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NFL Playoffs: Super Bowl LI Prediction!

Pepsi Zero Sugar Super Bowl LI Halftime Show Press Conference

“I’ve got a hundred million reasons to walk awaaaaaaaaaaaaay….”

 

By: Elias McMillan

Conference Championships: 0-2

Playoffs: 4-6

Super Bowl 51 from NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas

New England Patriots vs. Atlanta Falcons

Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, or Lady Gaga as you may know her, has had a long road to music super stardom. Early in her life, music was a huge part of who she was and who she eventually wanted to be. She began to play the piano at the young age of four and was playing open mics around NYC by the time she was 14. At 17, she was allowed early admission into the top school for the arts at NYU. Two years later, she dropped out of NYU to focus on finding her sound as a professional musician. After creating a cult like following in the NYC Underground music scene, she was signed and then quickly dropped from Def Jam. The experience was heartbreaking but it encouraged her to begin experimenting further with her sound as a performer and with her overall image. Soon after, she found herself on an imprint of Interscope Records where R&B superstar, Akon, recognized her abilities and featured her vocals on one of his albums. Akon then told Interscope executives that Gaga had the potential to be a “franchise player” and a year later, her debut album began production.

“The Fame” debuted in August of 2008 and included mega dance-pop hits like Just “Dance”, “Poker Face”, “LoveGame”, & “Paparazzi”. The debut was a monster success for Gaga who went on to win multiple awards at the Grammys. “The Fame” was named one of the 100 Greatest Debut Albums by Rolling Stone magazine. A year later, “The Fame” was reissued as “The Fame Monster” and included new hits like “Bad Romance” & “Telephone” featuring Beyoncé.

Gaga’s official second LP was “Born This Way” and it proved to be an excellent follow up to her debut. The electric rock & techno influenced record continued Gaga’s streak of massive hits with songs like the title single “Born This Way”, and “The Edge of Glory”.

Gaga’s third studio album “ArtPop” featured hits “Applause” and “Do What U Want” featuring R. Kelly but was considered lackluster by many music critics. Soon after that release, she left her long time manager and began a new chapter to her career. She collaborated with long time friend and music legend Tony Bennett and released “Cheek to Cheek”. The joint album reintroduced Bennett to a younger audience and was received well by critics, winning at the Grammys that year.

After exploring some ventures in front of the camera as an actress, Gaga returned with a brand new album last October. “Joanne” was released as a much softer version of Gaga’s previous’ works but still featured her incredible vocal ability and her unique sound that creates hit records. Singles “Perfect Illusion” and “Million Reasons” have already shot to the top of the charts and now, Gaga is preparing for her biggest and greatest stage yet, the Super Bowl 51 halftime show.

Prediction: Patriots 34 – Falcons 24

NFL Playoffs: 2017 Conference Championship Sunday Predictions!

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Super Steelers? It does appear that way.

 

By: Elias McMillan

 

Divisional Round: 2-2

Playoffs: 4-4

Conference Championship Sunday

NFC Championship Game

Green Bay @ Atlanta – The Packers and the Falcons will be riding their high-powered offenses into Championship Sunday. I’m not giving either defenses much of a chance at being the difference makers in this contest. Atlanta’s offense is a lot more balanced that Green Bay’s. The Falcons have a great vertical passing attack led by QB Matt Ryan. WR’s Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, and Taylor Gabriel have done a great job at stretching the field on the outside and in the middle of defenses. But unlike the Packers, Atlanta has two legit RB’s while Green Bay has none. Devonta Freeman is a tough runner between the tackles and Tevin Coleman can do similar things but is also a threat as a receiver. Atlanta’s offense is set up to make a Super Bowl run. But the Falcons will have to come out sharp against this Green Bay defense. Dallas didn’t do that last week and that was one of the reasons they lost. Atlanta has had a stigma for a while now for falling short in big games. The Falcons offense is going to have to be the driving force to make sure that doesn’t happen. Green Bay receives decent play from their outside LB’s Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers, and Nick Perry. Those guys can affect the Atlanta pass game by pressuring Ryan but they are also good against the run. But as a unit, Green Bay doesn’t defend the run or the pass very well. Atlanta will have the opportunity to set the tone on offense in this game. For the Packers, their offense will also have a great chance at success on Sunday. QB Aaron Rodgers was very much the best QB of the league last week as he is playing at a very high level. The Packers have multiple threats down the field at WR and TE even without Jordy Nelson. Atlanta’s defense is average at best and I feel confident that Rodgers can have a big day through the air against them. Green Bay may not have much of a run game but Atlanta isn’t exactly a run-stuffing defense. I think Atlanta’s defense, especially the front seven, could be a bit underrated. I think their LB’s do a good job and outside rusher Vic Beasley is a difference maker on passing downs. Green Bay’s offensive line did a good job last week but Beasley will present a greater challenge for them on Sunday. This game will come down to which defense I trust more at making more stops or which offense do I trust more at performing at a high level for 60 minutes. I don’t think Atlanta is ready defensively to stop Aaron Rodgers. Green Bay does not have a great defense but they are experienced and Atlanta has been prone to let downs in the past. It just feels like this is Aaron Rodgers’ time. This Packers team has come a long way from being embarrassed on Monday Night Football by Washington months ago. I have the Packers advancing to the Super Bowl in the first game. Prediction: Packers 36 – Falcons 31

AFC Championship Game

Pittsburgh @ New England – At the beginning of this season, many pegged the Steelers as a Super Bowl favorite. In fact, in my pre season predictions, I had the Steelers making it out of the AFC over the same Patriots team they will be facing on Sunday. The Steelers have had their issues this season. After falling to 4-5 when they lost to Dallas at home, those Super Bowl predictions took a serious hit. Since then, the Steelers have been able to get back on track, their defense has improved, and the offense look impossible to stop with the way Le’Veon Bell is running the ball. I’ve heard many people say this week that for the Steelers to beat New England in Foxboro on Sunday, they will need a vintage big time performance from Ben Roethlisberger. I don’t feel that way at all. Roethlisberger hasn’t exactly been lighting in up in the playoffs but he doesn’t have to. The most important weapon in this ball game on Sunday will be RB Le’Veon Bell. I think New England’s defense can be underrated at times but I don’t see them being able to shutdown Bell for 4 quarters. I think New England’s front seven could present some issues for the Steelers in terms of stuffing the run and pressuring the QB. I’m a big fan of DT Malcolm Brown who is playing great right now. Edge rushers Trey Flowers and veteran Rob Ninkovich are capable of getting after the QB. But the Steelers offensive line has done a great job for most of the season in the run and in pass protection. New England’s secondary isn’t exactly great either. With time, I think Roethlisberger would find success down the field. CB Malcolm Butler will try his best at shadowing WR Antonio Brown but that is a matchup that I would expect seeing Brown to win. Though Le’Veon Bell might be the best player on the field on Sunday, the New England running game might poise a bigger threat than Pittsburgh’s. New England has a great RB duo in LeGarrette Blount and Dion Lewis. Blount is a tough guy to bring down once he gets going and Lewis is a great receiving threat coming out from the backfield. Lewis is also a difference maker in special teams as a returner. We saw that last week. I think the Steelers defense could potential have their hands full with both of those backs. The Steelers will have to key on pressuring Tom Brady as well. Hopefully, the Patriots have learned their lesson from last year’s AFC Championship Game where they allowed Denver’s ace pass rusher harass Brady for most of the game. New England’s offensive line cannot let James Harrison do what Von Miller did last year. I guess we have to give the Steelers secondary credit for playing great against Matt Moore and Alex Smith but we have to believe that Brady will present a greater challenge for them. But again, that unit for Pittsburgh has done a decent job recently. Can we really expect Julian Edelman to be the big play receiver that the Steelers wont have an answer for? I think Brady could play well in this game but I think this offense will really miss Rob Gronkowski on Sunday. The Patriots are gonna need Martellus Bennett to make some big plays but Steeler LB’s Ryan Shazier and Lawrence Timmons have done a great job recently in pass coverage. I’m said before that I think the Patriots defense is under rated but right now, I think I trust the Pittsburgh defense more. Which is saying a lot because, I still don’t believe that the Steelers defense is that good. But they are kind of on a roll right now and I think I have that continuing this Sunday. This will be good game with a classic ending. I said last week that the winner of Pittsburgh-Kansas City is going to the Super Bowl. Plus, I had Pittsburgh making it this far in the pre season. Can’t turn back now. Prediction: Steelers 28 – Patriots 24

NFL 2016: Week 6 Predictions!

NFL: Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers

Green Bay’s defensive front seven has been impressive so far this season. They’ll see their toughest test this weekend when Dallas comes to town.

By: Elias McMillan

 

Last Week: 7-7

Season: 43-34

Big Five Games of the Week

Cincinnati @ New England – I don’t know what’s wrong with Cincinnati but they better get it figured out real fast. Last week in Dallas, they found themselves down 28 nothing in a game that ended up not being close at all. The Bengals seem to have major problems defensively and they are struggling up front offensively, which is affecting the run and pass game. Cincinnati took their lumps last week and that will probably continue on the road this week against New England. The Patriots got their leader back last week in Tom Brady. They also received reinforcements on the defensive line. New England is stronger on both sides of the ball now compared to earlier in the season and they are going to play at a high level for the foreseeable future. Cincinnati has most of the same talent they got them into the playoffs for the last couple of years but they are currently trending down. I don’t see them competing with the Patriots on Sunday in Tom Brady’s homecoming at Gillette Stadium. Prediction: Patriots 35 – Bengals 20

Baltimore @ New York Giants – The Giants struggled on offense again this past week but it was against a pretty good defense in Minnesota. This week, the Giants offense will look to get back on track against a Ravens defense at home. Baltimore is still an inconsistent team and you really can’t get a good read on them. The Ravens are usually a tough defensive team but their offense cant get on track or score enough points to put opponents away. Joe Flacco and company will probably find it tough this week against New York’s defense on the road. Baltimore’s weakness on defense is in the secondary and that should serve Eli Manning and the Giants passing attack well. Without Steve Smith in the lineup, Flacco will be looking for his younger receivers to step up this week but they will struggle to go blow for blow against Manning’s passing attack. Eli Manning has been heavily criticized this season but I believe that he will be able to look like his old self this week. Prediction: Giants 33 – Ravens 23

Kansas City @ Oakland – The Raiders are a fun team to watch each week. This is mainly because their defense can’t put away opponents, which leads to late game heroics by David Carr and the offense. This week, the Raiders are at home against a Kansas City team that is coming off the bye week and is looking to play much better than they showed so far this season. Kansas City will receive full contributions this week from Jamaal Charles who is finally really to take the reins of the KC backfield. Kansas City usually runs the ball well but they will be tested by a very good Raiders front seven on defense. Oakland struggles mightily against the pass, which is good news for Alex Smith. If the Raiders can’t pressure Smith, he’ll be able to go throw for throw against Oakland’s offensive attack. Kansas City’s defense took some serious beatings early this season but coming off the bye, that unit will be looking prove themselves this week on the road. The matchup between Marcus Peters and Amari Cooper should be an interesting one. It seems like the Raiders are a different team at home compared to on the road so, I expect them to take a step back this week. I think Kansas City will prove this week that they are still a contender in this division. Prediction: Chiefs 24 – Raiders 21

Dallas @ Green Bay – In this old school NFC matchup, we will see strength vs. strength. The Packers have the top ranked run defense in the league. The Cowboys have the league’s best rushing attack. The team that controls the line of scrimmage will win this game. Green Bay defensive line is good but I don’t think they have faced an offensive line as good as the one in Dallas or a running back running as well as rookie Ezekiel Elliott. But on the other hand, Dallas hasn’t played against a run strong run defense this season unless you count how the Giants played in Week 1. Green Bay’s defense is impressive with the way they can stop the run and pressure the QB but they are beatable in the passing game. Rookie Dak Prescott has gotten better week after week at going down the field and I think he will get his chances this week. QB Aaron Rodgers is playing at a high level again and that is probably bad news for the Cowboys defense. That Cowboys defense is coming off two very strong performances though. CB Morris Claiborne is playing like a legit shutdown corner and the defensive line received a huge boost last week with the return of DE DeMarcus Lawrence. I think the Packers will have opportunities to soften up the Dallas defense with Eddie Lacy and the run game. With that, Rodgers will have his opportunities down the field as well. But Green Bay’s offensive line is a weakness in pass projection and I think the Cowboys pass rush will have a presence in this game. Dallas is the hot team right now and I’ve picked against them for 4 weeks now. I think the rookies will keep this thing rolling into the bye week. Prediction: Cowboys 28 – Packers 24

Atlanta @ Seattle – It’s starting to look like the Falcons will be the front-runners in the NFC South this season. Usually, it would be too soon for me to make such a statement but the rest of the division looks like such a mess. The Falcons looked mighty impressive last week on the road at Denver. This week, they’ll be looking for another big road victory in Seattle. The Seahawks are a tough team at home and they are coming off the bye week. Russell Wilson was dealing with some injuries but you couldn’t tell with the way he was playing before the bye week. Now that he is rested up, I expect him to be as effective as usual on Sunday. I’m not sure how improved the Falcons defense is yet but Wilson and the Seahawks offense will test them often through the air and on the ground. Seattle has the top ranked defense in football and their secondary will be taking on the top ranked passing attack in football. Matt Ryan and Julio Jones have been on a roll recently but Sunday will be their biggest task of the season. In terms of these “top offense vs. top defense” matchups, it is usually wise to go with the defense. Especially in this case with Seattle being so good at home. An Atlanta win here would be most impressive but I’m sticking with my guns here and going with the home Seahawks. Prediction: Seahawks 31 – Falcons 23

The Rest of Week 6

Chargers over Broncos – Here’s a Thursday night upset. San Diego’s pass rush looked like a monster last week with the addition of rookie Joey Bosa. They will get after Trevor Siemian tonight and San Diego will score the upset at home.

Bills over 49ers – The talk before the game will be about the return of Colin Kaepernick. The talk after the game will be about how Buffalo hasn’t lost since firing their offensive coordinator.

Jaguars over Bears – Jacksonville is coming off the bye. Chicago isn’t that good. C’mon Jaguars. Do something for once.

Lions over Rams – This is a toss up.

Titans over Browns – Tennessee needs to start stacking up wins if they want to contend for the AFC South title.

Steelers over Dolphins – Trap game for Pittsburgh. Miami stinks and Ryan Tannehill is starting to run out of chances at being the guy in South Florida.

Saints over Panthers – Here’s another small upset. Carolina’s downward spiral continues. What’s wrong with their defense?

Eagles over Washington – Without Jordan Reed, Washington’s offense will not be able to go toe to toe against Philadelphia’s offense. Carson Wentz will bounce back this week.

Colts over Texans – Houston has some serious offensive issues. Indy will play them tough on the road.

Cardinals over Jets – Both pass defenses will keep this interesting. I trust Arizona’s offense a lot more than New York’s right now.

Week 6 Fantasy Football Picks

QB: Carson Palmer (Cardinals) – The Jets have serious issues in the secondary. Palmer will have his pick of receivers on Monday night.

RB: LeSean McCoy (Bills) – Shady has been tearing it up recently. San Fran run defense hasn’t been the same since the NaVarro Bowman injury.

WR: DeAndre Hopkins (Texans) – Houston will need some one on offense to step up on Sunday night. Hopkins will have to be that guy against a weak Colts secondary.

TE: Rob Gronkowski (Patriots) – Marty B has taken up some attention in New England. Gronk is starting to look like his old self though and he’ll probably break out any game now. Why not this week against a struggling Bengals defense?

DEF: Buffalo – The Bills defense is slowly starting to improve. If Kaepernick tries to hard to show that he is back to his old self, this Bills defense will take advantage.

NFL 2016: NFC South Preview

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Can Cam Newton and the Panthers rebound after falling short in the biggest game last season?

By: Elias McMillan

 

NFC South

Carolina Panthers – The Panthers seemly care out of out where last season and had a year that one could predict. The talk surrounding this team a season was that they had a great defense and Cam Newton but really nothing much else. But then, we learned that Cam Newton was good enough to overcome what many saw as the shortcoming on this team. This is why Newton won MVP and why the Panthers was the last undefeated team in the league last season. This upcoming season, Carolina is going to try to do even better because they did end up losing the ultimate prize in the Super Bowl. Carolina did get better in the offseason but not by that much. I think they missed some opportunities in the draft and free agency. Maybe they are counting on Cam Newton to have another monster season with his passing and running ability. If that is so, that isn’t much of a stretch. Newton will receive a boost in the passing game this season as his number one receiver, Kelvin Benjamin returns after missing last season entirely. Benjamin will bring legitimacy to this receiving core that over achieved a season ago. Ted Ginn, Corey Brown and Devin Funchess have plenty of ability and that group from last season must have a lot of confidence coming off the season they just had. Two areas that the Panthers failed at getting better at in the offseason was at RB and at the offensive line. RB Jonathan Stewart returns for another season but he is starting to get up there in age and is already coming off from an injury. Carolina’s offensive line really let Newton down in the Super Bowl but that same group returns again in 2016. I feel that Carolina could have done more on offense to lighten Newton’s load in the offseason but they didn’t. Carolina’s defense will continue to be beastly in 2016 though. Carolina’s has a great collection of defensive lineman and they added to that group with the first round selection of DT Vernon Butler. Butler would be smart to follow the lead of disruptors Kawaan Short and Star Lotulelei. DE Charles Johnson is a veteran leader on this defensive line but he kind of ran out of gas near the end of the season last year. On the other side of him, DE Kony Ealy, seems to be a raising star in this defense. At LB, Shaq Thompson, Thomas Davis, and Luke Kuechly. I mean, you wont find a better starting group at LB in the NFL. Carolina surprisingly let go star CB Josh Norman but his loss wont be that great because Carolina’s front seven on defense is that good. Either way, young rookies James Bradberry and Zack Sanchez better grow up quickly. Carolina’s defense so good last season, safeties Kurt Coleman and Tre Boston ended up making big plays from time to time. I like Carolina to win this division again but I don’t know if this team can get back to the Super Bowl. I wish they would have gotten younger at RB and improved the offensive line. Either way, Cam Newton will be spectacular again. Prediction: 12-4 (NFC South Champs)

Atlanta Falcons – The Falcons started last season so hot but then they quickly ran out of gas. The strange thing was that, the losing streak they went on fell upon the offense that couldn’t score enough. Atlanta’s latest rep as team is one that has the ability to score a lot of points but they will struggle stopping the other team from scoring. I think Atlanta’s defense did improve a bit last season but then the offense was inconsistent. In 2016, head coach Dan Quinn will be hoping for more consistency from both sides of the ball. You could argue that QB Matt Ryan had one of his worst seasons statistically in 2015. You could point the finger at his offense line or at injuries in the WR core but the bottom line is that Ryan needs to play better. Atlanta actually improved the WR core in the offseason. Star WR Julio Jones is back again and Atlanta brought in Mohamed Sanu to replace the aging Roddy White. I feel that Ryan is still missing a big target at the TE position but look for rookie Austin Hooper to fill that role soon. The big addition to this offensive attack last season was the emergence of RB Devonta Freeman. Freeman was among the top in the league in rushing for most of last season before getting slowed by injuries. If RB Tevin Coleman can do a good job at spelling Freeman this season, he will be able to last and lead this running attack for all 16 games. Everyone knows about Atlanta’s lack of a pass rush up front on defense. But to Atlanta’s credit, they are trying different ways to improve in that area. They have a mix of younger guys like Vic Beasley and Ra’Shade Hageman and veterans like Adrian Clayborn and Dwight Freeney. I also like the offseason signing of Courtney Upshaw who can be a situation pass rusher in this defense. There are definitely a lot of new faces in this defensive front seven so maybe that will turn into different results. Atlanta’s secondary is a “middle of the road” unit. CB Desmond Trufant is a standout and they also recently brought over safety Dashon Goldson who racked up a bunch of tackles with Washington last season. I think Atlanta will use last season as a history lesson and maybe they wont fall apart during the second part of the season. Atlanta isn’t close to competing with Carolina yet. They’ll be good but not good enough to get back to the playoffs. Prediction: 8-8

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – As much as I hate this team’s current uniforms, I really hated that this front office felt that they had to fire head coach Lovie Smith. I understand they did it in order to keep their offensive coordinator who did a great job with future franchise QB Jameis Winston. But now, I feel like this team doesn’t have any leadership from a coaching standpoint. Either way, you still have to play the game and I think Tampa will be a tough team in 2016. Jameis Winston learned a lot in his rookie season. He carries himself as the leader on this team and that confidence he has is infectious. Winston will still make some mistakes from time to time but I feel that he is determined to become the future for this franchise. Winston also has a pretty good supporting cast again this season. Tampa is really strong at the WR position. Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson can do similar things on the football field. They are both big receivers that can stretch the field. I also like WR Adam Humphries in the slot. Winston needs a reliable target at TE and this season we’ll find out if Austin Seferian-Jenkins can be that guy. A big part of Tampa Bay’s offense last season was the running game that ranked in the top 5 in the NFL. RB Doug Martin proved his worth to the Bucs in 2015 and they decided to retain him in the offseason. Martin is a beastly runner who is hard to tackle but Tampa also has decent backs behind him on the depth chart in Charles Sims and Mike James. Tampa quietly had a decent defense in 2015 and they could get even better this season. Upfront, Gerald McCoy is the leader of the defensive line and is a handful to deal with at defensive tackle. Tampa’s starters at DE are starting to age so look out for second round pick Noah Spence to eventually earn a starting position. Tampa will have a solid LB group starting in 2016. Kwon Alexander had an outstanding rookie season and he’ll be looking for even more success this season. Surrounding Alexander will be two seasoned vets in Lavonte David and Daryl Smith. The Bucs will also be deep this season at the CB position. They brought over CB Brent Grimes from Miami to pair him with another talented veteran, Alterraun Verner. Starting in the slot, first round pick CB Vernon Hargreaves might have been the best corner in this past draft. Tampa will be seriously lacking talent at the safety position this season. But I feel like the Bucs could be a sleeper team in 2016. If Winston continues his progress and the defense gets a little bit better, Tampa will push hard for a possible playoff berth. Prediction: 7-9

New Orleans Saints – I feel like the Saints are a team on the verge of completely rebuilding. But that wont happen as long as Sean Payton is the head coach and Drew Brees is the QB. Payton is one of the top coaches in football and Brees is one of the top QB in the game but both are not good enough to overcome the lack of talent on this roster. Drew Brees is 37 years old but he feels like he can still be one of the league’s best passers. I think he can to but I wonder if that arm can survive the grind of another season at a high level. Brees played at a high level in 2015 but his team still couldn’t make the post season. When I look at the RB’s on this team, I see a group that should be better than what they are. Starter Mark Ingram is one of the league’s toughest runners but he hasn’t been able to stay healthy for 16 games. RB C.J. Spiller was brought over a season ago and he had little impact on this offense. Spiller is a great runner in the open field and the Saints need to find out a better way to utilize him in the offense. Brees can usually make any receiver into a great one but I feel like his group of WR’s this year is a little underwhelming. WR Brandin Cooks is the top guy and WR Willie Snead proved to be a valuable target a season ago. I think the Saints are missing that big possession receiver in their offense and rookie Michael Thomas could end up being that guy. The Saints may have acted like they didn’t miss Jimmy Graham at TE last season but they need someone better than average at that position. New Orleans brought in Coby Fleener from the Colts and he’ll have the opportunity to be the big play target at TE that Brees didn’t have a season ago. On defense, the Saints need to do better but they are already behind the 8 ball going into this season. First round draft pick, DT Sheldon Rankins, is already lost for the season and that defensive line could have seriously used him. DE Cameron Jordan is the lone stand out up front as a dynamic pass rusher. DT Nick Fairley was brought in during free agency but I wonder what he can offer at this point in his career. DE Paul Kruger was a surprise cut from Cleveland and he might be able to improve the Saints pass rush. New Orleans’ has a decent starting group at LB this season. Stephone Anthony had a tremendous rookie season where he led all rookies in tackles. He’ll be surrounded this season by proven vets James Laurinaitis and Dannell Ellerbe. New Orleans did not improve their weakest position in the offseason: the secondary. The corner situation is an absolute mess and they managed to get CB Cortland Finnegan to join rather than retire. Safety Jairus Byrd has been a massive bust since coming over from Buffalo. The other safety, Kenny Vaccaro, was actually solid a season ago while racking up a bunch of tackles. Vaccaro is great in run support but no one in this secondary can cover anybody. Drew Brees will be awesome to watch again this season but this team isn’t close to competing again. Prediction: 6-10