Tag Archives: Houston Texans

NFL 2019: Week 7 Predictions

Deshaun Watson and the Texans are making their mark in the AFC.

By: Elias McMillan

 

Last Week: 7-7

Season: 51-40-1

Top Five Games of the Week

Minnesota @ Detroit – I think the Lions have proven that they are an improved football team this season. After getting hosed by the officials last week, I think the league is starting to take notice. I like Detroit’s defense. That unit is good enough to keep them in ballgames if the offense is stale. Matt Stafford will face a challenge this week at home against a top five Vikings defense. Minnesota had their win of the season last week, completely dominating Philadelphia. The Eagles pass defense may have allowed Kirk Cousins to look better than he really is but Cousins does have the ability to perform at a high level like he did. His problem is with consistency. I think the Lions defense will limit Cousins this week and they’ll play in an angry mood in response to last week. Prediction: Lions over Vikings

Oakland @ Green Bay – The Packers are a team with great individual talent. But they are not a great team. Green Bay’s run game on offense has improved this season. They still have a healthy Aaron Rodgers. And the Smith brothers (not related) on defense are playmakers. Despite that, I’m not too impressed with them this season. I feel like they are one injury away from falling from the top of the conference. The Raiders come to Lambeau Field on Sunday fresh from the bye week. Oakland at 3-2 has been much better than what most have expected especially after cutting Antonio Brown. I don’t think they are better than Green Bay but it wouldn’t surprise me if this game came down to the wire. For whatever reason (officials), the Packers seem to always come out on top in those scenarios. Prediction: Packers over Raiders

Houston @ Indianapolis – I think Houston solidified themselves last week as a legit threat in the AFC and as the front-runners in their division. They can really put a hold on the top of the AFC South Sunday at Indy. QB Deshaun Watson has really been impressive as of late but it also helps that the Texans have a top 5 rushing attack on offense. The Colts, who are coming off a bye, are a tough football team but they lack offensive firepower. RB Marlon Mack could see some success against a middle of the road Houston defense. WR T.Y. Hilton seems to always have big games against Houston but his health has been an issue recently. I like the Texans to keep things rolling on the road this week. Prediction: Texans over Colts

Baltimore @ Seattle – The Ravens are not looking like the dominant team that they were earlier this season. Despite having the top rushing attack in football, QB Lamar Jackson’s passing has cooled down and their defense has been exposed. Last week in Cleveland, I feel like the Seahawks should have lost. But they are the type of team that will stay alive until the very end if you allow them to. The Seahawks maybe going through some injury problems but as long as QB Russell Wilson is behind center, they’ll be in the ballgame into the 4th quarter. This matchup features two of the most athletic QB’s in the league. I think Seattle’s defense is more capable to bother Jackson inside or outside the pocket. I like the home team in this one. Prediction: Seahawks over Ravens

Philadelphia @ Dallas – This game will go a long way in deciding the NFC East. Both the Eagles and the Cowboys are coming off losses and enter Sunday’s show down with little to no momentum. The Cowboys have lost three straight including an embarrassing showing last week at the winless Jets. The Eagles allowed big play after big play in Minnesota last week as their defense continues to not look very good. The question on Sunday will be if the Cowboys can expose that defense. QB Dak Prescott must get off to a hot start. The Cowboys’ offense has been struggling lately, especially in the first half of games. Dallas will continue to have issues this week as both starting offensive tackles are banged up and WR Amari Cooper is also questionable. Philadelphia will have its chances on offense as well. If QB Carson Wentz has time, he’ll carve the Cowboys’ secondary. The Cowboys need to see a greater effort up front defensively. They are currently having issues with stopping the run and the pass rush has been less inspiring with the exception being Robert Quinn. I don’t think this game will decide the division but I see Dallas having more issues currently than Philadelphia. I see this being a high scoring affair with the Eagles’ defense being able to produce more big plays instead of giving them up like they did last week. Prediction: Eagles over Cowboys

The Rest of Week 7

Broncos over Chiefs – Weird things seem to happen on these Thursday night games. Kansas City is a bit banged up and Denver’s defense is playing well right now.

Rams over Falcons – LA won the Ramsey sweepstakes. I’m not sure if that will affect the game on Sunday but the Falcons are pretty bad right now.

Bills over Dolphins – Dare I say that the Bills could be in the thick of it in the AFC? Or is it too early to tell?

Jaguars over Bengals – This might be Cincinnati’s best chance at a win for a while.

Giants over Cardinals – The Giants are getting healthy and that may pay off soon with some wins.

49ers over Washington – San Fran is real. Washington is getting ready for the draft.

Chargers over Titans – Phillip Rivers and the Chargers gotta show that they are better than what we saw from them last week at “home”.

Saints over Bears – Mitch Trubisky maybe back for Chicago this week. That may be good or bad news depending on whom you ask.

Patriots over Jets – Do the Jets have newfound confidence after the return of Sam Darnold? Maybe. But let’s see Darnold against a top NFL defense on Monday night.

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NFL 2019: Week 6 Predictions

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The 49ers are still unbeaten. On Sunday, they’ll face a tough opponent in the Rams.

 

By: Elias McMillan

Last Week: 8-7

Season: 44-33-1

Top Five Games of the Week

Carolina @ Tampa Bay – This NFC South divisional game in London could have a big impact later on this season in terms of playoff positioning. Carolina has found its stride offensively of late thanks to the play of RB Christian McCaffrey. Tampa Bay enters Sunday with one of the top run defenses in the league. The play of LB Shaq Barrett has really made a difference for this young team. Panthers QB Kyle Allen has done a good job keeping the Carolina offense afloat without Cam Newton but on Sunday that unit will be challenged up front. Tampa is looking for consistency in their passing game but if they can get going against the Panthers secondary, they’ll be able to fill the stat sheet. Prediction: Buccaneers over Panthers

Houston @ Kansas City – This matchup will feature two of the better young QB’s in the league. Patrick Mahomes had a rough go at last week, as the Chiefs were shocked at home by the Colts. Deshaun Watson has shown recently what he can do with his arm when he has enough protection. I think Mahomes and Watson’s talents will be on full display Sunday in a high scoring contest. Defensively, the Chiefs were bullied upfront last week and they’ll be looking to bounce back against a Texans offensive line that can be described as shaky. Houston’s secondary ranks near the bottom of the league in pass defense so I think that will allow Mahomes to have a big game as well. Prediction: Chiefs over Texans

Philadelphia @ Minnesota – The Vikings were able to put it all together last week against a bad Giants team. They’ll return back home Sunday to face a much tougher NFC East opponent. The Eagles are looking like a team that is just now finding their groove. After a dominant performance last week, they’ll be looking for similar results in Minnesota. The Vikings offer one of the league’s top rushing attacks but the Eagles’ run defense ranks first in the NFL. If Philly’s defensive line plays like they can at the line of scrimmage, QB Kirk Cousins could be in for a tough day. Minnesota’s defense isn’t bad either. They must start off fast pressuring Carson Wentz and keeping the home crowd engaged. This should be a big test for the Eagles. The big victory on the road would serve as a momentum boost heading into a clash with Dallas next week. Prediction: Eagles over Vikings

San Francisco @ LA Rams – It’s a shame that the majority of the country won’t be able to see this game on Sunday. The winner here will most likely have the inside track to the NFC West title. The 49ers are the surprise of this early season, remaining undefeated after destroying Cleveland on national television. San Fran has been a joy to watch especially considering how this team was built. They have one of the best defenses in the league led by pass rushers Dee Ford and rookie Nick Bosa. On offense, RB’s Matt Breida and Tevin Coleman are proving to be one of the top duos in the NFL. The Niners are also getting it done in the secondary with a pass defense that ranks 2nd in the league. The Rams are a good football but they’ve been inconsistent at times. I think they’ll present the 49ers with their greatest challenge so far this season. QB Jared Goff leads one of the top passing attacks in the league. Unfortunately for the Rams, their defense is average at best despite having Aaron Donald. CB’s Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib have formed a bad habit with allowing big plays down the field. The Rams are a talented team but the Niners could prove to be just as talented. Plus, they are just playing better football right now. Prediction: 49ers over Rams

Detroit @ Green Bay – Green Bay really flexed their muscles in Dallas last week. Despite being outgained offensively, they attacked the Cowboys with a successful ground game and were able to force turnovers on defense. Not a lot is known about this Lions team. But they do only have one loss, playing Kansas City at home down to the wire. In recent history, the Packers have owned Detroit within the division. For the Lions to flip that script, they have to attack this Packers defense down the field. Detroit’s defense isn’t highly ranked either so, I imagine Aaron Rodgers and the Packers will be looking for big plays in the passing game as well. Rodgers at home against the Lions seems like a safe bet but it wouldn’t surprise me if this game were highly competitive. Prediction: Packers over Lions

The Rest of Week 6

Patriots over Giants – The top defense in the league faces a young and banged up offense.

Seahawks over Browns – I hope Baker Mayfield learns something watching Russell Wilson this week.

Dolphins over Washington – Yes. Miami will get off the snide and play inspired football at home against Washington who just fired their coach.

Saints over Jaguars – I wonder what impact Jalen Ramsey will have in this game. Regardless, I don’t see Jacksonville keeping pace with the Saints’ offense.

Ravens over Bengals – I was not impressed with Baltimore at all last week. They won but they didn’t deserve it. I hope they hit the reset button in practice this week. They can still be so much better than what they showed last week.

Falcons over Cardinals – If Atlanta loses this one, they might be looking for a new head coach real soon.

Broncos over Titans – Tennessee showed promise earlier this year but things look to be turning for the worst.

Cowboys over Jets – Dallas can’t over look these “lay-ups”. The Jets will have opportunities for success on Sunday. Le’Veon Bell faces a poor run defense and the offense could also receive a boost from the returning QB Sam Darnold. The Cowboys have to show that they are ready to bounce back while not over looking their opponent.

Chargers over Steelers – LA fell short at home last week. Pittsburgh is down to their third string QB. I think the Chargers will be aiming for an impactful performance against a wounded opponent.

NFL 2019: Week 3 Predictions

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Lamar Jackson and the Ravens will hope to stand toe-to-toe against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs.

By: Elias McMillan

 

Last Week: 10-6

Season: 20-11-1

Top Five Games of the Week

Atlanta @ Indianapolis – The Falcons gutted out a victory at home last week against the Eagles. Despite the victory, this team seems to underwhelm me each week. With the talent they have, they should be able to execute much better than they do. I like what I saw last week with the Colts. The issues with Adam Vinateri and the kicking game almost cost them but they were able to overcome and get a big divisional victory on the road. The Colts offense seems to be operating smoothly through the air and on the ground. I like their balanced attack to help them control the game clock and limit Atlanta’s offense this Sunday. Prediction: Colts over Falcons

Baltimore @ Kansas City – The Ravens and the Chiefs played in what was probably the best game in the regular season last year. Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore offense returns to Kansas City this Sunday looking for a different result from last season. Jackson has been the talk of this 2019 season though it is still early. Many are still not as impressed with Jackson considering Baltimore’s opponents but he’ll face a quality opponent this week. Kansas City’s defense isn’t all that great but they’ll offer more than Miami or Arizona. But just like in their matchup a season ago, this game will be all about the QBs. Patrick Mahomes is playing like the MVP he was last year and the injury to Tyreek Hill hasn’t slowed this offense. I think Jackson will be able to go toe-to-toe with Mahomes but even without Hill, the Chiefs have too many weapons. This should be a fun, back and forth, contest. Prediction: Chiefs over Ravens

Houston @ Los Angeles Chargers –Losing to Detroit might be a sign that the Chargers have some issues. Houston barely escaped Jacksonville last week but I believe they can play more like the team that lost a close in New Orleans Week 1. The Chargers have been hampered once again with injuries on both sides of the ball. LA’s defense will have to continue to limit their opponents as Phillip Rivers and the offense try to figure out their issues. For the Texans, they just have to keep their QB, Deshaun Watson, upright. The Chargers have a great pass rush with the ability to change the face of this game. Too bad the Chargers don’t really have a “home” field advantage. Prediction: Texans over Chargers

New Orleans @ Seattle – The news of the Drew Brees injury is terrible but it could be worst. New Orleans seemed to be prepared for this as they made Teddy Bridgewater the highest paid backup QB in the league this past offseason. Bridgewater’s first assignment as a starter will be a tough Seattle defense on the road. Seattle wasn’t that impressive last week in Pittsburgh but they did enough to win. Seattle must exploit the Saints run defense and control the clock. That’s something that they usually do a great job at especially at home. Also, the Saints defense will get after Russell Wilson. Seattle’s offensive line is usually inconsistent at best. I like Bridgewater but the Saints offense won’t be as explosive without Brees. Prediction: Seahawks over Saints

Los Angeles Rams @ Cleveland – Well, it’s good that Cleveland avoided a 0-2 start but they did not impress against the Jets. The Browns have a tough defense I think but for those first two games, it has been the offense that has disappointed. And it’s not going to get better this week with the Rams coming into town in primetime. The Rams are coming off an impressive home win against New Orleans. LA looked look last week on offense. Todd Gurley and Malcolm Brown are making a big impact in the running game. Cleveland should also have a tough time containing the Rams defensive line, led by Aaron Donald. Prediction: Rams over Browns

The Rest of Week 3

Titans over Jaguars – Tennessee has owned Jacksonville recently in the series. This could be Jalen Ramsey’s last game as a Jaguar. I don’t think so. But it could be.

Bills over Bengals – Cincy got thrashed last week at home and Buffalo will be fired up for their home opener.

Cowboys over Dolphins – I don’t think this is a trap game for Dallas. The Cowboys do have some injury concerns. I hope they will be able to treat this one like a preseason game.

Packers over Broncos – Green Bay might finally have a defense to match what they can do offensively.

Vikings over Raiders – Minnesota won’t be anyone if Kirk Cousins plays like he did last week.

Patriots over Jets – New England might be able to rest Tom Brady in the 4thquarter in this one. Oh. And you can add the NEW YORK JETS as another gutless organization that refuses to sign……ahhhh….nevermind. Eyeroll emoji.

Eagles over Lions – I guess you have to give Detroit credit for upsetting the Chargers. I wonder if the Eagles are healthy enough to avoid another pitfall in consecutive weeks.

Cardinals over Panthers – Cam Newton or no Cam Newton. Carolina has been a disappointment so far this season.

Buccaneers over Giants – Tampa’s offense can at least appear valuable against the Giants defense.

Steelers over 49ers – Pittsburgh can’t go 0-3. They’ll rally around Mason Rudolph and play inspired football on the road in San Fran.

Washington over Bears – If Chicago’s offense can’t produce, their defense will tire out. Case Keenum and Washington’s passing attack will take full advantage if they can weather the Bears defense.

 

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: AFC Preview

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No Brown? No Bell? No worries. Here comes Super Ben to save the day. Right?

 

By: Elias McMillan

AFC EAST

For the past 15 seasons, this division has only seen two other teams finish in first place other than the New England Patriots. No one is sure when the Patriots’ domination of the AFC East will end but I doubt it will be this year despite the fact New England really didn’t improve in the offseason. QB Tom Brady returns once again in his quest to add to his already Hall-of-Fame resume. New England has a nice mix of youth and veteran leadership at the skill positions. On offense this year, they will have a huge hole at the TE position thanks to the retirement of Rob Gronkowski. New England’s defense really showed out in the Super Bowl last season, holding their opponent to only 3 points. I think that unit will be weaken this season with the departures of DT Malcolm Brown and DE Trey Flowers. New England usually does a good job reloading on defense with players that we’ve may not even heard of yet. They did trade for aging but still effective DT Michael Bennett. The team in this division that made the most movement in the offseason was the New York Jets. The Jets forked over the big bucks in free agency and brought in RB Le’Veon Bell and LB C.J. Mosley. Bell, one of the top RB’s in football, should be fresh after taking 2018 off. He’ll have a great chance at rejuvenating this Jets offense and taking pressure away from the young QB, Sam Darnold. Darnold showed some promise in his rookie season but the lights on him will be brighter this year. I think having an elite option coming out the backfield will help him. The Jets really don’t have a star at WR but Robby Anderson is underrated and Jamison Crowder can be great in the slot. With the addition of Mosley and first round pick DT Quinnen Williams, the Jets front seven could be really good. “Do-Everything” safety, Jamal Adams, also returns as the leader of this defense. Adams is a rare talent in the secondary who can play the run and cover receivers down field. The Buffalo Bills hope this year won’t be a lost season for their rookie QB Josh Allen. Allen showed last year that he has the athletic tools but the Bills will be looking to seeing him improve as a passer. Buffalo’s backfield will be loaded with a gang of veterans. RB’s Frank Gore and T.J. Yeldon join LeSean McCoy and I’m not sure how that competition in training camp will play out. Gore, who refuses to retire, will probably win the starting job, which could make McCoy a surprising cut before the regular season. Buffalo’s defense could be something special this season. Despite losing Stephon Gilmore to New England in 2018, they led the league in pass defense. I don’t believe that it is possible for a NFL to “tank”, especially at the start of the season. But many believe that the Miami Dolphins will be that team this year. Miami actually has a good-to-average offense on paper. I think the young receivers on this team that are waiting to breakout and will love playing with an old gun slinger at QB, Ryan Fitzpatrick. But as we all know by now, that will probably last for maybe a month or so. Fitzpatrick will start out the season playing on fire then experience a huge, turnover laced, drop-off right around Week 5. I’m really rooting for QB Josh Rosen to get a chance in this offense since many have unfairly written him off. He’s basically a rookie again after being traded from Arizona and he deserves to start this portion of his career with a clean slate. Miami’s defense lost some key veterans in the offseason. CB Xavien Howard did receive a big contract in the offseason, which was well deserved as he is proving to be one of the top corners in football. Projected Finish: 1) New England, 2) NY Jets, 3) Buffalo, 4) Miami

AFC NORTH

The AFC North led the league in headlines this past offseason. Pittsburgh, who missed the playoffs for the first time in five years, stayed in the drama thanks to a messy divorce with WR Antonio Brown. With Brown now in Oakland, Pittsburgh is thinking that moving the best receiver in football will prove to be an “addition by subtraction” move. And everything on the offensive side of the ball will be smooth as long as QB Ben Roethlisberger can stand. I’m sure that Ben will continue to be great and the running game will be fine as long as the offensive line continues to play well. But I believe that the offense will feel a drop-off of talent without 84. Go ahead and watch the highlights from 2018. It wasn’t like AB was playing like an aging veteran. AB had a strong productive season and it will be hard for the Steelers to replace that. Juju Smith-Schuster is a talented WR but we don’t know if he is ready for the added attention as a #1 receiver. It’s okay to throw in all of your chips on Roethlisberger to save the offense but he is aging too. Father time is undefeated and it’s going to interesting to see him play without his top guy for the last couple years. With all the talk about offense, Pittsburgh’s defense could be something special this season. I think trading up for LB Devin Bush in the draft will prove to be a great move. Pittsburgh will be great up front with DT Cam Heyward and OLB T.J. Watt but the question will continue to be if their secondary will hold them back. The Browns were the offseason champs of this division despite not even winning 8 games in 2018. But the offense showed excitement and promise under QB Baker Mayfield and trading for WR Odell Beckham Jr. could put their offensive talent over the top. The Browns are crazy deep at WR with OBJ joining Jarvis Landry, Antonio Callaway and Rashard Higgins. The backfield will be loaded with talent as well with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, who will be fresh coming off an suspension. Cleveland is also expected to be strong defensively, led by young guys DE Myles Garrett and CB Denzel Ward. I think the city of Cleveland has reason to be hype about what could potentially happen with all this talent in 2019. But you have to crawl before you can walk. I’m not saying that the Browns hype isn’t real. I’m saying that the franchise hasn’t won more than 8 games in 11 years. Realistically, I don’t think Cleveland is ready to overtake the division but they’ll at least “be there” this year. Baltimore surprised everyone and won the division last season. Unfortunately, I think they’ll take a step backwards this year. The new offense, now catered to QB Lamar Jackson, will be fun to watch. They’ll probably lead the league in rushing this year. I really like the addition of RB Mark Ingram. The elephant in the room with Jackson at QB will be his ability to pass down the field. I’m hoping exciting rookie WR Marquise Brown (AB’s cousin) will help with that. The real reason why Baltimore will struggle this year is that I think the defense won’t be able to make up the lost of LB C.J. Mosley. Mosley was a guy that Baltimore could not afford to get away. The Ravens defense will also look strange in 2019 without LB Terrell Suggs. Baltimore’s saving grace on defense might be there secondary that looks strong with the addition of Earl Thomas at safety. I’m excited to say that the rebuild of the Cincinnati Bengals is finally on. Marvin Lewis, Vontaze Burfict, and Pac-Man Jones are all gone. Unfortunately, the new look Bengals may already be behind the 8-ball with WR A.J. Green injured and first rounder T Jonah Williams out for the season. Without Green, who will be back after the first four games, WR Tyler Boyd will have the opportunity to shine and he’ll have to after the pay raise he just received. Cincinnati will be strong defensively up front with DT Geno Atkins. The Bengals could be a sleeper even with Green missing time. They will be a team that could hold opponents to less than three scores but their offense might struggle to score that same amount. Projected Finish: 1) Steelers, 2) Browns, 3) Ravens, 4) Bengals

AFC SOUTH

I wouldn’t say that the AFC South is boring. But it’s the least interesting division in the AFC. Houston has young and exciting talent but just can’t break through in the playoffs. Jacksonville showed promise a couple years ago before completely falling apart last season. And Tennessee is still waiting for Marcus Mariota to show that he can be a franchise QB. Indianapolis caught momentum late last season only to lose to the top seed in the conference. QB Andrew Luck is still the top dog in the division when it comes to QB play but his health seems to be a question mark every year. Regardless, I think Indy has surrounded him with decent talent at the receiver and running back positions. Indy really started to catch fire last season because of their defense and rookie sensation LB Darius Leonard. In the offseason, they added a pass rushing presence in veteran LB Justin Houston. The Houston Texans should run away with this division if you look at the talent they have on paper. QB Deshaun Watson is a young star in this league and is continuing to improve. WR DeAndre Hopkins catches everything and the backfield should receive a boost with the addition of Duke Johnson; joining veteran Lamar Miller. Houston will continue to have one of the top front sevens on defense led by J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney. Houston’s secondary will need to have a bounce back year after finishing 2018 near the bottom of the league in pass defense. Jacksonville will be hoping to have their QB situation fixed this season. I’m not too confident in QB Nick Foles but he enters 2019 with not a lot of pressure. He only has to prove to be better than Blake Bortles. The Jaguars defense looked so strong two years ago. I think what happened to that unit last season will prove to be a fluke. They will be motivated to prove that though the sudden retirement of LB Telvin Smith will not help. That could open the door for rookie LB Josh Allen who looked like the best pass rusher in this past draft. CB Jalen Ramsey returns to a secondary that ranked second in the league in pass defense. Tennessee almost made the playoffs last season but I didn’t see them take a step forward from that in the offseason. Trading for QB Ryan Tannehill will probably not instill confidence for Mariota. The Titans are excited to see more of RB Derrick Henry who broke out last season. They need RB Dion Lewis to rebound from last season, as he was a total bust of a free agent signing. Tennessee will be strong defensively, led by one of the league’s top secondaries. DT Jurrell Casey is one of the best interior linemen and DE Cameron Wake who is coming off a productive career in Miami, will join him this year. Projected Finish: 1) Colts, 2) Texans, 3) Jaguars, 4) Titans

AFC WEST

The AFC West featured the most competitive division in the conference last season and I think we’ll see the same in 2019. Kansas City shot their way to the top of the conference thanks to the performance of QB Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes returns with many of the same weapons from a season ago, WR’s Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, and TE Travis Kelce. On defense, they traded away DE Dee Ford but also acquired DE Frank Clark who should serve as a great replacement. Kansas City’s pass defense was among the league’s worst last season. They are hoping that offseason acquisition, safety Tyrann Mathieu, will help them improve in that area. The Chargers will be strong again in 2019, which could be QB Phillip Rivers final season. I get the feeling that Rivers won’t retire until he makes his Super Bowl debut. Rivers will once again have great targets in the passing game to go to in WR’s Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. But most of the talk in the offseason has been about the RB position. I don’t think RB Melvin Gordon’s hold out will last into the season. He will report and I think he needs a wake up call. Gordon is talented but he doesn’t have much of a leg to stand on with only one 1,000 yard season. I really like what the Chargers have on defense. Pass rushers Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa are difference makers up front and safety Derwin James is one of the best in the NFL already in his young career. What’s been holding Denver back for the last few seasons has been the QB position. You can laugh now but I think trading for QB Joe Flacco might prove to be one of the smartest moves made in the offseason. Denver gets a veteran presence behind center and he’s looking to prove that he still has some good football left in him. RB Phillip Lindsay who had a breakout rookie season will assist Flacco. WR Emmanuel Sanders will be plus for this passing offense if he can stay healthy. The Broncos defense will be led once again by pass rushing extraordinaire Von Miller. Denver will be looking for someone in the secondary to step up this season, as they are a missing a few pieces from last year. The Oakland Raiders made the biggest move in the offseason, trading for the best WR in the NFL, Antonio Brown. Despite that exciting acquisition, the Raiders are still not ready to compete in this division. I think having Brown in the lineup will improve the passing game, which is good news for QB Derek Carr. But the Raiders will still have unanswered question with their offensive line and backfield. A lot will be expected from rookie RB Josh Jacobs. On defense, the Raiders still are looking to fill the massive hole left by trading away DE Khalil Mack. They spent their top pick on DE Clelin Ferrell who was on no ones radar at the top of the draft. They also brought in talented but constant knucklehead LB Vontaze Burfict. This Raiders squad will be an interesting mix but I don’t think they’ll play good enough football to escape the AFC West basement. Projected Finish: 1) Chiefs, 2) Chargers, 3) Broncos, 4) Raiders

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

 

NFL 2018: Week 16 Predictions (Condensed Version)

Los Angeles Chargers v Denver Broncos

The Chargers could find themselves on top the AFC West after this weekend.

By: Elias McMillan

 

Last Week: 9-7

Season: 127-95-2

Week 16 Picks

Titans over Washington – Jacksonville gifted Washington a victory last week on a late turnover. Tennessee will not blow this opportunity as they still have post-season hopes.

Chargers over Ravens – This should be a really good game. Both defenses will make a lot of plays but I think the difference will be Phillip Rivers. It will also help that Melvin Gordon may be returning from his injury.

Browns over Bengals – Baker Mayfield gets another chance to stick it to his former head coach, Hue Jackson.

Cowboys over Buccaneers – After no showing last week, Dallas absolutely needs this one to clinch the division once and for all. They can not sleep on this Tampa team which offers a high scoring offense and quality players on their defensive line.

Lions over Vikings – Minnesota has been so inconsistent this year. I think those issues will pop up once again on the road.

Colts over Giants – Indy’s defense is playing at a high level right now.

Dolphins over Jaguars – Jacksonville has already checked out mentally this season. Miami has slim playoff hopes but they’ll play their best at home.

Patriots over Bills – New England is going through some issues but they’ll right the ship at home against Buffalo.

Jets over Packers – I don’t think Green Bay has won a road game all year.

Eagles over Texans – I don’t think Houston is as good as their record is. Philly is a wounded animal but they believe that still have a shot at the post season and they will rally around Nick Foles at home.

Falcons over Panthers – Carolina’s collapse this season has been unbelievable.

Rams over Cardinals – I wouldn’t panic yet about how Jared Goff has looked recently. A loss here against a bad Arizona team wouldn’t help though.

Bears over 49ers – San Francisco has played great a home recently but I think Chicago will get it done on the road by the strength of their defense.

Saints over Steelers – New Orleans’ defense didn’t start the season great but they are now hitting their stride at the right time. I like Brees to outduel Roethlisberger in what could be a high scoring contest.

Seahawks over Chiefs – After a bad loss on the road, I think we’ll see Seattle bounce back at home this week.

Broncos over Raiders – The only reason to watch this game is to see what the fans of Oakland will destroy in the stands.