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NFL Playoffs: 2018 Conference Championship Sunday Predictions!

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In the AFC, the Jacksonville Jaguars are looking to “steal the show”.

By Elias McMillan

 

Divisional Round: 2-2

Playoffs: 3-5

Conference Championship Sunday

AFC Championship Game

Jacksonville @ New England – The Jacksonville Jaguars are looking like the 2000 Baltimore Ravens right now. The Jaguars went into Pittsburgh last Sunday and punked a Steeler team that may have been over looking them. Jacksonville took it too Pittsburgh and didn’t let up. I was impressed with how QB Blake Bortles ran the offense against a shorthanded Pittsburgh defense. The Steelers scored 42 points and their QB threw for a bunch of yards but don’t buy into those numbers. Jacksonville got off to a 21-0 start and Pittsburgh was just playing catch up for the entire game. I don’t think the stat sheet tells the story of how good the Jaguars defense is. The Jaguars have one more hurdle in their Cinderella Super Bowl run: the New England Patriots. New England survived a sort of slow start against Tennessee last Saturday and was able to put their opponent away in the 2nd half. The Patriots will be hosting yet another AFC Championship game but this one could be a much greater challenge in comparison to past recent years. The Patriots are great again this season for all the same reasons. They have QB Tom Brady. He leads an offense that can score a lot of points when called upon. No one can cover TE Rob Gronkowski. The defense isn’t great but they over achieve at times. And they are lead by a master football mind in Bill Belichick. Despite all of this, like in season’s past, I still feel that the Patriots are very beatable. In terms of this Sunday, Jacksonville matches up well against them. To stop the Patriots offense, you better have a defense that can rattle the QB. Jacksonville has strong play up front. They have excellent LBs. And their secondary is usually good despite giving up all those yards last week. Brady may also be dealing with a bum hand so, I wouldn’t be surprised if it is tough sledding for the New England offense. Bortles played a game last week where he wasn’t going to be the reason why Jacksonville would lose. I’m not sure if the Jaguars offense will be able to be so successful this week. I think they were aided by the absence of LB Ryan Shazier. I said earlier that New England’s defense is suspect but they did defend the run quite well last week and Tennessee was barely able to get into the end zone for the second time until after the game was out of reach. Despite how well the Jacksonville defense may play, they will still need the offense to score points and I don’t think I trust them to perform well enough again in two straight weeks on the road. The brain trust in New England is still strong and I believe the offense will find a way to consistently get down the field. I think Gronkowski and the different RB’s from out the backfield may create some bad matchup for Brady to exploit. New England is the safe pick. No picked Jacksonville last week and I think they have a real chance to shock everyone again. But I’m not brave enough to pick it. Business as usual in the AFC. Prediction: Patriots 30 – Jaguars 22

NFC Championship Game

Minnesota @ Philadelphia – The Eagles did a great job at home last week grinding out a victory against Atlanta. I shouldn’t have been as shocked that the Falcons under performed, again, but I feel they still could have won that game at the end. It came down to Julio Jones miss timing on a jump ball in the end zone. Julio Jones. Not some rookie. Regardless, we have to give Philadelphia’s defense credit for limiting Atlanta’s scoring chances. They will now host the NFC Championship game on Sunday against a Minnesota team that is coming off a miracle victory. As awesome was Minnesota’s triumph was last Sunday, the Vikings have to erase it from their memory and focus up on the task at hand. Both of these teams are very similar. They both offer good defenses, solid running games, and receivers that are capable to creating big plays down the field. Its hard for me to read how good Case Keenum is but he has done a great job at running this offense this season. He could be the difference in this game because honestly, I’m not expecting much form Nick Foles. Foles didn’t make any mistakes last week but he will face a much tougher defense in this game. Minnesota and Philadelphia both have solid defenses but I think I’ll give a slight edge to the Vikings. They are much younger at key positions and I believe that they have a stronger secondary than Philly’s. I think Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen will have their chances to make plays if Keenum is able to stand in the pocket. Playing at home will definitely serve as an advantage for the birds but I think Minnesota has the better team on paper. Honestly, this game is a toss up. I’m not sure how strongly I feel about it but I like Minnesota to end their misery in conference championship games and therefor becoming the first team to advance to the Super Bowl in their host city. Prediction: Vikings 26 – Eagles 20

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NFL Playoffs: 2018 Divisional Round Predictions!

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Philadelphia will have to ride their top ranked defense if they hope to advance pass Atlanta.

By: Elias McMillan

 

Wild-Card Round: 1-3

Playoffs: 1-3

Divisional Round

Atlanta @ Philadelphia – I guess I should be embarrassed for taking the Rams last week. The Falcons showed their experience and pretty much shut down L.A. on the road. Now, come a big test in the number one seeded Eagles. It is a big test for Atlanta because they are the favorites and now everyone is expecting to see the Atlanta team from last post season. I think Atlanta is different from a season ago but chances are they will probably get to their second straight NFC Championship game on Saturday. Atlanta brings to the table an offense with a ton of potential in the passing or running game. Philadelphia has been able to lean on its defense this season so that will be a key matchup in this game. I feel confident that the Eagles defense will do everything in their power to try to win this game for the home team. The Falcons have a pair of good RB’s but Philly is strong against the run. The Eagles are vulnerable in the secondary and it should be interesting to see if Matt Ryan can figure out a way to make Julio Jones a big factor in the game. I think this game will turn on the Eagles lack of offense. I have no reason to have confidence in QB Nick Foles. Especially when Atlanta’s defense is playing well. The Eagles were one of the top running teams on offense in the league this season but Atlanta did a really good job limiting Todd Gurley a week ago. I don’t think they will let Jay Ajayi or LeGarrette Blount get off too many big gains. I think Atlanta will be able to ride their defense and just get enough out of their offense to advance to next week while ending Philadelphia’s season. Prediction: Falcons 21 – Eagles 16

Tennessee @ New England – The Titans were a nice surprise last weekend as they came back from a 21-3 hole to win in Kansas City. They will have to get it done on the road again this week against top seeded New England. I think Tennessee stands a better chance in this game than most people are giving them. Really, I do. New England is New England. But they can be knocked off their game. They are beatable. I don’t have much faith in the Titans defense though. Shutting out Alex Smith for one half is one thing compared to going up against Tom Brady. New England has so many weapons and so many ways to attack. Tennessee will have problems with the Patriots balanced attack. Tennessee is really physical up front on defense so I want to see if they can defend the run well again this week while putting heat on Brady. I big part of last week was that Travis Kelce was knocked out of the game. The Titans will have to account for another dominant, pass catching TE in Rob Gronkowski. I think New England will have an advantage their. The main reason why New England is beatable is because of their defense. Marcus Mariota had a strong second half last week in Kansas City but he has been wildly inconsistent this season. Mariota has Derrick Henry to lean on and Tennessee has a pretty good record with him as the main option in the run game. Outside of Henry and TE Delaine Walker, Tennessee really doesn’t have a lot of reliable players at the skill positions for Mariota to go to. Tennessee may have a “fighter’s chance” but New England should be able handle business at home. I can see Brady having his way with the Titans secondary and Mariota will over extend himself trying to keep up. Prediction: Patriots 38 – Titans 23

Jacksonville @ Pittsburgh – Jacksonville’s win over Buffalo last week sure wasn’t pretty but it was definitely better than losing. The Jaguars will take their strong defense to Pittsburgh on Sunday to face a Steelers team they defeated earlier this season. Week 5 was a long, long time ago but I think Jacksonville can take a lot from what happened in that game and maybe find themselves with a chance to score a big upset on Sunday. There is a lot of talk about the Jaguars having to deal with playing in the cold weather on the road. But playoff football usually comes down to two things: defense and the run game. And Jacksonville has both. The Jaguars have studs on the defensive line that can stuff the run and pressure the QB. They have a talented group of linebackers. And their secondary is close to what Seattle had a few years ago, led by standout Jalen Ramsey. All that being said, Pittsburgh has a really good offense. We all know what Ben Roethlisberger is capable of in January. I do have questions about how WR Antonio Brown will look, as he will be returning after dealing with a lower leg injury. Even if Brown is rusty, Pittsburgh’s WR core is solid. RB Le’Veon Bell is one of the best at his position in the game but Jacksonville did such a great job against him earlier this season. I think this will be a game where the Steelers offense cannot abandon the run. Bell can lead this offense when called upon. I know that the Steelers are not a run first offense anymore but Bell need at least more than 25 touches. For the Jaguars, their offense is a point of weakness but they can at least run the ball. RB Leonard Fournette is ready for another heavy workload. He had a strong performance in Pittsburgh in Week 5 and this time around, he’ll be facing the same defense without its starting middle LB. I believe Pittsburgh could be vulnerable defending the run in this game but unfortunately Jacksonville can’t run it every play. Eventually QB Blake Bortles will have to try to look like a NFL QB in this game. I don’t think Bortles is the worst starter in the league but the Pittsburgh secondary will have to be really off their game for him to be able to do anything substantial. Much like in 2007, I think the Jaguars have the tools to upset the Steelers on Sunday but I’m not brave enough to pick it. It will be tough sledding for the Pittsburgh offense but they’ll find a way to outscore a Jaguars team that may have problems on their own scoring points on the road. Prediction: Steelers 23 – Jaguars 13

New Orleans @ Minnesota – New Orleans clearly outclassed Carolina at home last week. They didn’t add any “cool” points with the way they finished but they at least got the job done. I believe they will face a tall task this week in Minnesota. The Vikings are very tough at home and the Saints should remember that. Minnesota opened this season beating the Saints at home. New Orleans will be looking to reverse that result on Sunday. I like Minnesota in this game because of their defense. I think Drew Brees will not have the passing windows that he had last week against Carolina. Minnesota does a great job at limiting the run with their front seven. Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram found it hard to find space last week and I think that will continue in Minnesota. The Saints also bring into this game a good defense. New Orleans has a legit secondary this year and they are coming off a game where the pass rush made a big impact. But I think the Vikings offense will be able to excel by just playing at their own pace while not trying to do too much. QB Case Keenum will use the running game to keep Brees on the bench but he will also take his shots down field as he has a top-notch group of receivers. I think Brees has an edge over Keenum but Minnesota’s defense has an edge over on New Orleans’. Prediction: Vikings 29 – Saints 21

NFL 2017: Week 11 Predictions!

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Does anyone want to win the AFC South?

By: Elias McMillan

 

Last Week: 10-4

Season: 88-58

Big Five Games of the Week

Tennessee @ Pittsburgh – The Steelers played down to a weaker opponent on the road (again) last week in Indianapolis and still won. That’s pretty much going to be their story for the most part for the rest of the season. Pittsburgh has a favorable schedule down the stretch and they still have one of the most talented rosters in the AFC. They can’t act like they can skate by into the post season but if they take every game seriously, that will most likely be the case. On Thursday night, they should face one of their toughest opponents left on the schedule. The Titans are right where they were a season ago; in the middle of a divisional race. Tennessee has been under whelming for most of this season but they have to feel encouraged to be in the position where they are now. A win on the road against a good Pittsburgh team would set them up nicely. Weird things happen in these Thursday night games and defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is familiar with the Pittsburgh offense. But Pittsburgh has a good track record in these Thursday night games and the Titans don’t have the defense to slow the weapons that Pittsburgh has. Prediction: Steelers 30 – Titans 21

Los Angeles Rams @ Minnesota – The Rams have an impressive 7-2 record as they lead the NFC West. They have a tough stretch of games coming up so we are about to find out how good this young team really is. Minnesota, on the road, will be one of those tough tests. Minnesota is managing to get by with Case Keenum starting at QB. Keenum is in an ideal situation right now with the talent surrounding him at the skill positions on offense and with the level the Vikings defense is playing at currently. Keenum just has to continue to drive the bus. If he screws up, Teddy Bridgewater will be ready. The Rams defense should provide a good test for the Vikings offense. But I expect the Vikings defense to really get after QB Jared Goff. Prediction: Vikings 24 – Rams 19

New England @ Oakland – This game is a must win for the silver and black if they hope to save their 2017 season. This game will feature two offenses that can provide big plays and two defenses that usually give up big plays. It would be nice if the Raiders defense actually showed up for this one at home. Whoops, I forgot. This one being played in Mexico City. It’s going to be up to Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin to provide the pressure to Tom Brady and keep him on his toes for all four quarters. New England’s defense is under rated but ordinary. Derek Carr has to figure a way to go toe-to-toe with Brady if the Patriots offense is able to find success. Oakland just doesn’t seem to have it right now while New England looks like they are just hitting their stride. Prediction: Patriots 36 – Raiders 28

Philadelphia @ Dallas – The Cowboys are going through a roller coaster type season ago again. After beating Kansas City two weeks ago, things appeared to be looking up. After last week’s beat down in Atlanta, Dallas has had to deal with a string of bad news. Ezekiel Elliott. Dan Bailey. Tyron Smith. Sean Lee. All possibly out this week with the one loss Eagles coming to town coming off a bye. Seems like a lot to overcome. The Eagles look like the toast of the NFC. The offense is clicking under young QB Carson Wentz and the defense looks as vicious as ever; especially their front 7. But the Eagles really haven’t beaten anyone. They are coming off their most impressive win against Denver but they aren’t really one of the stronger teams in the league this year. What Philadelphia has done so far may be impressive but I think the heat will be turned up on them during this second half of the season. The Eagles/Cowboys matchups are usually close ones. I think the Eagles will be able to pressure the Cowboys defense with the way they can attack through the air and on the ground. The running game will be key as Sean Lee will be out once again for Dallas. I think Dallas will show against Philly that they have learned from the mistakes last week in Atlanta. I think Dak Prescott will receive better protection. I also think Dallas will find success on the ground as the Eagles will also be missing one of their starting LB. The Cowboys will have a back against the wall mentality at home and I think they will respond well. I’m going out on a limb and being a homer. I like the Boys at home. Prediction: Cowboys 31 – Eagles 29

Atlanta @ Seattle – The Seahawks have issues right now. They’ve been mostly inconsistent on both sides of the ball this season and things will get worst with the lost of CB Richard Sherman. But it typical Seattle fashion, playing at home is suppose to be a cure all, right? I’m not sure about that. Atlanta was able to take advantage of Dallas’ handicaps at home last but I don’t think that are ready to turn their season around. They have under performed and I think the offense will feel the impact of the injury to RB Devonta Freeman. The Falcons pass rush had a strong showing last week and I think they can ride that momentum into this week and really get after Russell Wilson. But Wilson usually saves his best performances at home. I’m not very confident with Seattle at home as I used to be but I’ll take them this week. Prediction: Seahawks 28 – Falcons 27

The Rest of Week 11

Lions over Bears – Detroit’s defense has to perform better against rookie QBs.

Jaguars over Browns – Could Jacksonville really win ten games this year? It’s beginning to look that way.

Ravens over Packers – Baltimore on the road could be tricky. Especially since Green Bay figured out a way to win last week. I think the Ravens defense will show up for this one.

Dolphins over Buccaneers – I’m going with the better defense and that’s about all Miami has right now.

Saints over Washington – New Orleans is getting it done on the ground and their defense performed well last week on the road.

Chiefs over Giants – Kansas City cant afford any slip-ups coming off the bye week against a bad Giants team.

Cardinals over Texans – Blaine Gabbert vs. Tom Savage. Yuck.

Chargers over Bills – Buffalo would be in the playoffs if the season ended today. So, why change QB’s after one bad performance? No one can explain the thought process in Buffalo right now.

Broncos over Bengals – Denver is in a funk. Maybe Andy Dalton can help them out of it.

Fantasy Football Picks of the Week

QB: Dak Prescott (Cowboys) – Dallas is going to need big passing plays to beat Philadelphia.

RB: LeSean McCoy (Bills) – With a QB change, Buffalo should lean on Shady against the league’s worst run defense.

WR: Tyreke Hill (Chiefs) – The Giants have the 30th rank pass defense in the league. Hill and his speed will be able to take full advantage.

TE: Rob Gronkowski (Patriots) – Gronk will demand the ball against the Raiders secondary.

DEF: Los Angeles Chargers – The Chargers pass rush could be in full display against a rookie making his first career start.

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