Tag Archives: Kennan Allen

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 15 Predictions (Condensed Version)

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Tom Brady makes his yearly pilgrimage to Pittsburgh this Sunday.

By: Elias McMillan

 

Last Week: 9-7

Season: 118-88-2

Week 15 Picks

Chiefs over Chargers – Kansas City hasn’t let success go to their head. I was impressed with the way the fought back last week against a quality opponent. The Chargers will give them a tough challenge but KC is usually tough at home.

Texans over Jets – Houston finally lost last week. They should be able to bounce back against a bad Jets team but you never know. I didn’t expect New York to win last week on the road.

Broncos over Browns – This one will be a surprisingly competitive game as both teams are holding on to slim post season hopes.

Falcons over Cardinals – Boring.

Bills over Lions – Buffalo wasn’t suppose to lose last week at home. They usually have a really fun looking home game in the snow where they play amazingly well. Maybe it will be this week.

Bears over Packers – Chicago really impressed me last week with the way they shut down the Rams offense. They take joy in ending Aaron Rodgers’ season at home.

Raiders over Bengals – Maybe Cincinnati will fire Marvin Lewis for real this time.

Colts over Cowboys – This one is a toss up. I’m not sure how good this Colts team is and Dallas has received many breaks during their 5 game winning streak. Indy is fighting to have a chance at the playoffs while Dallas pretty much has to win just one of their last three games to clinch the division. I think Indy will be the hungrier team on Sunday. Dallas may have to start thinking about being healthy for that wild-card game.

Vikings over Dolphins – Minnesota fired their offensive coordinator this week so the pressure on their offense to show some life this weekend. If not, this Miami team is confident enough with Ryan Tannehill back in the fold to score a road upset.

Giants over Titans – If New York presses Tennessee for four quarters and tackles Derrick Henry, the Titans will roll over.

Jaguars over Washington – If you have the Jacksonville defense on your fantasy team, they are a MUST start.

Ravens over Buccaneers – Despite the loss in Kansas City last week, the Lamar Jackson era is here in Baltimore. The Ravens defense is really going to have to flex at home against one of the better offenses in the league.

Seahawks over 49ers – Seattle may be the most dangerous team in the NFC right now.

Steelers over Patriots – Pittsburgh has two tough opponents left on their schedule and they are going to have to beat one of them to make the post season. I bet it will be this Sunday against a familiar opponent. Everyone likes to beat on how bad the Pittsburgh defense is playing currently but remember: New England’s defense is also pretty bad. If Pittsburgh avoids mistakes and plays like the more desperate team, which they are, they should win on Sunday.

Rams over Eagles – Carson Wentz may not play Sunday, which tells me that that Philadelphia is mailing it in. LA’s offense should be able to rebound after last week against a wounded Eagles secondary.

Saints over Panthers – If Carolina loses out after starting 6-2, does Ron Rivera get canned?

NFL 2018: Week 13 Predictions

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Michael Thomas and the Saints have won 10 straight. They’ll look to make it 11 tonight.

By: Elias McMillan

 

Last Week: 14-1

Season: 99-75-2

Big Five Games of the Week

New Orleans @ Dallas – The Saints haven’t looked back since their Week 1 loss. They’ve been able to pull off 10 straight victories while looking like the team to beat in the NFC. The Cowboys looked dead in the water a month ago. Now, they are winners of three straight and are suddenly in the driver’s seat in the NFC East. I don’t think Dallas is in the same class as New Orleans this season but I think they’ll at least have a fighting chance tonight against them at home. The Cowboys have a tough defense that will be put to the test tonight by the passing attack of Drew Brees. New Orleans has been able to hide their defense with what they are able to do offensively but are lacking a bit in their secondary. I don’t think Dak Prescott is going to be able to beat them with his arm though. The Cowboys will have to control the clock and let Ezekiel Elliott dictate the pace of the game. The Cowboys offensive line is still banged up and the Saints have the talent up front to possibly give them plenty of problems tonight. I think Dallas will keep it competitive at the least but the Saints should prove to be better. Winner: Saints

Baltimore @ Atlanta – The Falcons are on the verge of packing it in this season. Baltimore has a defense capable of winning games for them but currently they are receiving great support from the other side of the ball. Rookie QB Lamar Jackson is still learning on the job but he has led this offense during two straight victories. Atlanta is the team that needs this win more on Sunday but Baltimore is playing better right now. Winner: Ravens

Minnesota @ New England – Minnesota has been pretty average this season. They are able to show flashes of greatness on both sides of the ball but they don’t look like the team from last year. New England has once again sleep walked to the top of their division but now its their time to start playing well to prepare for bigger challenges down the road. I think the Vikings best chance to win this one on the road is to unleash that pass rush onto Tom Brady. New England’s offense is getting healthy at the right time with the return of TE Rob Gronkowski and RB Rex Burkhead. Thinking of the RB position, the Patriots look like they may have a legit run game this year with the emergence of rookie RB Sony Michel. As usual, New England has a very beatable defense but Kirk Cousins has been on the wrong end of some mistakes recently. I’ll take the Pats at home. Winner: Patriots

LA Chargers @ Pittsburgh – Pittsburgh hasn’t been sharp in a few weeks so last week’s loss in Denver wasn’t all that surprising. The Chargers were able to respond from a loss against Denver last week. They looked really impressive against Arizona especially offensively. QB Phillip Rivers is coming off one of his best games as a pro and he’ll look to keep that momentum going this Sunday in Pittsburgh. I think Rivers will be able to attack this Steelers defense through the air with much success if he is able to have time in the pocket. Pittsburgh’s ability to get to the QB could be a determining factor in this game. The Chargers defense has been inconsistent this season but they are getting healthy at the right time. The Steelers have so many weapons on offense and I think Chargers will have their hands full trying to account for them all. A great performance at home from the QB (Roethlisberger) will make last week’s mistakes a distant memory. Winner: Steelers

Washington @ Philadelphia – Huge game for both teams. This is pretty much an elimination game for Philadelphia. The Eagles looked like they could have dropped last week against the Giants but they were able to fight back for a late victory. The Eagles are just not playing well right now and the injuries are starting to pile up on defense. Washington is still capable, I think, to play well defensively but I don’t know if they can get enough from their offense with Colt McCoy behind center. The Eagles are going to need QB Carson Wentz to raise the level of his offense on Monday night and provide some big plays against a tough Washington defense. If not, this one could get ugly quick. Winner: Eagles

The Rest of Week 13

Broncos over Bengals – Denver has won two straight and have a favorable schedule down the stretch. Cincinnati is packing it in with Andy Dalton out.

Rams over Lions – LA should be well rested for this one.

Packers over Cardinals – Arizona is bad and Green Bay is undefeated at home.

Dolphins over Bills – Ryan Tannehill played decent last week.

Bears over Giants – I’m worried about the Mitch Trubisky injury.

Panthers over Buccaneers – Carolina has lost three straight so they need this one to stay in the playoff race.

Colts over Jaguars – Indy’s chances for the post season are starting to look better each week.

Texans over Browns – Houston can’t lose and they also have a favorable schedule down the stretch.

Titans over Jets – Tennessee has slim playoff hopes and they fight Sunday to keep them alive at home.

Chiefs over Raiders – The most important thing here for Kansas City is to stay healthy.

Seahawks over 49ers – Seattle should roll at home.

 

Fantasy Football Picks of the Week

QB: Deshaun Watson (Texans) – Watson’s big play ability should be in full display against the Cleveland secondary.

RB: Phillip Lindsay (Broncos) – Denver’s running game should have a field day against Cincinnati.

WR: Tyreek Hill (Chiefs) – Hill will run circles around Oakland’s secondary.

TE: Jordan Reed (Washington) – Washington is going to need big plays in the passing game to beat Philadelphia. Reed should get plenty of looks.

DEF: Indianapolis – The state of Jacksonville’s offense should allow Indy’s defense to strive on Sunday.

NFL 2016: AFC West Preview

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Khalil Mack and the Raiders defense will make a playoff push in 2016.

By: Elias McMillan

 

AFC West

Kansas City Chiefs – The Chiefs quietly had an outstanding season in 2015 headlined by that massive win streak that they rode into the playoffs. I think that this Chiefs team going into 2016, will have a pretty good shot at overtaking this division from Denver since the Broncos may have not improved in the offseason. The Chiefs have a great veteran core, a great running game, and a great defense. Head coach Andy Reid will have this team ready for bigger things in 2016. I think the questions about QB Alex Smith going into last season are about done. I’m not saying that Smith is a top QB in the league but he is much better than what people believe. When pressed, he can make the big plays at times and I think last season he won the respect of a lot of people in that locker room. A big help to Alex Smith is that the Chiefs are one the best teams at running the football. Everyone knows that Jamaal Charles is the star but they have great depth behind him with Charcandrick West, Spencer Ware, and the speedy kick returner Knile Davis. I don’t know if the depth behind Charles is in result of just having good talent or if the Chiefs offensive line does an outstanding job but either way, it works for this team. The Chiefs receiving core is kind of boring outside of Jeremy Maclin. Maclin showed a lot of heart last season by playing through injuries and he is one of the toughest guys in the league. The Chiefs need someone else opposite of Maclin to step up this season. That could be Albert Wilson or second year receiver Chris Conley. Smith also has a pretty good connection with TE Travis Kelce in the passing game. Kansas City’s defense is strong up front and they had a top 10 run defense in 2015. Nose tackle Dontari Poe is the leader of the group and I think top draft pick, Chris Jones from Mississippi State, will be a great addition eventually. The Chiefs return the same great group at linebacker this season. Tamba Hali and Justin Houston maybe starting to get up there in age but they are still a top pass rushing duo in the league. LB’s Derrick Johnson and Josh Mauga are both good tacklers and pass defenders. Kansas City’s secondary received a big boost last season from reigning defensive rookie of the year, CB Marcus Peters. Peters is an interception machine and he looks to continue right where he left off in 2015. The veteran leader in the secondary, safety Eric Berry, is back and is fresh off a season where he won Comeback Player of the Year. The Chiefs have a great collection of talent in 2016 and they are battle tested. They should be able to win the AFC West and maybe make some noise in the post season. Prediction: 11-5 (AFC West Champs)

Oakland Raiders – Coming off a 7-9 season, the Raiders actually have some momentum going into 2016. They have assembled a young talented roster but they still have some holes that need to be filled. I think this Raiders team is going to be good this year mainly because of their defense. I’m not entirely sure if the Raiders have made the transition from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 defense but the moves they have made in the offseason do reflect that. Either way, they have drafted very smart and they have brought it some key veteran players. On the defensive line, they have a couple of guys that fit the 3-4 scheme as big bodied, run stuffers. DT’s Dan Williams and Justin Ellis offer a lot of size inside and rookie Jihad Ward will offer athleticism inside as a defensive end. There is also some hope that second year DE Mario Edwards Jr. will improve this season. The Raiders have the players at defensive line but the real standouts will be the pass rushers. Khalil Mack had a standout 2015 and he has the ability to be the next Von Miller. In a 4-3 defense, Mack was moved around a lot and did well. But he really excelled at creating pressure in the backfield. In a 3-4 defense, Mack would have more opportunities at getting to the QB and I believe that this is the plan for 2016. I think the offseason signing of OLB Bruce Irvin supports that scheme change. Irvin played in a 4-3 defense in Seattle but he is probably more suited as an outside rusher in a 3-4 defense. With Mack on the opposite side, Irvin is going to have the chance to be an impact player in this defense. The Raiders have had a big hole in their secondary for years now. This offseason they brought in a couple veterans and some young guys that might be able to turn this unit around. CB Sean Smith was a good player in Kansas City and former first round pick D.J. Hayden is coming off his best season as a pro. Charles Woodson retired but Oakland will attempt to replace him with seasoned vet, Reggie Nelson. Nelson isn’t the player that Woodson was obviously, but he is a ball hawk with a knack for creating big time turnovers. Nelson will be paired with this year’s first round pick, safety Karl Joseph. I thought Joseph was a reach in the first round for Oakland but the guy is a heat seeking missile when it comes to ball carriers. The combo of Nelson and Joseph will be perfect for this defense as both bring that playmaking potential on each down. On offense, the Raiders have the QB and WR positions figured out at least. QB David Carr hasn’t put up monster numbers yet but he is the young leader of this offense. Carr has a great set of reliable receivers in veteran Michael Crabtree and second year standout Amari Cooper. The combination of AC/DC has already become a popular one for Raiders fans. What worries me about the Raiders offense is that I don’t think they are strong up front and I think that is holding back Carr and especially the running game. RB Latavius Murray had a decent 2015 season but I think he could be better if the Raiders had a better offensive line. The Raiders don’t have great depth behind Murray at RB. Rookie DeAndre Washington led the Big 12 in rushing last year and he might be called upon early in his career. The Raiders are also really lacking at the TE position. Mychal Rivera isn’t dynamic to give Carr a reliable target in the passing game. I expect this Raiders defense to be a monster and I think Oakland could possibly ride it into the team’s first post-season berth since 2002. But they need to fill some holes on the offensive side of the ball if they want to return to being the dominant team in this division. Prediction: 9-7 (Wildcard)

Denver Broncos – It’s hard for champions to repeat especially in the NFL. Denver is going to have a tough time bucking that logic in 2016. Denver still has a lot of the talent pieces from last year’s championship run but they also lost a few and the division they play in has improved. Denver was able to ride their defense to a championship a season ago and it looks like the defense will have to be the vocal point once again in 2016. Peyton Manning wasn’t his old self last season but his presence and his knowledge of the offense was able to get the most out of what he was able to do. I don’t think Denver has a QB on the roster right now that can be as valuable as Manning was to the offense last season. Manning looked bad at times in his final season but I think he’ll look better than what Denver has to offer at QB in 2016. Mark Sanchez is a veteran whose best days are behind him. Trevor Siemian hasn’t taken a snap in the regular season. And first round pick, Paxton Lynch, may not be ready to start on day one. Denver also lost multiple starters on the offensive line so, they may be in trouble when it comes to pass protection and run blocking. The QB will have to lean heavy on RB’s C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman. Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders are talented receivers but their impact on the game will be lower this season because of the situation at QB. On defense, they may have lost Malik Jackson in free agency but I think they’ll still be pretty solid up front with Derek Wolfe and Sylvester Williams. Of course, the star of the defense is Von Miller who is the best pass rusher in football right now. Miller paired with DeMarcus Ware proved to be a deadly combo during the last post season and they will hope to pick up where they left off in 2016. Ware does have an injury history but Shane Ray is waiting in the wings as his heir apparent. Denver’s secondary could be a mixed bag this year too. Last season, CB’s Chris Harris and Bradley Roby proved their worth but that group will miss Aqib Talib who is facing a possible suspension and is battling his own injury problems. As the case for most good movies, the sequel wont be as good as the original. I don’t think Denver is going to fall off the face of the earth but they wont be contenders with that messy QB situation. They should have pulled the trigger on that purposed Colin Kaepernick trade. Prediction: 8-8

San Diego Chargers – The Chargers could potentially climb out of the AFC West basement in 2016 but I don’t see it happening. There are too many question marks on both sides of the ball and I think that the mismanagement from the front office is starting to affect the team. On paper, I think San Diego should be strong offensively. The only thing really missing on offense is a consistent run game. At QB, Phillip Rivers returns for another season as one of the most overlooked players in the league. Rivers can throw it with the best of them and this year he’ll have a pretty talented core of WR’s. I like the pairing of WR’s Kellen Allen and free agent acquisition Travis Benjamin as one serves as a tough possession and the other is a speedy game breaker. I also like the idea of veteran WR James Jones serving as a third option for Rivers. This is a role that Jones excelled at in Green Bay. Of course, Rivers will have Antonio Gates to throw to again at the TE position. But also look out for rookie Hunter Henry who will have a role at the second TE. The Chargers have drafted well up front and have brought in free agents in the past to help bolster that offensive line. Despite that, the running game has been such a major disappointment. San Diego has a decent collection of RB’s but second year player, Melvin Gordon, has to prove this season that he can be the guy in the backfield for this team. Danny Woodhead and Branden Oliver are good complementary players at RB but Gordon has to prove that he was worth that first round pick from a season ago. On defense, the Chargers have a lot of talent but they have been inconsistent at all three phases. They don’t stop the run, they don’t get to the QB often enough, and the secondary will definetly be hurting without safety Eric Weddle. This years first round pick, Joey Bosa, was suppose to be a big help upfront at stopping run and creating pressure in the backfield. But the front office has screwed up the process of getting him signed much like other first rounders under this regime. Who knows if the Bosa holdout will last the entire season but I think the affects of it will cause division in the locker room. The Chargers struggle at stopping the run but they do have a pair of decent pass rushers in Melvin Ingram and Jeremiah Attaochu. Inside at linebacker, Manti Te’o and Denzel Perryman need to become the stars that they were in college to help improve the run defense. In the secondary, I actually like the two starters, Brandon Flowers and Jason Verrett. I don’t know if Dwight Lowery can replace Weddle at safety for this team but he might provide some needed veteran leadership. I expect this Chargers team to compete hard for those fans in San Diego this season. But I think they will lack the consistency on both sides of the ball to compete for a playoff berth. I’m looking forward to these two victories for the Chargers in 2016: 1) Joey Bosa ending his holdout & 2) San Diego getting a stadium deal done. Prediction: 6-10

NFL 2014: Week 1 Predictions!

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QB Russell Wilson and the Seahawks will be looking to start the season right tonight.

By: Elias McMillan

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

2009 Regular Season Record: 169-87

2010 Regular Season Record: 157-99

2011 Regular Season Record: 162-94

2012 Regular Season Record: 163-92-1

2013 Regular Season Record: 158-97-1

Now, here’s my forecast for Week 1 of the 2014 Season.

Big Five Games of the Week

Green Bay @ Seattle – Super Bowl champs have a great track record playing at home to start the season. This might prove to be true again this year, as Century Link Field in Seattle will be absolutely rocking tonight as the Seahawks welcome the visiting Green Bay Packers. There will be a lot of talk before and during the game about what happened the last time these teams played (Fail Mary) but obviously that wont have any bearing on how tonight is going to go. The officiating will be interesting to watch in this game as we will see first hand how the officials will handle physical play in the secondary; something that they are trying to crack down on this season. I can see Aaron Rodgers being in attack mode early and often in this game as he will be willing to test the mighty Seattle secondary and maybe draw some penalties. I expect Seattle defense to be as dominate at home as they were last year so Rodgers should have his hands full tonight. I’m interesting in seeing how different the Packers defense will look with Julius Peppers rushing the passer. On defense, I’ll expect to see Green Bay to blitz and try to send a lot of pressure Russell Wilson’s way. Without B.J. Raji, Seattle might be able to exploit the middle of the Packers defense with Marshawn Lynch and the running game. Should be an interesting contest tonight that could come down to the last quarter. I’m going to take Seattle to start the season strong in front of the home crowd. Prediction: Seahawks 34 – Packers 28

Cincinnati @ Baltimore – A big time divisional matchup to start the season for the Bengals and Ravens. The Bengals released BenJarvus Green-Ellis about a week ago so I’m interested in seeing new starting RB, Gio Bernard, receiving the bulk of the carries against this Ravens defense. On paper, Baltimore should have a formable front seven that might give Andy Dalton problems. It will be key for Dalton to target A.J. Green early and often in this game. I think the Ravens secondary can be exposed in that matchup. The matchup between the Ravens receivers and the Bengals secondary should be entertaining as both teams are deep at those positions. The Bengals were pretty good against the run a season ago and DT Geno Atkins is back from injury and ready to continue what he was able to do last year. Without Ray Rice, backup RB Bernard Pierce will start and might have a long day at the office against that Bengals run defense. What’s going to help QB Joe Flacco this Sunday is that the Bengals pass rush isnt as strong as it was a season ago. If Flacco is able to find time in the pocket, he will make the Bengals secondary pay. Cincinnati is favored but I’m going with the home team to play inspired and score the small upset. Should be a real even game though. Prediction: Ravens 23 – Bengals 20

San Francisco @ Dallas – This is only a “big game” because of the team names involved are the most recognizable in sports. In reality, the 49ers have been a largely successful football team in recent years and the Cowboys have been the exact opposite. At first glace, I would think that the 49ers should blow out the Cowboys but here’s why I think it will be a close game. The San Francisco defense is hurting. They are missing multiple guys from a season ago due to injuries, suspensions, and free agency. The Dallas defense is hurting just because they are awful. They put up historically bad number a season ago and Jerry Jones did very little to help improve on that side of the ball. That being said, I think Colin Kaepernick should be able to have a career day through the air and on the ground. Dallas is especially horrid defending the run so I expect Frank Gore to tee off for a few huge runs in this game. Its crazy to say but the Dallas secondary enters this game as a strength for Dallas but with no pass rush, Kaepernick will be able to drop back and test them. For the Cowboys, it will be all about Tony Romo as it always usually is. Romo will have to do most of the heavy lifting again and will be praised or chastised at the end of the game. What will help Romo is using DeMarco Murray by running the football, running the clock, and keeping that awful defense off the field. If it does turn into a shootout, Romo and Cowboys passing game can produce lighting quick strikes down the field to WR Dez Bryant or TE Jason Witten. I’m confident in Romo in this game because the 49ers will be without its best pass rusher, Aldon Smith. However, the Niners will have LB Patrick Willis to help against the run and just make plays all over the field. I think a lot of points will be scored but one narrative will continue to be true: Dallas will find a way to lose. Prediction: 49ers 38 – Cowboys 34

Indianapolis @ Denver – This game features two of the top passers in the league for the seasons Sunday night opener. Denver’s defense will be fired up for this one, as their new additions will be looking to impress. Denver’s run defense should be really to meet RB Trent Richardson as one of the top units from last year. For the Colts offense, it will be about Andrew Luck and if he can out score Peyton Manning. Denver’s retooled secondary will be tested a lot in this game as the Colts will probably find it hard to run the football. If Denver’s defense can play as well as advertised, that will only make Peyton Manning’s job even easier. If you remember Peyton’s season opener last season, he really went for the throat and threw for 7 touchdowns. I’ll expect something close to that performance in this game as he should be able to expose the Colts secondary even without Wes Welker. Last season, the receiver that burst out from the scene was TE Julius Thomas. This season, I think it will be newcomer WR Emmanuel Sanders. Prediction: Broncos 37 – Colts 28

San Diego @ Arizona – In recent history, the second game of the Monday night football double-header has been awful. But that wont be the case this season as this matchup includes a playoff team and a 10-win team from last season. The matchup between the Chargers offense and the Cardinals defense should be a good one. San Diego might be reluctant to let Phillip Rivers to go pass-happy in this game, as the strength of the Cardinals defense is the secondary. Arizona is hurting in the middle of the defense without Darnell Dockett and Daryl Washington so it would be smart for San Diego to test that run defense. And the Chargers have the backs for the job in Ryan Matthews and Donald Brown. San Diego can be successful in this game by running the ball to set up big plays down field to WR Kennan Allen. Cardinals RB Andre Ellington is starting to gain a lot of buzz as a possible breakout player this season. Monday night would be a perfect time for him to put the league on notice so the Chargers defense will have to key on that guy. Creating pressure around Carson Palmer will be key for the Chargers defense in this game. Palmer can’t move around as much anymore but if he has time, he has two really good options down the field in Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd. I think the Cardinals defense will be able to keep them in this game at home but eventually you have to score enough points in this league. I’m taking San Diego in a small upset. Prediction: Chargers 27 – Cardinals 20

The Rest of Week 1

Saints over Falcons – Drew Brees and Jimmy Graham usually have big games in the Georgia Dome.

Bears over Bills – Chicago’s defense was bad last season but the Bills might still have problems scoring points. (Survival Football Pick of the Week)

Chiefs over Titans – Kansas City will be looking to start the season strong much like last season.

Vikings over Rams – St. Louis has a great young defense but they will be tested against Adrian Peterson.

Patriots over Dolphins – New England’s defense might look really good against the Miami offense that is starting a completely new offensive line.

Jets over Raiders – Rex Ryan will have a plan in place to confuse rookie QB Derek Carr.

Eagles over Jaguars – I don’t think Jacksonville will be able to keep up with Philly’s constant attack on offense.

Steelers over Browns – Cleveland’s defense looks good on paper but they are still the Browns. Who the hell wants to watch Brian Hoyer face the Steelers defense? Hashtag: Let Johnny play!

Texans over Redskins – I went back and forth with this pick. I think RG3 will be looking to show out in this game but Washington’s defense is still really bad.

Panthers over Buccaneers – Tampa Bay has a lot of new pieces but Carolina brings one of the best front sevens in football.

Lions over Giants – The home crowd will help Detroit in this game. New York’s defense will help them too.

Fantasy Football Picks of the Week

QB: Peyton Manning (Broncos) – I’m expecting history to repeat its self with another strong start from Manning on Sunday night.

RB: LeSean McCoy (Eagles) – Shady will facing a run defense that ranked near the bottom a season ago.

WR: Victor Cruz (Giants) – I have Detroit winning the game but they have horrid secondary. Eli Manning will be going to Cruz through out this game.

TE: Jimmy Graham (Saints) – Graham has always been a matchup nightmare for the Falcons.

DEF: Carolina – The Panthers defense should be able to set the tone on the road against division rival, Tampa Bay.