will back their way into yet another Super Bowl appearance. REVISED Super Bowl 50 Prediction: Panthers over Patriots

NFL 2015: Week 5 Predictions!

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Denver’s defense has been the key to their success so far in 2015.

By: Elias McMillan

Last Week: 9-6

Season: 39-24

Big Five Games of the Week

Seattle @ Cincinnati – The Bengals are playing well on both sides of the ball right now. Andy Dalton is leading this Bengals offense in the right direction through the air and the running game is closing out ballgames. Jeremy Hill and Giovanni Bernard are both playing well right now. The Bengals offense will face a tough test at home on Sunday in the Seattle Seahawks. Seattle is slumping right now but their defense is playing well right now with S Kam Chancellor back in the lineup. Cincinnati has a lot of offensive weapons but Seattle is equipped to stop the run and defend the pass well. It should be an interesting chess match between those two units. Seattle’s offense is sloppy right now without RB Marshawn Lynch. Lynch’s status for Sunday is unclear and they’ll probably also be without veteran backup Fred Jackson. Besides of the health problems, Seattle has bigger issues with their offensive line right now. With the running game struggling, QB Russell Wilson is going to have to do more than usual while running for his live. Wilson can make some amazing plays outside the pocket but when pressured enough, he will make some mistakes. Cincinnati has been tough defensively so far this season and I think they’ll do well at limiting Seattle’s production on Sunday. Cincy will do enough to put this team away at home. Prediction: Bengals 25 – Seahawks 17

Chicago @ Kansas City – I’ll give the Bears credit for coming back and beating Oakland last week. But I still don’t have much confidence in them going forward. Kansas City needs a win in a bad way and they are at home this weekend. The Chiefs matchup well against Chicago on both sides of the ball. The Bears still have issues with stopping the run and the Chiefs offense goes through RB Jamaal Charles. QB Jay Cutler struggles under pressure and the Chiefs have two the best pass rushers in the game in Tamba Hali and Justin Houston. Kansas City gives up a lot of yards through the air but Cutler is lacking the weapons to really expose the Chiefs secondary. Kansas City should be able to take care of business on Sunday as long as Alex Smith doesn’t give the game away. Prediction: Chiefs 27 – Bears 14

Cleveland @ Baltimore – I saw nothing great about this Ravens team last Thursday night. Joe Flacco is playing poor football right now and he wont get better with all the injuries at the WR position. Baltimore’s saving grace on offense right now is Justin Forsett and the running game. On defense, Baltimore can’t stop the pass or pressure the QB. Cleveland has lost two straight since committing to QB Josh McCown but the losses really haven’t been the offense’s fault. Cleveland needs a better effort from the defensive side of the ball and I think they’ll get it on Sunday on the road. With the state of the Ravens passing game, Cleveland will make a greater effort at stopping the run this week. Cleveland’s passing game has been surprisingly efficient recently and WR Travis Benjamin has proven to be a reliable target. I’m going out on a limb here but I like the Browns to score an upset victory inside of the division on the road. Prediction: Browns 21 – Ravens 20

Denver @ Oakland – This game would be a lot more interesting if Oakland was 3-1. But still, the 2-2 Raiders are looking a lot better than recent past Raider teams. This will be a huge test at home this week against Denver. Denver isnt lighting up the score board this season but they are boasting the league’s best defense right now. The offense isnt playing too bad either and they are doing enough to allow the defense to close out victories. Oakland will have a chance in this game by keeping Peyton Manning and the Broncos offense off the scoreboard. Oakland is getting great play in the secondary from veteran Charles Woodson and they have an impressive pass-rushing duo in Khalil Mack and Aldon Smith. I think Oakland’s defense will be able to keep this game close. I’m not sure how the Raiders offense will be able to score enough points though. Denver has been fairly decent at stopping the run and preventing big passing plays. Derek Carr and rookie Amari Cooper have been impressive so far this season but they’re going to have to play their best games on Sunday to get the victory. I’m taking the road team in this game but don’t be surprised if Oakland has a chance to steal a victory at the end. It’s a shame that most of the country will miss this game. Should be a good one. Prediction: Broncos 23 – Raiders 17

Pittsburgh @ San Diego – The Steelers have the weapons on offense to keep winning games while Ben Roethlisberger is out from his injury. Mike Vick is an obvious drop off at the QB position but he can still do some things to help this Steelers teams and he showed that last week. Vick and the offense kind of over complicated things at times last week and that really cost them the game. That and they had a kicker who couldn’t make a field goal. I think Pittsburgh will work this week to make sure that they wont have to kick field goals at all on Monday night in San Diego. Martavis Bryant returns from his suspension this week and he’ll give Vick another deep target to go to along with Antonio Brown and Heath Miller. I think the Steelers should really focus less on the passing game as long as Ben is out. Especially when you have a guy like Le’Veon Bell in your backfield. Bell needs to get Adrian Peterson like carries in this offense, especially in short yardages situations. Bell has the potential to have some monster games on the stat sheet. He just needs to demand the ball. San Diego doesn’t have a great run defense so I can see Bell getting a heavy workload on Monday night. San Diego does a great job attacking defenses through the air with QB Phillip Rivers and Rivers will be receiving one of his favorite targets back this week in TE Antonio Gates. I think this should be a high scoring game between the Chargers and the Steelers and that might favor the home team. But even without Ben, the Steelers have the greater offensive weapons and they’ll be ready to take a positive step this week after a disappointing ending last week. Prediction: Steelers 35 – Chargers 28

The Rest of the Week 5

Colts over Texans – Andrew Luck isn’t healthy. Matt Hasselbeck has been in a hospital all week. But those two options at QB are still better than what Houston has.

Falcons over Washington – Atlanta is not going to be derailed at home.

Packers over Rams – After a great victory in the division last week, the Rams will under perform on the road this week.

Bills over Titans – Buffalo’s performance last week was embarrassing. Tennessee’s defense will be a sight for Tyrod Taylor’s sore eyes.

Eagles over Saints – I’m not sure how long Drew Brees can go without throwing deep passes. Philly has a great front seven and they’ll have a favorable matchup against this short passing attack. Sam Bradford discovered his arm last week and he’ll be in attack mode against the New Orleans defense.

Buccaneers over Jaguars – Jacksonville’s defense is horrid but Jameis Winston really needs to make an effort at cutting down on the turnovers.

Cardinals over Lions – Detroit is desperate and winless but I can’t see this Arizona squad losing two straight.

Patriots over Cowboys – Most of the nation will see this game and it’s really a shame. Without Tony Romo and Dez Bryant, this game will be one sided offensively. Dallas will be receiving defensive help this week but I’m not betting on Tom Brady coming off a bye.

Giants over 49ers – After this game, the New York Giants future NFC East Champion hype train will be in full swing.

Fantasy Football Picks of the Week

QB: Eli Manning (Giants) – San Francisco doesn’t have the defense to slow down the Giants passing attack.

RB: Jamaal Charles (Chiefs) – Charles usually has his best games at home and that might especially be the case against Chicago’s run defense.

WR: Larry Fitzgerald (Cardinals) – Fitzgerald is having a surprising start to his season.

TE: Martellus Bennett (Bears) – Bennett is basically is the only healthy, reliable target left for Cutler and the Bears passing offense.

DEF: New York Giants – San Francisco has been seriously limited on offense this season. The Giants have the best run defense in football right now.

NFL 2015: AFC West Preview

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Peyton Manning’s Super Bowl window maybe closing sooner than later.

By: Elias McMillan

AFC WEST

Denver Broncos – At the end of last season, watching Denver was like watching a train wreck in slow motion. QB Peyton Manning got a little banged up and the entire football team lost its edge offensively and defensively. This cost head coach John Fox his job but Denver was able to bring in Gary Kubiak who is familiar with the Denver franchise. Kubiak might be the right coach for Denver right now offensively because he has the reputation for using the running game effectively. An effectively running game could mean less pressure on Manning and the passing game. There is a lot of preseason buzz surrounding RB C.J. Anderson, as he might be a breakout star in Kubiak’s offense. For this offense to work, they are gonna need to get the best out of an under achieving offensive line. They’ve recently signed veteran guard Evan Mathis who will be able to play right away and make the Broncos stronger up front. Peyton Manning may have one or two good seasons left but he is still in the position where he is the most important piece on this football team. Denver will return a deep receiving core led by WR Demaryius Thomas. WR Emmanuel Sanders was a breakout star last season and also look for Cody Latimer to have an increased role this season. They lost TE Julius Thomas in free agency but Kubiak was able to bring over veteran Owen Daniels from Baltimore. Last season, Denver loaded up on defense but ultimately they under performed as a unit. This season, they brought in new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips and with him, I expect expectations will be raised. Phillips has a great rep as a great defensive coach who can get the most out of his players. Denver’s strength on defense comes from its linebackers. They have a great pass-rushing duo in DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller. Also, they drafted Shane Ray with their first round pick in the draft and he might develop into Ware’s replacement eventually. I like Denver’s middle linebackers as well, Brandon Marshall and Danny Trevathan. Denver will need more consistency from their secondary in 2015. CB Aqib Talib is the most talented player they have in the secondary but he needs to play smarter this year. I really like second year player Bradley Rody who showed a lot of promise in his rookie year. At safety, T.J. Ward should be able to continue to be a force in run support and as a tackler down the field. I think the defense should be improved under Wade Phillips but ultimately the success of this team will be determined on the offensive side of the ball. If the running game is improved and Manning can stay healthy, I don’t see why Denver wont be able to repeat as division champs again. Prediction: 11-5 (AFC West Champs)

Kansas City Chiefs – The Chiefs have two things that I’ve always liked on a football team: defense and a running game. But last season, the offense and the defense under achieved at times and it kept them from making the post season. I think the Chiefs can return to the playoffs this season but a lot of it is going to depend on what they can get out for the QB position. You’ll hear a million times this season about how QB Alex Smith didn’t throw a TD pass to a receiver all last season. Smith didn’t have a good 2014 season but I think he could bounce back. He pretty much has to because this season could be his last shot at being a starter in this league. To help Smith out, they brought in WR Jeremy Maclin from Philadelphia. Maclin is a speedster who will be featured as a legit number one option for Smith in this offense. Despite what happens with Smith and the passing game, RB Jamaal Charles will once again power this offense. Charles showed last season that he has the ability to put the offense on his back at times as a runner or as a receiver from the backfield. The more touches that Charles gets, the better for this offense. Kansas City has a decent defense but they lack consistency at times. The defensive line will be hurt at the beginning of the season, as DT Dontari Poe will miss some time due to injury. The stars of the defense are pass rushing super powers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston. The combo of Hali and Houston are almost guaranteed to combine for 30 plus sacks this season. The Chiefs will also receive great play in the middle of the defense from LB Derrick Johnson. This year’s first round pick, CB Marcus Peters, might have been the best corner in this draft. If Peters can get over some maturity issues, he could become an instant factor in the secondary. The feel good story of the season for the Chiefs and the entire league will be safety Eric Berry and his return from his fight with cancer. No one knows what kind of player he can be but just being out there would be a victory for the defense. I think Andy Reid’s Chiefs will be tough again this season. The running game and the defense will be good but if Alex Smith can rebound from a rough 2014, they could return to the post season. Prediction: 9-7 (Wild-Card)

San Diego Chargers – San Diego just missed the post season last year and they’ll face an uphill battle to back in the playoffs this season. The Chargers are pretty stable on offensively but they maybe the opposite on defense. They’ll be led once again by QB Phillip Rivers who is established as one of the better QB’s in the league. San Diego also made an effort to improve the offensive line by signing guard Orlando Franklin away from division rival, Denver. San Diego will be real deep at RB this season and hopefully they’ll be able to find a clear-cut starter out of the group. Branden Oliver and Danny Woodhead have proven to be serviceable but they are really hoping for rookie Melvin Gordon to eventually be the star. Rivers will have decent targets in the passing game this season as Malcom Floyd and Keenan Allen return. I also liked they brought in Jacoby Jones to help on special teams as a returner but Jones also is a great down the field target. The offense will be hurt for the first four weeks of the season without Rivers favorite target, TE Antonio Gates. On defense, I don’t see where the Chargers really improved. The defense didn’t have a strong pass rush a season ago. Jeremiah Attaochu and Melvin Ingram are capable of bringing pressure to the QB but they both need to step up this season. The Chargers have a nice duo at inside linebacker in Donald Butler and Manti Te’o but I bet they are hoping that rookie Denzel Perryman can start paying dividends early in his career. Perryman had an impressive college career and he may be a future starter on this defense. San Diego has a decent secondary led by safety Eric Weddle who is playing in his final season for the Chargers. San Diego also has two legit starting corners in Brandon Flowers and Jason Verrett. I think Phillip Rivers will continue to keep this team in games this season but I also think that the defense might keep them from competing for a playoff spot in 2015. Prediction: 8-8  

Oakland Raiders – For the first time in awhile, the optimism is Oakland is real. They’ll still be a few pieces away from keeping out of the basement in this division but they are starting the gather enough young players were they might be a force to deal with in a few seasons. I really like that they finally hired a head coach with prior experience at the job. Jack Del Rio is a tough coach with experience and he’ll be a perfect for this young roster. A lot will depend of the development of QB Derek Carr who showed some promise in his rookie season. The Raiders don’t have a star at RB right now but RB Latavius Murray had some decent games last season before his injury. Murray will return this season as the starter. Their top draft pick, WR Amari Cooper, is the future leader of this receiving core. Cooper is a quick and efficient route runner who is already earning the trust of Carr. Carr and Cooper might become a common connection for years to come for the Raiders. Oakland has a bright future on defense as well. Second year player, Khalil Mack, will be playing more in his natural position as a 4-3 pass rushing defensive end this season. Mack excels at bringing pressure so he should have a big sophomore season. I like the personnel on the Raiders defensive line. Veteran DT Dan Williams played great in Arizona a season ago and DE Justin Tuck is a guy that can still get after the quarterback. At linebacker, they have a pair of smart veteran is Malcolm Smith and Curtis Lofton. The ageless one in the secondary, Charles Woodson returns to continue to be a mentor for the younger corners and safeties. CB D.J. Hayden really started to play at a high level at the end of last season and the Raiders will be counting on him to continue that into 2015. If Del Rio can get this young team to over achieve, they could surprise some teams this season. But in reality that are some years away from making the post season. Oakland could be on the right track with Del Rio though. Prediction: 6-10