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NFL 2019: Week 5 Predictions

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QB Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs will be looking to stay undefeated this Sunday night.

 

By: Elias McMillan

Last Week: 7-8

Season: 36-26-1

Top Five Games of the Week

Los Angeles Rams @ Seattle – This will be a big matchup in the NFC West on Thursday night. The Rams were embarrassed defensively at home last week. Now, they will try to bounce back on the road against the rival, Seahawks. Seattle flexed their defensive muscles in Arizona in Week 4, holding the Cardinals to 10 points. Seattle isn’t known for their explosive offense but they could be in attack mode against a Rams defense that gives up big plays. QB Jared Goff is going to have to shake off his recent slump to keep the Rams in the ball game. Seattle is usually tough at home and home teams usually do well in these Thursday night game. I like the Hawks. Prediction: Seahawks over Rams

Baltimore @ Pittsburgh – Congratulations, Pittsburgh! You got your first win of the season last Monday against a toothless Bengals squad. Good thing that it is just Week 5 so, we can say that you are squarely in the AFC North race. I didn’t see what happened to Baltimore last week coming but I should have. I knew Baltimore’s lack of defensive talent would catch up to them eventually and it all came ahead in the form of Browns RB Nick Chubb. The Ravens will be looking for answers this week in Pittsburgh it what has always been an intense contest between rivals. If the Steelers watched the Ravens/Browns film from last week, I bet they would be thinking that they might find some success in the running game. Last week, Pittsburgh experimented with a “wildcat” like attack on the ground that worked well. Even Coach Tomlin admitted that it was gimmicky but whatever works, works. I think that might be code for “we don’t trust Mason Rudolph and the passing game to win us ball games yet”. I think the Ravens will put out a better effort at stopping the run this week. Their run defense has to be able to put the game for Pittsburgh in the hands of Rudolph. QB Lamar Jackson wasn’t as sharp last week but he’ll be able to attack the Steeler defense if he’s protected. Pittsburgh’s defense feasted against Cincinnati but I think Baltimore will prove to be a much tougher opponent. Prediction: Ravens over Steelers

Green Bay @ Dallas – The Cowboys received their first loss of the season last week and now they’ll return home to face a rested Green Bay team. The Packers were shocked at home by Philly with the main culprit being their defense. Dallas must play aggressive offensively on Sunday to prevent a two game losing streak. Green Bay’s defense is improved from a season ago but they still struggle against the run. Ezekiel Elliott should be the main focus for the Cowboys offense on Sunday but Dak Prescott should have plenty of opportunities thru the air as well. The Cowboys are a bit banged up on their offensive line this week. Green Bay pass rushers Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith could be huge factors in this game. If Green Bay can stop the run and limit Prescott, Aaron Rodgers could be in store for a huge game. He has never lost at AT&T Stadium and the Cowboys pass rush has been inconsistent sans the recent emergence of DE Robert Quinn. These two teams often play in competitive games against each other. I think the difference on Sunday will be which Packers defense will choose to show up. After a ten-day break and the state of the Cowboys offensive line, I think Green Bay will have the advantage. Prediction: Packers over Cowboys

Indianapolis @ Kansas City – The Chiefs showed that they could win a close ball game on the road last week in Detroit. Those late game heroics are going to pay dividends for them later on this season. I’m not sure what happened to the Colts at home last week against Oakland. I don’t care if T.Y. Hilton wasn’t healthy. They should have been good enough to beat that Oakland team. I mean, I think David Carr isn’t that bad but they made him look like Rich Gannon last week. Indy clearly has defensive issues right now, which is bad news, as they’ll meet the reigning MVP QB Patrick Mahomes on Sunday night. It’s going to be a long night for the Colts if their offense can’t keep up. Prediction: Chiefs over Colts

Cleveland @ San Francisco – Plenty of weird things can be said about this Monday night matchup. First: an undefeated 49ers team. Second: the AFC North leading Cleveland Browns. Strange, right? It’s just Week 5, after all. The Niners are coming off the bye so hopefully they are well rested. Despite their 3-0 record, I think San Fran is an overachieving, sloppy football team. I don’t think much about the Browns either. Last week, they discovered their running game and shocked Baltimore. I think the Browns can be successful with that formula again this week. Despite their issues, Cleveland is more explosive on both sides of the ball than the 49ers. And maybe, the Browns are just a better team on the road? I don’t know. This one is a toss up. I don’t think San Fran is worthy of their undefeated title. I like the Browns to give them their first loss of 2019. Prediction: Browns over 49ers

The Rest of Week 5

Cardinals over Bengals – Cincinnati looked pretty bad last week. Week 5 is too early to start thinking about the draft/future but they are already doing it in Miami.

Titans over Bills – Tennessee is talented but inconsistent. Much like their QB. They still should have enough to beat Buffalo.

Bears over Raiders – Khalil Mack has been talking all week about how he can’t wait to face his former team. Over/Under on how many sacks will he rack up on Sunday? 8? 9.5?

Saints over Buccaneers – Even without Drew Brees, New Orleans is a really tough football team. It would be interesting if Tampa can continue its success through the air like last week.

Giants over Vikings – In-fighting in the Minnesota locker room has the Vikings trending down. New York has been trending up since Daniel Jones has entered the picture. Plus, having Golden Tate back from suspension will help.

Eagles over Jets – The Jets are back from the bye but they can’t compete with their current situation at QB.

Patriots over Washington – New England would have to try real hard to lose to this Washington team.

Jaguars over Panthers – Minshew-Mania is running wild! Believe it!

Texans over Falcons – Two underachieving teams here. Atlanta looks like the bigger mess.

Chargers over Broncos – The Bradley Chubb injury will hurt Denver’s defense big time. Von Miller needs to step up.

 

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NFL 2019: Week 4 Predictions

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Surprise! The Lions are undefeated. On Sunday, they’ll face Kansas City at home.

By: Elias McMillan

 

Last Week: 9-7

Season: 29-18-1

Top Five Games of the Week

Philadelphia @ Green Bay – The Eagles are in the need for a confidence builder after losing at home to the Lions in Week 3. Too bad that things will not get any easier for them as they will kick off Week 4 in the NFL on the road against a good Packers team. Green Bay has surprised everyone this year with how well they are playing defensively. It is now Aaron Rodgers and the offense that needs to step up. I think Rodgers will have a big game tonight against a poor Eagles secondary. QB Carson Wentz will have to perform at a high level tonight in order to keep the pace against Rodgers. The Eagles will be receiving more help in the passing game with a couple of key guys returning from injury. But I don’t think it will matter if the Packers defense continues to play like it has in the first 3 weeks. Prediction: Packers over Eagles

New England @ Buffalo – The undefeated Bills area nice surprise to start the 2019 season. But here comes the Patriots to crush their dreams in this early season matchup. Buffalo has a huge chore on Sunday but they can help themselves by keeping the home crowd into it with some big plays in the 1stquarter. The fans at the Ralph will be fired up at the pre game so the Bills must really prioritize getting off to a good start. I imagine this would mean QB Josh Allen testing that Patriot secondary and the Bills defense getting after Tom Brady. Given the atmosphere at the stadium on Sunday, it would be interesting if this game was competitive late into the 4thquarter. Weirder things have happened but usually New England plays great in Buffalo. I’m not sure if the Pats will be able to put up many points against the Bills defense but they find a way to pull this one out at the end. Prediction: Patriots over Bills

Kansas City @ Detroit – The Lions did tie with Arizona earlier this season but they are still technically unbeaten. Detroit also shocked the NFL last week upsetting the favored Eagles on the road. Now, the Lions return home to face the team with the hottest offense in the NFL, Kansas City. Detroit’s defense is underrated especially in the secondary. That unit will face a great test Sunday as the Chiefs offer a boatload of offensive weapons. QB Patrick Mahomes is the reigning MVP and he is playing like he’s going to win that award again this year. His counterpart on Sunday, QB Matt Stafford, has pretty good arm too but Detroit has had problems protecting him. I think the Kansas City defense will get after Stafford in the backfield and force him into some mistakes. If the Chiefs defense can give Mahomes some short fields to work with, he will fill the stat sheet. Prediction: Chiefs over Lions

Minnesota @ Chicago –Chicago’s defense showed up in a big way on Monday Night. They are going to have to play that way every week to get a victory. QB Mitch Trubisky didn’t play too badly against Washington but it’s looking more and more like he has regressed in 2019. Minnesota’s defense is usually tough and they will make it hard for that Bears offense to operate, even at home. LB Khalil Mack is capable of taking over ball games so, Minnesota must do whatever to prevent that from happening. Double teams. Triple teams. Whatever. QB Kirk Cousins is a good player but he is also the type to fold under pressure. He is going to have to step up in the face of this defense and deliver for his team on the road. If not, we could see an upset. Prediction: Vikings over Bears

Dallas @ New Orleans – The Cowboys got through their first 3 games of the season like a walk in the park. Now, we will get to see what this team is really about as they’ll face 3 out of 4 quality opponents before going into the bye week. First up, the New Orleans Saints, who are coming off a huge road victory at Seattle. The most notable thing with the Saints at the moment is that they are without QB Drew Brees. That seemed to not matter last week as QB Teddy Bridgewater delivered and WR Michael Thomas and RB Alvin Kamara provided big plays. The Cowboys had a season defining win last season against the Saints and I’m sure New Orleans hasn’t forgotten about it. Both defenses in this game are really going to get after the opposing offenses. Both teams will also attempt to control the line of scrimmage with the run game rather it be with Kamara for New Orleans or Ezekiel Elliott for Dallas. QB Dak Prescott has been great at providing big plays down the field this year when he has time. DE Cam Jordan had a huge game against Dallas last year and that Cowboys offensive line will have to account for him again on Sunday night. Dallas didn’t look as sharp last week and I think New Orleans will be able to ride the high of last week’s big win in Seattle. Dallas is also having problems, yet again, with getting to the QB on defense. It wouldn’t surprise me if Bridgewater is successful attacking through the air. Prediction: Saints over Cowboys

The Rest of Week 4

Falcons over Titans – I’m beginning to think that Tennessee’s Week 1 victory over Cleveland has over rated them.

Colts over Raiders – Indy might have a tough time defending home field against a fresh Oakland team.

Chargers over Dolphins – I think I read that it’s been a while since the Chargers franchise has won in Miami. They’ll have a great chance to buck that trend on Sunday.

Washington over Giants – Let’s see if all the Daniel Jones love will continue with Saquon Barkley out of the lineup.

Ravens over Browns – Baltimore has been talking how they are tired of hearing about Cleveland. They will be looking to make a statement this week.

Texans over Panthers – Kyle Allen looked great last week. I think Houston’s defense will be too much for him to overcome.

Rams over Buccaneers – Tampa should have won last week but the game winning field goal was off target. The Rams wont give them a chance at a last second victory.

Seahawks over Cardinals – Seattle’s defense will be looking to bounce back after being dominated last week at home.

Jaguars over Broncos – I like the Jacksonville defense to look really good against “statue quarterback” Joe Flacco. Jaguars LB Josh Allen could be the next Von Miller.

Steelers over Bengals – I wouldn’t call this a must win for Pittsburgh in Week 4 but, yeah, it really is. If they drop this one at home, it could get ugly in the Steel City as Pittsburgh would start the season in the AFC North basement.

NFL 2019: Random Divisional Thoughts & a Pre-Season Super Bowl Prediction

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Can Drew Brees and the Saints finally make a return to the Super Bowl this season?

By: Elias McMillan

Before we start the season this weekend, here are some of my random thoughts about the goings on in each division. Plus, I’ll include my always-wrong pre-season Super Bowl prediction.

NFC East

The biggest topic in Dallas this offseason has been the contract situations for the team’s youngest stars. As a Cowboys fan, my attitude about this has remained unchanged: I don’t care. Lets just win a championship. Jerry Jones has handed out extensions to a couple of guys already but as I type this, the Ezekiel Elliott deal hasn’t been completed yet. I’ve never been too worried about this situation and I’ve always been sure that Elliott would not sit out the season. Elliott is the most important player on the roster and he deserves the money. But as Mr. Jones said earlier this offseason, you do not need a rushing champion to win a championship. And he’s absolutely right. But if that’s the case, why draft a guy like Elliott 4thoverall? Why then proceed to build the entire offense around that position? The bottom line is that for Dallas to compete for a championship this year, they are going to need the defense to repeat what they did last season and for Dak Prescott to play above average football. Now, Zeke can win you ballgames but for Dallas to go far, I believe both of those things will play a factor. And no matter what fans or analysts say, this division will be a dogfight. It always is. Philly probably has the best roster in the division from top to bottom. No one is expecting much from Wash or NYG but that could potentially make them dangerous. I believe it will come down to Philly and Dallas but this division will definitely will not be a cakewalk.

NFC North

It’s going to be interesting to see how Chicago deals with success. The target in this division is now on their back. I just don’t think Green Bay or Detroit has enough to compete with them this year. That leaves Minnesota who returns with a talented roster and a chip on their shoulder after disappointing last year. Chicago’s defense will be elite again with LB Khalil Mack but the difference maker on this team will have to come from their offense. QB Mitch Trubisky must continue to progress. Minnesota has the talent on both sides of the ball to over take Chicago this year. They just have to stay healthy and QB Kirk Cousins has to perform well in big spots.

NFC South

Despite all of their recent failures in the playoffs, the championship window is still open in New Orleans. The Saints are deep with talent and experience and they are my favorite in the conference. I think Carolina will be improved this season and they will make the playoffs. Though, I’m already concerned with the health of Cam Newton. I don’t think Newton knows how to play differently in terms of body conservation. We all know he can do amazing things on the run but recently, they has placed his health at risk. I hope Newton’s shoulder is healed from a season ago and he can show once again what he can do with his arm. I’m rooting for Bruce Arians in Tampa. He’s a good coach and he’s surrounded himself with a good staff. It’s going to take some time for him to right the ship in Tampa and I hope the organization gives him that time.

NFC West

I don’t think the Jadaveon Clowney trade changes much in this division but it definitely makes Seattle a better football team. The Seahawks might have a defense now as good as they had during their Super Bowl runs. It will be up to Russell Wilson and the passing game to do enough even though they will be leaning on some inexperience at the WR position. QB Jimmy Garoppolo has received mixed reviews in the preseason. It would be a shame if he doesn’t pan out this season for the 49ers. I think San Fran has the pieces to be the next dominant defense in this division. But they won’t do much winning if the offense doesn’t produce. Garoppolo will be under a lot of pressure in 2019. Not to mention that LA, Arizona, and now Seattle all have elite pass rushers.

AFC East

Head coach Brian Flores won’t admit it but it’s true: the Miami Dolphins are tanking. The trading away of expensive veterans would have made sense months ago but to do so just days before the season sends a very clear message. I feel bad for QB Josh Rosen. Though he is not starting, he now walks into another tough situation in Miami. It will be interesting to see if the remade Jets are improved this year. If not, it looks like New England will walk right into another division title.

AFC North

The time to talk in Cleveland is over. All the hype means nothing now. They are 0-0. It’s hard to disappoint when you only won 7 games last season but it sounds like anything but a playoff berth for the Browns will be deemed as so. As I said before, Cleveland must crawl before they can walk. For me, crawling will be showing that they can 8 games. I think Pittsburgh is going to be super motivated at least for the beginning of the season. I think the lost of AB and the lack of talent will catch to them eventually this season. It could be around Week 7 or if they meet New England in the post season. Per usual.

AFC South

Houston is getting dragged by fans and critics for the Clowney trade, but now they are suddenly the favorites in this division. Without Clowney, they still have JJ Watt and Whitney Mercilus to provide a pass rush. And the trade for Laremy Tunsil will upgrade the offensive line that looked awful in the preseason. I wouldn’t count Indianapolis out in this division as well. I think the team will rally around QB Jacoby Brissett and play some good ball. What also caught my attention in the preseason in this division: Jaguars rookie LB Josh Allen. He has looked beastly at times and Jacksonville’s defense could make a return to dominance with him in the fold. The Luck retirement has made the race in the AFC South very interesting and this is before a single game has been played.

AFC West

I really liked the Chargers going into this season but the Derwin James injury is an absolute killer. I think LA will still be able to compete in this division but they lost one of the top talents with that injury. Kansas City has been a question mark with me this offseason because of the Tyreek Hill and Kareem Hunt situations. But Hill has been made available and the Chiefs’ backfield looks really solid now with the signing of Shady McCoy. The Chiefs offense will be scary once again in 2019.

Super Bowl LIV Prediction

Well, if we learned anything last year, its that New England reign at the top isn’t over yet no matter how badly we all want it to be. The Pats will once again walk thru the AFC East and skate past all comers in January. New Orleans looks like the class of the NFC going into 2019. But as good as they look, we all know the result if they meet Brady and the Pats in Miami early February. Prediction: Patriots over Saints

NFL 2019: NFC Preview

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If Carson Wentz is healthy, the Eagles could be serious contenders in the NFC this season.

 

By: Elias McMillan

 

NFC EAST

It seems like things will never change in the NFL’s “glamour” division. The NFC East hasn’t seen a repeat champion in 15 seasons and I think that tradition will remain the same in 2019. The Dallas Cowboys have come the closest to bucking that trend as they have won the division three times in the last six seasons. But if you’ve been paying attention to that franchise, you should know that they usually disappoint after a successful season. Usually. If you look on paper, the Philadelphia Eagles probably has the most talent in the division from top to bottom. A lot is going to depend on the play of the QB. Nick Foles almost lifted Philadelphia again in the 2018 postseason, winning on the road in Chicago and almost upsetting New Orleans. With Foles now in Jacksonville, Philly will be depending on Carson Wentz to return to his 2017 form where he was a MVP candidate. He’ll have plenty of help this season as the Eagles are deep at the skill positions. At WR, DeSean Jackson returns to Philly joining Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor. The Eagles should have an improved backfield this season as well. They acquired RB Jordan Howard from Chicago and drafted speedster Miles Sanders from Penn State. On defense, DT Fletcher Cox leads a loaded group on the defensive line. Veteran safety Malcolm Jenkins also returns though Philly’s secondary seems to always be a weakness year in and year out. The defending champion Cowboys also return with a talented roster in 2019. A lot of the talk during the offseason with Dallas has been about the contract situations of QB Dak Prescott, WR Amari Cooper, and star RB Ezekiel Elliott. I’m sure all three will get their deals, respectfully, especially Elliott who is easily the most important player on the roster. Despite all the talk about the offensive side of the ball, the real reason why Dallas made a run to the postseason last year was their defense. I think Dallas will be strong defensively again in 2019. LB’s Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch are the cornerstones for this defense right now and for the future. The Cowboys should be able to get after QB’s this season with DE’s Demarcus Lawrence and newcomer Robert Quinn. Dallas needs to find an answer in the middle of their run defense as they absolutely killed them in their playoff loss against the Rams. In the secondary, they have promising young talent. Safety Xavier Woods could have a breakout season. CB Byron Jones made the Pro Bowl last season but he gives up big plays in crucial situations. I don’t see Dallas extending his contract unless his interception numbers improve. He has 2 in four seasons as a pro. If Washington didn’t get derailed by injuries on both sides of the ball last year, they probably would have won the division. They enter the 2019 campaign with holes in their roster due to injuries and losses in free agency. The QB position is still reeling after injuries last season to Alex Smith and Colt McCoy. They may have to lean on Case Keenum to start this season but if he’s shaky, the cries for rookie Dwayne Haskins will get louder. What else might not help is the absence of OT Trent Williams. Without him, it may not even matter who Washington starts at QB. I really liked Washington’s defense at the beginning of last season. I think losing LB Preston Smith will hurt them this year though they did draft a possible replacement in Montez Sweat. Washington has young talent on their defensive line but that unit has to stay healthy this year. The secondary already has CB Josh Norman but they should receive a boost with the addition of safety Landon Collins. No one is expecting much out of the New York Football Giants this year as they lost Collins and Odell Beckham Jr. in the offseason. Surprisingly, QB Eli Manning returns in what should be his swan song. The Giants used their top pick in the draft on QB Daniel Jones from DOOK and I expect that they do plan to play him. The leash on Manning this year should be short. If trading away OBJ wasn’t bad enough, the WR core turned into a complete dumpster fire right as training camp began. Injuries and suspensions will leave the QB’s with not a lot of reliable options in the passing game. RB Saquon Barkley will be tasked with literally carrying this offense. The Giants defense is in full rebuild mode. They could surprise some teams but they have a lot of young and unproven talent. Rookies CB Deandre Baker and DT Dexter Lawrence will have to grow up quickly in their first seasons. Projected Finish: 1) Eagles, 2) Cowboys, 3) Washington, 4) Giants

NFC NORTH

The Chicago Bears had zero buzz entering the 2018 season until they made an acquisition that completely turned their franchise around. Trading for edge rusher Khalil Mack made Chicago into a contender in the NFC and he’s a difference maker that could keep Chicago atop this division for a couple years. Chicago’s defense really didn’t have an identity since Brian Urlacher retired. Now, they feature one of the top front sevens in the league that specializes in getting to the QB. On offense, the Bears will be looking for QB Mitch Trubisky to continue to improve as a down the field passer. The backfield will look different this year, as Jordan Howard was send away to Philly. RB Tarik Cohen could have a breakout season and rookie RB David Montgomery has impressed so far in the preseason. Minnesota will be looking to rebound after a disappointing 2018. QB Kirk Cousins will be forever criticized in the media because of his contract but I believe he’s a much better player than people let on. The emergence of WR Adam Thielen has been a huge help for Cousins and the passing offense. Thielen and Stephon Diggs form one of the top 1-2 punches at receiver in the league. Minnesota is still waiting for RB Dalvin Cook to breakout as he has a ton of ability. The Vikings defense took a step back last season. They’ll be looking to bounce back in 2019 with many returning starters including LB Anthony Barr who almost left in free agency. I think Green Bay is going to go through some growing pains this season as they are rebuilding. Replacing familiar names with young talent could actually workout for them in the long run especially on the defensive side. LB Clay Matthews is gone but free agent signing, LB Preston Smith, is a younger, talented replacement. On offense, everything will be tied to all-world QB Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers is still the top passer in the league but the Packers need to do a better job at protecting him, as he isn’t getting younger. WR Davante Adams has solidified himself as one of the best WR in the league and as Rodgers’ top target. Every year it seems like Green Bay will be waiting for somebody to breakout at the RB position. Maybe it will be RB Aaron Jones who scored 9 times last season. In Detroit, it’s looking more and more like the Matt Patricia experiment will be ending soon. This could be a make or break season for him as Detroit has a roster than shouldn’t be in the NFC North basement. I feel bad for QB Matt Stafford who is on his way to being the latest star player to have his career wasted at Ford Field. If Detroit doesn’t have a great season, I wonder if he would try to force his way outta there though it would be hard because of his massive contract. Stafford will have decent talent around him this year. WR Kenny Golladay had a breakout 2018 season and RB’s Kerryon Johnson and C.J. Anderson should be a formable duo in the backfield. I think Detroit’s defense could be good enough to keep the Lions in games this season. They had a top 10 secondary last year and upfront, they added DE Trey Flowers from New England and DT Mike Daniels from Green Bay. I’m not sure what Daniels has left in the tank but I love the revenge factor of him signing with Detroit after being cut by the Packers. Projected Finish: 1) Bears, 2) Vikings, 3) Packers, 4) Lions

NFC SOUTH

In recent years, I have picked the Saints to come out of the NFC because on paper, they appear to have the best or one of the best rosters in the league. The same could be said again going into 2019. The way the Saints’ season ended last year should serve as enough motivation to see the team atop this division again. On offense, they return elite talent at the QB, RB, and WR positions. RB Alvin Kamara will have a new partner in the backfield this year in Latavius Murray. Drew Brees will also have a new weapon in the passing game, TE Jared Cook. New Orleans’ defense was pretty decent last year and I think the addition of DT Malcolm Brown from New England will make them stronger. I think the Carolina Panthers had a great offseason but their success will be tied to the health of QB Cam Newton. If Newton is back to 100%, Carolina could be a sleeper in the NFC. I still think Newton doesn’t have enough help on the offensive side of the ball. RB Christian McCaffrey proved himself to be a legit threat behind the tackles as a runner and as a receiver. WR D.J. Moore needs to have a similar breakout season in 2019. I really like how Carolina improved their defense in the offseason. They have a nice mix of young talent (rookie DE Brian Burns) and veteran leadership (DT Gerald McCoy). The LB group will miss Thomas Davis but they still have Luke Kuechly, Shaq Thompson, and newly acquired veteran Bruce Irvin. The Atlanta Falcons did reach the Super Bowl a few seasons ago but they seem to reach expectations. As long as they have QB Matt Ryan and WR Julio Jones, they are going to put up big numbers. But Ryan isn’t getting enough help from his offensive line. Atlanta addressed that in this past draft but those young blockers are going to have to grow up fast. RB Devonta Freeman returns to the backfield for Atlanta but without Tevin Coleman who left in free agency. Atlanta defense has been seen as a weak point on this team but they do have great individual talents in LB Deion Jones and edge rusher Vic Beasley. Tampa Bay has a long way to go in order to be competitive in this division again. But I really like the hiring of new head coach Bruce Arians. Him and offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich will be tasked with saving the career of QB Jameis Winston who is running out of favor in the organization. Winston still has the tools to be a successful QB in this league but he hasn’t been able to put it all together. Hopefully, the coaching change will help.  The reliable WR Mike Evans returns to provide big plays in the passing game. Tampa also resigned OT Donovan Smith to help keep Winston upright. Tampa’s defense is going through a transition, marked by the sudden release of long time Buccaneer, Gerald McCoy. They added veteran Ndamukong Suh to the defensive line but the real newcomer to look for will be rookie LB Devin White. I would be surprised if this Tampa team won a lot in 2019 but this season will be really all about fixing Jameis Winston. Because if they are picking high in next year’s draft, they probably be looking for a new QB. Projected Finish: 1) Saints, 2) Panthers, 3) Falcons, 4) Buccaneers

NFC WEST

The LA Rams made a surprise run to the Super Bowl last season and they could be in line for a return visit. QB Jared Goff will look to keep improving and the return of WR Cooper Kupp from injury should help. Kupp will return to an already talented group at WR that includes Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods. RB Todd Gurley is the real engine that keeps this Rams offense running. His health has been concerning recently but if healthy, he’s the best back in football. The Rams have the best defensive lineman in football in DT Aaron Donald. On the edge, they traded for DE Dante Fowler late last season and that move paid off greatly for LA. He returns to a Rams defensive line that should be the tops in the NFC. The Rams also added a pair of veterans on defense looking to prove that they still got it: LB Clay Matthews and safety Eric Weddle. Last season, we learned that no matter how many faces change on both sides of the ball in Seattle, they’ll always have a chance with QB Russell Wilson behind center. Wilson will be without reliable target Doug Baldwin this year but he will be expecting big things from rookie WR DK Metcalf. Outside of Metcalf, WR Tyler Lockett proved to be a playmaker in the offense last season. On defense, Seattle traded away their best pass rusher in the offseason. They’re going to need someone on the defensive line to step up. The strength of Seattle’s defense is still intact as long as they have LB Bobby Wagner in the middle. San Francisco has accumulated so much young talent in recent years, I feel like they could be a surprise team this season. A lot is going to depend on the play of QB Jimmy Garoppolo who has not looked great so far in preseason. San Fran is also really missing a big play WR. In the backfield, they are loaded with returning starter Matt Breida and free agent signee Tevin Coleman. I think this 49ers team has promise because of their defense. They acquired DE Dee Ford from Kansas City and picked up the top pass rusher in the draft, Nick Bosa. If the 49ers do one thing well this year on defense, it will be getting after the QB. San Fran also signed LB Kwon Alexander who was a playmaker in Tampa Bay. I’m not sure what CB Richard Sherman has left in the tank but it would be nice if this defense saw contributions from him in the secondary this season. Arizona is starting back at square one this season after firing their head coach after one year. They brought in Kliff Kingsbury to coach the team despite having zero NFL experience and they drafted a talented young QB first overall who will be tasked with fixing an offense that was pretty bad last season. This experiment in Arizona is going to be a great success or a great disaster. QB Kyler Murray will have enough veteran help around him in WR Larry Fitzgerald and RB David Johnson. Great pass rushers, Chandler Jones and newcomer Terrell Suggs will headline Arizona’s defense. I like the addition of LB Jordan Hicks who made a lot of big plays in Philadelphia. CB Patrick Peterson returns to the secondary, which was one of the best in football a season ago. Arizona will be hurt without Peterson as he will be suspended for the first 6 games of the season. Projected Finish: 1) Rams, 2) Seahawks, 3) 49ers, 4) Cardinals

 

2019 NFL Draft: No Mock. Just Random Thoughts.

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Where will Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray land? I say, not in Arizona.

By: Elias McMillan

 

Alright. Unfortunately, I did not do a NFL mock draft this year. But I’ve always loved this time of year to research and pretend to know what I’m talking about based on minutes upon hours and hours of watching highlights on YouTube. So, again, no mock, but here are just some random thoughts about how I think this weekend will go down in Nashville.

  • What is Arizona going to do with the first pick? Well, I think it is NOT going to be Kyler Murray, the standout QB out of Oklahoma. I’m not a believer in this year’s QB class but Murray is probably the top signal caller in this draft. I just think that’s not saying much. I don’t see Murray as a NFL caliber passer like Mayfield “appears” to be. He’s indeed a talented player. He can throw. He can run. He can be a playmaker. But the HOPE is that he can be Russell Wilson. Can be. Sounds too risky. Wilson is Wilson. But for every Wilson, there’s been 5 or 6 guys with similar skill sets and ran similar, fast, wide open offenses in college that just haven’t panned out. Bottom line is that Murray could be the next great thing in this league but I don’t see it right now as a sure thing. He is going to need work. Arizona DRAFTED a QB in the first round last year. Arizona was a bad team last season. They need to build that team up, put better players around that QB (Rosen) and not muddy the situation further. Arizona should take the best player available at 1 and that player is Ohio State Defensive End Nick Bosa.

 

  • So, where does that leave Murray? I predict that a big trade will happen. I think Arizona, San Fran, the Jets, or Oakland will be the ones to receive the “King’s Ransom”. Which team will pull the trigger? My first thought was maybe the New York Giants. They need to face the facts in the first place about Eli Manning and work on replacing him. If the Giants were crazy enough to trade away OBJ, maybe they would do the same in terms of finding a new QB. But now, I’m hearing a more logical option: Washington. It would be such a Dan Snyder move. Despite that fact such a trade would echo the disaster that was the RG3 situation, Washington is in desperate need for a QB. Freak accidents to Alex Smith and then Colt McCoy completely wrecked their 2018 and the signs are pointing to both of those guys not being back. Ever. Washington NEEDS a QB and I believe that they can convince themselves that Kyler Murray can be their “Russell Wilson”. I can only imagine the trade package they dream up but it will have to be ridiculous.

 

  • Again, I think Murray is the best QB in this draft. From what I’ve seen, I’m not impressed with Dook’s Daniel Jones. I don’t understand the whole “I’ve worked with David Cutcliffe and he knows the Mannings so that means he knows quarterbacks” angle. He might be a better passer but not nearly in the same class of a playmaker. Ohio State quarterbacks have burned me before (I really liked Cardale Jones) but I’m kind of rooting for Dwayne Haskins to fall into a good situation. I think he’s better than Jones and he’s a guy who has shown improvement during his time in college. I think it means something that he’s been able to show improvement as his college career went on. It shows that he’s coachable. I’m not a big fan of this QB class but other passers that intrigue me are West Virginia’s Will Grier and Buffalo’s Tyree Jackson.

 

  • As for the rest of the draft, ehhhhh, I don’t know. Let’s talk the AFC North because there’s been so much talk within that division this offseason. The Pittsburgh Steelers have replaced the Dallas Cowboys in terms of being in the news every week for some unimportant, social media back and forth or whatever. Despite all the talk about AB and Bell and the “Killer B” era ending without a championship, I hope the Steeler faithful realize that the real reason why that era ended the way it did was because of the opposite side of the football. The Steelers have had multiple draft misfires on defense during that time and THAT’S what held them back. I think Pittsburgh will probably look for help on the defense side again. They need to. Inside Linebacker, Cornerback, Safety, Pass Rusher. They are all options. They just need someone to really pan out. Either way, I’m excited about what is about to happen in that division. Because I believe that a changing of the guard is about to happen. You can place your faith in a 37-year-old QB and yes, Ben is still supremely talented. And yes, offensive talent can be replaced and reloaded and blah, blah, blah. But I believe that they will truly miss the production from those guys because they were really, really, good. Especially AB. Ben lead the league in passing last season, I know. But, Father Time is undefeated. So, Pittsburgh really needs a strong defensive draft to finally pan out. I’m not saying that I’m buying into all the Cleveland hype either. But I believe that they will at least be there. I won’t say that the Browns are automatically “contenders” because of the Odell Beckham Jr. trade. They certainly have the talent to maybe be an 8-win team. The AFC North schedule will be tough for all 4 teams in 2019. The Steelers COULD be an 9-10 win team. That’s not far from 8. I think the division will be a dogfight into December. I feel that even Cincinnati could be there. I’m excited to see what they can do now that they finally have a new regime. I wonder if they’ll take a new QB in Round One to really signal the end of the Marvin Lewis/Andy Dalton era. Too bad Baltimore’s defense was gutted in free agency. They now need as much defensive help as Pittsburgh. Either way, the changing of the guard is coming to the AFC North and personally, I can’t wait……

 

  • Let’s talk about my Cowboys finally, who do not have a first round pick. Which I’m not upset about. I guess the Amari Cooper trade “worked”. Dallas went on a run. Won the division. And now they at least have reasonable hope going into 2019. But that hope usually does not translate with this franchise for whatever reason in recent years (23 years to be exact). Especially following a “successful” season. What is a successful season for Dallas anymore? A playoff win? Sad. Anyways, I think Dallas can still find the help they need with their late round selections. A run stuffing DT could be an option. A young safety or tight end prospect could be in play as well. I really want to see which young running back they select because as good as Ezekiel Elliott is, he is still a RB. And watching him last year, I saw a guy who was TIRED. Because they are running him into the ground. Because he is Dallas’ greatest weapon on the entire team. You can’t really say that about any other team where the Running Back, the most expendable player in football, is THE guy who makes it work. PSU’s Miles Sanders, Stanford’s Bryce Love, and Trayveon Williams out of Texas A&M are runners that could be a nice fit.

NFL Playoffs: Divisional Round Predictions


Wild Card Round - Houston Texans v Indianapolis Colts

Can Andrew Luck and Colts upset the AFC’s top seed on the road Saturday?

 

By: Elias McMillan

Wild Card: 2-2

Playoffs 2-2

Divisional Round

Indianapolis @ Kansas City – Last weekend’s win in Houston went kind of like I expect it would for Indy. The Colts looked impressive on both sides of the ball. The defense limited Houston to just 7 points. Andrew Luck looked like himself passing the ball around and the Colts even ran the ball well. The Colts have the momentum going into a showdown with the AFC’s #1 seed. Kansas City jumped to the top the AFC this season behind the production of MVP candidate, QB Patrick Mahomes. Even with the suspension of RB Kareem Hunt, the Chiefs offense hasn’t missed a beat all season. On Saturday, the Colts will have to account for the speed of WR Tyreek Hill and the physicality of TE Travis Kelce. I think Kansas City will find success offensively in this matchup. The question for the Chiefs all season has been about their defense. The Chiefs can score a lot but they can also give up a lot as well. The team with the ball last may end up winning this one. There’s a narrative out there about Andy Reid’s teams in the post-season always coming up short. I bet this Chiefs team wants to be the group that bunks that trend. I also think the home field advantage will play a part in this one. Prediction: Chiefs 38 – Colts 33

Dallas @ Los Angeles Rams – Dallas’ victory last week at home against Seattle wasn’t as impressive as they wanted it to be but they got the job done. Now, they will be looking to enter uncharted territory when they travel to LA to face the Rams. Dallas hasn’t advanced to the conference championship round in 20 plus years and they haven’t won a playoff game on the road in about the same time frame. But this is a Dallas team that believes they have it in them. In their case, I believe they have the best defense left in the NFC. The Cowboys did a great job limiting Seattle’s run game last week. I am a bit worried about the secondary, as Seattle really didn’t press the issue until the game was out of the reach. This probably won’t be the case on Saturday night. Even with Todd Gurley returning from injury, the Rams know that they big play offense has been depended on what Jared Goff can do in the passing game. The Rams offense lit up scoreboards for most of this season but they have cooled off significantly heading into the post-season. Maybe losing WR Cooper Kupp to injury has something to do with that. I don’t really believe the Rams have a game breaker at the WR position. Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks are nice players but they don’t demand the entire defense’s attention. If they can’t get Goff going, I think their best bet is to force feed Gurley who is bound to make a big play as a runner or receiver. The Rams have well known players on their defense but as a unit, they just haven’t been that good. DT Aaron Donald is beast and is capable of possibly winning this game himself. Despite having him up front, the Rams are pretty average against the run. Dallas will continue to run the offense through Ezekiel Elliott and he will eventually put the Cowboys in scoring positions. CB’s Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib have a history of making big plays but they are also risk takers. If QB Dak Prescott can stay away from Donald, he’ll be able to find his receivers downfield for some big plays off a double move or play action. The moment I feel that the Cowboys may do something worth talking about is the same moment when they usually disappoint me. Knowing this, I’m still going with my gut on this one. The Rams are not the offensive machine they were earlier this season and usually, a good defense can beat a good offense in January. This will be close but I’m taking the road team in the upset as the Cowboys fans will probably take over the stadium as well. Prediction: Cowboys 27 – Rams 24

Los Angeles Chargers @ New England – Despite Baltimore’s late push last week, the Chargers were fairly in control in that game. Now, they’ll make another long trip back to the east coast to face playoff staple, New England. This isn’t the same Patriots team that we are accustomed to seeing in January. The Patriots were able to win their division and gain a first round bye in the post season but this is probably their weakest playoff team during the Bill Belicheck era. Tom Brady is still a very good QB at his age but the Patriots have had receiver issues all season. Julian Edelman and Chris Hogan have both been banged up and they don’t have much waiting in the wings. The big play guy in the passing game has been TE Rob Gronkowski but even he doesn’t look like his normal self. The Patriots do have a plenty of options at RB but they are a team that just can’t depend on the run. The Chargers proved last week that they can handle a run first offense and it will also help that they have the pass rushers to get after Brady. New England has been known for years recently to have a less than impressive defense. I think this will allow QB Phillip Rivers to really push the issue in the passing game. Rivers has never beaten Brady in the post-season but I think this is his best shot. The Chargers are capable to out-physical New England on both sides of the ball. I like the Chargers in an upset that really shouldn’t be an upset. Prediction: Chargers 29 – Patriots 20

Philadelphia @ New Orleans – As much as I hate to admit, the Eagles actually matchup well with the Saints. I know this is the same team that was blown out by them on the road but a lot has changed since then. The Eagles don’t have a run game so they are forced to unleash the full capability of QB Nick Foles. The play of Foles during this last month are becoming the stuff of legend as he looks to help the Eagles make a return trip to the Super Bowl. I think the play of the Saints secondary plays in favor to the Eagles as that unit isn’t a strength for the home team. Philadelphia has also received great play out of their offensive line.  Knowing that they are a pass-first offense, they are going to need another great performance from that unit as New Orleans has an impressive front four on defense. But I think this game will have to turn on QB Drew Brees exposing the Eagles defense. This was something that the Bears failed to do last week. The Eagles will have to account for RB’s Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram but they should be okay with what they have in their front seven defensively. Philly’s weakness in the secondary and Brees must be able to exploit that. I think the Eagles will be able to do damage and score points in this one but I think Brees will be the one to set the tone causing Philly to play catch up for most of the game. Prediction: Saints 41 – Eagles 31

NFL Playoffs: Wild-Card Round Predictions

los-angeles-rams-v-seattle-seahawks-5be875ec175965784d000002

QB Russell Wilson marches an impressive Seahawks team into Dallas this weekend.

 

By: Elias McMillan

Last Week: 12-4

Final Regular Season Record: 150-104-2

Wild-Card Round

Indianapolis @ Houston – These interdivisional playoff matchups are usually really competitive so I’m expecting a close matchup here between AFC South rivals. The Colts and Texans split their meetings in the regular season with the road team winning in each matchup. In their first meeting in Houston, plenty of points were scored as the Texans escaped by a field goal. A lot has changed with both teams since then. More so with Indy. The Colts caught fire late this season and they’ve been able to ride their current wave they’re on into the post season. With Indy, you know what you’re getting with their offense. QB Andrew Luck is a candidate for comeback player of the year. At receiver, they don’t have much outside of T.Y. Hilton but TE Eric Ebron has been a breakout player after a disappointing start to his career in Detroit. In the second half of the season, the Colts found their running game as Marlon Mack has emerged as a difference maker along with rookie Nyneim Hines. But what has really been impressive about the Colts this season has been the toughness they’ve shown on the defensive side of the ball. Rookie LB Darius Leonard led the league in tackles this season and he sets the tone for this “bend but don’t break” defense. Houston will present a lot of challenges offensively. QB Deshaun Watson is a playmaker with his arm and legs. It helps that he has an all-Pro WR to go to in DeAndre Hopkins. RB Lamar Miller has also quietly had a nice season. I think this game will hinge on if the Houston defense shows up and makes big plays. The Texans do defend the run well up front with J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney. But they also have the tendency to give up big plays in the secondary. I think the Colts will be able to attack through the air for some big plays if Luck can avoid the Texans pass rush. Despite having Hopkins, I don’t think Watson will be able to out produce Luck especially with how well Indy’s defense has been playing. Despite winning 11 games, Houston really hasn’t beaten a quality opponent this season outside of that early season victory against the Colts. I think Indy is playing better football right now and they’ll get the win on the road Saturday. Prediction: Colts 34 – Texans 24

Seattle @ Dallas – The Seahawks hammered Dallas at home back in September but in this rematch, I expect them to see a different Cowboys team. After starting the season 3-5, Dallas saved their season by trading for WR Amari Cooper, leaning on their defense, and allowing the other teams in their division to collapse. Seattle has had an impressive regular season that no one really saw coming. Without the Legion of Boom, Seattle stuck to their guns and now they look like a team that no one in the playoffs wants to see. QB Russell Wilson continues to lead this offense efficiently while at the same time having the potential to create a big plays after each snap. RB Chris Carson has been a big part of Seattle’s offense as he is one of the top rushers in football this year. Seattle’s wideouts still have that underrated label on them but defensive backs across the league know how dangerous Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett can be. Yes, the Legion of Boom is gone but this Seahawks defense is underrated. LB Bobby Wagner is a guy that Dallas will need to key on as he is always around the ball. Seattle’s defense ranked in the middle of the road this year against the run and the passing game. I think Dallas can really present some issues for them on offense. As usual, everything for Dallas will run through RB Ezekiel Elliott. But Seattle can not completely write off what QB Dak Prescott can bring to the table. Dallas allowed Dak to gain extra reps last week in a meaningless game in New York. I wouldn’t be surprised if that experience left him with more confidence so we could see him take more chances down the field to Copper and the other receivers. Dallas’ turnaround this season was heavily aided by the play of their defense. DE Demarcus Lawrence has solidified himself as one of the top pass rushers in the game. Linebackers Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch are basically what Carolina had a few years ago with Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis. And CB Byron Jones is having an all-Pro season in his first year in that position. The Cowboys on defense will have to focus on preventing the big plays from Wilson but they also have to account for Seattle’s running game. Dallas ranks in the top five for run defense but then I remember what the Colts did to them in their last defeat. I think Seattle is capable of using the run to set up the big plays from their QB. Dallas created a lot of big plays on their own last week but that was against the Giants. These teams are almost equally matched. I guess we also have to consider that Seattle has a knack for under performing on the road. But they are more experienced in these situations. My heart is with the home team but I think Wilson will lift Seattle to victory. Prediction: Seahawks 24 – Cowboys 23

Los Angeles Chargers @ Baltimore – The Ravens really bullied the Chargers a few weeks ago. I think experience will prove to be a great teacher as LA travels up to Baltimore looking for revenge. Baltimore was able to dominate LA in their first meeting upfront on offense and defense. The Ravens collapsed that offensive line and made it tough for QB Phillip Rivers to create in the passing game. I think LA will be better prepared for what Baltimore brings to the table. For starters, the Chargers are healthier on offense. RB Melvin Gordon will be ready to go and big play TE Hunter Henry will also be returning from injury. Baltimore has a tough front 7 on defense but their secondary can give big plays. The key for the Chargers will be to keep their QB away from pressure so he and WR Keenan Allen can attack this secondary. LA’s defense has been shaky but they have some great individual talent. I’m a big time believer in edge rushers Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. Rookie safety Derwin James is another young player who makes plays on this defense. The Chargers will have to focus on stopping what Baltimore can do in the running game. Rookie QB Lamar Jackson has been a killer with his running ability during Baltimore’s run to a division title. RB’s Gus Edwards and Kenneth Dixon have proven to be more than serviceable recently as well. LA shouldn’t dare Jackson to throw but they do have to account for Baltimore’s strength, which is the run game. If the Chargers can better protect Rivers this time around, I really like their chances on the road. Rivers is at the end of his career. These opportunities for him are not guaranteed. Knowing this, I think the Chargers will make the best of it and score the upset. Prediction: Chargers 29 – Ravens 24

Philadelphia @ Chicago – Finally, a game that is not a rematch from earlier this season. The Bears eliminated Minnesota last week in the final game of the regular season, making this matchup possible. Philadelphia defied odds late in this season, scoring upsets in LA and against Houston to spring them into the postseason conversation. The Eagles, much like last year, are rallying around QB Nick Foles. Foles didn’t start the 2018 season great but he has really come on recently. The Eagles are going to have to lean on Foles and the air attack in this game. The Eagles don’t have a run game to talk about and they’re facing a defense that is tough upfront and in the secondary. I expect to see LB Khalil Mack and company to set the tone in this game at the line of scrimmage and in the backfield pressuring the QB. I also believe that Philly’s defense will not be able to account for Chicago’s many weapons on offense. QB Mitch Trubisky has a great cast around him in the backfield with Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen and at wideout with Allen Robinson and rookie Anthony Miller. The way the Eagles got into the post season was a nice story but it will end in Chicago on Sunday. Prediction: Bears 27 – Eagles 13