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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 5 Predictions

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

 

By: Elias McMillan

Last Week: 7-8

Season: 36-26-1

Top Five Games of the Week

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

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

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

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

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

The Rest of Week 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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: Week 1 Predictions

Carolina Panthers v New England Patriots

Tom Brady and the Patriots begin, yet another, title defense this Sunday night.

By: Elias McMillan

 

Past Regular Season Records:

2014 Regular Season Record: 158-97-1

2015 Regular Season Record: 163-93

2016 Regular Season Record: 163-91-2

2017 Regular Season Record: 151-103

2018 Regular Season Record: 150-104-2

 

Top Five Games of the Week

Green Bay @ Chicago – The 2019 regular season opens in Chicago with a classic NFC North rivalry. Coming off a disappointing loss in the playoffs last year, the Bears enter 2019 as the favorite in the NFC North. Green Bay is the mist of a rebuild under new head coach Matt LaFleur. Green Bay won a thriller in the season opener last year on the strength of QB Aaron Rodgers’ second half performance. Tonight, Chicago will have to keep the Packers offense from striking distance in the second half by jumping on them early and getting enough from QB Mitch Trubisky and the offense. I think LB Khalil Mack and the Bears defense will do its job at limiting Rodgers’ chances. Green Bay’s defense will be younger group this year and the Bears offense must be able to take full advantage. Prediction: Bears over Packers

Los Angeles Rams @ Carolina –Last season’s NFC champions will travel across the country on Week 1 to face a team trying to get back to the top of the conference. I think Carolina will be much improved this season because of their additions on defense. That defense will receive a tough test in the season opener in the form of this Rams offense. LA’s defense showed some inconsistency last season but the great play at the line of scrimmage from Aaron Donald and Dante Fowler covers much of that up. QB Cam Newton will be looking to show that he is at 100% but he’ll face a great challenge in the Rams’ pass rush. Newton must find a way to preserve himself from big hits while at the same time putting Carolina in a position to win. That could be tough. Prediction: Rams over Panthers

Kansas City @ Jacksonville – The highlight of this matchup will be the Chiefs offense vs. the Jaguars defense. Kansas City returns in 2019 with an electrifying offense led by the league MVP, QB Patrick Mahomes. Kansas City will be loaded at WR this year with Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, and rookie Mecole Hardman. And I’m very interested how Andy Reid will incorporate recently signed veteran RB LeSean McCoy. Jacksonville’s defense disappointed a season ago and they are looking forward to bouncing back this year. A solid group will lead them up front on the defensive line and CB Jalen Ramsey will continue to lead the secondary. Usually a good defense can get the best of a great offense but I think Kansas City just has too many weapons.  Also, there’s a lot of hype surrounding new Jaguars QB Nick Foles but I’m just not buying. Just because he might be better than Blake Bortles, doesn’t mean that he is going to take this offense to the next level. Prediction: Chiefs over Jaguars

Indianapolis @ Los Angeles Chargers – Around this time of year, I find myself believing in the Chargers. They have had a pretty decent roster on paper in the last couple of seasons. That can be said again for 2019 but they received horrible news in the form of Derwin James’ injury. LA should be okay offensively though, even without RB Melvin Gordon. Speaking of absences, many fans are still shocked over the sudden retirement of Colts starting QB Andrew Luck. I think Indy will be a team that will not blink and they will rally around QB Jacoby Brissett. I like the Colts to score the upset on the road. Prediction: Colts over Chargers

Pittsburgh @ New England – QB Tom Brady’s record at home against Pittsburgh has been talked about a lot this week. At home or on the road, New England usually does a good job at owning the Steelers in recent years. The Steelers were constantly in the news this offseason because of the Antonio Brown situation and because they missed the postseason for the first time in 5 years. The Steelers will be so happy to be in the news for an actual game this Sunday though it is against the hated rival, defending Super Bowl champion, Patriots. I’ve said before that New England really didn’t improve during the offseason but since when that has mattered. They still have Brady, Bellichick, and a stingy, bend but don’t break defense. It will also be interesting to see how New England uses WR Josh Gordon. I imagine he’ll replace Rob Gronkowski as Brady’s big target down the field. I believe Pittsburgh will be looking to make a statement in this first regular season game. After an offseason of drama, the time to discuss non-football issues is now over. The Steelers will be looking to highlight WR’s Juju Smith-Schuster and James Washington. And on defense, T.J. Watt and rookie Devin Bush will be in attack mode. It will be a time for celebration for the home team as they raise another Super Bowl banner but I believe the night will be spoiled by a hungry Pittsburgh team. Prediction: Steelers over Patriots

The Rest of Week 1

Titans over Browns – So much for all the hype. I see Tennessee’s defense dominating in a Week 1 shocker.

Ravens over Dolphins – Miami is toothless. I’m looking forward to the Lamar Jackson show in Baltimore.

Vikings over Falcons – Minnesota will be anxious to get 2019 off on a good start.

Jets over Bills – Le’Veon Bell gets 30 touches, as the Jets offense will overwhelm Buffalo at home.

Eagles over Washington – Philadelphia is hyped once again this year. Washington? Quite the opposite.

Seahawks over Bengals – Cincinnati will feel the loss of A.J. Green to start the season. This will be a classic show of home dominance from Seattle.

Cowboys over Giants – These Dallas-NYG games almost always come down to the wire. It would be interesting if that trend continues Sunday as the Cowboys clearly have the better team.

Cardinals over Lions – No one knows what to expect from Kyler Murray, Kliff Kingsbury, and the Arizona offense. I think that might serve as an advantage for them.

49ers over Buccaneers – Jimmy Garropollo will have to come out in 2019 playing at a high level. If not, it could get ugly real quick in the Bay Area.

Saints over Texans – It’s going to be hard for Houston to beat anyone with the state of their offensive line. Too bad that they’ll meet a really good New Orleans team on Monday night.

Broncos over Raiders – The talk on Tuesday after this game will not be about Antonio Brown. It will be about how good Joe Flacco looked.

 

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: Divisional Round Predictions


Wild Card Round - Houston Texans v Indianapolis Colts

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

 

By: Elias McMillan

Wild Card: 2-2

Playoffs 2-2

Divisional Round

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

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

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

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