Tag Archives: Colin Kaepernick

NFL 2018: Ten Things I’m Sure of Before the 2018 Regular Season

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By: Elias McMillan

10. I’m pretty sure that Jon Gruden will be an utter failure in his second stint as Raiders Head Coach – It’s no mystery why Gruden has been romanticized over for the last couple years. He was a popular personality on ESPN for years and before that he coached successful teams in Oakland and in Tampa Bay. During his time as a media personality, he has painted as this ultimate “X’s and O’s” guy who is also a master at coaching QBs. But there was a reason why he was ran out of Tampa Bay in the first place. All of that yelling, screaming, and funny sound bites can be entertaining but they are not necessarily needed to be a successful NFL coach. It’s starting to look like maybe his past successes maybe had more to do with teams loaded with veteran talent and being in the right situation rather than just his leadership. Now, he will have an uphill battle in the locker room with the trade of Khalil Mack. Gruden was hired again and given a $100 million dollar contract to distract Oaklanders from the fact that their team is leaving them soon. But I’m sure when that time comes, the team may not be as competitive as they once were. It was only a few seasons ago where it looked like the Raiders were looking like they were getting ready to turn the corner. Those draft picks they got for Mack better play well early in their careers.

9. I’m sure the new helmet rule will make things even more chaotic. – The quest to make football “safer” has come to this. Policing lowing your helmet while making a legal tackle creates such a tough job for the officials that seem to be under fire year after year. I’m going to have to assume refs will have to swallow their whistles this year especially in contests were the final may still be in question. Minnesota head coach Mike Zimmer has said that this rule could potentially knock teams from contention and cost coaches jobs. The rule will may also affect scoring. Don’t be shocked if penalty yardage and overall scoring to be up this year.

8. I’m sure one of these QB’s will NOT make it to 2019: Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees, Phillip Rivers, and Eli Manning. – You can’t play forever. These guys are one blindside hit or one scramble gone wrong away from being on the self for good. Or maybe, one of these guys can have a post-season run that will allow them to have a swan song ending in the Super Bowl.

7. I’m sure that the Dallas Cowboys will NOT make the playoffs but Jason Garrett will remain head coach in 2019. – The Cowboys will not suck enough that will warrant Jason Garrett getting the axe. But really, Jason Garrett isn’t the reason for the Cowboys woes. People act like Jason Garrett was suppose to be the reason for this team being great. Garrett, at the least, is supposed to keep the locker room together and lead from there. The bottom line is that the players need to perform better. They might have a tough time without Dez Bryant in the passing game. Jason Witten and Dan Bailey are also gone. Despite those things, I don’t see Garrett being on the hot seat unless this team really starts to underperform. Plus, I’m afraid of who Jerry Jones would bring in if Garrett is indeed fired.

6. I’m sure that the New York Giants will regret not moving on from Eli Manning. – Eli Manning stunk last season and I have no reason to believe that won’t continue in 2018. When you have the chance to grab a top college QB prospect, you should do it. Ask Cleveland about Carson Wentz. The Giants did work to improve at their skill positions and offensive line in the offseason. But it won’t work unless the QB does.

5. I’m sure that the conversation surrounding Colin Kaepernick will not go away. – The NFL has set a dangerous precedent with how they have treated Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid. While Reid might still have a shot at playing again, Kaepernick’s career is probably over and the list of QB’s that have been signed since his free agency provides enough proof that his absence from a team roster isn’t football related. Though he will not be on a roster, what he stood (knelt) for will have affects on the league for years to come. More and more players will follow his lead and they will not cave in to the fear of having their career taken away from them for making a stand.

4. I’m sure that Aaron Rodgers will be the league MVP if he plays all 16 regular season games. – Rodgers is the top guy in the league at his position. And his team’s success is directly linked to him. Especially this year as Green Bay does not look very strong on paper. If Rodgers is himself and is able to stay healthy, he’ll lift this team to the postseason with his spectacular play.

3. I’m sure that the AFC representative in the Super Bowl this year will be: the Pittsburgh Steelers. – Here’s how I see it:

1) Patriots, 2) Steelers, 3) Texans, 4) Chargers, 5) Jaguars, 6) Titans.

Wild Card Round: Texans over Titans, Chargers over Jaguars

Divisional Round: Chargers over Patriots, Steelers over Texans

Championship Game: Steelers over Chargers

The Steelers have to figure it out this year because it will likely be the final season with Le’Veon Bell. Pittsburgh’s defense might hold them back again this season but you could say the same for New England. For a while, I thought Jacksonville would be able to be back in the championship picture again in 2018 but I’m not buying into their decision to stick with Blake Bortles. Pittsburgh isn’t perfect but all that talent has to amount to something more than just another playoff appearance.

2. I’m sure that the NFC representative in the Super Bowl this year will be: the New Orleans Saints. – Here’s how I see it:

1) Saints, 2) Vikings, 3) Rams, 4) Eagles, 5) Falcons, 6) Packers.

Wild Card Round: Rams over Packers, Falcons over Eagles

Divisional Round Saints over Falcons, Vikings over Rams

Championship Game: Saints over Vikings

I think the two best teams in the conference are in the same division: the Saints and the Falcons. Their matchups in the regular season and eventually the playoffs will provide for some great drama. Atlanta has just as much talent as New Orleans does but it seems like their coaching and decision-making holds them back. Minnesota will be a tough out this season as well but I don’t see the transition into Kirk Cousins running the offense to go as smoothly as some may think.

1. I’m pretty sure that the Super Bowl Champions this season will be: the New Orleans Saints. – Drew Brees gets his swan song moment, hands over the franchise to Teddy Bridgewater, and lifts Lombardi one last time in his rival’s home stadium.

 

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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!

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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

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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

NFL 2014: Week 17 Predictions!

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Aaron Rodgers plays great at Lambeau Field. The Lions haven’t won there since ’91. Recipe for an Upset?

By: Elias McMillan

Last Week: 9-7

Season: 148-91-1

Big Five Games of the Week

San Diego @ Kansas City – Both of these teams are fighting for a chance to still make the playoffs in this Week 17 match up. For San Diego, it is as simple as winning this football game. The Chiefs on the other hand, need a victory and some help. Kansas City really disappointed me last week especially offensively. I was waiting for QB Alex Smith to “pull the trigger” and go down field against the Steelers defense but he simply refused too. It might have been because that offensive line got dominated on almost every play last week. But if the Chiefs have those type of issues in pass protection, they should really ride their star RB, Jamaal Charles, but they don’t. The Chiefs have a decent defense but they wont make the playoffs this year because of the shortcomings on offense. This has to do with the play calling and the QB. San Diego is hunger and motivated. They could of easily let San Fran win that game last week but they kept fighting until the end. Despite the injury-based issues in the WR core, QB Phillip Rivers is still playing like a man possessed and he is getting the most out of his receivers. I think San Diego will be able to do enough on defense to keep Kansas City from scoring too many points. I see San Diego advancing to the playoffs again this Sunday. Prediction: Chargers 23 – Chiefs 16

Detroit @ Green Bay – The Packers have a ridiculous record at home against the Lions. The Packers have been a different football team period at home this season. But the Packers enter this NFC North Championship game not playing their best football. Aaron Rodgers and the passing game isn’t looking as dominant as they did earlier in the season. Plus, Rodgers may not be at 100% because of a leg injury. Recently, Green Bay has done a great job riding their beastly RB, Eddie Lacy, down the stretch. That offense will face a great challenge this week in the Detroit defense. The Lions defense gave Green Bay fits in their first match up and going forward from that game, that defensive unit proved that wasn’t a fluke. Detroit can win the battle at the line of scrimmage in this match up, as they are good at limiting the run and creating pressure in the pocket. Detroit’s secondary has excelled this season mainly because of the play of starting safeties, Glover Quinn and James Ihedigbo. It will be interesting to see how Rodgers and the offense plan to attack this defense. Green Bay’s defense have under achieved all season. You could say the same for Detroit’s offense though. Green Bay can’t stop the run but they have a decent secondary. QB Matt Stafford hasn’t had a big game in a while it feels like. He has to find a way to get WR Calvin Johnson involved early and often in this game. The Lions haven’t won in Green Bay since 1991. Rodgers seems to play lights out football at Lambeau Field but the Lions have the defense that can slow him down. Everyone is expecting Green Bay to win and that tells me that this is a perfect recipe for an UPSET. I’m going out on a limb and taking Detroit to win the NFC North on Sunday in Wisconsin. Prediction: Lions 31 – Packers 28

Carolina @ Atlanta – I guess someone has to win the NFC South. So, it will come down to Carolina and Atlanta in the Georgia Dome. The NFC South has never seen a repeat champion in its history and the dirty birds are the home team. This makes this an easy decision for me. Both teams have been really unimpressive this season but Atlanta’s offense has showed the most consistency in the division. Carolina’s defense isn’t the same unit it was in 2013. Cam Newton and the Panthers offense have been less than explosive recently. Atlanta doesn’t have a great defense but they have been playing opportunistic recently by taking chances and being awarded with turnovers. I don’t think it will be a blow out but Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and the rest of the Falcons offense will do enough to keep Carolina from becoming repeat champions of the South. Prediction: Falcons 27 – Panthers 21

Arizona @ San Francisco – The 49ers wont make the playoffs this year but they have a great chance at home to play spoiler and keep Arizona from winning the NFC West. Arizona is starting to prove that even if you have a defense that is playing lights out, you have to amount something offensively to win games. All the injuries at the QB position might keep Arizona from winning the division and from making any noise in the post season. What the Cardinals need is a “Trent Dilfer” type player at QB. I don’t think they currently have one. All jokes aside, the Arizona defense only gave up all those yards last week because they were gassed. They were tired. When you don’t have an offense that can move the chains, the defense will play a lot more snaps than they should. San Francisco’s offense hasn’t been the well oiled machine that it has been in the past but they’ll be able to do enough to win this game because Arizona’s offense wont keep them off the field. The 49ers defense has fought through injuries this season but they’ll get after this offense and they’ll limit Arizona’s scoring chances. I’m taking the home team and I’ll make a bonus prediction: Jim Harbaugh will still be the 49ers coach in 2015. This is the first season were Harbaugh hasn’t gotten the 49ers to the playoffs or won 10 plus games. You think the Niners brass are THAT much tired of his act. I very much doubt it. But if they do fire him, which they wont, I don’t see him going back to college. Prediction: 49ers 28 – Cardinals 17

Cincinnati @ Pittsburgh – Despite of what you’ve heard, this isnt that big of a game. Both of these teams have clinched playoff berths and I believe that the pressure is off. This game will be the difference from hoisting San Diego or traveling to Indy next weekend. Two winnable situations for both football teams in my opinion. NBC should have really chosen the Carolina-Atlanta game because it is an elimination game. But without the Cowboys/NFC East ratings train to hop on, NBC had to grab the second most popular football fan base. Anyways, on to the actual game. People are waiting for the Steelers team that lost to Tampa Bay and the New York Jets to show up but that hasn’t happened recently. Pittsburgh is playing good football down the stretch and their confidence must be sky high. I think the weakness of this football team is on the defensive side of the ball but we haven’t seen those struggles recently because the Steelers are starting to get the most out of their pass rush. Cincinnati must test that defense through the air and on the ground. RB Jeremy Hill has been a sensation to this football team because of his physical running style. The Bengals should ride him until the end to help set up QB Andy Dalton and the passing game. Dalton had a big game against the Steelers last time until the 4th quarter. I’m guessing Dalton will falter again this Sunday night. He has been much like this football team, unexpected and unpredictable. The Bengals defense really flexed their muscles last week at home. Can they have a return performance on the road this week? Who knows? You never know what Bengals team you are going to get especially in Pittsburgh. I do know that they’ll have their hands full with Roethlisberger, Brown, and Bell. It honestly wouldn’t surprise me if Cincy over achieved and won this game on Sunday night because of the lack of pressure on them. But I’m not counting on that. I’m counting on the Bengals to do what they have always done under Marvin Lewis: disappoint. Prediction: Steelers 32 – Bengals 24

The Rest of Week 17

Colts over Titans – Indy’s defense is a joke. But Tennessee doesn’t have a QB to challenge them.

Dolphins over Jets – In what will be Rex Ryan’s last game as Jets Head Coach, maybe the team will play inspired on the road. I feel like not too many people have been talking about the year QB Ryan Tannehill is having.

Vikings over Bears – You see how Minnesota brought along rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater. Then see how Cleveland brought along Manziel. Minnesota did it the right way. Teddy will be a joy for Minnesota going into next season.

Patriots over Bills – New England clinched home field in the playoffs but the Bills haven’t won in Foxboro in forever.

Giants over Eagles – If I had to guess which one of the last two games that Philly was going to lose, it would have been this one. The Eagles are on full collapse mode and I love it. The Giants will play hard for Tom Coughlin who will be back next season.

Saints over Buccaneers – It going to be interesting to see what Tampa Bay does with its first overall pick. Is QB Mike Gennon’s time up in a Bucs uniform?

Cowboys over Redskins – Dallas is gonna play their starters because there is a chance they could get one of the top two seeds in the NFC. I very much doubt this happens so I will freak out if a key player gets hurt in anyway on Sunday. Dallas owes Washington one.

Ravens over Browns – Baltimore are frauds and they would lose this game if Cleveland wasn’t down to their 3rd string QB.

Texans over Jaguars – Houston will be another team looking for a stable QB in the offseason.

Broncos over Raiders – Confidence in Denver is starting to dwindle after the loss on MNF.

Seahawks over Rams – Dallas need a St. Louis victory here. Jeff Fisher’s team always plays tough but Seattle is playing like the best team in football right now.

Fantasy Football Picks of the Week

QB: Colin Kaepernick (49ers) – If he can stay away from the turnovers, Kaepernick can have a big day against a tired Arizona defense.

RB: Justin Forsett (Ravens) – Cleveland is really bad at stopping the run. Baltimore should ride the running game to a victory.

WR: Mike Evans (Buccaneers) – Evans is just three yards away from an 1,000 yard season as a rookie. He’ll get it against the Saints secondary.

TE: Jermaine Gresham (Bengals) – Dalton looked the TE’s way a lot last week. That trend might continue with the AFC North on the line.

DEF: Houston – Let’s count on one more great performance from J.J. Watt before Houston’s season ends. Can it be enough to get Watt serious MVP consideration?

NFL 2014: Week 15 Predictions!

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Andrew Luck might be slowed again this weekend if his offensive line can’t keep J.J. Watt away from him.

By: Elias McMillan

Last Week: 9-7

Season: 129-78-1

Big Five Games of the Week

Cincinnati @ Cleveland – Getcha Popcorn Ready! It’s finally Johnny Football time in Cleveland. As much as I like Manziel and how much I would like to see him prove his detractors wrong, last week, I was all for the Browns keeping Brian Hoyer as the starter at QB. My reason was simply that you would probably want an experienced QB behind center especially when your team is in the middle of a playoff race. But Hoyer’s shortcomings as a QB has started to out weight the experience factor. The Cleveland offense needs a spark. The Cleveland offense NEEDS Johnny Football! Seriously, I think Manziel will be fine but it will be important for the Browns to bring him on slowly in this game. I mean, they cant completely put his game in shackles but Manziel can and should be able to use the Browns running game to his advantage this week. Once he gets comfortable, we might see some of the exciting plays that we saw from him at Texas A&M. I mean, that’s what everyone is hoping for pretty much. I’m giving Cincinnati’s defense no respect going into this game. They have been a disappointment this season and they are especially now under achieving while in first in the division. I’m a big fan of Cleveland’s defense. They probably have the best defense in the AFC North. The secondary leads the NFL in interceptions and they have a great pass rush. They do have a weakness at defending the run so Cincinnati is really going to have to get Jeremy Hill and Giovanni Bernard going this week. Bernard has been a disappointment since returning from injury and the offense is starting to rely more on the rookie, Hill. Andy Dalton all but lost the game for the Bengals last week with that key fumble and he really stunk up the joint the last time he faced this Browns defense. I don’t think that game was a fluke. As the games get bigger, Dalton will continue to struggle. All aboard the Manziel hype train. Prediction: Browns 26 – Bengals 17

Houston @ Indianapolis – Andrew Luck didn’t look like himself last week in Cleveland. You have to give credit to Cleveland’s defense but you have to wonder if the one-dimensional Colts offense is starting to get figured out. Luck and the Colts did enough to come away with the victory last week but they might find it tougher at home against the division rival, Texans. J.J. Watt and the Houston defense might be taking away attention for the offense, which has been performing really well since Ryan Fitzpatrick returned to the starting QB job. What has really helped Fitzpatrick and the Texans offense is the return of a healthy RB Adrian Foster who is starting to play like his old self. I think the Colts defense will have its hands full this weekend. Houston’s strength on defense is J.J. Watt and the pass rush and they’ll have a favorable matchup this week against the Colts offensive line. Houston struggles at times against the run and in the secondary so, with that great pass rush, Luck is gonna have to figure out a way to get rid of the ball fast and down the field. I might be going out on a limb here or maybe I’m just swept up in the J.J. Watt hype fest that is going on right now but I think Houston can score the upset on the road this week. Prediction: Texans 31 – Colts 30

Denver @ San Diego – Peyton Manning didn’t throw a TD pass last week but the Broncos were still able to win the game. I think the Denver passing attack can have a bounce back performance this week against San Diego’s secondary. Denver is in a part of the season where they aren’t looking as impressive as they were earlier in the year. I think they’ll be okay offensively but I’m worried about the defense, especially the secondary. I think Phillip Rivers can have a good game this week and keep up scoring wise with Denver. San Diego usually plays Denver tough especially at home. San Diego will probably be Denver’s biggest test before the post season and I don’t expect Denver to win out going into the playoffs. This is a perfect trap game for them and they’ll fall into it in a close competitive divisional matchup. Prediction: Chargers 35 – Broncos 31

San Francisco @ Seattle – The 49ers are reeling going into this game and the Seahawks have been pretty much the opposite of that recently. San Fran cant get itself figured out on offense and the defense can only carry the load for so long. Seattle is starting to catch fire in the last month of the season. The defense is playing really well and the offense is doing enough to put points on the board and stay ahead. I believe that the 49ers are in a no-win situation this week in Seattle. QB Colin Kaepernick is struggling right now and the Seahawks secondary is looking as good as they were during their Super Bowl run a season ago. I think a loss here would all but knock San Francisco out of the playoff race. Prediction: Seahawks 26 – 49ers 14

Dallas @ Philadelphia – Huge, huge game for both of these teams but mostly for Dallas. I’m sure there is a scenario where Dallas could lose this game and still make the playoffs but those chances would still be pretty slim. When these two teams played two weeks ago, Dallas was coming off an odd stretch of events. They were literally the first NFL team to play on the road in a Sunday night game then turn around and play an afternoon Thursday game. Now, the team would say that this wasn’t an excuse for what happened on Thanksgiving but that short turn around definitely had an affect on the team. It especially had an affect on Tony Romo who couldn’t rehab his injured back enough to be affective in that game. Now with the extra rest from playing in last Thursday’s game, Romo and the Cowboys should be more than ready for this huge NFC East matchup. The main reason the Eagles were able to win in the matchup two weeks ago was they were able to control the pace of the game. DT Fletcher Cox and the Eagles front seven ran rampant in that game and really took it to that hyped Dallas offensive line. That front seven, especially Cox, has just been playing well recently as a whole. The Cowboys offensive line must play better in this matchup. Dominating the line scrimmage will be huge for RB DeMarco Murray and the run game and pass protection will also be key. The Eagles are tough up front and have been recently stout against the run but they are still weak in the secondary. Dallas must not abandon the run in this game but at the same time, they have to take advantage of the matchups in the passing game. Now, I don’t think that much of the Cowboys defense but I also don’t think much of QB Mark Sanchez. They cannot let Sanchez play as well as he did on Thanksgiving. RB LeSean McCoy will continue to be the pace car for this Eagles offense so Dallas will have to find a way to stop the run. The lack of a pass rush will also allow these Eagles receivers to get behind the Dallas secondary. I don’t know if Dallas should blitz more often or not but their lack of ability to get defensive stops will keep Philly in this game. The Cowboys offense will have to win it for them in this game and they can if they can control the line of scrimmage. If Dallas can play ball control football and keep the defense on the sidelines, they can win this game. Dallas is the only undefeated team on the road this season and this is a must win for them. I think the team that would usually fold in big games like this isnt here this season. The Cowboys have been through a lot and the locker room can tell that there is something different about this season. They know what must be done to get another big road victory and I think they can pull it off this Sunday night. Prediction: Cowboys 34 – Eagles 28

The Rest of Week 15

Rams over Cardinals – Arizona needs this victory but they have too many injuries to be at their best especially on a short week. St. Louis is finishing strong this season, just like in 2013.

Falcons over Steelers – Big game for both of these teams. This is what Pittsburgh has done all season: have a letdown after a big victory. Atlanta is playing well and will be desperate for a home victory. Julio Jones might be banged up but he might be able to win this game by himself.

Packers over Bills – I wonder if the Buffalo secondary can slow down Aaron Rodgers like they slowed down Peyton Manning last week. If they do, this could be a close game at Ralph Wilson.

Chiefs over Raiders – Kansas City is starting to fade but they’ll be up for this revenge game against Oakland.

Patriots over Dolphins – Miami is also starting to see their playoff hopes dwindle. New England will be looking for payback in this one too.

Giants over Dolphins – I like Tom Coughlin. New York will finish this season by playing hard for him. Washington is a dumpster fire.

Panthers over Buccaneers – I think Carolina will play inspired football without their leader, Cam Newton.

Ravens over Jaguars – Baltimore cant afford let downs like the one they avoided last week in Miami. They must take care of this bad Jacksonville team.

Jets over Titans – I might be alone on this but I think the Jets offense can generate more points than the Titans offense right now. Revenge game for RB Chris Johnson?

Lions over Vikings – There hasn’t been enough ink on the improved Lions defense.

Saints over Bears – Both of these teams have been disappointing. I think I can count on Drew Brees to out score Jay Cutler. Right? Maybe.

Fantasy Football Picks of the Week

QB: Ben Roethlisberger (Steelers) – Atlanta has the worst pass defense in the league. Enough said.

RB: Matt Forte (Bears) – Chicago hasn’t had much to count on this season except for Forte. New Orleans’ run defense is really bad.

WR: Sammy Watkins (Bills) – Watkins can have a big day at home against the Packers secondary.

TE: Martellus Bennett (Bears) – Bennett leads all TE’s in catches this season. I doubt that the Saints will be able to slow him down.

DEF: Baltimore – The Ravens should be able to limit Jacksonville’s offensive production on Sunday. Rookie LB C.J. Mosley has been impressive in his 1st season.

NFL 2014: Week 13 Predictions!

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If the Dallas pass rush can’t get to Eagles QB Mark Sanchez, he could have a Thanksgiving to remember.

By: Elias McMillan

Last Week: 12-3

Season: 111-64-1

Big Five Games of the Week

Chicago @ Detroit – The Lions have a real chance at winning consecutive Thanksgiving Day games for the first time in a long time. But both teams enter this matchup in an offensive rut. Detroit has lost two straight games where they could not find the end zone. Chicago has dealt with offensive issues the entire season, which is why they are 5-6 entering this game. Unlike Detroit, Chicago also has mayor defensive issues due to injuries and just an overall lack of effort. Despite losing two straight, I believe that the Lions defense can have a bounce back performance on Thursday. The Lions front four should be able to affect Jay Cutler and the Bears offense at the line of scrimmage. Chicago will have a chance in this game but only if the offense can find major success. The Bears defense will be out-manned on Thursday as they will continue to struggle against the run and WR Calvin Johnson should be able to make an difference in the game lining up opposite of Chicago’s inexperienced secondary. Detroit needs this game to try to keep pace with Green Bay in the NFC North. I think they will be able to wrap this one up at home. Prediction: Lions 31 – Bears 22

Philadelphia @ Dallas – This game wont determined the NFC East winner but it could go along way in deciding the division. The Eagles and the Cowboys have been impressive this season but they do have their weaknesses. For the Eagles, they still have a great collection of skill players on offense. The bad news is that starting QB Nick Foles is still out via injury and backup QB Mark Sanchez might not be as sharp. The good news for Sanchez and the Eagles offense is that the Cowboys defense cannot amount any type of a pass rush this season. Philadelphia has had a lot of mid season changes to the offensive line but I don’t think that will matter against the Dallas front four. With no pressure, Sanchez and his weapons will be able to get behind the defense and cause some serious damage. On defense, the Eagles will need to focus on stopping the run. Philadelphia’s strength of defense is the pass rush but Dallas will be able to almost take that factor out of the game with their running attack. The Dallas offensive line is still playing outstanding football so Philly might already have their hands full with trying to pressure Tony Romo. I’ll admit that safety Malcolm Jenkins has been better than I expected this season for the Eagles but that secondary has mostly been bad and WR Dez Bryant should be able to have his way with them. Despite of what the Dallas offense can do, I think this game will be about the Dallas defense and their lack of defensive stops. This should be a close exciting contest that will leave a perfect build up leading to the rematch in Philly in about 2 weeks. Prediction: Eagles 29 – Cowboys 27

Seattle @ San Francisco – The Seahawks and 49ers round off a great rivalry, Thanksgiving Day triple-header in the NFL on Thursday. Both teams have had issues this season but both are still in position to make a push towards the post season. Seattle is almost the same team from last season but the lack of talent is starting to become an issue. Seattle still has a power running game led by RB Marshawn Lynch and QB Russell Wilson is still the unquestioned leader of the offense. On defense, the “Legion of Boom” is still a feared secondary but unlike last season, Seattle’s front seven has had problems this season with creating pressure and stopping the run. This serves well for the 49ers offense. QB Colin Kaepernick has had his struggles this season but he will be able to use the running game to set the tone in this matchup. The 49ers defense is slowly starting to regain health and the form that we are more accustomed to seeing them in. The return of OLB Aldon Smith has already started to make a difference for the defense and the emergence of rookie ILB Chris Borland has help the 49ers with defending the run. Seattle will have their hands full in this divisional matchup especially because they still are known for their woes on the road. This should be a low scoring affair that might come down to field goals in the 4th quarter. Prediction: 49ers 23 – Seahawks 20

New England @ Green Bay – I don’t think this is a Super Bowl preview but this game features two of the best teams and QBs in the NFL. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers were going through a pretty impressive stretch of games recently that saw them put up a lot of points. Last week in Minnesota, Green Bay had to grit out a tough victory. Though it was impressive to see them win ugly for once, I think that game did show that it is possible to slow down that offense. New England doesn’t have a top defensive unit statistically but they are a tough group that might be getting healthier this week. New England has been getting strong play from their secondary and from the run defense. OLB Chandler Jones might be ready to return from injury this week and if he does, New England will have a legit pass rusher to help them get after Rodgers. Green Bay’s defense has had their good moments this year but they still have exploitable weaknesses. They struggle to stop the run and the pass rush has been a disappointment this year. I think New England will be able to control the line of scrimmage in this game. Tom Brady will be able to dial up the correct plays in the run game and in the pass game. Rookie safety HaHa Clinton-Dix will have his hands full contending with New England’s TE’s, Rob Gronkowski and Tim Wright. I still thank Rodgers and the Packers offense will be able to keep this game competitive. It will help that they’ll have that great home field advantage but I don’t see New England being phased. Brady has been in a zone recently. Prediction: Patriots 33 – Packers 28

Denver @ Kansas City – I’m not ready to write off the Chiefs after they were embarrassed and some what robbed of a victory last week in Oakland. I actually think that they matchup well against Denver and they’ll have a legit shot at an upset at home this week. Denver was able to overcome a slow start at home last week and still get the victory over a defensively tough Miami team. Judging from the last two games, it seems like Denver is starting to lose some of that steam they had earlier in the season. Kansas City matchups up well against them on both sides of the ball and that great home field advantage on Sunday night will create a hostile environment for Peyton Manning. Kansas City has the front seven on defense that can pressure the QB and stuff the run. The Chiefs secondary will greatly miss safety Eric Berry but considering the situation with him, maybe that unit will be able to play inspired football that night. Denver still will be tough to stop on offense but if Kansas City can create enough stops, that might be able to be the difference in the ballgame. Denver’s defense has started to show weakness against the run and the pass. RB Jamaal Charles is basically the Chiefs offense so Denver will have to especially key on him. QB Alex Smith is not playing his best right now but maybe he can seem more comfortable playing at home. Despite the defense and the home field advantage, I’m picking this game based on the fact that I don’t trust Alex Smith to be able to score enough points in this game in order to outscore Peyton Manning. Prediction: Broncos 35 – Chiefs 27

The Rest of Week 13

Bills over Browns – Returning to Ralph Wilson Stadium this week will create a crazy scene and a great advantage for the Bills. Cleveland has proven this year before that they cant handle their own success.

Colts over Redskins – So much for the Luck-RG3 matchup. Let the Colt McCoy era in Washington begin!

Rams over Raiders – Oakland deserves to lose forever for the stunt they pulled off last week vs. the Chiefs.

Panthers over Vikings – The NFC South is still awful but Carolina is healthy coming off the bye.

Steelers over Saints – Things in New Orleans wouldn’t be as bad if Drew Brees was still playing like Drew Brees. Something is just off about him this season. Pittsburgh has been great at home recently and that defense will be really healthy coming off the bye week.

Bengals over Buccaneers – Don’t look now but Cincinnati is starting to play really well. I’m excited for the backfield tandem of Jeremy Hill and the now healthy Giovanni Bernard.

Giants over Jaguars – I think that a loss here would all but seal Tom Coughlin’s fate in New York.

Ravens over Chargers – It’s been hard for me to get a read on Baltimore this season. San Diego will be desperate for a win this week as they are starting to become forgotten in the crowded AFC.

Texans over Titans – The QB change shouldn’t matter here. Tennessee is a bad football team.

Cardinals over Falcons – It is not time to panic in Arizona but a loss here against Atlanta might cause some concern.

Dolphins over Jets – Rex Ryan is starting Geno Smith at QB this week. So, that alone should tell you that the Jets Head Coach has checked out mentality.

Fantasy Football Players of the Week

QB: Tony Romo (Cowboys) – Romo’s track record on Thanksgiving has been well documented. Plus, Philly’s secondary isn’t good.

RB: Fred Jackson (Bills) – Here’s a name that you haven’t heard in awhile. Cleveland struggles against the run and Jackson will be extra motivated this week after already starting a war of words with the Browns defense.

WR: Calvin Johnson (Lions) – Johnson should have a big Turkey day against the Chicago secondary.

TE: Larry Donnell (Giants) – With the extra attention on Odell Beckham Jr., Eli Manning might be able to exploit the middle of the Jaguars defense with Larry Donnell.

DEF: Miami – I have no reason to believe that Geno Smith will have a big day offensively on Monday night. Miami’s defense should be able to feast.