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NFL Playoffs: 2017 NFL Divisional Round Predictions!

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Atlanta hasn’t forgot about what happened when they faced Seattle earlier this season. They will be hoping for some revenge at home this weekend in the NFL Playoffs.

By: Elias McMillan

 

Wild-Card Round: 2-2

Playoffs: 2-2

Divisional Round

Seattle @ Atlanta – This first divisional playoff matchup this weekend is a rematch from a closely contested game earlier this season, which saw the Seahawks get the victory in a close one. Atlanta actually impressed many in that game as they were able to hang with Seattle on the road and how they might have won that game if not for a botch PI penalty that wasn’t called late in the 4th quarter. Both teams have changed since then but I think Atlanta will definitely have revenge on their minds this Saturday. Seattle was able to take care of Detroit last weekend but on Saturday they will face a much more talented and balanced offense in Atlanta. The Falcons are powered on offense by their dynamic passing game led by QB Matt Ryan and his lead target WR Julio Jones. But don’t sleep on the way Atlanta can run the ball. RB’s Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman are as a dynamic running duo as any other one in the league. We all know about how good this Atlanta offense can be but history dictates that really good offenses usually fall to good defenses in the playoffs. I think Seattle’s defense will put up a great challenge for Atlanta but they are not at full strength with Earl Thomas out of the line up. Even with Thomas in the secondary, the Falcons were still able to put up production in that first meeting earlier this season. Seattle will have to fight hard on both sides of the ball to compete with Atlanta on Saturday. Last weekend, Seattle ran the ball very well behind RB Thomas Rawls and with that running game; they were able to control the tempo for most of the contest. Seattle might have to implement that game plan again on Saturday, as Atlanta is just an average defense at defending the run. They might help QB Russell Wilson in terms of protecting himself from Atlanta’s pass rush. Edge rusher Vic Beasley was the league leader in sack this season and with the state of Seattle’s offensive line, I think he will be in pursuit of Wilson for the majority of this Saturday afternoon. But if Wilson can find time, he will be throwing against a Falcons secondary that ranked near the bottom this season. I think Seattle will have a good shot at winning on the road this weekend but the Seahawks have historically had let down on the road in the regular season and in the playoffs. I think Atlanta will jump out on top early and they’ll be able to hold off a Seahawks comeback late. Much like the last time these teams played in the post season in Atlanta. Prediction: Falcons 28 – Seahawks 24

Houston @ New England – I guess we have to give Houston credit for beating up on an injured Oakland team last week. But on to this week where no one on earth is giving the Texans a chance at going up to Foxboro on Saturday night and leaving with a victory. I don’t know if Houston has a real chance or not but I’ll try my best to sell that to you. First, the Texans have the number one ranked defense in the NFL. DE Jadeveon Clowney was a real difference maker last week and he will be used in a similar way this week against a Patriots offensive line that can struggle against the premier pass rushers in this league. Houston also has a stingy secondary. They will get physical with New England’s smaller receivers and create tough passing windows for QB Tom Brady. And my third point: the Texans coaching staff is made up from Bill Belichick disciples. Bill O’Brien is the head coach and Romeo Crennel is the defensive coordinator. They know Belichick. They know their offense. Could this prove to be an advantage for Houston? I don’t know. Also, I’m not going to bet on it. I think New England will use this game to prove why they are favored by so much in this game. I think New England will be aggressive offensively and they will tire out the Texans up front with their running game. New England’s defense is also unheralded and they will have the opportunity to appear to be really good against Houston’s offense. I think Houston’s defense might be able to keep the Texans in this game but I have no faith in QB Brock Osweiler going toe to toe with Tom Brady in terms of offensive production. The Patriots will dominate in this one. Prediction: Patriots 35 – Texans 17

Green Bay @ Dallas – On Sunday, the marathon of rematches from the regular season will continue. Green Bay won last week at home convincingly against the Giants and they are feeling pretty good going into this matchup in Jerry’s World. They maybe feeling good about there chances but they may not be feeling so good health wise. Green Bay is banged up on both sides of the ball while the Cowboys are rested and are as healthy as they’ve been all season. A lot of people like the Packers right now because of the play of QB Aaron Rodgers and I can’t blame them. Rodgers is having one of those seasons that is proving that he is the best QB in football. Even with the Jordy Nelson injury, the Packers are well equipped at the WR position with players like DeVante Adams, Randall Cobb, and TE Jarred Cook. Adams had a big game against the Cowboys 2 years ago in the playoffs in memory serves me correctly. Green Bay isn’t going to beat anyone in the ground game but Ty Montgomery’s ability as a versatile runner and receiver from out of the backfield will make him into a player that the Cowboys defense will have to account for. Montgomery is a Dallas native and he will have the extra motivation to show out in front of his family. I don’t know how the Packers held the Giants to only 13 points last week. Green Bay has some talented players on defense like Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers, and safety HaHa Clinton-Dix. But as a unit, Green Bay isn’t very good defensively. That banged up secondary will mean that the Packers will have to lean on their front 7 to created stops and turnovers. The Cowboys offensive line handled the Packers front 7 quite easily in their matchup earlier this season. I don’t think the Packers will have an answer for rookie RB Ezekiel Elliott and the Dallas run game. In passing situations, I am scared to death of the matchup between Peppers and right tackle Doug Free. But rookie QB Dak Prescott had a decent day passing against the Packers earlier this season and he was able to play well even without WR Dez Bryant. With the current state of the Packers secondary, I fully expect Bryant to be a difference maker down the field in a way that Odell Beckham Jr wasn’t last week. The Cowboys have a highly ranked defense but really, those numbers aren’t as impressive if you’ve watched the Cowboys this season. Rodgers will have a chance at creating some big plays down the field against a defense that struggles to provide pressure or create turnovers. But the Dallas defense this season has been known for bending but not breaking. I think the Cowboys defense could be a weakness but it is a unit that is better than it was in 2014. The Cowboys had an impressive regular season but they are now approaching rare air for them. This is a franchise that hasn’t advanced to Conference Championship Sunday in 21 years. This is a huge game for the entire franchise and I believe that they will not let their inexperience of Aaron Rodgers squander their opportunity. Many of the talking heads like Green Bay on Sunday but I’m thinking that is just more wishful thinking than really believing that Dallas will lose this game. The opportunity will be too big for this team to miss. I like the Cowboys at home. Prediction: Cowboys 33 – Packers 24

Pittsburgh @ Kansas City – I’m glad that this game was pushed back into primetime for the safety of the fans traveling to Kansas City and also I can now sleep in on Sunday without fear of missing any of the NFL Playoff action. This matchup should be a good one in Kansas City in a great atmosphere like Arrowhead Stadium. That place will be packed and rocking. I also want to say this first: I think the winner of this game will end up advancing to the Super Bowl. That being said, it is going to be really hard for me to not pick the Steelers to win this game. Pittsburgh was a pre season favorite going into this season but they kind of lost their way and found themselves with a 4-5 record after 9 games. They may not have had a tough schedule to close out the season but that doesn’t matter really. We have to give them credit for the run they are currently on and they did have to overcome some adversity against division rivals Cincinnati and Baltimore. The reason why the Steelers were pre season Super Bowl favorites was because of the talent they have on the offensive side of the ball. And that talent was on full display last week against Miami. I know that Miami isnt a good team and they kind of backed into the playoffs but WR Antonio Brown and RB Le’Veon Bell looked unstoppable last week. QB Ben Roethlisberger also had an impressive outing. I guess we can talk about the defense starting to play better even though last week they were hardly tested against an one-dimensional offense led by a backup QB. But still, that defense improving will be key if the Steelers want to make it to the Super Bowl. And that unit is improving. But here comes the bad news Pittsburgh fans: Kansas City isn’t Miami. I liked Kansas City all season. I like their defense. I like their ball control offense. I like Andy Reid and his experience. Limiting the combo of Bell, Brown, and Big Ben maybe a huge chore for the Chiefs defense but I think they will at least be up to it. I like Kansas City up front on defense. They have three really good pass rushers in Tamba Hali, Dee Ford, and Justin Houston. I think they will be able to pressure Big Ben in a way that he hasn’t felt in a while. Though on the other hand, the Pittsburgh offensive line has been performing well this season and they do not get enough credit. Protecting Ben will be a huge part of this game especially when you figure in Ben’s ankle injury. The Chiefs suffered a tough injury near the end of the season to LB Derrick Johnson. Since then, the Chiefs have struggled at stopping the run. I think they better figure out a way to slow Bell and the Pittsburgh running attack. If Bell can get loose, he will control the tempo of this game. Antonio Brown is the best WR in the league but KC’s secondary is really good. CB Marcus Peters is a tough player who has the knack at creating big plays. Safety Eric Berry is probably the best at his position in the league and he will be an issue in the box defending the run and covering the deep ball. Many people are saying that they cannot count on QB Alex Smith and the Chiefs offense out scoring the Steelers with their many offensive weapons. Alex Smith has been forever slept on especially in the playoffs and I think he will prove on Sunday night to be better than what most people believe. Even without Jamaal Charles, the Chiefs have a decent run game. Plus, Smith has some pretty good receivers to go to as well. TE Travis Kelce is a difference maker down the field. WR Jeremy Maclin is good on his own right. And rookie WR Tyreek Hill is a speedster who can affect the game as a kick returner. I think the Chiefs offense is more capable than what people believe. It has been a long time since the Chiefs have won a home playoff game and Andy Reid as a coach has a great record when coming off of the bye week. Earlier this season, the Steelers squashed the Chiefs at home. KC then went on the bye week and returned to go on a great run which led them to the AFC West crown. I don’t think the Chiefs have forgot about that Sunday night beat down in Heinz Field. I think that the KC front seven on defense will find a way to bother Roethlisberger and they will come up with more stops than the Steelers defense will produce. It will be close but I’m taking the Chiefs at Arrowhead. Prediction: Chiefs 24 – Steelers 20

NFL 2016: Week 16 Predictions! (Condensed Version)

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Week 16 kicks off tonight with the Giants trying to avoid a trap in Philadelphia

By: Elias McMillan

 

Last Week: 11-5

Season: 139-83-2

Week 16

New York Giants @ Philadelphia – The Giants will be wearing their sweet throwback unis tonight with the old “GIANTS” script on the helmets. The Eagles will be wearing all black, which sucks and makes no sense. Why cant the Eagles bring back their Kelly green uniforms just to match the spirit of New York’s throwbacks. Anyways, the Eagles stink this year but they have a great chance to play spoiler in tonight’s matchup. The Giants are on a roll right now and I expect them to win tonight but I wouldn’t be surprised if Philadelphia comes out pulling all the stops in this game. Strange things can happen in these Thursday night games. My Pick: Giants

Miami @ Buffalo – The Bills are holding on to slim playoff hopes while the Dolphins are trying to hang on to theirs. Buffalo in December can be a rough place for opposing teams especially for backup QBs. I know that Matt Moore played well last week but Miami will not be able to win this game passing in the cold, Western NY air. This matchup will be about the RB’s. I’ll take LeSean McCoy over Jay Ajayi. Plus, Miami’s run defense is garbage. My Pick: Bills

Washington @ Chicago – Washington laid an egg last Monday night. Chicago played Green Bay tough and probably has some confidence after that game. The Bears at home is an attractive pick but I just think Washington has the better team. It would look real bad on Kirk Cousins’ behalf if he gets out gun slanged by Matt Barkley. My Pick: Washington

San Diego @ Cleveland – The Browns have to win this game because they are not winning in Pittsburgh next week. They have to do what ever is necessary to win. They have to cheat, grab weapons, whatever. If they lose at home against a San Diego team with nothing to play for, they will go 0-16. My Pick: Browns

Minnesota @ Green Bay – Start spreading the news: the Pack is back. Aaron Rodgers! Cheese heads! And all the other stuff that the media loves. The Packers won a close one last week but they were able to comeback late and now they have one more obstacle to get over before having a shot at the division. Minnesota is done competing in football games. To not show up at home despite playing well in that new stadium all year was inexcusable. Not even the return of Adrian Peterson could spark their offense. Minnesota can’t even lean on their defense right now. I think Green Bay should roll at home. My Pick: Packers

New York Jets @ New England – The Jets usually play New England tough at the end of the season but they stink this year. New England will take care of business at home. My Pick: Patriots

Atlanta @ Carolina – I loved the way Carolina continues to play hard for their coaches despite having a horribly, disappointing season. Atlanta has been hot on the offense side of the ball despite limited contributions from star WR Julio Jones. I think Atlanta needs a reality check before the post season. I like Carolina to score the upset at home. My Pick: Panthers

Tennessee @ Jacksonville – It is time to start paying attention to Tennessee. Another week, another impressive victory against a good team. After beating the Chiefs on the road, the Titans should be able to beat Jaguars on the road on route to the AFC South title game next week. My Pick: Titans

Indianapolis @ Oakland – The Colts are still holding on to slim playoff hopes but they need Tennessee and Houston to lose games this week that they probably will not. To make matters worst, they probably wont win in Oakland on Saturday. The Raiders are playing for a chance to wrap up the AFC West and a first week bye in the post season. My Pick: Raiders

San Francisco @ Los Angeles – I wonder how many tickets to this game will be given away as Christmas presents. Fans would probably better off getting a pair of socks. My Pick: Rams

Tampa Bay @ New Orleans – Tampa still has a lot to play for despite losing at Dallas last week. New Orleans scored in bunches last week and they will look to carry that over in this week’s rival game against the Buccaneers. My Pick: Saints

Arizona @ Seattle – Arizona did two things last week that I didn’t see coming: 1) get out scored in a high scoring contests & 2) lose at home in such a high scoring contest. For Seattle, it is the same story: Yea, we have our struggles but we are usually really good at home. My Pick: Seahawks

Cincinnati @ Houston – AJ Green will be returning for the Bengals but I don’t think that will matter. The way Cincinnati played last week in the second half at home against the rival Steelers show me that they have given up on coach Marvin Lewis. I’m not sure how well Tom Savage will play for Houston but it might be fun to watch him attempt to go above and beyond to prove that he belongs as the starter for Houston. My Pick: Texans

Baltimore @ Pittsburgh – It is a shame that we have to wait until Christmas to watch any football this week that is of any importance. But this Ravens-Steelers matchup will be as big as any this week as it will decided the AFC North title. The loser might still make the playoffs but those chances will be slimmed significantly. Much like the first game between these teams, this matchup will not be for the faint of heart. It will be ugly. It will be slow paced. And it will come down to the 4th quarter. I have much confidence in the Steelers though for multiple reasons. I think playing at home will be a factor for Pittsburgh and their offense is much more explosive than Baltimore’s. I think the Pittsburgh offense will find tough sledding against the Ravens defense but they will still have chances to maximize on the big plays that gets their offense down the field. I think Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense might have their chances too to do some damage in this game but I don’t really trust them. Also, the Steelers defense is playing their best football all season currently. It might be close but I like the home Steelers on Christmas. Could you imagine if Baltimore came into Pittsburgh on Christmas a ripped the team’s heart out in front a packed Heinz Field? That would actually be awesome to see but this Ravens squad isn’t built for that. My Pick: Steelers

Denver @ Kansas City – Kansas City had a hot start at home last week but then, they went into cruise control and that allowed them to give that game away late to Tennessee. Kansas City needs some time to regroup because they have a pretty big game on Christmas night against the rival Broncos. Denver is in a serious slump especially on the offensive side of the ball. But they might be able to count on their defense in this game as the Chiefs offense looked limited last week. I still like the Chiefs in the AFC West but Denver is fighting for their playoff chances in this one and they will give KC their best shot. My Pick: Chiefs

Detroit @ Dallas – Too bad for the Lions that they couldn’t beat the Giants last week. Because now, they’ll have to play a Cowboys team on Monday night that absolutely needs to win in order to wrap up the NFC East, the NFC’s top seed, and home field advantage in the playoffs. This isn’t the same Detroit team that Dallas played in the post season two years ago. Detroit does not have a running game on offense and on defense, they are not as strong up front as they once were. I would expect Dallas to be able to pound them on offense with Ezekiel Elliott and the running game. With so much on the line for both teams, I think this will be a good game. I think Dallas will force the issue for most of the game and will probably have a lead going into the 4th quarter. That is when I start to feel good about Detroit because QB Matt Stafford has a great rep for leading late comebacks. I just think Dallas will be too much for Stafford to overcome as he is really missing another difference maker to help him on offense. My Pick: Cowboys

Week 16 Fantasy Football Picks

QB: Cam Newton (Panthers) – Cam is still putting forth his best effort despite the season his team is having. Atlanta’s defense hasn’t been challenged in two weeks. Cam will change that on Saturday.

RB: LeSean McCoy/Jay Ajayi (Bills/Dolphins) – I don’t often pick two players but with the state of Buffalo’s and Miami’s run defenses, you really can’t miss with either of these two players this week.

WR: T.Y. Hilton (Colts) – The Colts will have to rely heavily on the passing game against Oakland’s secondary.

TE: Cameron Brate (Buccaneers) – Brate is becoming a consistent performer and a reliable target for Jameis Winston.

DEF: Tennessee – The Titans don’t have a strong defense but they did a good job limiting Kansas City’s chances last week. They should be able to handle pick-six machine, Blake Bortles and the Jaguars on the road.

NFL 2016: Week 15 Predictions!

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Jameis Winston and the Buccaneers are ready for the bright lights of Jerry World.

By: Elias McMillan

 

Last Week: 8-8

Season: 128-78-2

Big Five Games of the Week

Tennessee @ Kansas City – The Titans won a game last week at home against Denver and it was one that they absolutely needed. Tennessee is still tied along the top of the AFC South and their playoff hopes remain to be very real. They will have a tough task this week on the road at Kansas City. The Chiefs are coming off of some extra rest days after taking care of Oakland last Thursday night. Kansas City’s confidence is sky high and they are looking to take control of the AFC West heading towards the playoffs. Kansas City’s defense will provide a tough test for Tennessee’s offense. RB’s DeMarco Murray and rookie Derrick Henry will have their hands full with the Chiefs front 7. QB Marcus Mariota will struggle to find big plays this week going up against KC’s secondary. The Titan defense did a great job last week limiting Denver’s scoring chances. I think Alex Smith will continue to move the football this week, as he seems to play better at home. I think Tennessee has a legit chance at making the playoffs even without winning their division. But I also think they will definitely lose this week. Prediction: Chiefs 26 – Titans 17

Indianapolis @ Minnesota – The Colts’ playoff chances are starting to dwindle. After dropping a huge one last week at home to divisional rival Houston, Andrew Luck and company will now have to travel to Minnesota to face one of the toughest defenses in the league. Minnesota is still fighting to keep their playoff hopes alive. This game on Sunday is sort of an elimination game. Minnesota has dealt with injuries all season but they have been able to lean on their defense to score some huge victories. This will have to be the case this Sunday. The Colts get their strength from their offense. WR T.Y. Hilton is among the league leaders in receiving this season but he’ll face a stiff task this week in CB Xavier Rhodes and the Vikings secondary. Minnesota’s defensive front seven is tough as well and they will make things hard for RB Frank Gore. The Colts defense was starting to play better but then, their starting middle LB got suspended last week for the season. Houston’s running game took advantage of that last week and the Vikings might be able to do the same even though Adrian Peterson isn’t quite ready yet to return. Minnesota will need this game and that will make next week’s matchup with the Packers even bigger. Prediction: Vikings 23 – Colts 20

Detroit @ New York Giants – Despite only scoring 10 points last week, it was enough for the Giants to end the Dallas win streak and they are brimming with confidence in December. The Giants still have plenty of issues but sweeping the rival Cowboys is a great feather to have in ones cap this season. The Giants still have work to do to get to the playoffs and this week’s game at home against the Lions, another 9-win team, will be huge for them. QB Matt Stafford’s dislocated finger on his throwing hand is a potentially huge development. Stafford is said to be okay and plans to play the rest of the year with the injury but we have to wonder what effects will come from that. The chess match between the Lions passing game and the Giants secondary might tilt this entire contest. I’m think that the Lions might be able to lean on their defense in this game. The Giants cant run the ball and Eli Manning has been mistake prone lately. I feel like the only thing that the Lions have to do is to make sure that WR Odell Beckham Jr doesn’t single handedly win the game for New York like he did last week. I’m going out on a limb here but I say that the Lions will upset the Giants on the road. Detroit really needs this one to keep Green Bay and Minnesota at bay in terms of the NFC North. Even with a loss, the Giants might still be a sure bet to make the post season. Prediction: Lions 21 – Giants 20

New England @ Denver – This game kinda lost its luster with no Peyton Manning in the fold for Denver. I’m sure that CBS will see that when the ratings come out after the game. Denver is in serious trouble. They have a brutal three game stretch to end the season and their playoff chances right now are looking bleak. I didn’t think they would lose last week on the road at Tennessee but now they really have their backs up against the wall. New England looks like the most impressive team in the AFC right now. Tom Brady is Tom Brady. New England’s backfield has all of their weapons healthy and playing at a high level. And we are starting to learn the names of the new defensive stars on this team. I didn’t quite understand why the Patriots would trade away Chandler Jones and Jamie Collins but last week on MNF, we saw how they are just able reload their defense with young talent. Denver’s offense is in a rut and I don’t think New England will let them out of it. Denver still have a really good defense and they will have to be the ones to keep the Broncos in this contest. If Von Miller looks the way he did the last time the Patriots came to town, Denver might have a good chance at winning this game. I think Bill Belichick will use last years AFC Championship game as motivation this week and the Patriots will be better prepared for Denver’s pass rush. I think there will be too much on the plate for Denver’s defense. I like the Brady bunch to score a road victory this week. Prediction: Patriots 24 – Broncos 16

Tampa Bay @ Dallas – NBC could not resist milking the Dallas Cowboys ratings machine one more time before the playoffs. The 11 game Cowboys win streak was snapped on the road last week in New York. Despite a valiant effort by the defense, especially by LB Sean Lee, the Cowboys only scored 7 points and the passing offense struggled. The Cowboys return back home this week to face a suddenly hot Tampa Bay team that has won 5 straight and are looking to keep pace with Atlanta in the NFC South. Tampa’s recent turnaround has been part due by their defense. Tampa is strong upfront and DT Gerald McCoy leads them. Rookie DE Noah Spence is starting to make his mark as a pass rusher. Tampa’s secondary has been making big plays late recently. Tampa also has a lot going for them on offense. QB Jameis Winston and his great weapon in the pass game, WR Mike Evans, have been giving opposing defenses a lot to deal with recently. Tampa’s run game has gotten stronger with the return of RB Doug Martin. Tampa has momentum on their side going into the biggest game for the Bucs in a while. Despite that, Dallas is really upset about how last week went down and they will be chopping at the bit to start a new win streak this week. QB Dak Prescott is starting to cool down significantly from his hot start to the season. Prescott and the passing game will have to bring the goods early in this one. I feel that the scenario of Prescott getting the hook for Tony Romo may become a real thing. Getting big plays out from the WR’s is important but for this team, the running game is more important. I think we will see the Cowboys offensive line oppose its will on the young Tampa defense on Sunday night. Ezekiel Elliott will remain everyone that he is a legit MVP candidate. And if the Dallas defense can play like it did last week, Tampa and the rest of the NFC will be in big trouble. I see a bounce back, statement game from Dallas happening on Sunday night. Prediction: Cowboys 27 – Buccaneers 20

The Rest of Week 15

Seahawks over Rams – Jeff Fisher was finally fired this week. Seattle’s uniforms will be really bright. That’s all I got.

Dolphins over Jets – QB Matt Moore was brought back to Miami for this reason. He will have to be the one to keep Miami’s playoff chances floating this week.

Bills over Browns – Buffalo disappointed me last week. They’ll get back on track this week against Cleveland.

Packers over Bears – Green Bay is streaking but they can’t overlook Chicago on their way to a big game next week vs. Minnesota.

Steelers over Bengals – What I just said about Green Bay applies to Pittsburgh as well. Cincinnati might be getting AJ Green back this week. The Bengals will play Pittsburgh tough at home. Pittsburgh has to stay away from the cheap stuff with Vontaze Burfict. What am I saying? There is going to be a fight and I want to see one.

Ravens over Eagles – Baltimore needed to try harder last week against New England. Philadelphia shouldn’t provide that much of a challenge for them. Again, they can’t overlook this game going into next week’s Christmas matchup at Pittsburgh.

Texans over Jaguars – Shout out to Jadeveon Clowney for playing hurt last week at Indy. That performance might have won the AFC South for Houston.

Falcons over 49ers – Atlanta looked really good last week. They could be peaking at the right time. Julio Jones has to get healthy though.

Cardinals over Saints – Arizona can score points. New Orleans couldn’t even do that last week.

Raiders over Chargers – San Diego was playing well recently but they were hit with all the injuries last week. Oakland should be able to bounce back after dropping a big one in Week 14.

Washington over Panthers – Josh Norman will get his revenge, as Carolina will be watching him in the post season this upcoming January.

Week 15 Fantasy Football Picks

QB: Kirk Cousins (Washington) – Carolina’s pass defense has been really bad this season. Cousins has to play well for Washington to win.

RB: Devonta Freeman (Falcons) – Against the San Francisco defense, Freeman will definitely have his chances at breaking one. You might as well start his backup, Tevin Coleman, as well.

WR: Larry Fitzgerald (Cardinals) – With Michael Floyd off the team, Carson Palmer will be looking for Fitzgerald more often for the rest of the season.

TE: Tyler Eifert (Bengals) – Eifert has been coming along strong and he appears to be back at 100% after missing most the season due to injury. Dalton will find him for some huge gains this week.

DEF: Seattle – The Seahawks defense should be able to feast against Jared Goff tonight.

 

 

NFL 2016: Week 14 Predictions!

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Eric Berry will lead the Chiefs defense in a huge game this week in the AFC West.

By: Elias McMillan

 

Last Week: 11-4

Season: 120-70-2

Big Five Games of the Week

Oakland @ Kansas City – Thursday Night Football this week features two of the hottest teams in the AFC. The Raiders are one of the top teams in the conference this season and they seem to always be apart of exciting finishes. This is because they are a tough team to put away and are able to mount comebacks late. A big reason for that is that their defense steps up and creates turnovers late in games. Thinking of turnovers, the Chiefs defense used a couple of turnovers caused by Eric Berry to score another huge road victory last week in Atlanta. Kansas City’s defense is as exciting as Oakland and they will make it hard for both offenses in this game on Thursday night. Even though Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin are playing at a high level right now, I’m going to give the edge to the Chiefs defense because they have better players in the secondary. After last week, we all saw what Eric Berry is capable of and Kansas City also receives solid play from their corners. On offense, QB Alex Smith will receive a boost in the return of WR Jeremy Maclin who has been out recently due to injury. Oakland’s weakness on defense is in the secondary and I think Smith will work to exploit that on Thursday night. Oakland QB David Carr has been playing great recently but he will find it hard on road this week against a tough defense. I’m going with the home team. Prediction: Chiefs 24 – Raiders 20

Pittsburgh @ Buffalo – The Steelers defense really stepped up at home last week and held the potentially explosive Giants offense to just 14 points. That included two huge turnovers in the red zone. The young Pittsburgh defense might be feeling confident about themselves but they will face a tougher challenge this week on the road against the Buffalo Bills. Now, I know that the Bills offense isn’t nearly as explosive as the Giants offense (at least on paper) but Buffalo’s strength will serve them well against the Steelers defense. Pittsburgh’s defense has allowed plenty of big time performances by opposing running backs this year. Buffalo plays a ball control style offense with their running game but the backs they have are supremely talented. I think LeSean McCoy can have a big day on the ground against the Steelers. Also, I’m not ready to count on the Steelers pass defense. The heat is on QB Tyrod Taylor this week to produce results. Taylor appeared to be frustrated with the way last week went in Oakland and how the media pressed him on it afterwards. I think Taylor will be looking to prove himself this week and he will receive great support by his receivers and the home crowd. I like WR Sammy Watkins’ chances against the Steeler corners as well. Buffalo’s defense has gotten tougher as the season has gone on. I think the Steeler offense will provide a great test for Buffalo and they might be able to win the game single handedly if given the opportunity. But I think Buffalo’s offense will do its part with helping the defense by controlling the clock and keeping Ben Roethlisberger and company on the bench. The Steelers maybe feeling “high” right now but they are a team that is usually ripe for a letdown on the road. I’m taking the Bills to keep their playoff hopes alive this week with a big home victory. Prediction: Bills 32 – Steelers 28

Houston @ Indianapolis – The last time I really watched Houston was against Oakland in that Monday night game in Mexico. From there, I believed that Houston was getting a bad wrap from the media and that they are actually better than what most people think. But they had a letdown on the road last week in Green Bay and they are looking more and more like a team that will meltdown in December instead of making a run to the postseason. I thought the Texans would be able to lean on their defense, which was playing well this season. But the injuries to LB Jadeveon Clowney and CB Jonathan Joseph have proved to be costly. I don’t think the Colts are a great or good team. But their offense has improved recently. RB Frank Gore is having a great bounce back season. QB Andrew Luck is finding his groove. The defense is even playing better with the return last week of pass rusher Trent Cole. The Colts are starting the trend in the positive direction and they might be able to score a huge divisional victory this week at home. Prediction: Colts 26 – Texans 23

Dallas @ New York Giants – The Cowboys are 11-1 with a current 11 game win streak. That one loss this season came in Week 1 at home to the New York Football Giants. A lot has changed since then for both teams. This is a huge NFC East contest that might determine the division champion. The Giants were on their own win streak until they ran into Pittsburgh last week. QB Eli Manning made some horrible decisions in the red zone last week and that is not going to cut it for a team that is fighting to stay alive for the postseason. Good news for Manning is that he will be facing a Dallas defense this week at home that doesn’t pressure the QB and seems to be allergic to creating turnovers. The Giants offense will have to have a bounce back performance at home this week in order to stop the Cowboys win streak. The Manning to Beckham Jr connection will have to be on point on Sunday night. I’m not giving that Giants defense much of a chance at stopping the Cowboys offense on Sunday. Like I said earlier, this Dallas team is much different than the one from Week 1. Dak Prescott’s confidence as a passer is improving from week to week. More importantly, this offense can still lean on Ezekiel Elliott and the run game. DE Jason Pierre-Paul is out of the rest of the season as he was injured last week in Pittsburgh. That will deal a huge blow to New York’s chances on Sunday and going forward for this defense this season. I think Dallas will be able to take care of business on the road this week and more on to becoming the NFC East champs. I also think that this will be the beginning of an ugly December for the Giants. Prediction: Cowboys 35 – Giants 30

Baltimore @ New England – The Ravens offense finally exploded last week and that unit has been feeling great going into this huge road game against the Patriots. Historically, Joe Flacco has performed well against the Patriots defense. I mean, that’s not saying much as New England doesn’t really have much of a defense. But still, Baltimore has to keep whatever it is going on offense this week. New England’s defense is an overachieving bunch, again, but if the Ravens can press them and keep the pressure on, they may be able to score in bunches. Baltimore’s defense is talented but they are also beatable. This still isn’t the Baltimore defense of old. I expect Tom Brady to still be Tom Brady on Monday night. I think both offenses could do well in this game. The question will be which defense will show up for both teams. Baltimore has the top ranked run defense in the NFL but New England does a great job on the ground with LeGarrette Blount and Dion Lewis. Something will have to give on Sunday. I don’t know if this Baltimore team is capable of winning a big game like this one on the road. Brady and Belichick at home seem like a safe bet. Prediction: Patriots 31 – Ravens 21

The Rest of Week 14

Browns over Bengals – Cleveland has got to win at least once this season. Terrelle Pryor will have a 12+ catch performance. Robert Griffin III returns in a big way as well. That or the Browns will continue to be the Browns.

Lions over Bears – Chicago will offer no competition for Detroit on Sunday. They are too injured.

Broncos over Titans – Tennessee is still in the playoff race but so is Denver. The Broncos will need this one more.

Cardinals over Dolphins – Miami imploded last week and Arizona showed that they could still play good ball. I think the Cardinals will finish the season strong.

Washington over Eagles – Washington took their lumps last week on the road but they are still in a position to make a run towards the playoffs.

Chargers over Panthers – San Diego is more of a complete team than Carolina is right now.

Vikings over Jaguars – This might not be a slam-dunk for Minnesota. Minnesota was dealt another key injury last week. It has been that kind of year for them this season.

Jets over 49ers – I feel sorry for anyone who has to watch this on Sunday.

Seahawks over Packers – I know Seattle has had its troubles on the road and they are dealing with the lost of Earl Thomas but they can’t drop this one to a bad Packers team. Everyone is selling that Green Bay is still fighting for life in the playoff race but I just don’t see it.

Falcons over Rams – LA will not be able to out score the Atlanta offense. This will be too big of a chore for the Rams defense.

Buccaneers over Saints – Tampa Bay is right in the thick of things in the NFC South. Crazy.

Week 14 Fantasy Football Picks

QB: Phillip Rivers (Chargers) – At the bottom of the ranked pass defenses in the league this season, you will find three NFC South teams. One of them is the Carolina Panthers, the team that Rivers will face on Sunday.

RB: David Johnson (Cardinals) – Johnson has been playing as well as any RB in the league lately. On Sunday, he’ll face a poor Miami run defense.

WR: Mike Evans (Buccaneers) – The Saints secondary will not have an answer for Tampa Bay’s main passing target this weekend.

TE: Dwayne Allen (Colts) – I don’t think Allen will score three times like he did last week but Andrew Luck will give him more targets after his big performance last week.

DEF: Minnesota/Jacksonville – For the first time ever, I’m taking two opposing defenses. The Vikings/Jaguars game has the potential to be such an ugly game. Big day for the field goal kickers.

NFL 2016: Week 12 Predictions!

NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars at Detroit Lions

The Lions will be looking to take the lead in the NFC North on Thanksgiving.

By: Elias McMillan

 

Last Week: 10-4

Season: 97-62-2

Big Five Games of the Week

Minnesota @ Detroit – The Vikings were able to end their losing streak last week at home. Now they are sitting at 6-4 and tied at the top of the NFC North with the Detroit Lions. This Thanksgiving Day matchup will have serious playoff implications in terms of the NFC North title. The Lions are coming off a win at home to Jacksonville but it was none too impressive. I think it was important for Minnesota to get back to winning last week as they were in danger of completely falling out of the playoff race. Minnesota still has issues offensively currently but if their defense can play like it did last week, they have a chance at the end of each game. Detroit has made a habit out of winning close games this year and they’ll probably have to do the same on Thursday. The matchup of the game will be the Minnesota defense against the Detroit offense. It will be strength vs strength when it comes to Matthew Stafford and the Lions passing game against Minnesota’s secondary. I think this game will turn on Minnesota’s inability to get anything consistent going on offense. Detroit’s defense hasn’t been great this season but they have the talent up front to get after Sam Bradford, create pressure and cause mistakes. Because of the Vikings defense, this game will go down to the wire but I like the home team. Prediction: Lions 26 – Vikings 23

Washington @ Dallas – Washington is riding high going into Thursday’s game against rival Dallas. Washington is wining ball games with their passing attack and their active defense. Kirk Cousins is playing well right now and we are seeing how talented of a receiving core that Washington has. Washington’s defense isnt great as an unit but they have a talented group that can rush the passer and make plays in the open field. If Washington is riding high currently, then what does that make Dallas? The Cowboys have won nine straight and are showing no signs of slowing down. This winning streak for Dallas starting at Washington and many of the things they were able to do in that game could carry over into this matchup. I think Dallas will be able to run the ball on Washington’s front seven. I think Washington’s secondary will not be able to account for all of the talent Dak Prescott has to go to. Prescott will have to beware of Josh Norman on passing downs as he seems to always be in the right positions to make plays for his defense. The lack of a pass rush from Dallas does worry me because with time, Cousins should be able to have his way with the Cowboys secondary. But I think the Cousins hype is probably a little too high going into this game. Cousins played big in a primetime game so everyone is ready to crown him but no one is talking about how bad Green Bay’s secondary is. I think Cousins will play well on Thursday but it will not be a repeat of what we saw last Sunday night. Ezekiel Elliott and the Cowboys offensive line will set the tone of the game and I don’t see Washington slowing them down. I think Dallas will go on to win their tenth straight game. Prediction: Cowboys 34 – Washington 27

Pittsburgh @ Indianapolis – I was ready to write off the Colts earlier in the year but they continue to do well especially against AFC South foes. I could see them beating a desperate Pittsburgh team on Thursday night at home but certainly not without Andrew Luck. Luck will probably miss this game due to a concussion and that might be the window that the Steelers will need to score the road victory. The Steelers were able to stop their losing streak last week at Cleveland but that’s certainly nothing to write home about. The Colts are fighting for a playoff spot just like the Steelers so I expect this one to be well fought. I like the Steelers with Andrew Luck out of the question but lets not write off the Steelers defense ability to lose to QB’s like Scott Tolzien. Pittsburgh’s defense has been such a letdown in big moments this season so it wouldn’t surprise me if Tolzien actually plays well. The Colts still have weapons on that side of the ball without Luck. Frank Gore is playing well recently and you can say the same for the Colts receiving core led by T.Y. Hilton. Indy’s defense is underrated but I think they will have their handful with what Pittsburgh brings to the table. For the Steelers to win this game on Thursday, they will have to overwhelm the Colts with a steady diet of Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell. If Ben Roethlisberger can stay on his feet and play mistake free football, I don’t see why not the Pittsburgh offense can be successful. This will be another close one but I’m taking the Steelers over the home team without its best player. Prediction: Steelers 35 – Colts 27

Kansas City @ Denver – Losing to Tampa Bay at home is bad look for the Chiefs. I’m a fan of what the Chiefs have on their team. They have a tough defense, they get after the QB, they are tough to run against, they have playmakers in the secondary, and they play ball control offense that is effective. That being said, in a tight AFC West race, they cant afford to have slip ups like they did this past week. Now, they will go on to face Denver at home, which will be a tough chore. Denver’s defense will prove to be as tough as Kansas City’s. I think the difference will be Denver’s ability to execute on offense. Denver is tough at home and maybe Kansas City has some things to figure out in their own camp after a tough home loss. I like Denver in this one. Prediction: Broncos 22 – Chiefs 18

Green Bay @ Philadelphia – If the Packers are not done now, this Monday night will be their funeral. Green Bay can’t stop anyone on offense. But that’s not really news. The news is that Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense isn’t able to make up for the defense by scoring enough points at the end of the game. Going into Philadelphia this week will prove to be a perfect storm for the Eagles. The Eagles play well at home this season and Green Bay’s recent struggles serve well to their strengths. I think the Eagles defense will give Rodgers a tough time and rookie Carson Wentz will be able to look as good as he has in months facing the Packers and their toothless defense. I’m not sure if it will be a blowout but I’m expecting Philadelphia to get a big win at home on Monday night. Prediction: Eagles 33 – Packers 24

The Rest of Week 12

Falcons over Cardinals – Atlanta will be charged up coming off the bye week. Arizona can’t get it done on the road this season.

Bills over Jaguars – Buffalo has done a great job recently at competing til the end and closing out games in the 4th quarter. They will have to do the same this week against a Jaguars team that is hungry to end their losing streak.

Titans over Bears – Tennessee has to get over their slow starts. Chicago has so many injuries right now. Tennessee must take advantage.

Giants over Browns – Cleveland will not get their first win this week.

Dolphins over 49ers – This will be the best-looking matchup of the week and maybe the year. Miami will be wearing the throwbacks from the ‘70’s, which will look great paired up with San Fran’s road uniforms.

Saints over Rams – LA cant score no matter who’s at QB. Drew Brees will find tough sledding against the Rams defense but he’ll do enough to get New Orleans the victory.

Ravens over Bengals – I think Cincinnati is done. The injuries to A.J. Green and Giovanni Bernard will seriously hurt this offense. Baltimore is a confident bunch despite falling last week at Dallas.

Texans over Chargers – I watched the Monday night game last week and thought, “Maybe Houston isn’t as bad as everyone thinks.” The Texans were hurt big time by the officials in that game and they’ll be ready to get back on track this week at home.

Seahawks over Buccaneers – Trap game for Seattle here. Tampa is coming off a big road win but Seattle is playing some of its best football right now. Fun fact: Both Tampa and Seattle entered the NFL in the same year.

Raiders over Panthers – I wasn’t that impressed with Oakland last week but Carolina will find life even tougher without defensive leader Luke Kuechly.

Patriots over Jets – I think the Jets will score more with Ryan Fitzpatrick back in the lineup but they wont beat Brady and the Pats.

Week 12 Fantasy Football Picks

QB: Ben Roethlisberger (Steelers) – Ben has had his recent injury problems but he has also had some of his biggest games statistically against the Colts defense.

RB: Jay Ajayi (Dolphins) – Against the 49ers defense, the J-Train should be rolling this week.

WR: DeAndre Hopkins (Texans) – San Diego allows the third most yards in the air this season. I think Hopkins will catch plenty of balls down field on Sunday.

TE: Jimmy Graham (Seahawks) – Every week, it seems like Graham is making a big play for Russell Wilson.

DEF: Buffalo – Rob Ryan’s unit did a great job at the end of last week’s game in Cincinnati. I like the Bills defense this week against a Jaguars offense that seems to not be able to get it together.

NFL 2016: Week 4 Predictions!

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Will the return of Le’Veon Bell lift the Steelers offense on Sunday night?

By: Elias McMillan

 

Last Week: 9-7

Season: 29-19

Big Five Games of the Week

Buffalo @ New England – The Bills looked really bad in Week 2. So last week against a much better Arizona team, they were able to pull out all the stops and score a big home victory. Buffalo will look to ride that momentum into New England on Sunday as they take on the Patriots. New England can do no wrong currently. Despite all of the personnel losses on both sides of the ball, they are 3-0. You have to be impressed to see their defense playing at the level that it is right now. But that defense really hasn’t been pressed by a good offense this season. Buffalo may not be a complete offense right now but they can do one thing very well: run the football. I think Buffalo will be successful in the run game on Sunday rather if it’s LeSean McCoy doing the damage or QB Tyrod Taylor. The starting QB for New England this week remains a mystery. Buffalo has plenty of defensive woes right now but no coach knows Bill Belichick’s offense better than Rex Ryan. I think the Ryan brothers are going to have a good game plan this week against a Patriots offense that can really only run the ball successfully. New England will be looking forward to the return of Tom Brady next week. This week, they will be shocked and upset at home to the underdog Bills. Prediction: Bills 32 – Patriots 21

Seattle @ New York Jets – Russell Wilson suffered a knee injury last week but he is planning to play through it. I think this will prove to be a bad decision going up against the Jets on the road this week. Wilson already is dealing with shaky offensive line play and his week, that line will face a powerful, disruptive Jets front four on defense. The Jets took their lumps last week on the road but this week they will be the ones handing out the lumps. Everyone was no hard on Ryan Fitzpatrick last week. And maybe for good reason. It’s never good to throw SIX interceptions in one game. But on the other hand, Kansas City’s defense is really good. Fitzpatrick will face another good defense this week in the Seahawks. I think Fitz will be helped out this week by his defense. The Jets will play ball control football with the defense getting stops and the offense taking advantage of the extra opportunities to score. New York will be without Eric Decker and that might hurt them in the passing game. But Seattle has a rep of being a weaker team on the road. I’m taking the Jets in an upset. Prediction: Jets 21 – Seahawks 20

Oakland @ Baltimore – The Ravens are the 3-0 team that no one is talking about. Probably because they haven’t beaten anyone of significance. But beating teams that you are suppose to beat will go a long ways in terms to getting into the post season. Baltimore just has to keep on trucking along until they face a great challenge. And then, we will see how good they really are. I also haven’t seen them play a lot this season so far. I know that it helps that Joe Flacco is back. Their running game is a mystery to me. Baltimore is getting decent play out of their receivers. And their defense is currently ranked 2nd in the league. The Raiders gutted out a tough victory last week on the road but they’ll have a harder time this week in Baltimore. Derek Carr and the Raiders offense will be a great test for Baltimore’s defense. Oakland’s defense played its best game last week but that unit has mostly been a disappointment in this season. There is a great chance that Flacco will have his best performance of the season this Sunday if he is able to stay away from the Raiders pass rush. Prediction: Ravens 26 – Raiders 17

Kansas City @ Pittsburgh – What happened to Pittsburgh last week, no one saw coming. Giving up 34 points to a rookie QB? Sure, I could see that. But only putting up 3 points on offense? I didn’t know that the Eagles defense was that good. Maybe they are not. Maybe the Steelers just had an off day offensively. But if Philadelphia’s defense was able to play that well, what will happen this Sunday night in Pittsburgh when the Chiefs come to town? As we saw last week, Kansas City’s defense is really good and they will force turnovers. They are tough to run on and they have a good secondary. Ben Roethlisberger is coming off of two straight weeks of lackluster performances. I know he will bounce back as he always does but it will be hard for him this week against the Chiefs defense. I think the return of Le’Veon Bell for the Steelers will greatly affect Pittsburgh’s chances on Sunday. Kansas City has a tough defensive line but Bell can be used it so many different ways on offense. It will be hard for the Chiefs to key on Bell and DeAngelo Williams. Pittsburgh’s defense takes a lot of heat but this week, I believe that match up well against Kansas City’s offense. Jamaal Charles might be making his season debut on Sunday night but Pittsburgh still has a highly ranked run defense. QB Alex Smith will be asked to do more that usual in this matchup but that may not be a bad thing for the Chiefs. I’ve said before that Smith is underrated and he’ll have a chance to look much better than what he really is against the Steelers secondary. Pittsburgh will be looking for the chance to rebound after a bad performance last week and they will really want this one at home. It will be close but I’m taking the home team. Le’Veon Bell will make the big play late in this game to clinch a victory for the home team. Prediction: Steelers 25 – Chiefs 23

New York Giants @ Minnesota – I love what Minnesota is doing right now. They lose their starting QB, RB and left tackle but they are still winning ball games. How? Look at their defense. Sacking the QB, creating pressure, causing turnovers. And they are doing it with talent that they drafted. Other teams in the league need to look at Minnesota as an example. Having a decent defense can overcome shortcomings on offense. Plus, you have to bring in high priced free agents to improve defensively. Minnesota drafted top talent on defense and it is starting to pay off. The Giants have been disappointing so far this season. Their defense is improved but the offense is struggling to put up the numbers that everyone thought they would. I think that offense will continue its struggles on the road in Minnesota this Monday night. The way Eli Manning threw that game away late last week was kind of embarrassing. Manning is going to have another tough go at it this week against the Vikings defense. I think the Giants defense will be able to keep New York in the game but they wont win it for them. It will be up to Eli Manning to solve the Vikings defense late in the game in front of a raucous Minnesota crowd. I like the home team. Prediction: Vikings 29 – Giants 24

The Rest of Week 4

Bengals over Dolphins – Miami tried their best to lose to Cleveland at home last week. They are having a tough go at it. Cincinnati better take care of business in this one.

Colts over Jaguars – I feel sorry for anyone who is planning to get up early to watch this one being played in London. Jacksonville was supposed to be everyone’s sleeper team. What happened?

Panthers over Falcons – Good news for Cam Newton: he won’t be facing the Minnesota defense this week. This will be a good game but Carolina’s defense will be the difference.

Lions over Bears – Chicago is sad. But at least their fans can troll Detroit fans about the MLB Playoffs?

Washington over Browns – Terrelle Pryor will have another strong performance but Cleveland will still lose. Expect that to be the theme in Cleveland for the rest of the season. If I were a Browns fan, I would be watching Louisville/Clemson very closely on Saturday night.

Texans over Titans – J.J. Watt is out for the season but Houston will rally and beat a tough Tennessee team at home.

Broncos over Buccaneers – Trevor Siemien is playing better each week. So much for a Super Bowl hangover. Denver is looking really good right now.

Cardinals over Rams – Arizona will be ready to rebound from a disastrous trip to Buffalo. If the Rams keep winning, we can make fun of their move to LA anymore. That’s no fun. C’mon Arizona!

Chargers over Saints – Drew Brees said that he was looking forward to playing his old team. Phillip Rivers will be looking forward to playing against the Saints defense.

49ers over Cowboys – Here’s an upset. San Francisco will give Dallas the tough game that Chicago didn’t give them last week. San Fran isn’t really good but the Cowboys defense will make Blaine Gabbert look much better than he really is.

Week 4 Fantasy Football Picks

QB: Joe Flacco (Ravens) – The Raiders give up the most yards in the air on defense. Flacco will air it out at home this week.

RB: Todd Gurley (Rams) – Arizona couldn’t stop the run last week. LA will use Gurley to their advantage this week.

WR: Marvin Jones (Lions) – Jones is turning into the breaking out player in the Lions offense so far this season.

TE: Dennis Pitta (Ravens) – Pitta is catching a lot of passes so far this season but he has yet to score a TD. Expect that to change this week.

DEF: New York Jets – I like the Jets defense this week against a banged up Russell Wilson.

 

NFL 2016: AFC West Preview

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Khalil Mack and the Raiders defense will make a playoff push in 2016.

By: Elias McMillan

 

AFC West

Kansas City Chiefs – The Chiefs quietly had an outstanding season in 2015 headlined by that massive win streak that they rode into the playoffs. I think that this Chiefs team going into 2016, will have a pretty good shot at overtaking this division from Denver since the Broncos may have not improved in the offseason. The Chiefs have a great veteran core, a great running game, and a great defense. Head coach Andy Reid will have this team ready for bigger things in 2016. I think the questions about QB Alex Smith going into last season are about done. I’m not saying that Smith is a top QB in the league but he is much better than what people believe. When pressed, he can make the big plays at times and I think last season he won the respect of a lot of people in that locker room. A big help to Alex Smith is that the Chiefs are one the best teams at running the football. Everyone knows that Jamaal Charles is the star but they have great depth behind him with Charcandrick West, Spencer Ware, and the speedy kick returner Knile Davis. I don’t know if the depth behind Charles is in result of just having good talent or if the Chiefs offensive line does an outstanding job but either way, it works for this team. The Chiefs receiving core is kind of boring outside of Jeremy Maclin. Maclin showed a lot of heart last season by playing through injuries and he is one of the toughest guys in the league. The Chiefs need someone else opposite of Maclin to step up this season. That could be Albert Wilson or second year receiver Chris Conley. Smith also has a pretty good connection with TE Travis Kelce in the passing game. Kansas City’s defense is strong up front and they had a top 10 run defense in 2015. Nose tackle Dontari Poe is the leader of the group and I think top draft pick, Chris Jones from Mississippi State, will be a great addition eventually. The Chiefs return the same great group at linebacker this season. Tamba Hali and Justin Houston maybe starting to get up there in age but they are still a top pass rushing duo in the league. LB’s Derrick Johnson and Josh Mauga are both good tacklers and pass defenders. Kansas City’s secondary received a big boost last season from reigning defensive rookie of the year, CB Marcus Peters. Peters is an interception machine and he looks to continue right where he left off in 2015. The veteran leader in the secondary, safety Eric Berry, is back and is fresh off a season where he won Comeback Player of the Year. The Chiefs have a great collection of talent in 2016 and they are battle tested. They should be able to win the AFC West and maybe make some noise in the post season. Prediction: 11-5 (AFC West Champs)

Oakland Raiders – Coming off a 7-9 season, the Raiders actually have some momentum going into 2016. They have assembled a young talented roster but they still have some holes that need to be filled. I think this Raiders team is going to be good this year mainly because of their defense. I’m not entirely sure if the Raiders have made the transition from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 defense but the moves they have made in the offseason do reflect that. Either way, they have drafted very smart and they have brought it some key veteran players. On the defensive line, they have a couple of guys that fit the 3-4 scheme as big bodied, run stuffers. DT’s Dan Williams and Justin Ellis offer a lot of size inside and rookie Jihad Ward will offer athleticism inside as a defensive end. There is also some hope that second year DE Mario Edwards Jr. will improve this season. The Raiders have the players at defensive line but the real standouts will be the pass rushers. Khalil Mack had a standout 2015 and he has the ability to be the next Von Miller. In a 4-3 defense, Mack was moved around a lot and did well. But he really excelled at creating pressure in the backfield. In a 3-4 defense, Mack would have more opportunities at getting to the QB and I believe that this is the plan for 2016. I think the offseason signing of OLB Bruce Irvin supports that scheme change. Irvin played in a 4-3 defense in Seattle but he is probably more suited as an outside rusher in a 3-4 defense. With Mack on the opposite side, Irvin is going to have the chance to be an impact player in this defense. The Raiders have had a big hole in their secondary for years now. This offseason they brought in a couple veterans and some young guys that might be able to turn this unit around. CB Sean Smith was a good player in Kansas City and former first round pick D.J. Hayden is coming off his best season as a pro. Charles Woodson retired but Oakland will attempt to replace him with seasoned vet, Reggie Nelson. Nelson isn’t the player that Woodson was obviously, but he is a ball hawk with a knack for creating big time turnovers. Nelson will be paired with this year’s first round pick, safety Karl Joseph. I thought Joseph was a reach in the first round for Oakland but the guy is a heat seeking missile when it comes to ball carriers. The combo of Nelson and Joseph will be perfect for this defense as both bring that playmaking potential on each down. On offense, the Raiders have the QB and WR positions figured out at least. QB David Carr hasn’t put up monster numbers yet but he is the young leader of this offense. Carr has a great set of reliable receivers in veteran Michael Crabtree and second year standout Amari Cooper. The combination of AC/DC has already become a popular one for Raiders fans. What worries me about the Raiders offense is that I don’t think they are strong up front and I think that is holding back Carr and especially the running game. RB Latavius Murray had a decent 2015 season but I think he could be better if the Raiders had a better offensive line. The Raiders don’t have great depth behind Murray at RB. Rookie DeAndre Washington led the Big 12 in rushing last year and he might be called upon early in his career. The Raiders are also really lacking at the TE position. Mychal Rivera isn’t dynamic to give Carr a reliable target in the passing game. I expect this Raiders defense to be a monster and I think Oakland could possibly ride it into the team’s first post-season berth since 2002. But they need to fill some holes on the offensive side of the ball if they want to return to being the dominant team in this division. Prediction: 9-7 (Wildcard)

Denver Broncos – It’s hard for champions to repeat especially in the NFL. Denver is going to have a tough time bucking that logic in 2016. Denver still has a lot of the talent pieces from last year’s championship run but they also lost a few and the division they play in has improved. Denver was able to ride their defense to a championship a season ago and it looks like the defense will have to be the vocal point once again in 2016. Peyton Manning wasn’t his old self last season but his presence and his knowledge of the offense was able to get the most out of what he was able to do. I don’t think Denver has a QB on the roster right now that can be as valuable as Manning was to the offense last season. Manning looked bad at times in his final season but I think he’ll look better than what Denver has to offer at QB in 2016. Mark Sanchez is a veteran whose best days are behind him. Trevor Siemian hasn’t taken a snap in the regular season. And first round pick, Paxton Lynch, may not be ready to start on day one. Denver also lost multiple starters on the offensive line so, they may be in trouble when it comes to pass protection and run blocking. The QB will have to lean heavy on RB’s C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman. Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders are talented receivers but their impact on the game will be lower this season because of the situation at QB. On defense, they may have lost Malik Jackson in free agency but I think they’ll still be pretty solid up front with Derek Wolfe and Sylvester Williams. Of course, the star of the defense is Von Miller who is the best pass rusher in football right now. Miller paired with DeMarcus Ware proved to be a deadly combo during the last post season and they will hope to pick up where they left off in 2016. Ware does have an injury history but Shane Ray is waiting in the wings as his heir apparent. Denver’s secondary could be a mixed bag this year too. Last season, CB’s Chris Harris and Bradley Roby proved their worth but that group will miss Aqib Talib who is facing a possible suspension and is battling his own injury problems. As the case for most good movies, the sequel wont be as good as the original. I don’t think Denver is going to fall off the face of the earth but they wont be contenders with that messy QB situation. They should have pulled the trigger on that purposed Colin Kaepernick trade. Prediction: 8-8

San Diego Chargers – The Chargers could potentially climb out of the AFC West basement in 2016 but I don’t see it happening. There are too many question marks on both sides of the ball and I think that the mismanagement from the front office is starting to affect the team. On paper, I think San Diego should be strong offensively. The only thing really missing on offense is a consistent run game. At QB, Phillip Rivers returns for another season as one of the most overlooked players in the league. Rivers can throw it with the best of them and this year he’ll have a pretty talented core of WR’s. I like the pairing of WR’s Kellen Allen and free agent acquisition Travis Benjamin as one serves as a tough possession and the other is a speedy game breaker. I also like the idea of veteran WR James Jones serving as a third option for Rivers. This is a role that Jones excelled at in Green Bay. Of course, Rivers will have Antonio Gates to throw to again at the TE position. But also look out for rookie Hunter Henry who will have a role at the second TE. The Chargers have drafted well up front and have brought in free agents in the past to help bolster that offensive line. Despite that, the running game has been such a major disappointment. San Diego has a decent collection of RB’s but second year player, Melvin Gordon, has to prove this season that he can be the guy in the backfield for this team. Danny Woodhead and Branden Oliver are good complementary players at RB but Gordon has to prove that he was worth that first round pick from a season ago. On defense, the Chargers have a lot of talent but they have been inconsistent at all three phases. They don’t stop the run, they don’t get to the QB often enough, and the secondary will definetly be hurting without safety Eric Weddle. This years first round pick, Joey Bosa, was suppose to be a big help upfront at stopping run and creating pressure in the backfield. But the front office has screwed up the process of getting him signed much like other first rounders under this regime. Who knows if the Bosa holdout will last the entire season but I think the affects of it will cause division in the locker room. The Chargers struggle at stopping the run but they do have a pair of decent pass rushers in Melvin Ingram and Jeremiah Attaochu. Inside at linebacker, Manti Te’o and Denzel Perryman need to become the stars that they were in college to help improve the run defense. In the secondary, I actually like the two starters, Brandon Flowers and Jason Verrett. I don’t know if Dwight Lowery can replace Weddle at safety for this team but he might provide some needed veteran leadership. I expect this Chargers team to compete hard for those fans in San Diego this season. But I think they will lack the consistency on both sides of the ball to compete for a playoff berth. I’m looking forward to these two victories for the Chargers in 2016: 1) Joey Bosa ending his holdout & 2) San Diego getting a stadium deal done. Prediction: 6-10