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NFL Playoffs: 2017 NFL Wild-Card Weekend Predictions!

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Miami’s run to the playoffs started in Week 6 against the Steelers. On Sunday, the Dolphins will meet them again in Pittsburgh.

By: Elias McMillan

 

Last Week: 14-2

Final 2016 Regular Season Record: 163-91-2

NFL Playoffs: Wildcard Weekend

Oakland @ Houston – For the second straight year, ESPN gets stuck with coverage of a playoff game in Houston that no one really wanted to see. Oakland was such a great story this season until about 2 weeks ago. Within that time, they have lost their starter and backup QB in rout to already being clinched for a post-season berth in the playoffs. Where Oakland goes from here is anyone’s guess. Houston has had its QB troubles recently too. Houston’s 72 million dollar man, QB Brock Osweiler, was bench about 3 weeks ago but because of a concussion suffered by his replacement, backup Tom Savage, Osweiler will be back in the starting position this Saturday. We have to imagine that Osweiler isn’t feeling too confident about his standing as the leader of the offense or as a competent QB in this league. The fact is that Osweiler hasn’t lived up to expectations this season. I’m not sure if Houston is going to need Osweiler to be great to win this playoff game. Houston has other weapons on the team that will make them a tough out for the Raiders. RB Lamar Miller had a good first season with the Texans. He was held out from the last two games of the regular season and he should be fresh and ready to go this weekend. Oakland will have to find a way to account for Miller as they ranked 23rd in the league in run defense. Houston is going to have to run the ball effectively in this game in order to control the clock and to keep Osweiler from making a mistake. Oakland doesn’t have a strong run defense but their defense can affect the game in other ways. Edge rushers, Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin, have made a living this season at creating chaos in the opponents back field. Oakland allows quite a few yards through the air but I like the way safety Reggie Nelson has been playing lately. Oakland doesn’t have the best defense in the playoffs but they have the ability to create turnovers that can change the game. After being down two QB’s, the Raiders will have to start QB Connor Cook on Saturday who is making his career debut as a pro. Cook is a real wildcard in this matchup because no one knows what to expect from him. Oakland’s offensive line has a huge task ahead of them as they will have to protect their young QB against a pretty good Houston defense. DE Jadeveon Clowney has finally emerged as a difference maker on the field with the absence of J.J. Watt. Oakland has had a serviceable running game this season so with Cook starting, we may see a steady dose of RB Latavius Murray. Houston has one of the top pass defenses in the league so it will be interesting seeing how Cook want to attack them with Amari Cooper or Michael Crabtree. In their matchup earlier this season, Houston outplayed Oakland really but they were on the wrong end of a couple of bad calls. I bet Oakland thinks that can play better than what they did in the last matchup but Houston probably has the bigger revenge chip on their shoulder. Oakland won 12 games this season and I think their playmakers on defense will be the difference. I’m taking the Raiders in a low scoring affair. Prediction: Raiders 18 – Texans 14

Detroit @ Seattle – In the second game on Saturday, we’ll see two teams that don’t look like they are ready to make a run towards the Super Bowl. Detroit squandered their lead in the NFC North to the Packers in a matter of 3 weeks. Seattle wrapped up the NFC West earlier but since the injury to Earl Thomas, they haven’t looked the same. Detroit still has its work cut out for them if they hope to upset Seattle who is usually a monster at home. But with the way Seattle has been playing lately, they are definitely vulnerable right now, even with the home field advantage. If Detroit can keep Seattle from controlling the clock on offense, they’ll have a shot at winning this game. Detroit has been inconsistent at stopping the run on defense but Seattle’s run game has been inconsistent as well. I don’t know how well Russell Wilson will play but Detroit will have to find a way to pressure him in order to keep him from making big plays. Last year in the playoffs, Wilson struggled in that first game at Minnesota but was still able to make the big play late to help Seattle get the victory. With the state of the Seahawks offensive line, I believe the Lions will be able to get after Wilson. Seattle is still pretty good defensively even without Earl Thomas. The Seahawks have a good pass rush and one of the top run defenses in the league. Detroit should have a hard time getting the run game going which will open the door for QB Matt Stafford to try to win the game with his arm. The Legion of Boom isn’t quite that without Thomas in the lineup so I wouldn’t be surprised to see Stafford find the matchups that will help him get his team down the field. TE Eric Ebron has emerged recently and WR’s Golden Tate and Anquan Boldin are more than familiar with the Seattle secondary. I think this game will be closer than what many people think. Detroit hasn’t won in a month and I don’t think I have faith in their defense to totally shut down Seattle offensively. A wildcard in this game will be TE Jimmy Graham who can destroy a defense’s game plan at any moment. I’m going with the home team. Prediction: Seahawks 26 – Lions 21

Miami @ Pittsburgh – Miami starting the season with a 1-4 record going into their Week 6 matchup at home against the Steelers. Who would have known that game was the start of a 9-2 run in the post season? Miami has had a remarkable and unlikely run to the playoffs this season and it is fitting that they’ll be in Pittsburgh on Sunday for this Wildcard matchup. People see the city name “Miami” and think, “Oh. There’s no way a team from Miami can win in Pittsburgh in January!” That thinking is common but couldn’t be more false. Miami is a ten-point underdog this weekend but I think they could stand a chance in Pittsburgh. Miami was able to beat Pittsburgh in their first matchup this season because of RB Jay Ajayi and the Miami run game. A great coach once said that a good run game is one thing that is guaranteed to travel with teams no matter which stadium they’re playing at. If Miami brings their running attack and is able to control the clock, they’ll be able to limit Pittsburgh’s scoring chances on offense. QB Matt Moore will be starting for the Dolphins and I don’t see him coming out with the goal to just air it out against the Steelers secondary. Pittsburgh’s defense as a whole has gotten a lot better since Week 6 so Moore will have to be careful and be selective about the shots to take down field. Miami does have more than capable WR’s in Jarvis Landry and Kenny Stills. This game will feature two defenses that can allow both offenses to put up a lot of numbers but again; I see where Pittsburgh’s defense has improved. Not so much with Miami. I don’t have much confidence in Miami limiting Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, or Antonio Brown on Sunday. For Miami to stand a chance on defense, they will need to bring the pressure towards Roethlisberger for all 4 quarters. The Steelers have a decent offensive line but they’ll have a huge chore ahead of them on Sunday in the shape of DE Cameron Wake and DT Ndamukong Suh. I think too many things would have to go right for Miami for them to upset Pittsburgh on Sunday. Miami could slow the game down with Ajayi or harass Roethlisberger behind the line of scrimmage. But the Steelers just have too many weapons for Miami to account for. They wont be able to stop Bell on the ground and with time, Roethlisberger should be able to find big plays down the field against the Dolphins secondary. Miami could make it interesting but I like the Steelers at home. Prediction: Steelers 36 – Dolphins 28

New York Giants @ Green Bay – The second matchup on Sunday features two of the hottest teams in the NFC. Green Bay rode their hot streak into winning the NFC North last week. The Giants have looked impressive down the stretch and many believe that they could be gearing up for another championship run. I have to give Green Bay credit for catching up with Detroit and winning the division but on Sunday, they might match up poorly against the Giants. The Giants have done a tremendous job defensively recently and they might present some issues to Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense. New York may not have the same pass rushing abilities they had when Jason Pierre-Paul was healthy but they playing well against the run and the secondary is also playing out of its mind right now. If the Giants can’t get after Rodgers, he will have time in the pocket but many QB’s have found it tough recently against the Giants secondary. Green Bay is going to have to figure out a creative way to get receivers open down the field. Another thing I don’t like about this matchup for the Packers is that their defense really isn’t good. They have had their issues this season at stopping the run and they are recently faced with multiple injuries in the secondary. The Giants don’t have a strong rushing offense but they do have some talented backs that might be able to find some space against the Packers front seven. And with a hurting secondary, the Giants and their talented trio of receivers should be able to make big plays down the field. Rodgers is the hot QB right now and he has powered the entire Green Bay squad during their run into the playoffs. Green Bay has been an overachiever in recent weeks so; I think they’ll be able to put up a good fight especially at home. But with the way that the Giants defense has been playing recently and with the state of the Packers secondary, I can see the Giants winning this one by the skin of their teeth. Prediction: Giants 24 – Packers 21

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NFL 2016: Week 16 Predictions! (Condensed Version)

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Week 16 kicks off tonight with the Giants trying to avoid a trap in Philadelphia

By: Elias McMillan

 

Last Week: 11-5

Season: 139-83-2

Week 16

New York Giants @ Philadelphia – The Giants will be wearing their sweet throwback unis tonight with the old “GIANTS” script on the helmets. The Eagles will be wearing all black, which sucks and makes no sense. Why cant the Eagles bring back their Kelly green uniforms just to match the spirit of New York’s throwbacks. Anyways, the Eagles stink this year but they have a great chance to play spoiler in tonight’s matchup. The Giants are on a roll right now and I expect them to win tonight but I wouldn’t be surprised if Philadelphia comes out pulling all the stops in this game. Strange things can happen in these Thursday night games. My Pick: Giants

Miami @ Buffalo – The Bills are holding on to slim playoff hopes while the Dolphins are trying to hang on to theirs. Buffalo in December can be a rough place for opposing teams especially for backup QBs. I know that Matt Moore played well last week but Miami will not be able to win this game passing in the cold, Western NY air. This matchup will be about the RB’s. I’ll take LeSean McCoy over Jay Ajayi. Plus, Miami’s run defense is garbage. My Pick: Bills

Washington @ Chicago – Washington laid an egg last Monday night. Chicago played Green Bay tough and probably has some confidence after that game. The Bears at home is an attractive pick but I just think Washington has the better team. It would look real bad on Kirk Cousins’ behalf if he gets out gun slanged by Matt Barkley. My Pick: Washington

San Diego @ Cleveland – The Browns have to win this game because they are not winning in Pittsburgh next week. They have to do what ever is necessary to win. They have to cheat, grab weapons, whatever. If they lose at home against a San Diego team with nothing to play for, they will go 0-16. My Pick: Browns

Minnesota @ Green Bay – Start spreading the news: the Pack is back. Aaron Rodgers! Cheese heads! And all the other stuff that the media loves. The Packers won a close one last week but they were able to comeback late and now they have one more obstacle to get over before having a shot at the division. Minnesota is done competing in football games. To not show up at home despite playing well in that new stadium all year was inexcusable. Not even the return of Adrian Peterson could spark their offense. Minnesota can’t even lean on their defense right now. I think Green Bay should roll at home. My Pick: Packers

New York Jets @ New England – The Jets usually play New England tough at the end of the season but they stink this year. New England will take care of business at home. My Pick: Patriots

Atlanta @ Carolina – I loved the way Carolina continues to play hard for their coaches despite having a horribly, disappointing season. Atlanta has been hot on the offense side of the ball despite limited contributions from star WR Julio Jones. I think Atlanta needs a reality check before the post season. I like Carolina to score the upset at home. My Pick: Panthers

Tennessee @ Jacksonville – It is time to start paying attention to Tennessee. Another week, another impressive victory against a good team. After beating the Chiefs on the road, the Titans should be able to beat Jaguars on the road on route to the AFC South title game next week. My Pick: Titans

Indianapolis @ Oakland – The Colts are still holding on to slim playoff hopes but they need Tennessee and Houston to lose games this week that they probably will not. To make matters worst, they probably wont win in Oakland on Saturday. The Raiders are playing for a chance to wrap up the AFC West and a first week bye in the post season. My Pick: Raiders

San Francisco @ Los Angeles – I wonder how many tickets to this game will be given away as Christmas presents. Fans would probably better off getting a pair of socks. My Pick: Rams

Tampa Bay @ New Orleans – Tampa still has a lot to play for despite losing at Dallas last week. New Orleans scored in bunches last week and they will look to carry that over in this week’s rival game against the Buccaneers. My Pick: Saints

Arizona @ Seattle – Arizona did two things last week that I didn’t see coming: 1) get out scored in a high scoring contests & 2) lose at home in such a high scoring contest. For Seattle, it is the same story: Yea, we have our struggles but we are usually really good at home. My Pick: Seahawks

Cincinnati @ Houston – AJ Green will be returning for the Bengals but I don’t think that will matter. The way Cincinnati played last week in the second half at home against the rival Steelers show me that they have given up on coach Marvin Lewis. I’m not sure how well Tom Savage will play for Houston but it might be fun to watch him attempt to go above and beyond to prove that he belongs as the starter for Houston. My Pick: Texans

Baltimore @ Pittsburgh – It is a shame that we have to wait until Christmas to watch any football this week that is of any importance. But this Ravens-Steelers matchup will be as big as any this week as it will decided the AFC North title. The loser might still make the playoffs but those chances will be slimmed significantly. Much like the first game between these teams, this matchup will not be for the faint of heart. It will be ugly. It will be slow paced. And it will come down to the 4th quarter. I have much confidence in the Steelers though for multiple reasons. I think playing at home will be a factor for Pittsburgh and their offense is much more explosive than Baltimore’s. I think the Pittsburgh offense will find tough sledding against the Ravens defense but they will still have chances to maximize on the big plays that gets their offense down the field. I think Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense might have their chances too to do some damage in this game but I don’t really trust them. Also, the Steelers defense is playing their best football all season currently. It might be close but I like the home Steelers on Christmas. Could you imagine if Baltimore came into Pittsburgh on Christmas a ripped the team’s heart out in front a packed Heinz Field? That would actually be awesome to see but this Ravens squad isn’t built for that. My Pick: Steelers

Denver @ Kansas City – Kansas City had a hot start at home last week but then, they went into cruise control and that allowed them to give that game away late to Tennessee. Kansas City needs some time to regroup because they have a pretty big game on Christmas night against the rival Broncos. Denver is in a serious slump especially on the offensive side of the ball. But they might be able to count on their defense in this game as the Chiefs offense looked limited last week. I still like the Chiefs in the AFC West but Denver is fighting for their playoff chances in this one and they will give KC their best shot. My Pick: Chiefs

Detroit @ Dallas – Too bad for the Lions that they couldn’t beat the Giants last week. Because now, they’ll have to play a Cowboys team on Monday night that absolutely needs to win in order to wrap up the NFC East, the NFC’s top seed, and home field advantage in the playoffs. This isn’t the same Detroit team that Dallas played in the post season two years ago. Detroit does not have a running game on offense and on defense, they are not as strong up front as they once were. I would expect Dallas to be able to pound them on offense with Ezekiel Elliott and the running game. With so much on the line for both teams, I think this will be a good game. I think Dallas will force the issue for most of the game and will probably have a lead going into the 4th quarter. That is when I start to feel good about Detroit because QB Matt Stafford has a great rep for leading late comebacks. I just think Dallas will be too much for Stafford to overcome as he is really missing another difference maker to help him on offense. My Pick: Cowboys

Week 16 Fantasy Football Picks

QB: Cam Newton (Panthers) – Cam is still putting forth his best effort despite the season his team is having. Atlanta’s defense hasn’t been challenged in two weeks. Cam will change that on Saturday.

RB: LeSean McCoy/Jay Ajayi (Bills/Dolphins) – I don’t often pick two players but with the state of Buffalo’s and Miami’s run defenses, you really can’t miss with either of these two players this week.

WR: T.Y. Hilton (Colts) – The Colts will have to rely heavily on the passing game against Oakland’s secondary.

TE: Cameron Brate (Buccaneers) – Brate is becoming a consistent performer and a reliable target for Jameis Winston.

DEF: Tennessee – The Titans don’t have a strong defense but they did a good job limiting Kansas City’s chances last week. They should be able to handle pick-six machine, Blake Bortles and the Jaguars on the road.

NFL 2016: Week 15 Predictions!

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Jameis Winston and the Buccaneers are ready for the bright lights of Jerry World.

By: Elias McMillan

 

Last Week: 8-8

Season: 128-78-2

Big Five Games of the Week

Tennessee @ Kansas City – The Titans won a game last week at home against Denver and it was one that they absolutely needed. Tennessee is still tied along the top of the AFC South and their playoff hopes remain to be very real. They will have a tough task this week on the road at Kansas City. The Chiefs are coming off of some extra rest days after taking care of Oakland last Thursday night. Kansas City’s confidence is sky high and they are looking to take control of the AFC West heading towards the playoffs. Kansas City’s defense will provide a tough test for Tennessee’s offense. RB’s DeMarco Murray and rookie Derrick Henry will have their hands full with the Chiefs front 7. QB Marcus Mariota will struggle to find big plays this week going up against KC’s secondary. The Titan defense did a great job last week limiting Denver’s scoring chances. I think Alex Smith will continue to move the football this week, as he seems to play better at home. I think Tennessee has a legit chance at making the playoffs even without winning their division. But I also think they will definitely lose this week. Prediction: Chiefs 26 – Titans 17

Indianapolis @ Minnesota – The Colts’ playoff chances are starting to dwindle. After dropping a huge one last week at home to divisional rival Houston, Andrew Luck and company will now have to travel to Minnesota to face one of the toughest defenses in the league. Minnesota is still fighting to keep their playoff hopes alive. This game on Sunday is sort of an elimination game. Minnesota has dealt with injuries all season but they have been able to lean on their defense to score some huge victories. This will have to be the case this Sunday. The Colts get their strength from their offense. WR T.Y. Hilton is among the league leaders in receiving this season but he’ll face a stiff task this week in CB Xavier Rhodes and the Vikings secondary. Minnesota’s defensive front seven is tough as well and they will make things hard for RB Frank Gore. The Colts defense was starting to play better but then, their starting middle LB got suspended last week for the season. Houston’s running game took advantage of that last week and the Vikings might be able to do the same even though Adrian Peterson isn’t quite ready yet to return. Minnesota will need this game and that will make next week’s matchup with the Packers even bigger. Prediction: Vikings 23 – Colts 20

Detroit @ New York Giants – Despite only scoring 10 points last week, it was enough for the Giants to end the Dallas win streak and they are brimming with confidence in December. The Giants still have plenty of issues but sweeping the rival Cowboys is a great feather to have in ones cap this season. The Giants still have work to do to get to the playoffs and this week’s game at home against the Lions, another 9-win team, will be huge for them. QB Matt Stafford’s dislocated finger on his throwing hand is a potentially huge development. Stafford is said to be okay and plans to play the rest of the year with the injury but we have to wonder what effects will come from that. The chess match between the Lions passing game and the Giants secondary might tilt this entire contest. I’m think that the Lions might be able to lean on their defense in this game. The Giants cant run the ball and Eli Manning has been mistake prone lately. I feel like the only thing that the Lions have to do is to make sure that WR Odell Beckham Jr doesn’t single handedly win the game for New York like he did last week. I’m going out on a limb here but I say that the Lions will upset the Giants on the road. Detroit really needs this one to keep Green Bay and Minnesota at bay in terms of the NFC North. Even with a loss, the Giants might still be a sure bet to make the post season. Prediction: Lions 21 – Giants 20

New England @ Denver – This game kinda lost its luster with no Peyton Manning in the fold for Denver. I’m sure that CBS will see that when the ratings come out after the game. Denver is in serious trouble. They have a brutal three game stretch to end the season and their playoff chances right now are looking bleak. I didn’t think they would lose last week on the road at Tennessee but now they really have their backs up against the wall. New England looks like the most impressive team in the AFC right now. Tom Brady is Tom Brady. New England’s backfield has all of their weapons healthy and playing at a high level. And we are starting to learn the names of the new defensive stars on this team. I didn’t quite understand why the Patriots would trade away Chandler Jones and Jamie Collins but last week on MNF, we saw how they are just able reload their defense with young talent. Denver’s offense is in a rut and I don’t think New England will let them out of it. Denver still have a really good defense and they will have to be the ones to keep the Broncos in this contest. If Von Miller looks the way he did the last time the Patriots came to town, Denver might have a good chance at winning this game. I think Bill Belichick will use last years AFC Championship game as motivation this week and the Patriots will be better prepared for Denver’s pass rush. I think there will be too much on the plate for Denver’s defense. I like the Brady bunch to score a road victory this week. Prediction: Patriots 24 – Broncos 16

Tampa Bay @ Dallas – NBC could not resist milking the Dallas Cowboys ratings machine one more time before the playoffs. The 11 game Cowboys win streak was snapped on the road last week in New York. Despite a valiant effort by the defense, especially by LB Sean Lee, the Cowboys only scored 7 points and the passing offense struggled. The Cowboys return back home this week to face a suddenly hot Tampa Bay team that has won 5 straight and are looking to keep pace with Atlanta in the NFC South. Tampa’s recent turnaround has been part due by their defense. Tampa is strong upfront and DT Gerald McCoy leads them. Rookie DE Noah Spence is starting to make his mark as a pass rusher. Tampa’s secondary has been making big plays late recently. Tampa also has a lot going for them on offense. QB Jameis Winston and his great weapon in the pass game, WR Mike Evans, have been giving opposing defenses a lot to deal with recently. Tampa’s run game has gotten stronger with the return of RB Doug Martin. Tampa has momentum on their side going into the biggest game for the Bucs in a while. Despite that, Dallas is really upset about how last week went down and they will be chopping at the bit to start a new win streak this week. QB Dak Prescott is starting to cool down significantly from his hot start to the season. Prescott and the passing game will have to bring the goods early in this one. I feel that the scenario of Prescott getting the hook for Tony Romo may become a real thing. Getting big plays out from the WR’s is important but for this team, the running game is more important. I think we will see the Cowboys offensive line oppose its will on the young Tampa defense on Sunday night. Ezekiel Elliott will remain everyone that he is a legit MVP candidate. And if the Dallas defense can play like it did last week, Tampa and the rest of the NFC will be in big trouble. I see a bounce back, statement game from Dallas happening on Sunday night. Prediction: Cowboys 27 – Buccaneers 20

The Rest of Week 15

Seahawks over Rams – Jeff Fisher was finally fired this week. Seattle’s uniforms will be really bright. That’s all I got.

Dolphins over Jets – QB Matt Moore was brought back to Miami for this reason. He will have to be the one to keep Miami’s playoff chances floating this week.

Bills over Browns – Buffalo disappointed me last week. They’ll get back on track this week against Cleveland.

Packers over Bears – Green Bay is streaking but they can’t overlook Chicago on their way to a big game next week vs. Minnesota.

Steelers over Bengals – What I just said about Green Bay applies to Pittsburgh as well. Cincinnati might be getting AJ Green back this week. The Bengals will play Pittsburgh tough at home. Pittsburgh has to stay away from the cheap stuff with Vontaze Burfict. What am I saying? There is going to be a fight and I want to see one.

Ravens over Eagles – Baltimore needed to try harder last week against New England. Philadelphia shouldn’t provide that much of a challenge for them. Again, they can’t overlook this game going into next week’s Christmas matchup at Pittsburgh.

Texans over Jaguars – Shout out to Jadeveon Clowney for playing hurt last week at Indy. That performance might have won the AFC South for Houston.

Falcons over 49ers – Atlanta looked really good last week. They could be peaking at the right time. Julio Jones has to get healthy though.

Cardinals over Saints – Arizona can score points. New Orleans couldn’t even do that last week.

Raiders over Chargers – San Diego was playing well recently but they were hit with all the injuries last week. Oakland should be able to bounce back after dropping a big one in Week 14.

Washington over Panthers – Josh Norman will get his revenge, as Carolina will be watching him in the post season this upcoming January.

Week 15 Fantasy Football Picks

QB: Kirk Cousins (Washington) – Carolina’s pass defense has been really bad this season. Cousins has to play well for Washington to win.

RB: Devonta Freeman (Falcons) – Against the San Francisco defense, Freeman will definitely have his chances at breaking one. You might as well start his backup, Tevin Coleman, as well.

WR: Larry Fitzgerald (Cardinals) – With Michael Floyd off the team, Carson Palmer will be looking for Fitzgerald more often for the rest of the season.

TE: Tyler Eifert (Bengals) – Eifert has been coming along strong and he appears to be back at 100% after missing most the season due to injury. Dalton will find him for some huge gains this week.

DEF: Seattle – The Seahawks defense should be able to feast against Jared Goff tonight.

 

 

NFL 2016: Week 14 Predictions!

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Eric Berry will lead the Chiefs defense in a huge game this week in the AFC West.

By: Elias McMillan

 

Last Week: 11-4

Season: 120-70-2

Big Five Games of the Week

Oakland @ Kansas City – Thursday Night Football this week features two of the hottest teams in the AFC. The Raiders are one of the top teams in the conference this season and they seem to always be apart of exciting finishes. This is because they are a tough team to put away and are able to mount comebacks late. A big reason for that is that their defense steps up and creates turnovers late in games. Thinking of turnovers, the Chiefs defense used a couple of turnovers caused by Eric Berry to score another huge road victory last week in Atlanta. Kansas City’s defense is as exciting as Oakland and they will make it hard for both offenses in this game on Thursday night. Even though Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin are playing at a high level right now, I’m going to give the edge to the Chiefs defense because they have better players in the secondary. After last week, we all saw what Eric Berry is capable of and Kansas City also receives solid play from their corners. On offense, QB Alex Smith will receive a boost in the return of WR Jeremy Maclin who has been out recently due to injury. Oakland’s weakness on defense is in the secondary and I think Smith will work to exploit that on Thursday night. Oakland QB David Carr has been playing great recently but he will find it hard on road this week against a tough defense. I’m going with the home team. Prediction: Chiefs 24 – Raiders 20

Pittsburgh @ Buffalo – The Steelers defense really stepped up at home last week and held the potentially explosive Giants offense to just 14 points. That included two huge turnovers in the red zone. The young Pittsburgh defense might be feeling confident about themselves but they will face a tougher challenge this week on the road against the Buffalo Bills. Now, I know that the Bills offense isn’t nearly as explosive as the Giants offense (at least on paper) but Buffalo’s strength will serve them well against the Steelers defense. Pittsburgh’s defense has allowed plenty of big time performances by opposing running backs this year. Buffalo plays a ball control style offense with their running game but the backs they have are supremely talented. I think LeSean McCoy can have a big day on the ground against the Steelers. Also, I’m not ready to count on the Steelers pass defense. The heat is on QB Tyrod Taylor this week to produce results. Taylor appeared to be frustrated with the way last week went in Oakland and how the media pressed him on it afterwards. I think Taylor will be looking to prove himself this week and he will receive great support by his receivers and the home crowd. I like WR Sammy Watkins’ chances against the Steeler corners as well. Buffalo’s defense has gotten tougher as the season has gone on. I think the Steeler offense will provide a great test for Buffalo and they might be able to win the game single handedly if given the opportunity. But I think Buffalo’s offense will do its part with helping the defense by controlling the clock and keeping Ben Roethlisberger and company on the bench. The Steelers maybe feeling “high” right now but they are a team that is usually ripe for a letdown on the road. I’m taking the Bills to keep their playoff hopes alive this week with a big home victory. Prediction: Bills 32 – Steelers 28

Houston @ Indianapolis – The last time I really watched Houston was against Oakland in that Monday night game in Mexico. From there, I believed that Houston was getting a bad wrap from the media and that they are actually better than what most people think. But they had a letdown on the road last week in Green Bay and they are looking more and more like a team that will meltdown in December instead of making a run to the postseason. I thought the Texans would be able to lean on their defense, which was playing well this season. But the injuries to LB Jadeveon Clowney and CB Jonathan Joseph have proved to be costly. I don’t think the Colts are a great or good team. But their offense has improved recently. RB Frank Gore is having a great bounce back season. QB Andrew Luck is finding his groove. The defense is even playing better with the return last week of pass rusher Trent Cole. The Colts are starting the trend in the positive direction and they might be able to score a huge divisional victory this week at home. Prediction: Colts 26 – Texans 23

Dallas @ New York Giants – The Cowboys are 11-1 with a current 11 game win streak. That one loss this season came in Week 1 at home to the New York Football Giants. A lot has changed since then for both teams. This is a huge NFC East contest that might determine the division champion. The Giants were on their own win streak until they ran into Pittsburgh last week. QB Eli Manning made some horrible decisions in the red zone last week and that is not going to cut it for a team that is fighting to stay alive for the postseason. Good news for Manning is that he will be facing a Dallas defense this week at home that doesn’t pressure the QB and seems to be allergic to creating turnovers. The Giants offense will have to have a bounce back performance at home this week in order to stop the Cowboys win streak. The Manning to Beckham Jr connection will have to be on point on Sunday night. I’m not giving that Giants defense much of a chance at stopping the Cowboys offense on Sunday. Like I said earlier, this Dallas team is much different than the one from Week 1. Dak Prescott’s confidence as a passer is improving from week to week. More importantly, this offense can still lean on Ezekiel Elliott and the run game. DE Jason Pierre-Paul is out of the rest of the season as he was injured last week in Pittsburgh. That will deal a huge blow to New York’s chances on Sunday and going forward for this defense this season. I think Dallas will be able to take care of business on the road this week and more on to becoming the NFC East champs. I also think that this will be the beginning of an ugly December for the Giants. Prediction: Cowboys 35 – Giants 30

Baltimore @ New England – The Ravens offense finally exploded last week and that unit has been feeling great going into this huge road game against the Patriots. Historically, Joe Flacco has performed well against the Patriots defense. I mean, that’s not saying much as New England doesn’t really have much of a defense. But still, Baltimore has to keep whatever it is going on offense this week. New England’s defense is an overachieving bunch, again, but if the Ravens can press them and keep the pressure on, they may be able to score in bunches. Baltimore’s defense is talented but they are also beatable. This still isn’t the Baltimore defense of old. I expect Tom Brady to still be Tom Brady on Monday night. I think both offenses could do well in this game. The question will be which defense will show up for both teams. Baltimore has the top ranked run defense in the NFL but New England does a great job on the ground with LeGarrette Blount and Dion Lewis. Something will have to give on Sunday. I don’t know if this Baltimore team is capable of winning a big game like this one on the road. Brady and Belichick at home seem like a safe bet. Prediction: Patriots 31 – Ravens 21

The Rest of Week 14

Browns over Bengals – Cleveland has got to win at least once this season. Terrelle Pryor will have a 12+ catch performance. Robert Griffin III returns in a big way as well. That or the Browns will continue to be the Browns.

Lions over Bears – Chicago will offer no competition for Detroit on Sunday. They are too injured.

Broncos over Titans – Tennessee is still in the playoff race but so is Denver. The Broncos will need this one more.

Cardinals over Dolphins – Miami imploded last week and Arizona showed that they could still play good ball. I think the Cardinals will finish the season strong.

Washington over Eagles – Washington took their lumps last week on the road but they are still in a position to make a run towards the playoffs.

Chargers over Panthers – San Diego is more of a complete team than Carolina is right now.

Vikings over Jaguars – This might not be a slam-dunk for Minnesota. Minnesota was dealt another key injury last week. It has been that kind of year for them this season.

Jets over 49ers – I feel sorry for anyone who has to watch this on Sunday.

Seahawks over Packers – I know Seattle has had its troubles on the road and they are dealing with the lost of Earl Thomas but they can’t drop this one to a bad Packers team. Everyone is selling that Green Bay is still fighting for life in the playoff race but I just don’t see it.

Falcons over Rams – LA will not be able to out score the Atlanta offense. This will be too big of a chore for the Rams defense.

Buccaneers over Saints – Tampa Bay is right in the thick of things in the NFC South. Crazy.

Week 14 Fantasy Football Picks

QB: Phillip Rivers (Chargers) – At the bottom of the ranked pass defenses in the league this season, you will find three NFC South teams. One of them is the Carolina Panthers, the team that Rivers will face on Sunday.

RB: David Johnson (Cardinals) – Johnson has been playing as well as any RB in the league lately. On Sunday, he’ll face a poor Miami run defense.

WR: Mike Evans (Buccaneers) – The Saints secondary will not have an answer for Tampa Bay’s main passing target this weekend.

TE: Dwayne Allen (Colts) – I don’t think Allen will score three times like he did last week but Andrew Luck will give him more targets after his big performance last week.

DEF: Minnesota/Jacksonville – For the first time ever, I’m taking two opposing defenses. The Vikings/Jaguars game has the potential to be such an ugly game. Big day for the field goal kickers.

NFL 2016: NFC East Preview

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It’s now or never for Tony Romo and the Cowboys. And its looking more and more like “never”.

By: Elias McMillan

 

NFC East

New York Giants – The Giants has such a disappointing 2015. In the offseason, they only had one main goal: improve the defense. With the free agents and draft picks brought in, I think the Giants will be improved on that side of the ball. I think those improvements will go a long way on taking pressure off the offense. The Giants offense will be pretty much the same in 2016. They will be powered by Eli Manning and the passing game. One difference on offense this year is that the depth at receiver got better. Odell Beckham Jr is one of the best receivers in football right now but last season, the Giants struggled at finding someone who can make an impact opposite of him. WR Victor Cruz hopes to stay healthy in 2016 but he may never return to the Victor Cruz of old. However, I’m a big fan of rookie receiver Sterling Shepard out of Oklahoma. Shepard has the skill set as a rookie to eventually take over the number 2 receiver role from Cruz. The Giants have a decent offensive line but they have been inconsistent at times when it comes to pass protection and run blocking. The Giants are deep at the RB position but they are not a strong running team. Rashad Jennings and Shane Vereen are serviceable veterans but I actually think that the younger guy, Andre Williams, deserves more opportunities in this offense. Like I said earlier, the Giants made it a point to improve that struggling defense in the offseason. On the defensive line, I think Jason Pierre-Paul will be focused after a seemingly quiet offseason. Pierre-Paul will receive a boost this year with free agent acquisition, DE Oliver Vernon. Vernon received a big pay from the Giants after some successful seasons in Miami and he’ll help provide a good 1-2 punch for the Giants pass rush. The Giants have struggled at stopping the run for years now and I think that might continue to be a problem in 2016. DT Jonathan Hankins is a good run stuffer but that defensive line receives zero help from a lackluster LB group. I think LB Devon Kennard might develop into something one day but that unit just doesn’t have enough talent. LB Jasper Brinkley is a career journeyman and he might be expected to start at middle linebacker. The Giants also had one of the worst pass defenses in the league last year. I think their secondary will improve in 2016 because the pass rush will be better but also they will have better talent out there. CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is a talented player but he gambles a lot and gets beat. You could say the exact same thing about free agent acquisition, CB Janoris Jenkins. They did draft CB Eli Apple in the first round and he might rise quickly as one of the better young corners in this league. At safety, Landon Collins is the hard hitter in run support and rookie Darian Thompson will get the opportunity early in his career to prove himself as a pass defender. I don’t think that this Giants team will be that much different from the team that went 6-10 last year. But I feel that if they improved the defense, even a little bit, that would help win some games that they would have lost a season ago. I like that the front office had a plan and they executed it through free agency and the draft. I believe that the Giants improved more than the other teams in this division. Prediction: 9-7 (NFC East Champs)

Dallas Cowboys – Even though the Cowboys went 4-12 last season, they were playing with house money going in the offseason. They had a season where just about everything when wrong but there was a silver lining. They were going to have high draft picks. They were going to have key veterans returning from season long injuries. They didn’t have a lot of cap space but there was a possibly where they could have been players in free agency. And more importantly, they were going to return with the best offensive line in football. Despite all of that, the Cowboys amazingly had an underwhelming offseason where they didn’t really improve at all. Despite that, it was always my belief that the Cowboys would win this division in 2016 as long as Tony Romo played in at least 12 or more of the regular season games. Romo is the most important player in the division and the proof pretty much speaks for itself. Before last week, I had the Cowboys winning this division because Romo was set the return and was “healthy”. As it turns out, he broke another bone in his back and he might miss 4 to 6 games to start the season. This may not mean doom for the Cowboys in 2016 but history says that it indeed does. Now, the backup QB situation in Dallas was a mess last season as Romo struggled to return from injury. Despite that, the front office didn’t really bother to bring in a new veteran at the position. Instead, they were going to see what they had in Kellen Moore and rookie 4th rounder Dak Prescott. Now, I didn’t like what I saw in Prescott coming out of Mississippi State but so far in the preseason, he looks like he might be the young arm that this team has been looking to develop for years now. But we have to realize that preseason success really means nothing and we don’t really know how good Prescott will be until Romo returns. Two things are going to help Prescott, 1) he is confident after a pretty solid preseason and 2) this offense is set and ready to go. I already mentioned the offensive line but along with that unit, the Cowboys are deep at the RB position. Did they need to take a RB with the 4th overall pick in this past draft? Probably not. But RB Ezekiel Elliott looks the part of a future franchise back in this league. Elliott will get every opportunity in the offense despite the wealth of talent at the position. Darren McFadden was the 4th leading rusher in the league last season. Alfred Morris is a veteran who can get the tough yards. And Lance Dunbar will be a valuable piece as a receiver coming out from the backfield. That’s a lot of talent at one position. In the preseason, Prescott has already developed a good relationship with star receiver and team leader Dez Bryant. Bryant also missed most of 2015 with an injury but he is back and is already looking like his normal self. The Cowboys will return a decent group at the pass catching position led by Jason Witten, Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, and kickoff specialist Lucky Whitehead. Even if Romo wasn’t injured currently, I always believed that this team would only go as far as the defense will take them. Tony Romo would be Tony Romo but the defense needs to figure out a way to get stops in order to win the playoffs. This defense is basically unchanged from a season ago and I see no reason why they’ll improve in 2016. The Cowboys struggle mightily at pressuring the QB and that will continue this season. DE DeMarcus Lawrence is the best pass rusher but he was suspended for the first 4 games of the season. Starting opposite of him will be a collection of guys that you never heard of. The plan was to maybe start last year’s second round pick, Randy Gregory but he is facing a major suspension while he is currently in rehab. Inside on the defensive line, DT Tyrone Crawford is decent player and they brought in Cedric Thornton to be an upgrade from last years starter. Crawford and Thornton will excel at getting up field and creating pressure but they are not the run stuffers that this defense needs at defensive line. At linebacker, Sean Lee is coming off his first Pro Bowl season but he is the lone standout at this position. Jerry Jones decided to bring back an unreliable player in Rolando McClain who is currently suspended. Jerry could have let him walk but he didn’t and now the LB depth is in a rough spot. Even worst, the Cowboys decided to spend this year’s second round pick on one of the best LB prospects in the draft but the player they took is coming off a major knee injury and will certainly miss the entire 2016 season. And they knew this as a possibility going into the draft. And they still took him. I don’t understand the decisions made by this front office in this past offseason. The Cowboys will return the entire group from a secondary that was surprisingly in the top 5 in the league in pass defense. The issue is that the unit doesn’t create many turnovers. Last year’s first round pick, Byron Jones, is making the move to safety and his skill set will serve him well at that position. Jones is an athletic freak who can fly to the football and they are hoping that he will be the change that will help this secondary collect more turnovers. The group of corners on this team is very average but I really don’t want to rip on them because they would be so much better if they played in front of a defensive line that could consistently create pressure. Like I said earlier, Romo injury or not, this team didn’t improve in the offseason and the ceiling was always going to be a divisional winner that wasn’t going to go far in the playoffs anyhow. I don’t know how many games Tony Romo is going to miss. I do know that it is very sad and depressing that the Romo era could possibly end this season without him and Jason Witten getting even a sniff at a championship. That, in my book, is Jerry Jones’ legacy. Prediction: 8-8

Washington – Was last year’s run to the division title a fluke for Washington? I don’t know. Maybe. But despite of the problems of the other teams in the division, you have to give Washington credit for taking advantage of the opportunity. Repeating in this division is always a tall task but I think Washington has a better chance than what people believe. QB Kirk Cousins returns after his best season as a pro. He is basically playing for a more secure future as he signed that one-year franchise tender. Cousins looked great at times last season but there was other times when you saw why this franchise didn’t want to commit to a long-term deal with this guy. Having a repeat of success in 2016 will be a tall task for Cousins, I think. The whole situation was screams what Philadelphia went through a few years ago with Nick Foles. One thing that won’t help Cousins in 2016 is that his offensive line has been so inconsistent. They don’t really have a solid situation at RB right now. RB Matt Jones is a speedster but there isn’t much depth behind him at the position. Plus, that offensive line really struggled at creating lanes for whoever was running the ball a season ago. What will help Cousins in 2016 is that Washington has good talent at the receiver positions. Veterans DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon still have plenty left in the tank and younger guys, Ryan Grant and Jamison Crowder, also have plenty of ability. At the TE position, Washington has one of the best in football with Jordan Reed. On defense, Washington wasn’t good last season at stopping the run and they hope to improve this year. They brought in DT Kendall Reyes from San Diego to join a veteran heavy group at defensive line. I think Washington’s strength on this defense will come from the LB position. They have a decent group on veterans playing at the inside positions. I loved the draft pick of Su’a Cravens who will serve the role as a tweener player on this defense. He’ll be much like Thomas Davis on the Panthers. Cravens could develop into a guy that can cover TE’s but also provide major run support. OLB Ryan Kerrigan is the veteran pass rusher on this team. But also look out for second year guys, Preston Smith and Trent Murphy. Washington has had a bad secondary for years I feel like but that unit will definitely be improved in 2016. CB Josh Norman comes over from Carolina and he currently has the rep as the best corner in football right now. I don’t know if Norman will be as good as he was in Carolina playing in front of that defense but I know he is better than what Washington had a season ago. I expect rookie CB Kendall Fuller to rise fast on the depth chart as well. I’m disappointed that DeAngelo Hall is still on this roster some how. He hasn’t been good for at least 5 years but his speed and athleticism has allowed him to stay in the league. I think Washington may quietly have the best defense in this division. But the lack of a run game and counting of Kirk Cousins will only bring you so far. But even I have to admit that I think Washington shouldn’t be written off this season. Prediction: 8-8

Philadelphia Eagles – The Philadelphia Eagles spent the offseason deleting any traces of the Chip Kelly era off this team. You might want to call it addition by subtraction but I’ll choose to call it what it is: rebuilding. The Eagles are rebuilding under Andy Reid understudy and former Eagles player, Doug Pederson. This seems like a move backwards in order to go forwards because we all say the way they forced Andy out of town. But Reid was very successful in Philly and is currently in Kansas City. Its going to take some time but the Eagles need to give Pederson enough time to build up this roster again. That being said, this current Eagles roster is not ready to compete in 2016. QB Sam Bradford, who was very inconsistent last season, received a contract extension in the offseason. Then, Pederson decided to bring over his top backup from Kansas City, Chase Daniels. After solidifying the QB position, the Eagles still decided that they needed a signal caller for the future so, they traded the farm to move up in this years draft to take QB Carson Wentz from North Dakota State. These are not the moves of a football team that is looking to improve immediately. They have a lot invested in that one position while other areas on that side of the ball could have needed some help. The Eagles are hurting on the offensive line. Starting tackle Lane Johnson is facing a lengthy suspension and the group is coming off a season where they struggled mightily at run blocking. In the matter of two seasons, the Eagles lost two premier running backs in the league. LeSean McCoy was traded away and DeMarco Murray was terribly mismanaged and sent to Tennessee. Now, they are left with an injury prone Ryan Matthews and an aging Darren Sproles. There will be a lot of pressure on the QB position this season for the Eagles as the WR core is extremely average as well. Jordam Matthews, Nelson Agholor, Josh Huff and Dorial Green-Beckham have ability but neither are clear cut “#1” receivers. The Eagles most consistent receiver this season may be TE Brent Celek. On defense, the Eagles will bring back a pretty active front seven led by DT Fletcher Cox. Cox is clearly the team’s best defender as a run stopper and pass rusher. The Eagles can get pressure on the QB from the outside but they need to get younger at that OLB position. Former First round pick, Marcus Smith, has not worked out so far but Connor Barwin and Mychal Kendricks are solid starters. In the secondary, the Eagles are lacking young talent. Safety Malcolm Jenkins is a good player and a veteran leader but there isn’t much around him. CB Leodis McKelvin was surprisingly let go by Buffalo in the offseason and we’ll see if he has any more left in the tank. And I know its only preseason but CB Nolan Carroll has looked like an impact player already this season. This Eagles team is rebuilding but it will be interesting to see how the QB situation plays out. Prediction: 5-11