Tag Archives: Khalil Mack

NFL 2019: Week 7 Predictions

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

By: Elias McMillan

 

Last Week: 7-7

Season: 51-40-1

Top Five Games of the Week

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

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

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

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

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

The Rest of Week 7

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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NFL 2019: Week 4 Predictions

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Surprise! The Lions are undefeated. On Sunday, they’ll face Kansas City at home.

By: Elias McMillan

 

Last Week: 9-7

Season: 29-18-1

Top Five Games of the Week

Philadelphia @ Green Bay – The Eagles are in the need for a confidence builder after losing at home to the Lions in Week 3. Too bad that things will not get any easier for them as they will kick off Week 4 in the NFL on the road against a good Packers team. Green Bay has surprised everyone this year with how well they are playing defensively. It is now Aaron Rodgers and the offense that needs to step up. I think Rodgers will have a big game tonight against a poor Eagles secondary. QB Carson Wentz will have to perform at a high level tonight in order to keep the pace against Rodgers. The Eagles will be receiving more help in the passing game with a couple of key guys returning from injury. But I don’t think it will matter if the Packers defense continues to play like it has in the first 3 weeks. Prediction: Packers over Eagles

New England @ Buffalo – The undefeated Bills area nice surprise to start the 2019 season. But here comes the Patriots to crush their dreams in this early season matchup. Buffalo has a huge chore on Sunday but they can help themselves by keeping the home crowd into it with some big plays in the 1stquarter. The fans at the Ralph will be fired up at the pre game so the Bills must really prioritize getting off to a good start. I imagine this would mean QB Josh Allen testing that Patriot secondary and the Bills defense getting after Tom Brady. Given the atmosphere at the stadium on Sunday, it would be interesting if this game was competitive late into the 4thquarter. Weirder things have happened but usually New England plays great in Buffalo. I’m not sure if the Pats will be able to put up many points against the Bills defense but they find a way to pull this one out at the end. Prediction: Patriots over Bills

Kansas City @ Detroit – The Lions did tie with Arizona earlier this season but they are still technically unbeaten. Detroit also shocked the NFL last week upsetting the favored Eagles on the road. Now, the Lions return home to face the team with the hottest offense in the NFL, Kansas City. Detroit’s defense is underrated especially in the secondary. That unit will face a great test Sunday as the Chiefs offer a boatload of offensive weapons. QB Patrick Mahomes is the reigning MVP and he is playing like he’s going to win that award again this year. His counterpart on Sunday, QB Matt Stafford, has pretty good arm too but Detroit has had problems protecting him. I think the Kansas City defense will get after Stafford in the backfield and force him into some mistakes. If the Chiefs defense can give Mahomes some short fields to work with, he will fill the stat sheet. Prediction: Chiefs over Lions

Minnesota @ Chicago –Chicago’s defense showed up in a big way on Monday Night. They are going to have to play that way every week to get a victory. QB Mitch Trubisky didn’t play too badly against Washington but it’s looking more and more like he has regressed in 2019. Minnesota’s defense is usually tough and they will make it hard for that Bears offense to operate, even at home. LB Khalil Mack is capable of taking over ball games so, Minnesota must do whatever to prevent that from happening. Double teams. Triple teams. Whatever. QB Kirk Cousins is a good player but he is also the type to fold under pressure. He is going to have to step up in the face of this defense and deliver for his team on the road. If not, we could see an upset. Prediction: Vikings over Bears

Dallas @ New Orleans – The Cowboys got through their first 3 games of the season like a walk in the park. Now, we will get to see what this team is really about as they’ll face 3 out of 4 quality opponents before going into the bye week. First up, the New Orleans Saints, who are coming off a huge road victory at Seattle. The most notable thing with the Saints at the moment is that they are without QB Drew Brees. That seemed to not matter last week as QB Teddy Bridgewater delivered and WR Michael Thomas and RB Alvin Kamara provided big plays. The Cowboys had a season defining win last season against the Saints and I’m sure New Orleans hasn’t forgotten about it. Both defenses in this game are really going to get after the opposing offenses. Both teams will also attempt to control the line of scrimmage with the run game rather it be with Kamara for New Orleans or Ezekiel Elliott for Dallas. QB Dak Prescott has been great at providing big plays down the field this year when he has time. DE Cam Jordan had a huge game against Dallas last year and that Cowboys offensive line will have to account for him again on Sunday night. Dallas didn’t look as sharp last week and I think New Orleans will be able to ride the high of last week’s big win in Seattle. Dallas is also having problems, yet again, with getting to the QB on defense. It wouldn’t surprise me if Bridgewater is successful attacking through the air. Prediction: Saints over Cowboys

The Rest of Week 4

Falcons over Titans – I’m beginning to think that Tennessee’s Week 1 victory over Cleveland has over rated them.

Colts over Raiders – Indy might have a tough time defending home field against a fresh Oakland team.

Chargers over Dolphins – I think I read that it’s been a while since the Chargers franchise has won in Miami. They’ll have a great chance to buck that trend on Sunday.

Washington over Giants – Let’s see if all the Daniel Jones love will continue with Saquon Barkley out of the lineup.

Ravens over Browns – Baltimore has been talking how they are tired of hearing about Cleveland. They will be looking to make a statement this week.

Texans over Panthers – Kyle Allen looked great last week. I think Houston’s defense will be too much for him to overcome.

Rams over Buccaneers – Tampa should have won last week but the game winning field goal was off target. The Rams wont give them a chance at a last second victory.

Seahawks over Cardinals – Seattle’s defense will be looking to bounce back after being dominated last week at home.

Jaguars over Broncos – I like the Jacksonville defense to look really good against “statue quarterback” Joe Flacco. Jaguars LB Josh Allen could be the next Von Miller.

Steelers over Bengals – I wouldn’t call this a must win for Pittsburgh in Week 4 but, yeah, it really is. If they drop this one at home, it could get ugly in the Steel City as Pittsburgh would start the season in the AFC North basement.

NFL 2019: Week 1 Predictions

Carolina Panthers v New England Patriots

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

By: Elias McMillan

 

Past Regular Season Records:

2014 Regular Season Record: 158-97-1

2015 Regular Season Record: 163-93

2016 Regular Season Record: 163-91-2

2017 Regular Season Record: 151-103

2018 Regular Season Record: 150-104-2

 

Top Five Games of the Week

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

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

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

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

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

The Rest of Week 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

NFL 2019: Random Divisional Thoughts & a Pre-Season Super Bowl Prediction

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Can Drew Brees and the Saints finally make a return to the Super Bowl this season?

By: Elias McMillan

Before we start the season this weekend, here are some of my random thoughts about the goings on in each division. Plus, I’ll include my always-wrong pre-season Super Bowl prediction.

NFC East

The biggest topic in Dallas this offseason has been the contract situations for the team’s youngest stars. As a Cowboys fan, my attitude about this has remained unchanged: I don’t care. Lets just win a championship. Jerry Jones has handed out extensions to a couple of guys already but as I type this, the Ezekiel Elliott deal hasn’t been completed yet. I’ve never been too worried about this situation and I’ve always been sure that Elliott would not sit out the season. Elliott is the most important player on the roster and he deserves the money. But as Mr. Jones said earlier this offseason, you do not need a rushing champion to win a championship. And he’s absolutely right. But if that’s the case, why draft a guy like Elliott 4thoverall? Why then proceed to build the entire offense around that position? The bottom line is that for Dallas to compete for a championship this year, they are going to need the defense to repeat what they did last season and for Dak Prescott to play above average football. Now, Zeke can win you ballgames but for Dallas to go far, I believe both of those things will play a factor. And no matter what fans or analysts say, this division will be a dogfight. It always is. Philly probably has the best roster in the division from top to bottom. No one is expecting much from Wash or NYG but that could potentially make them dangerous. I believe it will come down to Philly and Dallas but this division will definitely will not be a cakewalk.

NFC North

It’s going to be interesting to see how Chicago deals with success. The target in this division is now on their back. I just don’t think Green Bay or Detroit has enough to compete with them this year. That leaves Minnesota who returns with a talented roster and a chip on their shoulder after disappointing last year. Chicago’s defense will be elite again with LB Khalil Mack but the difference maker on this team will have to come from their offense. QB Mitch Trubisky must continue to progress. Minnesota has the talent on both sides of the ball to over take Chicago this year. They just have to stay healthy and QB Kirk Cousins has to perform well in big spots.

NFC South

Despite all of their recent failures in the playoffs, the championship window is still open in New Orleans. The Saints are deep with talent and experience and they are my favorite in the conference. I think Carolina will be improved this season and they will make the playoffs. Though, I’m already concerned with the health of Cam Newton. I don’t think Newton knows how to play differently in terms of body conservation. We all know he can do amazing things on the run but recently, they has placed his health at risk. I hope Newton’s shoulder is healed from a season ago and he can show once again what he can do with his arm. I’m rooting for Bruce Arians in Tampa. He’s a good coach and he’s surrounded himself with a good staff. It’s going to take some time for him to right the ship in Tampa and I hope the organization gives him that time.

NFC West

I don’t think the Jadaveon Clowney trade changes much in this division but it definitely makes Seattle a better football team. The Seahawks might have a defense now as good as they had during their Super Bowl runs. It will be up to Russell Wilson and the passing game to do enough even though they will be leaning on some inexperience at the WR position. QB Jimmy Garoppolo has received mixed reviews in the preseason. It would be a shame if he doesn’t pan out this season for the 49ers. I think San Fran has the pieces to be the next dominant defense in this division. But they won’t do much winning if the offense doesn’t produce. Garoppolo will be under a lot of pressure in 2019. Not to mention that LA, Arizona, and now Seattle all have elite pass rushers.

AFC East

Head coach Brian Flores won’t admit it but it’s true: the Miami Dolphins are tanking. The trading away of expensive veterans would have made sense months ago but to do so just days before the season sends a very clear message. I feel bad for QB Josh Rosen. Though he is not starting, he now walks into another tough situation in Miami. It will be interesting to see if the remade Jets are improved this year. If not, it looks like New England will walk right into another division title.

AFC North

The time to talk in Cleveland is over. All the hype means nothing now. They are 0-0. It’s hard to disappoint when you only won 7 games last season but it sounds like anything but a playoff berth for the Browns will be deemed as so. As I said before, Cleveland must crawl before they can walk. For me, crawling will be showing that they can 8 games. I think Pittsburgh is going to be super motivated at least for the beginning of the season. I think the lost of AB and the lack of talent will catch to them eventually this season. It could be around Week 7 or if they meet New England in the post season. Per usual.

AFC South

Houston is getting dragged by fans and critics for the Clowney trade, but now they are suddenly the favorites in this division. Without Clowney, they still have JJ Watt and Whitney Mercilus to provide a pass rush. And the trade for Laremy Tunsil will upgrade the offensive line that looked awful in the preseason. I wouldn’t count Indianapolis out in this division as well. I think the team will rally around QB Jacoby Brissett and play some good ball. What also caught my attention in the preseason in this division: Jaguars rookie LB Josh Allen. He has looked beastly at times and Jacksonville’s defense could make a return to dominance with him in the fold. The Luck retirement has made the race in the AFC South very interesting and this is before a single game has been played.

AFC West

I really liked the Chargers going into this season but the Derwin James injury is an absolute killer. I think LA will still be able to compete in this division but they lost one of the top talents with that injury. Kansas City has been a question mark with me this offseason because of the Tyreek Hill and Kareem Hunt situations. But Hill has been made available and the Chiefs’ backfield looks really solid now with the signing of Shady McCoy. The Chiefs offense will be scary once again in 2019.

Super Bowl LIV Prediction

Well, if we learned anything last year, its that New England reign at the top isn’t over yet no matter how badly we all want it to be. The Pats will once again walk thru the AFC East and skate past all comers in January. New Orleans looks like the class of the NFC going into 2019. But as good as they look, we all know the result if they meet Brady and the Pats in Miami early February. Prediction: Patriots over Saints

NFL 2019: NFC Preview

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If Carson Wentz is healthy, the Eagles could be serious contenders in the NFC this season.

 

By: Elias McMillan

 

NFC EAST

It seems like things will never change in the NFL’s “glamour” division. The NFC East hasn’t seen a repeat champion in 15 seasons and I think that tradition will remain the same in 2019. The Dallas Cowboys have come the closest to bucking that trend as they have won the division three times in the last six seasons. But if you’ve been paying attention to that franchise, you should know that they usually disappoint after a successful season. Usually. If you look on paper, the Philadelphia Eagles probably has the most talent in the division from top to bottom. A lot is going to depend on the play of the QB. Nick Foles almost lifted Philadelphia again in the 2018 postseason, winning on the road in Chicago and almost upsetting New Orleans. With Foles now in Jacksonville, Philly will be depending on Carson Wentz to return to his 2017 form where he was a MVP candidate. He’ll have plenty of help this season as the Eagles are deep at the skill positions. At WR, DeSean Jackson returns to Philly joining Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor. The Eagles should have an improved backfield this season as well. They acquired RB Jordan Howard from Chicago and drafted speedster Miles Sanders from Penn State. On defense, DT Fletcher Cox leads a loaded group on the defensive line. Veteran safety Malcolm Jenkins also returns though Philly’s secondary seems to always be a weakness year in and year out. The defending champion Cowboys also return with a talented roster in 2019. A lot of the talk during the offseason with Dallas has been about the contract situations of QB Dak Prescott, WR Amari Cooper, and star RB Ezekiel Elliott. I’m sure all three will get their deals, respectfully, especially Elliott who is easily the most important player on the roster. Despite all the talk about the offensive side of the ball, the real reason why Dallas made a run to the postseason last year was their defense. I think Dallas will be strong defensively again in 2019. LB’s Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch are the cornerstones for this defense right now and for the future. The Cowboys should be able to get after QB’s this season with DE’s Demarcus Lawrence and newcomer Robert Quinn. Dallas needs to find an answer in the middle of their run defense as they absolutely killed them in their playoff loss against the Rams. In the secondary, they have promising young talent. Safety Xavier Woods could have a breakout season. CB Byron Jones made the Pro Bowl last season but he gives up big plays in crucial situations. I don’t see Dallas extending his contract unless his interception numbers improve. He has 2 in four seasons as a pro. If Washington didn’t get derailed by injuries on both sides of the ball last year, they probably would have won the division. They enter the 2019 campaign with holes in their roster due to injuries and losses in free agency. The QB position is still reeling after injuries last season to Alex Smith and Colt McCoy. They may have to lean on Case Keenum to start this season but if he’s shaky, the cries for rookie Dwayne Haskins will get louder. What else might not help is the absence of OT Trent Williams. Without him, it may not even matter who Washington starts at QB. I really liked Washington’s defense at the beginning of last season. I think losing LB Preston Smith will hurt them this year though they did draft a possible replacement in Montez Sweat. Washington has young talent on their defensive line but that unit has to stay healthy this year. The secondary already has CB Josh Norman but they should receive a boost with the addition of safety Landon Collins. No one is expecting much out of the New York Football Giants this year as they lost Collins and Odell Beckham Jr. in the offseason. Surprisingly, QB Eli Manning returns in what should be his swan song. The Giants used their top pick in the draft on QB Daniel Jones from DOOK and I expect that they do plan to play him. The leash on Manning this year should be short. If trading away OBJ wasn’t bad enough, the WR core turned into a complete dumpster fire right as training camp began. Injuries and suspensions will leave the QB’s with not a lot of reliable options in the passing game. RB Saquon Barkley will be tasked with literally carrying this offense. The Giants defense is in full rebuild mode. They could surprise some teams but they have a lot of young and unproven talent. Rookies CB Deandre Baker and DT Dexter Lawrence will have to grow up quickly in their first seasons. Projected Finish: 1) Eagles, 2) Cowboys, 3) Washington, 4) Giants

NFC NORTH

The Chicago Bears had zero buzz entering the 2018 season until they made an acquisition that completely turned their franchise around. Trading for edge rusher Khalil Mack made Chicago into a contender in the NFC and he’s a difference maker that could keep Chicago atop this division for a couple years. Chicago’s defense really didn’t have an identity since Brian Urlacher retired. Now, they feature one of the top front sevens in the league that specializes in getting to the QB. On offense, the Bears will be looking for QB Mitch Trubisky to continue to improve as a down the field passer. The backfield will look different this year, as Jordan Howard was send away to Philly. RB Tarik Cohen could have a breakout season and rookie RB David Montgomery has impressed so far in the preseason. Minnesota will be looking to rebound after a disappointing 2018. QB Kirk Cousins will be forever criticized in the media because of his contract but I believe he’s a much better player than people let on. The emergence of WR Adam Thielen has been a huge help for Cousins and the passing offense. Thielen and Stephon Diggs form one of the top 1-2 punches at receiver in the league. Minnesota is still waiting for RB Dalvin Cook to breakout as he has a ton of ability. The Vikings defense took a step back last season. They’ll be looking to bounce back in 2019 with many returning starters including LB Anthony Barr who almost left in free agency. I think Green Bay is going to go through some growing pains this season as they are rebuilding. Replacing familiar names with young talent could actually workout for them in the long run especially on the defensive side. LB Clay Matthews is gone but free agent signing, LB Preston Smith, is a younger, talented replacement. On offense, everything will be tied to all-world QB Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers is still the top passer in the league but the Packers need to do a better job at protecting him, as he isn’t getting younger. WR Davante Adams has solidified himself as one of the best WR in the league and as Rodgers’ top target. Every year it seems like Green Bay will be waiting for somebody to breakout at the RB position. Maybe it will be RB Aaron Jones who scored 9 times last season. In Detroit, it’s looking more and more like the Matt Patricia experiment will be ending soon. This could be a make or break season for him as Detroit has a roster than shouldn’t be in the NFC North basement. I feel bad for QB Matt Stafford who is on his way to being the latest star player to have his career wasted at Ford Field. If Detroit doesn’t have a great season, I wonder if he would try to force his way outta there though it would be hard because of his massive contract. Stafford will have decent talent around him this year. WR Kenny Golladay had a breakout 2018 season and RB’s Kerryon Johnson and C.J. Anderson should be a formable duo in the backfield. I think Detroit’s defense could be good enough to keep the Lions in games this season. They had a top 10 secondary last year and upfront, they added DE Trey Flowers from New England and DT Mike Daniels from Green Bay. I’m not sure what Daniels has left in the tank but I love the revenge factor of him signing with Detroit after being cut by the Packers. Projected Finish: 1) Bears, 2) Vikings, 3) Packers, 4) Lions

NFC SOUTH

In recent years, I have picked the Saints to come out of the NFC because on paper, they appear to have the best or one of the best rosters in the league. The same could be said again going into 2019. The way the Saints’ season ended last year should serve as enough motivation to see the team atop this division again. On offense, they return elite talent at the QB, RB, and WR positions. RB Alvin Kamara will have a new partner in the backfield this year in Latavius Murray. Drew Brees will also have a new weapon in the passing game, TE Jared Cook. New Orleans’ defense was pretty decent last year and I think the addition of DT Malcolm Brown from New England will make them stronger. I think the Carolina Panthers had a great offseason but their success will be tied to the health of QB Cam Newton. If Newton is back to 100%, Carolina could be a sleeper in the NFC. I still think Newton doesn’t have enough help on the offensive side of the ball. RB Christian McCaffrey proved himself to be a legit threat behind the tackles as a runner and as a receiver. WR D.J. Moore needs to have a similar breakout season in 2019. I really like how Carolina improved their defense in the offseason. They have a nice mix of young talent (rookie DE Brian Burns) and veteran leadership (DT Gerald McCoy). The LB group will miss Thomas Davis but they still have Luke Kuechly, Shaq Thompson, and newly acquired veteran Bruce Irvin. The Atlanta Falcons did reach the Super Bowl a few seasons ago but they seem to reach expectations. As long as they have QB Matt Ryan and WR Julio Jones, they are going to put up big numbers. But Ryan isn’t getting enough help from his offensive line. Atlanta addressed that in this past draft but those young blockers are going to have to grow up fast. RB Devonta Freeman returns to the backfield for Atlanta but without Tevin Coleman who left in free agency. Atlanta defense has been seen as a weak point on this team but they do have great individual talents in LB Deion Jones and edge rusher Vic Beasley. Tampa Bay has a long way to go in order to be competitive in this division again. But I really like the hiring of new head coach Bruce Arians. Him and offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich will be tasked with saving the career of QB Jameis Winston who is running out of favor in the organization. Winston still has the tools to be a successful QB in this league but he hasn’t been able to put it all together. Hopefully, the coaching change will help.  The reliable WR Mike Evans returns to provide big plays in the passing game. Tampa also resigned OT Donovan Smith to help keep Winston upright. Tampa’s defense is going through a transition, marked by the sudden release of long time Buccaneer, Gerald McCoy. They added veteran Ndamukong Suh to the defensive line but the real newcomer to look for will be rookie LB Devin White. I would be surprised if this Tampa team won a lot in 2019 but this season will be really all about fixing Jameis Winston. Because if they are picking high in next year’s draft, they probably be looking for a new QB. Projected Finish: 1) Saints, 2) Panthers, 3) Falcons, 4) Buccaneers

NFC WEST

The LA Rams made a surprise run to the Super Bowl last season and they could be in line for a return visit. QB Jared Goff will look to keep improving and the return of WR Cooper Kupp from injury should help. Kupp will return to an already talented group at WR that includes Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods. RB Todd Gurley is the real engine that keeps this Rams offense running. His health has been concerning recently but if healthy, he’s the best back in football. The Rams have the best defensive lineman in football in DT Aaron Donald. On the edge, they traded for DE Dante Fowler late last season and that move paid off greatly for LA. He returns to a Rams defensive line that should be the tops in the NFC. The Rams also added a pair of veterans on defense looking to prove that they still got it: LB Clay Matthews and safety Eric Weddle. Last season, we learned that no matter how many faces change on both sides of the ball in Seattle, they’ll always have a chance with QB Russell Wilson behind center. Wilson will be without reliable target Doug Baldwin this year but he will be expecting big things from rookie WR DK Metcalf. Outside of Metcalf, WR Tyler Lockett proved to be a playmaker in the offense last season. On defense, Seattle traded away their best pass rusher in the offseason. They’re going to need someone on the defensive line to step up. The strength of Seattle’s defense is still intact as long as they have LB Bobby Wagner in the middle. San Francisco has accumulated so much young talent in recent years, I feel like they could be a surprise team this season. A lot is going to depend on the play of QB Jimmy Garoppolo who has not looked great so far in preseason. San Fran is also really missing a big play WR. In the backfield, they are loaded with returning starter Matt Breida and free agent signee Tevin Coleman. I think this 49ers team has promise because of their defense. They acquired DE Dee Ford from Kansas City and picked up the top pass rusher in the draft, Nick Bosa. If the 49ers do one thing well this year on defense, it will be getting after the QB. San Fran also signed LB Kwon Alexander who was a playmaker in Tampa Bay. I’m not sure what CB Richard Sherman has left in the tank but it would be nice if this defense saw contributions from him in the secondary this season. Arizona is starting back at square one this season after firing their head coach after one year. They brought in Kliff Kingsbury to coach the team despite having zero NFL experience and they drafted a talented young QB first overall who will be tasked with fixing an offense that was pretty bad last season. This experiment in Arizona is going to be a great success or a great disaster. QB Kyler Murray will have enough veteran help around him in WR Larry Fitzgerald and RB David Johnson. Great pass rushers, Chandler Jones and newcomer Terrell Suggs will headline Arizona’s defense. I like the addition of LB Jordan Hicks who made a lot of big plays in Philadelphia. CB Patrick Peterson returns to the secondary, which was one of the best in football a season ago. Arizona will be hurt without Peterson as he will be suspended for the first 6 games of the season. Projected Finish: 1) Rams, 2) Seahawks, 3) 49ers, 4) Cardinals

 

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 14 Predictions

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The Houston Texans haven’t looked back since starting the season 0-3.

By: Elias McMillan

 

Last Week: 10-6

Season: 109-81-2

Big Five Games of the Week

Baltimore @ Kansas City – Rookie QB Lamar Jackson hasn’t lost since being inserted into the starting lineup for an injured Joe Flacco. But really, Baltimore’s current success is due to the play of their defense. That defense will be tested in a huge way Sunday in Kansas City. Even with the absence of RB Kareem Hunt, I still expect this Chiefs offense to not miss a beat. KC doesn’t really have a dominating defense and Baltimore has been able to hold their own against quality opponents this season. So, I think this could be a surprisingly contested game. But a road win in Kansas City maybe to tall of a task for this rookie QB. Winner: Chiefs

Indianapolis @ Houston – I didn’t expect the Colts to get shutout like they did last week. But that was not a great showing from them with another divisional showdown on the road looming. Houston hasn’t lost since starting the season 0-3. I don’t think they’ll win out going into the post season but it is starting to look that way. I could be wrong but I think QB Andrew Luck has a good track record against Houston. Either way, it doesn’t look like Indy is ready to upend the streaking Texans. Winner: Texans

Philadelphia @ Dallas – This will be a big test for Dallas in terms of not being tied to the “moment”. The Cowboys shocked everyone last week with a home victory over a quality opponent but they have to move on. This Sunday, a new challenge will present themselves in the form of the desperate Philadelphia Eagles. A good thing going forward from last week for Dallas is that the team must be feeling really encouraged about the defensive side of the ball. But Dallas should know that let downs can happen and they can’t afford to be victims to that in the middle of the playoff race. Philadelphia has won two straight against NFC East opponents despite not playing well recently. The Eagles are just not healthy enough to make a late push this season for the playoffs. I think they’ll play Dallas tough though. These games are usually “drag ‘em out” fights until the end. But if Dallas can play like they know they can defensively, I think they’ll roll at home. Winner: Cowboys

LA Rams @ Chicago – The Bears have struggled without QB Mitch Trubisky but luckily their entire division is on the struggle bus as well. They’ll get Trubisky back in time for Sunday night, as Chicago will host the current top seed in the NFC. The strength vs. strength matchup in this game is an intriguing one. On one hand, the Rams are able to score at will with all their weapons. But on the other Chicago’s defense is pretty stout, led by LB Khalil Mack. This game could turn on the defender playing for the visiting team. DT Aaron Donald is the league’s leader in sacks and is on pace for a second straight defensive player of the year award. Chicago will welcome the return of their starting QB but he will not be so please to see 99 lining up across from him. Winner: Rams

Minnesota @ Seattle – The secret is out on Seattle. They were supposed to fall off this year but they look like they could be the team that no one wants to play in the post season. Minnesota, despite their early struggles, could still make the post season. They are currently in a rough stretch in their schedule but they getting healthy at the right time. That being said, I don’t see them being able to produce big plays offensively on the road against this Seahawks defense. QB Russell Wilson has shown plenty of big play ability this season and I think we’ll see that again Monday against a struggling Vikings secondary. Winner: Seahawks

The Rest of Week 14

Titans over Jaguars – Tennessee is still in the playoff race and they always seem to just have Jacksonville’s number.

Bills over Jets – Buffalo is a safe bet at home in December.

Browns over Panthers – Carolina has issues. Cleveland can attack their secondary through the air on offense and their pass rush should be able to rattle a Cam Newton who may not be at 100%.

Falcons over Packers – Green Bay is usually good at home but they lost their last week against Arizona. Atlanta is holding on to slim playoff hopes.

Patriots over Dolphins – Miami can be tough at home especially with Ryan Tannehill back in the lineup. This one could be close.

Saints over Buccaneers – New Orleans will be anxious to bounce back after last week’s nightmare.

Giants over Washington – Washington is one game out of first place but they refuse to better their situation at QB. They would rather lose than try to put a better player at the QB position. What kind of message does that send to the locker room? I hope New York wins by a million. Dan Synder and Jay Gruden are gutless, cowards.

Chargers over Bengals – Things are looking up in LA. The playoffs look likely as they were able to get a huge road victory last week without Melvin Gordon.

Broncos over 49ers – Denver is going to have to get it done through the run game because of the injuries at the WR position.

Steelers over Raiders – I know everyone is talking about Pittsburgh’s recent history in Oakland and the James Connor injury. It doesn’t matter. Oakland stinks.

Lions over Cardinals – Who’s going to watch this game? Just a brutal matchup. Worthy of Thursday Night Football.

Fantasy Football Picks of the Week

QB: Phillip Rivers (Chargers) – After a big victory last week, Rivers faces the second worst secondary in the league at home.

RB: Christian McCaffery (Panthers) – Carolina is struggling but the little RB out of Stanford has been their saving grace recently.

WR: Michael Thomas (Saints) – Thomas didn’t do much last week in Dallas. He’ll bounce back against Tampa’s secondary.

TE: Jared Cook (Raiders) – Cook is quietly having a nice season in Oakland.

DEF: New York Giants – Mark Sanchez is starting in a NFL game on Sunday. Hahahahahahhaahhahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaahhahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahhaahaha.