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NFL 2017: Week 6 Predictions!

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Are Cam Newton and the Panthers starting to regain the form they showed in 2015?

By: Elias McMillan

 

Last Week: 4-10

Season: 42-35

Big Five Games of the Week

Philadelphia @ Carolina – The Panthers went from an unimpressive 2-0 to a very impressive 4-1. The Panthers netted a big road victory last week in Detroit. Now, they’ll return home to face a hot Philadelphia team. The Eagles passing offense is looking really strong right now. The offensive line is holding up and QB Carson Wentz is finding his big targets down the field. The Eagles still have an inconsistent run game and their secondary on defense is shaky but right now things are just clicking on that team. On a short week, I like the home team’s chances but I think the Eagles are going to be able to win some key matchups in this game. I think the Eagles front seven will limit Carolina on the ground and get after Cam Newton. And I like Philadelphia’s chances to make more big plays down the field against Carolina’s secondary. This should be a really good game. I can’t believe it but I’m going with the road Eagles in an upset. Prediction: Eagles 27 – Panthers 20

Green Bay @ Minnesota – The Vikings have the defense to get after Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense. Especially at home. But I don’t trust their offense even against a Packers defense that isn’t that great. Playing at Minnesota can be a tough task but the Packers will have more opportunities to put points on the board. Minnesota’s offense is handicapped by the injuries they have at QB and RB. Prediction: Packers 29 – Vikings 18

New England @ New York Jets – The Jets enter this game with 3 wins. The Jets enter Week 6 of the 2017 season with six wins. They can’t fire Todd Bowles after this season. Some in the Jets locker room have said before the season that they are NOT tanking. I guess, they were right. New England is better team and should own them. But then again, I think the Jets have a better chance than most believe. New England is beatable. This year, the familiar flaws (defense and offensive line play) have returned to the Pats. And there are whispers about Tom Brady maybe playing through a shoulder injury. Also, I love the story line of DE Kony Ealy who was a Patriot to start training camp after a trade from Carolina only to get cut before the start of the season and getting signed by the Jets. Ultimate revenge factor for him in this game. I suspect Bowles will allow him to pin his ears back and chase Brady all game. I don’t think the Jets have the offense to out score the Patriots but then again, New England’s defense is in a rut. I’m not picking the Jets but I’m saying that being the Pats at home isnt as tall of a task than it sounds. Prediction: Patriots 31 – Jets 30

Los Angeles Rams @ Jacksonville – Jacksonville’s defense balled out last week but the Jags will be fighting a stigma this week at home against the Rams. The Jaguars can’t seem to put together a pair of good performances in a row. The LA Rams were a dropped pass in the end zone away from coming away with their most impressive win of the season at home against Seattle. I think the progress seen in LA is real and they play Jacksonville tough on the road. The Rams will take the ball out of Jared Goff’s hands and give it to Todd Gurley as much as possible against a Jaguars defense that isn’t strong against the run, usually. I think the Rams front seven on defense, led by Aaron Donald, will be a great test for Leonard Fournette and the Jags running game. Both QB’s in this game stink and they wont matter in this match up. I think the Rams will be able to hide Goff better than the Jaguars can hide Bortles. Prediction: Rams 13 – Jaguars 10

Pittsburgh @ Kansas City – So much drama in Pittsburgh recently. But I’ve seen this movie before. The Steelers are in an early season rut. And they still have enough talent to bounce back. Enter the Chiefs who are undefeated and are playing as well as anyone right now. The Chiefs have to be thinking about how Pittsburgh has punked them in their last two meetings. I think this game will come down to who can control the clock better. Steelers RB Le’Veon Bell is begging for more touches and I think he will get his wish on Sunday. The Chiefs have a pretty good RB on their team too. Rookie RB Kareem Hunt should see plenty of opportunities in this game. Both QB’s, Ben Roethlisberger and Alex Smith, will not be shy about airing it out. The Antonio Brown/Marcus Peters matchup should be entertaining. And the Chiefs will be looking for big plays from WR Tyreke Hill who will be the fastest player on the field Sunday. This game will come down to execution. The Chiefs will have the home field advantage but Pittsburgh has the experience in these situations to bounce back after a few tough weeks. I like Pittsburgh to right the ship in an upset. Prediction: Steelers 34 – Chiefs 30

The Rest of Week 6

Falcons over Dolphins – Atlanta will be fresh coming off the bye. I feel that injuries are their greatest enemy so far this season.

Lions over Saints – Stafford vs. Brees should provide some great QB theater.

Washington over 49ers – This game will feature two young up and coming defenses in the league.

Ravens over Bears – Have the Ravens righted the ship after a bad start? Maybe. They can’t have a let down at home against a weak opponent.

Texans over Browns – Deshaun Watson is looking like a real answer at QB for Houston. DeShone Kizer was benched last week and lost his starting job. Who has worst luck at picking QB’s than Cleveland? The Watt and Clowney injuries will hurt but I’m still going with Houston.

Buccaneers over Cardinals – Arizona’s defense is an embarrassment right now.

Chargers over Raiders – David Carr or no David Carr, the defensive woes are what are what is holding Oakland back.

Broncos over Giants – The New York Giants are sad. The entire WR core is out for the season. THE ENTIRE CORE. The top four options. How could this happen? Denver should roll at home.

Titans over Colts – Tennessee has to turn it around this week on Monday night. If not, their season will get longer and longer.

Fantasy Football Picks of the Week

QB: Jameis Winston (Buccaneers) – Jameis has had some shaky starts in games this season but the Cardinals defense gives up plenty of big plays down field.

RB: Todd Gurley (Rams) – LA will use Gurley like Pittsburgh should have used Le’Veon Bell last week.

WR: DeAndre Hopkins (Texans) – Hopkins is building a great connection with the rookie QB, Watson. Sunday against the Browns could be like a glorified practice session.

TE: Ed Dickson (Panthers) – Dickson has put together a small string of good performances recently. Newton will continue to look his way on Thursday night.

DEF: Denver – The Broncos are a defensive team and they’ll face an offensively wounded Giants team this week.

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NFL 2017: Week 5 Predictions!

Detroit Lions v Minnesota Vikings

The Lions defense is ready to put the NFC on notice.

By: Elias McMillan

 

Last Week: 11-5

Season: 38-25

Big Five Games of the Week

New England @ Tampa Bay – The Patriots were able to come back late last week at home against Carolina but that game wasn’t as close as the scoreboard would have you believe. New England has some serious defensive problems and it looks like it’s going to be a reoccurring issue. Tampa did a great job hanging tough last week to get their victory over the Giants. I think the Patriots on a short week might be too tall of a task for them. I imagine Coach Bill Belichick isn’t too pleased with his team right now and his grouch like attitude will have an affect on his team this week. New England’s secondary has been called out and I think they’ll have a chance to respond against QB Jameis Winston, who is prone to mistakes. New England’s defense is struggling but Tampa’s defense isn’t that great either. I think Tom Brady will have a vintage performance on the road this Thursday night. Prediction: Patriots 36 – Buccaneers 27

Carolina @ Detroit – Carolina did an impressive job on the road last week. But I’m afraid that game was more about New England’s defensive struggles and less about Cam Newton having a bounce back performance. Newton will face a much tougher defense on the road this week in the Lions. I’m not sure what’s the deal with Newton this season. I’m not sure if he is 100% healthy. Either way, I like the way Detroit’s defense is playing right now. They are keeping the Lions in games and creating opportunities for Matt Stafford and the offense. I think Carolina’s defensive line should create some issues for the Lions as well but they’ll be okay as long as they stay away from the turnovers. I think Detroit is playing better football right now so, I’ll take the home team. Prediction: Lions 20 – Panthers 14

Seattle @ Los Angeles Rams – When you beat the Dallas Cowboys, it’s going to turn some heads. No matter how bad of a game the Cowboys played. It doesn’t matter. That’s just how it is. But now that more media eyes are starting to pay attention to the Rams, they could really impress but beating a strong defensive team like Seattle. The Seahawks were almost on the ropes at home against a bad Colts team until their defense took over. But no mistake about it, Russell Wilson and the Seattle offense needs to improve. And things wont get easier as injuries are starting to pile up on the offensive line and in the backfield. I think Aaron Donald will give Wilson fits on Sunday. Seattle is usually shaky on the road. For Los Angeles, they just have to make sure that QB Jared Goff doesn’t lose the game for them. RB Todd Gurley might be a full proof plan for that as he is playing like the best RB in the football right now. A win here for the home team would really put the league on notice. Prediction: Rams 22 – Seahawks 17

Green Bay @ Dallas – The Cowboys are coming off a weak performance last week in all phases of the game. Without LB Sean Lee, the Cowboys defense really looked toothless. QB Dak Prescott wasn’t as sharp as defenses are standing up to stop the run and are just daring Prescott to win the game with his arm. Dak needs to remind defenses of what he can do in the passing game. Green Bay played last Thursday so, they will have the extra rest. But I think Dallas actually matches up well with them despite how bad their defense looked a week ago. The Packers do have Aaron Rodgers but they don’t have a “Todd Gurley”. Green Bay’s offensive line and running game is suspect and I think the Dallas defensive line can have a bounce back performance this week. Green Bay’s defense is underrated but they don’t have a “Aaron Donald”. I don’t expect the Packers will be successful if they sell out the stop Ezekiel Elliott and the Cowboys run game. But if they do, they don’t have a great secondary so, Prescott needs to exploit this and make the Packers respect the air attack. After a poor performance last week, I must be crazy to take Dallas with Aaron Rodgers coming to the stadium. But I believe the Cowboys will really want this W before their bye week. Prediction: Cowboys 31 – Packers 30

Kansas City @ Houston – I didn’t think the Chiefs were going to pull it off on Monday but they survived a tough test at home from Washington. Kansas City must now regroup and face a Houston team on the road that is coming off an impressive win last week. I feel like we’ve been saying for years now that the Texans would be dangerous if they ever figured out their QB situation. Last week, rookie QB Deshaun Watson solidified himself as the team’s leader on offense as that unit just exploded on the scoreboard against Tennessee. One thing about the Chiefs is that they have a veteran coaching staff and they will definitely draw up a plan to make Watson not comfortable this week. Kansas City has fought through many injuries on defense but they will still provide better resistance than what Tennessee did a week ago. I’m worried about Kansas City’s banged up offensive line because JJ Watt and company could really change the game upfront with what he has around him. I think Houston’s defense will have a real chance to flex their muscles on Sunday night and they will limit Kareem Hunt and the Chiefs’ offense. Prediction: Texans 26 – Chiefs 23

 

The Rest of Week 5

Bills over Bengals – Look out for Buffalo. They have some really big win early this season (@ Atlanta, vs. Denver). They are playing very well on defense right now.

Browns over Jets – Hue Jackson is tired of losing. This is now or never for Cleveland at home on Sunday.

Colts over 49ers – Indy can’t let the letdown of last Sunday night drag over to this week.

Titans over Dolphins – A matchup of teams that should have signed Colin Kaepernick. Is Tennessee’s defense that bad that they’ll allow Jay Cutler look serviceable?

Giants over Chargers – The Giants gotta win some time. Why not against a team that loses close game after close game after close game?

Eagles over Cardinals – I think Arizona will play Philly tough but can they score enough points?

Steelers over Jaguars – Another cupcake for Pittsburgh. Seriously, who has had an easier schedule so far this season? I hope Antonio Brown leg drops a Gatorade cooler on the sideline just so Pittsburgh media can lose their minds all next week.

Raiders over Ravens – Baltimore looks really bad but Oakland will be without David Carr. Oakland can’t let EJ Manuel lose it for them.

Vikings over Bears – I want to see my guy, Mitch Trubisky, shine but the Minnesota will unleash that pass rush on the rookie QB.

 

Fantasy Football Picks of the Week

QB: Tom Brady (Patriots) – New England has the worst pass defense in the league. Who’s second worst? Tampa Bay. Great news for Brady.

RB: Le’Veon Bell (Steelers) – Jacksonville has talent on defense but they allow the most yards on the ground. Pittsburgh should feed Bell and allow him to feast.

WR: Larry Fitzgerald (Cardinals) – Fitzgerald is off to a great start this season. Arizona will have to attack the Eagles through the air if they hope to win.

TE: Delanie Walker (Titans) – Tennessee’s QB situation might become shaky. Walker will become a security blanket for whoever is the starter.

DEF: Buffalo – Andy Dalton has improved each week this season. Buffalo’s defense will put a stop to that on Sunday.

NFL 2017: Week 2 Predictions!

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Jacksonville’s defense put their stamp in Week 1 last week.

By: Elias McMillan

 

Last Week: 7-8

Season: 7-8

Big Five Games of the Week

Philadelphia @ Kansas City – The Chiefs really impressed last Thursday. I wasn’t surprised to see how their defense played. But the big surprise was the explosiveness on offense. They will receive a good test in their home opener this week against the Eagles. Philadelphia’s front seven was in full display last week as it was their defense, which allowed them to pull away for Washington. I think QB Carson Wentz will have a tougher time this week. Kansas City has one of the better home field advantages in the league. I also think Andy Reid familiarity with Doug Peterson and the Eagles will play a factor. Prediction: Chiefs 25 – Eagles 17

Minnesota @ Pittsburgh – The Steelers couldn’t pull anyway from Cleveland last week. They better have all the cobwebs shaken out by Sunday because Minnesota should serve as a tougher challenge for them. Minnesota’s strength is their defense but much like the Chiefs, their offense surprised people last week. Rookie RB Dalvin Cook had a strong first performance and QB Sam Bradford looked great going down the field. I think Pittsburgh has to find a way to get Le’Veon Bell going in this one to help solve this tough Vikings defense. I think Pittsburgh’s overall talent and being at home should be able to carry them in this one but last week’s performance worries me a bit. Prediction: Steelers 27 – Vikings 21

Tennessee @ Jacksonville – Jacksonville’s defense really impressed in Week 1. All that young talent that they’ve been drafting on that side on the ball was in full display in a game that many people didn’t pick them in. They even made Blake Bortles seem to be serviceable. Tennessee didn’t play bad in their home opener last week against Oakland but they just seemed really bland. I think Jacksonville’s defense will be the most dynamic unit in this matchup. They’ll be tested well by Tennessee’s offense but I’m going with the home underdog. Prediction: Jaguars 23 – Titans 20

Dallas @ Denver – The Cowboys had a strong performance in Week 1 especially on the defensive side of the ball. But as always the case with Dallas, I’m just waiting on that wet blanket to arrive. And that could come in the form of the Denver Broncos this week. Denver didn’t overly impress in their first regular season game but I think they will prove to be a tough out at home. The battle at the line of scrimmage between the Dallas offensive line and the Denver defensive line should be a good one. Though, Denver isn’t very strong at defending the run. The Cowboys did a great job limiting Eli Manning last week. Surely, they shouldn’t have an issue with Trevor Siemian, right? Even so, I think Denver’s defense will make this a close contest. Prediction: Broncos 28 –Cowboys 24

Green Bay @ Atlanta – Seattle’s lack of an offensive line made Green Bay’s defense look like the ’85 Bears last week. I think it is fair to say that Atlanta’s offensive line will not make it so easy for that group this week in the home opener for the Falcons. Atlanta gutted out a close one on the road last week but I expected them to play much more loose against an opponent they should be able to handle. I think Atlanta can “out-physical” Green Bay at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Green Bay will have the better QB in Aaron Rodgers but Falcons QB Matt Ryan has the better weapon in Julio Jones. Prediction: Falcons 29 – Packers 23

The Rest of Week 2

Bengals over Texans – Cincinnati was held scoreless last week. They will be hungry for some points at home against a Houston team that is going through a tough week and is rushing a rookie QB out there on the road.

Cardinals over Colts – I know Arizona lost David Johnson but did you see how bad Indy was last week?

Patriots over Saints – New Year, same defensive problems for New Orleans. New England isn’t happy about how their season started and they had extra time to prepare for this one.

Buccaneers over Bears – Tampa had an extra week to prepare. Chicago competed hard last week. Expect a let down this week on the road.

Panthers over Bills – If Carolina can limit LeSean McCoy, they should win this one easily.

Ravens over Browns – Am I crazy for thinking that Cleveland looked more impressive in their loss to Pittsburgh than Baltimore did in their win over Cincinnati?

Raiders over Jets – Oakland got a good road win last week in Tennessee. They cant have a let down against a tanking Jets team.

Dolphins over Chargers – The Chargers are addicted to losing close games. Miami is traveling a long ways but they are fresh.

Rams over Washington – Washington had a hard time protecting Kirk Cousins. The Rams don’t do many things well but they do have a dangerous defensive front seven which will be in full strength this week with the return of Aaron Donald.

Seahawks over 49ers – I don’t see how San Francisco is suppose to score points. Not just in this game or last week but for the entire season.

Giants over Lions – New York struggled mightily last week. But Odell Beckham Jr is back and that’s all they need, right? All jokes aside, if New York’s success this season is tied to one player, they are in for a long season.

Fantasy Football Picks of the Week

QB: Tom Brady (Patriots) – New Orleans’ secondary is still pretty bad and they’ll be facing a QB in Brady who isnt coming off his best performance. We’ll see some vintage Tom in this one.

RB: Jay Ajayi (Dolphins) – Is Jay Cutler ready to stand in the pocket against a good Chargers pass rush? If not, Ajayi will be ready to carry Miami’s offense.

WR: Odell Beckham Jr. (Giants) – OBJ will be ready to put on a show on Monday night.

TE: Rob Gronkowski (Patriots) – Gronk only had tow catches last week. He’ll get a steady serving of passes this week against New Orleans.

DEF: Seattle – San Francisco literally has no offense.

NFL 2017: Week 1 Predictions!!!!

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The Ezekiel Elliott situation could potentially hang over Dallas for this entire season.

By: Elias McMillan

 

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

2009 Regular Season Record: 169-87

2010 Regular Season Record: 157-99

2011 Regular Season Record: 162-94

2012 Regular Season Record: 163-92-1

2013 Regular Season Record: 158-97-1

2014 Regular Season Record: 158-97-1

2015 Regular Season Record: 163-93

2016 Regular Season Record: 163-91-2

Now, here’s my forecast for Week 1 of the 2017 Season.

Big Five Games of the Week

Kansas City @ New England – We will start the 2017 season with the top two seeds in the AFC playoffs a season ago. This matchup doesn’t have a lot of sizzle especially considering that New England has a home game scheduled later this season against the team they beat in the Super Bowl last February. That’s the matchup we need to see on opening night. Don’t get me wrong about Kansas City. They have won a lot of games in the last 3 years. But that team has no buzz going into this season. They are in the beginning phases of what could be a massive roster turnover. The Chiefs have a solid defense but not many offensive stars. The Patriots are reloaded for 2017 and they’ll be eager to give NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell a good show. Prediction: Patriots 38 – Chiefs 20

Baltimore @ Cincinnati – Here’s an underrated AFC rivalry to start the season. These matchups between the Bengals and Ravens are usually 4-quarter slug fests. Both teams offer solid defenses for the most part and plenty of question marks on offense. I think Baltimore if healthy should be able to prove to be the better team but Cincinnati has the best player on the field Sunday in WR A.J. Green. Green seems to always find a way to show out against the Ravens. He will be the difference. Prediction: Bengals 23 – Ravens 17

Oakland @ Tennessee – This matchup features two up and coming teams in the AFC and two QB’s looking to bounce back from late season injuries from last year. I will be interesting to see how both offenses play with Derek Carr and Marcus Mariota. Will they play it safe and protect those QB’s with the run game or will they have the chance to rip it down the field often? Both of these teams are strong up front on offense and they should prove to be affective in the run game. I think Oakland has move playmakers on defense and that could be the difference. Tennessee has some weapons that may not be known on the national level on offense and they will be looking to let them loose on Sunday. This one should be very entertaining. I’m going to go with the home team. Prediction: Titans 29 – Raiders 28

Seattle @ Green Bay – The Seahawks made a monster acquisition just before the start of the regular season with the trade for DE Sheldon Richardson. I’m not sure how Richardson will fit in right away but eventually, he will make the Seattle defense even stronger than it already is. I don’t think much of the Packers outside of Aaron Rodgers. I don’t think they’ll be able to run the ball against Seattle on offense. The strength vs. strength matchup between the Packers receivers and the Legion of Boom should be a good one. The Packers will have a young defense this year especially in the secondary. I can see TE Jimmy Graham and WR Doug Baldwin taking some of those young guys to school on Sunday. I like Seattle on the road. Prediction: Seahawks 30 – Packers 22

New York Giants @ Dallas – RB Ezekiel Elliott will play on Sunday. That’s the good news, right? The Elliott situation is a bad one for everyone involved and there will be no winners. I think one of the biggest losers in this is the team Elliott plays for. His lawyers will want to fight the NFL to the bitter end meaning; this will potentially hang over the Cowboys all season. Elliott’s status for the rest of this season is still unknown so many Cowboys fans are thinking the Elliott will have a big game against the rival New York Giants. Well, the Giants did a decent job at defending the Cowboys running game last season and they return in 2017 with the same defensive front four. The Giants defense performed well against the Cowboys in both matchups last year but Dak Prescott and the Dallas offense will have that in mind on Sunday night and will be in attack mode. The Giants should know about the advantage that have when they are on offense. Eli Manning and his gang of offensive weapons will be going up against a defense that cant create pressure in the back field and a young secondary. That’s bad news for the home team. These matchups between the Cowboys and Giants are always heart wrenching. But I see the Giants having the advantage in Round 1. Prediction: Giants 34 – Cowboys 24

The Rest from Week 1

Bills over Jets – The competition for who can be worst this season should be a tight one between these two teams. This is an early season Toilet Bowl.

Falcons over Bears – Chicago will have their hands full at home on Sunday.

Steelers over Browns – Between the trades that were made earlier this week and the new that first overall pick Myles Garrett is hurt, I come to the conclusion that there is no hope in Cleveland.

Cardinals over Lions – This will be close. I’m going with David Johnson to keep fantasy owners happy in this one.

Eagles over Washington – I think Washington will end up as the better team this season but for Week 1, I could see them finding a way to lose this one.

Texans over Jaguars – Emotions will be on full tilt in Houston for this one. Jacksonville is pretty much guaranteed to use multiple QB’s in this game.

Colts over Rams – I feel bad if you brought a ticket to this one. Aaron Donald and Andrew Luck are two of the league’s biggest stars and neither will play. Snooze fest.

Panthers over 49ers – I’m interested in seeing how well this young San Fran defense can play. But the 49ers lack the players on offense to score points.

Vikings over Saints – The Adrian Peterson revenge angle is overplayed. Minnesota has a great defense and a great home field advantage.

Broncos over Chargers – This one will be closer than you think. It might come down to which defense can make the big play in the 4th quarter. I’ll bet on Von Miller but don’t sleep on Joey Bosa.

 

Week 1 Fantasy Football Picks

QB: Matt Ryan (Falcons) – Chicago’s secondary is a weak spot that Ryan and the Falcons passing attack will expose.

RB: LeSean McCoy (Bills) – Shady will shine against a toothless Jets defense.

WR: A.J. Green (Bengals) – Green usually has big game at home against Baltimore.

TE: Evan Engram (Giants) – I’ll show the rookie some love. The Giants will attack the Cowboys’ safeties with the young TE.

DEF: Houston – Jacksonville might be forced to sign Kaepernick after this game. J.J. Watt. Jadeveon Clowney. Whitney Mercilus. Thats too much for even a good offense to deal with.

 

NFL 2017: Preseason Awards & Playoff Predictions

 

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Oakland Raiders

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

By: Elias McMillan

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AFC

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

NFC

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

Wild-Card Weekend

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

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

Divisional Round

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

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

Conference Championship Sunday

AFC: (2) Raiders over (1) Patriots

NFC: (1) Falcons over (3) Giants

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

Atlanta Falcons over Oakland Raiders

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

 

 

NFL 2017: NFC Preview (Condensed)

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Dak Prescott has the keys to the castle in Dallas. What will he do with it? And can Matt Ryan get over what happened in the Super Bowl?

By: Elias McMillan

 

NFC East

New York Giants – I think the Giants have the best defense in the NFC East. They are strong up front with two passing rushing vets (JPP & Vernon) and a big run stuffer (Damon Harrison). I think they are weak at the LB position but they are loaded with talent in the secondary. New York should also have a sound passing attack on offense. Eli Manning will have a wide array of weapons to choose from this season with Beckham Jr, Brandon Marshall, Sterling Shepard, and rookie TE Evan Engram. The Giants do have question marks with their running game and offensive line. But I think they can outlast the competition in a tight NFC East race. Prediction: 10-6 (NFC East Champs)

Dallas Cowboys –For whatever reason, the Cowboys haven’t been able to string together back-to-back successful seasons too many times since the 90’s. And after blowing a great opportunity the change the narrative last season, they return this season with little or no improvements. I think the offense will be okay. I think Dak Prescott will not fall into a sophomore slump. There are some changes on the offensive line and Ezekiel Elliott might miss the start of the season but I think the run game will still be strong. And the Cowboys do return many weapons in the passing game led by Dez Bryant and the leadership of Jason Witten. On defense, all eyes will be on LB Jaylon Smith who missed all of last season due to injury but the Cowboys are expect big things out of. Outside of that, the Cowboys return a defense that cant create pressure and are featuring wholesale changes in the secondary. At this point, I feel bad for Jason Witten. I feel good about Dallas in 2018 though. Prediction: 8-8

Washington – I like what Washington has on defense. If they could just find some consistency on offense they could be a sleeper team in the NFC East. QB Kirk Cousins is a mixed bag but I like his gunslinger mentality. Many are expecting a big year from free agent signee WR Terrelle Pryor. Washington also had a nice big target for Cousins in TE Jordan Reed if he can stay healthy. Much like New York, offensive line and running back are where the question marks lie. Like I said earlier, I like many of the pieces on this Washington defense. They have already suffered some injuries on the defensive line and at LB but they wisely prepared for this in the draft. I’m interested in seeing how rookies DE Jonathan Allen and LB Ryan Anderson develop in their first years. Washington may have some weak spots in the secondary but they at least still have CB Josh Norman. Because of what they have defensively, Washington might surprise a bit this year. Prediction: 7-9

Philadelphia Eagles – Some have Philadelphia as a sleeper team in this division. I just don’t see it. Is Carson Wentz going to turn out to be a baller in his 2nd year? Maybe. He’ll have pretty weapons this year at WR with Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith. The Eagles are still reeling at the RB position from the LeSean McCoy trade. Do they really expect LeGarrette Blount to be their #1 back? Philly’s defense will be pretty much the same from a season ago: decent front seven, trash secondary. I like DT Fletcher Cox and rookie DE Derek Barnett. In a best-case scenario for this team, I don’t even see them making it past 8 wins. Prediction: 6-10

 

NFC North

Green Bay Packers – I really don’t see how this Packers team got better in the off-season. A lot of familiar faces from the last couple seasons are gone. The Packers are in the transition of getting younger on defense with OLB Clay Matthews the lone veteran holdover. They let Eddie Lacy go in free agency. Ty Montgomery is talented but can he really be an every down back? But as last year proved, because they really weren’t that good either, as long as they have Aaron Rodgers behind center, they’ll be okay. Prediction: 10-6 (NFC North Champs)

Minnesota Vikings – I like this Minnesota team because Mike Zimmer has himself a tough defense on this squad. It was the defense that led them to a hot start to begin 2016. Eventually, they fell apart down the stretch but as long as that same defense returns, they’ll be in a lot of games this year. Obviously, there are plenty of questions on offense especially at the QB position. QB Teddy Bridgewater may not be ready until the middle of the season so they will have to ride it out with Sam Bradford for now. Minnesota will also be dealing with a couple of new starters on the offensive line. But I think they will have a better run offense this season even with the departure of Adrian Peterson. I’m expecting big things from rookie RB Dalvin Cook. Prediction: 8-8

Detroit Lions – I don’t even remember that the Lions made the playoffs last year. They really didn’t make any dramatic changes in the offseason. QB Matthew Stafford will give them a chance to win every week. The Lions are still missing consistency in the run game. Stafford has pretty good targets to go to in the passing game. This has to be the season where TE Eric Ebron proves himself as a legit TE in the league and not just an athlete. Detroit will be solid defensively, at least up front. First round pick LB Jarrad Davis will be counted on early in his career. And you could say the same about second round pick CB Teez Tabor. I think the Lions are a running game away from challenging Green Bay in the division. Prediction: 7-9

Chicago Bears – The Bears are still rebuilding but with a veteran head coach. Weird. I’m wondering if John Fox will be around to see the final product. After spending money on QB Mike Glennon for some reason, the Bears went ahead and traded for QB Mitch Trubisky. Trubisky has shown promise in the pre-season and Chicago might as well stop wasting everyone’s time and insert him into the lineup. RB Jordan Howard is returning after an impressive rookie season. The Bears have question marks at WR. Kevin White is healthy and he will receive plenty of opportunities this year. Chicago’s defense is a mess. They need to build that side of the ball up as soon as possible if they want to climb out of the basement in this division. Prediction: 5-11

 

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons – There’s a lot of talk about the blown lead in the Super Bowl and the hangover from that. I know that Super Bowl losers, especially in this fashion, usually have a hard time getting back but I think Atlanta may have something going. I think this way because I liked what I saw from their defense last season and I like the additions they made in the offseason. Atlanta has a legit pass rush with Vic Beasley and I think rookie Takkarist McKinley could make an impact up front as well. I’m a big fan of the young LB’s they have especially Deion Jones who had a great rookie season. Atlanta will also see reinforcements in the secondary with the return of Desmond Trufant who missed most of last season. Everyone knows about what Atlanta has on offense with Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman, etc. But I think the improvements on this young defense will really make this team dangerous in the NFC again this season. Prediction: 13-3 (NFC South Champs)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – For the first time in a while, the Bucs enter a football season with some momentum. This team will be led by QB Jameis Winston who has really taken on a leadership role in that locker room and the team has brought in. Winston will be surrounded by probably the most talented he’s been around in his career. Tampa is loaded at WR with Mike Evans and newcomer DeSean Jackson who can really stretch the field. TE Cameron Brate impressed last season but the team decided to really maximize the TE position with the first round selection of TE O.J. Howard. I’m worried about the suspension of RB Doug Martin but this Tampa offense will be about what Winston can do in the passing game. Tampa returns a solid defense led by DT Gerald McCoy. I really like their LB core. They are missing playmakers in the secondary though. I think Tampa should be good enough to make that jump in the post season in 2017. Prediction: 9-7 (Wild-card)

Carolina Panthers – The Super Bowl hangover was real in Carolina in 2016. I think Carolina is in a position to rebound and maybe return to the playoffs but they need to do two things. First and more importantly, they need to ensure that the defense can stay at the level they were in during 2015. And secondly, they need to get Cam Newton better protection and younger players at the skill positions on offense. They did the latter in this offseason and I’m afraid that wasn’t the direction that this team needed to go. I think Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel will do good things in their rookie seasons but I prioritize the line scrimmage over the flashy skill players. I think Newton will be able to use those young guys effectively but I’m worried about his protection especially that he is coming off off-season surgery. On defense, Carolina is starting to look old. They gave up on Kony Ealy and brought back an ancient Julius Peppers. I really like Thomas Davis and Luke Kuechly but they both have injury concerns. Carolina may slightly improve from 2016 but they need to do a better job at protecting their franchise QB and getting younger talent on defense. Prediction: 8-8

New Orleans Saints – There isn’t much buzz surrounding the Saints going into 2017. We know they will pass the ball well with QB Drew Brees. Its too bad that they couldn’t make it work with Brandin Cooks but they did bring in Ted Ginn Jr. to take his role as the speedster at WR. RB Mark Ingram is the established back in this offense so, I don’t understand why they brought in an aging Adrian Peterson. Defense remains the main issues on this team. DE Cameron Jordan can only do so much. The Saints did make an effort on improving their secondary through the draft this offseason. I think the Saints will compete. But they wont be on the same level as the three other teams in this division. Prediction: 6-10

 

NFC West

Seattle Seahawks – The Seahawks are still in the mist of a decent run in the NFC as consistent title contenders. But I get the feeling that their window is starting to get smaller. Which is supposed to happen in the NFL. You can’t resign and keep everyone for only so long. But Seattle should be in pretty good shape in 2017. QB Russell Wilson returns and Seattle continued their efforts in the off-season to improve his offensive line. I think the Eddie Lacy signing could improve the run game if he can stay healthy. And that’s a big “if”. WR Doug Baldwin is massively underrated and TE Jimmy Graham can still take over a game when called upon. This team will continue to be led by the defense though. The front seven is tough and can pretty much do it all. Pass rush, run stuff, etc. The Seahawks also still have the three major cogs in the L.O.B., Sherman, Thomas, and Chancellor. Prediction: 11-5 (NFC West Champs)

Arizona Cardinals – Arizona massively under performed last season and they return in 2017 with a supremely talented roster. On offense, RB David Johnson established himself last season as one of the top RB’s in the league. Arizona’s passing game is still dependent on QB Carson Palmer’s health. Head coach Bruce Arians doesn’t think much of the WR’s on the roster but WR Larry Fitzgerald is still as good as they come. Arizona has recognizable names on defense but they need to become an elite unit if Arizona hopes to make the postseason. They will miss Calais Campbell up front but Chandler Jones is still a pretty good pass rusher and first round pick Haason Reddick could develop into a difference maker. I feel that Arizona secondary under performed last season but that should change as long as Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu can stay healthy. I think the Cardinals have too much talent to miss the playoffs for a second straight season. Prediction: 10-6 (Wild-card)

Los Angeles Rams – The Rams hired a 30-year-old coach to lead the team in 2017. Maybe that youth can energize a team that hasn’t done anything note worthy in a while. Can second year QB Jared Goff show that he is worth his top selection in the draft a year ago? Can RB Todd Gurley return to form? Can the Rams finally get some consistency out from their recievers? Will the newly acquired Sammy Watkins keep the number 2 as his jersey number? Has the only player worth a damn on this roster (DT Aaron Donald) ended his holdout yet? Too many questions. Prediction: 5-11

San Francisco 49ers – Nothing quite says “we’re rebuilding” like saying “we’re rolling with Brian Hoyer as our QB this year”. San Francisco should be a complete disaster offensively this season. Its fitting that the offensive coordinator that blew it for Atlanta in the Super Bowl is now the head coach. On the bright side, San Fran is building a defense that might become a problem real soon. They basically have an all-Pac-10 defensive line and I liked the late addition of veteran pass rusher Elvis Dumervil. LB NaVorro Bowman returns and he’ll get a chance to groom rookie Reuben Foster who dropped right into the 49ers lap in the draft this pass April. Foster should have been a top 15 pick. The secondary leaves much to be desired but that front seven might end up being one of the best in the league. But with Brian Hoyer at QB, that tells me that this team must be tanking for one of the top signal callers in college. Prediction: 3-13

 

NFC Playoff Picture Prediction

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

NFL Playoffs: 2017 Conference Championship Sunday Predictions!

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Super Steelers? It does appear that way.

 

By: Elias McMillan

 

Divisional Round: 2-2

Playoffs: 4-4

Conference Championship Sunday

NFC Championship Game

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

AFC Championship Game

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