Tag Archives: J.J. Watt

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.

 

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NFL Playoffs: Wild-Card Round Predictions

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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 11 Predictions

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Chicago Bears

Chicago could get a leg up on the NFC North at home Sunday against the Vikings.

 

By: Elias McMillan

Last Week: 9-5

Season: 81-65-2

Big Five Games of the Week

Dallas @ Atlanta – This could be an elimination game for both these teams. Dallas and Atlanta have been inconsistent this season but for different reasons. Realistically, Dallas is right where they should be. They have a defense that will keep them in most games but an offense that has gotten better since acquiring WR Amari Cooper but is still not explosive enough. Atlanta has suffered through some injuries on both sides of the ball but they still offer a talented roster on paper. But they have the tendency to under perform or to completely no-show like they did last week in Cleveland. I think Atlanta’s problems lie within the coaching staff, which is clearly not getting the most out of this roster. I guess, you could say the same for Dallas but they nearly have the same talent on offense. I think both teams understand the situation on Sunday and that will make for a competitive game. Dallas will play tough on the road but I think Atlanta’s offense will overwhelm at some point in the second half. Winner: Falcons

Houston @ Washington – I’m a believer in Washington’s defense. I also believe that this Houston team, though coming off a bye, is capable of laying an egg offensively. But then again, I don’t really trust Washington’s offense outside of RB Adrian Peterson. I just think Washington’s defense will be able to make a bigger impact on the game than Houston’s. If Alex Smith can make fewer mistakes than DeShaun Watson, I think he’ll be able to ride that defense and running game in a low scoring contest. Winner: Washington

Philadelphia @ New Orleans – The Super Bowl hangover in Philadelphia is real. New Orleans’ status as a contender in the NFC since their opening season loss is real. The Eagles are facing a tough road if they want to have a chance to win the division and a loss here could pretty much crush those dreams. The Saints are on a roll right now with no signs of slowing. Though, they have played in some tough games at home this season. I doubt that Philly will knock them off. Winner: Saints

Minnesota @ Chicago – I think the NFC North will come down to these two teams. Chicago has shown flashes of a team that could be a contender but I think they are still a few years away. QB Mitch Trubisky has had some impressive outings but he still occasionally makes mistakes that could be fixed as time goes on. I could see him struggle against a strong defense but I’m not sure if Minnesota has that anymore. Minnesota lost their defense from last season somehow which has led them to under perform at times. I feel good about Minnesota’s offense though with Dalvin Cook back from injury. I think the Vikings should lean on their run game in order to keep Khalil Mack from dominating in the backfield. I also like Minnesota’s advantage they have in the passing game with the weapons Kirk Cousins has at wide out. Chicago will play inspired at home but I believe Minnesota has the better team. These teams do meet again in Week 17. Winner: Vikings

Kansas City @ LA Rams – This will be a fun one to watch. The Rams and the Chiefs will provide plenty of offensive fireworks. The winner may come down to which defense can produce the most stops. LA is pretty strong up front defensively with what they have in Aaron Donald and the addition of Dante Fowler has paid off immediately. But their secondary has struggled recently. I expect Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs offense to take full advantage. Kansas City’s defense gives up a lot of yards as well. But I’ll bet on Mahomes to out gun sling Jared Goff especially with Goff playing with a short handed receiving core. We also can’t write off Todd Gurley and Kareem Hunt’s impact in this game. Again, this one will just be a fun game to watch. Winner: Chiefs

The Rest of Week 11

Seahawks over Packers – Both teams are extremely average. Seattle is usually a strong team at home. Something strange usually happens when these two teams play.

Panthers over Lions – Carolina will be eager to rebound after getting punched in the mouth last week.

Titans over Colts – Tennessee looks like they are preparing for a run at the AFC South crown.

Buccaneers over Giants – The Giants are hard to watch on offense. Especially with all the weapons they have. It’s obvious that the QB is holding them back.

Steelers over Jaguars – It’s a shame what is happening in Jacksonville. They have fallen completely off the rails. Barring a letdown, Pittsburgh should absolutely smack them.

Ravens over Bengals – Baltimore’s QB situation could be an interesting thing to watch in this one. I know the Ravens will be able to lean on their defense against a Cincinnati offense that is struggling.

Cardinals over Raiders – Oakland looks worse and worse each week.

Chargers over Broncos – LA may have two teams in the post season this year.

Fantasy Football Picks of the Week

QB: Patrick Mahomes (Chiefs) – Mahomes has played big in prime time games this season.

RB: Melvin Gordon (Chargers) – Gordon has been a consistent scorer near the goal line for LA.

WR: Michael Thomas (Saints) – The Eagles secondary caught the injury bug at the worst possible time.

TE: Greg Olsen (Panthers) – Back from injury, Olsen is once again Cam Newton’s security blanket in the passing game.

DEF: Baltimore – With no A.J. Green and a banged up offensive line, Baltimore’s pass rushers will be able to pin their ears back and get after Andy Dalton on Sunday.

NFL 2018: Week 1 Predictions

Eagles Rams Football

Nick Foles had a nice moment last January but he is still Nick Foles.

 

By Elias McMillan

Past Regular Season Records:

2009 Regular Season Record: 169-87

2010 Regular Season Record: 157-99

2011 Regular Season Record: 162-94

2012 Regular Season Record: 163-92-1

2013 Regular Season Record: 158-97-1

2014 Regular Season Record: 158-97-1

2015 Regular Season Record: 163-93

2016 Regular Season Record: 163-91-2

2017 Regular Season Record: 151-103

 

Big Five Games of Week 1

Atlanta @ Philadelphia – The home team usually does well in these season opening Thursday night games. But I don’t feel too good about Philadelphia tonight. I think they are primed some Super Bowl hangover type performances this season and we will see one tonight. What’s going to hurt the Eagles tonight will be their lack of offense. QB Nick Foles has struggled recently. Atlanta has one of the better rosters in the league and I think they’ll be looking to put on an impressive performance tonight. Philly’s defense may be able to keep them in this game but I don’t think they’ll get enough from the other side of the ball tonight. Prediction: Falcons

Houston @ New England – If memory serves me right, I think the Patriots lost in their home opener last season. Either way, I’m going out on a limb and saying that I really like Houston’s chances in this game. With a healthy J.J. Watt and other key pieces on defense, I think the Texans will be able to limited Tom Brady on Sunday. QB Deshaun Watson led a dynamic Texans offense before he got injured last season. I think they’ll be able to attack an underrated but not strong Patriots defense. The Brady-Rob Gronkowski connection will be a force for the Houston secondary to deal with but I think this game will end with a failed Tom Brady comeback attempt. Prediction: Texans

Jacksonville @ New York Giants – The Jalen Ramsey and Odell Beckham Jr. matchup makes this game must see TV. The offense on display here probably will not be pretty. This could be an old school drag ‘em out type of game with the lack of scoring. The Giants retooled their offense in the offseason and there is a lot of hype behind the debut of Saquon Barkley but I still believe that the Jacksonville defense is really good. They’ll force Eli Manning into some mistakes and Blake Bortles and his lack of weapons in the passing game will not have to do much heavy lifting. Prediction: Jaguars

Dallas @ Carolina – I’m having nightmares about what Cam Newton did to Dallas on Thanksgiving a few years ago. Both teams are different now, obviously. The buzz around Dallas for the start of this season is that the defense is supposed to be vastly improved; Especially at the defensive line. That unit may have a chance to shine Sunday as Carolina’s offensive line is banged up. If they can get after Cam Newton, they could have the potential to create some big plays. The Dallas offense vs. the Carolina defense is the matchup that may determine this game. Carolina still touts a good defense and the Cowboys offensive line is also not at 100%. Dak Prescott and even Ezekiel Elliott might face a uphill battle in this contest offensively. I think Carolina is vulnerable but I trust Newton’s big play ability. He usually balls out in season opener. Prediction: Panthers

Chicago @ Green Bay – This game might be one that everyone will be talking about on Monday. I think the addition of Khalil Mack drastically changes Chi-Town’s outlook for this season. The Bears really focused this offseason on adding pieces on offense but then they ended up adding a big fish in the world of pass rushers. I think we are all aware of what Aaron Rodgers is capable of but the Bears could be able to up the pressure on him that night. I wouldn’t count on Mitch Trubisky dueling with Rodgers but Green Bay’s defense has been on the downside recently. I don’t think Chicago will win but they’ll have the potential to make this one interesting. Prediction: Packers

The Rest of Week 1

Steelers over Browns – This might sound strange but Pittsburgh is vulnerable going into this one. Cleveland has the momentum just from being under the radar. They must execute or just be the Browns again.

Bengals over Colts – Andrew Luck is back but he doesn’t have enough weapons. Marvin Lewis is also back and his team has a knack for giving away victories. Something will have to give.

Titans over Dolphins – I think Tennessee will have a big day on the ground in this one.

Vikings over 49ers – Jimmy G will find it tough against Minnesota’s defense on the road.

Saints over Buccaneers – This matchup is ironic because it was Tampa that should have traded for Teddy Bridgewater. I like the New Orleans defense to really flex their muscles at home.

Ravens over Bills – Buffalo is going to stink so bad this year. And it might be all directly linked to the QB position. Baltimore’s third string signal caller is better than the guy Buffalo will start Sunday.

Chargers over Chiefs – The Chargers had to hear all offseason about how their slow start in September kept them from the postseason. They’ll have that in mind Sunday against a divisional opponent.

Broncos over Seahawks – Russell Wilson will try to win this one by himself. Life without the Legion of Boom will be tough this season for Seattle.

Cardinals over Washington – The lack of a run game in Washington means Chandler Jones and company will have opportunities to get after Alex Smith.

Lions over Jets – I’m excited about Sam Darnold but the Jets are a few weapons short to go toe to toe with Matt Stafford and the Lions passing attack.

Rams over Raiders – The offseason champs should smash this Oakland team that has just been hit by a bus this past week with the trading of their best player.

Fantasy Football Picks

QB: Drew Brees (New Orleans) – Brees at home against Tampa’s secondary. He is a must start.

RB: Todd Gurley (LA Rams) – Gurley should run wild against a Raiders defense without a soul.

WR: Antonio Browns (Pittsburgh) – AB big play ability will make everyone forget about the drama with Le’Veon Bell.

TE: Greg Olsen (Carolina) – Cam Newton will be facing a lot of pressure. Olsen, his security blanket, will get plenty of looks.

DEF: Baltimore – Against Nathan Peterman, the interception could rack up for the Ravens.

NFL 2018: AFC Season Preview

By: Elias McMillan

In the past, I have really fleshed out these previews for each team. But who has time for that? Here are my protections for the AFC in 2018.

AFC EAST

The Patriots will rule this division again. It is really a shame that the other three teams in the AFC East are so far behind. And New England really isn’t the juggernaut that everyone makes them out to be. Yes, they still have the ageless one, Tom Brady. And he is still able to get the most out of his receivers, especially, all-pro TE Rob Gronkowski. But New England enters this season once again with many of the same weaknesses. The offensive line, especially in pass protection, worries me as well as their lack of a run game. New England did improve defensively up front but their secondary is extremely average at best. Despite this, no one in the division is ready to challenge them. I like what the Jets are building though. They lucked out and drafted possibly the best QB in this past draft in Sam Darnold. Now, they just have to build an offense around him because currently, this team just doesn’t have enough weapons. I really like the young pieces they have on defense like safety Jamal Adams and defensive lineman Leonard Williams. Miami is in rebuild mode defensively as they let go a couple of big names in the offseason. I like the addition of DE Robert Quinn who once put up great sack numbers as a member of the Rams. Miami will benefit from the return of QB Ryan Tannehill. They will feel the loss of WR Jarvis Landry but I think RB Kenyan Drake will be a break out player this season. I like the pairing the backfield of Drake and veteran Frank Gore. It was a great story last season when the Bills made the playoffs. I think they will free fall to the bottom of the division this season. I hated the draft pick QB Josh Allen. They have a lot of question marks on offense outside of RB LeSean McCoy who isn’t getting younger. Buffalo’s defense could be able to keep them in some games in 2018 but the lack of offense will keep them from some wins. Projected Finish (Playoff Team in BOLD): 1) Patriots, 2) Jets, 3) Dolphins, 4) Bills

AFC NORTH

The talent that Pittsburgh has will make them the unquestioned favorite once again this year in the North. The big question will again be if the Ben, Brown, and Bell combo can finally break through and win the conference. That question looms even larger in 2018 as it will probably be Le’Veon Bell’s last season in the Black and Gold. The sad part is that it will probably be the defense again that will hold this team back. Can Pittsburgh consistently pressure the QB? Can they get great LB play without Ryan Shazier in the lineup? Can the secondary not be a continued weakness? Those are all legit questions that will need to be answered this season. The good news (if you’re a Pittsburgh fan) is that traditional rivals, Baltimore and Cincinnati, are not in shape to compete with the Steelers. I still can’t believe the Bengals extended Marvin Lewis after last season. The Bengals are still holding on to a talented roster led by WR A.J. Green but they lack the edge to be real players in the division. You never know what you’re going to get out of QB Andy Dalton. He might be able to lean on RB Joe Mixon this year as many are expecting big things out of him. On defense, DT Geno Atkins looks like the lone bright spot on defense for the Bengals. LB Vontaze Burfict can be a difference maker when he is not suspended or acting like an idiot. Baltimore enters this season in a strange place as it is starting to look like the end of the road for many of their veterans. Joe Flacco, who hasn’t been the same player since winning the Super Bowl, looks like he is being groomed to be replaced eventually by rookie QB Lamar Jackson. Flacco will have a fighting chance to solidify his position this year as the team really put out an effort to add weapons around him in the passing game. I think Baltimore will be stout on defense again this year but they are looking mighty old at some key positions. In terms of youth, they still have a good one in LB C.J. Mosley but I believe time is running out for veterans Terrell Suggs and Eric Weddle. There’s a lot of buzz surrounding Cleveland this year but I don’t understand why. I was rooting for Hue Jackson to succeed there but his shortcomings as a head coach are becoming obvious to everyone. I initially hated what Cleveland did in the draft but I’m starting to warm up to Baker Mayfield. The little kid from Oklahoma has an arm and an “it factor”. I still believe they should have taken Saquon Barkley. On paper, I think the Browns definitely won’t go winless this season. They have a pretty decent cast at the skill positions this year including WR Jarvis Landry, WR Josh Gordon, RB Carlos Hyde, and emerging TE David Njoku. There’s plenty of young talent on the defensive side of the ball as well. DE Myles Garrett could be on the verge of having a productive season. The Browns will still be the Browns in 2018 and I wont mistake a few wins as hope for the future. Especially if that future includes Hue Jackson. Projected Finish (Playoff Team in BOLD): 1) Steelers, 2) Bengals, 3) Ravens, 4) Browns

AFC SOUTH

Looking at the AFC South and I think you will see the best roster of teams in the conference from top to bottom. I don’t believe that Jacksonville will be a one-year wonder after their shocking success from a year ago. You can’t fake the talent they have on defense. Though, I think their lack of a passing game will bite them again in 2018. I’m buying into the Houston Texans in 2018 as long as they stay healthy. I think they can be really deadly offensively with QB Deshaun Watson running the show. I think the Texans defense could be really good with the return of J.J. Watt and the continued progression of Jadeveon Clowney. Again, Jacksonville be tough because of that defense they have but their loyalty shown to QB Blake Bortles might hold them back if they can return to the postseason. Tennessee made a surprising run the playoffs last season and I think they can continue to get better. There were times last year that QB Marcus Mariota looked shaky especially in the pocket. But the guy is playmaker, you can’t deny that. I think the addition of RB Dion Lewis will help him. Lewis and RB Derrick Henry should form one of the better backfield duos in the league this year. The Titans also worked to improve their defense through the draft and free agency this past offseason. CB Malcolm Butler will be given a chance to prove himself after a forgetful season last year in New England. In Indianapolis, the Colts will not win many games this year but the season will be all about QB Andrew Luck getting use to live game action after a lengthy break. Projected Finish (Playoff Team in BOLD): 1) Texans, 2) Jaguars, 3) Titans, 4) Colts

AFC WEST

I think we’re going to see a changing of the guard in the AFC West this season. Kansas City has had a good run under Andy Reid but they aren’t getting younger and are beginning a turnover at many key spots on the defensive side. The LA Chargers showed promise last season but it wasn’t enough to make the post season. I think this year’s team will be under a lot of pressure to produce as QB Phillip Rivers could be playing in his last games. I think the Chargers have enough talent to give Rivers one more run in the post season this year. WR Keenan Allen quietly had a productive season last year and the ground game is pretty good led by Melvin Gordon. I’m really excited to see how good their defense can be. Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa form a great pass rushing duo. Rookie safety Derwin James could be another young defender who can make plays. There is a lot of hype surrounding the return of head coach Jon Gruden to Oakland but I’m afraid that it is just that: hype. Gruden, a media darling, was always over rated as a coach and is now being used as a ploy to get fans in Oakland to forget that their team is leaving them for Vegas in the near future. Despite the clown show antics from the front office, Oakland returns a decent team in 2018. The David Carr-Amari Cooper connection should continue to lead this offense. Hopefully, DE Khalil Mack can return with no signs of rest after a lengthy contract hold out. Denver will be defined by their defense again in 2018. Von Miller will led a really good front seven this season but the secondary will miss CB Aqib Talib who was traded. The Broncos brought in QB Case Keenum who is coming off a great year in Minnesota. I’m not sure if he can recreate that magic again on a new team but Denver will need him to, as they have nothing behind him at that position. Kansas City has handed over the offense to QB Patrick Mahomes after trading away Alex Smith. Mahomes has impressed in the preseason. WR Tyreek Hill and RB Kareem Hunt will provide him with top-notch options to go to in the air and on the ground. Kansas City has drafted well on defense recently but I think they will miss some of those veterans who did not return this year, especially CB Marcus Peters. Projected Finish (Playoff Team in BOLD): 1) Chargers, 2) Raiders, 3) Broncos, 4) Chiefs

NFL 2017: Preseason Awards & Playoff Predictions

 

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Oakland Raiders

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

By: Elias McMillan

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AFC

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

NFC

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

Wild-Card Weekend

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

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

Divisional Round

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

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

Conference Championship Sunday

AFC: (2) Raiders over (1) Patriots

NFC: (1) Falcons over (3) Giants

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

Atlanta Falcons over Oakland Raiders

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

 

 

NFL 2017: AFC Preview (Condensed)

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Tom Brady and the Patriots reloaded in the offseason. Does the rest of the AFC stand a chance?

By: Elias McMillan

 

AFC East

New England Patriots – The Patriots won another title last season with a roster that wasn’t supremely talented. During this offseason, New England added significant upgrades on offense at RB and WR and on defense at DE and CB. Also, TE Rob Gronkowski returns after missing much of last year due to injury. It looks like the Brady-Belicheck combo will be the cream of the crop once again in the AFC. Although, it seems when the Patriots reload like this, they find a way to disappoint in the post season. We’ll see if this season will be different. Prediction: 15-1 (AFC East Champs)

Miami Dolphins – Miami made the playoffs somehow last season. But they don’t have much momentum going into 2017. It doesn’t help that they lost Ryan Tannehill to injury in training camp and had to replace him with a Jay Cutler they had to drag out from the announcer’s booth (Why didn’t they sign Kaepernick?). Positives: they found an answer a RB last season (Jay Ajayi) and they are pretty solid at the receiver positions. On defense, they have a tough front four and I like the offseason addition of Lawrence Timmons. Negatives: Miami secondary may be the down fall for this defense, yet again. And you’ll never know which Jay Cutler that you’re going to get. Prediction: 8-8

Buffalo Bills – Buffalo did Rex Ryan wrong and now they seem to be tanking. They traded their best WR and CB for draft picks. The Bills made a smart trade on draft day in April. Buffalo is stockpiling draft picks. It’s good idea but its not going to help them win 2017. I feel bad for LeSean McCoy who is wasting his talents up there. I’m interested in seeing how QB Tyrod Taylor will fair with limited weapons in the passing game. Buffalo has young talent on defense. I really liked Shaq Lawson from the 2016 draft. If he’s healthy, he’ll be impact player. Regardless, I don’t see many wins in Buffalo this year. Prediction: 5-11

New York Jets – The Jets are tanking. I hope it doesn’t cost head coach Todd Bowles who won 10 games in New York just two seasons ago. The Jets literally got rid of every veteran on the team except RB Matt Forte. The QB position is a disaster. What is josh McCown doing to keep finding work in this league? WR core? Garbage. They do have some promising talent on defense. It’s going to be an ugly year for the Jets. Prediction: 2-14

 

AFC North

Pittsburgh Steelers – The Steelers return with supreme talent on the offense between the QB (Roethlisberger), RB (Bell), and the WR (Brown). That, along with that over achieving offensive line, Pittsburgh should be able to rule the North again. What will stop them in the playoffs? If it isn’t the inability to stay healthy, it will be the lack of big plays from their defense. Losing and not replacing Lawrence Timmons at middle linebacker will prove to be a mistake. Pittsburgh is solid on the defensive line but they lack players in the secondary that can make big plays. But what they are really missing is an impact pass rusher. Can rookie T.J. Watt be that guy? Despite the questions, Pittsburgh should be New England’s main rival for the AFC crown. Prediction: 11-5 (AFC North Champs)

Baltimore Ravens – Baltimore quietly made some improvements this offseason especially on defense. I like the addition of S Tony Jefferson. They have solid veteran leadership in the secondary between him and Eric Weddle. Terrell Suggs returns for what maybe his final season. Look out for rookie Tyus Bowser to become a difference maker off the edge on this defense. Baltimore’s defense will keep the Ravens in a lot of games but they have serious questions on offense. It feels like everyone has been waiting for 2012 Joe Flacco to return and it just hasn’t happened yet. It would help if he could get some consistency from his supporting cast. Maybe WR Jeremy Maclin can help. The success of this season for the Ravens will be up to if the offense can finally figure itself out. Prediction: 8-8

Cincinnati Bengals – Cincinnati again brings a talented roster to the table but their undisciplined nature seems to be their undoing. I like Marvin Lewis but how does he still have a job as he continues to vouch for Adam Jones and Vontaze Burfict? On offense, the Bengals need Andy Dalton to stay healthy because he has a great collection of skill players around him, highlighted by WR A.J. Green. The Bengals have a talented defense led by DT Geno Atkins. But I think their immaturity will hold them back. They might push Baltimore for second place in the division. Prediction: 8-8

Cleveland Browns – Same as it ever was for the Browns. QB questions. Young talent on both sides of the ball. Seasoned veterans. Cleveland just can’t seem to put it all together. But this season could set the table for some success down the road. The Browns will see what they have in rookie QB DeShone Kizer right out of the gate. First round pick Myles Garrett will receive tons of playing time as well and he has impressed in the pre-season. I will be interested in seeing how Cleveland does with this current crop of young talent. I’m a believer in Hue Jackson. Prediction: 6-10

 

AFC South

Tennessee Titans – I’m buying into the Titans this season. They impressed a season ago and they may have made the post season if QB Marcus Mariota doesn’t get hurt late in the season. Tennessee has a good mix a RB with DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry, a great offensive line, and they added weapons in the passing game. Once the defense figures itself out, they could become a contender in the AFC. But for now, I think they’ll be good enough to win the AFC South. Prediction: 10-6 (AFC South Champs)

Houston Texans – Houston has made the playoffs in two straight seasons. I would say this is mainly because of their defense. In 2015, in was all about J.J. Watt. In 2016, while Watt was injured, it was all about Jadeveon Clowney. Who knows what this defense will be capable of with both Watt and Clowney in the line-up. Houston has a legit starter at RB (Lamar Miller) and a legit number one receiver (DeAndre Hopkins). What they don’t have is a legit starting QB. Could it be the returning backup Tom Savage or the rookie who just won a national championship, Deshaun Watson? Either way, I’m expecting more big things from the defense in Houston. Prediction: 9-7 (Wild-card)

Indianapolis Colts – I feel like the majority is expecting nothing from this Colts team, which makes them kind of underrated. But they still have plenty of issues. Issues number one: the health of Andrew Luck. I expect Luck to start out on the PUP list (6 Games) so they are going to have to roll with Scott Tolzien. Good thing for Tolzien, the best player on the team is a WR (T.Y. Hilton). The defense is full of cast offs from another teams. I think a lot of teams will sleep on Indy and for good reason. But I don’t think they’ll completely stink. Prediction: 7-9

Jacksonville Jaguars – Jacksonville should have been the team that brought in Colin Kaepernick. The jig up for Blake Bortles. The Jaguars actually have promising talent on both sides of the ball. It is clear that the QB position is holding them back. It’s too bad, I guess. I really like what they have on defense. But it wont be enough to make up for the shortcomings offensively. Jacksonville will likely be drafting a new QB early in the draft next April. Prediction: 4-12

 

AFC West

Oakland Raiders – The Raiders had a great 2016 season that was derailed by Derek Carr’s injury before the playoffs. Now, Carr returns to a team that is ready to take the next step and win the AFC West. Oakland is set up pretty well offensively. I think Marshawn Lynch’s return to the NFL wont have as much as an impact as some people may want to but at the least, he’ll serve well as a weapon in the red zone. Outside of their front four, I’m still worried about the defense especially in the secondary. Prediction: 12-4 (AFC West Champs)

Denver Broncos – Denver suffered through a Super Bowl hangover last year but I think they can rebound in 2017. I still like what their defense brings to the table. Von Miller is one of the best players in the league. I’m not sure how far this offense will be able to take them under the command of QB Trevor Siemian. But the Broncos have plenty of weapons at the skills positions on offense. They still have a stacked WR group led by Demaryius Thomas. Also, remember this name from out of the backfield: sixth round pick RB DeAngelo Henderson. Prediction: 9-7 (Wild-card)

Kansas City Chiefs – Andy Reid has won 10+ games in Kansas City 3 out of the 4 seasons as head coach. And in the one season he didn’t, the team still finished over .500. I think that impressive streak will come to an end this season. The Chiefs are in the process of pushing out many veterans on the roster and that turnover will affect their chances to compete in the AFC West. Alex Smith will be feeling the heat all season from the first round QB they selected in April, Patrick Mahomes. The offense will feature TE Travis Kelce and WR Tyreke Hill but Jamaal Charles and Jeremy Maclin are both gone. They do have a great defense to lean on but that group is starting to age. This will be a down year for the Chiefs. Prediction: 7-9

Los Angeles Chargers – I absolutely hate the Chargers move to LA. It stinks to the high heavens. It stinks for the NFL. As for the team, they could be a sleeper in the AFC West if they can stay healthy. I feel like you could say that every year about this team though. Phillip Rivers returns for yet another season where he will see his WR core suffer through many injuries. At least he still has an aging TE Antonio Gates to go to. It would be nice if RB Melvin Gordon can continue the success he had a season ago. I think the story from this team this year will be the emergence of DE Joey Bosa as he will become a defensive star in this league. Between Melvin Ingram and Bosa, the Chargers could have the best pass-rushing duo in the division. It would be cool to see this team grab some success while they still have Phillip Rivers but I don’t see it happening. Prediction: 6-10

 

AFC Playoff Picture Prediction

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