Tag Archives: J.J. Watt

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.

 

 

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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)

NFL 2016: Week 2 Predictions!

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After a successful visit in New York, A.J. Green will take his show to Pittsburgh this Sunday.

By: Elias McMillan

 

Last Week: 9-7

Season: 9-7

Big Five Games of the Week

New Orleans @ New York Giants – This match up will feature two big time, scoring offenses and very little defense. The Giants offense did enough to win last week but they sort of underperformed and they know that they could have done better. I think the Giants offense will have more opportunities to produce big plays against a struggling Saints defense at home. The Saints lost a close one at home last week but their offense performed well. The Giants defense did a great job bottling up the Cowboys running game and keeping them out of the end zone on long drives. I think the Giants benefited from facing a rookie QB in his first professional start. Drew Brees will present a much greater challenge for them this Sunday. I think both passing games will light up the stat sheet but I am much more encouraged by New York’s defense than New Orleans’ right now. I’m taking the home team. Prediction: Giants 37 – Saints 28

Cincinnati @ Pittsburgh – The Bengals really impressed me how they gutted out a road victory to start to the season. Now, they will face rival Pittsburgh in their home opener in a much anticipated game. This matchup will lose some of its steam without Vontaze Burfict and Le’Veon Bell but there will still be enough hatred to go around between these two rivals. Pittsburgh did pretty much what I expected them to do last week on Monday night. The Steelers look really good and they are one of the favorites in their conference. The offense is performing at a high level and the defense is over achieving. Pretty much the same story from a season ago though we have only played one game this season. I think Andy Dalton will fare better than Kirk Cousins did last week against the Steelers defense. WR A.J. Green had a monster game to start the season last week and he usually does a great job terrorizing the Pittsburgh secondary. The Bengals will do their best at controlling the clock in this game in order to limit Pittsburgh’s chances on offense. The Bengals may have a slightly above average defense but I don’t see them completely slowing down Pittsburgh offensively. Ben Roethlisberger will find Antonio Brown for some of the game’s biggest plays and DeAngelo Williams will continue his career renaissance. I think Cincy will be able to keep it close but I don’t see the Bengals offense out producing Pittsburgh’s on the road. Prediction: Steelers 29 – Bengals 23

Kansas City @ Houston – The Chiefs completed a crazy comeback last week at home. This week, they’ll go to Houston to take on the team that they easily beat in the playoffs a season ago. The Texans are retooled from a season ago and they’ll be looking to prove something at home this week. QB Brock Osweiler had a shaky start last week but he eventually got it together. I’m looking forward to the matchup between WR DeAndre Hopkins and Chiefs corner Marcus Peters. RB Lamar Miller had a successful debut for Houston last week and he’ll be facing a Chiefs run defense that was leaky at times in Week 1. Kansas City’s offense got it going just in time to force overtime and get the win last week. RB Jamaal Charles might have to miss another week due to injury but the Chiefs feel pretty confident about running the ball with their backups. Houston’s defense did a great job in the second half last week against Chicago and they could be able to carry that over in this matchup against Alex Smith. Houston will feel great about their offseason acquisitions after wrapping this one up at home. Prediction: Texans 26 – Chiefs 20

Atlanta @ Oakland – The Falcons looked like they would be able to go blow for blow against Tampa Bay at home in Week 1 but then, their defense completely fell apart. Atlanta’s defense continues to be an issue going into Week 2. Oakland is coming off a great emotional high last week after beating the Saints on a gusty, late 4th quarter call. The Raiders still have to figure out some things in the defensive secondary but their offense looked pretty good. QB David Carr played great down the stretch and he received great support from the running game. I think the Raiders will have their hands full in this matchup on defense. They will struggle to slow down WR Julio Jones and the other Falcons receivers. Atlanta will also try to get RB’s Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman to continue the success they had in Week 1. Oakland’s front seven looked very active last week and they will get after Matt Ryan in this game. Atlanta will have to use the running game to try to limit the pass rush’s affect on Ryan. But I don’t see Atlanta’s defense improving from a week ago. They need to find some consistency at pressuring the QB and making open field tackles. I think the Raiders will take advantage, the offense will make plays, and they’ll win in their home opener. Prediction: Raiders 24 – Falcons 21

Green Bay @ Minnesota – The Packers offense looked like its old self last week in Jacksonville. Aaron Rodgers played great and his receivers also brought their “A” game. Green Bay’s defense made the stop at the end of the game when it mattered but they were probably bailed out by some questionable play calling by the other team. The Packers will face a better opponent this week, as the Vikings will be making their debut in a brand new home stadium in primetime. US Bank Stadium will be loud and this Vikings team will be juiced up for this one. Minnesota was lucky to survive last week at Tennessee. The offense really struggled but their defense did a tremendous job bailing them out in the second half. Green Bay will have to know going into this one that they will be facing a much tougher defense this week. It’s going to be interesting to see if Aaron Rodgers will be able to look as spectacular as he did last week in Jacksonville. I think the Minnesota offense will fare better this week against Green Bay’s defense. Adrian Peterson had a tough day the office in Week 1 and he’ll be looking rebound in front a great crowd in the home opener. I’m getting the feeling that Sam Bradford will make his Vikings debut this week as well. That doesn’t sound very exciting but Bradford should be able to succeed in ways that Shaun Hill cannot. If Bradford can get the air attack going, that is going to open the door for more success in the running game. Green Bay will pack the box to prepare for Peterson so, I think Bradford will have the chances to find the passing windows. I think Green Bay will take a step back in this game, as Minnesota will be able to do enough offensively to win a close contest. Prediction: Vikings 30 – Packers 24

The Rest of Week 2

Jets over Bills – Buffalo beat New York twice last season so, the Jets will be out for revenge tonight. The Bills will be shorthanded offensively without Sammy Watkins. The Jets defensive line will fest tonight as Tyrod Taylor will struggle to get things going.

Ravens over Browns – Baltimore was so unbelievably under whelming last week in their victory. Cleveland really disappointed me as well in their loss. I don’t know. Both of these teams stink right now. Baltimore should be ashamed if they manage to lose this one.

Lions over Titans – I like Detroit’s defense to slow down Tennessee’s running attack. The Titans secondary will not have an answer for Matt Stafford.

Patriots over Dolphins – No Brady. No Gronk. No Problem. On the road against my Super Bowl favorite as well! Is Bill Belichick the greatest? Probably.

Washington over Cowboys – Washington looked really bad last week. Maybe Dallas has a better chance in this one than I think. I need to see it before I believe it. Kirk Cousins needs to rebound after his performance last week in primetime.

Panthers over 49ers – Cam Newton said this week that he doesn’t care about his health but only about winning. That’s kinda scary. Carolina should be able to handle San Fran at home either way.

Seahawks over Rams – The Rams have played Seattle tough in recent years but their morale has to be so low right now. Seattle should be able to roll in this one easily.

Cardinals over Buccaneers – This one should be close. Arizona’s secondary needs to improve in a hurry because Jameis Winston will air it out often as we saw last week. Expect plenty of scoring in this one.

Broncos over Colts – The Trevor Siemian hype is not real. However, Denver’s defense is very real. Andrew Luck will struggle to score late in this game and that will give Denver the home victory.

Jaguars over Chargers – Here’s an upset. After losing a heartbreaking one last week, San Diego will repeat that feat at home against a hungry Jacksonville team.

Eagles over Bears – Carson Wentz played much better than I expected last week even though it was just Cleveland. Chicago’s offense should be able to make this one interesting though.

Week 2 Fantasy Football Picks

QB: Drew Brees (Saints) – Brees will be able to test the Giants secondary in ways that Dak Prescott couldn’t in Week 1.

RB: Ezekiel Elliott (Cowboys) – The rookie had a tough go of it last week. He could be able to rebound against Washington’s defense.

WR: A.J. Green (Bengals) – Green has a knack for getting the best out of Pittsburgh. After his Week 1 performance, he’ll look to keep his success going on the road.

TE: Julius Thomas (Jaguars) – Thomas played well last week and San Diego has a weak secondary. Blake Bortles should be able to find him in the end zone again this week.

DEF: New York Jets – The Jets racked up a bunch of sacks last week and they’ll be facing a wounded Buffalo offense tonight. They’ll get after Tyrod Taylor and bottle up the Bills rushing attack.

NFL 2016: AFC South Preview

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The Jaguars are young, talented, and finally ready for success in 2016.

By: Elias McMillan

 

AFC South

Houston Texans – Houston had so many issues last season especially at the QB position but they were able to back their way into a playoff berth and the division title. They didn’t last long in the post season but the narrative for the offseason was set: for Houston to improve, they will need to upgrade the QB position in the offseason. Houston ponied up the money to grab Brock Osweiler away from Denver but it isn’t a sure thing that Osweiler will end up as a better option that what the Texans had a season ago. I don’t think Osweiler will ever be worth the money Houston decided to pay him but when he was in Denver, he was on a team with a decent supporting cast. Houston will have the tools on offense that could help Osweiler succeed. At WR, Houston has outstanding depth led by DeAndre Hopkins, who is great no matter who is throwing him the ball. But again, the depth behind Hopkins is pretty legit with veteran Cecil Shorts and younger guys like Jaelen Strong and rookies Will Fuller and Braxton Miller. That’s as good of a 5-set of receivers that you will find in the league. The Texans continued to be the big spenders in the offseason on the offensive side again when they brought in a new starting RB, Lamar Miller from Miami. Miller was a decent player for some bad Miami teams and he might be even better here in a new location. Houston spent the money to improve on the offensive side and now, they should be able to count on the defense being as good as it was a season ago. Everyone knows that the catalyst on this defense and the entire franchise is J.J. Watt. Watt might miss the beginning of the season but he’ll return and will continue to be an unstoppable force. Houston will return most of the cast that accounted for a run defense that ranked in the top 10 in the league. In at middle linebacker, Brian Cushing and Benardrick McKinney should be a good mix of veteran leadership and youth. Houston has been waiting forever for Jadeveon Clowney to turn into something after being selected first overall in 2014. Clowney has shown flashes of his college self during the preseason and the Texans defense is going to need him to be that guy once the regular season starts. Starting opposite of Clowney, Whitney Mercilus has been a solid pass rusher in this league. Houston’s pass defense was ranked 3rd in the league last season. A solid group at CB that includes veterans Johnathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson leads the secondary. I don’t think Houston is among the elite teams in the league but I think they’ll be good enough to win this weak division again. Prediction: 9-7 (AFC South Champs)

Jacksonville Jaguars – The AFC South is not strong division but I think this will serve as an advantage for this young Jaguars team that is looking to make the jump in 2016. I like what Jacksonville has done in the offseason. They have a great group of young talent. And I believe that they will challenge hard for the AFC South title this year. On offense, they are led by young QB Blake Bortles who really isnt known as a great QB in this league yet. I don’t know if Bortles will put up monster numbers week after week but I do know that he has a great rapport with the two talented receivers on this team. Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns are no longer the best-kept secret in the league. They are among the tops when you talk about receiving duos in the NFL currently. Bortles also has a great set of TE to throw to in Julius Thomas and Marcedes Lewis. I really like that the Jaguars put in the effort in free agency to improve the offensive line and the running game. I think the RB duo of T.J. Yeldon and newly acquired Chris Ivory will help a Jaguars rushing attack that ranked near the bottom of the NFL a season ago. I’m really excited to see what this young defense does this year too. DE Dante Fowler had a “red shirt” rookie season, as he didn’t play at all due to injury. Fowler is now back at 100% and looks every bit the third overall pick that he was a season ago. In free agency, they brought in DT Malik Jackson who was a great player on the defensive line during Denver’s Super Bowl run. Jackson will bring the veteran experience to lead this young and talented group up front for the Jaguars. I really like the group of linebackers that Jacksonville has assembled. LB Paul Posluszny is now the seasoned veteran in the middle and he’ll be surrounded by two amazingly athletically gifted LB’s in Telvin Smith and rookie Myles Jack. The speed at the LB position between Smith and Jack will be unreal to see on Sunday’s this season. The Jaguars also brought in veterans to help improve the secondary. Safety Tashaun Gipson and CB Prince Amukamara will bring a wealth of experience to this young secondary. First round pick, CB Jalen Ramsey, might be a star in the making with the way he plays physical and attacks the football. There is a lot to be hopeful for when you look at the young talent on this Jacksonville defense. I don’t know if they’ll be able to win the division this year but I think this season the league will be put on notice by these young Jaguars. Prediction: 8-8

Tennessee Titans – Tennessee found their QB for the future last season. Now, they are looking to build around that guy in order to make a return to prominence in the NFL. There was a lot I didn’t like about Marcus Mariota going into his rookie season last year. But he proved his worth in 2015 and he’ll be the starter in Tennessee for a long time. He is a much better passer than I thought and his overall athleticism will carry him to success early in his career. I think Mariota could be even better in 2016. I really like how the Titans have invested into their offensive line in the last couple years. They spent another first round pick in that area in the offseason and now they have a group of 3 first round draft picks on that offensive line. This is much like what the Dallas Cowboys did in building their offensive line. I also have to say, that I like that they acquired a veteran Center to lead the group in Ben Jones. With the big bodies they have up front, this Titans team should be ready to be a force when running the football. They traded for RB DeMarco Murray who will be ready to return to his 2014 form. Murray was a failed experiment in Philadelphia and he really had little to do with his failure. Philadelphia didn’t have him in the right offense and he didn’t have the offensive line needed to succeed as a power runner. In Tennessee, Murray will have the big guys up front to create the lanes that will allow him to be successful. The Titans will also have outstanding depth behind Murray in Bishop Sankey, Dexter McCluster, and rookie Heisman Trophy winner, Derrick Henry. As deep the Titans are at RB, they are equally short of talent at the WR position. The WR group is one with extremely average and inconsistent veterans. Rookie Tajae Sharpe has been a standout in preseason and they brought in vet Andre Johnson to maybe provide some leadership. Mariota does have a pretty reliable option at TE in Delanie Walker. On defense, the Titans are led up front by Jurrell Casey who is well respected in league circles as one of the best in his position. In the outside pass-rushing department, the Titans will return veterans Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan. Also, keep an eye out for touted rookie Kevin Dodd. As guy who can create pressure in the backfield. The secondary will be a weak point for the Titans again in 2016. CB Jason McCourty is the leader of the group but there isn’t really much around him in this unit. Tennessee is short a few playmakers at WR and in the secondary but with that power running game and with what Mariota brings to the table, the blueprint for success is starting to take shape. Prediction: 7-9

Indianapolis Colts – Last season, the Colts were brought up as Super Bowl contenders in the preseason. They built up their roster with veterans and they thought that they could easily win this division. Instead, the Colts took a massive step back and I feel like everything was blamed on the injuries to Andrew Luck. But I think this team’s problems are much deeper than that. I think Andrew Luck, now back at 100%, will be his old self in 2016. Luck is a very good QB in this league but I don’t think he will be in a position to raise the talent of his teammates around him. One thing that the Colts have to improve on in 2016 is the play of the offensive line. This was a focus in the draft but who knows how long of a process this will take. The offensive line struggled at protecting their franchise QB and at run blocking. RB Frank Gore had his worst season in his first season in Indy. Gore has vowed to bounce back in 2016 but you have to consider that Gore is getting up there in age. I think the Colts needed to find a RB for the future this offseason but I don’t think they’ve done that. The Colts also have shaky depth at WR. T.Y. Hilton is the star of the group and Donte Moncrief serves as a decent possession receiver. But behind those two guys, Luck will be throwing to some guys who don’t have a lot of experience. On defense, the Colts will return a defensive line that was among the worst in the league at stopping the run. OLB Robert Mathis returns for another season as one of the best outside rushers in football. Last year, they paired him Trent Cole who went on to have his worst season as a pro. Cole was a great pass rusher in Philadelphia but I think this is one of those cases were age just catches up to aging players. The secondary will be led once again by CB Vontae Davis who is still very good. Behind him, the Colts brought in a couple of the laziest players in the league in Patrick Robinson and Antonio Cromartie. I don’t think Indy’s disappointing season in 2015 was an abnormality. Their roster just isn’t up to snuff and they wont be able to rely on Andrew Luck to be the save all. The Colts did a bad job in the offseason at getting younger at key positions and that will show up again in 2016. Luckily for them, the AFC South isn’t a strong division so I don’t see them completely bottoming out. Head coach Chuck Pagano is one of my favorites in the league and I hope he can survive another disappointing season. Prediction: 7-9

Throwback Thursday: Revisiting my 2011 NFL MOCK Draft

cam-newton-flip-touchdown-video

Five years ago, my MOCK draft had Cam Newton dabbing in the AFC South.

By: Elias McMillan

 

The 2011 NFL Draft might prove to be one of the best draft classes of all time based on overall talent. Almost half of the players taken in the first round have at least been to one Pro Bowl. The top two picks in that draft, QB Cam Newton and OLB Von Miller, will face off next weekend in Super Bowl 50. Coincidentally, I completed my very first NFL MOCK draft that year. Link: https://www.facebook.com/notes/10150228171096343/

Lets revisit my selections now just to see how much I could have screwed up the very landscape of certain NFL franchises, as we know them now.

1) Carolina Panthers

           My Pick: Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU

            Actual Pick: Cam Newton, QB, Auburn

Off the bat, I’m off to a great start. Going into this draft, there were a lot of questions about Cam’s off the field issues and his actual talent on the field. Was Cam just another great running college QB? Was he just a one-year wonder? Can he make all of the throws? I thought that the question marks around his ability to be an accurate passer in the league would stop him from becoming the top pick in this draft. Patrick Peterson was being hyped as a mixture of Darrelle Revis and Deion Sanders. And with the state of the QB position in the NFC South (Good thing Josh Freeman didn’t pan out), I thought Carolina needed to combat that with an elite defender. Both Peterson and Newton ended up great players in this league but obviously, the Panthers made the correct choice.

2) Denver Broncos

           My Pick: Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama

            Actual Pick: Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M

3) Buffalo Bills

           My Pick: Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M

            Actual Pick: Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama

So, I actually ended up flip-flopping these two next selections. The Broncos and the Bills both ended up with two of the top defenders in this draft. I wonder if Miller ended up a Bill, would they still be running a 3-4 defense in upstate New York. Marcell Dareus doesn’t get the attention that Von Miller gets but he is still a great player in this league in his own right.

4) Cincinnati Bengals

           My Pick: A.J. Green, WR, Georgia

            Actual Pick: A.J. Green, WR, Georgia

Ha! Here’s my first correct selection! It was a forgone conclusion that the Bengals were ready to move on from the Ochocinco/T.O. regime. Green has been killing it for the Bengals ever since. Great selection. An obvious home run.

5) Arizona Cardinals

           My Pick: Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri

            Actual Pick: Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU

Wow. What a massive bullet avoided by the Cardinals here. But what in the hell was I thinking having Gabbert picked over Cam Newton?!?! The knock on Gabbert going into this draft was how he was more “NFL ready” than Newton and a much more polish passer. This would have been an absolute disaster for Arizona who didn’t actually have the chance at Newton but instead got a really good player in Peterson who was my top pick in this draft.

6) Cleveland Browns (Traded to Atlanta Falcons)

           My Pick: Julio Jones, WR, Alabama

            Actual Pick: Julio Jones, WR, Alabama

So, I got the player correct at the six slot and Jones ended up being another great player in this league along with fellow WR A.J. Green. But I have to wonder what the hell Cleveland was thinking making this trade? I know that the draft picks they got in return ended up as nothing. I guess that’s why the Browns are the Browns. Julio Jones must wake up every morning thanking God that he isn’t a Cleveland Brown.

7) San Francisco 49ers

           My Pick: Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn

            Actual Pick: Aldon Smith, OLB, Missouri

I knew that the 49ers would go defense with this pick but I got the wrong player. Nick Fairley was being hailed as the next Warren Sapp after his great performance in that National Title game. But ultimately, he wouldn’t have been a fit for Jim Harbaugh’s defense. Instead, San Fran went with Smith who was a great pass rusher for a few seasons before becoming a guy to just finds trouble off the field.

8) Tennessee Titans

           My Pick: Cam Newton, QB, Auburn

            Actual Pick: Jake Locker, QB, Washington

Well, I knew that the Titans would have a QB penciled in at this pick. Could you imagine if Newton was still available at this selection? Talk about a potential franchise changer! No one really knew how good Newton would end up being but having him drop all the way down to 8 is just embarrassing on my part. Honestly, the evaluation of Locker wasn’t that far away from Newton’s. Locker was a great athlete in college who happened to play QB. Locker wasn’t nearly the player Newton was at Auburn and concussions pretty much shorten his playing career. But again, imagine how different the NFL would be today with Newton as a Titan? Tennessee would be contenders right now instead of dwelling in the AFC South basement.

9) Dallas Cowboys

            My Pick: Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina

            Actual Pick: Tyron Smith, OT, USC

Taking an offensive lineman seemed so boring to me at the time, I guess. The Cowboys needed to upgrade their pass rush opposite of DeMarcus Ware at the time. But they ended up making the wiser decision that ultimately ended up extending Tony Romo’s career. Smith is probably one of the best if not the best left tackle in football today while Quinn is an elite passer in this league as well.

10) Washington Redskins (Traded to Jacksonville Jaguars)

           My Pick: Muhammad Wilkerson, DT, Temple

            Actual Pick: Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri

Gabbert is still in the league as a back up but its known that this plan didn’t work out for the Jags. Or for Washington. I cant tell you what they ended up doing with those extra picks from this trade. But both teams missed out on getting a pretty good defensive lineman.

11) Houston Texans

           My Pick: Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska

            Actual Pick: J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin

Considering that Watt is now the face of the franchise in Houston and the best defensive player in all of football, Houston made out pretty well with this selection. I mean, the Texans did need secondary help and Amukamara is one of the better defensive backs in football today. But the Texans obviously made the right choice here.

12) Minnesota Vikings

            My Pick: Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas

            Actual Pick: Christian Ponder, QB, Florida State

Again, I was right on the position but wrong on the player. This was a shocking pick went it happened and it still kind of is. I don’t think anyone had Ponder as a first rounder before the draft. Ponder was a decent athlete in college but not on a level as a Newton or even a Locker. I was high on Ryan Mallett for this draft. He had the big arm that looked great on film. I didn’t think the character issues were a big deal but it turned out that those issues did seriously affect his rep around the league. Minnesota would have to wait longer to find its potential franchise QB.

13) Detroit Lions

            My Pick: Tyron Smith, OT, USC

            Actual Pick: Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn

This was another shocking pick when it happened. Fairley along with Suh was destined to rule the line of scrimmage against the NFC North for years. Fairley and Suh did make up for a great defensive front for the Lions for a few seasons but both have left the team since then. If Tyron Smith was available at this pick, QB Matt Stafford might be even better than he already is right now.

14) St. Louis Rams

            My Pick: Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA

            Actual Pick: Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina

Here is an instance where I thought the Rams would pick based on need and not based on the best player available. The Rams didn’t value outside linebackers in a 4-3 defense at the time. Instead they wanted to get as many pass rushers as possible and that strategy worked out for them with the Quinn selection. Ayers has bounced around a few teams since this draft and has never been voted to the Pro Bowl. But in a strange twist, Quinn and Ayers are now teammates in St. Louis. Oops. I mean, Los Angeles. I’m going to have to get used to that eventually.

15) Miami Dolphins

           My Pick: Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama

            Actual Pick: Mike Pouncey, C, Florida

Its hard to decide which selection would have been better for the Dolphins at 15. I wasn’t high on Mike Pouncey at all going into this draft. He had an awful final season at Florida without his brother and accounted for multiple muffed snaps. Ingram may not have been worth a top 15 pick but he is currently a decent runner in this league. Mike is one of the leaders on the offensive line for Miami. This was truly a toss up.

16) Jacksonville Jaguars (Traded to Washington)

            My Pick: Cameron Jordan, DE, California

            Actual Pick: Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue

After trading down with Jacksonville, Washington ended up with a decent defensive end in Kerrigan but they could have drafted a better player in Cameron Jordan. The Jordan pick for Jacksonville made sense to me at the time because the Jags already had his Cal teammate, Tyson Alualu. Clearly, I should have been Washington’s GM.

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Imagine a world where J.J. Watt and Rob Gronkowski are teammates.

17) New England Patriots

            My Pick: J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin

            Actual Pick: Nate Solder, OT, Colorado

Could you imagine Watt lasting all the down to the evil Patriots?!?! I wonder how that could have affected Watt’s likability and marketability around the league. He would have made the defense in New England instantly better and he would be hoisting a couple Super Bowl trophies instead of wasting his talents away in Houston. Of course Watt wasn’t there for the Pats at pick 17. Instead, they got some offensive line help with Nate Solder who is still a starter on that offensive line.

18) San Diego Chargers

            My Pick: Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College

            Actual Pick: Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois

Blah. Nothing to report here. Liuget is still in San Diego. They extended his contract so he must be okay. I thought they would go with some offensive line help for Phillip Rivers.

19) New York Giants

           My Pick: Justin Houston, OLB, Georgia

            Actual Pick: Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska

I don’t think I realized that Houston was a pass rushing linebacker who didn’t fit New York’s 4-3 defense. But he still would have significantly helped this Giants team that seemed to not have enough of pass rushers at one time. Taking Prince Amukamara worked out for them as well though.

20) Tampa Bay Buccaneers

           My Pick: Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson

            Actual Pick: Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa

Da’Quan Bowers was hyped in this draft as a possible top five selection. But then, questions about his health dropped his stock and he ended up becoming a Buccaneer but not until the second round. Tampa did go defensive end at pick 20. Adrian Clayborn was an unstoppable force at Iowa but injuries have prevented that to be a reality at the pro level.

21) Kansas City Chiefs (Traded to Cleveland Browns)

           My Pick: Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin

            Actual Pick: Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor

Cleveland screws up again. At least Carimi is still in the league. Taylor had a decent rookie season but then, it all went downhill from there.

22) Indianapolis Colts

           My Pick: Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois

            Actual Pick: Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College

These two names link up again. Check out my selection for the Chargers at 18. Both are still starting for their respective teams.

23) Philadelphia Eagles

           My Pick: Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado

            Actual Pick: Danny Watkins, OG, Baylor

Jimmy Smith is currently a decent corner in the NFL when healthy. Danny Watkins is currently a firefighter in Texas. That’s actually a cooler story than Smith’s. But my point, this didn’t pan out for Philly.

24) New Orleans Saints

           My Pick: Aldon Smith, OLB, Missouri

            Actual Pick: Cameron Jordan, DE, California

The Saints hit a home run with this pick, as Jordan is a top pass rusher in the NFL. Smith went earlier to the 49ers but either way, the Saints were gonna grab a great pass rusher. It really worked out for the Saints when you think about all the trouble Smith could of gotten in New Orleans.

25) Seattle Seahawks

           My Pick: Jake Locker, QB, Washington

            Actual Pick: James Carpenter, OT, Alabama

Locker would have been a great story if taken by his hometown Seahawks but Seattle would have to wait a couple more years to find that athletic QB phenom. The pick of James Carpenter actually worked out for Seattle as he started on that offensive line during Seattle’s Super Bowl runs in the last two seasons.

26) Baltimore Ravens

           My Pick: Brandon Harris, CB, Miami (FL)

            Actual Pick: Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado

I had the Ravens penciled in for some secondary help at pick 26. Brandon Harris was probably a bit over hyped going into this draft and I thought that his ties to “Da U” would be his road to the Baltimore Ravens. Instead, Baltimore got a better corner in Smith.

27) Atlanta Falcons (Traded to Cleveland, then Traded to Kansas City)

           My Pick: Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue

            Actual Pick: Jonathan Baldwin, WR, Pittsburgh

This is a lot to digest because all of the trades. First, Atlanta got their guy in the top ten in Julio Jones but Kerrigan would have helped their struggling pass rush. Baldwin did not pan out at all for the Chiefs in Kansas City. And the Browns are still the Browns. Any questions?

28) New England Patriots (Traded to New Orleans Saints)

           My Pick: Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State

            Actual Pick: Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama

The Saints finished out a great 2011 draft by trading back in the first round to land the best RB available. I already stated that the Pats needed offensive line help, which they actually got with their first selection.

29) Chicago Bears

            My Pick: Mike Pouncey, C, Florida

            Actual Pick: Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin

The Bears did end up getting offensive line help but at a different position. I wasn’t big on Pouncey’s pro prospects, which was why I barely had him going in the first round. Pouncey did end up panning out in Miami while Carimi is still a starter for Jay Cutler’s offensive line in Chicago.

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The Jets were going to get help for their defensive line at pick 30. It could have been Hayward who instead went to Pittsburgh at pick 31.

30) New York Jets

            My Pick: Cameron Heyward, DT, Ohio State

            Actual Pick: Muhammad Wilkerson, DT, Temple

I knew that the Jets were looking for more help along that defensive line. Wilkerson and Heyward ended up pretty decent players in this league. Wilkerson just established his all-pro status before Heyward did but still, they are both really good at what they do.

31) Pittsburgh Steelers

            My Pick: Nate Solder, OT, Colorado

            Actual Pick: Cameron Heyward, DT, Ohio State

No loser here at this selection. The Steelers opted to find offensive line help later and instead took Heyward who really became a dominant player this past season.

32) Green Bay Packers

           My Pick: Danny Watkins, OG, Baylor

            Actual Pick: Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State

This pick was just a disaster for the Packers and myself. I told you earlier about Watkins’ new profession. But the actual selection, Sherrod, was doomed during his rookie season when he suffered a broken leg. He never could become the player that he was coming out from college after that injury. What a sad story to end the first round.

 

So, what is the moral of all of this? I think it is how myself and other draft forecasters really know nothing about anything when it comes to the draft. But its still fun to guess and speculate which is why I still do. Two biggest things to take away from here: Cam Newton as a Tennessee Titan and J.J. Watt as a New England Patriot. Man, that would have made things so different in the NFL currently.

 

NFL 2016: Wild-Card Playoff Round Predictions!

Kirk Cousins

“You like that?!” I can’t believe Washington might be the home underdog that might actually win this weekend.

By: Elias McMillan

 

Last Week: 9-7

Final 2015 Regular Season: 163-93

NFL Wildcard Playoff Round

Kansas City @ Houston – On paper, this wildcard matchup doesn’t provide much flash but it could really turn into one of the better games this opening playoff weekend in the NFL. Kansas City may have benefited from a weak schedule but they are entering the playoffs on a great stretch that goes back to the middle of the regular season. Its amazing how the Chiefs were able to rebound and make a playoff run after losing its best player, Jamaal Charles, to injury. Houston was a pretty average team for most of the season and coach Bill O’Brien was largely rumored to be on the hot seat at one time. Houston got their act together in time to make the playoffs but they got a lot of help from the imploding Colts. This match up will be all about the defenses as both units rank in the top ten in the league. Houston does a great job up front at stopping the run and they are led up front by all-world DE J.J. Watt. Watt is going to automatically affect the way Kansas City runs their offense, which will give Houston an advantage. Kansas City has done a decent job at running the ball without their star this season though. QB Alex Smith has had a bounce back season in 2015 and you can charge that to the improvements at the receiver position. Smith has dynamic targets to go at WR (Jeremy Maclin) and at TE (Travis Kelce) but Houston usually doesn’t allow tons of yards through the air. Kansas City is pretty solid defensively as well. They have a pair of great pass rushers in Justin Houston and Tamba Hali, they are stout against the run, and safety Eric Berry leads a tough physical secondary. I really like rookie CB Marcus Peters but he will have his hands full on Saturday against WR DeAndre Hopkins. Hopkins is having a breakout season and has already seen success against this defense earlier this season. QB Brian Hoyer will be starting in his first ever playoff game and Houston really isn’t a strong running team so they will be counting on Hopkins to provide the big plays on offense. The Chiefs are favored in this game probably because they have more offensive weapons than the Texans. I think both defenses will play great in this game but I think I’ll trust the veteran Alex Smith to make more plays on offense than Hoyer. I don’t know if J.J. Watt can win this game for Houston by himself but he is capable. And if he is successful at doing so, ESPN will never shut up about it. I’m taking Andy Reid’s bunch. Prediction: Chiefs 22 – Texans 16

Pittsburgh @ Cincinnati – With this being the lone divisional matchup this wildcard weekend, this game is easily the main event. The hatred between these two teams will make this an entertaining game but really, this rivalry lacks the heat that Pittsburgh had with Baltimore. About 5 years ago, Pittsburgh and Baltimore made a great rivalry because it wasn’t overly one-sided. The Pittsburgh-Cincinnati rivalry mainly exists because Cincinnati can’t win a big game to save its life. And that will be the case once again on Saturday night as the Bengals are playing for their season (life). If you look at how each team is trending going into this game, you would think that Cincinnati should be the home favorite. But they are not because you simply can’t trust this team in the post season. Even against an injured and currently playing below average Steelers team. After Pittsburgh had that big comeback at home against Denver, they kind of skated through the last two games of the regular season. They played awful at Baltimore, which ended in a loss and really should have kept them from making the playoffs. Last week, they were able to beat Cleveland but they didn’t look too impressive in that game either. To make matters even worst, RB DeAngelo Williams injured his ankle last week and will probably be unavailable on Saturday night. The Steeler running game will be led by a couple of no names and that might cause the offense to be one-dimensional. That might not be a bad thing because the Steelers passing game has been their bread and butter this season. With a QB like Roethlisberger and the wealth of talent at the receiver position, passing the ball 50 times might not be a bad thing. But I have to bring up that also since that Denver game, Roethlisberger has been noticeably not as sharp as he once was. I think Cincinnati has the defense to slow down the Pittsburgh offense but I also think they will lack the ability to really make a game changing turnover in this game. Cincinnati has a scrappy defense but they don’t have a player on that unit that could possibly change the outcome. Cincinnati will be without starting QB Andy Dalton and despite his record in the post season, this is a bad thing for the Bengals. The only good thing about starting A.J. McCarron is that no one will expect anything from him so he might actually surprise some folks. Everyone and their mother knows that the Steelers have a weak secondary. And despite starting a backup, the Bengals will attack the Steelers defense through the air. I know that the Steelers rank in the top five in run defense but I think Cincinnati needs to get more creative on offense when attacking this defense. We keep hearing about how great a coordinator Hue Jackson is but he needs to find a way to get RB’s Jeremy Hill and Giovanni Bernard more involved in this offense. Both backs have been inconsistent this season but they both have the skill set to be valuable pieces for this offense especially with starting a backup QB. The rivalry, the trash talk, and the extra stuff aside, this game will probably go as expected because Cincinnati lacks the killer instinct to beat Pittsburgh in a big game. When Pittsburgh beat Denver two week ago, every talking head was talking about how dangerous they are and how no one wants to play them in January. Its funny how fast things can change in the NFL. The Steelers are not that dangerous team that no ones wants to play but they’ll still be better than Cincinnati on Saturday night. Pittsburgh will probably start out the gates hot, they’ll let Cincy back in the game in the 2nd half but then they will close them out in the 4th quarter. Prediction: Steelers 28 – Bengals 21

Seattle @ Minnesota – I was really happy for Mike Zimmer and his Vikings last Sunday night. They were able to beat a struggling Packers team and outright win the NFC North. Then, I learned their opponent for wildcard weekend and began to feel sorry for them. It’s been a long time coming for this Minnesota team. They’ve spend many mow draft picks, they have youthful talent of defense, and they’ve finally broken through to overtake Green Bay. Now, they have a very tall task at home Sunday in the 2-time defending NFC champion Seattle Seahawks. Not only is Seattle the better team but they also matchup so well against Minnesota. Minnesota’s offense is led by their rushing attack and Adrian Peterson. Seattle has the best run defense in the league according to the numbers and they shut down Peterson earlier this season. Young QB Teddy Bridgewater has been playing well as of late but he is going to have to have the game of his life against Seattle’s second ranked pass defense. The real story of this game will be the matchup between Seattle’s offense and Minnesota’s defense. Russell Wilson, except for the St. Louis game, has been on a roll recently and I don’t remember the last time Seattle’s passing game has looked this good. Seattle’s rushing attack has dealt with many injuries this season but they’ll receive a huge boost this Sunday when Marshawn Lynch returns to the lineup. Minnesota’s defense isn’t bad but they are quite average against the run. I like Minnesota’s secondary a lot. They have a good mix of veterans and young talent. The key for the Vikings defense on passing downs will be getting pressure on Wilson. If Wilson has time to run around and use his legs, he’ll provide the game with the big backbreaking play to Minnesota’s hopes. I think Seattle will be able to put up points in ways that Minnesota wont be able to. The freezing temps in Minnesota might have an affect on how this game is played but it wont decide the contest. A Minnesota victory would be one of the biggest upsets in wildcard weekend history. I don’t see that happening. Prediction: Seahawks 36 – Vikings 24

Green Bay @ Washington – I couldn’t foresee the Green Bay Packers backing into the playoffs like they did. But they have been struggling for the most part during the second half of the regular season. Green Bay has a lot of talent but a lot of things have been off for them this season. I guess you have to give Washington credit for winning the joke that was the NFC East this season. But they are on a roll right now and their chances to win on Sunday against the Packers are very realistic. Aaron Rodgers hasn’t looked like his usual self this season. It may be because he is missing his favorite target, Jordy Nelson. It may be because his offensive line has been horrible. Whatever the reason may be, Rodgers hasn’t been right and we saw proof of that as recently as last Sunday at home vs. Minnesota. Washington doesn’t have a dynamic pass rush but they’ll figure out a way to get after Rodgers. Washington isn’t strong against the run so Green Bay might have to find a way to get Eddie Lacy and James Starks going with the running game. Green Bay’s defense has been inconsistent at times this season and they’ll face a red hot QB on Sunday. QB Kirk Cousins may not be a sure thing for Washington in the future but he is playing well enough currently. Washington also has a lot of weapons at the skill positions that the Packers will have to contend with. Washington has dynamic pass catchers in DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, and TE Jordan Reed. The Washington passing game has carried the offense this year as RB Alfred Morris and the running game had a lackluster season. This game will be weird because I feel like everyone will be waiting for the real Aaron Rodgers to show up but I feel like we’ll be waiting forever. The Packers are favored, barely, but they are easily the most vulnerable road team this wildcard weekend. I can’t believe it either but I’m taking Washington in a small upset. Prediction: Washington 24 – Packers 23

NFL 2015: Week 15 Predictions!

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Indy’s Chuck Pagano could really be on the hot seat if his Colts drop a 2nd straight divisional game.

By: Elias McMillan

 

Last Week: 8-8

Season: 130-78

Big Five Games of the Week

Houston @ Indianapolis – The Colts built up their roster in the offseason in order to make a strong run to the Super Bowl. Instead, they have been a massive disappointment and deserving so or not, head coach Chuck Pagano is on the hot seat. That seat might get even hotter this week if they drop another divisional game against Houston. The Colts have a decent record inside their division especially at home. But Indy is hurting on the offensive side of the ball and they are struggling to put up points. Matt Hasselbeck is injured but he still might play. It isn’t a good sign to send out your 40-year-old starting QB with a playoff spot on the line especially when that QB isn’t at 100%. If Indy cant get their passing game going, Houston has the beef up front to stuff the run and really limited them offensively. Houston is having its own problems with keeping their QB’s healthy. Brian Hoyer will miss another game due to concussions and T.J. Yates will get the start. If memory serves me correctly, this isn’t the first time that the Texans called on Yates while in contention for a playoff spot. Yates has already shown that he can get the ball to star receiver DeAndre Hopkins and he’ll have the confidence that most backups don’t have. If Houston’s defense can continue to play hard, they’ll be able to keep the Colts from off the scoreboard and score a huge road victory in the AFC South. Prediction: Texans 21 – Colts 13

Carolina @ New York Giants – The Panthers are still undefeated and they are showing no signs of slowing down. The Giants and limping along in the woeful NFC East but they could present Carolina with some problems. The Giants also gave an undefeated New England squad a tough game at home this season. New York has been so inconsistent this season and they can’t hold on to leads. The Giants cant stop the run, they struggle with covering deep passes, and they are one dimensional on offense. Carolina’s defense should be able to have a strong showing against Eli Manning. The matchup between CB Josh Norman and all-world WR Odell Beckham Jr. will be one to watch. But I do see the Giants slowing down Cam Newton and his offensive attack or Eli Manning being able to put up enough yards against this Carolina defense. Prediction: Panthers 32 – Giants 16

Green Bay @ Oakland – Much is being made out of the play calling duties in Green Bay. But in reality it isn’t rocket science. Aaron Rodgers and the passing offense isn’t the same from years past. Is it because Rodgers is injured? Is it because the offense is missing big play receiver Jordy Nelson? Who knows? They figured it out last week by just feeding RB Eddie Lacy a bunch of times. But can the Packers rushing attack really be the long-term solution going forward this season? I don’t think so. But the Packers do play another team this week that struggles with stopping the run, the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders won a ugly road game last week but they should still be feeling pretty awesome going into this home game. Oakland’s defense played inspired and I think that will carry over into this week. Khalil Mack had a ridiculous game rushing the passer last week with 5 sacks. I think Mack will be able to find similar success against Green Bay’s offensive line. QB Derek Carr was able to do enough to win that game even without finding top rookie target Amari Cooper. I think a lot of the “experts” are starting to feel Green Bay alittle too hard after last week’s home victory but I still think that team has plenty of issues. I taking the upset as Oakland will take care of business as home underdogs. Prediction: Raiders 26 – Packers 23

Denver @ Pittsburgh – Denver is going through an identity crisis at QB. Earlier in the season, Peyton Manning struggled and many wanted him benched. Manning then, had a great game against Green Bay in primetime and everyone loved him again. Then, he got injured and everyone was ready to crown Brock Osweiler and send Manning into retirement after Denver knocked off undefeated New England. Now, coming off of a bad performance at home and Manning working himself back into health, Osweiler must get ready to face Pittsburgh on Sunday. My point is that if you look at the numbers, Osweiler really hasn’t been that much better than Manning since his injury and Denver will probably be better served once Manning is healthy. Good news for Denver is that their defense is still pretty good. Denver hasn’t allowed more than 30 points in a game this season. That stat will be relevant on Sunday as Pittsburgh has strived this season when scoring a lot of points. Pittsburgh’s passing game is as explosive as they come. But I think Denver is well equipped to slow them down. Denver is tough to run on and they have multiple pass rushers to get after Ben Roethlisberger. Pittsburgh has many weapons at receiver but Denver has an athletic group of defensive backs and linebackers that can make things tougher for that group. I don’t think Denver will be able to fix their offensive troubles this week though. Denver’s offensive line has struggled in pass protection this entire season especially last week. I think that the old man, James Harrison, will have a big game this week and he’ll be able to cause some turnovers. Pittsburgh is tough against the run but I feel like it’s been awhile since they’ve truly been tested through out a ball game. I think Denver should make a great effort at pounding the rock this week as that could really help protect their young QB. I don’t think Pittsburgh’s offense will have a monster game but I think the defense will be able to win it this week for Pittsburgh. Prediction: Steelers 20 – Broncos 17

Arizona @ Philadelphia – I keep picking against the Eagles and they keep winning. I didn’t think they would be New England or Buffalo but here they are and they look like they could win the NFC East. Arizona is the better football team at all phases of the game. But Arizona has had some lapses this season. They can’t afford to have that this week as they are fighting for a first round bye in the playoffs. Arizona should be able to overpower Philly through the air on offense. Arizona should have the advantage on defense as well. Philly’s running game has been inconsistent all season and Arizona’s front seven on defense is tough. Philly’s dink and dunk passing game probably shouldn’t be that effective against a Cardinals secondary that excels in zone coverage and creating turnovers. I don’t know why the Eagles keep winning but I’ll be shocked if they are able to score a third straight upset victory. Prediction: Cardinals 31 – Eagles 23

The Rest of Week 15

Rams over Buccaneers – This will be the best looking game out of all the “Color Rush” games this season. Jameis Winston is having a fine rookie season but Tampa’s defense is starting to fade away. Will the Rams play hard in front of those St. Louis fans one last time? It could be a farewell party for that fan base.

Jets over Cowboys – Matt Cassel is Matt Cassel. Chris Ivory will be busy as Dallas struggled mightily against the run last week.

Vikings over Bears – Minnesota seems to be a lock for the playoffs no matter what happens the rest of the way. But they got to beat Chicago this week if they want a chance at the division.

Patriots over Titans – Tom Brady has historically torched Tennessee in his career.

Washington over Bills – It’s sad to say but maybe Tyrod Taylor is holding this Buffalo team back.

Jaguars over Falcons – Atlanta has completely fell apart. Jacksonville has confidence and a “legit” shot at the division? Maybe? We’ll see.

Chiefs over Ravens – Once again, Kansas City’s remaining schedule: ridiculously easy. Looks like another playoff berth for Andy Reid.

Seahawks over Browns – Manziel was great last week. Expect him to be less than great this week in Seattle.

Chargers over Dolphins – My heart goes out for those San Diego fans. This game will be notable just for the emotional scene after the game.

Bengals over 49ers – Life changed fast for Cincinnati last week. They just have to limp along to finish out the regular season. San Fran’s defense is tough but Cleveland outmatched them last week. Cincinnati must take care of business on the road.

Lions over Saints – It looks like New Orleans isn’t done competing and Detroit is. But if Matt Stafford can’t take advantage of this Saints secondary, he probably should be benched.

Fantasy Football Picks of the Week

QB: Russell Wilson (Seahawks) – Wilson is on a crazy roll right now. Cleveland doesn’t have the defense to slow him down.

RB: Adrian Peterson (Vikings) – Peterson has had some big games against Chicago in his career.

WR: DeAndre Hopkins (Texans) – Hopkins showed that he has chemistry with T.J. Yates earlier this season. He’ll get more looks this week with the division potentially on the line.

TE: Greg Olsen (Panthers) – The Giants give up the most yards through the air in football. If Newton is passing a lot, more than likely that will mean a big day for his TE.

DEF: Kansas City – Baltimore’s offense can’t move the ball. This is a trend that should continue this week against the tough Chiefs defense.