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NFL 2017: Mid-Season Report

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

By: Elias McMillan

 

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

 

Top 5 Surprising Teams

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

 

Top 5 Disappointing Teams

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

 

Mid Season Awards

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

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

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

My REVISED Pick of Super Bowl 52

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

 

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NFL 2017: Preseason Awards & Playoff Predictions

 

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Oakland Raiders

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

By: Elias McMillan

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AFC

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

NFC

  1. Atlanta Falcons – 13-3 (NFC South)
  2. Seattle Seahawks – 11-5 (NFC West)
  3. New York Giants – 10-6 (NFC East)
  4. Green Bay Packers – 10-6 (NFC North)
  5. Arizona Cardinals – 10-6 (Wild-card)
  6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 9-7 (Wild-card)

Wild-Card Weekend

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

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

Divisional Round

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

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

Conference Championship Sunday

AFC: (2) Raiders over (1) Patriots

NFC: (1) Falcons over (3) Giants

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

Atlanta Falcons over Oakland Raiders

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

 

 

NFL 2016: Week 7 Predictions!

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Tom Brady and friends should crush a shorthanded Steelers team this Sunday.

By: Elias McMillan

 

Last Week: 12-3

Season: 55-37

Big Five Games of the Week

Indianapolis @ Tennessee – The Colts are trending downward right now. I think offensively, they can still score enough to be in games but their defense will continue to let them down like they did last week when they melted down in Houston. Tennessee is a talented football team who is looking for the chance to climb out of the AFC South basement and I think they’ll have a chance to do just that this season. Step one would be beating a Colts team that has owned them for a while now. I think I read that Andre Luck is 7-0 all time against the Titans. I think Tennessee will flip the script at home this Sunday. We’ll see a strong game from QB Marcus Mariota and he’ll receive great support from DeMarco Murray and the run game. Look for the Titans to finish the game strong in the four quarter while the Colts will fail once again at holding the lead. Prediction: Titans 27 – Colts 20

Minnesota @ Philadelphia – Sam Bradford returns to Philadelphia after being traded to Minnesota right before the season. That trade may have worked out for both teams as Philly was able to hand the keys to the offense to their top draft pick and Minnesota was able to keep their expectations afloat by having a capable QB under center after losing Teddy Bridgewater for the season. The Vikings enter this game undefeated and coming off the bye week. Philadelphia started the season hot and they had the entire league talking. But since then, they have cooled off significantly and if you look at their upcoming schedule, more pain in on the horizon. Carson Wentz was the media darling a couple weeks ago but he is starting to hit that rookie wall as we saw against Detroit and last week vs. Washington. Wentz is going to continue to have a bad time out there as he will be facing a really good Vikings defense on Sunday. Philadelphia’s defense isn’t playing at the level that it was a few weeks ago either. Minnesota isn’t going to overwhelm anyone offensively but with the way their defense is playing, the offense will not have to do very much on the stat sheet but still put away teams late. Bradford will really enjoy this one, as his Vikings will stay undefeated in Philly. Prediction: Vikings 33 – Eagles 21

New England @ Pittsburgh – The Steelers were my pick last week in my Survival Football league. That didn’t go well as they had their annual “play down to a crappy opponent” game last week in Miami. To make matters even worst in Steel town, Pittsburgh lost their starting QB, Ben Roethlisberger to injury. I remember last season when Ben went down due to injury and the Steelers were still able to win ball games with Landry Jones. Fast-forward to today and it sounds like many are not giving Jones a chance this weekend. Maybe it is because they know what they are losing in Roethlisberger. Maybe its because Landry Jones isn’t that good. Or maybe, it is because of who is coming to Heinz Field this weekend. Landry Jones is going to have to be better than good to beat Tom Brady and the Patriots this weekend. Pittsburgh really suffered last weekend defensively as the Dolphins ran all over them. They will receive some help this week as LB Ryan Shaizer will return from injury. But they will still be without DE Cameron Heyward who is a major difference maker on the Steelers’ defensive line. Also missing last week in Miami was the Steelers pass rush, which is currently non-existent. All of those things will equal into some bad news for the Steeler faithful at home this Sunday. With no pass rush, Tom Brady will tear this secondary apart. Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett should be able to have field days on Sunday. New England’s running game is underrated and the current state of the Pittsburgh run defense will give LaGarrette Blount chances to shine this week. All hope isn’t lost for Pittsburgh on offense though. No Roethlisberger will likely mean heavy doses of Le’Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams who are both really good. We will see how well New England defends the run on Sunday. If Pittsburgh is successful in the run game, that will open up some things for Jones and the passing offense. Antonio Brown was almost a no show last week in Miami and the Steelers will have to find a way to get him involved even without the starting QB passing him the ball. I honestly think that the Steelers aren’t in that bad of shape without Roethlisberger but they will not even be close to being able to compete with New England on Sunday. Strange things can happen in Heinz Field, I guess. But I expect the Patriots to roll easily. Prediction: Patriots 42 – Steelers 28

Seattle @ Arizona – Don’t let last week’s home victory over the Jets fool you. Arizona has been disappointing to say the least so far this season. There is a narrative that says that Arizona is really good at home and Seattle is really bad on the road. I think you can throw that narrative out the window this Sunday night. Seattle is currently playing at a high level and Arizona is not. The Cardinals have been really disappointing on the defensive side of the ball. They have talented players in the secondary but as a unit, they are not creating enough stops. Arizona’s fall back has been their high scoring offense but even they have been inconsistent at times this season. RB David Johnson is having a strong season but on Sunday, he’ll face a tough Seattle front four. Arizona’s shortcomings on defense will serve Seattle’s offense well. Russell Wilson will be able to control the game with his legs and his arm. I’m taking the road team. Prediction: Seahawks 27 – Arizona 19

Houston @ Denver – I guess you have to give Houston credit for coming back like they did last week. They were pretty much dead in the water but they ended up finishing strong. They could be a confidence builder going into a big Monday night match up against the defending champion Broncos. Denver lost at home to Atlanta and had a short turn around where they lost at San Diego on a short week. After losing that tough one to Atlanta and then having to turnaround and play on the road on a short week, that is a tough sequence. Did I mention that I think season long Thursday night games are a stupid idea? But anyways, Denver should be pretty ticked off and ready get back to winning at home on national television. Brock Osweiler will be making his return to Denver and the Broncos defense is already chomping at the bit to get after him. Osweiler might have already proved to be a QB who really wasn’t deserving of all that money Houston gave him. I like the Denver defense in this matchup very much. They will get after the QB and Houston will have issues scoring points. Denver’s offense has been struggling a bit recently and Houston’s defense is actually much tougher than anyone gives credit to. I just think Houston will be struggling so much on offense that the defense will get tired late in this game and will be unable to come up with key stops in the 4th quarter. I see Denver getting back on track this week at home. Prediction: Broncos 21 – Texans 12

The Rest of Week 7

Packers over Bears – I know that Green Bay is struggling and that they just lost Eddie Lacy for the season. But Chicago is really bad and they let Jacksonville beat them on a complete accident.

Rams over Giants – The International Series is another thing in the NFL that I would like to see go away. How about the Rams in an upset? Their defense will keep LA in this game.

Bengals over Browns – Cincinnati showed signs of life last week. Cleveland is dead but the Indians are going to the World Series! They really need to get rid of that Chief Wahoo mascot though.

Washington over Lions – Washington is on a winning streak and no one is noticing. Detroit is a team that I can’t trust right now because of all of their injuries.

Chiefs over Saints – Drew Brees is playing at a high level. Kansas City’s defense will face a tall task on Sunday but I like the Chiefs at home.

Bills over Dolphins – Buffalo may be without LeSean McCoy but their defense is playing at a high level right now. A win in Miami would mean five straight for Rex Ryan’s bunch.

Ravens over Jets – This game might set QB play back a few years. It will be a field goal kicking contests. I like Justin Tucker. Hook ‘em.

Raiders over Jaguars – I can’t believe that the Raiders are really leaving California.

Falcons over Chargers – Atlanta fought tough on the road last week in Seattle. They won’t have a let down at home this week.

Buccaneers over 49ers – I don’t know. A complete toss up here.

Week 7 Fantasy Football Picks

QB: Tom Brady (Patriots) – Hard for me not to pick Tom. He is facing the third worst pass defense in the league on Sunday.

RB: Jamaal Charles (Chiefs) – This is a complete shot in the dark. Kansas City just traded one of their running backs. Maybe this will mean a bigger role for the now healthy Charles.

WR: A.J. Green (Bengals) – Green usually goes big against the Browns.

TE: Delanie Walker (Titans) – Tennessee passing offense has a favorable matchup this week against the Colts secondary. Walker has been quiet lately. Maybe he will break out this week.

DEF: Oakland – Jacksonville has been so bad on offense this season. Blake Bortles might make the Raiders secondary look better than it really is.

NFL 2016: Week 1 Predictions!

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You may not know Broncos starting QB Trevor Siemian but the Panthers defense will get real comfortable with him on opening night.

By: Elias McMillan

First, here’s a look at how I’ve done picking regular season games in recent years:

2009 Regular Season Record: 169-87

2010 Regular Season Record: 157-99

2011 Regular Season Record: 162-94

2012 Regular Season Record: 163-92-1

2013 Regular Season Record: 158-97-1

2014 Regular Season Record: 158-97-1

2015 Regular Season Record: 163-93

Now, here’s my forecast for Week 1 of the 2016 Season.

Big Five Games of the Week

Carolina @ Denver – This Super Bowl rematch won’t have the same sizzle as the game in February did obviously. First, the stakes aren’t nearly as high and second, Denver is a different team since then. The most glaring difference will be that Denver did not return its starting QB or backup QB for 2016. Instead, Trevor Siemian will take his first snaps ever in the NFL game on opening night against the Carolina Panthers. Many are not expecting much from Siemian but I think that speaks more about how good Carolina’s defense is and less about how good of a QB Siemian is. Lets face it, no one knows how good or bad Siemian is as a QB. But I do know that the Panthers defense will work to get him to look bad on Thursday night. Denver could try to hide Siemian by slowing down the game by running the ball. But Carolina defends the run pretty well too. For Carolina, Cam Newton maybe taking the humble approach but he is definitely thinking of proving him self against this Denver defense that completely humiliated him in last season’s Super Bowl. I think Denver’s defense will still be a tough nut for Newton to crack in this game but Denver will be missing a few key pieces from that championship game that left in free agency. Both defenses will be good in this game but Carolina will be able to use their offensive weapons effectively because of the advantage at the QB position. I don’t think Newton will have a big game but he will do enough to make a big difference for the Panthers. Prediction: Panthers 21 – Broncos 13

Cincinnati @ New York Jets – Cincinnati had a very good team in the regular season in 2015. I think they can be the same in 2016 but they might have to deal through some things before they see consistent success. The Bengals will be missing a few key defenders because of suspension and injuries. But I realize that you could say the same about the Jets defense in this game. The Jets and Bengals offer big play offenses and defenses that are usually tough. I think that I like the home team’s chances in this game because the Jets are a bit tougher upfront defensively. I think it will be a long day for Jeremy Hill and Giovanni Bernard. I also think Andy Dalton will be under a lot of pressure in this game. I don’t trust Cincy’s secondary very much and if Ryan Fitzpatrick stays on his feet, he’ll take advantage down the field by throwing to big targets, Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. It will be close but I like the Jets in a slight upset. Prediction: Jets 26 – Bengals 23

New York Giants @ Dallas – Tony Romo or no Tony Romo, the Giants matchup very well with the Cowboys in this opening game. Once again, these teams meet to open up the season in what is almost always an ultra competitive game. The Giants enter this game looking to show off its shiny new defense that they spent a lot of money on in the offseason. The addition of DE Olivier Vernon will make this Giants defensive line a force in 2016 and they’ll face a great test on Sunday in the Cowboys offensive line. This game will basically be about those two units. The Giants also brought in new members in the secondary but I still think they’ll have problems containing the Cowboys receivers led by WR Dez Bryant. The Cowboys will be starting a rookie at QB and RB on Sunday. Dak Prescott will be in for the injured Tony Romo and Ezekiel Elliott will be starting a much hype rookie campaign. I think Dallas will be successful running the ball against a Giants defense that struggled at stopping the run last season but I don’t know how well Prescott will do as a passer in this first game. But this game will really be about the shortcomings of the Dallas defense. Eli Manning plays his best football when the defense cannot pressure him. With no heat on Eli, I fully expect him to out play Dak Prescott. Not to mention, the Giants also have a great receiving core led by WR Odell Beckham Jr. These games always manage to be gut wrenchingly close up until the end but I’m giving the advantage to the road team. Prediction: Giants 32 – Dallas 27

New England @ Arizona – Arizona will be fired up on Sunday to play against a team that has dominated the league for a while now. New England comes into this season shorthanded on both sides of the football. Everyone knows about the Tom Brady suspension but on defense, their top pass rusher, Rob Ninkovich is suspend and their other best pass rusher, Chandler Jones, is now a Cardinal. New England’s defense has been known for years as an overachieving group but I expect this Arizona offense to really take it to them in this contest. We will see plenty of RB David Johnson, which will allow a balanced passing attack led by QB Carson Palmer. We shouldn’t write off QB Jimmy Garoppolo as he will have a couple of recent weapons to go to as well. It is going to interesting to see how this Arizona defense decides to attack TE Rob Gronkowski and try to limit his impact on this game. But New England will be too shorthanded to give Arizona the proper challenge in this game. Prediction: Cardinals 31 – Patriots 20

Pittsburgh @ Washington – There is a lot of Super Bowl hype surrounding the Steelers entering this season. But first, they’ll have to beat a pretty good Washington team that is coming off a playoff berth. QB Kirk Cousins will be looking to prove that last season was no fluke against Pittsburgh’s defense. Cousins is going to have to be the driving force for Washington in this game. I feel that Washington’s offensive line will give Cousins the opportunities to go down field and make an impact in this game against a banged up and aging Steelers pass rush. Washington doesn’t have a great ground game and Pittsburgh usually plays the run well defensively. So, it will be all about Cousins for the Washington offense. Thinking of offense, the Steelers have a pretty good one. QB Ben Roethlisberger is primed to have a big season with the many weapons at his disposal. WR Antonio Brown is a player that was made for Monday Night Football. He will be the big play guy in this contest though Washington CB Josh Norman will give him quite the challenge. Washington’s defense is a lot better than advertised and they’ll be tested by the Steelers upfront and by their running game led by DeAngelo Williams. Washington has plenty of big play guys like DeSean Jackson and TE Jordan Reed but I think the Steelers playmakers will make more of an impact. This game will be closer than what the experts will think but I’m still taking the road team. Prediction: Steelers 33 – Washington 28

The Rest of Week 1

Falcons over Buccaneers – Atlanta is a tough out during their home opener. Though I like Tampa’s defense a little more than Atlanta’s. Can Matt Ryan make more big plays than Jameis Winston? Well, one of them has Julio Jones to throw to. The other does not.

Vikings over Titans – This one is another toss up. Minnesota’s QB situation has thrown their entire season into doubt already but I trust Mike Zimmer to have his team ready. Tennessee is improved but Minnesota’s defense is tough and will slow down Mariota and the new Titans running attack.

Chiefs over Chargers – Kansas City’s home field advantage is like none other. Even without Jamaal Charles, the San Diego defense wont slow down the Chiefs’ attack.

Saints over Raiders – I struggled picking this one too. I really like the Raiders this season but the Saints are a tough out in the Super Dome. If Oakland wins, I’ll kick myself.

Browns over Eagles – Cleveland hasn’t won a season opener since 2004. That streak ends on Sunday. I don’t know if Carson Wentz will be booed at the Linc but I do know that RG3 will outplay him.

Packers over Jaguars – Everyone is hyping the Jaguars. That hype machine would get even louder if they beat a team like the Packers at home on Sunday. Sounds too good to be true. I’m betting on Aaron Rodgers.

Ravens over Bills – Buffalo is dealing with too many things off the field. Baltimore will be looking to show their fans that this year will be different than last.

Texans over Bears – Chicago doesn’t have the defense to slow down this new Houston offense. Houston won’t even need J.J. Watt in this one.

Seahawks over Dolphins – Nightmare matchup for Miami. That inconsistent offense against that powerful defense on the road? Bad news for Ryan Tannehill. The L.O.B.’s will eat. The 12th man will be loud.

Lions over Colts – I think Indy’s slump from last season will continue into this one. Detroit’s defense is underrated and they’ll get after Andrew Luck. The Colts don’t have the defense to slow down Matt Stafford.

Rams over 49ers – This game is an absolute stinker. The team in LA has Todd Gurley and Aaron Donald. The end.

Week 1 Fantasy Football Picks

QB: Eli Manning (Giants) – With no pressure from the Dallas defense, the “not retired” Manning brother will put up big numbers in Jerry’s World.

RB: Lamar Miller (Texans) – Houston will be looking to show off its newest acquisition against a really bad Chicago run defense.

WR: Julio Jones (Falcons) – Jones will be the best player on the field in this game. So, why not?

TE: Jordan Reed (Washington) – Pittsburgh doesn’t have a great secondary so expect Cousins to find Reed plenty of times on Monday night.

DEF: Seattle – It’s simple really. Miami’s offense will be greatly outmatched on the road in Seattle. Expect multiple defensive touchdowns from the L.O.B.

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